Notes and Comment Blog

As a warning to others

Sep 23rd, 2015 5:52 pm | By

More beheading planned in Saudi Arabia.

A group of U.N. experts has joined rights groups in calling on Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a Shiite man convicted of crimes reportedly committed as a teenager during protests inspired by the Arab Spring.

Ali al-Nimr, the nephew of firebrand Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, faces execution by beheading and an additional rare punishment of “crucifixion,” which means publicly displaying the body after death as a warning to others, according to Saudi state media.

“Any judgment imposing the death penalty upon persons who were children at the time of the offense, and their execution, are incompatible with Saudi Arabia’s international obligations,” the U.N. group said in a statement Tuesday, invoking the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Saudi Arabia is a party.

He was 17 when he participated in some protests.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International allege that Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to judicial killings.

A report published by the group in August claims that at least 102 people were executed in Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2015 — a rate of one every two days, and a larger number than during the entire year before. The government has not commented on the report.

Of course the US is also one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to judicial killings.

Francis in a homily

Sep 23rd, 2015 5:28 pm | By

The pope went ahead and “canonized” Junipero Serra, Reuters reports.

The pope later said Mass in Spanish to about 25,000 gathered inside and outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and canonized 18th-century Spanish missionary Friar Junipero Serra. The canonization was controversial because critics say that Serra beat and imprisoned Native Americans, suppressed their cultures and facilitated the spread of diseases that heavily reduced the population.

During the first canonization on U.S. soil, Francis in a homily hailed Serra as a man who “sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it.” Some Native American activists condemned making Serra a saint, with one, Corrina Gould, saying Serra intended to wipe out the native people.

But the Catholic church, naturally, ignored them, because the Catholic church thinks it’s fine for Catholics to force their religion on other people. Their hooray-word for a person who does that is “missionary.” I don’t suppose they think of Islamic State as “missionaries.”

Just because a colleague is engulfed in smoke

Sep 23rd, 2015 5:06 pm | By

In Galileo’s Middle Finger, one of Alice Dreger’s subjects is the stitch-up of the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and the geneticist James Neel by Patrick Tierney in his book Darkness in El Dorado and then by the American Anthropological Association which held a special session at its annual meeting with an open mic at which people were invited to trash Chagnon and they obliged. Dreger found overwhelming evidence that “the leaders of the AAA had to have known early on that Tierney’s book was riddled with errors” [p 175]. She quotes an email from one of the people in charge of the stitch-up, Jane Hill, to the primatologist Sarah Hrdy, who was invited to participate but declined:

Burn this message. The book is just a piece of sleaze, that’s all there is to it (some cosmetic language will be used in the report, but we all agree on that). But I think the AAA had to do something because I really think that the future of work by anthropologists with indigenous peoples in Latin America – with a high potential to do good – was put seriously at risk by its accusations, and silence on the part of the AAA would have been interpreted as either assent or cowardice. Whether we’re doing the right thing will have to be judged by posterity. [p 177]

Wow. They knew the accusations were bullshit, but they backed and amplified them anyway, for the good of Anthropology.

Dreger gave a presentation on the whole mess to a group of evolutionary psychologists and evolutionary anthropologists. One of the things she told them sounded familiar to me:

I suggested they support one another when baseless charges were thrown about, and not assume that just because a colleague is engulfed in smoke, that he or she has actually set a fire. [p 181]

Good advice.

Female machismo

Sep 23rd, 2015 4:10 pm | By

You know how I keep saying the pope may talk a nice line about poverty and the global south and all, but what about women? Katha Pollitt says it too.

If the world consisted only of straight men, Pope Francis would be the world’s greatest voice for everything progressives believe in. He’s against inequality, racism, poverty, bigotry and, as his recent encyclical Laudato Si’ made eloquently clear, the rampant capitalism and “self-centred culture of instant gratification”—including excessive meat eating—that fuel climate change and may well destroy the planet.

Which makes a change, yes, but hello, he’s still the pope. The Catholic church is still the Catholic church, not MSF or Human Rights Watch.

I know I risk being the feminist killjoy at the vegan love feast, but the world, unlike Vatican City, is half women. It will never be healed of its economic, social, and ecological ills as long as women cannot control their fertility or the timing of their children; are married off in childhood or early adolescence; are barred from education and decent jobs; have very little socioeconomic or political power or human rights; and are basically under the control—often the violent control­­—of men.

