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.


Only unapproachable

Oct 9th, 2014 12:38 pm | By

Oh gosh, a helpful guy in Chicago wrote an open letter to the available single ladies of Chicago on how to make themselves more what he wants them to be, and he’s so helpful that he underlines the very point I was just making. The very same one!

I’m dying to stop you on the street and pay you the occasional compliment (“You’re really rocking that tweed dress today – I love your style.”). But I can’t – because you’re always walking around with your damn earbuds in (“Don’t talk to me!”) and your sunglasses on, even when they’re not necessary (which incidentally doesn’t make you look cool or sexy, only unapproachable).

See there? Unapproachable. Women are supposed to be, and to look, approachable. Either that, or like a bundle of dirty laundry.

Kara Brown at Jezebel points out that it’s no accident, this unapproachable look.

Little does this idiot know that he’s confirming to women around the globe that the tactics we’ve developed to avoid street harassment are working. They’re wearing the earbuds to ward off men exactly like you, genius. You ever notice how women don’t wear earbuds when they’re out to brunch with friends? Or when they’re with someone they actually like? Maybe there’s something to that.

Chicago guy ends with the old classic.

P.S.: Oh, and by the way, it’d be nice if your default expression was a smile – or, at worst, a merely neutral expression – instead of a scowl that says, “I’ll cut you off at the knees if you try to talk to me.” C’mon, is life really that bad? Just sayin’.

No it isn’t life that’s that bad.

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



The Likability obligation

Oct 9th, 2014 11:14 am | By

One thing about being a woman is that there’s more expectation of having an approachable personality. A woman who seems less approachable than the norm is off-putting. I’m pretty sure I have that feeling myself, which is sad and embarrassing, especially since I’m about as approachable as a rock. But that doesn’t make any difference, does it – we have these feelings of discomfort or ease, wrongness or rightness, independent of how well we conform to them ourselves.

Laura Bates wrote about this discrepancy in expectations in the Guardian last week.

A study by linguist and tech entrepreneur Kieran Snyder was published by fortune.com in August, under the headline: “The abrasiveness trap: High-achieving men and women are described differently in reviews”.

“Described differently” was an enormous understatement.

Snyder’s study, which involved comparing 248 workplace performance reviews from 180 people at 28 different companies, revealed startling results.

Only 58.9% of the reviews submitted by men contained critical feedback, compared to 87.9% of those submitted by women. For male employees, the feedback tended to take the form of constructive suggestions for improvement, but for women it got a lot more personal. Snyder pulled out any reviews that contained what she described as “negative personality criticism”, including words such as “bossy”, “abrasive”, “strident”, “emotional” and “irrational”. Out of the 83 critical reviews received by men, just two contained such personality criticism. But it showed up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women.

There’s a kind of Personality Duty that women seem to have, that men don’t so much. A chilly or irritable or forthright woman seems more so than an equivalent man. As I say, I’m pretty sure I recognize that in myself, despite being chilly and irritable and forthright (aka rude) my own self. What is that? A permanent mommy-image, or what? I don’t know, but it’s discouraging.

Bates goes on to give examples of women being belittled and reduced to their hairdos – a cosmonaut, a fighter pilot, a human rights lawyer.

These different cases reveal a pattern – successful women make people feel uncomfortable. They are seen as somehow unfeminine or unnatural and in need of being brought down a peg or two. And the best way to wrangle them back into manageability is to remind them of the fact that, regardless of their achievements, they will be judged first and foremost as women, and found wanting. Girls, after all, are supposed to be likable, pliant, polite, quiet and gentle. Be too smart, too successful, too accomplished, and risk facing a sharp reminder that you’ve done so at the cost of your feminine “appeal”.

I think the expectation of “quiet and gentle” is a lot less universal than it once was. I think that one is relatively superficial and easy to change by writing articles like the one Bates wrote, and by talking about it, and by making movies and tv shows with women who aren’t quiet and gentle. But the “likable” one is a much tougher nut to crack.

