Notes and Comment Blog

Triumphant return

Feb 3rd, 2016 11:40 am | By

Ha! At last, Kate Smurthwaite gets to do a gig at Goldsmiths after all.

The Goldsmiths Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society will be holding a stand-up show featuring the triumphant return of Kate Smurthwaite to perform along with comedian James Ross. Tickets are free but limited so please confirm on Eventbrite, alcohol will be provided and we will be collecting money for Refugee action at the event, so bring your coins!

Left-wing, highbrow, feminist, atheist comedy from Kate Smurthwaite  – ThreeWeeks award winner and writer for Have I Got News For You? and BBC3’s BAFTA-winning The Revolution Will Be Televised.  Kate has appeared on Question Time and is a regular on The Big Questions, The Moral Maze and This Morning but was recently deemed “too controversial” for Goldsmith’s College.

About a year ago, I think.

Her new comedy solo show is called “The wrong sort of Feminist” and is about her barring from Goldsmiths last year, choice and freedom, the feminist movement, the treatment of asylum seekers in Britain, Couples Come Dine with Me and edible pants.

Her show has had great reviews with Three weeks saying its “comedy that cuts through the crap”, Broadway baby saying “The verve with which she articulates her views on our land is monumental”, the Spectator saying ““Hilarious… A powerhouse of observational wit” and Scotsgay noting “An important and inclusive narrative… a brilliant comedian”.

I’ve seen her perform, and thought she was brilliant.

James Ross will be performing “Leopardoptera” and describes his style of comedy as “High-energy, left field stand-up for people who’ve read a book, without pictures, and enjoyed it.” He has performed at the edinburgh fringe with his hour long show which has been described as “freaking genius” by Threeweeks and “one to watch” by the daily mirror and Chortle describing him as “the sort of person children stare at on buses”.

Doors at 7pm, show at 8pm onwards.

Natura Cafe – Goldsmiths Students’ Union. Dixon Road. London SE14 6NW GB – View Map

Dixon Road is off Lewisham Way.

$1.29 billion

Feb 3rd, 2016 10:28 am | By

This just makes me sick – Business Insider reports on the way US Secretary of State John Kerry has been sucking up to Saudi Arabia.

Despite a flurry of international criticism regarding Saudi Arabia’s mass execution, the US government has been exceptionally muted in its response. After the executions, the State Department reported that it had “expressed [its] concerns” about the legal process in Saudi Arabia and raised those concerns at “high levels of the Saudi government”.

Emerging from meetings with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Secretary Kerry declared the discussion to be “one of the most constructive conversations that we have had in a time.” Speaking to embassy staff in Riyadh, he stated, “We have as solid a relationship, as clear an alliance, and [as strong] a strong friendship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we have ever had.”

That’s disgusting. Saudi Arabia is a human rights nightmare. Saudi Arabia is the “official” version of IS, or rather, IS is the freelance version of Saudi Arabia. Because Saudi Arabia is a state and has the apparatus of a state, it can do far more harm than IS can, and it does. Saudi Arabia sentences people to torture and death for religious dissent, for sex, for liberalism, for opinion, for innocuous Facebook posts. Saudi Arabia imports millions of women as domestic servants and looks the other way as they are treated like garbage. Saudi Arabia fails to make the hajj safe for the millions of pilgrims it attracts, and then lies about the death count. Saudi Arabia treats half its population like criminals.

Recently, citizens of Yemen have borne the brunt of the human cost of Saudi Arabia’s regional adventurism. Reports by numerous independent human rights organizations have repeatedly implicated coalition air strikes in civilian deaths and violations of international humanitarian law. Just this January, a Saudi air strike killed a freelance journalist who had been conducting interviews for Voice of America.

Despite documentation of continuing coalition human rights abuses, the United States plans to move forward with its $1.29 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the terrorist ideology that Saudi Arabia claims to be fighting abroad increasingly links back to Saudi Arabia itself.

It’s just horrendous. We might as well be selling weapons to North Korea, or Boko Haram. It makes just as much sense.

Last autumn, Saudi Arabia’s terrorism tribunal sentenced Abdulkareem al-Khoder, a founding member of the Saudi Arabian Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) to 10 years in prison and a 10-year travel ban, making him the tenth founding member of ACPRA to be imprisoned.

Youth protesters Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher, and Dawood Hussein al-Marhoon sit on death row for their activism after the government convicted them of crimes they reportedly committed as minors.

On 21 December 2015, a Saudi court sentenced writer Zuhair Kutbi to four years in prison, a five-year ban on overseas travel, a fine of $26,600, and a 15-year writing ban for his criticism of the government. Still worse, the government sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death in November 2015 for apostasy.

The list of Saudi human rights abuses is long and growing longer. The government has repeatedly, in both domestic and international venues, perpetrated human rights violations and sacrificed regional security and stability to further its own interests. Such abuses are in flagrant violation of Saudi Arabia’s international commitments.

