Notes and Comment Blog

Shut up because Taliban

Jun 23rd, 2014 1:22 pm | By

What is the point of saying things like “What is faced by women and men under Islamicist [sic] is far greater than the discomfort of some inappropriate sexist remark” or “Dear Muslima”?

What can possibly be the point of it other than to tell local feminists to shut up because things are much worse farther away?

That’s why so many people went ballistic over “Dear Muslima” in the first place. That’s where the Deep Rifts started – with that one bullying comment, which may have been written by Cornwell herself.

Cornwell is aware of that. She is aware of the deep rifts. I know this because she wrote to me on the subject via Facebook direct messaging to say so in 2012. She told me she was horribly worried and upset about it.

So why the hell would she do the same thing all over again in 2013?

I guess because she hates feminism that much.

This might not matter all that much, if it weren’t for the fact that she’s one of the bosses of “the movement.” She was a “Head” and so went to “Heads” meetings. She’s on boards. Other bosses listen to her. They think she speaks for Science so they listen solemnly. She tells them how poisonous feminism is.

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

“Far greater than the discomfort of some inappropriate sexist remark”

Jun 23rd, 2014 12:47 pm | By

Lordy – I’m surprised again. I’m so easily surprised – I must be very naïve.

In watching the UN video I saw the list of other CFI videos, and in the list I saw the videoof Robin Elisabeth Cornwell’s talk at Women in Secularism 2. I missed that talk because of having to catch a plane, so I’ve started watching it.

You know, there’s a theory that it’s Cornwell who wrote Dear Muslima, and that Dawkins just posted it so that it would be as if god had posted it (and so it turned out). This video could be Exhibit One for that claim.

At about 11:45 she gets onto the subject of “victimhood.” She talks about pop culture and Oprah and the elevation (emphasis hers) on victimhood, and speculates that Christianity is a major source of this elevation, via the idea of prayer and the passivity it inculcates. “It’s pure bollocks,” she exclaims, as if she were a medium for Dawkins. She says she doesn’t know about you but she wants to scream: “get off your knees and do something about it!” She pauses for applause so a few people oblige, tepidly.

Then she gets into it. Don’t misunderstand, she warns, there is such a thing as adversity.

…some situations are horrible and the word ‘victim’ is appropriate – but let’s not fall into the cultural relativism trap, and assume that all adversity is the same. It isn’t. What is faced by women and men under Islamicist [sic] is far greater than the discomfort of some inappropriate sexist remark.

Two people applauded.

I stopped there for the present, because I can take only so much at a time. More later.

Anyway, that theory that she wrote Dear Muslima? Yeah.

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

Saudi Arabia tries to silence CFI at UNHRC

Jun 23rd, 2014 11:07 am | By

It’s what it says. Center for Inquiry representative Josephine Macintosh tried to read a statement about Raif Badawi and Saudi violations of human rights at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council and the Saudi representative keeps interrupting to try to make her stop.

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

LA Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group NEXT WEEK

Jun 23rd, 2014 10:44 am | By

The first meeting of the Los Angeles Women’s Atheist and Agnostic Group (LAWAAG) is a week from tomorrow at CFI-LA, which I know exactly where it is because I’ve been there. You know where Barnsdall Park is, in East Hollywood? It’s across Hollywood Boulevard from that.

Our group meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm at  The Center For Inquiry, Los Angeles. Along with regular monthly meetups, the group also organizes art, activism and outreach projects and works towards building community and support for women without faith.

In order to foster a safe space that acknowledges and can focus on the specific issues women encounter and deal with in a secular community, we currently only accept members who primarily identify as women. However, we often participate in and sponsor co-ed events. We welcome new members at our monthly meetup and welcome all to attend our publicized co-ed events. Please go to our events page for a list of upcoming and current events.

Please contact Amy Roth with any questions or media inquiries.

It will be amazing. Tell all your friends.

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

Another controversy sparked

Jun 22nd, 2014 5:22 pm | By

Uh oh, scandal in Saudi Arabia – a cleric said it might not be so terrible for women to skip the niqab if they felt like it. The horror! Al Arabiya is on the scene:

A Saudi preacher has sparked controversy on social media after Tweeting that Muslim women are allowed to uncover their faces and not wear the face veil known as the niqab, but that if someone wants to wear it, she is free to do so.

Sheikh Suleiman al-Torifee’s, a member of Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Saudi Arabia, based his opinion on what he said were the teachings of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad.

Scary stuff, isn’t it. Tweeters certainly thought so.

