Friday, October 24, 2008

What Would Jesus Brew?
"It's the oldest story ever told -- the struggle between good and evil... There is a battle being waged between those who make good beer and those who make evil beer."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

We're being held up at the moment. But keep checking in. We'll be back.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I'm not myself until I've hung my ass over my head in the morning.
Selling Pets Is Forbidden. So Blowing Up Women with Downs Syndrome In A Crowded Pet Market Is OK.

Baghdad’s fragile peace was shattered yesterday when explosives strapped to two women with Down’s syndrome were detonated by remote control in crowded pet markets, killing at least 91 people in the worst attacks that the capital had experienced for almost a year.

Sunni fundamentalists consider the selling of pets to be haram — forbidden on religious grounds.

Though the use of women in warfare violates religious taboos, Al-Qaeda has increasingly used women as suicide bombers because they can conceal explosives beneath their black robes and usually escape the rigorous body searches to which men are subjected.

The (London) Times' Martin Fletcher reports
How Do You Get Rid Of A Tenured Professor? Play The Race Card.

Brandeis, a private university with about 3,200 students, is named after former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, a passionate defender of free speech rights.

That's the irony of this story.

Politics professor Donald Hindley, who has taught at the Waltham, Massachussetts school for 47 years, had a monitor placed in his classroom and was asked to undergo sensitivity training after he told students in his Latin American politics class last semester that Mexican migrants are sometimes referred to pejoratively as "wetbacks."

Hindley claims the school never told the nature of the complaint against him and was never given the chance to defend himself. Associated Press' Mark Pratt reports via The Boston Globe

"Protection of free speech and rules against discrimination are the bottom line in protecting minorities from the whims of the majority. Yet in the name of being “inclusive” and “welcoming” colleges have given a self selected group of little tyrants the right to decide what does and does not constitute offensive speech. In the end the majority will reassert itself and the very codes that were instituted to prevent minorities from being offended will be turned around and used against them." Reader commentary from Inside Higher Ed's coverage of the Brandeis story

No Athiests In Foxholes... Or MySpace

MySpace deleted the 35,000-member "Atheist and Agnostic Group" on Jan. 1, a little more than a month after hackers broke in and renamed the group's site "Jesus Is Love."

MySpace has ignored repeated requests to restore the group's site. A MySpace spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer's David Briggs reports
Afghan Student Sentenced To Death for Blasphemy

23-year-old Afghan student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh was arrested in 2007 after downloading material from a Farsi website, which criticized Muslims who use misinterpretations of the Koran to justify their oppression of women.
Kambaksh distributed the information to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. He was subsequently arrested, tried by religious judges (reportedly without being allowed legal representation), and sentenced to death.
A statement supporting the death sentence was issued by the leader of the Afghan Senate, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, an ally of President Hamid Karzai.
Comment from Daniel Dennett: "The 'tolerance' urged by many voices outside the Muslim world played into the hands of the radical Islamists."
Beware The Straw Man!

"Statements made in the media can surreptitiously plant distortions in the minds of millions. Learning to recognize two commonly used fallacies can help you separate fact from fiction."

Yvonne Raley and Robert Talisse discuss in Scientific American: "Getting Duped: How The Media Messes With Your Mind"

Talisse elaborates further with Scott F. Aiken in their paper
"Two Forms of The Straw Man"

Friday, February 01, 2008

Walter Lantz's "Scrub Me Mama With A Boogie Beat"
Walter Lantz was an animator whose chief claim to fame was his Woody Woodpecker cartoons. Less known is the fact that Lantz created a film that is so blatantly racist, so unashamedly degrading to African Americans that... Well... It's actually funny.
"Funny" in the sense that, when confronted with such unrelieved, jaw-dropping ignorance, you can't even waste your energy getting indignant. You just have to laugh at the prima facie absurdity of the thing.

We first came across "Scrub Me Mama" about 20 years ago when it resurfaced, after decades of utter obscurity, on Rhino Home Video's "Weird Cartoons, Volume 2." Watching it, you may be inclined to think that we're much more enlightened these days. And in some sense, you'd be right. Much more disturbing than anything this film can serve up is the era that allowed it to be made -- an era that's long gone.
But while today's mainstream has no tolerance for such depictions of African Americans, other populations still seem to be fair game. Asians, Italians, not to mention the overweight and the mentally ill, are just a few groups that are still regularly subject to harmful stereotyping in our popular entertainment.