But the Obama administration apparently doesn’t care.

Humans and assistant humans

Feb 3rd, 2016 9:36 am | By

I see that some of you need a reminder of what the Catholic church actually does “teach” about women. So, behold for instance Mulieris dignitatem, from 1988. No the Vatican has not changed its mind since then. On the contrary: it still treats the ordination of women as an excommunicable offense:

As far as the Vatican is concerned, however, Catholic women like Dyer who dare to be ordained are automatically excommunicated. But the Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP)movement and the Catholic communities they serve share a different view.

“We don’t focus on what the institution thinks,” said Andrea Johnson, the presiding bishop, who has been performing ordinations in the U.S. since 2009. “We focus on what the people think. No matter what the Vatican says about the church not being a democracy, at the end of the day, the people decide.”

According to a 2013 Quinnipiac University poll, at least 60 percent of American Catholics support female ordination. But the issue remains contentious.

Twenty years ago this month, Pope John Paul II formally declared that the church does not have the power to ordain women. Last year, shortly after his election, Pope Francis disappointed many progressive Catholics around the world when he hailed his predecessor’s decision as “definitive” and stated that the issue of women priests is “closed.”

So, Mulieres dignitatem:

In our times the question of “women’s rights” has taken on new significance in the broad context of the rights of the human person. The biblical and evangelical message sheds light on this cause, which is the object of much attention today, by safeguarding the truth about the “unity” of the “two”, that is to say the truth about that dignity and vocation that result from the specific diversity and personal originality of man and woman. Consequently, even the rightful opposition of women to what is expressed in the biblical words “He shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16) must not under any condition lead to the “masculinization” of women. In the name of liberation from male “domination”, women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine “originality”. There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not “reach fulfilment”, but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness. It is indeed an enormous richness. In the biblical description, the words of the first man at the sight of the woman who had been created are words of admiration and enchantment, words which fill the whole history of man on earth.

The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her “fulfilment” as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the “image and likeness of God” that is specifically hers. The inheritance of sin suggested by the words of the Bible – “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” – can be conquered only by following this path. The overcoming of this evil inheritance is, generation after generation, the task of every human being, whether woman or man. For whenever man is responsible for offending a woman’s personal dignity and vocation, he acts contrary to his own personal dignity and his own vocation.

Women get to be two things – virgins and mothers.

We must now focus our meditation on virginity and motherhood as two particular dimensions of the fulfillment of the female personality. In the light of the Gospel, they acquire their full meaning and value in Mary, who as a Virgin became the Mother of the Son of God. These two dimensions of the female vocation were united in her in an exceptional manner, in such a way that one did not exclude the other but wonderfully complemented it.

So pretty…and yet it leaves so much out, doesn’t it. Virginity, frankly, isn’t anything; it’s certainly not any kind of vocation. Motherhood can be a full-time vocation for some, but that’s far from being a reason to making it the only vocation for all.

There’s the Letter of JP2 to women:

The Book of Genesis speaks of creation in summary fashion, in language which is poetic and symbolic, yet profoundly true: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). The creative act of God takes place according to a precise plan. First of all, we are told that the human being is created “in the image and likeness of God” (cf. Gen1:26). This expression immediately makes clear what is distinct about the human being with regard to the rest of creation.

We are then told that, from the very beginning, man has been created “male and female” (Gen 1:27). Scripture itself provides the interpretation of this fact: even though man is surrounded by the innumerable creatures of the created world, he realizes that he is alone (cf. Gen 2:20). God intervenes in order to help him escape from this situation of solitude: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). The creation of woman is thus marked from the outset by the principle of help: a help which is not one-sided but mutual. Woman complements man, just as man complements woman: men and women are complementary. Womanhood expresses the “human” as much as manhood does, but in a different and complementary way.

When the Book of Genesis speaks of “help”, it is not referring merely to acting, but also to being.Womanhood and manhood are complementary not only from the physical and psychological points of view, but also from the ontological. It is only through the duality of the “masculine” and the “feminine” that the “human” finds full realization.

None of this non-binary, gender-fluid crap for the Vatican, thanks. No sir, women and men are different. Complementary, mind you, which makes it mysteriously ok, but different. Men are the kind of human who can be bishops and popes, and women are the other kind.

Women are helpers; that’s the important thing to remember. There are the primaries, who do things, like poping and bishoping, and there are the helpers, who help the primaries do things.

Here I would like to express particular appreciation to those women who are involved in the variousareas of education extending well beyond the family: nurseries, schools, universities, social service agencies, parishes, associations and movements. Wherever the work of education is called for, we can note that women are ever ready and willing to give themselves generously to others, especially in serving the weakest and most defenceless. In this work they exhibit a kind of affective, cultural and spiritual motherhood which has inestimable value for the development of individuals and the future of society. At this point how can I fail to mention the witness of so many Catholic women and Religious Congregations of women from every continent who have made education, particularly the education of boys and girls, their principal apostolate? How can I not think with gratitude of all the women who have worked and continue to work in the area of health care, not only in highly organized institutions, but also in very precarious circumstances, in the poorest countries of the world, thus demonstrating a spirit of service which not infrequently borders on martyrdom?

