May 5th, 2012 12:23 pm | By

There’s a strange essay by Anthony Pinn at RDF which is not going down very well with the readers who have been commenting so far. It’s very long and very…how shall I say, very baroque in a Literary Theory kind of way. A lot of words to say something not very complicated.

I’ll give you a little sample; see what you think.

Many atheists and theists share a hyper optimism regarding human progress.  While each group points to the demise of the other as a key component in positive human development – both also presume proper posture toward the world, and use of a certain set of tools, to promote human advancement.  For the theists this is all guided by the good intentions and assistance of a benevolent deity, and for the atheist it is premised on the reliability of scientific inquiry and reason.

While something of a hopeful outlook is a useful approach to ethical conduct, it should be guided and monitored by a sense of realism – recognition of persistent human misconduct and the resulting moral and ethical challenges.  Theists can always haul such problems to the altar, pray about them, ritualize them, or chalk them up to mystery.  For the atheists, the resolution isn’t so easily achieved. The difficulty for atheists isn’t mystical. It stems from a lack of acute attention to the cultural worlds in which we live, worlds that are not so easily unpacked and addressed through appeal to science and logic.  Cultural signs and symbols, cultural framings of life and life meaning are not necessarily guided by scientific method and do not necessary respond to reason.  Instead they function by means of both logic and illogic. Mindful of this, a few questions should be asked:  what is a proper atheistic response to moral failure?  What is the proper ethical posture toward human problems that seem to defy reason and logic?  And, in light of recent developments, do atheists understand and care about black bodies?

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

When the environment makes gender salient

May 5th, 2012 10:39 am | By

Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender, p xxvi:

When the environment makes gender salient, there is a ripple effect on the mind. We start to think of ourselves in terms of our gender, and stereotypes and social expectations become more prominent in the mind. This can change self-perception, alter interests, debilitate or enhance ability, and trigger unintentional discrimination.

There is a large body of research that demonstrates this. It’s not some fuzzy thing that we just guess at.

This is why it’s so maddening that sexist sneering and “joking” and one-upping and epitheting is still, after all this time, considered normal and ok in a way that the racist or ethnic equivalent just is not.

Want to test that? Just imagine Tom Harris, Labour MP, tweeting “What a hero! Fearless protester chucks an egg at EdM and runs away. Like a Jew. Throws like a Jew too.”

SeewotImean? He’d never say that. It would be career suicide. But girl? Oh well that’s completely different.

No it isn’t. No it isn’t, you brainless heartless bastard. You just added another mite to the huge pile of stereotypical inferiority that girls are subjected to from birth. You just made gender salient, and you reminded the gender in question that it’s sneaky and cowardly and weak. And you wouldn’t do it to people of other races, or nationalities, or immigration status – but you’re happy to do it to girls.

What a hero.

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

There must be a benefit

May 4th, 2012 4:39 pm | By

A fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics says FGM is an “honor” for women.

Below are words from scholars on the ruling on circumcision:

The Hanafis: Al-Zayla’i said: “The general ruling is that circumcision is sunnah, and is one of the trademarks of Islam. In fact, if the people of Egypt or some land decided to abandon its practice, the Imam would make war against them, for it cannot be abandoned except by necessity… Female circumcision is not sunnah, but it is an honor for men because it is more pleasing during sex”

Well that’s the important thing. It’s painful and dangerous for women? Pff – who cares – it is more pleasing for men during sex.

Perhaps the saying that it is (only) recommended is due to the pain women must go through to carry out the acts of al-fitrah, such as circumcision, as stated in the sound hadith. But as we mentioned, this is not evidence of it being confined only to men. The term circumcision was used for both men and women during Muhammad’s time. But it is clear that performing circumcision must be preferable to not performing it, especially when one considers that circumcision includes both pain and revealing one’s nakedness. Thus if there was no benefit to it, the Messenger of Allah would not have agreed to it.

That’s a fabulous argument! It hurts like fuck and it’s humiliating, therefore there must be a benefit to it! No need to figure out what that is, just reason in a tight little circle that Mo wouldn’t have said yes otherwise because Mo is Mo so it must be all right because Mo wouldn’t have said yes otherwise.

Grown up people, in an academy of pediatrics, talking a raft of nonsense about what some guy said 14 centuries ago, to justify chopping up little girls’ crotches. Gag me.


