Notes and Comment Blog

Guest post by latsot: Tools people can use to level playing fields

Jun 4th, 2014 9:58 am | By

Originally a comment on To hell with making sense, eh?

Ah yes, Wimmin’s Lib. Burning bras. Damn uppity women jumping in front of the king’s horse. Patronising sitcoms. Patronising sketch shows. Bluff, honest CEOs explaining why they can’t possibly pay women the same as men because babies, menstruation, hormones and they’d only spend it on fashion and hair anyway.

I spend half my time being genuinely shocked on remembering that we live in the 21st century and the other half being even more surprised that we obviously still live in the fucking 70s.

I grew up in those exact fucking 70s in the UK. The very concept of feminism was widely and blandly treated as a joke. Why, feminists didn’t even shave their armpits! They wanted non-sexist language! They frowned upon rape! Ridiculous, I know, but we men indulged their little fancies. We gave them a weekly pittance so they could indulge their fascination with gossip by visiting their non-threatening friends on the way back from doing the shopping. And all we asked in return was our dinner on the table and couldn’t you just put a nice frock on once in a while despite working, looking after the children and looking after me as if I myself were a child? We as a nation rolled our eyes at their silly attempts to be like men and smugly congratulated ourselves for indulging feminism by mocking it on a societal level. We sure as shit spent more time creating media that portrayed feminism as infantile than we did actually, you know, listening to complaints, raising our consciousness or adjusting society so it was fair.

And here we are four decades later and though many things have changed for the better, the prevailing attitude seems to be exactly the same. It reminds me of those experiments – also done in the 70s (and earlier) – where people wore special glasses that split their vision in half. The subjects had difficulty commanding their limbs to do various things.

There’s an idea some people have that their brains are split in half because they feel they have to accept what they know is true (women are people) while simultaneously pining for the days when it was acceptable, even desirable in society, to treat them like they weren’t.

I think those people blame women for their brains being split in half. Their brains aren’t split in half, though. Get over that cognitive hump – men – and everything is better. Dawkins made two good points right at the start of The God Delusion: the concepts of Raising Consciousness and I Didn’t Know I Could. It’s an astonishing shame that he doesn’t apply either of those excellent concepts to himself.

Sorry, I’m ranting again but LATSOT MAD, pink trousers ripped, and I hope you’ll excuse it. My work is about making tools people can use to level playing fields and it’s so frustrating that I can hardly tell the attitudes of today from those of forty years ago.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Thursdays with water

Jun 4th, 2014 8:58 am | By

Gwyneth Paltrow thinks water thinks you are thinking about it, and that it can tell when you are thinking mean things about it versus thinking nice things about it.

Gwyneth Paltrow loves nothing more than imparting life advice to her followers, and while that advice has dabbled in the pseudoscience before, it’s rarely been as totally off the rails as the May 29th edition of her newsletter goop. Paltrow begins:

I am fascinated by the growing science behind the energy of consciousness and its effects on matter. I have long had Dr. Emoto’s coffee table book on how negativity changes the structure of water, how the molecules behave differently depending on the words or music being expressed around it.

Oooh ya that is fascinating; no wonder she’s fascinated by it. The energy of consciousness – I wonder if she’s also fascinated by the consciousness of energy? That’s fascinating too. They’re just fascinating. Energy – wo, fascinating. Consciousness – mmm, fascinating.

And she has a book. Just goes to show, doesn’t it.

She then turns the newsletter over to her health guru, Habib Sadeghi, who continues:

Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto performed some of the most fascinating experiments on the effect that words have on energy in the 1990’s…In his experiments, Emoto poured pure water into vials labeled with negative phrases like “I hate you” or “fear.” After 24 hours, the water was frozen, and no longer crystallized under the microscope: It yielded gray, misshapen clumps instead of beautiful lace-like crystals. In contrast, Emoto placed labels that said things like “I Love You,” or “Peace” on vials of polluted water, and after 24 hours, they produced gleaming, perfectly hexagonal crystals.

Masaru Emoto, the water whisperer of whom Paltrow and Sadeghi are so fond, has a bit of a following in New Age-y circles, and was featured favorably in the popular 2004 documentary What the #$*! Do We Know!?Few scientists have tried to debunk his claims since they’re so self-evidently ridiculous. “Have I tried to reproduce Mr. Emoto’s experiments? No, and I don’t intend to,” writes Caltech physicist Kenneth Libbrecht, an expert on snow crystals. “As we liked to say back on the farm in North Dakota — it’s good to have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out!” Libbrecht’s best guess — and the logical explanation for Emoto’s findings — is that he’s selecting pictures of crystals that fit his findings and rejecting those that don’t.

Well how else would you conduct research on the energy of consciousness and vice versa?

The closest replication of Emoto I found was done in Skeptical Inquirer by Carrie Poppy, who focused on an “experiment” of Emoto’s wherein he poured water over cooked rice in three separate jars, one labeled “Thank You,” another labeled “You’re an Idiot,” and a third without any label.

Read the rest; it’s hilarious.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

To hell with making sense, eh?

Jun 3rd, 2014 4:31 pm | By

This is what I mean. kellym linked to a bit of Twitter harassment of Pamela Gay, so I took a look at the guy doing the harassing, and this is that guy.


one can speak either yes and no about everything… My social views: I am against racism, homophobia, capitalism, fundamentalism, and feminism

This is what I keep saying. People who recoil in horror at the very idea of being racist or homophobic…proudly declare themselves opposed to feminism. That’s what I don’t get.