That said, Don Raye's title song is a damned catchy one. So if you find the video to be too much for your delicate sensibilities, just minimize the screen and listen to some crazy boogie woogie... Rub-lee-ub-dub!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

An Ever-Expanding Moebius Strip of Metabullshit

We recently came across a transcript of a talk that is credited to the late Neil Postman. It's called "Bullshit and the Art of Crap Detection," and was supposedly delivered nearly 40 years ago at a conference for English teachers.
Just on the face of it, it seems like the sort of thing that you'd expect to find on blogs by people who enjoy thinking of themselves as learned... A respected scholar slips into the vernacular, and we can all have a smug laugh about it amongst our scholarly selves. Tee-hee.
And indeed, such is the case. This essay pops up all over the Interwebs on any number of blogs -- posing as "scholarly" -- that gleefully repost "Neil Postman's classic essay." We first came across it on a blog called "CriticaliThinkingiSnippets."
This, by the way, strikes us as more than a bit ironic. Because if there were some actual critical thinking going on, someone might have determined that "Bullshit and the Art of Crap Detection," is probably... well... bullshit.
Now, when you have bullshit that's about bullshit, that's what we at Radio Zero call "Metabullshit." And when you have bullshit about bullshit proliferating on the web the way this piece seems to have, that is what we call: "An Ever-Expanding Moebius Strip of Metabullshit."
We're not hardcore Postman scholars by any stretch. But we have read enough of his work to know that, even though he has a great sense of humor, it's NBL (not bloody likely) that Postman authored a paper about bullshit.
The closest thing we've found so far is Postman's The Educationist As Painkiller, where the word "bullshit" makes a cameo in a fleeting moment of levity before the author announces he'll settle on the less offensive "balderdash" to illustrate his points.
Otherwise, a quick search through a number of online sources that review Postman's literature more thoroughly (sources which do not include Wikipedia, by the way) don't list the "Bullshit" paper at all.
On the other hand, there seems to be no definite statement that "Bullshit and the Art of Crap Detection" is a hoax, either. Until such time, we'll just go out on a limb and claim that "Bullshit and the Art of Crap Detection" was probably written by a pinhead grad student researching yet another study on how cultural memes proliferate via internet, or the nature of truth in the information age, or blah blah frickin' blah.
We'd love to be proven wrong.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The "Boogeyman of Polite Society"
"Was Mr. Wilders asserting a right to free speech?
Or was he dressing up a gratuitous religious insult in constitutional language?
He was doing both, of course."
It Was Good Enough For God... It's Good Enough For You

A self-styled Christian preacher and his wife have been convicted of cruelty towards their two sons. The man sliced his boys' mouths with a scalpel and left safety pins in their mouths for days – telling them he inflicted the injuries because God had his tongue cut off in the Bible.

The boys' mother did nothing to stop the torture with safety pins or to remove the children from their torment.

Detective Chief Inspector Stan Bates, head of West Yorkshire Police's child and public protection unit, said: "It is believed the motive for this abuse was an extreme religious belief."

Fiona Evans of the Yorkshire Post reports
A story based on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale has been deemed potentially offensive to Muslims by a British government agency.

The BBC's Sean Coughlan reports

Free Speech For Me, But Not For Thee

A court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif today passed the death sentence on a young journalist, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, for alleged blasphemy. The trial was held behind closed doors and without any lawyer defending him.
The court also threatened to arrest any reporters who protested against Kambakhsh's sentence.
Large Increase of Rapes in Kenya

"At any time of unrest, of violence, or rioting, women and children are targeted... People are fighting and the weakest ones get abused."
"Here is the biggest, richest and most powerful religious institution on earth, explicitly telling deeply mentally ill people the Devil is within them because they asked him in, and they have to suffer to get him out."

"This December, Father Gabriele Amorth – official exorcist of the Rome Diocese, and friend of the ‘Holy Father’ – announced the Pope will soon undertake a new campaign to unleash a fresh batch of four hundred exorcists on the world, in addition to the thousands already in operation. Johann Hari discusses in The Independent

More about Gabriele Amorth here at Ignatious Insight
The Face of FGM.
A 9-month-old is comforted following her circumcision.
A new study published by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that women who have had Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are significantly more likely to experience difficulties during childbirth and that their babies are more likely to die as a result of the practice.
Indonesian supporters, however, claim that girls like the one pictured can look forward to "a stabilized libido, a husband who thinks she is pretty, and a balanced psychology." It's all here in the New York Times Magazine.