“I dare you join your wife in an outing while she uncovers her face,” said one Twitter user (@Hamood20121111). “You are seeking fame and I wish you shave your beard because you are not a man,” the tweep continued.

“If you want to apply Western customs and traditions, this is impossible and if you do, please travel and live abroad,” said @Hamood2012111, another user.

“If you enjoy looking at other Muslim women then it means something is wrong with you! And you are the one who needs advice,” commented @k_almassad.

Another user, @m_MesOo, described the preacher’s Twitter comment as “Liberals’ heresies.”

Well…maybe next century, or the one after that.

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

Fatuity and freedom

Jun 22nd, 2014 5:04 pm | By

Will we ever get out of kindergarten?

Talking Points Memo has an item from something called the Faith And Freedom Coalition Conference:

The Huffington Post’s Igor Bobic, a former TPM editor, spotted the figurines in the urinals:

View image on Twitter

Nope, I guess we never will get out of kindergarten.

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

Travel plans

Jun 22nd, 2014 12:43 pm | By

Anjem Choudary is dreaming wistfully of a better place to live than dreary old London, aka The Great Wen.

(Trivia question: who called London that? Was it

  • William Blake
  • Samuel Johnson
  • William Wordsworth
  • Anne Brontë

Deadline midnight Seattle time.)

Anjem Choudary is considering a new life in Isis-controlled Iraq or Syria – despite the region descending into a bloodbath of executions and beheadings.

The former al-­Muhajiroun leader admits he would “love to live” under the control of the terror group rather than his native Britain.

Well of course he would. He loves violence and death directed at other people, and if he went to Iraq or Syria he would get to watch lashings of it. That treat is much harder to come by in London.

Asked if he would like to live there, the 47-year-old said: “Yeah, definitely.“At the current time it is a volatile situation – there is a war taking place.

“If anyone wants to go there now they would have to be involved in that struggle.

“But if it settles down and they maintain the security for the people, provide them with their basic needs, protect their life, their health and their wealth, then of course it is somewhere I would love to live with my family and children.”Asked if Britain was about to lose him, the cleric joked: “Maybe I will come back and conquer Britain one day. I would live anywhere where they implement only the sharia.”

“Joked”? He wasn’t joking.

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


Jun 22nd, 2014 12:23 pm | By

From Wikipedia – makes me proud to be Anna Merican.


The spike started in 1980.

But the good news is, the US is now a paradise of crime-free peace and harmony.


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

The withdrawing room

Jun 22nd, 2014 11:25 am | By

It’s a play on The Lounge, geddit?

Never mind.

A derail on another thread made me think maybe we needed a place for general conversation, so that derails can be avoided while still allowing off topic discussion. I doubt it will thrive, because I don’t have PZ’s approximately 10% of the global population commenting on my blog, but I’ll give it a shot.

So – how about that Norway, huh? Got any questions about it you’ve always wanted to ask?

Or characters in Jane Austen novels?

Or pets?

Or gossip?

Travel plans?

This thing you wanted to talk about here but it didn’t seem to fit anywhere and you forgot about it?

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

Three hooded strangers

Jun 21st, 2014 5:02 pm | By

Alex considers how seriously vandalism and intimidation should be taken, especially in the case of a group that already faces intimidation.

At Patheos, JT Eberhard writes of a young British couple jailed for a year for harmlessly pranking mosque members with ‘easily removable’ bacon, whose small child will suffer in foster care while the parents ‘rot in jail’ ‘because this building and the people who own it are special’ – a ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ for what was only strictly speaking vandalism.

There’s another story about three hooded white supremacists who trespassed on private religious property to intimidate Muslims, harassed the only man inside as he tried to pray, threw objects around and desecrated the area to cause occupants distress, humiliate them and make them feel unsafe. I find this one more plausible.

Yes – I do too. Public discourse is one thing, but getting up in people’s faces is another. Disputing or mocking a religion is one thing, but putting the frighteners on people is another.

This part of Alex’s account is telling.

When Lambie’s mobile phone was examined by authorities, sent messages reveal her having bragged of ‘Going to invade a mosque, because we can go where we want.’ She and her accomplices hoped to intimidate worshippers by telling them they’d entered it unbidden – orders of magnitude more disturbing, fairly obviously, than an immature couple’s misjudged practical joke. According to the Scotsman, ‘a man who was inside the mosque praying [described by EEN as the only person in the building] . . . heard something hitting the prayer room window’, and judging by EEN‘s reference to a ‘glass partition‘, this was an interior window. Whoever threw uncooked bacon at it, which had been bought a few hours beforehand, did indeed invade the building.