These sentiments are still more common than you might like to think: it was only this week that Stella McCartney said: “Strength on its own in a woman is quite abrasive and not terribly attractive all the time.” Doesn’t that word “abrasive” have a funny habit of popping up?

This is not a problem that will have a quick fix. It’s deeply ingrained in our societal ideas about what it means for a woman to be attractive and how successful we are prepared to allow women to be before feeling the need to tear them down. Getting more women into prominent business roles should help, because the more of them there are, the harder it will be to stereotype them as “ballbreakers” or “harpies”. We can all play a part by examining our own unconscious bias and watching the language we use, especially while in the workplace or speaking to young people.

Just so. It’s deeply ingrained – I think perhaps even more deeply than purely “societal” ideas. Then again maybe not, maybe it’s just that I too grew up embedded in media that featured Likable women.

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



You made a real difference

Oct 8th, 2014 6:10 pm | By

Paul Fidalgo shares good news from the Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity, and Accountability, in Uganda.

HALEA’s offices, located in the slums of Kamapala, were robbed, during which a security guard was severely beaten (and who is now recovering well, I’m happy to say), and the offices were stripped of everything of value: computers, cameras, phones, printers, microphones, power cords, media players, and more.

In response, we activated our SHARE program, the Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort, to help them get back on their feet.

Other freethought groups lent their support as well. You made a real difference, raising over $6000 for their rebuilding efforts.

HALEA is an active and determined group, in a city where superstition, crime, and violence are intertwined. They’re doing all they can to help unemployed, pregnant, and other at-risk teenagers in some of the most difficult and dangerous parts of the city, on top of holding intellectual discussions and debates about religion and church-state separation.

Read the message from Kato Mukasa, head of HALEA’s Youth Support Center, in Paul’s post.

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



She’s serious

Oct 8th, 2014 5:42 pm | By

Eliza Sutton’s previous venture in the category of Misusing Professional Credentials to Abuse Someone.

eliza

Skep tickle says

(Edit)

Please get some professional psychological help. I’m serious. Paranoia seems to be consuming you.

She’s so caring and concerned.

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



Skip the tests of faith

Oct 8th, 2014 4:18 pm | By

I’m not sure the story of Abraham and Isaac is the best way to start a column urging condemnation of the murder of Alan Henning, unless you’re using that story as an object lesson on what can happen when you think you’re supposed to obey “God”. I don’t think that’s how Yasmin Alibhai Brown is using it, although she may be – she doesn’t really exactly say what she thinks of it.

It is Eid, the second annual Muslim festival, when we mark the end of Hajj and remember Abraham, who – when God asked him to – agreed to make the ultimate sacrifice and kill his son Isaac.

It was a test of faith; God stopped the slaughter. The story appears in the Book of Genesis. God did not stop the slaughter of Alan Henning, the taxi driver from Salford who went out to help desperate Syrians, or the British aid worker David Haines or the two American reporters James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Was it a test of faith? It looks to me more like a test of obedience, and a very sick one at that. If it’s a test of faith and Abraham passed, then faith is very evil. Also, Abraham’s murder of his child wouldn’t be “the ultimate sacrifice” for him, but rather for the child. Or for both, yes, but the point is that Abraham’s murder of Isaac wouldn’t be something that happened just to Abraham; it would first of all be something that happened to Isaac. A rape is first of all something that happens to the person who is raped, and only then something that happens to her (or his) relatives and friends. In short the story of Abraham is a very horrible story indeed, and it should be forgotten instead of remembered with a festival.

Imams have denounced the killers with real feeling, so has the umbrella body, the Muslim Council of Britain, which, before this, tended to equivocate and was a bit unreliable. Young Muslims have started a #notinmyname campaign; Inspire, an impressively effective counter-extremism organisation, has launched #makingastand to get Muslims to “pledge allegiance to their country and to respect human rights”. These responses are encouraging. But it isn’t enough. It absolutely isn’t enough.