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

First humiliate them, then fire them

May 4th, 2012 4:17 pm | By

Here’s a thing.

Dear Friends,

Martha Reyes walked in the employee entrance of the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency to the sound of her male colleagues laughing.

She believed they were laughing at her.

It was “Housekeeping Appreciation Week” at the Hyatt and to celebrate, a digitally altered photo collage of Hyatt Housekeepers’ faces — including Martha’s and her sister Lorena’s — superimposed on bikini-clad cartoon-bodies was posted on a bulletin board at work.

She felt humiliated and embarrassed. But she knew her sister Lorena — also a housekeeper at Hyatt — would be even more so. Martha tore the posters of her and her sister down. Then, with management present, a coworker told Martha she needed to return the photos.

She refused and said if they wanted it back, they’d have to take her to court.

Hyatt management fired Martha and Lorena just a few weeks later.

Sign our petition to Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian asking him to apologize to Martha and Lorena and reinstate them with full back-pay. The Reyes sisters and community allies will deliver it next week to Hyatt officials.

They were fired for allegedly taking too long on their lunch break. But we don’t buy that excuse for a second. Here’s why:

Martha and Lorena worked at that hotel as housekeepers for 7 and 24 years respectively. During that time, the Reyes sisters were good employees. On the day she was fired, the HR Director told Martha she was an “excellent worker” and that there hadn’t been any complaints about her. Before the day Lorena was fired, she had never in her 24 years been written up for a single break violation.

The firing of the Reyes sisters is a new low, even for Hyatt, which is looking to grow it’s hotel chain in major tourist markets like Australia and the United Kingdom.

What happened to the Reyes sisters is just another example of Hyatt’s culture of disrespect for its workers: Hyatt housekeepers have high rates of injury, and in 2011 various state and federal agencies issued 18 citations against Hyatt for alleged safety violations. Hyatt has even lobbied against new laws that would make housekeeping work safer, and has made it a pattern  of firing housekeepers only to hire subcontractors everywhere from Manilla to Boston.

Martha is the mother of five children and fears she may lose her house. Lorena is a mother of three and is struggling as the sole supporter of her family. As long-time employees of Hyatt, the Reyes sisters deserve some basic decency and the right to complain about their workplace without being fired.

As potential Hyatt customers, we have to draw the line. Sexually degrading housekeeping staff is unacceptable by any measure and the CEO of should take responsibility for Hyatt’s culture of disrespect for its workers now.

With May Day just passed — a day when people all over the world pause to acknowledge the work of people like Martha and Lorena — we at are humbled by workers like the Reyes sisters who dare to stand up for their rights. We are proud to stand with them, and join our partners at UNITE-HERE, in demanding justice for the two sisters.

Thank you!

I signed it. Thanks to the Orlando conference, I was able to check the box next to “I have stayed at Hyatt in the past year.”

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

Our understanding was so inadequate

May 4th, 2012 2:45 pm | By

Lots of people are calling for Sean Brady to resign. Lots of people are horrified at how clueless he still is, how indifferent the Vatican still is, how morally obtuse they all are.

Brady said something in his statement on Wednesday that needs close attention.

With many others who worked regularly with children in 1975, I regret that our understanding of the full impact of abuse on the lives of children as well as the pathology and on-going risk posed by a determined paedophile was so inadequate.

Their understanding was so inadequate in 1975.

Well if their understanding was inadequate then and is better now, that means their understanding has improved over time.

But the clergy are supposed to have a pipeline to god, aren’t they? Aren’t they?

Aren’t they supposed to know what’s what, and isn’t that’s why they consider themselves entitled to tell all the rest of us what’s what?

Their understanding isn’t supposed to be “inadequate,” now is it. They consider themselves moral arbiters, entitled to tell everyone what to do. Not guide, not suggest, but tell. They are priests. They are a special body, so special that filthy weak immoral women are officially barred from entry. They are authorities; they represent Authority.

So how can their understanding of something so basic (and so very important for them in particular, given their history) as what child rape does to children – how can it be inadequate? Why doesn’t god make it not inadequate? Why don’t they know? Why don’t they get it right just by virtue of being priests?

We’re always hearing about “church teachings.” “Church teachings” are why the church keeps demanding the right to ignore equality legislation and treat gays as contaminants. Surely this implies that “church teachings” are timeless and always right, while mere equality legislation is the product of foolish human whims and fashions that come and go. But if that’s how church teachings are, why was there no church teaching that timelessly informed all priests about the full impact of rape on the lives of children? Why has their understanding improved over time?

