All entries by this author

Fight back

Oct 5th, 2015 5:54 pm | By

So poking around on Google and Facebook for more information about this ridiculous and illiberal no-platforming of Julie Bindel by the University of Manchester Student Union, I found that the group putting on the event has postponed it in order to fight the no-platforming. This isn’t over.

The University of Manchester Student’s Union informed us this afternoon that they are banning Julie Bindel from speaking in a panel discussion on feminism and censorship. The reason for banning her is given as “based on Bindel’s views and comments towards trans people, which we believe could incite hatred towards and exclusion of our trans students.”. The full statement can be found here.

We were very sad, though in no way

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But why didn’t you say this at the time?

Oct 5th, 2015 12:16 pm | By

Robert Reich on Facebook:

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in an interview published today that individual Wall Street executives should have been prosecuted for their actions leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, but that the U.S. Justice Department and other law-enforcement agencies focused instead on investigating or indicting entire firms. “A financial firm is of course a legal fiction; it’s not a person. You can’t put a financial firm in jail,” he said. “It would have been my preference to have more investigation of individual action, since obviously everything that went wrong or was illegal was done by some individual, not by an abstract firm.”

Well, thank you Ben. But why didn’t you say this

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Fairness? What’s that?

Oct 5th, 2015 12:02 pm | By

Last week, there was this: Julie Bindel Statement on Withdrawing from Feminism In London

Julie’s blog is down, so she’s asked me to host her statement here — I think it’s brilliant and am honoured to publish it.


I am very sorry that I feel I have no choice but to withdraw my contribution to the Feminism in London conference this year. It is particularly difficult for me to do so because FiL is one of the few feminist conferences that dare include me on their programme (in case of disruption from anti-feminists claiming I am transphobic, biphobic, Islamophobic and whorephobic). In fact, FiL had, in previous years, left me off the programme (but had me speak) in case

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The new normal

Oct 5th, 2015 11:43 am | By

Nick Cohen is appalled by the way some on the left go after liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims who campaign against Islamism.

I have enjoyed the Guardian for decades. But too many of its contributors have lost their wits and abandoned their principles over radical Islam. They show no signs of finding either soon. As a matter of course, they publish a defence of the silencing of Maryam Namazie, an ex-Muslim feminist, or a piece denouncing Maajid Nawaz, the Muslim leader of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation.

In academia, speakers at Bath University, surely the most malign[ed] higher education institution in Britain, call ex-Muslims “native informants”, as if the decision of free men and women to decide for

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Get a wider lens

Oct 5th, 2015 10:27 am | By

If you search “Meryl Streep feminism” on Twitter you will find an absurd controversy in action: people expressing shock and horror that Streep wore, for the cover of Time Out, a t shirt that says


The cover story is about a new movie in which Streep plays Emmeline Pankhurst. The movie is titled Suffragette. It’s about the suffragettes. The slogan was coined by Emmeline Pankhurst.

Tweeters are freaking out because omg Streep is white, that’s appropriation, doesn’t anybody know any history?!

History. Slavery has been a thing throughout human history. It has been used as a metaphor throughout human history. It is not the exclusive property of Americans, not even Americans whose … Read the rest

ACLU v Trinity Health Corporation

Oct 4th, 2015 6:02 pm | By

The ACLU and ACLU Michigan have opened a second front against the bishops and their stinkin’ “ethical directives.”

DETROIT — The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced a federal lawsuit today filed on behalf of their members against Trinity Health Corporation, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country,  for its repeated and systematic failure to provide women suffering pregnancy complications with appropriate emergency abortions as required by federal law.

Yes. Yes yes yes.

“We’re taking a stand today to fight for pregnant women who are denied potentially life-saving care because doctors are forced to follow religious directives rather than best medical practices,” said ACLU of Michigan Staff Attorney Brooke A.

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Keep looking for alternatives

Oct 4th, 2015 12:16 pm | By

Pema Chodron said a thing on Facebook on March 13, 2013. That thing has 3,637 likes and 1,976 shares. I think that’s 3,637 and 1,976 too many.


Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. This is the root of our pain. In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives.

In a nontheistic state of mind, abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning. You could even put “Abandon hope” on

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A figure of gothic melodrama

Oct 4th, 2015 11:36 am | By

Deborah Orr did a nicely blistering piece about the Women-Murderer “museum” in August.

Mark the Ripp-Off, otherwise known as Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, is the man behind a new museum in Cable Street in the East End of London. Except he isn’t. He’s behind a lurid new tourist attraction in Cable Street in the East End of London, which is dedicated to exploiting an already much-cultivated fascination with the unknown killer of five women between 1888 and 1891.

I hadn’t properly taken in the extent and grotesquery of the fascination until this “museum” came along. What is this sick shit? There’s nothing cool or nostalgic or fun about the serial murders of desperately poor prostitutes in late 19th century London. … Read the rest

Tasteful Jack the Ripper souvenir items for your collecting pleasure

Oct 4th, 2015 10:20 am | By

Or you could just take a shortcut and go to the Jack the Mutilating Murderer of Women “museum” shop’s page. That tells you all you need to know about this “museum.”


There’s a wine glass for £8.00, the shot glass we’ve already seen for £6.00, a “latte glass” for £7.00, a mug gold-rimmed for £10.00, and the poshest of all –

MUSEUM OF JACK THE RIPPER TANKARD MUG – GOLD RIMMED £15.00 That’s an investment, that is.

There’s a t shirt for £14.00 and a top hat for 45. Oddly, I don’t see any shawls or ragged dresses or women’s shoes with holes in them.

There are keyfobs (key rings … Read the rest

Yet more dapper laughs

Oct 4th, 2015 9:30 am | By

For more on the horrifying Jack the Ripper “museum” check out the historian Fern Riddell on Twitter, starting with her Storify of her visit to the “museum” itself.

I’m in the middle of doing that now, so I’ve just encountered this tweet:

Fern Riddell ‏@FernRiddell Sep 30
@tkingdoll no, they’ve made a change apparently, just not on any of the shop stuff…

Because there’s just nothing funnier than the murder and mutilation of women.… Read the rest

Always revolting

Oct 3rd, 2015 5:54 pm | By

Linda CoxRead the rest

Stealthy freedom

Oct 3rd, 2015 5:33 pm | By

Remember the captain of Iran’s women’s football team, Niloufar Ardalan, whose husband wouldn’t let her travel to the match in Malaysia? The BBC reports on the aftermath:

The standard marriage contract signed by all newlyweds in Iran allows the husband to decide whether his wife can travel abroad, where the family will live, whether she can go to work, and whether she can ask for a divorce. In this instance, Ardalan says her husband, prominent sports journalist Mehdi Toutounchi, wanted her to be present for their son’s first day at school.

But husbands can choose to waive the provisions of the marriage contract, and now, inspired by Ardalan’s story, dozens of Iranian men who’ve done just that are sharing

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Dapper Jack

Oct 3rd, 2015 4:49 pm | By

Sian Norris had a Twitter exchange with the PR guy for the shiny new Jack the Ripper museum in east London the other day.

Today, on Twitter, the museum’s PR representative attempted to defend the tourist attraction from charges that Jack the Ripper’s murders were sexually violent. In a clumsy attempt to prove that the museum was not condoning sexual violence, he instead denied that the murders had anything to do with sexual violence at all.

When I suggested that he was wrong to ignore the sexually violent aspect of these murders, he accused me of “sensationalising” – arguing that it isn’t known what Jack the Ripper’s motives were.

Disregard the fact that the victims were all prostitutes. … Read the rest

A fundamental understanding that disagreement is not the same as oppression

Oct 3rd, 2015 11:10 am | By

It’s Cindy Sheehan’s turn. Mickey Z at World News Trust talked to her:

Activism often makes for strange bedfellows. The arduous work of coalition-building involves strategic compromises and trade-offs. Most importantly, solidarity necessitates an agreement to disagree… with minimal malice. 

Being an ally, accomplice, or fellow traveler requires a fundamental understanding that disagreement is not the same as oppression or violence. If a particular activist contingent will tolerate nothing less than marching in lockstep, well, that’s not solidarity or ally-ship. It’s thought policing. 