Henning’s untimely death must be a watershed, a defining moment for Western Muslims. We must change. Or rather, those devout Muslims who have been taking up Wahhabi practices and others who feel only anger for the West must change.

First, do no harm.

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



Surprising that this book wasn’t already out there

Oct 8th, 2014 10:08 am | By

Katha Pollitt talks to Jill Filipovic about her new book on why abortion matters.

You’ve been a pro-choice writer for decades. Why this book now?

It was surprising to me that this book wasn’t already out there.

There are some books of reporting about abortion, where people go and interview a lot of people or they write about the political struggle, but there isn’t a book that actually lays out the more philosophical arguments around abortion rights. I have a friend who is a brilliant, very important social theorist who said to me at a dinner party, “I’m only telling you this because we’re friends, but I oppose abortion except for rape. The only reason I think it’s OK is because women would die if it were illegal. But for myself, the only reason I think women should have them is because of rape.” I said, “So someone should have a baby because they have sex?” And he said, “They made their bed, they should lie in it.” This man proved to me that you can be really smart, you can think you’re thinking, but you’re not — you’re repeating a lot of reactionary platitudes that have been handed down to you. I thought, what about a book where I try to talk about that, to the people in the mushy middle?

Books where we try to talk to people who haven’t really thought about [whatever it is] yet are an important and useful category of book.

At the end, the filter question comes up.

Can you be a pro-life feminist?

You can be a pro-life feminist for yourself. You can say, “I would never have an abortion,” and then when you got pregnant, you never would have an abortion — because a lot of people who say, “I would never have an abortion” actually have abortions. But I don’t think you can restrict freedom for women in such a fundamental way and be a feminist.

That’s what I think too. And I have thought about it.

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



It does not mean that it comes with the territory

Oct 7th, 2014 5:01 pm | By

Jennifer Lawrence says what she thinks about having naked pictures of her stolen and published online.

“Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this,” she says.

“It does not mean that it comes with the territory. It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can’t believe that we even live in that kind of world. ”

I can, but only because I’ve been paying attention to it for more than three years. And anyway I can’t, really. I’m thoroughly convinced of it by long observation but at the same time I’m permanently incredulous.

“It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime,” she tells Kashner. “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. That’s why these Web sites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.”

“Scandal” is completely the wrong word for it. “Outrage” would be a better fit.

 

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



As an example of a gross breach of medical ethics

Oct 7th, 2014 3:57 pm | By

Sometimes the revoltingness of the Official Opposition is surprising. Oh what am I talking about, it’s almost always surprising. But still, one contribution to the genre by “Skep tickle” is pretty damn amazing. PZ posted a screen grab, because the contribution is about him. Scroll down to the end of the post.

I’ve been pointed to the comment by Skep tickle, aka Eliza Sutton, MD, and I post it here as an example of a gross breach of medical ethics. She should be ashamed.

(click for larger image, if you can stomach it)

She’s suggesting he had a “disseminated gonococcal infection.” Tee hee.

Note that she’s diagnosing me with “septic arthritis” in the complete absence of any facts. If she had the information that my doctor had, she’d know that they tapped and cultured the synovial fluid, and found no sign of any infection at all. And then she leaps from her completely bogus diagnosis of an infection to suggest that it is a “disseminated gonococcal infection”, and then counts back from the incubation period to surmise, while denying that she was surmising, that I acquired it while associating with the Skepchicks!

To say I’m disgusted is an understatement. I think the UW hospital should know what one of their doctors does in her spare time, so I’m not going to shy away from mentioning her name.

Remember that time she came here to tell me I’m mentally ill? What a fine doctor.

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



About the death of a young girl

Oct 7th, 2014 12:07 pm | By

Another BBC piece on Ebola.

