Posts Tagged ‘united states’

Shut Up & Sing

Posted in Documentary, Free Speech, Law, Worldwide on August 11th, 2012 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

Dixie Chicks - Shut Up And Sing

I re-watched this last night. Kind of relevant right now.

This Chicks flick by Barbara Kopple (Academy Award winner for Harlan County, U.S.A.) and Cecilia Peck is powerful testament to the inconvenient truth that free speech can come at a very high cost. The Dixie Chicks, Texas-based and one of country music’s most successful acts, found out just how costly it was in the weeks following a March 10, 2003, concert in London. Indulging in some between-song patter, singer Natalie Maines expressed shame that “the president of the United States is from Texas.”

In politics, as in comedy, timing is everything; and at the time, President George W. Bush’s popularity among the Chicks’ traditional country fans was sky-high, and the invasion of Iraq was imminent. Reaction was fast and furious. Country radio stations boycotted the Dixie Chicks’ music. Conservative talk show hosts lambasted them.

Country superstar Toby Keith got into the act by denigrating Maines in his concerts. People destroyed Dixie Chicks CDs in public protests that echoed the furor sparked by John Lennon’s 1966 “We’re more popular than Jesus now” comment. The trio’s tour had to be scaled back and rerouted to include friendlier climes (Canada). (via)

Stop Sugercoating Bullying

Posted in Mental Health, Worldwide on February 26th, 2012 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

Strong4Life advertising buffet line

The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has been running their Strong4Life campaign since May 2011.

Scarred4Life Twitter

This is a parody Twitter account, but the bio is spot on. Here’s a selection of advertisements they have been running:

Strong4Life advertising

Strong4Life advertising

You can watch similar TV spots they have run on their YouTube channel.

Rather than focusing on encouraging healthy behaviors, the ads shame and stigmatize overweight kids.

“What psychologist would think shame and bully ads would be effective?”

None were consulted in the ad campaign creation process:

@5minutesformom No – child psychologists were not part of the creation of the ad campaign. Focus groups with parents were.

— Strong4Life (@strong_4_life) January 28, 2012

So why did they think these ads were a good idea?

“The hard-hitting tone of Children’s Healthcare’s ads were inspired by Georgia METH Project’s ‘Not Even Once’ campaign.”

Because anti-meth ads using the same techniques worked.

Because meth users and kids who are overweight (wait, the ads are targeted at the parents, not the kids!) have so much in common. WHY WOULDN’T IT WORK??

Strong4Life thinks that the ads are okay, because only parents will see them. Not children.

@calledoutrev The ad campaign is targeted toward parents and caretakers- not the children.

— Strong4Life (@strong_4_life) January 6, 2012

Not sure how they come to this conclusion.

From an actual psychologist, Dr Rebecca Puhl, director of research and weight stigma initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University:

“There seems to be this perception that it’s OK to shame children and families struggling with obesity because that will provide an incentive to lose weight. However, research in weight bias shows that when individuals feel shamed or stigmatized because of weight they’re actually more likely to engage in behaviors that reinforce obesity: unhealthy eating, avoidance of physical activity, increased caloric intake.”


“Alan Guttmacher, director of the Institute of Child Health and Human Development, agreed that the Strong4Life campaign ‘carries a great risk of increasing stigma’ for overweight and obese children.”

The original TV ads stopped airing, but there’s a new one out as of a couple of weeks ago. Most of the billboards have come done, and apparently the rest will come down in March.

“The stigma itself needs to be addressed itself because until we do that, why would a fat child want to go out on the playground and be teased? We want to create an environment where people are not treated so poorly because of their bodies that they’ll want go out and enjoy physical movement.” – Amy Farrell, author of “Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture” and a professor of American studies and Women’s & Gender Studies at Dickinson College.

The National Eating Disorders Association called for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to “dimantle [the] alarming, anti-obesity ad campaign that targets and shames children.”

