Notes and Comment Blog

Up against the wall

Jul 23rd, 2013 3:58 pm | By

Crissy Brown describes a nightmare that happened to her.

She was driving to work in Tuscaloosa (Alabama) and got pulled over for having expired license plate tags. The cop told her there was a warrant out for her arrest (for expired license plate tags???), handcuffed her, and searched her car. Then he took her to the police station.

As soon as I arrived at the police station, before I could make it through the metal detectors, I was pushed against a wall and made to stand there until a female officer could take the time to inappropriately touch – I mean frisk – me. As the woman ran her hands down my body and between my legs, three male officers stood behind me, watching the show.

From there, I was processed, which included stripping down in front of a female officer. While I stood before her naked, I asked the cop why it was necessary for me to be strip searched; she responded by calling me an asshole and deciding I needed to take a shower to, I suppose, wash the filth out of my mouth. I didn’t even get a towel to dry off with. She handed me a large, burlap-like orange set of scrubs, bedding, and a mattress. I was escorted down to population, made to walk along gray tape on the ground (it really pissed them off if you deviated from the “inmate line”), and then put in a holding cell that had more women than beds, two metal picnic tables, and an old fuzzy TV set.

For expired license plate tags.

This country has a completely crazy attitude to imprisonment.



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

Solemnization is an expensive business

Jul 23rd, 2013 11:55 am | By

Ireland is changing.

Traditionally Catholic Ireland has allowed an atheist group to perform weddings this year for the first time, and the few people certified to celebrate them are overwhelmed by hundreds of couples seeking their services.

Demand for the Humanist Association of Ireland’s secular weddings has surged as the moral authority of the once almighty Catholic Church collapsed in recent decades amid sex abuse scandals and Irish society’s rapid secularization.

Ah not just the sex abuse scandals. Don’t forget the enslavement and brutality scandals; don’t forget the industrial “schools” and the Magdalene laundries.

Until now, those who did not want a religious wedding could have only civil ceremonies. Outside of the registrar’s office, only clergy were permitted to perform weddings.

But statistics show rising demand for non-Church weddings. In 1996, 90 percent of Irish weddings were performed by the Catholic Church or the Church of Ireland. But by 2010 that percentage had fallen to 69 percent.

The pent-up demand from those who want more than a civil ceremony in a registry office but reject a religious wedding has created a major backlog for the humanist group’s ceremonies director.

And a seller’s market, apparently.

The law says solemnizers cannot work for profit. Whiteside said he usually asks 450 euros per wedding, although it might be more if long distance travel is involved.

“We don’t have salaries, so we have to have some kind of income,” he said, noting that priests had salaries and used their own churches for weddings.

Hmm. Sounds like profit to me.

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

What is it like to be a

Jul 23rd, 2013 10:56 am | By

Here’s a question for you. What’s the relationship between knowledge and understanding? What does epistemology have to say about understanding?

I’m thinking about the role of empathy and experience in understanding and, I think (but I’m not sure), in knowledge. If you experience something and thus come to understand it better than you did, is that knowledge?

I’m not a bit sure it is. If the understanding depends on experience, then it’s not sharable, and I think of knowledge as being generally sharable…but perhaps that’s a mistake.

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

Royal amateur medical expertise

Jul 23rd, 2013 10:19 am | By

Charles Windsor is really extraordinary. He confuses an arbitrary pseudo-magical accident of birth with real quality – he must do, or he wouldn’t keep thinking he has a right and duty to interfere with government medical policies when he has no scientific training whatever.

Prince Charles was last night urged to stay out of the debate over homeopathy on the NHS, amid claims that he had lobbied the Health Secretary in favour of the controversial alternative treatment.

Labour MPs reacted with fury at the revelation that the heir to the throne had met Jeremy Hunt last week, with NHS support for homeopathy believed to be on the agenda. The disclosure of the Prince’s latest communications with senior politicians came days after judges ruled that the public has no right to know the contents of 27 letters he had written to ministers over several years, in an attempt to influence policy decisions.

He shouldn’t be doing that. It’s immoral. He has no relevant training, while the vast majority of people who do have relevant training consider homeopathy to be a complete fraud. It’s a grotesque abuse of Windsor’s anachronistic status to try to foist a quack remedy on a tax-funded health service.

