Friday Night Fun and Culture: Taylor Ferrera


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Blasphemy Is Good for You

From The Nation:

Katha Pollitt
September 26, 2012

As I write, mobs all over the world are rioting about an amateurish video portraying Muhammad as a horny buffoon. Death toll so far: at least thirty, including Christopher Stevens, US ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staffers. Not to be outdone, Pakistan’s railways minister announced he would pay $100,000 to anyone who murdered the videomaker, and added, “I call upon these countries and say: Yes, freedom of expression is there, but you should make laws regarding people insulting our Prophet. And if you don’t, then the future will be extremely dangerous.” More riots, embassy closings and a possible assassination attempt or two followed the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s retaliatory publication of cartoons of Muhammad naked. To bring it all full circle, an Iranian foundation has raised to $3.3 million the reward it’s offering for the murder of Salman Rushdie. (Just out and highly recommended: Joseph Anton, Rushdie’s humane and heroic memoir of his years in hiding.)

Shocking as these events were, some reactions here at home were not helpful: Newsweek’s notorious “Muslim Rage” cover, for example, with its photo of crazed-looking zealots. All together now: there are 1.6 billion Muslims, only a tiny minority of whom are involved in this nonsense.


What about acknowledging and honoring the huge demonstrations by Libyans against the militias who are believed to have killed Stevens? And let’s not forget the Muslims who took over Newsweek’s hashtag: “Twitter is over capacity. Heading to the U.S. embassy. #MuslimRage.” “I won a lifetime supply of bacon #MuslimRage.” The Muslim response to the subway ads was also classy: “If you see something (stupid), say something (smart) #MySubwayAd.” “Hatred is the first savagery. Being a wanker is the first freedom #MySubwayAd.”

What if the right to be a wanker—a jerk, an annoying obsessive—is indeed where freedom begins? On WNYC’s The Takeaway, John Hockenberry had a confusing exchange with BBC chief Jeremy Bowen:

Hockenberry: I’m wondering if it’s possible for the United Nations to create an initiative that would talk about some sort of global convention on blasphemy, that would create a cooperative enterprise to control these kinds of incidents, not to interfere into anybody’s free speech rights but to basically recognize that there is a global interest in keeping people from going off the rails over a perceived sense of slight by enforcing a convention of human rights, only in this particular case it would be anti-blasphemy?

Bowen: It would be a great idea if they could make it work, but of course you know, you think that the United Nations struggled for ages, and I don’t think it’s yet succeeded in coming up with a definition of “terrorism.” So, in the end, how do you define “blasphemy”?

So the only thing preventing some sort of international convention against “blasphemy” is that people can’t agree about what it is? Perhaps the UN could ask Vladimir Putin, who was eager to send three members of Pussy Riot to prison for appearing at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior to perform an anti-Putin “punk prayer” to the Virgin Mary. Their crime: “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The rise of the Russian Orthodox church in the former Soviet Union, and its connections to a corrupt authoritarian regime, shows that Islam has no monopoly on religious freakouts or their exploitation for political purposes. But you already knew that, having lived through mosque burnings in several states, and of course the extraordinary ongoing wave of arsons, bombings, assaults, stalkings and murders committed against abortion clinics, their doctors and staffs, almost all by deeply devout Catholics and evangelicals.

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A Sokal-style hoax by an anti-religious philosopher

From Why Evolution is True:

September 25, 2012

I’m a big fan of Dr. Maarten Boudry, a Belgian philosopher who’s a research fellow in the Department of Philosopy & Moral Sciences of Ghent University.  Boudry has spent a lot of time showing that religion and science are incompatible, attacking the distinction between “metaphysical naturalism” and “methodological naturalism” (a distinction much beloved by accommodationists), and generally pwning “Sophisticated Theologians™.”

You can find my earlier discussions of Boudry’s work here, here and here, and, if you’re familiar with the unctuous theologian Alvin Plantinga, be sure to read Boudry’s new review of Plantinga’s book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. Boudry’s review is free online, starting on p. 21 of the latest newsletter from The International History, Philosophy and Science Working Group.

But today I’m presenting something else: a real Sokal-style hoax that Boudry has perpetrated. He informed me yesterday that he had submitted a fake, post-modernish and Sophisticated-Theological™ abstract to two theology conferences:

By the way, I thought you might find this funny. I wrote a spoof abstract full of theological gibberish (Sokal-style) and submitted it to two theology conferences, both of which accepted it right away. It got into the proceedings of the Reformational Philosophy conference. See Robert A. Maundy (an anagram of my name) on p. 22 of the program proceedings.

To save you the trouble of downloading it, I reproduce below, with Boudry’s permission, “Maundy’s” abstract. Note that he made up a college, too, but the quotation from John Haught is real.

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My Job – Obama for America

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Shocking Study: Suicide Overtakes Car Accidents As Leading Cause of Death — Is the Economy to Blame?

From Alternet:

The suicide rate has increased dramatically between 2000 and 2009.

By Kathleen Geier
September 24, 2012

An extremely disturbing new study published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that  suicides have replaced car accidents  as the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. This is partly because deaths from automobile accidents are down — that’s the good news.

But the truly catastrophic news is that the suicide rate has increased dramatically: between 2000 and 2009, according to data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, deaths by suicide went up by 15%, and deaths from poisoning increased by a whopping 128%. Moreover, researchers say that many of the poisoning deaths, which are labeled as “accidental,” may actually be intentional. According to the study’s author, Professor Ian Rockett, an epidemiologist at West Virginia University, “Suicides are terribly undercounted; I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe.” He added “there may be 20 percent or more unrecognized suicides.”

Experts note that much of the increase in poisoning deaths is due to prescription drug overdoses, but none of the reports I found about the study speculate about what psychological, social, or economic causes are behind the spike in suicides. (I was unable to find an online copy of the study itself). But there is strong evidence elsewhere that our disastrous economy may be playing a significant role. Last year, a  report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that “[s]uicide rates in the U.S. tend to rise during recessions and fall amid economic booms.”

Complete article at:

See Also Bilerico:  Death By Austerity

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Mitt Romney and Steve King: Partners in Extremism

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Tea Party favorite Steve King in trouble

From Salon:

Two new polls show Iowa Republican and Tea Party favorite Steve King in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

An internal poll released today by Democrat Christie Vilsack shows her essentially tied with GOP Rep. Steve King in Iowa’s new 4th District. A separate public poll, conducted by PPP and also released today, found similar results, with King leading Vilsack by just 3 points at 48 to 45, within the margin of error. The congressional race gives Democrats a chance to take down one of the country’s most prominent Tea Party leaders, a man who once remarked that the president “favors the black person” and, in 2008, predicted that al-Qaida would be “dancing in the streets” if Barack “Hussein” Obama won the presidency.

The internal poll (see the full memo here), conducted by Democratic pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, shows King at 46 percent and Vilsack at 44 percent. “This one will likely go down to the wire. But two concurrent surveys show all the momentum behind Christie Vilsack,” the pollsters write. A May GQRR showed King up by 16 points.

Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt told the Ames Tribune of King, “He should have much higher ratings … I don’t read it as ‘Christie Vilsack is a little bit behind anybody else,’ but I would read it as ‘Jeez, an incumbent should have an advantage in a question like that.’”

“As voters learn more about these candidates, it’s not surprising that congressman King is losing steam,” said Vilsack Campaign Manager Jessica Vanden Berg. The GQRR poll also shows that King’s approval rating is now underwater, with 44 percent opposed to the job he has done in Congress and 41 percent in favor.

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