“The ad campaign is most successful at shaming youth who are overweight and reinforcing societal prejudice against children who do not have an ‘ideal’ body type.” “Every day we hear about the terrible rise in bullying within our schools, yet this ad campaign could actually promote and give permission to such behaviors among kids. Sadly, these ads will be successful in shaming children with weight problems and their parents, but will do nothing to promote and educate about wellness and emotional well-being.” “As many as 65% of people with eating disorders say bullying contributed to their condition.”

“Shame on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta … not shame on the local kids.”

And also, what were the parents of the children in these ads thinking?

Congratulations Internets

Posted in Free Speech, Law, New Zealand, Technology, Worldwide on January 22nd, 2012 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

But your work is not over.

Wikipedia SOPA PIPA Blackout Protest

On January 18 the users and companies of the internet rallied together to protest against SOPA and PIPA, bills that would censor the internet. Check out the numbers. It worked. Here‘s part of a huge list, with even bigger names on it of the sites that participated in the blackout. Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, BoingBoing and Wired are among them. Here’s the page Wikipedia displayed. The Wikipedia page about SOPA and PIPA was accessed more than 162 million times during the 24 hours the site was blacked out. More than eight million people looked up their elected representatives’ contact information via Wikipedia’s tool, crashing the Senate’s website. At one point, 1% of all tweets on Twitter included the #wikipediablackout hashtag.


Is it over?

It is likely the bills will be back in one form or another:

What’s the best way for me to help? (for U.S. citizens)

The most effective action you can take is to call your representatives [phone calls have the most impact] in both houses of Congress, and tell them you oppose SOPA, PIPA, and the thinking behind them.[9]

What’s the best way for me to help? (for non-U.S. citizens)

Contact your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs or similar government agency. Tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and any similar legislation. SOPA and PIPA will affect websites outside of the United States, and even sites inside the United States (like Wikipedia) that also affect non-American readers — like you. Calling your own government will also let them know you don’t want them to create their own bad anti-Internet legislation.

For New Zealanders, that’s the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Their contact details are here.


Megaupload’s website was taken down a day after the protest (without trial), with related people being arrested in New Zealand, and property confiscated. Are we okay with helping enforce US copyright law which, as SOPA and PIPA shows is heavily influenced by the entertainment industry? Is this what extradition should be used for?

It appears, at first glance, that Megaupload was removing infringing material on request. Although it seems their take down procedure was molded around the way they store files–only storing one copy of it if it is uploaded more than once, but giving out a unique URL for the file.

Megaupload has many similarities to other websites, which makes this concerning. It was definitely used for legitimate and legal purposes by legitimate users.

Tech Liberty asks do we need to obey laws from other countries while on the internet, if so, what countries?

Even if I have a web host in one country, what if they provide services via another country? The internet is so connected, how do we know whose laws apply?

Image credit: LoveNMoreLove/Wikipedia

The Slippery Slope of Gay Marriage

Posted in Law, Worldwide on November 5th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

Is, in reality, not so slippery. (ht: @hamfritta, from reddit)

Explaining gay rightsThe toaster part is hilarious, but here’s something to think about from SuperStuff01:

“Me and my toaster actually have more rights than a gay couple do.

If I bought my toaster in another country, I could bring it into the US.

If I’m sick in the hospital, I can bring my toaster in with me.

If my toaster breaks, I’m given the legal power to make decisions as to how best to fix it.

I don’t risk getting attacked when I carry my toaster with me in public.”

mistermordancy points out that would make a great ad:

“Does anyone else think this would make a really good gay rights/equality advert? Like you see this guy walk around with a toaster, holding on to the toaster, having the toaster with him in hospital, bringing the toaster into work and all his co-workers crowd round and congratulate him.