Prince Charles is a long-term advocate of homeopathy, which involves treating patients with highly diluted substances “with the aim of triggering the body’s natural system of healing”. Mr Hunt once told a constituent that “it ought to be available [on the NHS] where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit”.

Earlier this year the Government’s new chief scientific adviser, Sir Mark Walport, dismissed homeopathy as “nonsense”, but critics have complained that the NHS is still spending millions of pounds a year on a therapy they claim has no effect on patients.

The Independent should be more forthcoming than that. It should be more explicit about why homeopathy is bullshit. It does get there in the end, by quoting David Colquhoun, but that’s at the very end of the piece and most people read only the first few paragraphs.

Homeopathy is bullshit because it’s so “highly diluted” that nothing is left of the original active ingredient. Homeopaths claim that the water has a “memory” of the active ingredient. That’s why homeopathy is bullshit.

The Tory MP David Tredinnick, a supporter of homeopathy who also sits on the Health Select Committee, said he was not concerned about Prince Charles’s intervention, as “he is probably as well placed as anybody in the country to comment on this”. Speaking on the BBC, Mr Tredinnick said: “We should do what they do in the rest of the world, which is to take [homeopathy] seriously.”

As well placed?? In what sense? In the sense that he can, then yes, obviously, and unfortunately. In the sense that he’s qualified? Emphatically not! Qualified is exactly what he is not. He read history at university, not medicine or biology or chemistry.

But David Colquhoun, a pharmacologist at University College London, said homeopathy was “utter nonsense”. “Homeopathic remedies contain nothing whatsoever. The Americans have spent $2bn investigating these things … they haven’t found a single one that works,” he said.

There. But that’s the penultimate paragraph, and it should have been said in the second.

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

By her side throughout

Jul 22nd, 2013 5:44 pm | By

Ah it turns out it was all a misunderstanding about Al Mana Interiors and its firing of Marte Dalelv for being slutty enough to get herself raped. Al Mana Interiors behaved impeccably the entire time; it says so itself.

DOHA, Qatar, July 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Hani El Korek, spokesperson for Al Mana Interiors W.L.L., today released the following statement:

“We are sympathetic to Marte Dalelv during this very difficult situation.  Al Mana Interiors has repeatedly offered Marte support and company representatives were by her side throughout the initial investigation and police interviews, and spent days at both the police station and the prosecutor’s office to help win her release.

“Company representatives have been supportive and in communication with Marte throughout her ordeal.  Only when Ms. Dalelv declined to have positive and constructive discussions about her employment status, and ceased communication with her employer, was the company forced to end our relationship with her. The decision had nothing to do with the rape allegation, and unfortunately neither Ms. Dalelv nor her attorneys have chosen to contact the company to discuss her employment status.

“We continue to be open to helping Ms. Dalelv and extending her resources during the Dubai legal process.  We are hopeful that we can resume a positive discussion about the assistance she needs during this difficult time.”

See? It was all her fault. Despite what Wissam Al Mana said in that “you’re fired” letter. He was just joking.

As mentioned is the suspension letter dated 20th March 2013, your employment agreement is termination due to your unacceptable and improper behavior during your last business trip in Dubai, which has resulted in your arrest by the Police Authorities in UAE.

Kidding! Kidding!! Totally kidding. Wissam and Marte were always kidding each other like that, around the water cooler in Doha. But for some reason the other day she just totally declined to have positive and constructive discussions about her employment status, so if she’s going to be a bitch about it, what do you expect? We’re not running a home for wayward sluts here.



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

Oh and also, you’re fired

Jul 22nd, 2013 3:20 pm | By

That’s what Marte Dalelve’s company told her after she was arrested for being raped in Dubai. She behaved improperly, you see.

Ms. Dalelv received a letter from her employer Al Mana Interiors three weeks after she reported the rape, informing her that she was suspended from her position, effective immediately.

The ninth of april she got a new shocking letter: Her contract was terminated due to «unacceptable and improper behavior». This time it was the company’s managing director, Mr. Wissam Al Mana, who himself signed the letter.

It’s a very sweet letter. It doesn’t come right out and call her a whore.

