Notes and Comment Blog

Do you even laissez faire?

Feb 4th, 2015 7:37 am | By

A Republican senator from North Carolina is hacked off about all these god damn pesky government regulations, like say for instance making restaurants tell their workers to wash their hands after using the toilet. Let the market deal with that!

“Let them decide” such issues, the newly elected lawmaker said.

His argument was that restaurants which did not require workers to wash their hands would quickly go out of business.

Definitely! Because all the customers would know the workers were not washing their hands, so they would just stop going to those restaurants. How would they know? Um…the magic of the market?

No no wait, the restaurants would tell them. Yeah that’s it!

He suggested that restaurants that did not require hand washing would have to alert customers with prominently displayed signs…

Brilliant! Don’t mandate signs telling the workers to wash their hands – mandate signs telling the customers the workers aren’t required to wash their hands. That’s doing away with pesky government sign-posting and no mistake.

The comments come as some Republican presidential hopefuls have questioned vaccine regulations amid a measles outbreak.

At least two hopefuls have said parents are justified in sometimes having their children avoid vaccinations generally required for attending school.

Freedom freedom FREEDOM.

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

The reasons for the censorship

Feb 3rd, 2015 6:21 pm | By

Here we go again. Another student union at another UK university says another “no you may not have a cartoon of Mo on your table/Facebook page/stall” to another student union secular society. This one is Manchester.

Outrage has been sparked on Twitter this week in light of a tweet from the University of Manchester Free Speech and Secular Society (FSS) accusing the University of Manchester Students’ Union of unjust censorship in preventing them from displaying a copy of the Charlie Hebdo magazine at the Refreshers’ Fair last Tuesday.

That’s a woefully inelegant sentence, but you get the idea.

The reasons for the censorship of the Charlie Hebdo front cover were laid out in an e-mail from the Students’ Union General Secretary, Charlie Cook, and chiefly reflected the view that they found it “unsuitable for the event,” and that they “could see no benefit in allowing the presence of the magazine.

“There was genuine concern its presence may cause distress and insult to others,” she added.

Oh well if it’s genuine concern…

But of course they’re overlooking several things. There’s the fact that liberal Muslims are not distressed by cartoons of Mohammed, but are distressed by submission to the demands of Islamists. There’s the fact that it’s Islamists, not Muslims in general, who make fusses about cartoons. There’s the fact that a slew of people were just murdered over cartoons of Mohammed and that therefore it’s a really shitty idea to censor this cartoon at this time. There’s the fact that the cartoon represents a humane Mohammed.

A tweet posted by the FSS on the 27th of January contained the image of the Charlie Hebdo cover which they instead included on the stall, with the face of the Prophet Muhammad covered by a black square and the words “Censored by Students’ Union.”

Richard Dawkins retweeted it and commented in his usual style, and there was the usual arglebargle.

Since then the FSS has issued a statement to The Mancunion stating that they “don’t necessarily endorse the views put forward by the magazine, but we do think it is essential that every student be allowed to decide for themselves where to stand on this issue.

“After the tragic attack on Charlie Hebdo, a copy of their survivors’ issue is naturally relevant to free speech and is of interest to many, given the difficulty of obtaining a copy in the UK. We had decided to have a copy at the stand, among other things, for students who were interested.

“We were planning to focus on topics such as imprisoned journalists around the world. The SU’s prohibition of the Charlie Hebdo magazine forced us to focus on this issue.

“If we now acquiesce to the de facto blasphemy laws the terrorists want to force on us, we are sending one message: violence works. We want to make clear, vocally and firmly, that censorship via violence does not work, or, at least, it shouldn’t.

“It is a commendable goal to make people feel comfortable at university, but censorship itself is offensive. It is offensive to people who wish to commemorate the lives of the twelve people killed in Paris, [and amongst others] to those Muslims who do not condone violence and feel infantilised and patronised by the pre-emptive censorship.

“Discussion around the issue of freedom of speech and the limits of offence must necessarily include the object of the controversy. Without it, debate is stifled and discussion limited—the antithesis of what a university should promote.

“The fact that we are being censored shows just how important it is to counter those who want to treat students as children. We believe students can make up their own mind and decide for themselves where to stand on any issue.

“We value our right to freedom of speech and believe it is worth protecting. Current laws criminalise incitement to violence and slander. These are limits on free speech to prevent harm—and that is commendable.

“Ideas should not be protected from criticism. Bad ideas should be challenged and replaced by better ideas through dialogue. We therefore urge the Union to review their policy.”

I think that’s a pretty good statement.

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

Without sounding like a misogynist

Feb 3rd, 2015 4:22 pm | By

Ha! No, no, there isn’t, because you see – oh never mind.


Jammy Dodger @mrjammyjamjar

Is there a right way to say @SaraKhanInspire deserves a slap without sounding like a misogynist

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

Professional journalism

Feb 3rd, 2015 3:48 pm | By

Rupert Myers is very polite and repentant about writing such a nasty and untruthful article in the Telegraph about how Kate Smurthwaite is milking the last minute cancellation of her gig for publicity and besides nobody wanted to see her show anyway.

Hahahaha I’m kidding, no he’s not, he’s rude and dismissive.