10. It is thus my hope, dear sisters, that you will reflect carefully on what it means to speak of the“genius of women”, not only in order to be able to see in this phrase a specific part of God’s plan which needs to be accepted and appreciated, but also in order to let this genius be more fully expressed in the life of society as a whole, as well as in the life of the Church. This subject came up frequently during the Marian Year and I myself dwelt on it at length in my Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (1988). In addition, this year in the Letter which I customarily send to priests for Holy Thursday, I invited them to reread Mulieris Dignitatem and reflect on the important roles which women have played in their lives as mothers, sisters and co-workers in the apostolate. This is another aspect-different from the conjugal aspect, but also important-of that “help” which women, according to the Book of Genesis, are called to give to men.

I trust that’s clear enough.


Feb 2nd, 2016 5:54 pm | By

Tiny got in the watering hole and can’t get out. The bank is just a little too steep and a little too slippery. The elephants try to help by screaming and bellowing, but it doesn’t quite work. One craps copiously in Tiny’s general direction, but that doesn’t do it either. Pulling doesn’t do it…but maybe pushing? Worth a try.


Feb 2nd, 2016 4:32 pm | By


Randy Milholland ‏@choochoobear 5 hours ago
So MRAs are planning a meet up in a Chicago park & invited a guy who proposed rape be legalized in public places …

Once your organization actively bands with a guy who wants rape legalized, the argument of “we don’t hate women” is harder to make.

I’m curious if there will be any MRAs who actually stop, look at this, and say, “No, that’s not someone I want to be associated with.”

And got my first angry MRA.

“He’s not an MRA, do your goddamn research” – I never said he was. I said he was going to be at a gathering of MRAs & he’s pro rape.

So, yes – literally the guy reaction of the first MRA reply I got was to act like I said something I didn’t.

Not, “As an MRA, I am uncomfortable being linked to this guy” or, “His views aren’t mine” – just “I WILL ATTACK WHAT YOU DIDN’T SAY!”

If your reaction learning your group will be having a gathering with a pro-rape dude it to get mad at the person mentioning it you’re fucked

I feel like I’m not being fair and I should point out everyone I hate. I’d hate to just pick on one group.

In that link, I noticed trans-men weren’t welcome to the gathering. Congrats, TERFs. You and MRAs have something to bond over.


Somehow a gathering of MRAs inviting a guy who promotes the legalization of rape becomes an occasion to yell at radical feminists?

How the fuck does that work?


Feb 2nd, 2016 4:25 pm | By

A story a couple of years ago reporting on research that suggests elephants comfort each other.

Elephants at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Credit: Elise Gilchrist Copyright: Think Elephants International, Inc. CC BY SA

Asian elephants reassure other distressed elephants by touching them and “talking” to them, which suggests they are capable of empathy and reassurance, according to new research.


The researchers found that when “an elephant would show distress, the other elephants would adopt that same state — and we call that “emotional contagion” — which is something you typically see in an empathic reaction,” Plotnik said.

Then, the elephants would move toward each other, touch each other’s faces and genitals, and put their trunks in each other’s mouths and chirp, he said.

They do.

There was this thing Sri, the youngest elephant at our zoo did – she was two when I started working there, a year younger than Chai. Little kids, both of them, but Chai was considerably bigger than Sri. Sri would curl her trunk up against Chai’s side, in the position she would have used if she’d been nursing. It always gave me a pang…but Chai was a good substitute-mother to her. Neither of them ever did that to either of the adults.

The screams of children

Feb 2nd, 2016 3:40 pm | By

Brace yourselves; this is horrifying.

Boko Haram attacked a village and two refugee camps on Saturday, setting fire to huts with people inside them.

DALORI, Nigeria (AP) — A survivor hidden in a tree says he watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and heard the screams of children burning to death, among 86 people officials say died in the latest attack by Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremists.

Scores of charred corpses and bodies with bullet wounds littered the streets from Saturday night’s attack on Dalori village and two nearby camps housing 25,000 refugees, according to survivors and soldiers at the scene just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram and the biggest city in Nigeria’s northeast.

The shooting, burning and explosions from three suicide bombers continued for nearly four hours in the unprotected area, survivor Alamin Bakura said, weeping on a telephone call to The Associated Press. He said several of his family members were killed or wounded.

Some people were able to flee to a nearby village, and there three women blew themselves up, killing a bunch more.

Monster god strikes again.