Al Mana writes the following in the letter he personally signed:

Dear Ms. Dalelv,

Further to the suspension letter notified to you on 20th March 2013, we hereby inform you that you employment with Al Mana Interiors W.L.L. is terminated for misconduct and breach of your employment duties, effective immediately.

As mentioned is the suspension letter dated 20th March 2013, your employment agreement is termination due to your unacceptable and improper behavior during your last business trip in Dubai, which has resulted in your arrest by the Police Authorities in UAE.

The full and final settlement of any outstanding benefits can be discussed wih Mr. XXXX XXXXXX. At the same time, you are requested to hand in any company property given to you on account of company work.

The present letter has been given in accordance with article 61 of the Qatar Labour Law no 14 of (2004), and a copy of which will be submitted to the Labour Department, for their records.


Wissam Al Mana
Managing Director

You just can’t let them out of the house, can you. If you try it just all goes horribly wrong.

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

Competitive Enterprise Institute does malice

Jul 22nd, 2013 1:10 pm | By

At least, according to a DC Superior Court decision on Friday, there’s enough evidence that it does to make it ok for Michael Mann to proceed with a defamation suit.

A stunning DC Superior Court decision Friday on behalf of climatologist Michael Mann against the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) found:

There is sufficient evidence presented that is indicative of “actual malice. The CEI Defendants have consistently accused Plaintiff of fraud and inaccurate theories, despite Plaintiff’s work having been investigated several times and found to be proper. The CEI Defendants’ persistence despite the EPA and other investigative bodies’ conclusion that Plaintiff’s work is accurate (or that there is no evidence of data manipulation) is equal to a blatant disregard for the falsity of their statements. Thus, given the evidence presented the Court finds that Plaintiff could prove “actual malice.”

Sounds like actual malice to me – being shown over and over again that there is no data manipulation, and continuing to say there is just the same. Yup, I call that malice. I see a lot of it, too – a lie being repeated over and over and over and over again no matter how many times you point out that it’s a lie.

There were actually two decisions handed in DC Superior Court affirming Mann’s right to proceed in his defamation lawsuit against CEI and the National Review Online for their accusations of data manipulation and fraud. The Court eviscerated the Defendants’ arguments (made in their Motion to Dismiss) that their attacks are somehow First Amendment “protected speech” — merely “opinion,” “rhetorical hyperbole,” or “fair comment.”

The determination of “malice” is critical, as the decision explains:

The Court of Appeals has stated that to recover for defamation, a public figure must prove that the defamatory statement was made with “actual malice.” Nader v. de Toledano, 408 A.2d 31, 40 (D.C. 1979); see also, Foretich v. CBS, Inc., 619 A.2d 48, 59 (D.C. 1993) (quoting New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 297 (1964). This means the statement was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

Which is malicious.


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

More and more and more measles

Jul 22nd, 2013 12:03 pm | By

There was a measles outbreak in Brooklyn in March. That means there was a vaccination problem in Brooklyn.

In March, New York City health authorities saw a sudden rise in measles cases in several densely populated Orthodox Jewish communities.

The disease quickly spread. Among the 58 measles cases reported thus far, a child contracted pneumonia and two pregnant women were hospitalized, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. One of the women had a miscarriage.

Very sad, when measles shouldn’t be around at all.

The department traced the outbreak to a person who it concluded brought the virus from a trip to London, says Jay Varma, the department’s deputy commissioner for disease control. Overall, vaccination rates are high in the communities, he says, but the outbreak then started in a small group of families with members who refused vaccines, he says.

Refused vaccines, but continued to mingle with other people.

While measles no longer circulates freely in the U.S., health authorities still battle outbreaks. All states require that children receive vaccinations before attending school, with some exceptions for medical reasons.

But many states grant religious or philosophical exemptions, creating pockets of vulnerability.

In other words, it’s not the case that “all states require that children receive vaccinations before attending school.” Many states don’t require that at all, because those exemptions are freely given.

No doubt it’s all part of god’s plan.





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

Marte Dalelv gets to go home

Jul 22nd, 2013 10:55 am | By

Dubai perhaps noticed the bad publicity; anyway it dropped the sentence.

Dubai authorities hope the pardon of the 24-year-old woman will allow them to sidestep another potentially embarrassing blow to the city’s heavily promoted image as a forward-looking model of luxury, excess and cross-cultural understanding.