Racial equality; good. Sexual preference equality; good. Gender equality; ewwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Is it just obvious? Racial equality, meh, he doesn’t have to do anything. Sexual preference equality, meh, he doesn’t have to do anything. But gender equality – omigod that might get right up in his very own personal face!!!

Just shitty selfish shittyness, is it? Just feeling threatened? Just not being worried about his white privilege or his straight privilege but worried as fuck about his male privilege?

I don’t know. To me it’s like those Which Of These Things Is Not Like The Others? thing that kids used to do – there’s a bear, a lion, a pineapple, a tiger, and a wolf.

Or it’s just a random collection. I’m against sugar in pasta sauce, plaid trousers, global warming, bedbugs, feminism, and the Ford Motor Company.

I don’t know. For that list to make sense, it should go: I am against racism, homophobia, capitalism, fundamentalism, and sexism. The way it does go, Ivan is just flattering himself. “I’m right-on except when it might cut into my special extra advantages.”

Maybe he knows that, and that’s why he takes the trouble to pester Pamela Gay.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Catherine Corless: Synopsis of her research on Tuam Mother/Baby Home

Jun 3rd, 2014 3:57 pm | By

Catherine Corless has a synopsis of her research on that Facebook page but it’s hard to read in the FB format. I made an easier to read version.

The Mother/Baby Home Tuam

The Mother/Baby Home in Tuam was opened in 1925 and was run by the Bon Secours Sisters to cater for unmarried mothers and their babies.

This was an era in our history when pregnancy before marriage was deeply frowned upon by church, state and family. The unfortunate woman who found herself in this predicament was quickly sent to an institution such as the Mother/Baby Home out of sight of prying neighbours and relatives.

The Bon Secours Sisters were a nursing congregation who had come from Dublin to take charge of the hospital wing of Glenamaddy Workhouse, which catered for the destitute, old and infirm, orphans and unmarried mothers. These Workhouses had been instigated by the Irish Poor Law since the 1840’s, but now after the Treaty, the Irish Free State reformed the whole system and put in place administration on a county basis, so that separate arrangements were made for the aged and infirm to go to County Homes, and for the unmarried mothers and orphans to go to institutions.

All Workhouses were closed, but it was decided that the one on the Dublin road in Tuam would be chosen as a Mother/Baby Home. The Home building itself was in a good structural state but needed quite a bit of repair. The Sisters and some of the mothers and children began the task of clearing and cleaning, and by the end of the year 1925, all were ready to move in. Dr. Thomas B. Costello was the Medical Officer for the Home and the Rev. Peter J. Kelly, a grandnephew of the former Archbishop of Tuam Dr. John McEvilly, was chaplain.

The building belonged to Galway Co.Co. and they were responsible for repairs and Maintenance, and a capitation grant was paid to the nuns for the cost and upkeep of the mothers and babies, and for the salaries of doctors. A maternity wing was added some time later. The travel writer Halliday Sutherland visited the Home in the 1950’s and it is worth quoting his review of the Home:

“The grounds were well kept and had many flower beds. The Home is run by the Sisters of the Bon Secours of Paris and the Reverend Mother showed me around.

Each of the Sisters is a fully trained nurse and midwife. Some are also trained children’s nurses. An unmarried girl may come here to have her baby. She agrees to stay in the Home for one year. During this time she looks after her baby and assists the nuns in domestic work. She is unpaid. At the end of the year she may leave. She may take her baby with her or leave the baby at the Home in the hope that it will be adopted. The nuns keep the child until the age of seven, when it is sent to an industrial school. There were 51 confinements in 1954 and the nuns now looked after 120 children. For each child or mother in the Home, the Galway Co.Co. pays £1 a week. Children of five or over attend the local schools. The whole building was fresh and clean.”

Haliday Sutherland, however, did not interview any of the resident mothers or helpers. Had he done so, he would have got quite a different story to the one he was told. During my researching the Home, I spoke to some mothers who gave birth there and their account of their confinements speaks of long unattended labours without sight of a Sister or midwife, it was only during the birth that a nurse was in attendance with only the help of an untrained resident. The doctor gave one examination when the mother was first admitted and that was the last they saw of him. No drugs of any kind were ever administered to help with pain, no kindness ever shown. Only mothers who had the ability to pay £100 for delivery services were allowed to leave after the birth. It was a condition that all others must wait a full year in the Home filling domestic duties, cooking, cleaning, minding the babies and children and tending to the gardens. The mothers did not have the choice of keeping their babies as outlined by the writer Halliday Sutherland. Seeing that their confinement in the first place was a hush-hush affair, no family would allow a daughter back home with a baby, as Irish Catholics in those days were in fear of a much distorted doctrine by the Catholic Church that the unmarried mother had committed a heinous crime. It is also to be remembered that the man who had fathered the child was never villainized or held responsible. Neither did the Irish state at that time offer any support for the unmarried mother.

The late John Cunningham, former editor of the ‘Connaught Tribune’ spent his early days in the Tuam Home, as his mother died in his infancy, and in an article which he published in the ‘Connaught Tribune’ April 1998, he speaks of the cruelty of the system which allowed the separation of babies from their mothers. In his article entitled ‘Emotional minefield of the rights of mothers and adopted children from the Ireland of yesterday’, John relayed the conversation he had with a woman who had spent most of her life in the Home: ‘What were the young women to do? Many weren’t wanted at home, they were ostracised by society. In those days a young woman could not become pregnant and stay at home. It was as simple as that. I saw the devastation when they were parted from their children. They nursed the child and looked after it for a year and then they went one way and the child stayed to be adopted or to be boarded out a few years later. I don’t know if any of them recovered from the heart-breaking parting. It was heart rending’.