Rupert Myers ‏@RupertMyers 6 hours ago
@Cruella1 I wish you the best of luck: my point is that this wasn’t a free speech / no platform situation.

Kate Smurthwaite ‏@Cruella1 6 hours ago
@RupertMyers and you felt the need to accept their point that sales were low without checking the actual facts. You don’t see how that…
…might damage my reputation? Just as well I don’t make my actual living doing this… Oh yes I do.

Rupert Myers ‏@RupertMyers 6 hours ago
@Cruella1 their comments seem to tally with yours

Kate Smurthwaite ‏@Cruella1 6 hours ago
@RupertMyers I don’t actually think you are stupid enough to believe your own doublespeak here.

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson 5 hours ago
@Cruella1 @RupertMyers That article is such an insulting piece of crap.

Rupert Myers ‏@RupertMyers 1 hour ago
@OpheliaBenson @Cruella1 ”</p

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

Guest post: Suffering in silence

Feb 3rd, 2015 2:05 pm | By

Guest post by Misty Griffin


One of the only photos taken of the Author during her teenage years. Here she is seventeen years old.

“People would smile reverently as we walked by, never did they suspect the horrific sexual, physical and mental torture that my sister and I suffered on a daily basis. To the outside world we were the epitome of chasteness, sobriety and down to earth values. In reality my life was a living nightmare  straight from the depths of hell.”
                                                  – Misty Griffin

If you are a rape victim among the Amish it is in every case a very harsh and scary reality. You have no allies, no one to talk to about what happened and no one who will hold your hand as you cry. You the victim are hushed from the very moment word gets out and are told by church leaders that you must have done something to welcome such an attack. In addition you are told that if you speak of the matter you are unforgiving and will go to hell if you do not repent. If the victim is a church member she will be shunned if she refuses to forgive and live as if nothing had happened. Even the victim’s family will not allow  her to talk for fear of being caught and punished by the church.

Children are not taken out of the home. If the rapist is the father they must continue to live in his household until they marry.

This is the most horrifying reality of all. Being Ex- Amish myself I can recall more than one family who got sideways glances from other church members during social gatherings; however the truth still remains that abused children are not taken out of the home and will usually continue to be raped their entire childhoods.

In most cases the perpetrator is a male relative, and even if the victim marries and gets out of the home she must still continue to be around her rapist at church, family gatherings, social gatherings etc. For many Amish rape victims it is more than they can bear, and they either commit suicide or develop a mental illness. The pain of never being able to talk about what happened to you or may still be happening is such a heavy burden.

One of my good friends who was a rape victim ended up dying after she starved herself for a year. It was so sad and unnecessary; she had been harshly reprimanded by the church after being raped at the tender age of fourteen. She was told not to talk about what happened to her and after a few years she quit talking completely. Laura died a year later after she went into a massive seizure. She had been looked upon as odd after her rape and the funeral was very minimal.

Unfortunately there are many children like my friend Laura and  they suffer in silence while they are continually raped with full knowledge of the church. In my own Amish community the bishop’s wife was my best friend, and after a few years she risked a shunning by confiding in me that she and all of her siblings had been raped by her father. He had been reported many times to the church leaders by her mother. He was in turn placed in a six week shunning each time. However since he was a deacon in the church, after his six week sentence was up he was back to preaching and attending church matters. He was a serial rapist who had ruined the lives of all 11 of his children, yet each time he confessed in the church he was given nods of approval and was taken back as a good man who had confessed his sins before God and man.

After I became aware of her plight it made me physically sick when I saw her father get up to preach while his children sat on the church benches with children of their own. I would feel physically sick and had to look away while the tears rolled down my cheeks. It was so unfair and worst of all each time he stood up to preach it was a slap in the face of his victims. I could not understand how people could be so cruel and more than once I sat with my fist clenched under my stiff white apron.

Amish rape victims are forced to suffer in silence as they continue to be raped.

The Amish are a closed society and do not allow any outside interference when dealing with church matters. The Amish are in essence their own country, government and judicial system, and if a church member is found talking to a non-church member about church matters they will face a shunning; this shunning may even last longer than it would for a rape crime. A person who is caught talking to non-Amish about the dealings of the church will be watched for a long time since involving the outside world is one of the greatest offences in the Amish church.

Since the Amish have their own judicial system they are also ill equipped to deal with such serious cases as child abuse and rape.There are no jail cells in which to confine a member who is posing a threat to the community and since calling the “wordly” outside authorities is not allowed, the only way of punishing a member is to shun them.

If one is willing to confess their sins  (which most offenders readily do) you are only shunned for 3-6 weeks, no matter the severity of the crime. The only consequence to this very short form of  shunning is that you will not go to church or social gatherings, and you must sit at a different table than other church members. Most of the time rape victims continue to be raped during this time and usually do not report it again.

The Amish believe that once a person confesses they should be automatically forgiven even if that man is confessing to his tenth rape. Everyone must forgive and forget, even the rape victim. If the victim shows any hostility towards the offender or openly refuses to stop talking about the matter, they themselves will be shunned. In this case the shunning would last much longer since the victim will have a hard time going before the church and admitting she was wrong to harbor such ill feelings.