Yum: luxury, excess and cross-cultural understanding. Actually, make that luxury and excess, without any kind of understanding. Luxury and excess aren’t really the best ways to promote understanding.

Rape prosecutions are complicated in the United Arab Emirates because — as in some other countries influenced by Islamic law — conviction requires either a confession or the testimony of adult male witnesses.

In a twist that often shocks Western observers, allegations of rape can boomerang into illegal sex charges for the accuser. In 2008, an Australian woman said she was jailed for eight months after claiming she was gang-raped at a UAE hotel.

You know, believe it or not, that “twist” often shocks non-Western observers, too, and it shocks non-Western victims even more. It’s kind of obtuse – kind of bad at cross-cultural understanding – to assume that all the people who live under misogynist laws think they’re a fine thing. There are such things as human rights organizations outside “the West,” you know. There are also women outside the West, and not all of them endorse being treated like punching bags.

[Foreign Minister] Barth Eide told the Norwegian news agency NTB that international media attention and Norway’s diplomatic measures helped Dalelv, who was free on appeal with her next court hearing scheduled for early September. Norway also reminded the United Arab Emirates of obligations under U.N. accords to seriously investigate claims of violence against women.

“The United Arab Emirates and Dubai is a rapidly changing society. This decision won’t only affect Marte Dalelv, who can travel home now if she wishes to, but also serve as a wake-up call regarding the legal situation in many other countries,” Barth Eide was quoted as saying.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter: “Happy that Marte has been pardoned and that she is a free woman again.”

I don’t like to call it a “pardon” since I don’t think being raped is a crime in the first place.

The AP does not identify the names of alleged sexual assault victims, but Dalelv went public voluntarily to talk to media.

In an interview with the AP last week, she recalled that she fled to the hotel lobby and asked for the police to be called after the alleged attack. The hotel staff asked if she was sure she wanted to involve the police, Dalelv said.

“Of course I want to call the police,” she said. “That is the natural reaction where I am from.”

Norway’s foreign minister said “very high level” Norwegian officials, including himself, had been in daily contact with counterparts in the United Arab Emirates since the verdict against Dalelv.

“We have made very clear what we think about this verdict and what we think about the fact that one is charged and sentenced when one starts out by reporting alleged abuse,” Barth Eide said.

In London, a rights group monitoring UAE affairs urged authorities to change laws to “ensure victims are protected, feel comfortable reporting crimes and are able to fairly pursue justice.”

“While we are pleased that Marte can now return home to Norway, her pardon still suggests that she was somehow guilty of a crime,” said Rori Donaghy, a spokesman for the Emirates Center for Human Rights. “Until laws are reformed, victims of sexual violence in the UAE will continue to suffer in this way and we will likely see more cases such as this one.”


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

Where were the women?

Jul 21st, 2013 6:03 pm | By

Salon just woke up and rubbed its eyes and realized it had forgotten to publish an article asking why all the New Atheists are men, so a mere five years late it has now done so.

“New Atheism” is old news. Enter “New, New Atheism”: the next generation, with its more spiritual brand of non-belief, and its ambition to build an atheist church. It is an important moment for the faithless. Will it include women?

Wait wait wait. New, New already? No I don’t think so. We’re really not through with the Old New yet. Also – the atheists I know are not “more spiritual,” nor do they want to build an atheist church. Mostly. Maybe Chris Stedman and James Croft do, a little, sort of, in a way. But mostly, no.

Several years ago, there was discussion of a “woman problem” within the Atheist movement. New high priests of non-faith announced themselves—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Peter Singer, A.C. Grayling, Daniel Dennett, etc.—and they were men. And they were angry. Their best-selling works were important and essential. These authors helped reinvigorate the secular cause; they cast off the fog of political correctness to unapologetically lay siege to piety. But before long, these New Atheists were depicted as an old boys’ club—a clique of (white) men, bound by a particularly unyielding brand of disbelief.

Where were the women?

Why, they were right there: stolidly leading people away from the fold. They were irreverent bloggers and institution founders. And scholars. Around the time that the Dawkins-Hitchens-Harris tripartite published its big wave of Atheist critique, historian Jennifer Michael Hecht published “Doubt” and journalist Susan Jacoby published “Freethinkers“—both critically acclaimed. And yet, these women, and many others, failed to emerge as public figures, household names.

