How the lies grow and spread

First, the claim about what I said:


Improbable Joe ‏@ImprobableJoe Jul 21
@latsot @oolon How about this question: “did you know that the people you’re friendly with are incredibly abusive to trans people?”

latsot ‏@latsot Jul 21
@ImprobableJoe Well how about it? I’d want to know more about the abuse, I guess. @oolon

Improbable Joe ‏@ImprobableJoe Jul 21
@latsot @oolon The response I got was “how dare you question my online associations”

Then, the actual exchange:



Improbable Joe:

Hey, do you mind if I ask you why you follow obvious terrible bigots like Sarah Ditum and Helen Lewis?

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“Do not use it with non-Muslims”

When she was 16, the daughter of a diplomat from a secular family and newly returned home to Kuwait after four years in Morocco, Elham Manea encountered a girl a year older than she was leading an Islamist religious group.

The sessions were fascinating. Our leader explained about the love of God. The moment we enter into Islam, she said, all our sins are washed away and we become equal. The fate of those who are not Muslims was never mentioned. She told us that we could be better people if only we embraced the message of Islam – the true Islam, not the corrupted form of our society. For a teenage girl, lacking direction, the message was mesmerising, and I embraced it wholeheartedly.

The changes in me were gradual. It started with language. Instead of greeting others with “good morning” or “good evening”, I used only the salute of Islam: “assalamu alaikum”, peace be upon you. Later I would learn that this salute is only reserved for Muslims. “Do not use it with non-Muslims”, I was told.

[Read more…]

Yanking the Overton window back and forth

Maajid Nawaz points out in a public Facebook post that liberalism is not extremism.

No, my secular liberalism is not the “other extreme” to Islamism (a desire to enforce a version of Islam over society). The other extreme is anti-Muslim bigotry & the desire to ban Islam.

My liberalism means a legal right for you to be religious, or not.

So no, I have not gone from ‘one extreme to another’. Nor have ex-Muslims for that matter, so long as they remain liberal, ie: support individual liberty.

But obviously, if your starting point is way out there with Islamism, then even conservative Islam appears “moderate” to you, and the idea of liberalism would appear like an extremely distant aberration, even extreme.

And for non-Muslims to adopt this trope & charge me with it, shows how low their expectations of Muslims have become. In fact, this tells us how far we all have to travel, yet, to reach a reasonable centre in this debate.


Working on a reply

An item from Andy McSmith’s Diary in the Independent:

Stewart McDonald, MP for Glasgow South, arranged a Commons debate on civil rights in Saudi Arabia during which he raised the Badawi case. Replying for the Government, [Foreign Office minister Tobias] Ellwood claimed “the case is in the Supreme Court and is under review. We therefore cannot interfere with that process, in the same way that the Saudi authorities would not interfere with our process.”

When challenged, he insisted: “The case has returned to the Supreme Court, which reflects the fact that the leadership has taken stock of international opinion. The punishment has stopped and is under review. Until that process moves forward, it would be incorrect to comment on another country’s judicial process.”

The last the world heard was that in June the Saudi Supreme Court had upheld Mr Badawi’s sentence, and it was reported then that his only remaining hope was a royal pardon. I asked the Foreign Office if they could throw light on Mr Ellwood’s statement. More than seven hours after he spoke, I was told that their Saudi desk was working on a reply. When it comes, I will gladly pass it on.

It’s confusing. It’s not clear if Ellwood has inside knowledge that the Supreme Court did not rule in June after all and is still reviewing the case, or if he just got it wrong (or obfuscated).


Flying gun

Soooooo…stay out of the parks. Well just stay inside altogether. But they can come up to your windows I suppose, so…

I guess just kiss your ass goodbye.

The Feds are investigating.

The US Federal Aviation Administration says it is investigating an online video that shows an alleged home-made “drone” firing a handgun in the Connecticut countryside.

The 14-second video called Flying Gun shows a homemade multi-rotor hovering off the ground, buzzing furiously and firing a semiautomatic handgun four times at an unseen target.

[Read more…]

The whole earth

From NASA:

On February 11, 2015, DSCOVR was finally lofted into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. After journey of about 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) to the L1 Lagrange Point, the satellite and its Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth. At L1—four times farther than the orbit of the Moon—the gravitational pull of the Sun and Earth cancel out, providing a stable orbit and a continuous view of Earth. The image above was made by combining information from EPIC’s red, green, and blue bands.(Bands are narrow regions of the electromagnetic spectrum to which a remote sensing instrument responds. When EPIC collects data, it takes a series of 10 images at different bands—from ultraviolet to near infrared.) [Read more…]

More from Saudi Arabia

Elham Manea shares some news on the Raif Badawi front.

Important statement of the family of Raif Badawi

We have watched with great interest the response of the British Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Tobias Ellwood, in today’s Parliamentarian questioning regarding the case of Raif Badawi. Mr Ellwood said that he was informed that the case of Raif Badawi was sent back to the Saudi Supreme Court for consideration.

Although we cannot confirm this news due to the secrecy that shrouds the Supreme Court’s procedures, we do hope that the information is accurate. We recall with hope that the last statement issued by the Saudi Foreign Ministry on 12 June did deny that the Supreme Court has confirmed the sentence against Raif Badawi.

We would like to take this opportunity to call on his Majesty King Salman, his Crown Prince and the Deputy Crown Prince to pardon and release Raif Badawi and all the prisoners of conscious and reunite them with their families.

The Family of Raif Badawi

I didn’t know that about the statement issued by the Saudi Foreign Ministry on 12 June. That was when I was at the CFI conference, so I missed it.

The erasure of Mecca

This is something I didn’t know – the Saudis have demolished most of Mecca in order to put up shiny new modern boxes. Ziauddin Sardar wrote it up for the New York Times last year.

WHEN Malcolm X visited Mecca in 1964, he was enchanted. He found the city “as ancient as time itself,” and wrote that the partly constructed extension to the Sacred Mosque “will surpass the architectural beauty of India’s Taj Mahal.”

Fifty years on, no one could possibly describe Mecca as ancient, or associate beauty with Islam’s holiest city. Pilgrims performing the hajj this week will search in vain for Mecca’s history.

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Zelig among the skeptics

Mark Oppenheimer has a long piece at the Tablet about someone I don’t think I’d heard of before, Al Seckel.

In the early 1980s, freethought was especially hot in L.A. The city has always appealed to land’s-end, far-horizon dreamers: sci-fi aficionados, futurists, quick-buck schemers (L. Ron Hubbard, who founded Scientology in L.A., was all three). But others take the same tendency toward the extreme and flip it around, into a radically skeptical, debunking mindset. Many magicians—James Randi, Penn and Teller, the sleight-of-hand master Jamy Ian Swiss—are committed atheists and scientific skeptics. And as the home of the postwar defense and aerospace industries, Southern California also attracted legions of scientists who were alarmed by the region’s growing influence in the evangelical movement. Illusionists and scientists, while unalike in many respects, shared a keen interest in how the mind works, and in how this understanding can be used for good and for ill. [Read more…]