For the children who were not adopted from the Home, they attended the Mercy Convent N.S. or the Presentation N.S. once they reached the age of 5. They were brought down to the schools in a line and always left a little earlier in the evenings, to ensure that there would be no integration with the other pupils. The sound of their heavy clogs making their way up the Dublin road is a memory that resonates with most people. After they made their first communion, many of the children were fostered out by families. There was an allowance per week from the Government at the time, and a yearly clothing allowance, provided to those families for the care of the children. Unfortunately, there was no vetting system in place to check on the suitability of those families to take those young vulnerable children, and many of them were sent to uncaring unscrupulous families who spent very little of the allowance on them. Many of the children were treated little better than slaves, but had to remain with the families until they reached 16 years of age after which many of them emigrated to England in the hope of a better life. Some of the children fared a little better, with the foster family accepting them as one of their own, and some even inherited the farmsteads they were sent to.

The Home was closed in 1961 as it had fallen into a dilapidated state. The children who had remained there were sent to the Industrial School in Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath. The Home and grounds remained vacant for a number of years, except for the rear building which was used by ‘Bontex’ who made school uniforms.

In the early 1970’s the whole building was demolished to make way for a new housing estate. When I started my research into the Home, I spoke to some of the residents who had moved into this housing estate on the Dublin/Athenry road, and they indicated that there was an unmarked graveyard in an area at the rear of where the Home once stood. It was believed that it was an angels plot for unbaptised babies, but further in my research I discovered that in fact, many children and young babies were also buried here. I was astonished to find that there was no formal marking or plaque to indicate that these children were buried there. I decided to contact the Registration Office in Galway to check for deaths in the Home. I was dismayed to find that in fact the number of children who died in the Home during its existence 1925-1961 numbered nearly 800. I now have all those children’s names, date of death, and age at death, which will be recorded into a special book.

It just did not seem right that all those children lay there unnamed and forgotten. Hence, I made contact with the Western Traveller and Intercultural Development (WTID) and a committee of interested people emerged, all with the view that some sort of Memorial should be erected in this children’s graveyard in dedication to their memory. Our committee is named: ‘The Children’s Home Graveyard Committee’.

We introduced our Project to erect a Memorial to the children, to the Tuam Town Council at one of their meetings, and got a unanimous decision that they would help us with some funding when they get their 2014 Grant Allowance. The Heritage Council have also promised to help but have cautioned us that Heritage Grants have been cut for 2014. Our fundraising is ongoing as it will take a large sum to complete the whole Project, i.e. to erect a proper Monument, clear the pathways into the graveyard, and to maintain the area with flowers and shrubs etc.

A St. Jarlath’s Credit Union account has been set up for anyone who would like to contribute to this very worthy Project.

Catherine Corless

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

All over Ireland

Jun 3rd, 2014 3:34 pm | By

Here (a public page on Facebook) you can find an interview with Catherine Corless by Mark Patterson on Radio Ulster May 27.

The children were segregated from other children in the classroom.

He’s asking why she cares, when she doesn’t suspect “foul play.” For some reason neither of them is really talking about the neglect, the malnutrition, the conditions in which infection could spread easily.

At 11:50 they agree that there must have been such “homes” all over Ireland.

There’s a Facebook page Mother/Baby Home Research.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A new level of motive-attribution

Jun 3rd, 2014 12:32 pm | By


Damion Reinhardt:

Originally Posted by Brive1987
The current tag team efforts against DJ, with no real objective other than to get him fired or grind him into resigning sums up why I loathe the SJ brigade.
Agreed! They really seem to hate his guts, for some reason. Elyse even took a poll of whom they hate the most and he was right up there with Professor “Dear Muslima” himself.

Originally Posted by Brive1987 
Only consolation is that both the CFI and JREF Boards must have become inured to the relentless calls for the sacking and discipline of their CEOs.
It does seem to be a constant refrain. I’d go so far as to wager that Women in Secularism has become an annual sacrificial atonement at this point, an offering of flights and hotels and booze to appease the pantheon of wrathful bloggesses.

Yes it’s all for the free booze, or it would all be for the free booze if there were any free booze, which there isn’t. Or it it would all be for the free booze if there were any free booze and I loved inhaling large quantities of booze, which I don’t. Or it it would all be for the free booze if there were any free booze and I loved inhaling large quantities of booze so much that I was willing to travel 11 hours eastbound and 14 hours westbound for a total of 25 hours within 4 days just to get it.

25 hours. To get…what? Maybe $15 worth of free booze (which wasn’t on offer at all, don’t forget)? I don’t think I can drink more than that over three evenings. 25 hours of acutely uncomfortable travel for $15 worth of free booze which actually wasn’t provided anyway?

I did get some nice hotel lotion. They had nice lotion, the Alexandria Westin. But they’re just those tiny little tubes. I wouldn’t have spent 25 hours of travel time to get them.

Also? I’m not a “blogess.” Blogging isn’t more of a guy thing. I’m every bit as much allowed to blog as Damion Reinhardt is (and I’m better at it, too). I don’t need a special feminized ess word to name what I do as opposed to what normal, male people do.

Also? That’s so fucking insulting to women such as Taslima Nasreen, Barbara Ehrenreich,  Katha Pollitt, Rebecca Goldstein, Susan Jacoby, Soraya Chemaly, Lindsay Beyerstein, to name only a few of the brilliant women who were speakers at that conference.

It’s also fucking insulting to CFI.

Other than that, good call.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Hitchcock moment

Jun 3rd, 2014 12:17 pm | By

Oh yay, CAFE volunteers tell you why EQUAL RIGHTS are so great and why they are for EVERYONE and not just some…like…you know…women.