It’s complicated. It’s so, so, so complicated. It’s the most complicated thing there is. It’s more complicated than genetics, or the human brain, or quantum physics, or building a bridge.

I kid. It’s not. It’s just laziness and habit and more laziness. And it’s not really true about the not emerging. I mean come on, nobody’s going to be a household name here – household names are people like Justin Bieber, not Richard Dawkins, let alone all the other atheists. But some of those people – those women – are…not household names, but maybe tiny niche names. Hecht and Jacoby certainly are.


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

As complicated as it gets

Jul 21st, 2013 4:46 pm | By

Kathryn Hamen heaves a large sigh and wonders why the London Review of Books has such a very hard time finding women.

Having been asked, I told them: the ridiculously low number of women who are represented in each edition of your otherwise worthy journal is, well, ridiculous. The reply: It’s complicated, “as complicated as it gets”. The response was genuine in its bafflement and its hand-wringing consternation, and ended by stating that the editors at the LRB were desperate to change the situation.

To which I replied: then change it.

And then I posted the exchange on my blog, where it was retweeted and picked up by in the US. Many people responded with, “I’ve been thinking that for ages.” We might be the only household where Guess the Ladies is played, but we’re clearly not alone in our frustration with the gender balance of the LRB.

Oh yes? Oh yes – so she did. She sent them an amusing, irritated letter and got a fatuous reply:

Dear Kathryn Heyman,

Many thanks for taking the time to let us know why you’ve decided to give up on the LRB. We’re very sorry to see you go, but respect your reasons. If you were interested, I’d be glad to discuss with you, perhaps in an email exchange, why it may be that women are underrepresented in the paper. I think they’re complicated; actually, as complicated as it gets. However, there’s no question that despite the distress it causes us that the proportion of women in the paper remains so stubbornly low, the efforts we’ve made to change the situation have been hopelessly unsuccessful. We’ll continue to try – the issue is on our minds constantly – in the hope that eventually you’ll feel ready to consider subscribing again. Best wishes,


No. No, and no, and no. That is not possible. Finding women who can write for the LRB is not like finding a snow leopard or gold or a sonnet written by a chicken. It’s not that your efforts have been unsuccessful, it’s that you haven’t made them. You haven’t asked enough women.

Heyman tells him that.

Secondly, I’m sorry, but I just can’t see what on earth you mean: efforts to change the situation? Really, Paul, with respect, it isn’t that hard. I could give you a list – off the top of my head -  of scores of eminent established female novelists and non-fiction writers who are not being reviewed. I could give you a similar list of emerging female writers. So, what’s the problem? Are your reviewers allergic to lady-words? Or is your problem finding female reviewers (because only women will review women?)I’m sure you are aware of the facts in the publishing industry: more women write books, more women read books. Your pages are a shocking inverse to the reality.

Quite. It’s just bullshit to claim that women who could write for the LRB are a rarity, just as it’s bullshit to claim that women who are worth hearing at conferences on secularism and atheism are a rarity. There are lots of them. People forget to ask them.

But the LRB couldn’t even manage to reply to Heyman.

Although there’s been no reply to my follow-up emails (no phone calls, no flowers, nothing), an LRB editor, Deborah Friedell, wrote to Salon, explaining, “we’re getting better, particularly when it comes to promoting and publishing the next generation of female critics”. She noted that the Review already publishes esteemed women writers.

Yes, but too few of them.

By publishing a literary journal with about 70% male contributors in every edition, the implicit message is that male writing is better than female writing.

Ah, no. With respect, that part isn’t right. The implicit message is that there are more better male writers, not that all male writers are better. The implicit message is that there are lots of good male writers and not so many good female writers.

That might be the case, considered in the abstract. (Or just as easily it might be the other way around.) But the reality is, there are more than enough writers of either sex good enough for the LRB, and people are just desperately stupid about remembering to ask enough. It’s like Cara Santa Maria saying she had a hell of a time trying to find atheist women to do that discussion, and then later revealing that she had asked only two women. I think that’s what Paul and his colleagues have been doing – asking two or three and then collapsing in anguish at how complicated it is to try to remember who the fourth might be.