The Edinburgh Reporter replicates this account but also states the man had already ‘noticed the trio at the door appearing to wave at him and (assuming they were coming in to pray) returned to his worship’. Rather than ‘hanging bacon on door knobs and tossing a few strings inside’, Lambie, Cruikshank and Stilwel – all of whom were hiding their faces under hoods – threw an object at the window of the room where they knew he was. I can’t speak for JT, but if three hooded strangers walked into my private building, found me alone and started hurling things in my direction, I’d feel attacked.

So would I.

That doesn’t mean I think the sentence was necessarily the right one; some good old community service and re-education seems more to the purpose. But the mosque invasion sounds like very overt bullying, which is not a minor thing.

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

Hey, you over there, fancy an MBE?

Jun 21st, 2014 4:18 pm | By

Oops. Bit of a slip-up, Ma’am.

A consultant surgeon who was appointed an MBE in last week’s Queen’s Birthday Honours for “services to patient safety” is a serial fraudster who has harmed patients and was struck off the medical register in 2002 for gross professional misconduct.

Lots of red faces around the Palace or Number 10 or whichever place it is that does the choosing. “I say, Clive, did we really give a gong to this frightful bounder who got himself struck off all that time ago? Time for us to bugger off to Melbourne right about now, don’t you agree?”

It appears the Cabinet Office Honours Committee, which selects candidates for the awards, was unaware of Dr Banerjee’s background. In 2000 he was involved in one of the most notorious cases of research misconduct in recent medical history. He was found guilty of falsifying a scientific paper which had been published in 1990 but was covered up for a decade.

He was awarded a degree by the University of London and made a professor by the Royal College of Surgeons based on the fraudulent research. He was later suspended from the medical register and his co-author, Professor Tim Peters, was also found guilty of serious professional misconduct for his part in the cover up.

Two years later Dr Banerjee was again found guilty of serious professional misconduct for financial dishonesty and was struck off the medical register. He had misled patients about the length of NHS waiting lists to induce them to go private and had sought payment for treatments not performed.

That…is not nice.

Peter Wilmshurst, a cardiologist at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire and a campaigner on medical research fraud, said: “Mr Banerjee did awful things and only eight years after getting back on to the medical register he is rewarded with an MBE.

“If you have got a record of misconduct going back to the late 1980s, you would have to do something very remarkable in the next eight years to deserve an award. But I have not heard of him doing anything.”

Bit of a snafu, Ma’am, if you’ll pardon the expression.

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

Let Girls Learn

Jun 21st, 2014 3:44 pm | By

The US State Department has a new program to help girls go to and stay in school.

Around the world 62 million girls are not in school. Millions more are fighting to stay there.


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

Shut up and make me a cucumber roll

Jun 21st, 2014 3:30 pm | By

Apparently in Japan the manners aren’t always as good as you might expect.

[Tokyo] City assembly member Ayaka Shiomura, 35, was talking about measures to support child raising and boost fertility during a session on Thursday when male lawmakers interrupted her with cries of “Go and get married” and “Can’t you give birth?”

She later said most of the calls came from the direction of seats where majority assembly members, including those from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, were sitting.

What’s the thinking here? That if you talk about measures to increase something it then becomes your responsibility to increase it yourself, right then and there, or face heckling? Or is it just crude “Hur hur why are you talking woman go squeeze out a baby hur hur”?

The heckling prompted a flood of complaints to the government of Japan’s capital, which will host the Summer Olympic Games in 2020.

Abe has long vowed to take steps to mobilize the working power of women to revitalize the economy and offset a big, looming labor shortage.

His economic reform plan, due out next week, calls for raising the proportion of women corporate managers to 30 percent by 2020 from last year’s 7.5 percent as well as creating 400,000 new day care places to enable women to raise children and work.

But women in Japan are often encouraged to leave their jobs after having children. Many working women face menial demands such as serving tea to male colleagues.

Or making them some sushi?

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

Slammers for cash

Jun 21st, 2014 11:52 am | By

The ACLU reports (November 2011) on the prison for profit industry.

The imprisonment of human beings at record levels is both a moral failure and an economic one — especially at a time when more and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet and when state governments confront enormous fiscal crises. This report finds, however, that mass incarceration provides a gigantic windfall for one special interest group — the private prison industry — even as current incarceration levels harm the country as a whole. While the nation’s unprecedented rate of imprisonment deprives individuals of freedom, wrests loved ones from their families, and drains the resources of governments, communities, and taxpayers, the private prison industry reaps lucrative rewards. As the public good suffers from mass incarceration, private prison companies obtain more and more government dollars, and private prison executives at the leading companies rake in enormous compensation packages, in some cases totaling millions of dollars.