I want to know. I want to know why they’re so certain of their rightness about gays and the ordination of women and abortion when they were so wrong and brutal and self-interested about children being raped by their own colleagues. I want to know why they think they have so much as a toenail to stand on when it comes to morality. I want to know what the hell makes them think they know better than the rest of us about how to treat human beings.

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

Feminism the Kuwaiti way

May 4th, 2012 2:12 pm | By

They’re tidying things up in Kuwait. They’d gotten a bit slack, and that won’t do.

The Kuwaiti parliament yesterday passed a draft bill toughening the penalty against blasphemy to death, the state news agency reported. The parliament approved the draft by a majority of 40 lawmakers, with six opposing, according to the agency. Blasphemy was previously an offence punishable by jail in the Gulf country. Under the amended bill, any Muslim found guilty of insulting God, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or his wives, will be punished by death, said the agency. For non-Muslims, the offence will be punished by a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

Not even his wives. That seems harsh. So you can’t even say “that guy threw an egg and ran away, like Mohammed’s second wife”? Jeez, Kuwait. We don’t want slackness, but you have to leave room for jokes.


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

I was laughing at the bloke when I called him a girl, don’t you get it?

May 4th, 2012 11:54 am | By

Ok it’s surely not permissible to blog about a Twitter storm – it’s too meta, or too navel-gazing, or too small – but once in awhile you just have to. (All the examples that are coming to mind have to do with misogyny, come to think of it. Jessica Ahlquist. Penn Jillette. #mencallmethings. And now Tom Harris MP.)

Once in awhile you just have to, so I am. People are telling him that tweet was sexist, and he’s digging in. He’s a clueless, nasty jerk. He should just take it back, but instead he’s saying it was a joke about the protester.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck – dude, if you “insult” a man by saying “like a girl” and then #loser – it’s women that you’re insulting.

sunny hundal@sunny_hundal Pathetic sexism RT @tomharrismp: What a hero! Fearless protester chucks an egg at EdM and runs away. Like a girl. Throws like a girl too.

Iain Martin@iainmartin1 @sunny_hundal I think that @tomharrismp may have been making something called a ‘joke’, Sunny.

Claire Phipps@Claire_Phipps @iainmartin1@sunny_hundal because really @tomharrismp thinks girls are just great at throwing and not running away from things? #hmm

Iain Martin@iainmartin1 @Claire_Phipps@sunny_hundal Grimly inevitable, @TomHarrisMP will end up in stocks with MPs led by @stellacreasy pelting him with eggs.

nicky clark@mrsnickyclark @stellacreasy@leicesterliz@TomHarrisMP Why are Labour women making light of this? That I’m sure will be a comfort to your constituents?

RachelRoncone‏@Rachela53@mrsnickyclark@stellacreasy@leicesterliz@tomharrismp Because it was a JOKE! Or we not allowed to laugh at women nowadays?

Tom Harris@TomHarrisMP @Rachela53@mrsnickyclark@stellacreasy@leicesterliz I was laughing at the egg-wielding eejit, actually.

Oh good god…

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

Throws like a girl, too

May 4th, 2012 11:21 am | By

Same old same old same old same old. Woman says things that people disagree with; people call her a slut a whore a bitch a cunt.

Louise Mensch is currently making news because she’s been the target of misogyny. After she journeyed to every TV studio in London to voice her ill-advised support for Rupert Murdoch, some unpleasant individuals took to Twitter to brand her a slut, a whore, a bitch and other unedifying terms. In response, Mensch meticulously documented all those inveighing against her, and took to Twitter (where else?) to denounce them using the hashtag #feminism.

She’s a Tory. I’m not a Tory, just as I’m not a Republican. I somehow manage to get along however without calling Michelle Bachmann a slut or a whore or a bitch or a cunt.

Mensch is being accused of using the misogyny she’s encountered to claim some sort of victim status. Well I’m sorry, but I just don’t think that’s true. Whenever I have suffered misogyny as a result of an argument I have made, I’ve never thought, ‘oh good, here’s something I can use.’ I feel depressed, because yet again I’m not being listened to. Yet again I’m being judged simply for having an opinion – for not being the pure, submissive, obedient ideal I’m supposed to be. The idiots who call opinionated women whores and sluts aren’t giving those women ammunition to deflect valid criticism; they’re oppressing them using the same rotten tropes women are exposed to from the moment the doctor says ‘it’s a girl.’