My LRB correspondent explained that “men vastly outnumber women among writers proposing pieces”, but then went on to confirm that it is the editors who approach contributors – so, surely, in this case, the complication lies with the editors themselves. Is it more complicated to commission a woman than to commission a man?

This is what I’m saying! You have to ask them. You have to commission them. Don’t go telling us they won’t do it when you haven’t fucking asked them.

Bidisha (who is a writer) replies in a comment:

I’m writing this after 20+ years working directly in it, 20+ years putting up with it, 20+ glossing my complexion in the glass ceiling of it, 20+ years fighting it and 20+ years thinking about it. It’s cultural femicide: the act of erasing women from cultural life. I wrote about it 3 years ago in Tired of Being the Token Woman (which gives stats from the LRB) and Literary Women, Literary Prizes and A Call To Action and On Despair.

I’ve now spent about 4 or 5 years of those 20 producing, curating, presenting, commissioning or producing events and projects myself. Guess what? There are countless women around, all expert, all talented, all interested, all professional, articulate, insightful and keen. Despite all the complications of this complex issue – which, by the way, is incredibly entrenched and tricky, snagged on all manner of quantum enigmatic charismatic complexity – there are just gazillions of women experts, writers, critics, commentators, speakers, reviewers, artists, academics, analysts, achievers and advocates who are not shy, not unavailable, not crippled by low self esteem or any of the other victim-blaming excuses which perpetrators use to justify their extreme marginalisation of women.

Despite the positively debilitating complications of this issue let me boil it down – really, as a charitable act to help the perpetrators cut through this cloud of confusion …or shall we just call it a smokescreen… they have created.

Women are prolific and very present and active writers (in all fields and genres, fiction and non-fiction), readers, commentators, publishers, editors, agents, PRs, book event organisers and literary event attendees.

When they are ignored or heavily marginalised in the media it is exactly what it appears to be: misogynistic discrimination.

When women are working as producers, commissioners, editors and in other roles behind the scenes and still marginalise other women when it comes to handing out commissions, coverage and speaking slots, it’s exactly what it appears to be: female misogyny and man-worshipping.

It is easy to get more women: contact them and commission them. If you only know 5 women whom you consider to be worth intellectual notice, get each of them to recommend 5 other women whom they rate. It’s easy.


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

Nada al-Ahdal

Jul 21st, 2013 3:28 pm | By

There’s an 11-year-old girl in Yeman, Nada al-Ahdal, who has a lot of courage and good sense.

A video, posted on YouTube, shows an 11-year-old Yemeni girl called Nada al-Ahdal recounting how she escaped her parents who wanted to force her to marry. Nada comes from a modest family and is one of eight siblings. Fortunately for her, her uncle Abdel Salam al-Ahdal, a montage and graphics technician in a TV station, decided to take her in when she was three years old, to live with him and his aging mother, away from her parents.

Here is that video:

I would have had no life, no education. Don’t they have any compassion?

That is indeed the question.

H/t Małgorzata.

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

Het melkmeisje

Jul 21st, 2013 12:28 pm | By

I had a poster of this on a wall once. Via Wikimedia Commons.

File:Vermeer - The Milkmaid.jpg

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

The speculation is

Jul 21st, 2013 12:11 pm | By

Oh goody, more “women are giving” and “men are stalwart” blather in the New York Times. I wish the mainstream media would stop pushing this bullshit.

The mere presence of female family members — even infants — can be enough to nudge men in the generous direction.

In a provocative new study, the researchers Michael Dahl, Cristian Dezso and David Gaddis Ross examined generosity and what inspires it in wealthy men. Rather than looking at large-scale charitable giving, they looked at why some male chief executives paid their employees more generously than others. The researchers tracked the wages that male chief executives at more than 10,000 Danish companies paid their employees over the course of a decade.

Interestingly, the chief executives paid their employees less after becoming fathers. On average, after chief executives had a child, they paid about $100 less in annual compensation per employee. To be a good provider, the researchers write, it’s all too common for a male chief executive to claim “his firm’s resources for himself and his growing family, at the expense of his employees.”

But there was a twist. When Professor Dahl’s team examined the data more closely, the changes in pay depended on the gender of the child that the chief executives fathered. They reduced wages after having a son, but not after having a daughter.