Wouldn’t you think we – as a nation – could manage to figure all that out and do better? I would. Other countries do, why can’t we? Is it solely because our politics is so dependent on money for campaigns run on advertising and thus so corrupt?

The United States imprisons more people — both per capita and in absolute terms — than any other nation in the world, including Russia, China, and Iran. Over the past four decades, imprisonment in the United States has increased explosively, spurred by criminal laws that impose steep sentences and curtail the opportunity to earn probation and parole. The current incarceration rate deprives record numbers of individuals of their liberty, disproportionately affects people of color, and has at best a minimal effect on public safety. Meanwhile, the crippling cost of imprisoning increasing numbers of Americans saddles government budgets with rising debt and exacerbates the current fiscal crises confronting states across the nation.

Leading private prison companies essentially admit that their business model depends on high rates of incarceration. For example, in a 2010 Annual Report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company, stated: “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by . . . leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices . . . .”

Just as the demand for potato chips could be adversely affected by people learning to eat more sensibly, or the demand for alcohol could be adversely affected by people learning to drink more moderately, or the demand for cigarettes could be adversely affected by people deciding they don’t want bad lungs after all. So be it. We shouldn’t keep doing bad things simply because they’re profitable for a few people (or a lot of people).

Certain private prison companies employ shrewd tactics to obtain more and more government contracts to incarcerate prisoners. In February 2011, for example, a jury convicted former Luzerene County, Pennsylvania Judge Mark Ciavarella of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy in connection with payments received from a private prison developer. Tactics employed by some private prison companies, or individuals associated with the private prison industry, to gain influence or acquire more contracts or inmates include: use of questionable financial incentives; benefitting from the “revolving door” between public and private corrections; extensive lobbying; lavish campaign contributions; and efforts to control information.

So the corruption is indeed a big part of it, which I already knew. But – stop and think, citizens and legislators!



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

Frivolous interlude

Jun 21st, 2014 11:02 am | By

There’s a big apartments plus shops complex being built in the middle of the main shopping eating gathering street of my neighborhood. It’s getting the finishing touches now; a few weeks ago the decorative bits in front were installed. One such bit is Boomer.

Towne sign and puppy

Boomer is the work of Georgia Gerber. Boomer absolutely cracks me up because look.

Cooper Mag BlvdThat’s Cooper age 9 weeks. Do admit.

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

Millions for selling children into slavery

Jun 21st, 2014 8:53 am | By

Kuwait has a form of slavery, but then so does the US. A 2013 New York Times book review gives details:

In “Kids for Cash,” the investigative reporter William Ecenbarger tells the story behind a corruption scandal so brazen and cruel it defies imagination. Between 2003 and 2008, two Pennsylvania judges accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks from a private juvenile detention facility in exchange for sending children — girls and boys, some as young as 11 — to jail.

It is a harrowing tale, lucidly told by a journalist with a good eye for detail. The children’s stories continue to unsettle long after the book ends: the 13-year-old incarcerated forthrowing a piece of steak at his mother’s boyfriend; the 15-year-old for throwing a sandal at her mother; the 11-year-old for calling the police after his mother locked him out of the house; the 14-year-old for writing a satirical Myspace profile. Another 14-year-old, an A student, was sentenced for writing “Vote for Michael Jackson” on a few stop signs; she had a seizure while in detention, banging her head so hard she cracked her dental braces.

Mark Ciavarella is the judge who sent away all those children — and several thousand others — in cahoots with Judge Michael Conahan.


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

Or that makes our gathering toxic

Jun 20th, 2014 6:16 pm | By

This is almost funny, but really – it’s not, it’s disgusting. Paul Elam warning his posse not to talk violent threatening crap at their shiny conference because someone might hear them. David Futrelle at We hunted the mammoth has the story:

Well, you probably shouldn’t post a public announcement warning the raving misogynists who will be attending your conference to refrain from launching into violent anti-woman rants at the drop of a hat because someone might hear them. Because the fact that you feel it necessary to issue such a warning is kind of a giant clue that a significant number of the conference attendees are raving misogynists given to launching into anti-woman rants at the drop of a hat.

I bring this up because Paul Elam posted just such a warning on his site last night in a post that he labeled “Important Message for AVFM Conference Ticket Holders.”

[T]here will be ideological opponents to the MHRM, including some members of the media, present at the event. Some will be looking for anything they can to hurt us with. They will be listening, eavesdropping, and if they can, gathering things to harm us with.