Pay special attention at 15 seconds in – see that guy in the blue shirt next to the guy in the fedora? Handing out leaflets? That’s Justin “oh no not Justin Trottier but a different Justin altogether” Trottier. Justin Trottier, is who that is.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The report described the children as “emaciated”

Jun 3rd, 2014 11:02 am | By

More on the mass grave discovered on the site of a Mother and Baby home for “fallen women” in County Galway in Ireland.

Catherine Corless, the local historian and genealogist, remembers the Home Babies well. “They were always segregated to the side of regular classrooms,” Corless tells IrishCentral. “By doing this the nuns telegraphed the message that they were different and that we should keep away from them.

“They didn’t suggest we be nice to them. In fact if you acted up in class some nuns would threaten to seat you next to the Home Babies. That was the message we got in our young years,” Corless recalls.

They were outcasts. They were shunned. They were treated like dirt. They were treated like dirt by the nuns. So much for the Catholic church’s endless efforts nowadays to present itself as Caring and Compassionate.

In the few surviving black and white photographs taken at the site no child is smiling. Instead they simply frown at the camera, their blank stares suggesting the terrible conditions.

A local health board inspection report from April 1944 recorded 271 children and 61 single mothers in residence, a total of 333 in a building that had a capacity for 243.

The report described the children as “emaciated,” “pot-bellied,” “fragile” with “flesh hanging loosely on limbs.” The report noted that 31 children in the “sun room and balcony” were “poor, emaciated and not thriving.” The effects of long term neglect and malnutrition were observed repeatedly.

Just observed, and recorded. Photographed, written down, and then forgotten.

Children died at The Home at the rate of one a fortnight for almost 40 years, one report claims. Another appears to claim that 300 children died between 1943 and 1946, which would mean two deaths a week in the isolated institution.

In The Home’s 36 years of operation between 1926 and 1961 some locals told the press this week of unforgettable interactions with its emaciated children, who because of their “sinful” origins were considered socially radioactive and treated as such.

One local said: “I remember some of them in class in the Mercy Convent in Tuam – they were treated marginally better than the traveler children. They were known locally as the “Home Babies.” For the most part the children were usually gone by school age – either adopted or dead.”

It was Corless who ripped this particular bandage off, because she went looking.

“First I contacted the Bon Secours sisters at their headquarters in Cork and they replied they no longer had files or information about The Home because they had left Tuam in 1961 and had handed all their records over to the Western Health Board.”

Undaunted, Corless turned to The Western Health Board, who told her there was no general information on the daily running of the place.

“Eventually I had the idea to contact the registry office in Galway. I remembered a law was enacted in 1932 to register every death in the country. My contact said give me a few weeks and I’ll let you know.”

“A week later she got back to me and said do you really want all of these deaths? I said I do. She told me I would be charged for each record. Then she asked me did I realize the enormity of the numbers of deaths there?”

The registrar came back with a list of 796 children. “I could not believe it. I was dumbfounded and deeply upset,” says Corless. “There and then I said this isn’t right. There’s nothing on the ground there to mark the grave, there’s nothing to say it’s a massive children’s graveyard. It’s laid abandoned like that since it was closed in 1961.”

It turned out that was because the babies and children were treated like so much garbage, or like the corpses the Nazis piled up in such numbers. They were just dumped in a hole, and that was that.

The certificates Corless received record each child’s age, name, date – and in some cases – cause of death. “I have the full list and it’s going up on a plaque for the site, which we’re fundraising for at the moment. We want it to be bronze so that it weathers better. We want to do it in honor of the children who were left there forgotten for all those years. It’s a scandal.”

Corless believes that nothing was said or done to expose the truth because people believed illegitimate children didn’t matter. “That’s what really hurts and moved me to do something,” she explains.

During its years of operation the children of The Home were referred to as “inmates” in the press. It was believed by the clergy that the harsh conditions there were in themselves a form of corrective penance. The state, the church and their families all failed these women, Corless contends.

“Inmates” – because their mothers were unmarried!

“I do blame the Catholic Church,” says Corless. “I blame the families as well but people were afraid of the parish priest. I think they were brainwashed.  I suppose the lesson is not to be hiding things. To face up to reality.

“My fear is that if things aren’t faced now it’s very easy to slide back into this kind of cover-up again. I want the truth out there. If you give people too much power it’s dangerous.”

Living and dying in a culture of shame and silence for decades, the Home Babies’ very existence was considered an affront to Ireland and God.

When all along it was the church that was an affront to Ireland and its people!

It was a different time, some defenders argued this week, omitting to mention that the stigmatizing silence that surrounded The Home was fostered by clerics. Indeed the religious orders were so successful at silencing their critics that for decades even to speak of The Home was to risk contagion.

796 babies and children who died in misery and loneliness.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Catholic church’s deep concern for infants

Jun 3rd, 2014 10:20 am | By

Another entry in Ireland’s squalid, hateful, brutal history – the discovery of a mass grave holding the remains of 796 infants and children in County Galway. Yes that’s right – mass grave, holding 796 infants and children. A crime scene, in short; a massive crime scene; a crime scene reminiscent of the crime scene at Robert Pickton’s pig farm.

According to a report in the Irish Mail on Sunday, a mass grave has been located beside a former home for unmarried mothers and babies in County Galway. The grave is believed to contain the bodies of up to eight hundred babies, buried on the former grounds of the institution known locally as “The Home” in Tuam, north of Galway city, between 1925 and 1961

Run by the Bon Secours nuns, “The Home” housed thousands of unmarried mothers and their “illegitimate” children over those years. 

According to Irish Mail on Sunday the causes of death listed for “as many as 796 children” included “malnutrition, measles, convulsions, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and pneumonia.”