Dispatch from the man room

Feb 2nd, 2016 3:09 pm | By

A friend sent me the link to a post by a Man on a blog called “Fix the Family” – a post about reasons “to NOT send your daughter to college.” “You” here of course assumes you are a Man. Only men get to send anyone anywhere, and only men get to keep people away from anywhere.

(I look at the top and see home, about, videos, blog, man room…)

(There’s no woman room. Don’t be silly.)

The logo is a guy talking.

Resurrecting Manhood Today

Probably the most controversial and rejected position we have at Fix the Family is that parents should not send their daughters to college.  It is even more vehemently opposed than the submission of wives to their husbands.  Both of these positions we have are a threat to the trophies of the feminist agenda, so the rejection we receive is always emotionally charged and ends up insulting, since once explained logically, the opposition runs out of substance and is only left to hurl insults and presume and misconstrue this practical wisdom into some chauvinistic evil.  But to distinguish these 2 issues, we are NOT saying that sending a girl to college or women working is a sin.  But after looking at the issues we raise, we would challenge anyone to convince us that college for girls is not a near occasion of sin.

The funny thing is this is a Catholic blog. Of course Catholicism is not egalitarian about women, but the kind of drivel in that passage sounds more fundie Protestant than Catholic to me. I think this guy has been watching too much Duggar-tv.

Why shouldn’t daughters go to college? Because that’s for men. Simple.

If we look COMPREHENSIVELY at the Catholic doctrine, we’ll see very little that promotes a woman working outside the home.  Further a good working knowledge of the basics for today’s culture and progressive society can be learned in 12 years of school.  Politicians say that 12 years is not enough today, but that is because of a failed corrupted education system.  Homeschooling parents can educate their children in 12 years.  College may be necessary for the provider of a family depending on the vocation God is calling them to or for those who are called to the Priesthood, both of which are intended for men.

There y0u go: intended for men. What more do you need to know? Women can produce milk, therefore, no college for them.

The Church teaches that husbands and wives are of equal dignity, but with different roles.  Almost all of our children will choose to marry.  Actually, since the purpose of a college degree is for a job, it becomes unnecessary for our daughters to have such a credential.  My personal impression is that the day-to-day grind of a job is below the dignity of women.  In a way, it is like being a hired hand, as result of the fall and the penalty for original sin.  Of course the Lord and the Popes have raised the dignity of work as a way of husbands living out their vocation and duty.  But the penalty for the woman as a result of the fall was pain in childbirth (which requires having babies), not to work.  Sending our wives out to work should be a very last resort, a misfortune, so it shouldn’t be part of a plan for young ladies before they even get a start at family life.  Keeping a home, being a loving wife, and being a nurturing mother are of immeasurable dignity to a woman and not something to be farmed out to servants.

He needs to make up his mind. Is having children a penalty, or a great big prezzie?

We believe in women making wise prudent choices for themselves.  The indoctrination of the feminist culture and the practicing of a sexually promiscuous lifestyle severely cloud, practically blind that good judgment.  Getting a college degree often makes a young lady feel an “obligation” to use it, to make money.  Often her husband doesn’t want to see it go to “waste.”  So the degree is what actually traps her.  Not having a degree frees her to enter into a marriage with proper roles in which her husband will provide for her and their children.  Christian marriage by definition does place her in a submissive role to her husband, but no one forces anyone to marry anyone.  She should go to the altar with full knowledge of what she’s entering into.

Hmm. We believe in women making wise prudent choices for themselves, except not going to college, or working outside the home, or staying single. Other than that, they can choose like mad.

Then he draws up a numbered list of reasons that daughter should stay the hell away from tertiary education. 3 is very strong.

3 She will not learn to be a wife and mother.  Nothing that is taught in a college curriculum is geared toward domestic homemaking.  On the contrary, it is training in a very masculine role of a professional career.  So there becomes a severe inner conflict in a woman when she starts trying to be a homemaker and juggle a career alongside it.

She won’t settle down nicely to being a wife and mother and nothing else unless she is kept strictly away from all alternatives. She won’t even know how to write blog posts saying why women should be kept at home and uneducated.

H/t Gretchen


Feb 2nd, 2016 12:05 pm | By

I knew this yesterday, but didn’t feel like posting about it.

One of my quondam elephant friends, Chai, was found dead Saturday morning. It breaks my damn heart. I was working at the zoo (Woodland Park in Seattle) when she arrived there in 1980. I went to take a look the day she arrived. She was a year old. A couple of years later I became one of her keepers. She was a wonderful elephant.


800 lashes, in 16 installments

Feb 2nd, 2016 10:02 am | By

Ashraf Fayadh’s death sentence has been overturned, but he still faces prison and torture. This is what the Saudis do – they say oh all right, if you’re going to get that upset, we won’t kill the liberal guy, the Sri Lankan woman who had sex, the guy who wrote poetry, we’ll just lock them up for years and years and maybe torture them too.

A Saudi court has overturned the death sentence of a Palestinian poet accused of renouncing Islam, imposing an eight-year prison term and 800 lashes instead. He must also repent through an announcement in official media.