Anyone who casts doubt on Mensch’s insistence that she is sharing her experience because she refuses to feel ashamed simply doesn’t understand that shame is integral to misogyny. We women are often cast as the raw materials of body hair, madness, and sexual urges, which we must then wax, tame and abstain into social acceptance. Whenever we stray away from the ideal society has constructed for us, we’re judged as lapsing back into an unrefined natural state, like Lady Macbeth, Moll Flanders or the madwoman in the attic. When I’ve been called shrill or a slut, I often don’t tell people because I’m afraid that even the mere association with those terms might encourage others to think that maybe I am those things. And that will make me dirty and repellent.

Plus stupid and a coward and a loser. I just went to Twitter to re-find the Mensch tweets, and before I could look I found a tweet from a Labour MP.

Tom Harris@TomHarrisMP

What a hero! Fearless protester chucks an egg at EdM and runs away. Like a girl. Throws like a girl too. #loser

I’m tempted to move to Glasgow so that I can ostentatiously not vote for Tom Harris MP for Glasgow South.

Now for some Mensch tweets.

find yourself calling louise mensch every name under the sun during select comm press conference,cold faced cold hearted bitch

Rupert Hitler bent on world  corp fascist domination is a fukn saint  Loise mensch is a typical soulless rich whore.

Louise Mensch really is an absolutely Rancid cunt isn’t she?

We asked some crusties if they’d have sex with Louise Mensch

Asking the members of Occupy London, “Would You Have Sex With Louise Mensch?”

Trenchant political analysis, innit.

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

Only one way to be

May 3rd, 2012 5:56 pm | By

There’s another horrible thing about “Pastor Sean” and his terrible raging sermon. It’s obvious enough but I want to spell it out.

It’s that he’s telling parents to hate what their children are. He’s not telling them to discipline a certain kind of bad behavior, he’s telling them to bully their children if the children are becoming a certain kind of person.

There are some kinds of broad category one would want to try to discourage children from being – mean, or domineering, or self-centered. But other than that, it’s a nasty business rejecting what a child is. Surely a good parent doesn’t do that. Surely a good parent welcomes whatever kind of person emerges as a child grows up.

Oh well, I suppose it’s otiose to belabor the point. Obviously the man has a painfully narrow impoverished idea of human possibilities and a panicky need to impose conformity everywhere. Obviously he wants girls to look like Barbie dolls and boys to look like extras in a Discover channel show about guns or motorcycles or gold mining or lumberjacking or crab fishing or dirty jobs. But still. It’s depressing that he really does want to squash all the ones who don’t fit.


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

A woman in secularism

May 3rd, 2012 5:18 pm | By

Lots of erm discussion of the new executive director of the Secular Coalition for America (replacing Sean Faircloth who left to go to work for the RDF). She’s a Republican, and not just a Republican, but an insider, an operative.

From 2001-2002, Rogers served as an Economic Advisor for President George W. Bush at the White House, at the National Economic Council, where she focused on health and social security policy. She also worked on International Trade matters for President George H. W. Bush at the Department of Commerce from 1989 until 1991.

Rogers served as General Counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 1994. She worked for Senator Lott while he was Majority Leader in 1999 and she handled health policy for Senator Sessions in 2003 and 2004.


Hemant did an interview with her.

Why should we trust you now to work for us after a career spent working for people who seem to be actively against us?

I think it’s a misconception that the majority of Republicans are lined up against the secular movement. As someone who has been an insider within the Republican Party, I’m certain it’s not the consensus of the majority of Republicans to have an [overt] influence of religion on our laws. Having said that, no one agrees with everyone they work with on every single issue. In these roles I never worked on anything having to do with issues of religion — I worked primarily on economic issues.

It’s not the consensus of the majority of Republicans to have an overt influence of religion on our laws? Well I can’t believe that, said Alice.

I do think that for the vast majority of conservatives and Republicans, they are true believers of secularism — the majority of Republicans believe in the separation of church and state.

Yeah I don’t believe that, either. If that were true they would have done something about it by now.

One of the issues the atheist community has struggled with, especially lately, has been getting more women involved in our movement.  Do you think your role with the SCA can help change that?