Pause over the corrosive irony of that name - the Bon Secours nuns – the Good Help nuns. The Good Help nuns who took money from the state for “helping” those infants and children, who were so “helped” that they died in large numbers of malnutrition among other things. The Good Help nuns then threw them in a mass grave. That’s some good help all right.

The babies were usually buried without a coffin in a plot that had once housed “a water tank,” the report claims. No memorials were erected, the site was left unmarked and unmourned.

The staggering mortality rate of “The Home” was apparently replicated elsewhere in Ireland.

The Sean Ross Mother and Baby Home, portrayed in the award winning film “Philomena” this year, opened in Roscrea, County Tipperary in 1930. In its first year of operation 60 babies died out of a total of 120, a fifty percent infant mortality rate, more than four times higher than in the general population at the time.

And why? Greed and callous indifference for one, and hateful beliefs for another. The church viewed those children as filthy and degenerate, and treated them according to its sick view of how such people should be treated.

Statistics show a quarter of all babies born outside marriage in the 1930’s in Ireland died before their first birthdays. As observers have remarked elsewhere, these were infant death rates from the 17th century.

In one year alone in the mid 1940’s in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in County Cork, out of the 180 babies born 100 died.

Given the shockingly high mortality rates, it is hard not to conclude that the destabilizing threat these children represented to Irish society and its conservative religious ethos may have contributed to their untimely demise. 

I wouldn’t even try not to conclude that. I think not concluding that would just defend the mindset behind it and the corrupt theocratic power that made it possible.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Problem-solving in Abuja

Jun 3rd, 2014 8:54 am | By

Nigeria is working hard to solve the problem of the enslaved schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in April. How? By banning protests in Abuja, that’s how.

Police in Nigeria’s capital have banned all protests planned in support of the more than 200 girls kidnapped in April.

Commissioner Joseph Mbu said the proliferation of such protests “is now posing a serious security threat” to those living around, and driving through, demonstration sites in the capital city of Abuja.

“I cannot fold my hands and watch this lawlessness,” he said in a statement Monday.

The lawlessness of protesting the failure to rescue the schoolgirls, he means. That’s his priority.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Freedom to sing

Jun 3rd, 2014 8:45 am | By

How Iranian state television goes about discrediting a woman who has escaped their clutches: it claims she stripped her clothes off on a London street while her son stood watching, and was promptly raped by three men. Sounds plausible, doesn’t it.

Iranian state television aired a report claiming that the Britain-based journalist Masih Alinejad, founder of the “My Stealthy Freedom” social media campaign against mandatory veiling, had been assaulted and raped in London in the presence of her son.

The broadcast described Alinejad as a “nexus of sedition” for her campaign, which has garnered over 430,000 likes on Facebook. Hundreds of Iranian women from inside the country have posted pictures of themselves taking their headscarves off in public.

State television painted the campaign as promoting indecency amongst Iranian women, and alleged that an “unstable” Alinejad had stripped naked on a London street and was shortly thereafter raped by three passersby while her son stood watching. The report also claimed that London’s Metropolitan Police, together with BBC officials, had sought to keep the alleged rape confidential, but that the story emerged on social media sites and generated a broad reaction.

Uh huh.

Alinejad swiftly rebutted the report on her Facebook page–which has 224,000 followers, as opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Facebook page, which is liked by 16,463. She posted that she was in good health and had not endured an attack of any sort.

She also provided a cheerful video of herself singing on a London tube station – Temple, to be exact – while a train arrives, waits, and departs. I find her more credible than Iranian state tv.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Oh no, not Hurricane TinkyWinky!

Jun 2nd, 2014 5:12 pm | By

Sometimes the gender nonsense just gets too silly. Shrugging off hurricanes because they have girly names? Really?

According to a recent study by University of Illinois researchers, hurricanes with women’s names are likely to cause significantly more deaths than those with masculine names — not because the feminine-named storms are stronger, but because they are perceived as less threatening and so people are less prepared.

So all over Florida, people hear news reports that Hurricane Shirley is headed straight for them and they just laugh because how hard can a Shirley hit?

The researchers examined human fatality numbers for 92 storms that made landfall in the U.S. between 1950 and 2012, excluding Katrina from 2005 and Audrey from 1957 because together, Shavitt said, they account for 50 percent of all deaths from hurricanes in the U.S. since 1950.

They found that the more feminine the storm’s name in highly damaging storms, the more people it killed.

Shavitt said their numerous experiments included university students as well as volunteers age 18 to 81 who took part in an online nationwide study.

They reported that when people imagined being in a male-named storm they predicted the storm would be more severe than it was for a female-named storm.

Hey here’s an idea – don’t give hurricanes people names at all. Call them things like Hurrican Shark and Hurricane Grizzly Bear and Hurricane Alligator.

At the Hurricane Center, Feltgen said “Whether the name is Sam or Samantha, the deadly impacts of the hurricane – wind, storm surge and inland flooding – must be taken seriously by everyone in the path of the storm in order to protect lives. This includes heeding evacuation orders.”

So don’t domesticate them with cuddly names at all. Whose idea was that, anyway?


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

How much more than 1000?

Jun 2nd, 2014 4:39 pm | By

The Washington Post takes notice of the practice of stoning women and girls to death for doing things like looking at a boy.

Despite creeping modernitysecular condemnation and the fact there’s no reference to stoning in the Koran, honor killings claim the lives of more than 1,000 Pakistani women every year, according to a Pakistani rights group.