Saudi Arabia, where the state religion is absolutely mandatory, on pain of torture, prison and death. Saudi Arabia, that prides itself on living according to its state religion, which kills people for attempting to escape it.

Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “Instead of beheading Ashraf Fayadh, a Saudi court has ordered a lengthy imprisonment and flogging. No one should face arrest for peacefully expressing opinions, much less corporal punishment and prison. Saudi justice officials must urgently intervene to vacate this unjust sentence.”

The author Irvine Welsh said: “When this twisted barbarism is thought of as a compromise, it’s way past time western governments stopped dealing with this pervert regime.”

Exactly. South Africa was a pariah state. Why isn’t Saudi Arabia a pariah state? Is it just so that we can keep driving our giant cars?

The death sentence imposed in November provoked a worldwide outcry.

Hundreds of leading authors, artists and actors, including the director of Tate Modern, Chris Dercon, the British poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and actor Helen Mirren, have appealed for his release. More than 60 international arts and human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the writers’ association PEN International, have launched a campaign calling on the Saudi authorities and western governments to save him. Readings of his poetry in support of his case took place in 44 countries last week.

Jo Glanville, the director of English PEN, which appealed for Fayadh’s release, said: “It is a relief that Ashraf Fayadh no longer faces execution, but this is a wholly disproportionate and shocking sentence. It will cause dismay around the world for all Ashraf’s many supporters. The charges against him should have been dropped and he should be a free man today. We will continue to campaign for his release.”

A god that won’t let us leave is a kidnapper and an enslaver. Fuck that god.


Paper crowns

Feb 1st, 2016 5:51 pm | By

Raw Story has more on Roosh V’s plans to promote rape as a good thing. It turns out it’s supposed to be a global event, like those protests against wars or slavery or similar. Of course this Roosh guy is doing the opposite of protesting bad shit, so that’s a twist on the story.

The spokesperson for a U.S.-based anti-woman group who advocates for “legal” rape has organized worldwide meet-up events in 43 different countries on Saturday.

On a website advertising the “Return of the Kings” event, self-styled “pick up artist” Daryush “Roosh V” Valizadeh has encouraged his misogynist supporters to “come out of the shadows and not have to hide behind a computer screen for fear of retaliation,” The National reported.

The website promises 165 events in 43 countries at 8 p.m. local time on Saturday. Valizadeh has instructed his followers to go to a public location at each meeting area and identify themselves by asking, “Do you know where I can find a pet shop?” From there, group members will be taken to a secret meeting location.

Very secret. Impossible to find out where the secret location is unless you go to the public one and say the publicly announced secret code phrase. So stealthy.

Australian Greens Party candidate Jill Thomsen lashed out at Valizadeh’s group on Twitter.

“The creeps from @ReturnOfKings are meeting in Sydney,” she wrote. “Their masculinity is so fragile they will use ‘codewords’ to find each other in public.”

Codewords that they announce in public.

ABC (Australia) has more.

A man who believes rape should be legalised has not applied for a visa, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says, despite ‘Roosh V’ confirming plans to visit Canberra this weekend.

But Mr Dutton has not ruled out stopping his entry into the country, stating he would continue to monitor the case.

Daryush Valizadeh, also known as Roosh V, is the creator of Return of Kings (ROK), a group organising “tribal meetings” for this Saturday in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

It’s tempting to think it’s all a big joke, but the difference between this as a big joke and this as serious isn’t all that big.

Yo, laydeez, no rugrats for now, k?

Feb 1st, 2016 4:02 pm | By

Nina Liss-Schultz at Mother Jones:

Amid the rapid spread of the mysterious Zika virus throughout Latin America and the growing evidence that it may lead to birth defects, governments in the region have made an unusual request: that women should hold off on having children for as many as two years. The unprecedented directives from heads of state and government officials have shocked many public health and medical experts. They say the prohibition of pregnancy could have untold effects on the birthrate in Latin America, and that managing and terminating a pregnancy is often not an option for many women in the region, where contraceptive access is limited and abortion laws are some of the strictest in the world.

“The way these governments are handling the virus is foolish, highly unrealistic, and insensitive to women,” says Carmen Barroso, the regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in the Western Hemisphere. “Even if a woman is convinced by the governments’ messages, she might still get pregnant unintentionally. What the government should be doing, besides combating the virus, of course, is they should make it easier for women to avoid pregnancies they don’t want.”

Nah. It’s so much easier to just tell women to be and stay unpregnant for the next two years. The sluts.

El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, and the Dominican Republic all ban abortion, with no exceptions for rape, fetal anomaly, or the health of the mother. The Vatican city-state and Malta are the only two other places in the world with comparable laws.

Well women should have thought of that before they decided to be born there. The sluts.