Daughters apparently soften fathers and evoke more caretaking tendencies. The speculation is that as we brush our daughters’ hair and take them to dance classes, we become gentler, more empathetic and more other-oriented.

Really? That’s the speculation? That’s not the first speculation that occurs to me when reading that passage. You know what is? That daughters are cheaper. That fathers of daughters think they don’t need to spend quite as much on their daughters’ education and equipment, because daughters are just daughters while sons are sons.

Social scientists believe that the empathetic, nurturing behaviors of sisters rub off on their brothers. For example, studies led by the psychologist Alice Eagly at Northwestern University demonstrate that women tend to do more giving and helping in close relationships than men. It might also be that boys feel the impulse — by nature and nurture — to protect their sisters. Indeed, Professor Eagly finds that men are significantly more likely to help women than to help men.

Blah blah blah, as we wander through various studies looking for items that can be made to fit the same old shit.

Some of the world’s most charitable men acknowledge the inspiration provided by the women in their lives. Twenty years ago, when Bill Gates was on his way to becoming the world’s richest man, he rejected advice to set up a charitable foundation. He planned to wait a quarter-century before he started giving his money away, but changed his mind the following year. Just three years later, Mr. Gates ranked third on Fortune’s list of the most generous philanthropists in America. In between, he welcomed his first child: a daughter.

Case closed! That’s science!

And this kind of tripe is why so many people are so very comfortable cranking out “women nurture/men compete” bromides, with the result that so many people are totally comfortable saying things like “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s more of a guy thing” when they would never say “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s more of a white thing.”

We hear the stereotype repeated nineteen times a day, and it becomes normal, and kind of amusing, and a staple of sitcoms, and we can’t even see how sexist it is and what an obstacle it is.

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

Insert favorite laughter gif here

Jul 21st, 2013 11:54 am | By

You know what’s funny? When people rage about “keyboard warriors” and “slacktivists” who don’t do things that matter and don’t make things happen, but just hide behind their keyboards and rage emptily online…

…and they do this raging…

(can you guess?)

…on Facebook and Twitter!

It’s like calling someone on the phone to complain about phones.

It’s like driving to the supermarket and on the way raging about all the god damn people out here in their cars cluttering up the place.

It’s like taking a trip to Florence and raging about all the tourists in Florence.

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

Boycott mass

Jul 20th, 2013 6:09 pm | By

Survivors of the Magdalene laundries are calling on Catholics to boycott mass tomorrow to protest the refusal of the church to pay compensation to the women.

I would love to say “do it!!” but I doubt that I have many readers who normally attend Catholic mass. Well, to tell the truth, I doubt I have any.

The group Magdalene Survivors Together asked people to stand with them and to withhold donations to local churches as a show of solidarity.

A spokesperson for the group said it was disappointed that the nuns are not contributing financially to a fund set up to provide compensation. The four orders have instead said that they will provide access to their records to allow for claims to be processed, and will continue to provide accommodation for the women who remain in their care.

Oh how generous. They’ll do what they should do anyway (how could they withhold access to “their” records?) but they won’t do what they ought to do if they had a shred of conscience.

The four orders involves are the Good Shepherd Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Charity.

One survivor said it would be a “simple but powerful way” of sending a message to the four congregations.

“Why can’t they do the right thing? Why do they want to make us suffer like this?” asked Marina Gambold. “They made us suffer behind closed doors may years ago and now they are doing it in public that is shocking, disappointing and disgusting.”

But not surprising.

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


Jul 20th, 2013 5:21 pm | By

As requested…and I’ve been thinking I would do more of it anyway, because I like it too, and they’re public domain.

I’ve had a big poster of this one on my bathroom wall for years. Monet, Apple Trees in Bloom.

Apple Trees in Bloom - Claude Monet

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


Jul 20th, 2013 5:15 pm | By

The BBC talked to the Norwegian woman punished for being raped in Dubai. She is Marte Deborah Dalelv.

Ms Dalelv says she had been on a night out with colleagues on 6 March when the rape took place.

She reported it to the police, who proceeded to confiscate her passport and seize her money. She was charged four days later on three counts, including having sex outside marriage.

That certainly strikes an outsider as a very odd criminal justice system – one that grabs the passport and money of a foreign woman who reports being raped.