Which brings me to a situation involving my friend and comrade, Cindy Sheehan — someone who has connected with an astonishing array of dissident individuals and groups.

But then…

CS: It started when this letter by

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The temptation to assume that there’s no smoke without fire

Oct 3rd, 2015 10:24 am | By

Chris French wrote a piece for the Guardian in 2009 saying that “recovered” memories are still a live issue.

One serious problem appears to be that many people mistakenly believe that the false memory controversy is “yesterday’s news”. They are aware that there was a huge increase in such allegations back in the 1980s and 1990s. They may even be aware that many professionals and academics have reacted against such claims, most notably Elizabeth Loftus, whose pioneering work in this area has done more to increase our understanding of the true nature of false memories than any other scientist. But it is simply not the case that this is a dead issue.

Although the incidence of new cases is much

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Sentenced to study theology

Oct 3rd, 2015 8:24 am | By

Is Iran taking a turn toward the more humane and lenient? Is it becoming more forgiving of people’s failures to grovel to The Prophet enough? Or is it just that some courts are a little less fanatically theocratic than others? One high court, at any rate, swapped a death sentence for a two year theology sentence – still grim, but less permanent.

An Iranian man who was on death row for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad has had his sentence commuted to reading 13 religious books and studying theology for two years.

Soheil Arabi, 31, was arrested by members of the Iranian revolutionary guards in November 2013 in connection with Facebook postings which the Iranian judiciary deemed insulting to the

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MSF requests an end to the bombing of hospitals

Oct 3rd, 2015 8:02 am | By

Horrible news from Afghanistan:

Air attacks hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the battleground Afghan city of Kunduz early Saturday, killing at least nine hospital staff and injuring others at a facility that had been caring for hundreds already hurt in days of fighting, the charity said.

The U.S. military conducted an airstrike in Kunduz at the time that may have caused collateral damage, and the incident is being investigated, U.S. Army Col. Brian Tibus said.

At least nine people who worked in the hospital.

The attacks, which injured at least 37 other people and left part of the hospital in flames and rubble, came on roughly the sixth day of fighting between Afghan government forces — supported

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In which layered ideas are pounded flat

Oct 2nd, 2015 5:25 pm | By

Another piece on the quest for purity in lefty politics, this one in the New Statesman and by Richard Wallace. It’s getting to be quite a popular subject these days, no doubt because there are so many purist lefties cluttering up the place and no-platforming everyone in sight.

(I figure before long Freethought blogs will consist of maybe eight or nine 100% pure people generating anything up to twenty posts a month, which no one will read. Purity tends to be a tad boring.)

If you use Twitter a lot, you may have wondered exactly how to criticise large parts of the left without sounding like a bigot, a racist, or worst of all Richard Dawkins.

The legacy of

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Oct 2nd, 2015 4:22 pm | By

There are conflicting claims about the death toll in the hajj stampede last week.

Iran says number of its citizens who died in the Hajj stampeded in Saudi Arabia last week has reached 464 – nearly double the previous toll.

Iranian authorities said there was no longer hope of finding any of the country’s missing pilgrims alive.

According to Saudi officials, 769 people died in the crush in Mina, near Mecca, and 934 were injured.

Iranian officials allege that the overall number of deaths is now more than 1,000. Pakistan, India, and Indonesia have also suggested death toll may be higher than the 769 reported by Saudi Arabia.

Another case where prayers don’t seem to do humans much … Read the rest

Not primary, not secondary, not tertiary

Oct 2nd, 2015 11:16 am | By

Ah, no. Not at all. Not even close.

Think of “the 10 commandments” for instance, the ones people keep wanting to build statues to in public places. They don’t say a word about not being an asshole. Not a word about compassion or kindness or generosity; no golden rule; no don’t be evil; no be good to one another. Not. one. word. Most of it is about crawling to god, and the rest is just don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t envy. It’s an ethical desert.

Religion is about what human beings owe to god, it’s not about what we owe to each other.… Read the rest