It’s hard to resist the cachet of a celebrity

Feb 1st, 2016 12:45 pm | By

Massimo Pigliucci has interesting thoughts on the Dawkins trainwreck today.

One has to do with what kind of scientist or intellectual Dawkins is, which is something I’ve been wishing someone would point out ever since the merger. Massimo is well placed to say it, being a former biologist and current philosopher.

A few years later, when I was a full professor, but still at the University of Tennessee, I actually taught a graduate seminar on the Gould-Dawkins rivalry, and that’s where I learned something that still few people seem to realize. You see, Dawkins is often portrayed in the media as “a leading evolutionary biologist.” But if by that one means an active research scientist who has actually made major contributions to his field, then that title really ought to describe Gould, not Dawkins.

Dawkins essentially ceased publishing in the primary literature (with a few exceptions, mostly commentaries) after he wrote TSG. Absolutely nothing wrong with that: the man had found his true calling as a science popularizer, and Zeus knows we need a lot of ’em! But even TSG was just that, a popular book, not the presentation of original ideas (except for the whole “memes” thing, more on that in a minute). Indeed, TSG was the popularization of notions developed in the preceding couple of decades by true giants of the evolutionary field, including George Williams (nature of natural selection, criticism of group selection), William Hamilton (kin selection), and Robert Trivers (reciprocal altruism). (Here is a short article I wrote for Skeptical Inquirer about going beyond the selfish gene.)

See, I did know that, because of having read it from various people, probably including Massimo over the years. And it’s not a slam – I’m just a blogger and essayist, and I think that’s an ok thing to be, and I think being a brilliant popularizer is a fantastic thing to be. It’s just that I don’t think that should be confused with other things, like being “a leading evolutionary biologist.”

Massimo goes on to praise Dawkins’s stream of great public understanding of science books, praise I echo. Then he says that streak came to an abrupt halt with the publication of The God Delusion.

The broader point is that I think Dawkins has been sliding down ever since he became a (very) popular spokesperson for atheism. Which is highly unfortunate, because atheism does need good spokespeople. But the most effective ones, I would think, are those that come across as reasonable and articulate, and who are very careful about what they say in public, especially on social media. Dawkins is articulate, but doesn’t come across (to non atheists, and indeed even to some atheists) as reasonable. And he’s definitely not careful about his public statements, as we’ll see below.

Exactly. I just think it’s really really bad news that Dawkins is the face of atheism for so many people. Massimo saw this years before I did.

Then he gets to last week, and That Tweet endorsing That Video.

The video linked to in the tweet, and which Dawkins clearly endorsed, can be found here. It is an egregious, unqualified, piece of racist and misogynist garbage. Please, pause reading this post for a couple of minutes and see for yourself. It’s simply horrifying.

Then again, this was not an isolated incident. Dawkins had racked a considerable number of similarly embarrassing tweets over the past few years. Here is a sampler, ranging over such light topics as abortion, rape, pedophilia, and Islam (of course!). Use Google to find many, many more.

I’ve collected lots. Others have too.

This is why the NECSS organizers (to be clear: I am not one of them) took the extraordinary, and likely costly, step of withdrawing the invitation to Dawkins to come to New York. You can read Steve Novella’s full explanation here, which I find convincing and earnest. If anything, in my mind, the question is why was Dawkins invited to NECSS to begin with, considering that his socially erratic behavior was notorious. But I suppose it’s hard to resist the cachet of a celebrity, and Dawkins sells tickets at whatever event he is invited.

Quite. And this raises that other issue, which is why CFI felt able to merge with his foundation and add him to their board. He has been doing a terrible job of making that look like a good decision over the past week.

Massimo gets to that, after a lucid analysis of the splits in the SAHF community (acronym his).

Remember what the SAHFs evolved for: to further reason and critical inquiry, to promote science and debunk pseudoscience, to build a community of like minded people, to provide a civilalternative to religion. Does any of the above sound anything like this set of highly worthy goals?

No, clearly. But there are countless good people involved with SAHF, and they deserve to be able to return to the original goals of what they set out to do, shutting off the insanity and incivility, taking a stand again in favor of reason and decency.

That is why I applaud the step taken by the NECSS organizers. That is also why I wish (I know it’s not going to happen) that CFI divested itself from its link with the Richard Dawkins Foundation, engaged in some serious soul searching, and regrouped around the basic principles set forth by Paul Kurtz. I met Paul, and he was no saint (who is?). But I’m pretty sure he would be disgusted by the shamble in which his intellectual heirs currently find themselves.

So the Dawkins-NECSS debacle is a splendid opportunity for the good people within SAHF to step back, appreciate and remind themselves of all the good they have done in decades of activism, but also conscientiously and critically inquire into the bad or questionable stuff. Every movement goes through growing pains, and this is just one of those moments. I sincerely wish them all the best for a speedy and safe transition to maturity.

Hear hear.