Why don’t people just leave the Amish?

Being Amish is something that is ingrained in an individual from birth. One is taught that the outside world is evil and to leave the Amish would mean that you will never go to heaven, ever. You are brought up to believe that you must follow all rules without question. If you do start to question or have a problem with a certain rule you are told that you are prideful and that you must humble yourself because God only receives the humble into his kingdom.

Even if you are a sexual abuse victim you do not dare leave the Amish for fear of going to hell. Besides the fear of going to hell, there is the fear of being shunned. I myself am currently a shunned Ex- Amish and fully am aware of its  sting. Any young person who is shunned by the Amish goes out into the world completely on their own. They have very little if any money, no family, few friends and no ID, drivers license or social security card. For me I often explained it as being teleported from the 1600s into the 21st century. It is a daunting and scary experience and it would have been much easier to remain Amish and I most likely would have, had my conscience allowed it. Below is an excerpt from my memoir that gives some perspective into just how a young Amish woman may feel.

It had long been my experience that even if the predator was placed in the six week Bann, they would still continue to rape and often go on to be a serial rapist, some of whom have been known to rape all of their children with full knowledge of the church. In each case, never has anyone hugged the child or asked them if they were okay. The only thing the church members were concerned with was silencing them.

 And so that morning as I struggled, I was not only fighting for myself but also for my potential offspring. I so despised this ancient tradition of silencing victims and could not understand how everyone else could simply stand by and look the other way. I could not, and at times I had felt physically sick from the things I had heard and witnessed.

But I was Amish, and that in and of itself was my world, my life and my government. To leave the Amish would most certainly mean I would go to hell, as well as be banished from everyone that I held dear. To leave the Amish was truly the ultimate sin…  ( Excerpt from my memoir  Tears of the silenced)

Rape happens in every culture

As callous as this may sound I have actually been in a debate with more than one Amish fan and have heard them make this very comment. It is true that rape does happen in every culture, the only problem is that in the Amish there is absolutely no justice for the victim and the most heartbreaking reality is that the victim will most likely go on to be raped for many years because the Amish church is unable and unwilling to stop the rapist.

Although I am sure this article will get many comments saying that the Amish are kind and gentle people who abide by the law, have strong family ties and good morals etc. My question to you would in turn be. If you know the Amish are a closed and secretive society why would you dear reader pretend to know anything about them. I can answer this for you by informing you that if you have never been Amish you will never truly know what it is like.

  I was always curious why the outside world viewed us with such reverence and respect, that is until I left and saw that the outside world was filled with Amish romance novels and a dangerously charming view of our culture.

One spring morning nine years ago I stumbled into a small police station in rural Minnesota, I had been attacked by the Bishop of my church and he had threatened to kill me. As I talked to the policemen that morning I was met with raised eyebrows, He just could not believe what he was hearing about his God fearing, quiet, gentle Amish neighbors. I became frustrated when I saw he was having a hard time believing me. I had risked everything to come to him, I knew that when I returned home I would  be shunned for several months and would more than likely be refused the right to marry, ever. No family would ever allow their son to marry such a trouble maker, going to the police was the worst sin I could commit. And without marring I was destined to become an old maid, in the Amish a woman who does not marry remains under the authority of her father and brothers and has no more rights than a teenager. The below excerpt is what I said to the policeman when he just sat there staring at me.

I was furious now, and I spun around, slammed both my palms down on the table and leaned toward him.


“Why is it so hard for you people to believe the Amish are just as capable of crime as any other human beings? The only difference is that they don’t have to pay for those crimes. And, ironically, these very people you hold in such high regard think you are going to hell because you are of the world.”

“Well, I am sure that is probably true,” Officer Jensen nodded his head. “They are people, but they are raised with a strict doctrine they have to follow.”

“Or what?” I snapped. “You tell me the Amish policy on rape and murder.”

“Well, I never thought of them like that,” he nodded his head again as if finally he might be getting my point.

“Exactly,” I said, straightening up. “I am so tired of you English putting cameras in our faces and taking our picture like we are cute little puppies or something. We are people with all the faults the human race has to offer.” I looked him straight in the eyes. “Do you really think you would even so much as hear if I died tonight? No,” I said, shaking my head. “You would never know. I would simply be buried in an Amish cemetery, thought to have died from some unknown cause.”

“I find that a little hard to believe,” Officer Jensen looked at me skeptically.

“Oh, really?” I asked with raised eyebrows. “How many Amish autopsies have you heard of? How many Amish do you have walking in and out of your office every day? Don’t you find it strange that the rest of the world traffics through here, and no Amish do?”

“I have to admit you are the first I’ve interviewed,” He said. He leaned back in his chair.

( From my memoir Tears of the Silenced)

What can we do to change things.

First of all everyone can start by keeping their ears and eyes open. My mission is not to only talk about the Amish but also to touch on the subject of child abuse. I myself was not born Amish but I was raised like them on a lonely mountain top. Here I was beaten, tortured and sexually assaulted on a daily basis.. I was taken to the Amish community at the age of eighteen and due to my horrific childhood was readily accepted by them because I had been raised with stricter rules than they themselves practiced.