There’s a summit in London to talk about how to deal with the epidemic, which has killed 3,338 people so far. A nurse, William Pooley, spoke at the summit:

Mr Pooley, who was the first Briton to contract the virus during the current outbreak, appealed to the international community to act to prevent the epidemic getting worse.

In an emotional press conference he spoke about the death of a young girl and her brother.

He said he had found her “covered in blood,” adding: “She still had a very puzzled expression on her face and she wasn’t breathing.”

“So I put her in a bag and left her next to her brother. She was a beautiful little girl,” he said.

“So, my specific fear is that the horror and the misery of these deaths, really fill a well of my despair.

“And I just don’t know what happens if that’s repeated a million times. And so I say, at all costs, we can’t let that happen.”

He caught Ebola, and was flown back to the UK and given an experimental drug, and he recovered. He’s going back. He says it was an easy decision.

Among the pledges made at the London conference was $70m (£43m) from Save the Children, of which $40m had been earmarked for Sierra Leone.

Comic Relief has pledged £1m, while more than 160 NHS staff are due to travel to Sierra Leone after answering a call for volunteers to help fight the disease earlier this month.

Mr Pooley said pledges need to be delivered “really quickly”, saying: “We need beds and we need people looking after the patients in the beds.”

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Mr Pooley, who recently returned from the US where he gave blood to try to help a victim of the virus, was an example of the “courage” and resilience needed to tackle the crisis.

I should say so. I would say it’s not “courage” but COURAGE.

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



Francis’ bloodshot eyes

Oct 7th, 2014 11:05 am | By

BBC reporter Tulip Mazumdar has a heart-wrenching detailed story on Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The trip from London takes 20 hours instead of 6, because most airlines have stopped flying to Sierra Leone; she has to go via Paris and Casablanca.

At the airport there is bleach, and temperature-checking, and warning information on the walls. The handshake has been replaced by patting one’s own chest.

Today we are filming at the country’s main referral hospital – Connaught Hospital in central Freetown. As we enter, I see a woman in a purple and pink shirt lying on a bench, with her head in her hands. She looks extremely unwell. This area is where patients showing symptoms of Ebola come for help, but the help is limited.

This isn’t a treatment centre; it’s an isolation ward within the hospital. People have to travel many miles from here by ambulance to get proper supportive treatment. There are just 18 beds in this hospital, and they are all full.

The latest patient to arrive is a one-month-old baby. Ebola killed both his parents overnight. The chances are he is also infected and will die within days. All medics can do is feed him and hold him through protective suits.

In the cemetery there is a section for Ebola victims; it is full of fresh graves.

The burial team is efficient and almost jovial. I imagine it’s the only way they can keep performing this grim task day in, day out. The cemetery supervisor, Abdul Rahman Parker, tells me he’s been ostracised by his community – people are scared of him now because he handles the bodies of Ebola victims. But he says he doesn’t care, and that Sierra Leone needs him to continue doing this job, even if its people don’t realise it.

The day ends with the burial teams throwing their protective clothing – gloves, masks and body suits – into the last grave. It’s starting to rain again. We remove our protective suits and put them in a yellow biohazard bag, which the burial team disposes of. We spray ourselves with disinfectant, and silently head back to our hotel.

The next day she visits a small treatment center run by an Italian NGO. What she sees when she gets there is a suspected Ebola patient turned away because the center is full.

I peer into the car. Francis is sitting in the passenger seat staring into space. His eyes are red, and he has the hiccups – both are clear symptoms of Ebola. After almost an hour of pleading, the family eventually give up. The five of them pile back into their car and drive away. Everyone in that vehicle is now potentially at risk of catching Ebola.

When we enter the treatment centre, I feel the helplessness and frustration of that family and I demand to know why they didn’t allow that potentially dying man inside. Surely they can do something for him. The centre’s co-ordinator, Luca Rolla, tells me their priority has to be their staff and the patients they are already treating. He tells me that they cannot go over capacity or they risk everyone else inside the centre. One of their doctors has already contracted the virus and is now being treated in Germany.