Then the ad repeats with two men…”

The Ministry of Men’s Affairs

Posted in Law, New Zealand, Worldwide on June 4th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – 2 Comments

Baby sleepingA group in San Francisco has collected enough signatures to get a proposal to ban circumcision included in their November ballot which would prohibit the circumcision of males under 18, even for religious reasons. Routine neonatal circumcision has been banned in South Africa and Finland. It’s also banned in Sweden but there’s an exception for religious reasons.

About 10-20% of newborn males are circumcised in New Zealand and Australia and it’s generally a safe procedure, “but there are risks of minor complications and some rare but serious complications” (Royal Australasian College of Physicians PDF).

The RACP continues: “the foreskin has a functional role, the operation is non-therapeutic and the infant is unable to consent” and that “the frequency of diseases modifiable by circumcision, the level of protection offered by circumcision and the complication rates of circumcision do not warrant routine infant circumcision in Australia and New Zealand.” However, unfortunately they still go on to say that circumcision should be the choice of the parents weighing up potential harms and potential benefits. “The potential benefits include connectedness for particular socio-cultural groups and decreased risk of some diseases. The potential harms include contravention of individual rights, loss of choice, loss of function, procedural and psychological complications.”

Circumcision reduces the risk of urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, cancer of the penis and cervical cancer. However, UTIs only occur in up to 4% of boys and the prevalence of UTIs decreases “quite dramatically” after the first month of life, circumcisions do not make a significant difference when STIs are low in the population like in Australia and New Zealand (“…circumcision does not provide significant protection against STIs and HIV, and is less effective than safe sex practices.”), cancer of the penis is “extremely rare with an incidence of 1 in 250,000 Australian men” and the HPV vaccine (and I assume smear tests) overshadow circumcision as protective measures for HPV.

It’s important to remember that infants are not having sex and so circumcision would not have the chance to prevent the transmission of diseases for many years. The potential health benefits of circumcision (except for UTIs) could still largely be gained by postponing circumcision until adulthood.

Hygiene or appearance reasons seem like a moot point too. It does not take a rocket scientist to work out how to keep an uncircumcised penis clean. In countries with low circumcision rates it’s unlikely a partner will have a strong preference for a circumcised partner, so it could in fact be argued that there are social/relationship benefits in not circumcising.

Maybe I am biased by my lack of religion, but religion or culture shouldn’t be an excuse for chopping off body parts either. This is illustrated by New Zealand’s law banning “female circumcision” which makes performing “any medical or surgical procedure or mutilation of the vagina or clitoris of any person” for reasons of “culture, religion, custom or practice” illegal.

Also, circumcision is nothing like ear piercing. Foreskin doesn’t grow back, an infant can’t consent and in ear piercing body parts aren’t being removed.

Circumcision of infants doesn’t focus on the child’s needs and interests and puts the boy through avoidable and unnecessary harm. There are risks involved that are “low in frequency but high in impact (death, loss of penis)”.

Letting someone decide for themselves as an adult “respect[s] the child’s physical integrity, and capacity for autonomy by leaving the options open for him to make his own autonomous choice in the future” and reduces the risk that “children [will] grow up to disagree with decisions that parents have made for them when they were young.”

When you circumcise a baby, you’re taking that choice away from the adult he will become. For every day of his adult life, he will have been, and will continue to be, denied the right to choose for himself as a result of what was done to him as an infant. (Paraphrased via)

Obviously if there’s an immediate medical need or the guy in question is a consenting adult, snip away. However infants do not have religions, are not able to refuse the surgery and therefore it should be illegal for circumcisions to be performed on them. Freedom of religion needs to include freedom from religion. The protection the law gives to females should be equal to the protection given to males. Maybe we need a Ministry of Men’s Affairs*.

*To represent men on issues like: circumcision, depression, suicide, body image, school achievement and attendance, lifespan, domestic violence, drug use, unemployment and health research (totally unscientific experiment, but I thought this was interesting. There are 1217 results for men’s health in PubMed and 29464 for women’s health. 24900 results for men’s health in Google Scholar and 518000 for women’s health.)

Image credit: Brad Brundage