Her alleged attacker, she said, received a 13-month sentence for extra-marital
sex and alcohol consumption.

No no no, try to focus. The issue isn’t marital or non-marital, the issue is rape. Forcible sex, sex without consent, assault.

According to the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, UAE law states a rape conviction can only be secured after a confession or as the result of testimony from four adult male witnesses to the crime.

In other words, only in accordance with stupid fucking sharia.

Dubai has undergone a rapid transformation in recent years, emerging as a five-star trade and tourism destination with its tax-free salaries and year-round sunshine.

It is now one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities with foreign workers and visitors greatly outnumbering the local population.

But it remains a deeply conservative region, and its strict laws have caught out foreigners in the past.

Or to put it another way – stay the fuck out of Dubai.

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

Save Josephine Komeh

Jul 20th, 2013 4:17 pm | By

When I signed this petition my signature was number 24, and it needs a LOT more than that. So please both sign it and publicize it on social media.

63-year old Josephine Komeh is a courageous fighter against FGM/Cutting in Sierra Leone who opposed it in the most practical way – by refusing to cut girls and young women herself. She was severely tortured because she had defied the traditional authorities that maintain this brutal practice.

Josephine sought asylum in Britain, where the Government condemns FGM, but the Home Office plans to deport her on 24th July. She will face further torture back in Sierra Leone unless she agrees to cut. There is no-one there to protect her: her husband is dead, a son & daughter live in Britain, and her other children were killed during the 11-year Civil War.

Josephine’s grandmother and mother were traditional ‘cutters’ and trained her as next-in-line. She opposed FGM and felt it clashed with her responsibility for the girls she taught as a head teacher. When her mother died she tried to avoid
taking her place, but the women’s society that organises FGM forced her to cut young girls until she refused to continue. That is when she was tortured.

On 29th May Josephine was taken from Leeds where she lived, to Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Her asylum claim was rejected despite a medical report from Freedom From Torture, but she successfully resisted an attempt to deport her on 5th June. Since then she has gathered more evidence, but the Home Office plans to deport her before a fresh claim can be considered. Her deportation is set for Wednesday 24th July at 6.30am from Heathrow on Brussels Airlines flight SN2104.

Well good god what are the UK authorities thinking? I don’t know, but let’s hope a petition prompts them to think better.

Sign here.


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

The Merciful

Jul 20th, 2013 1:16 pm | By

A Norwegian woman went to Dubai on a business trip. It didn’t go well.

She was raped.

Thinking that the police would help her, she reported the rape to them… and  ended up in jail, her passport stripped from her. She spent three days there  before she was allowed to use a phone to call her family. They, in turn, called  the Foreign Ministry and the Norwegian Consulate, who were able to get the woman released into their custody. They took her to the local Norwegian Seaman’s Center, where she stayed for 6 months until her sentencing.

If that’s not enough to outrage you, her sentence will be: she will be spending 16 months in jail. Alone, in a foreign jail, serving a sentence for having the temerity to get herself raped. Oh, and for drinking alcohol.

 One of the things Islam prides itself on is hospitality (and when I say “prides itself on” I mean “boasts of”).

The true concept of hospitality is not something that is widely practiced in most non-Muslim countries.

For many non-Muslims, the entertainment of guests is of primary importance in many cases for worldly reasons only, not rooted in real hospitality for the sake of God.

In Islam, however, hospitality is a great virtue that holds a significant purpose. Being hospitable to neighbors and guests can increase societal ties as well as unite an entire community. Most importantly, God commands Muslims to be hospitable to neighbors and guests. There is a great reward in doing so. Hospitality in Islam is multi-faceted and covers many different areas in addition to the hospitality that we show guests who visit our homes.

Oh yes? Is that a fact? Is it hospitable to charge, convict and sentence to prison a foreign woman for being raped? Is it hospitable to charge, convict and sentence to prison a foreign woman for such a minor “crime” as drinking alcohol (an act which is not a crime at all in her native country)? Is that a friendly, generous, compassionate, reasonable, kind way to treat strangers? No it is not. It is thuggish, sexist, brutal, and stupid.

One of the things Allah is called is “the merciful.” Really? Is it “merciful” to thrown a foreign woman in jail for being raped? No, it is not. It’s harsh, cruel, and spiteful.

Allah is not a friend to women.

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