Of course, I think me being female will help recruit women and I am going to make it a priority to get more women involved. I will be speaking at the Women in Secularism conference on the 19th of this month.

Oh – I didn’t know that. Interesting.

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

A Jespology

May 3rd, 2012 3:58 pm | By

The pastor who gave the sermon telling people (that is, fathers) to punch their sons if they see them “dropping the limp wrist” and to shout at their daughters if they are “too butch” - Sean Harris – is complaining on Twitter that his apology is being spurned. So I looked for and found his “apology.” He has a blog – we are colleagues! – and he blogged his apology. Or clarification. It’s probably not really an apology since the words “sorry” and “apologize” and “apology” don’t appear. The closest thing is “apologetics” in the left margin, and that ain’t close enough. Maybe that’s why his “apology” is being spurned: it’s not one.*

By now you may know that my words, from Sunday morning’s sermon, about effeminate behavior in children are being completely taken out of context by those in the LGBT community. (Nearly every article is misquoting me.)

Clearly, I would like to have been more careful with exactly what I said, but sometimes I say things without enough clarity. I trust you understood my intent in the context of my total preaching ministry. If you did not, I would be more than happy to meet with you privately to provide clarity.

Clarity about

Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist.

Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you’re going to be a male.

His voice was savage in that part (and other parts). It’s clear. To change the meaning, he would have to withdraw it, not clarify it.

For the record, I want to ensure everyone that I do NOT believe physical force is capable of fixing effeminate behavior or homosexual behavior. Parents should not punch babies or children. (Ultimately only the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to deliver one from sexual immorality and behavior including effeminacy; )

I would never advocate for such discipline or actions on behalf of a father or mother. I misspoke. Hopefully, you understood that I was speaking in a forceful manner to emphasize the degree to which gender distinctions matter to God; and therefore, must matter to each of us and especially parents.

He spoke in a savagely angry manner, his voice dripping with disgust and rage, to emphasize his own unreasonable prejudices, which he conceitedly assumes are identical with those of “God.”

Those in the opposition are suggesting all sorts of hateful things and using ungodly and profane words. Those who speak of the love of God are using the most hateful terms I have ever read. We must never resort to such language.

I want to stress just how much I love your children and my desire is only to see them glorify God in the lives they live in obedience to God’s will for each of them as revealed in the Word of God.

Oh no you don’t. You don’t get to pretend to “love” anyone’s children when you spit hatred at any of them who don’t fit your ignorant bigoted profile of what is Normal and Allowable.

As I emphasized in this sermon, as well as the week before, we must not be hateful toward those whose behavior is an abomination to God. But we also cannot compromise on what we believe the Bible teaches on all sexual perversions and immorality.

The opposition is revealing their complete lack of toleration toward those do not approve of the LGBT lifestyle or agenda. However, we must be tolerantly intolerant. Jesus our Savior provides the perfect example of grace and truth.

The usual passive aggressive bullshit. We are loving and kind, they are mean and intolerant, so when we talk mean intolerant smack, it isn’t that, because we are good and they are not, and we wish they were all burning in hell right this second.

*Update and correction: He did do a retraction, and there is some apologizing in it. It’s pretty worthless, because he still calls people he dislikes sinners and still insists that “God” hates all that stuff, including “effeminacy” (how tf does he know?), but it’s there.

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

Alex Aan wants to see a better world

May 3rd, 2012 2:41 pm | By

Alex Aan could get up to 11 years in prison for “blasphemy.”

His case has stoked a debate in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, whose 240 million citizens are technically guaranteed freedom of religion but protected by law only if they believe in one of six credos: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism. Those who question any of those face five years in prison for “insulting a major religion”, plus an additional six years if they use the internet to spread such “blasphemy” to others.

I don’t see how that’s freedom of religion at all, technically or otherwise. I think the word should be “ostensibly.” If you can get 5 years in the slammer for questioning a religion and 11 for doing it on the intertubes, that’s not freedom.

Activists say Aan’s is the first case in which an atheist is being tried in relation to the first pillar of Indonesia’s state philosophy – pancasila, which requires belief in one god.

Mandatory monotheism for short.

What a bizarre (and stupid) “philosophy.” What an intrusive requirement.