During the first twenty two years of my life ( Before my escape from the Amish) I saw many times when an outsider noticed something was amiss but no one ever bothered to do something about it. Many times I know it was because of our religious appearance but I firmly believe that just because someone is religious they should never get away with abuse. Many times in this world a horrific abuse could have been prevented if someone had not looked the other way or told themselves it was not their problem.

In cases of child abuse I believe that it is everyone’s problem. Our children are the future leaders of the world and how they are treated today will affect how they rule the world tomorrow.

In the case of girls that are raped in these strict religious communities, my hope is that if you ever come across such a girl you will encourage her to prosecute the offender. No matter the cost. This is the only way these men will ever see that there are consequences for their actions. My plea to everyone around the world is that you never go through life and miss the opportunity to save someone. My childhood and young adulthood was a living nightmare, I was unable to help myself because I did not know how, and I was also to scared to try. I was in serious need of a hero, for someone you could be that hero.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

                               – Mahatma Gandhi
About the author: It has been nine years since Misty left the Amish. She was shunned (outcast) after she refused to recant her police report against the Amish bishop who sexually assaulted her. Calling the police is completely forbidden among the Amish. She is the survivor of horrific child abuse and hopes to inspire people with her life’s story. It is her sincere wish to show people that no matter what you have been through in life the impossible is possible. Her life’s story proves this motto. 
Misty is currently a nursing student and the recent author of her memoir  Tears of the Silenced. She is also an active advocate for child abuse and sexual assault awareness.
Is it safe to smile?, 7  mo after leaving the Amish. Misty was dealing with severe PTSD and terrifying nightmares.
 7 months after leaving the Amish. A surprise birthday party thrown by her knew friends in Seattle WA. Misty is 23 here and this is her first birthday party.
7 mo after leaving the Amish. Misty’s twenty third birthday party in Seattle Wa

7 mo after leaving the Amish. Misty is in the Spokane WA bus station. She is traveling from Seattle to Lacrosse WI to try and get her younger sister out of the Amish


  A selfie Misty took of herself while in Lacrosse  WI at her sisters home. Misty had to agree to dress Amish again in order to enter the house. She was met by local ministers who tried to force her to recant her police statement. She refused and her sister was to scared to leave the Amish. Misty returned to Seattle and her new life.

 A year and a half after leaving the Amish. Misty joined a missionary group. Here she is at a mission in Sao Pualo Brazil with fellow missionary friends.

Misty griffin today. She is 32 years old and has been out of the Amish for nine and a half years.

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

The candidate should “if possible not be a Jew”

Feb 3rd, 2015 1:47 pm | By

The BBC reports on a “no Jews need apply” ad in France:

An advert for a graphic design job in France has been withdrawn after it said the candidate should “if possible not be a Jew”.

Racial discrimination is illegal in France and anti-racism group SOS Racisme says it is taking legal action.

The ad was posted on Monday by Paris-based NSL Studio on jobs site

NSL Studio has apologised for the ad but offered various explanations as to why it contained the offending clause.

First they said long hours, might conflict. Then they said hacked. So those are two totally conflicting reasons. The first is “we had a good, non-anti-Semitic, pragmatic reason.” The second is “we never.” The first betrays the fact that the second is not likely to be true. Pro-tip: choose one of that type but never both. If you use both it looks exactly as if you’re lying. Say you did it for a good reason OR say you never did; do not say you did it for a good reason AND you never did. That doesn’t work.

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

A series of screams went up around the office

Feb 3rd, 2015 1:06 pm | By

A novel that Harper Lee wrote in the mid-50s, before To Kill a Mockingbird, is going to be published next summer. The Guardian reports that there is much excitement.

UK and Commonwealth rights to the book were acquired by Penguin Random House. The publisher’s announcement on Tuesday was accompanied by a new photo of Lee, climbing out of a car and smiling. The news has been kept secret from all but a handful of staff at the publisher, and publicity director Charlotte Bush said that when it was revealed this afternoon, a series of screams went up around the office.

Well you know how people in publishing are. They’re screamers.

At Foyles booksellers in London, Jonathan Ruppin described the news as being “as big as it gets for new fiction”. “We can close the book on the bestselling novel of 2015 right now. At Foyles today, we’re absolutely fizzing with excitement and frenzied speculation: it’s the only topic of conversation,” said the bookseller, adding that even though To Kill a Mockingbird has long been acknowledged as a classic, it “is a book that still surprises new readers with its power. Its story is arresting and profound, its characters vivid and entirely convincing, so the prospect of a follow-up, after all these years, is giddyingly thrilling”.

I’m still calm about it. I can tell you one thing though – it won’t be anything like as bad as the last piece of fiction (or writing of any kind) that J D Salinger published. That was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever read. Literally that: embarrassing. It was basically his absurd fantasy life, spread out in huge detail, but by some strange accident published in the New Yorker. Don’t ever publish your fantasy life in the New Yorker.

Harper Lee’s new-old novel won’t be that bad.

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

More Catholic than the pope

Feb 3rd, 2015 12:08 pm | By

Mona Eltahawy reports on the harassment and persecution of atheists in Egypt.