More centers and more doctors are desperately needed.

While the BBC is filming, though, Luca gets a phone call: another center has a bed available, so he calls Francis’s family and tells them to go straight there.

The next day Tulip films another report.

Then soon after 18:00, just as one of the BBC World presenters is about to introduce me live, my producer, Mark, runs over and tells me some terrible news. Francis Samuka, whom we watched being turned away from a treatment centre yesterday, has died. His family has called and told us he passed away at an isolation centre a few hours ago. His sister could barely speak when she was delivering the news, she was wailing with sorrow. My heart sinks… and then I hear the presenter in my earpiece saying: “Tulip, what’s the latest?”

I explain what’s happened, all the time thinking of Francis’ bloodshot eyes and the look of despair I saw in him just the day before.

I am glad we were able to tell Francis Samuka’s story. It’s important people know this is happening on a daily basis across West Africa. It underlines why governments here and global aid agencies continue to plead for more international help, so patients like Francis can be treated, instead of being turned away.

The BBC does good work.

 

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



The revenge

Oct 7th, 2014 10:13 am | By

Laurie Penny says we’re winning. Who? Who’s we? Social Justice Warriors.

She’s been thinking about the reaction – the revenge – from the anti-Social Justice Warriors, and what it means.

The routine, the arguments, have become far too familiar. A woman or a handful of women are selected for destruction; our ‘credibility’ and ‘professionalism’ are attacked in the same breath as we are called ugly, slut-shamed for dismissed either as stupid little girls or bitter old women or, in some cases, both.

The medium is modern, but the logic is Victorian, and make no mistake, the problem is not what we do and say and build and create.

The problem is that women are doing it. That’s why the naked selfies, the slut-shaming, is not just incidental to the argument—it is the argument. Underneath it all, you’re just a woman, just a body. You can be reduced to flesh. You are less. You are an object. You are other. LOL, boobs.

It’s sort of as if we were dogs. Imagine if dogs suddenly started trying to participate in human affairs as equals. What would we do? We would exclaim that dogs smell bad, and they crap right out in public where everyone can see, and then they just walk away and leave it. Underneath it all, they’re just dogs – they’re here to be our buddies and companions, to play and cuddle and bark at raccoons. They’re not like us; they can’t run things and write books and create games and talk at conferences and be critical of bad ideas. LOL, farts.

This is a culture war. The right side is winning, at great cost. At great personal costs to people like Anita Sarkeesian, Leigh Alexander, Zoe Quinn and even Jennifer Lawrence, and countless others who are on the frontlines of creating new worlds for women, for girls, for everyone who believes that stories matter and there are too many still untold. We are winning. We are winning because we are more resourceful, more compassionate, more culturally aware. We’re winning because we know what it’s like to fight through adversity, through shame and pain and constant reminders of our own worthlessness, and come up punching. We know we’re winning because the terrified rage of a million mouthbreathing manchild misogynists is thick as nerve gas in the air right now.

And we are winning because we’re not dogs, or comparable to dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs (and cats – don’t ask me to choose one), but I don’t want to read books by dogs or get on planes flown by dogs. If we were comparable to dogs, the misogynists would have a point. But we’re not, so they don’t.

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



Is that a tweet in your pocket?

Oct 6th, 2014 4:32 pm | By

David Futrelle reports another instance of Janet Bloomfield telling lies about a feminist to whip up Twitter hatred against her.

Janet Bloomfield – A Voice for Men’s compulsively lying “social media director” – is at it again.

A couple of months back, Bloomfield – who goes by JudgyBitch1 on Twitter – decided for some reason that she could best serve AVFM’s social media directing needs by straight-up libeling feminist writer Jessica Valenti – by making up inflammatory quotes and attributing them to Valenti in a series of Tweets. She later boasted in on her blog that the quotes – which she admitted she’d conjured out of thin air – had inflamed hatred of Valenti and caused her to catch “a bit of hell.”