“What Alex has ‘done’ is exercise freedom of expression,” says Taufik Fajrin, one of the five lawyers defending him pro bono. “We’ll try our best to get him freed but just hope he’ll get a minimum sentence. Promoting human rights here is hard because you face fanatics and hardline culturalists. Even we, as his lawyers, are worried that hardliners will come to our office or homes and throw stones at us. It’s a challenge.”

Indonesia is the place that people always point to as the example of “moderate” Islam. It’s clearly not moderate anything.

Activists argue that the country is increasingly influenced politically and financially by conservative Wahhabi clerics from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, who help to incite intolerance in Indonesia. But the country’s discriminatory laws – ranging from vaguely worded decrees against proselytising to requirements to state one’s religion on one’s national identity card – as well as the increasing number of Muslim hardliners who have taken the law into their own hands, are also to blame, Harsono says.

“Victims keep getting longer prison terms and perpetrators less, while the human rights we set in place 10 years ago are  becoming unravelled,” he says. “We’re seeing a motion to ban mini-skirts in government buildings whereas [before] it was OK. Beauty queen contests were OK’d in the 1970s but have  been banned in some provinces, while Valentine’s Day celebrations were given the green light 30 years ago but this year were banned in Aceh.

“The situation is getting crazy,” Harsono continues. “We used to discuss these issues. Now there is no discussion. The discourse today is ‘This is un-Islamic and immoral’.”

So the third fourth most populous country on the planet totters toward being a hell-hole of fanaticism like Saudi Arabia.

Aan, who has the support of the US-based Atheist Alliance International and Council of ex-Muslims of Britain, says he knew from an early age that he was an atheist, but recognised that he would have to hide it from others. “From 11, I thought ‘If God exists, why is there suffering? Why is there war, poverty, hell?’ Because, to me, God would not create this hell. My family would ask me my thoughts but I knew my answers would cause problems, so I kept quiet.”

He looks out the window to where a group of inmates are celebrating their Sunday by performing karoake to drum’n'bass in the dusty prison yard, most of them smoking, all of them barefoot. “I only want to see a better world and help create a better world,” he says. “If I cannot … then I would prefer to die.”

We need an atheist superhero who can swoop in and rescue people like Alex Aan and Hamza Kashgari.


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

Flouncing v derision

May 3rd, 2012 12:37 pm | By

The Economist raps Dan Savage over the knuckles.

Mr Savage was making one valid point and one sloppy one. The former: people who justify anti-gay bigotry by brandishing a Bible but ignore other, less convenient biblical prohibitions (the list might also include mixed fabrics and divorce) are hypocrites. The latter: people quick to condemn ought not to be so quick to take offence. The problem with the latter point is that however true it is in the abstract, it was not necessarily true in the particular. No evidence exists that the students who walked out ever condemned or bullied anyone. However poorly Mr Savage may have been treated in high school, it was not by the students in the audience, and they deserved more from a famous and accomplished journalist than derision.

But the point wasn’t that the students themselves are quick to condemn, it was that many Christians are and they justify it with the Bible. The walkout started as soon as he said that, before he even said “bullshit,” so the students were making a show of disapproval for Savage’s claim. That’s the point. Not that they themselves bully, but that they’re demonstrating support for those who do. They’re walking out in solidarity with the principle of bible-based bullying.

And they didn’t really deserve more than the very mild derision of Savage’s remark. They did stage a showy and often giggly walkout by way of dissent from what he was saying, and they did deserve a little derision in return.

The Economist almost concedes as much right after the knuckle-rap.

 (He could, of course, have opted to make a broader point: that nobody should be so quick to take offence; that journalists will hear a lot of things over the course of a career that they find offensive and even hurtful, and walking out anytime that happens will result in a short career and a narrow mind; that, however ugly his language Mr Savage was at least advancing arguments, and that surely at least one of those offended souls hoping to make a life out of words could have found a few to hurl back at him rather than just flouncing out in a huff.)

“Bullshit” really isn’t all that ugly, and ”pansy ass” isn’t really all that insulting in response to people flouncing out in a huff.

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

Crack that wrist

May 3rd, 2012 11:35 am | By

A pastor gives some advice to parents on how to police their children’s genders. With boys you’re supposed to give them a good punch. With girls you’re supposed to call them sweetheart and then shout as loud as you can. That’s gender-modeling right there: punching for boys, sweetheart + shouting for girls.