Because atheism itself is not illegal in Egypt, charges are laid under laws against blasphemy or contempt for religion. In 2012, a 27-year-old blogger, Alber Saber, received a three-year sentence on charges of blasphemy for creating a web page called “Egyptian Atheists.” In 2013, the writer and human rights activist Karam Saber (no relation) was convicted of defaming religion in his short story collection “Where Is God?”

Cool trick. No law against atheism – but you can’t defame religion!

It is no surprise that Mr. Banna’s conviction occurred on the watch of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former army general who led the ouster of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood to become president. Regardless of which way the seesaw of power in Egypt tips — toward the Islamists or toward the military — it is always a heterosexual, conservative Muslim man who heads the moral hierarchy. The further from that identity you are, the more vulnerable you are.

Liberal feminist atheist women are miles and miles away from that identity.

If anything, Egypt’s nominally secular ruler is more Catholic than the pope, to borrow a metaphor from another religion. Assuming the role of defender of public morality is a deliberate reminder that the Islamists do not hold the copyright on piety. This is not new: The regime of the ousted President Hosni Mubarak often vaunted its religiosity to outdo its Islamists rivals.

So…you can have Islamists, or you can have non-Islamists who compete with Islamists for Who Is Most Theocratic. Fabulous – talk about moving the Overton window.

Nowhere is this morality power play exercised more vehemently than in curbing perceived religious and sex crimes. Hence Egypt’s witch hunt against gay men. Rights activists say that 2014 was the worst year in a decade for gay people in Egypt, with at least 150 men arrested or put on trial. Same-sex relationships are not illegal, but gay men are targeted under “debauchery” laws.

Because God isn’t gay. God is a heterosexual man and don’t you forget it. God fucks laydeez, God doesn’t fuck men. Everybody knows that.

In a speech this month honoring the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Mr. Sisi called on Muslim leaders in Egypt to start a “religious revolution” to counter the jihadist message of the Islamic State. He also sent his foreign minister to the solidarity march after the attacks in Paris at the office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket.

The contradiction in Mr. Sisi’s aim of keeping the heterosexual, conservative Muslim man at the top of Egypt’s moral hierarchy is glaring. You can’t trump the Islamists in their piety and lead a campaign against minorities like atheists and gay men even as you condemn extremist violence and show solidarity for free speech and free thinking.

Maybe the foreign minister just wanted to have a chat with the Saudi officials on the solidarity march.

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

The woman’s right to a platform

Feb 3rd, 2015 10:50 am | By

Nasty. Nasty, nasty, nasty. People are having themselves a high old time putting that mouthy Kate Smurthwaite in her place. Rupert Myers at the Telegraph is in there with a shiv – pretending her show was canceled because no one wanted to go, which is not the case.

When political activist Kate Smurthwaite had her comedy gig cancelled at Goldsmith’s College yesterday she was quick out of the blocks to tweet and blog about the removal of her show.

As an apparent martyr to free speech her plight quickly attracted reports by the BBC, the Huffington Post and others.

At least the New Statesman’s write-up asked the question “Is this newsworthy? On its own, no, not really”, before going on to outline the internet’s fomenting outrage at the decision to kill the event.

Numbers of students in Universities around the country have become intolerant of free speech, but this incident looks more like a claim for publicity than a good example of that problem.

Despite having tickets on sale for weeks, Smurthwaite’s show had sold eight.

There’s the shiv. The show was for the comedy and feminist societies, whose members got in free. He left that part out. Nasty.

Smurthwaite successfully pivoted this cancellation into a media and internet event which I am now helping to further publicise. Kate’s show will be at the Leicester Comedy Festival. I’m taking a punt here but I expect there are still some tickets left.

What was she supposed to do? Say nothing? Take it like a lamb? Nod and smile and thank the president for deciding to cancel her show? Why shouldn’t she tweet and blog about it? Her gig was canceled at the last minute for the flimsiest (and least coherent) of reasons – why would she do anything other than object?

The publicity we can all cheer – it’s impressively enterprising. My concern is that by portraying what happened as a genuine example of the imperilling of free speech, the media and the internet once again confuse a significant issue.

No picketers have been found. No vote was taken to oppose the woman’s right to a platform.

Says the man, from a very great height.


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

Maajid on cartoons v flogging

Feb 2nd, 2015 4:48 pm | By

Maajid Nawaz has started a video series – short video, which I applaud. Yesterday’s, the third, is about Raif and Waleed. It’s only a minute and a half.

The punchline is a doozy.

If we are more offended by mere cartoons than a man being flogged in public for the charge of blasphemy – if we take more offense to the former over the latter – then we’ve got a fucking problem.

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

Formally nominated

Feb 2nd, 2015 4:32 pm | By

Waleed and Raif are nominated for a Nobel.

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

Despite many complaints

Feb 2nd, 2015 4:26 pm | By

Yesterday evening London time (early afternoon my time) –


Good evening all!

The act booked to play tomorrow, Kate Smurthwaite, has been cancelled by the Comedy Society and will no longer be appearing at Goldsmiths.
Since announcing the line up a couple of weeks ago I have had many complaints about Kate’s past material, particularly in relation to her position on sex work, religion and Trans issues.