Now Bloomfield is pulling the exact same stunt again. This time, her target is feminist cultural critic and #GamerGate bete noire Anita Sarkeesian.

On Saturday, Bloomfield tweeted an obviously doctored “screenshot” of a tweet that Sarkeesian never made.

Why obviously? Because it’s 218 characters.

But that doesn’t matter, because it worked – the Twitter army was stirred and it duly offered up its truckload of sexist hatred, a small sample of which you can see at We Hunted the Mammoth.

Nice things? This is why we can’t have them.

 

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



A watershed moment

Oct 6th, 2014 4:07 pm | By

The ACLU has a press release on the Supreme Court’s denial of review in marriage equality cases today.

NEW YORK – The Supreme Court of the United States today denied review in all of the marriage equality cases pending before it. As a result of the Court’s action, same-sex couples in Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma and Utah will now be able to marry the partners they love. Today’s orders also mean that same-sex marriage will soon become lawful in at least 30 states.

“This is a watershed moment for the entire country. We are one big step closer to the day when all same-sex couples will have the freedom to marry regardless of where they live. The time has come and the country is ready,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “This is life-saving news for same-sex couples all across the country. Marriage helps families deal with times of crisis, and the Supreme Court’s action today means more loving and committed couples will have access to the protections that marriage provides.”

The ACLU was co-counsel in five of the seven petitions that were denied today, in cases from Indiana, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The ACLU has been working for the rights of LGBT people since 1936, when it brought its first gay rights case. The organization filed the first freedom-to-marry lawsuit for same-sex couples in 1970, represented Edie Windsor in her successful challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, and has filed thirteen federal marriage lawsuits on behalf of same-sex couples since then.

More information on the ACLU’s work to secure marriage equality across the country is available at:

https://www.aclu.org/out-freedom

Well done ACLU.

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



The spiritual battle for the spirit of this nation

Oct 6th, 2014 11:34 am | By

A newly elected state senator in Texas said last week that Christians in the US are treated the way Jews were treated in Nazi Germany.

Charles Perry made the comparison after being sworn in on Tuesday following his victory earlier this month in a special election to replace a retiring state senator, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.

In his inaugural speech, Perry said a recent trip to a concentration camp in Germany made him draw a comparison between what he believes are efforts by the government to pass laws against religion and the killing of Jews during the Holocaust.

“There were 10,000 people that were paraded into a medical office [at the concentration camp in Germany] under the guise of a physical. As they stood with their back against the wall, they were executed with a bullet through the throat. Before they left, 10,000 people met their fate that way,” Perry said.

“Is it not the same than when our government continues to perpetuate laws that lead citizens away from God? The only difference is that the fraud of the Germans was more immediate and whereas the fraud of today’s government will not be exposed until the final days and will have eternal-lasting effects.”

Is it not the same? No it is not the same. For instance, Christians are not being paraded into a medical office and executed with a bullet through the throat. That isn’t happening here. Nothing at all like it is happening here.

Maybe Perry think he has that covered with the bit about “The only difference is that the fraud of the Germans was more immediate.” I suppose he could have meant that shooting people through the throat is immediate, while passing laws that theocrats think are incompatible with friendship with God is less immediate. I would dispute him by saying that “immediate” and “less immediate” are not the right terms to cover that difference. They don’t get at the extent or seriousness of the difference.

Perry said in his speech that while he’ll work to address the state’s financial needs by prioritizing state funding and balancing the budget without raising taxes, his biggest challenge will be the “spiritual battle for the spirit of this nation and the soul of its people.”

Thus neatly exemplifying one big reason theocrats do not make good state senators – they don’t even know what their fucking job is, and instead want to do a completely different and inappropriate job.

 

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



The decision to let the appeals court rulings stand

Oct 6th, 2014 11:06 am | By

The Supremes have given us a surprise, in a good way for once.