So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, “Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that’s what boys do”


you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female [heavy disgusted emphasis] and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed.

Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist.

Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you’re going to be a male.

And when your daughter starts acting too butch you rein her in. And you say, “Oh, no, oh no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play’em, play’em to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and [with ever-increasing emphasis] walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.

You say, “Can I take charge like that as a parent?” Yeah, you can. You are authorized. I just gave you a special dispensation this morning to do that.

The violence is disgusting and the policing is disgusting – but I have to admit I take the girl-policing personally. The policing of boys is horrible but at least they’re policed to be strong and tough and useful. Girls are policed to be “beautiful” and “attractive” and to dress themselves up. They’re policed to be feeble and dainty (walk like a girl, talk like a girl) so that men can bully other men by calling them girls, meaning feeble and dainty.

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

Do we get overtime?

May 2nd, 2012 4:24 pm | By

I didn’t know May Day had been rejigged to be Loyalty Day. It happened in the Ford administration, I’m told. Maybe something to do with being the totally unelected president.

Anyway, it has, so belated happy Loyalty Day. Did you have a Loyalty cake? Or a Loyalty turkey? Or Loyalty fireworks? What does one do for Loyalty Day, anyway? We know what we do for May Day: we hit the streets; but Loyalty Day, not so much.

Obama wishes us a happy Loyalty Day.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2012, as Loyalty Day. This Loyalty Day, I call upon all the people of the United States to join in support of this national observance, whether by displaying the flag of the United States or pledging allegiance to the Republic for which it stands.

Oh, I see, that’s what you do for Loyalty Day. You display the flag or you pledge allegiance. You could probably do both, although he makes it one or the other.

Yeah. Prayer Day and Loyalty Day. No thanks.

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

You need to have leaders who have learned the hard way

May 2nd, 2012 11:06 am | By

Cardinal Brady is still at the same old stand – saying he won’t resign despite new disclosures of his failure to pass on names and addresses of children being abused by Brendan Smyth.

The Catholic primate of all-Ireland has said that he will not resign as Church leader despite revelations in the BBC’s This World programme.

It found Cardinal Sean Brady had names and addresses of those being abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

However, he did not pass on those details to police or parents.

And Brendan Smyth went on abusing the children in question.

He says he had no authority. He says it was all the higher ups. He says he trusted them to deal with Brendan Smyth. He says he was just there to hold their coats. He says why is everybody picking on him. He says the BBC is being mean to him.

Senior Vatican Prosecutor Monsignor Charles Scicluna has defended Cardinal Brady.

“My first point is that Fr Brady was a note taker in 1975, he did what he should have done. He forwarded all the information to the people that had the power to act,” he said.

“My second point is that in the interest of the Church in Ireland, they need to have Cardinal Brady as the archbishop of Armagh because he has shown determination in promoting child protection policies. You need to have leaders who have learned the hard way and are determined to protect children.”

You need to have leaders who have learned the hard way. Really. So leaders should all be involved in botched self-protecting institution-protecting pseudo-investigations of child abuse early in their careers so that they can do a good job later, having “learned the hard way”? So it’s good that Ratzinger grew up under the Nazis and it’s a pity that other “leaders” missed out on that experience?

Sean Brady’s role in the affair became clear in 2010, when it became known that he had been present when the abused boy [Brendan Boland] was questioned.

He claimed, however, that the boy’s father had accompanied him, and described his own role as that of a note-taker.

However, the BBC This World investigation has uncovered the notes Cardinal Brady took while the boy was questioned.

The child’s father was not allowed in the room, and the child was immediately sworn to secrecy.

Brendan Boland’s father was not allowed in the room as a matter of canon law, according to Irish Times Religious Affairs Correspondent Patsy McGarry. Good old canon law, eh, protecting the clergy at the expense of anyone and everyone else.

H/t Sigmund.

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

Have a pie chart

May 2nd, 2012 9:40 am | By

A little more on Rothamsted Research and its wheat trial.

It’s a research facility founded in the 19th century. It’s a charity and a company. Its funding is laid out on its corporate information page.

Rothamsted Research is a grouping of private organisations and is one of seven institutes sponsored by the  Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Rothamsted Research is a charity and a company  limited by guarantee and occupies land and buildings owned by the Lawes Agricultural Trust. The Rothamsted Research Association is an independent body that facilitates interaction and dialogue between researchers, especially those at Rothamsted, and practitioners in the agri-environment sector.