Dawkins the feminist

Feb 1st, 2016 11:35 am | By

Today’s installment of wit and insight from TwitterDawkins – another insightful retweet.

Nadine Feiler ‏@nadine_feiler 8 hours ago
@RichardDawkins @thunderf00t @Sargon_of_Akkad Change of mind ;)

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Only heterosexual men will be allowed to attend the meetings

Feb 1st, 2016 11:17 am | By

Dear god.

From the Scottish paper The National:

CONTROVERSIAL American pick-up artist and rape advocate Roosh V has organised meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow for next Saturday.

Only heterosexual men will be allowed to attend the meetings, and any women attempting to come along will be filmed with footage sent to his worldwide “anti-feminist” network who will then “exact furious retribution”.

It would be interesting to see a Venn diagram of that network and people who follow Dawkins on Twitter.

At 8pm next Saturday supporters of the militant misogynist will turn up at Glasgow’s George Square and Edinburgh’s Grassmarket to meet other men before heading to another, secret location.

It’s part of an international meet-up taking place in 40 countries. On the website advertising the event, Roosh V writes that it is time for his supporters to “come out of the shadows and not have to hide behind a computer screen for fear of retaliation”.

Rapists’ Liberation! What a glorious cause.

Also, though…rape isn’t just some harmless pleasure suffering under a puritanical taboo. It’s a crime, a crime of violence. Women are not public property.

His belief that feminism has made men weak, has found a global audience, with a recent BBC report suggesting he had a million people using his website. Forums on the website also include user submitted guides on where best to sexually assault women in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Ahead of Saturday’s event, he wrote: “Up to now, the enemy has been able to exert their power by isolating us and attacking with shrieking mobs, but we’ll be able to neutralise that tactic by amassing in high numbers come February 6. I will exact furious retribution upon anyone who challenges you in public on that date (remember to record them). Therefore let the sixth of February be a clear signal to all that we’re not going anywhere. We have finally arrived.”

He has a dream today.

My turn to give advice

Jan 31st, 2016 4:52 pm | By

You know what I wish? I wish Dawkins would just change direction. I wish he would buckle down and find out who all those progressive feminist universalist Muslim and ex-Muslim women are and promote them. That’s what. I wish he would stop using his massive Twitter voice to attack and bully individual women he takes a dislike to, and individual Muslim schoolboys he takes a dislike to, and instead use it to tell his million fans about people he likes. Stop the bashing, and start promoting instead.

He could do that. It wouldn’t hurt him. It would be fun, and he could feel he was accomplishing something. He would be accomplishing something. He’d be putting his fame to good use.

What’s he accomplishing now? What good does he do by trashing feminism and promoting other people who trash feminism? How does that help anything? In fact how is he not just wasting valuable time and resources that he could be devoting to promoting the very people he claims to be such an ardent ally of? I feel like writing a new Dear Muslima addressed to him. Millions of girls taken out of school to be married to men older than their fathers, and here’s Dawkins busy retweeting MRAs all day instead of doing anything to help those girls.

I’m serious. He could be helping, and he’s not. Why not?

From the propaganda department

Jan 31st, 2016 4:41 pm | By

An item that Dawkins retweeted this morning:

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Yes, that’s right, Richard, feminists get upset by a tits and ass shirt worn by the talking head for a big exciting space event, and they don’t get upset by women being shot in the head on the street.

Except no it’s not. It’s not right, it’s a lying crock of shit, and you’re a mean bullying ideologue for repeating this kind of thing.

Not to mention how fucking callous it is to use that photo to make a cheap and dishonest point about feminism.

Please and thank you

Jan 31st, 2016 3:47 pm | By

Seen on Twitter:

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Many public places in Saudi Arabia are closed to women. Some have segregated “family” areas, and some don’t; women by themselves are not welcome.

We understand why, of course. We’re not stupid. It’s because if they’re out by themselves they’re sure to fuck the first male they see, and disgrace the men of their family.

Guest post: How inclusion works at NUS Scotland Women

Jan 31st, 2016 12:31 pm | By

Guest post by Magdalen Berns.

Since I wrote about my experience of being excluded from Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) Women’s Liberation, LGBT Liberation, and LGBT Society Facebook groups, I can now confirm that I have also been banned from the NUS Scotland Women’s Campaign Facebook group which represents around 0.2% of roughly 100,000 female Scottish higher education students. My latest thought crime was having the temerity to post a discussion between Chris Hedges, Lee Lakeman and Alice Lee and quoting the following remark from Alice Lee.

I think with neoliberalism it’s worse for women of colour, indigenous women, because now a sort of–they use an excuse of subjugating women and the exploitation of women of colour and indigenous women almost as if it was a viable option for women–that’s the only thing that we’re good for. So it really puts us to being not human, in a way that it dismisses us and all the contributions that women make in those countries.