They have widespread appeal. Eighty-three percent of Pakistanis support stonings for adultery according to a Pew survey, and only 8 percent oppose it. Even those who chose modernity over Islamic fundamentalism overwhelmingly favor stonings, according to Pew research.

If that statistic is true it seems very unlikely that the figure is only 1000 women murdered for “honor” every year.

Some Islamic fundamentalists think that only through the murder of an offending family member can honor be restored to the rest of the family. Honor killings predominantly affect women — 943 women were killed under such circumstances in 2011 and another 869 in 2013, though not all of them were stoned. Some were just gunned down in cold blood.

So the first sentence was misleading. Journalists have so much trouble being honest about this subject. It’s not “an offending family member”; it’s a female family member who comes under some kind of enraged suspicion.

One man in Punjab province suspected his teenage nieces of having “inappropriate relations” with two boys. So on Jan. 11, he killed both girls, confessed and said he did it for “honor.”

Another teenage girl, living in Sukkur, was allegedly shot dead by her brother while she was doing homework because her brother thought she was sleeping with a man.

One mom and dad allegedly killed their 15-year-old daughter with acid because they said she looked at a boy and they ”feared dishonor.”

“There was a boy who came by on a motorcycle,” her father told BBC. My daughter “turned to look at him twice. I told her before not to do that; it’s wrong. People talk about us.”

The mother added: “She said ‘I didn’t do it on purpose. I won’t look again.’ By then I had already thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way.”

So the mother carried acid with her, ready to throw on her daughter should she look at a boy. What a pretty story.

Those who are stoned in an honor killing are oftentimes accused of committing adultery. Both genders face stonings in Pakistan and across 14 Muslim countries, but women are more frequently the targets.

The reason is rooted in sexual inequality in such countries, where the punishment has survived through some interpretations of sharia, or Islamic law, that say adultery is punishable by stoning. In countries such as Iran, where stonings are legal and widespread, men often have significantly more agency than women. If accused of adultery, they may have the means to either hire lawyers or flee. But those options are frequently closed to women.

One 13-year-old girl named Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow faced such a fate. The Somali child claimed she had been raped by three men and told the authorities what had happened. But her report did not spur an investigation into her allegations. Instead, the girl was accused of adultery, buried up to her neck inside a stadium and stoned to death before 1,000 people.

That’s the story I chose for the last pages of Does God Hate Women? I included more details than are mentioned here; they are horrific.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The first Tuesday of every month in LA

Jun 2nd, 2014 3:55 pm | By

Look what Amy’s got! The Los Angeles Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group, all set up and ready for you to join if you’re in Los Angeles or feel like getting there the first Tuesday of every month.

Why such a group? Well, because it’s needed.

Over the last few years, ever since Richard Dawkins made his now famous snipe at Rebecca, I have  found myself felt pushed out of certain spaces in the skeptic and secular community, online and sometimes in person, simply for remaining an outspoken part of this blog.

Over the years, I have been harassed, talked over and talked down to. I have been threatened, ridiculed, intimidated and lied about. I have been stalked, mocked, Photoshopped and had my home address posted. I have watched dozens of my friends silently walk away from organized skepticism, this network, and movement atheism because of the hostile environment they have witnessed. Some have left out of fear for their safety or privacy concerns and some have left because they simply didn’t feel valued or respected. Many others left because watching and reading about harassment and bullying directed at some of the women just, “isn’t fun.”

And I totally get that. It’s not fun.

Amy’s group? It will be fun.

The group will serve multiple purposes. It will be a meetup group for making new friends and networking and it will also be a safe space that encourages creativity, art, education and positive activism that focuses on issues relating to women.
LAWAAG will meet the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm at The Center For Inquiry, Los Angeles. Along with regular monthly meetups, the group will also organize art, activism and outreach projects and work towards building community and support for women without faith.

The first meeting will take place on July 1st at 7pm at CFI West and I’d love to see you there. We already have our first activist art show planned, because one thing you can count on, if I am running a group, is that we will get shit done! And I’d love for more people to get with me, get involved and get active.

I know about that show and it is going to be fantastic.

Read Amy’s post, because it has art in it. I love Amy’s art.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post by Marwa Berro: Not a tool to be used to bolster anti-feminism

Jun 2nd, 2014 3:07 pm | By

Now this is a very brief comment, and I don’t usually make guest posts out of single paragraphs – although I don’t really know why, since one of the glories of the blog is No Rules, and I do very short posts myself when I feel like it – but it matters so as many people as possible should see it so this time I am. Originally a comment on A culture obsessed with promoting and celebrating female success.

As an ex-Muslim woman from the Middle East and a victim of oppressive misogyny at the hands of Islamist power structures, I absolutely condemn continued attempts to use the plight of Muslim women to trivialize harassment and misogyny in the United States. My oppression is not a tool to be used to bolster anti-feminism. Those who hold such opinions, Dawkins included, can kindly fuck off.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“While we all want workers to earn more money…”

Jun 2nd, 2014 9:56 am | By

The editorialists at the Providence Journal are worried about low-wage workers coming to eat their brains.

Let us hope Providence City Council members, in seeking to woo some powerful interest groups in an election year, do not inflict even more harm by dramatically hiking the minimum wage. It is expected to take up the matter this month.

My god the defenders of the rich and comfortable do like to turn everything backwards, don’t they. Low-wage workers are “powerful interest groups” now while the people who pay the low wages are their downtrodden helpless victims.

Certainly the activists were out in force last week, clamoring for an ordinance mandating a $15-an-hour minimum wage in Providence for hotel workers, well above the state’s $8.50 minimum, which itself is higher than the federal minimum wage.

How dare they. How dare they clamor. How dare they clamor for a wage they can actually live on in exchange for doing hard work for 8 hours a day. It’s an outrage.