Without again going into the details or accuracy of these claims, there is a likeliness that the Safe Space policy we abide by could be breached, leading to more complaints. This is as well as rumours that there is a picket planned outside the venue.

All of these factors are not conducive to the type of environment what we, as a volunteer led group in a small Students’ Union, want to create so, with regret, we have cancelled the gig.

Anyone who has already bought tickets is entitled to a refund that we shall be issuing tomorrow morning. Just email if there’s any problems. We apologise for cancelling last minute and hope we haven’t ruined your plans.

But just a few days before that, on January 27th

HELLO! We have the wonderful Kate Smurthwaite (great feminist comedian) doing a solo show next week and it’s FREE for you! The poster is pretty good too, right?

So that was quite a radical change, for no real (satisfactory) reason.

Not liking her stuff or her politics would be a reason for not inviting her in the first place, other things being equal. (It might not be a reason if other people loved her stuff and her politics, and you alone had bad taste and shitty politics.) You don’t really need reasons for not inviting people in the first place (unless you’re part of a group and everyone else wants to invite the people in question). You damn well do need reasons for telling people – especially at the last minute – “Sorry, we’ve decided we don’t like you!”

This one, posted after the “Good evening all!” one, is even more insulting and rude.


Despite many complaints from students about the content of Kate’s act in the past we were planning to go ahead with the gig until Kate told me 24 hours before that there was likely to be a picket with lots of students and non students outside the venue. I couldn’t verify this. Up to this point we had sold only 8 tickets so I decided to pull the plug.

Comedy Society President

I don’t know why the president decided to do that. I can’t tell what the reasons were. Maybe it was just some kind of erring on the side of caution thing, given that omigod there had been “many complaints from students about the content of Kate’s act.” I don’t know, but I think it was extremely bad manners at best to cancel the gig, and just plain disgusting to trash Kate in the process.

That’s my 2.7 cents.

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

Goldsmiths students, she was told, have only correct beliefs

Feb 2nd, 2015 1:23 pm | By

The Guardian reports on the Goldsmiths-Smurthwaite collision.

One item strikes me as very odd…

The first she heard about the gig at Goldsmiths being pulled was an email exchange with the college on Sunday evening. She was told of “complaints” about a range of past subjects in her shows, including her views on prostitution and on Muslim women being forced to cover up, but was not given details or any right of response.

Smurthwaite favours decriminalising those selling sex, while criminalising those who purchase it. Goldsmiths students, she was told, support legalisation of the sex industry.

What? How can anyone even know that? What does it mean to say that? How can anyone possibly know that all Goldsmiths students support anything? Let alone something as specific as what attitude to have to “the sex industry”? The answer is that there is no way. Nobody can know that. The claim is ridiculous.

Maybe what they mean is “Goldsmiths students are expected to support legalisation of the sex industry”? Maybe they’re foolishly admitting to imposing an orthodoxy on their students? But if so – why the fuck would it be that, in particular? I could see something large and generic like “Goldsmiths students are expected to treat all people as equals,” but I can’t see getting more detailed than that, especially not about what the students think and approve and support as opposed to how they treat people.

At any rate…as Kate said in her post, somebody at Goldsmiths seems to be determined to shit on Kate by way of explaining the idiotic decision to cancel her gig at the last minute.

The president of the comedy society said: “Despite many complaints from students about the content of Kate’s act in the past we were planning to go ahead with the gig until Kate told me 24 hours before that there was likely to be a picket with lots of students and non-students outside the venue. I couldn’t verify this. Up to this point we had only sold eight tickets so I decided to pull the plug.”

Nice. Really nice. That’s throwing someone under the bus with a vengeance.

Ungrateful creeps.

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

Hello Jamila!

Feb 2nd, 2015 12:24 pm | By

Look who has joined this sinister group of bloggers – Jamila Bey!

In her inaugural post she tells us an atheist invented Black History Month, which I didn’t know.

Carter G. Woodson, autodidact who graduated with his Ph.D. from Harvard, was a leading thinker who came up with the idea of Negro History Month in 1926.  He hoped, (as does this writer) that the need for the commemoration would someday become obsolete.

Woodson was a staunch critic of religious institutions and wrote that they were oppressive to Blacks.  Just as he believed that the accomplishments and the global influence of Black people were unreported or at best under represented, the influence of freethinking and atheist people, particularly concerning American history, have been diminished.

Today’s Google Doodle, which celebrates the anniversary of the birth of African-American poet, and columnist, Langston Hughes, is also a great opportunity for atheists to remind folks that Hughes was also without religion.

So give Jamila a big welcome.

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


Feb 2nd, 2015 12:12 pm | By

Here is the item I was looking for yesterday from a doctor explaining why there can’t be unvaccinated children in his waiting room.

Mike Ginsberg

In my practice you will vaccinate and you will vaccinate on time. You will not get your own “spaced-out” schedule that increases your child’s risk of illness or adverse event. I will not have measles-shedding children sitting in my waiting room. I will answer all your questions about vaccine and present you with facts, but if you will not vaccinate then you will leave my practice. I will file a CPS report (not that they will do anything) for medical neglect, too.