In a move that may signal the inevitability of a nationwide right to same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court on Monday let stand appeals court rulings allowing such unions in five states.

The development, a major surprise, cleared the way for same-sex marriages in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Officials in Virginia announced that marriages would start at 1 p.m. on Monday.

The decision to let the appeals court rulings stand, which came without explanation in a series of brief orders, will almost immediately increase the number of states allowing same-sex marriage from 19 to 24, along with the District of Columbia.

They’re doing it this way on purpose, apparently. Letting things play out before ruling.

There may then be no turning back, said Walter E. Dellinger III, who was an acting United States solicitor general in the Clinton administration.

“The more liberal justices have been reluctant to press this issue to an up-or-down vote until more of the country experiences gay marriage,” he said. “Once a substantial part of the country has experienced gay marriage, then the court will be more willing to finish the job.”

There is precedent for such an approach. The court waited until 1967, for instance, to strike down bans on interracial marriage, when the number of states allowing such unions had grown to 34, though it was still opposed by a significant majority of Americans.

Popular opinion has moved much faster than the courts on same-sex marriage, however, with many Americans and large majorities of young people supporting it.

Let’s have a round of applause for Mad About You and Will and Grace and Modern Family.

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



Fantasy views

Oct 5th, 2014 6:00 pm | By

More of that view.

1630 36th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

The skyscrapers on the far side of the lake are Bellevue. I’ve never understood why a suburb like Bellevue needs skyscrapers, but there they are, looking silly. The neighborhood these houses are in is called Madrona.

1630 36th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

And there again, with the Cascades – and, apparently, a bunch of smog. If the picture had been taken in winter or spring, there would be a lot more snow in those mountains.

And here is the shy local celebrity:

1630 36th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

That there is a volcano. Also the tallest mountain in the lower 48.

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



City life

Oct 5th, 2014 5:50 pm | By

This is something I looked at this afternoon.

1630 36th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

1630 36th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

1630 36th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

That’s Lake Washington in the background, and what we call the East Side, which is suburbs like Bellevue and Kirkland and, farther east, Redmond, where Microsoft is. Beyond that are the Cascades.

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



If it is broke

Oct 5th, 2014 5:31 pm | By

Continuing with Reza Aslan is wrong about Islam and this is why

 

  • Malaysia has a dual-system of law which mandates sharia law for Muslims. These allow men to have multiple wives (polygyny) and discriminate against women in inheritance (as mandated by Islamic scripture). It also prohibits wives from disobeying the “lawful orders” of their husbands.
  • Bangladesh, which according to feminist Tahmima Anam made real advancements towards equality in its inception, also “created a barrier to women’s advancement.” This barrier? An article in the otherwise progressive constitution which states that “women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the state and of the public life” but in the realm of private affairs (marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody), “it acknowledges Islam as the state religion and effectively enshrines the application of Islamic law in family affairs. The Constitution thus does nothing to enforce equality in private life.”

And then there’s Turkey. Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider point out that it’s no good pointing to Turkey as evidence for the claim that it’s “facile” to say that women are “somehow mistreated in the Muslim world.” Turkey is not evidence for that because for decades it was more secular than other majority-Muslim countries.

Only apologists would ignore the circumstances that led to Turkey’s incredible progress and success relative to the Muslim world, and hold it up as an example of “Islamic” advancement of women’s rights.

And why does any of this matter?

We believe that Islam badly needs to be reformed, and it is only Muslims who can truly make it into a modern religion. But it is the likes of Reza Aslan who act as a deterrent to change by refusing to acknowledge real complications within the scripture and by actively promoting half-truths. Bigotry against Muslims is a real and pressing problem, but one can criticize the Islamic ideology without treating Muslims as themselves problematic or incapable of reform.