The ordinance would slam into businesses that are vital to the city’s commerce and national reputation: the Dean Hotel, the Hampton Inn Providence, the Hilton Providence, the Hotel Providence, the Omni Providence, the Providence Biltmore, the Providence Courtyard Marriott, the Providence Marriott Downtown, the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel and the Wyndham Garden Providence. 

Thank you for the detailed list of hotels that pay low wages.

While we all want workers to earn more money, such an election-year stunt divorced from economic reality could do serious damage to those workers, as well as the city, the state and local property taxpayers, by slashing tourism and convention business, forcing some hotels to close or lay off workers and reducing tax revenues.

Oh I think you’re telling a whopper there, Comrade Editorial Writer. I don’t think you do want workers to earn more money. I think everything you say after those words shows quite clearly that you don’t want that at all. Skip the silly disclaimer next time. It’s like saying “Not to be politically incorrect but” – all it does is underline the shittiness of what you’re about to say.

What’s your salary, now that you mention it?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Whimsical Sudan

Jun 2nd, 2014 8:52 am | By

The reports that Meriam Ibrahim was going to be released from prison were premature, according to the BBC.

Reports on Saturday said a Sudanese official had confirmed that Meriam Ibrahim, who gave birth in custody, would be freed in a few days.

But the foreign ministry said on Sunday Ms Ibrahim could only be released after a successful judicial appeal.

Her death sentence has sparked international outrage.

Ms Ibrahim was brought up as an Orthodox Christian, but a judge ruled last month that she should be regarded as Muslim because that had been her father’s faith.

She refused to renounce her Christianity and now faces hanging for apostasy.

It looks almost as if they’re teasing the world – “You think we’re outrageous? We’ll show you outrageous!” Never mind killing people for actually leaving Islam, now it’s killing people for being raised Christian when their fathers were Muslim. How would a state even administer that?

Last Wednesday, Ms Ibrahim gave birth to a daughter in her prison cell – the second child from her marriage in 2011 to Daniel Wani, a US citizen.

The court had said Ms Ibrahim would be allowed to nurse her baby for two years before the sentence was carried out.

The court also annulled her Christian marriage and sentenced her to 100 lashes for adultery because the union was not considered valid under Islamic law.

It’s all do everything retroactively with this guy. She thought she was Christian so she had a Christian marriage but oh no, the court says she started out as a baby Muslim because of Daddy so that Christian marriage turns out to be adultery. It’s all random arbitrary hahaha you can’t possibly predict this so we can punish you no matter WHAT you do type law.

In his interview with the BBC, Mr Wani said he was hoping to continue living in Sudan with his wife and children in the event of her release, but that that might be too difficult.

He also expressed his hope that the court would reconsider the verdict about the annulment of their marriage, which he confirmed he had also appealed against.

Bad idea, I think. Their legal system just looks too capricious for safety.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Erased from the medical register

Jun 2nd, 2014 8:35 am | By

Finally, in the UK a doctor is defrocked for helping with FGM.

A doctor has been struck off after a tribunal found he offered advice on arranging a female genital mutilation (FGM) operation.

Birmingham doctor Ali Mao-Aweys was captured on covert recordings discussing the procedure with a journalist posing as a patient.

A Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) panel ruled he should be erased from the medical register.

It’s a step.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A culture obsessed with promoting and celebrating female success

Jun 1st, 2014 4:08 pm | By

Another entry from the anti-feminists teaming up with right-wingers to sneer at women who say yes actually Elliot Rodger was motivated by misogyny, you can tell that by looking at his manifesto and his farewell video.



The link is to The National Review, not exactly a known bastion of skepticism. Let’s see what Heather MacDonald has to say.

Over 77 percent of all U.S. murder victims in 2012 were male; targets of non-lethal shootings are even more disproportionately male. Four of the six homicide victims of Elliot Rodger, the lunatic narcissist who went on a killing spree in Santa Barbara in revenge for female rejection, were male. And yet the feminist industry immediately turned this heartbreaking bloodbath into a symbol of America’s war on women.

“The feminist industry?” As opposed to the conservative industry that employs The National Review? And then, a symbol? No. A reality. The point was that organized hatred of women shaped Rodger’s thinking (such as it was) and that that deserves attention rather than sneers.

the fundamental premise of the feminist analysis of Rodger’s massacre — that the U.S. is “misogynist” — is patently absurd. To the contrary, ours is a culture obsessed with promoting and celebrating female success. There is not a science faculty or lab in the country that is not under relentless pressure from university administrators and the federal government to hire female professors and researchers, regardless of the lack of competitive candidates and the cost to meritocratic standards.

Why is there such pressure (where there is)? Because the numbers are so bad and because they’ve been getting worse instead of better, and there is a lot of research indicating that women stay away partly because of harassment and sexism and even misogyny. I don’t see our culture as “obsessed with promoting and celebrating female success”: I see it as obsessed with leering at female hotness and raging at female unhotness, along with watching tv shows that present women as neurotic idiots who are always tearing each other apart.

Girls hear a constant message that “strong women can do it all,” including raise children on their own. Any female even remotely in the public realm who is not deeply conscious that she has been the “beneficiary” of the pressure to stock conference panels, media slots, and op-ed pages with females is fooling herself.

Hang on. Which is it? A constant message that strong women can do it all, or a constant message that we’re in the public realm only because of the pressure to stock conference panels, media slots, and op-ed pages with females?

Corporate boards and management seek women with hungry desperation.

And then don’t promote them. Something is keeping the numbers down, at any rate. Maybe it’s just that women are so stupid.