I have patients who are premature infants with weak lungs and hearts. I have kids with complex congenital heart disease. I have kids who are on chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia who cannot get all of their vaccines. In short, I have patients who have true special needs and true health issues who could suffer severe injury or death because of your magical belief that your kid is somehow more special than other children and that what’s good for other children is not good for yours.

This pediatrician is not putting up with it. Never have, never will.

True health issues.

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

Kate’s version

Feb 2nd, 2015 11:41 am | By

So now there’s a lot of bullshit and ass-covering about the cancellation of Kate Smurthwaite’s comedy show at Goldsmiths. So Kate has presented the documentation.

The media have written a lot about my show at Goldsmith College being cancelled tonight and of course social media is now abuzz with people calling me a liar and claiming I’ve made the whole thing up. So here’s my version. With screenshots to prove it. My apologies for releasing shots of what was obviously intended to be a private conversation, I wanted very much to avoid this but I’m not going to put up with being called a liar repeatedly. I have blurred out identifying details of the representative from Goldsmiths Comedy Society because I know from personal experience how the internet can over-react otherwise.

I was booked to do a show at Goldsmiths College, in south London. I’ve performed there many times before. The show was a joint event for the Comedy Society and the Feminist Society – members of which could come for free – and we then agreed that they would put up a ticket page for anyone else – such as local residents who fancied coming. As a way to cover costs or raise a few extra quid.

The day before the show (Sunday) I was getting a lot of hassle on Twitter because I had dared to suggest that cutting the opening hours of Spearmint Rhino strip club was a good thing.

So she thought it only right to inform the organisers that there might be some protesty disruption at the show.

But they already knew…

…needless to say I was more bothered by the apparent low ticket sales – I hadn’t realised (this would be clarified later) that this referred to tickets bought online, not to members of the Comedy Society and Feminist Society who would be just showing up on the night as they didn’t have to pay. So I queried this…

She wanted to do the show. People are saying she was trying to get out of doing the show. Nope.

Also, it wasn’t about the ticket sales.

Also note that after the media got hold of the story Goldsmiths Comedy Society responded suggesting the show had been cut due to poor sales. A few points on that:

1. The show was never set up for tickets to be sold – it was a free event for students from the relevant societies. The tickets sold were extras on top of the expected crowd.
2. They were still expecting 50 people when hey pulled the event.
3. The show has been very popular elsewhere. In Edinburgh we had to cut the show slightly short to allow extra time to get the crowds in and out on weekends. It had all 4 and 5 star reviews. For example:
4. If you’re going to pull a show over sales, you could save a lot of effort by just doing that rather than trying to call me a bad person!
5. Wow – isn’t it petty and mean to refuse to accept that you screwed up and try instead to damage my professional reputation by undermining me with misleading data like that?

Yes, it fucking is.

I’ve seen one of her shows. I’m that lucky. I sat two or three yards from her when she did a show at a Dublin pub in July 2013. It was brilliant. Ab-muscle hurtingly funny and brilliant. Ask PZ, ask Sili – they were there.

Then the organizer says some nonsense about supporting the sex industry. Kate says she supports the women in the industry, but “can hardly perform at a pro-pimp event.”

So then bam, it was canceled, just like that, for no real reason.

She doesn’t, and neither do I.

And then, somehow, it became about Kate’s offenses against the burqa.

I’ve already seen some of my feminist Muslim friends commenting on Kate’s Facebook post about this, disgusted on her behalf. Tehmina Kazi is one.

…I wasn’t shown the other complaints – I have asked for them.  I do feel bad that one individual has beens stuck in the middle of clearly a lot of conflicting angry voices (including mine). But on the other hand (philosophy mode now, strap in!) that’s the responsibility that free speech gives us. People can say things, others can complain, someone needs to assess those complaints and see if they’re worth acting on. Obviously I think I should have been allowed to perform. Especially as my show – which is not in any way about the sex industry or the burqa – is about free speech. Actually there is no better time to heckle than halfway through a show about free speech!

And yes – we probably will put it on somewhere else in London soon. It will be part of the Leicester Comedy Festival and hopefully the Brighton Fringe. I won’t post links or I’ll be accused of shamelessly using the incident to promote my work. But anyone who had a ticket for Goldsmiths – yes all eight of you!! – can drop me a line and be guest-listed and served free drinks by me personally at an upcoming performance.

I’ve quoted very extensively because Kate wants this to get out there, but read the whole thing to get every detail. And don’t be deceived by the bullshitters.

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


Feb 1st, 2015 6:54 pm | By

Embedded image permalink

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

Guest post: Convert or get out

Feb 1st, 2015 6:45 pm | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on Anxious love.

Where I live, they not only bully you if you don’t like football, but they are currently bullying a woman who moved here from somewhere else (Michigan), didn’t care about football, and had no desire to root for Michigan, but now because of the abuse (and yes, it is abuse!) is rooting for her football team hard and strong. Everyone acts like she has done something evil by maintaining a lifetime loyalty to where she grew up instead of being a convert to “our” state team (who will remain unnamed for now). To live and work in this state is to be required to bow down to the dominant football culture.

The sad part is that they do not think people leaving this state for somewhere else are required to adopt that local football team, but to remain loyal to “our” team. Loyalty for life if you are a “******”; drop the loyalty of any other team, and become a “******” if you move here.