Such a post must have disrupted the natural order of things by “offending” the self defining student “sex work” caucus again. Back in September last year, I posted an article which resulted in members attempting to get me banned for being a “SWERF”. The President of the NUS disagreed with the hostile way I had been spoken to and offered to take a formal complaint from me. I still had not heard back about that by October, so I shared another article which was deleted by the NUS Scotland Women’s Officer after complaints were made by the Edinburgh “sex worker” caucus who were harassing me all over social media at that point. The Women’s Officer vowed to “look into” how a conversation on prostitution could be facilitated without making student “sex workers” feel unsafe. I haven’t heard from either of the NUS Scotland Officers since, and I did not get any warning before being banned from NUS Scotland Women’s Campaign Facebook group. I can only assume representatives have allowed themselves to become too intimidated to be seen to be showing any sort of sympathy for the idea that women have legitimate reasons for disagreeing with the global sex trade in women and girls. The threat of a non-confidence smear campaign seems to be one tactic which keeps NUS Officers in line.

In the spirit of identity politics, I looked over who should be checking whose privilege according to NUS  “intersectionality 101” publications. It turns out the documents don’t have anything on “sex workers” (yet). Although one part says, “listen to and support lesbian women, do not question their judgement”, the “intersectionality 101” presentation makes no mention of sexuality and none of the “intersectionality 101” publications have anything to say about heterosexual women. A comprehensive description of class oppression is also absent from the “intersectionality 101” toolkit which might explain why student reps find it difficult to appreciate that vast majority of prostituted women and girls don’t have access to higher education because they are underprivileged compared to the student “sex workers” we are are told to listen to.

NUS “feminism” is easily reconciled with the cognitively dissonant act of banning a sister for posting an article on how structural racism, imperialism and colonialism work to subordinate the world’s most marginalised women in prostitution, because the NUS essentially rejects the idea that women are a subordinated sex class. Having resolved that the word “sister” is too exclusionary to be allowed at conference last year, the NUS recently came up with a set of new ideas designed to undermine female students’ ability to unite against patriarchy. It is no wonder that NUS Women are now under the assumption that “inclusion” means women should speak of oppression only when this is being done to shut other women up.

Taking Mill personally

Jan 31st, 2016 12:00 pm | By

Via Maryam: a lecturer at a Swedish university is being investigated for lecturing on John Stuart Mill. It’s in Swedish but there’s a translate button at the top, so one can get the gist. Rrr provided us with a translation:

Groundless investigations of teachers jeopardize academic freedom and reduce the working and learning environment within the university.

Adamson (the male lecturer, who was by the way previously fired from Malmö university for criticising the Swedish variety policy) claims the quotes about religion are untrue. “All I did was to point out that while religions may not necessarily be true, they can give a sense of cohesion that secular society can not offer.”

The school planned an extensive investigation by an external jurist and some persons randomly chosen by the teacher, the complainant and the employer – not as a legal process but in order to gain a better view of what happened, explains the HR officer. The two lecturers oppose this, on the grounds that as a state institution the school cannot perform an investigation that is not a part of a legal procedure. (The other teacher holds a PhD in public administration.) They also refuse to take part in the selection of witnesses and stress that any participation of students may cause strife in the class and potentially be damaging.

The ARW’s take, based on the complaint and e-mails it has read, is that there are no grounds to believe that there can have occurred any direct discrimation, nor oppressive special treatment. The complainant refers to no concrete decision against her, such as exam results, and that the mere feeling one is discriminated against is insufficient for a suspicion of actual discrimination. For there to have been oppressive special treatment, the official guidelines from the directorate of worker protection requires a series of serious oppression over a significant period of time. Neither requisite is satisfied in this case.

In a situation like this it would be unnecessary and even harmful to commence an extensive inquiry. Instead the case should be rapidly handled by internal legal counsel, who can on the above grounds immediately decide that the accusations lack merit. A more ambitious inquiry would send a signal that even trivial occurances will be taken most seriously, which would blow them out of all proportion. The result: impeded freedom of speech and a worse working environment, where one has to watch one’s tounge in order not to offend someone.

The studying environment itself deteriorates if students are unnecessarily called to witness. Finally, an unfounded and extralegal inquiry, which also takes a long time, can be seen as the teacher proper being faced with oppressive special treatment, which in turn leads to further inquiry, and so on. The union representative supports the teachers’ demand that the inquiry be cancelled.

This is a case where the Principal and other officers must show a backbone and a principled behaviour to without hesitation stand on the side of the teacher and of academic freedom. A first step is to immediately abort the inquiry. The alternative would be to succumb to populism and political correctness in a way not flattering for a serious place of learning. The Principal or other officer should further make it clear, preferably in public, that it is sad if a student feels religiously discriminated but that the university is not a “protected workshop” where nobody is ever sad or upset, but that it is a preparation for life – where things are obviously different.

That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing any university should “investigate.” Religion is in fact a social phenomenon, and if you can’t learn about that in a university, then where can you learn it?