Women “face harassment every day,” a double global-studies and feminist-studies major told the New York TimesThis portrait of a public realm filled with leering, grasping men may have described 1950s Italy and perhaps some Latin American countries today, but it bears no resemblance to contemporary America. Construction workers have largely been tamed. Groping on subways is thankfully rare — and it is committed by perverts. No one condones such behavior. 

No one condones such behavior. Is that a fact?! Ask Pamela Gay if no one condones such behavior.

And then, the cherry on the cake, we get the Dear Muslima.

Here’s a suggestion to offended females: Laugh off such crude manifestations of the unconstrained male sex drive, then put them in perspective. Go to Afghanistan, India, or Nigeria if you want to combat sexual inequality. But don’t pretend that as a gender-studies student in the academic hothouse, you are a brave victim fighting against your own oppression and that of the American sisterhood.

Heather MacDonald and Richard Dawkins must be so grateful to Afghanistan, India, and Nigeria for giving them such a fabulous pretext for telling feminists in their own world to shut up and be grateful.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Equality for

Jun 1st, 2014 11:43 am | By

The Canadian Association for Equality turns out to be not exactly what it says on the tin.

CAFE’s attempt to stage an “Equality Day” concert on the Toronto Islands fell apart this week when the proposed venue and sponsors were alerted to the group’s alleged ties to the men’s rights movement, a label applied to a broad spectrum of virulent anti-women ideologies that often blame feminism for male oppression.

The host venue and sponsors pulled out of E-Day Thursday, saying that when CAFE approached them they weren’t fully aware of the nature of the event or the group’s cause.

Gee I wonder how that happened. Could it be the name, maybe? Is the name a little misleading, possibly?

CAFE says it’s committed to improving the “status, health and well-being of boys and men” but is not part of the men’s rights movement. The E-Day debacle has renewed accusations by the group’s critics that it is deliberately wrapping itself in benign language in an attempt to legitimize what it knows is a very controversial mission. No one would object to something called Equality Day, but presumably Equality for Men Day would have raised some red flags.

CAFE plans a scaled down version of E-Day, (less up-with-men jamboree, more leafleting a public space) at the corner of Yonge and Dundas Sunday at noon. The Ride for a Dream event, which combats violence against women, is happening at the same time across the street. We hope to god this is a coincidence.

You mean, because you hope CAFE isn’t actually counter-leafleting an event that combats violence against women? That would be bad, for sure.

Ahead of the event we called the group to ask about its beliefs. The bizarre interview that followed won’t do much to assuage concerns that CAFE is being disingenuous about its activities, or that it is trying to put a female-friendly face on an anti-women agenda.

Because CAFE has made clear that it has a different interpretation of the interview than we do, we’ve posted the audio in full so readers can judge for themselves.

Then we asked about the press release we received from CAFE that said the organization was “working with support from City Councillors [and] MPPs.” This was surprising because CAFE had previously reported it was having difficulty getting councillors on board. On CAFE’s website they report Councillor Gord Perks said, “I have better things to do with my time” when they approached him.
Fong, who said she wrote the press release about E-Day, would not or could not tell us who the councillors and MPPs were. Instead she passed the phone to a man named Justin (at 3:49 of the interview).

Justin declined to give us his last name, saying he was “working behind the scenes as a volunteer” and wasn’t authorized to speak for the group. He too refused to tell us which politicians are backing CAFE. He claimed that supporters have been harassed, bullied, and sometimes stalked and he couldn’t identify them in order to protect their safety.

At that point I paused and wondered – is that Justin Trottier? Is it? Then I realized I might find out if I kept reading instead of wondering.

We put it to Justin that an equally plausible explanation for his refusal to name names would be that CAFE does not in fact have the support of any councillors or MPPs. He agreed that the group’s critics would indeed say that, which was “perfectly fine. They can say lots of things,” he said.
Then he put Fong back on the phone.
As the interview continued, we could hear Justin speaking in the background. It sounded like he was helping Fong answer our questions. We asked her if the man talking was Justin Trottier, a well-known and controversial critic of feminism whose name does not appear on CAFE’s list of officials. She said no.
We asked again if the man was Trottier, and again she said it was not.
Now, we can’t say that Fong was lying about this. But later we compared our interview to recordings of Trottier’s many previous public appearances, and the man Fong assured us was not Justin Trottier sounded like Justin Trottier. A lot.

What a fascinating once-in-a-lifetime coincidence. Isn’t life exciting.

As our interview progressed, a pattern emerged. We would ask a question, the man-who-definitely-wasn’t-Justin-Trottier would say something in the background, and Fong would repeat his words back to us.

We thought this was strange, and we pointed it out. When we said it sounded like Justin was answering for her, Fong appeared to take offence. “He’s not speaking for me,” she said. “I am the writer of the news release and I am the one who put this out there so you can speak to me.”

You know what they need? They need a chatbot, that’s what. They need a Siri.

Then there’s a whole sequence where the journalistic “we” asked about A Voice for Men and Fong said there was no connection, none at all, nope nope nople, and “we” said what about an article on their site touting an AVFM conference, and Fong said first no connection and then we’ll look into it.

When we pressed them on their relationship to the group, Justin told Fong who then told us that CAFE has attended AVFM events.

“We attend events to explain how we’re different from them,” Justin said in the background.

“We attend them just to identify our difference from them,” Fong repeated into the phone.

Justin Trottier will probably be Prime Minister one day.

Update: a sleuth friend uncovered the deeply hidden right out in the open fact that the Denise Fong in the story who passed the phone to Mystery Justin Who Is Totally Not At All Justin Trottier is engaged to…

wait for it

…Justin Trottier.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)