Paul is communications director for the Center for Inquiry, as well as an actor and musician. His blog is iMortal, and he tweets as @paulfidalgo, and the blog tweets as @iMortal_blog.
The opinions expressed on this blog are personal to Paul and do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for Inquiry.
Last month, I wrote about the remarkable events at the UN Human Rights Council, where Saudi Arabia attempted to shout down Josephine Macintosh, a representative of my employer the Center for Inquiry, as she delivered a forceful statement condemning Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, specifically the persecution and imprisonment of Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair (who just this week was sentenced to 15 years in prison). The Saudi representative was desperate to quiet her, demanding that the council president “shut that woman up!”, but delegations from the U.S., Ireland, Canada, and France stood up for Josephine’s right to deliver her statement. (You can read my full writeup here.) I finally managed to actually make contact with the hero of the whole story, Josephine herself, who’s been busy traveling and without regular Internet access. I took the opportunity to ask her about the whole episode and to learn a little about what motivates her, too. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation. I’ve emphasized some key portions. Read more
[Note: This is an expansion on a previous post, meant to give full context and background to the story for those just learning about this issue.] The human rights abuses of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are not secrets. A monarchy under Islamic Law, with only rare and arbitrary local elections, and almost total subjugation of women, the West looks on with disapproval, but impotence. They are, infamously, a U.S. “ally,” being a huge source of oil and perceived as a bulwark against Islamic terrorism in an unstable region of the world. We see the oppression, the medieval treatment of half its population, and the astounding opulence of its aristocracy, and we shrug. It’s their culture; what can we do? Read more
Yesterday, we got a rare glimpse of how sensitive Saudi Arabia is to its human rights abuses being exposed. At a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, a representative of my organization, the Center for Inquiry, was repeatedly shouted down by the Saudi representative in an attempt to stop her from delivering our statement condemning its crackdown on free expression and belief, and its persecution of dissidents such as Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair. And lucky for us, there’s video. Read more
Whenever Ann Druyan appears in the media, you want to pay attention. The co-creator of both versions of Cosmos and wife of the late Carl Sagan, she has a way of communicating the beauty and wonder of science and inquiry that is utterly compelling. Despite that, very few know who she is. That subject was touched upon in an interview she just did with Andrew O’Hehir at Salon, where she seems to mainly find the fact that she’s overshadowed by celebrity men of science men amusing. I am a little bit surprised when critics, who I think are more likely to read the credits with some degree of attention, talk about the show as if Neil has had something to do with its inception or its writing. In the case of Carl it was different. Obviously Carl was the senior partner in conceiving the show with me and [astronomer] Steven Soter. And so, I mean, I am kind of taken aback. But then I look at the brilliance of Neil [deGrasse Tyson]’s performance, and how unexpectedly he has taken what I wrote and given it its best possible expression on the show. So I love the guy. I guess that’s the plight of the writer. It is coming out of someone else’s mouth; people think it must be theirs. It’s a natural reaction. … Read more
A few weeks ago, the mayor of La Vista, Nebraska, Doug Kindig, made earned his fifteen minutes of infamy with secular folks when he had this to say about the Omaha Atheists’ concerns over a “Faith & Freedom Day”: Take me to fucking court because I don’t care. … Minorities are not going to run my city. Apparently, things are beginning to smooth over, but it opened an opportunity for the community to learn more about its atheist neighbors, and that’s where a really nice piece by Adam Klinker at the Bellvue Leader comes in. It’s a fairly lengthy profile of some of Omaha Atheists’ members, and it serves as a wonderful contrast between the stereotype of the litigious atheist gadfly and the reality, which is that these folks are really just good, smart, politically-conscious people in the community. Read more