There are true Muslim reformists who are willing to call a spade a spade while working for the true betterment of their peoples — but their voices are drowned out by the noise of apologists who are all-too-often aided by the Western left. Those who accept distortions in order to hold on to a comforting dream-world where Islamic fundamentalism is merely an aberration are harming reform by encouraging apologists.

You can’t fix it if you refuse to believe it’s broke.

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



Being “schooled”

Oct 5th, 2014 12:13 pm | By

A great guest post on Hemant’s blog by Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider on how and why Reza Aslan is wrong about Islam.

A video clip of Aslan responding to Bill Maher’s comments on Islam went viral last week.

Maher stated (among other things) that “if vast numbers of Muslims across the world believe, and they do, that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea or drawing a cartoon or writing a book or eloping with the wrong person, not only does the Muslim world have something in common with ISIS, it has too much in common with ISIS.” Maher implied a connection between FGM and violence against women with the Islamic faith, to which the charming Aslan seems to be providing a nuanced counterbalance, calling Maher “unsophisticated” and his arguments “facile.” His comments were lauded by many media outlets, including Salon and the Huffington Post.

Although we have become accustomed to the agenda-driven narrative from Aslan, we were blown away by how his undeniably appealing but patently misleading arguments were cheered on by many, with the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple going so far as to advise show producers not to put a show-host against Aslan “unless your people are schooled in religion, politics and geopolitics of the Muslim world.”

Only those who themselves aren’t very “schooled” in Islam and Muslim affairs would imply that Aslan does anything but misinform by cherry-picking and distorting facts.

Muhammad and Sarah correct Aslan point by point.

Aslan contends that while some Muslim countries have problems with violence and women’s rights, in others like “Indonesia, women are absolutely 100 percent equal to men” and it is therefore incorrect to imply that such issues are a problem with Islam and “facile” to imply that women are “somehow mistreated in the Muslim world.”

Let us be clear here: No one in their right mind would claim that Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh are a “free and open society for women.” Happily, a few of them have enshrined laws that have done much to bring about some progress in equality between the sexes. But this progress is hindered or even eroded by the creeping strength of the notoriously anti-woman Sharia courts.

For example:

  • Indonesia has increasingly become more conservative. (Notoriously anti-women) Sharia courts that were “optional” have risen to equal status with regular courts in family matters. The conservative Aceh province even legislates criminal matters via Sharia courts, which has been said to violate fundamental human rights.

There’s much more, all informative. I gotta go. More later.

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



Making a stand

Oct 5th, 2014 11:22 am | By

Sara Khan wants an Islam that is about mercy and compassion rather than an Islam that is about murdering people who have mercy and compassion, such as Alan Henning. Sara is heartbroken about the murder of Alan Henning.

It is well documented that it was the plight of young Syrian children that moved him to take that dangerous journey back to the country. As his family, friends, colleagues and local community testify, he was a man of integrity and of humanity and yet, tragically, it was these virtues that led to his death. I cannot find the will or the heart to take part in Eid festivities as I know those same friends, and indeed the nation, will be mourning the gentle, spirited cabbie from Salford.

If you were to sit with Isis, what common language would you bring to the table to try and come to some resolution, when it is difficult to find a starting point? I have seen grown men, Muslim scholars and ordinary Muslim women cry at the news of Alan’s death. But their tears are also shed because they know that not even ultra-conservative preachers in the UK can influence the group. Isis appears only to follow one law, that of death and destruction, and our challenge is understanding how best to deal with this ever existential threat to humanity.

How do you talk people out of joining Isis and other groups that are only a little less terrible?

This is why, last week, we launched #makingastand. The campaign encourages women to take the lead in exerting influence in their communities and to root out extremists who are preying on their children. But it is also designed to provide an alternative narrative for young British Muslims: to pledge their allegiance to their country, to respect human rights and to be a peaceful, thoughtful member of British society.

And of global society – not the ummah, but the community of all human beings. Respecting human rights requires understanding that local loyalties must not be allowed to trump universal human rights.

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