(The reason I do not name the team is that I am not only personally not a fan but actively loathe them, and it is not safe for me to be seen hating on the team…I kid you not!)


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

Jonathan Chait says look out look out

Feb 1st, 2015 6:14 pm | By

I was going to mumble about Jonathan Chait’s much-discussed lament about “political correctness” but then I got caught up in my own laments about football mania. Now that I’ve got most of that off my chest, I want to say a little about what I think is both banal and wrong about Chait’s piece.

Here’s one banal and wrong place.

The recent mass murder of the staff members of Charlie Hebdo in Paris was met with immediate and unreserved fury and grief across the full range of the American political system. But while outrage at the violent act briefly united our generally quarrelsome political culture, the quarreling quickly resumed over deeper fissures. Were the slain satirists martyrs at the hands of religious fanaticism, or bullying spokesmen of privilege? Can the offensiveness of an idea be determined objectively, or only by recourse to the identity of the person taking offense?

You can tell you’re supposed to curl a lip in disdain at the last clause, and that’s why I think it’s wrong, indeed fatuous. Of course “identity” can make a difference to whether one finds a particular “idea” offensive or not. What a damn silly question. The “idea” that women are kind of stupid is particularly “offensive” (except that’s the wrong word) to women. The idea that black people should be stopped and frisked as often as possible is particularly “offensive” to black people. If that’s “political correctness”…then deal with it. He wants us to say no; he wants us to say all ideas can be evaluated independently of thoughts about the identity of the evaluater. Well guess what: that’s easy for him.

Another fatuity:

After political correctness burst onto the academic scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it went into a long remission. Now it has returned.

Oh please. What he means is, he wasn’t noticing it so much after the early 90s, and now he is again. He doesn’t know it was in remission all that time. What Jonathan Chait notices isn’t necessarily the same as what is.

There’s a flat-out mistake:

At a growing number of campuses, professors now attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset students, and there is a campaign to eradicate “microaggressions,” or small social slights that might cause searing trauma.

That’s not the point about microaggressions at all. Nobody thinks they cause “searing trauma” – that’s what the “micro” means. The point is that they add up; the point is drip drip drip; the point is hostile environment. He doesn’t even know what it is that he’s lamenting.

And then there’s his mindless certainty that this is just a lefty thing.

Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate.

As if the right never does that? As if the right doesn’t do everything it can to redefine terms to its liking? Death tax, right to life, pre-born child, family values, sanctity of marriage, tax and spend?

And then there’s the way he ignores huge swathes of reality.

…the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old.

It also makes money. Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity.

Here’s a news flash – stories about race and gender bias can come from people who think race and gender bias is good, and from people who think concerns about race and gender bias are bad. They can come from racists and anti-feminists. They can and they do. If he thinks “p.c.” is riding some huge wave of success – again, that may be because he doesn’t know, because he’s insulated. He’s not a target of racists or anti-feminists. He can afford to worry about the onslaught of “p.c.”

There’s a good deal more dreck, but frankly I’m getting bored. He’s not an interesting writer. But there’s one place where he contradicts himself from one paragraph to the next, and I can’t tell what he wants to say. See if you can parse it.

Political correctness appeals to liberals because it claims to represent a more authentic and strident opposition to their shared enemy of race and gender bias. And of course liberals are correct not only to oppose racism and sexism but to grasp (in a way conservatives generally do not) that these biases cast a nefarious and continuing shadow over nearly every facet of American life. Since race and gender biases are embedded in our social and familial habits, our economic patterns, and even our subconscious minds, they need to be fought with some level of consciousness. The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.

Liberals believe (or ought to believe) that social progress can continue while we maintain our traditional ideal of a free political marketplace where we can reason together as individuals. Political correctness challenges that bedrock liberal ideal. While politically less threatening than conservatism (the far right still commands far more power in American life), the p.c. left is actually more philosophically threatening. It is an undemocratic creed.

See what I mean? Race and gender biases need to be fought, but political correctness challenges that bedrock liberal ideal of a free political marketplace. Ok, so…what? Fight the biases, or don’t fight them? I can’t tell what he thinks he means.

Maybe it’s my gender biases playing up.

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

Putting other kids at risk

Feb 1st, 2015 5:15 pm | By

Some US doctors are dropping patients who refuse to get their children vaccinated. Good.

With California gripped by a measles outbreak, Dr. Charles Goodman posted a clear notice in his waiting room and on Facebook: His practice will no longer see children whose parents won’t get them vaccinated.

“Parents who choose not to give measles shots, they’re not just putting their kids at risk, but they’re also putting other kids at risk — especially kids in my waiting room,” the Los Angeles pediatrician said.

You know…kids who are there because they are ill, and don’t need to be exposed to measles or mumps on top of that.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says doctors should bring up the importance of vaccinations during visits but should respect a parent’s wishes unless there’s a significant risk to the child.

“In general, pediatricians should avoid discharging patients from their practices solely because a parent refuses to immunize his or her child,” according to guidelines issued by the group.

So they should put all their other patients at risk. Bad advice, if you ask me. Unethical advice. Better to respect the other parents and their children than to “respect” the no-vaxxers.

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