For that reason, ANYONE sitting around trash-talking women, men, making violent statements, even jokingly, will be brought to the attention of security who will issue ONE warning (or less). After that, they will be directed by security to leave. There are no exceptions.

Please, for all here who are attending, keep this in mind with everything you do and say. Even at after-hours social events, if you hear anyone saying anything that can be used against us, or that makes our gathering toxic, pull them aside politely and say, “Hey, you are hurting us with this. If you want to hang with this group you have to stop it.”

You have to stop it because…because…because it makes us look bad, which we are, but we want to hide the fact that we are while this conference is on.

I’ve never run across this sort of warning at any other conference I’ve been to, or read about. I’m guessing that when the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery holds its annual trade show it doesn’t have to warn attendees not to bad-mouth their sworn enemies: Ear, Nose and Throat specialists. Or that the Electronic Transactions Association has to specifically forbid its convention-goers from publicly threatening to kill people who still like to pay with cash.

Maybe they do. Maybe they’re just a bit more discreet about it.

I’ve never heard that either. I’ve been to a few conferences – not many, but a few – and I’ve never been told not to sit around threatening people where someone might overhear me. It just never came up. I wonder why that is.

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

How they josh each other at Eton

Jun 20th, 2014 6:03 pm | By

Meanwhile, among Britain’s political elite…a Tory MP says publicly that he’d like to punch Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the throat to shut her up.

She was on a tv chat show with the vile (and misogynist) Rod Liddle, and she told him she loathed him.

Fabricant, who has his profile picture on Twitter as ice skater Jimmy MacElroy from Blades Of Glory, chipped in.

I could never appear on a discussion prog with @y_alibhai I would either end up with a brain haemorrhage or by punching her in the throat

He then retweeted someone who called for Alibhai-Brown to be deported.

Then later he said he was just out of the dentist and anybody who knows him will know he didn’t mean it (which is slightly irrelevant since he said it on Twitter and also he’s an MP).

Alibhai-Brown told The Huffington Post UK: “I am of course appalled that a Tory MP thinks it’s OK to fantasise aloud about wanting to beat up an Asian woman, but not surprised.

“Some years ago a Tory councillor in Birmingham called for me to be stoned to death. They can’t bear it that there are now women like me out there, not being their ayahs or selling them curries.”

Maybe Fabricant is of the Penn Jillette school of joking, and if you don’t get the humor, it’s your own damn fault and he’s a professional.

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

All 30 girls in one class

Jun 20th, 2014 5:48 pm | By

Meanwhile in Norrköping in eastern Sweden, there’s a lot of FGM going on.

Some 60 cases of genital mutilation have been discovered in Norrköping in eastern Sweden since March with all 30 girls in one school class found to have undergone the procedure.

Of the 30, some 28 of the girls were found to have been subjected to the most severe form of genital mutilation, when the clitoris and labia are completely cut away and the genital area sewn together except for a small opening.

Infibulation, in other words. What volumes that speaks of the horror of women. Why not just seal the whole thing off with a few inches of concrete? That would be fatal of course, but what the hell, at least it would be clean and pure.

Female genital mutilation has been illegal in Sweden since 1982 and can be punished with up to four years in prison. If the offence is considered to be aggravated then the penalty can be up to ten years.
Since 1999 it is also an offence under Swedish law if the procedure is performed in a different country.
When school breaks up for the summer holidays the risk of being exposed to the surgery increases for many Swedish girls due to the prospect of visits to their parents’ home countries.

But the parents love the daughters; they have them carved up out of love, right? No, not right.

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

Fugitive slaves in Kuwait

Jun 20th, 2014 5:37 pm | By

One of those times when the jaw actually drops in astonishment. Al Jazeera reports:

Kuwaiti domestic workers are being named and shamed on an Instagram (link is external) account called Mn7asha, or “runaway”.

The account description reads, “An account to display pictures of servants fleeing in Kuwait, together to put an end to this phenomenon.” The account lists a number to send photos to via the mobile messenger Whatsapp and says, “Hand in hand we can make a difference, even a small one.”

“Runaways” are “fleeing” – quite as if slavery were legal.

The Kuwait Society for Human Rights estimates(link is external) 600,000 domestic workers contribute to the country’s migrant labour force. Foreigners make up the vast majority of Kuwait’s private workforce.

As in other Gulf countries that use the kafala (link is external) (sponsorship) system, migrant workers are tied to the employer sponsoring their visas. Most cannot leave the country without their employer’s permission. Foreign workers trying to escape employers in Kuwait can face (link is external) criminal charges for “absconding”.

Kuwait is very fucked up.

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