Sources of income as percentages for 2010/11 (total £29m) are shown in the figure below:

PIE chart of finances

I hope that helps.

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

Measles is on the road to recovery

May 2nd, 2012 9:05 am | By

Well done anti-vaxxers – another triumph for public health. There are more than 200 confirmed cases of measles in the outbreak on Merseyside.

There are 210 confirmed cases, 39 of which needed hospital treatment. Ninety two cases are under investigation.

About 50% of the cases are in children under five years old.

The outbreak, which is concentrated on Liverpool where there are 125 confirmed cases, is the largest since the MMR vaccine was introduced.

Strange, isn’t it. There’s an effective vaccine for measles. You’d think it would be going away, not coming back.

Dr Roberto Vivancos, a Health Protection Agency consultant, said: “It’s obvious from these statistics that people who are not fully vaccinated are not just at risk themselves, but they pose an infection risk to others, such as defenceless babies and toddlers who are too young to be vaccinated.

“Measles is a very infectious illness that spreads rapidly amongst children and adults who are not protected by MMR vaccine.

“It is also a serious illness that can lead to serious complications. On rare occasions, people die from measles.

“It should not be treated lightly, but it is an avoidable illness and we strongly advise parents to ensure that their children are vaccinated.”

Fascist! It’s every parent’s right to refuse to get children vaccinated. Our ancestors died to protect our right to refuse to get children vaccinated; the right to be infected and to spread infection to others is sacred and cannot be abrogated.

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

Come on, kids, let’s destroy the crops!

May 1st, 2012 4:47 pm | By

Good old “activists” – anti-vax activists, pro alt med activists, anti-GM crops activists. Hooray for crop failure and famine!

Scientists working on a new generation of genetically modified crops have sent an open letter to anti-GM protesters pleading with them not to destroy “years of work” by attacking their research plots.

The activist group, Take the Flour Back, has pledged to carry out a “decontamination” at a test site in Hertfordshire, where agricultural researchers are growing the world’s first genetically modified wheat that can repel insect pests by emitting a repellent-smelling substance.

Because…it’s a good thing to have crops eaten by insects?

Scientists said that the suggestion they had used a cow gene “betrays a misunderstanding which may serve to confuse people or scare them but has no basis in scientific reality”.

Matt Thomson, from Take the Flour Back, told The Independent yesterday that action against the Rothamsted site would go ahead as planned.

“The concerns that we have are not addressed in this letter,” he said. “The way that Rothamsted have publicised this trial has been patronising. This wheat contains genes that are not naturally occurring.”

The publicity is patronizing, therefore they’re going to trash years of research into how to improve the production of staple food? 

That’s the most revoltingly frivolous thing I’ve seen in awhile.

Sense About Science has a petition you can sign and circulate.

Via Simon Singh at Twitter.

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

Small world

May 1st, 2012 4:10 pm | By

Surly Amy has a nice post about the women in secularism conference (cue squawks from agonized bores with facetious cod-Edwardian advice for zee laydeez). She’s made Surly-Ramics necklaces for people who donate to a scholarship fund to send students to the conference.

It is important that we lend our support to conferences like this groundbreaking event so that we can pave the way for future events while encouraging future leaders in the movement to stand up and be counted. I support women in secularism and I hope you will too.

I think that’s true. I think that’s true even if you accept the contemptuous premise that all the speakers at the conference were invited solely because they have the korrekt genitalia. I don’t accept that premise, of course; I think Susan Jacoby and Margaret Downey and the rest [bracketing me, of course] have more than that; but if I did, I would still think it was true that we should lend our support to conferences like this. I’ll tell you why. It’s because just representation, by itself, does something important, and lack of representation does too, but in the opposite direction. It has to do with that business of encouraging future leaders. It has to do with stereotype threat, with give me the colored doll, with implicit associations.

On another note: while reading the post I noticed something I hadn’t known, which is that Skepchick is international, and there’s a Swedish Skepchick. Swedish! There’s a post up right now advertising a debate between Christer Sturmark and a guy called Marcus Birro. Google translate reveals that the Swedish Skepchick blogger considers Birro a bullshitter. But small world, hey, I know Christer Sturmark! Isn’t life funny.

I’ve been seeing a lot of excitement about the conference, here and there. I’m thinking it’s going to be pretty good fun.

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