This is one reason it’s a really bad idea to stop talking about women when we talk about abortion and contraception and reproductive rights. Women get forgotten and shoved aside and talked over and ignored enough as it is, we don’t need progressives doing that even more.

True, Pope Francis did say that Catholics needn’t breed “like rabbits,” but he waved away the need for “artificial” birth control. If only those rabbits would use natural family planning! Interestingly, he made that comment as he was leaving the Philippines, a largely Catholic country where the powerful church hierarchy has fought tooth and nail against realistic sex education and government funding of contraception. Not coincidentally, the Philippines has the highest fertility rate among the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

But the pope and his employees don’t need to worry about that, because they’re not women. It’s not their problem. It’s the problem of those other, lesser people, who don’t count the way men count.

It’s remarkable that the pope didn’t address a single sentence of his encyclical to these issues, especially since it otherwise deals so intelligently with the interconnection of so many disparate phenomena. Francis has often said that men and women have different gifts and “complementary” roles. He has spoken sweetly of motherhood and femininity and derided the movement for women’s equality as “female machismo.” Yet in Laudato Si’, the word “women” appears only in the phrase “men and women”—that is, people. Don’t women have anything special to contribute to solving climate change beyond serving their too-numerous children less fast food?

Not in the pope’s world. He lives in a world where women officially do not count and are barred from all the jobs that count. He’s lived in that world for many years. He’s been conditioned by that world for many years. The pope’s god has contempt for women.

If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament

Sep 23rd, 2015 11:14 am | By

Ok. Abortion rights. Women. Feminism. Abortion rights as part of feminism. Opposition to abortion rights as part of misogyny and sexism. All that.

I think it’s a huge political mistake to talk about abortion rights in terms of “pregnant people” and “people who can get pregnant.” I think it’s a huge political mistake to drop women from the discussion in order to be inclusive to trans men (and gender fluid people and yadda yadda). The struggle over abortion rights is the way it is because of misogyny and sexism. It would be a very different struggle, if it existed at all, if women were and always had been considered equals. For that reason, it’s a massive mistake to talk about abortion in terms of “people” instead of “women.”

I said that on Twitter and wheeeeeee the Twitter machine sprang into action.

I’m being told it doesn’t erase women to talk about pregnant people instead of women.

Well if that’s true, it doesn’t erase women to talk about human rights instead of feminism, and we can all get on with our fun hobbies instead of being feminists.

If that’s true, it’s fine to say “ALL lives matter” whenever you see something about Black Lives Matter.

People are so confused about this it’s mind-numbing.

On the new list

Sep 23rd, 2015 9:49 am | By

The Ansarullah Bangla Team has published a list of bloggers and writers it wants to murder for refusing to grovel to Islam.

The targets in the list include nine bloggers based in the UK, seven in Germany, two in the US, one in Canada and one in Sweden. Some are Bangladeshi citizens living overseas. Others are dual nationals or citizens of the western nations.

The list was issued in a statement on the internet by the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a group that has been blamed for a series of murders of bloggers and activists in Bangladesh over the last 18 months. All those killed have been prominent critics of extremist religious doctrines, especially in Islam.

We know they’re not joking and they’re not just empty threatening. They mean it, and they know how to do it. They mean it and they know how easy it is to do it.

Individuals on the new list have told the Guardian they intend to keep writing and blogging.

“Our weapon is [the] pen, and we can use it without hurting anybody. We just want to make people conscious about their rights. So that nobody can use them to fulfill bad intentions,” said Ananya Azad, a Bangladeshi blogger who has been forced into exile in Europe and is on the list.

There has been no previous indication that the ABT was targeting bloggers overseas and the list will worry security authorities in Europe and the US.

It will worry the bloggers and writers even more.

British-based bloggers of Bangladeshi origin named on the list have approached police in London and elsewhere following its publication. They say authorities have have advised them to take precautions to minimise the risk of attack.

It is unclear if the ABT has the capability to carry out their threats, but its call for action may prompt individuals to mount “lone wolf” attacks.

Don’ Of course they have the capability, because it’s easy. This isn’t high tech or complicated. All it takes is the will, and they have that. It’s easy to murder people.

Those on the list say they are aware of the dangers of their activism. “I can’t give you assurance that I can’t be hurt here also. Fundamentalists have threatened that they will come and kill me,” said blogger Azad.

“I can’t say that I am fully safe, as the fundamentalists know where I am residing. I can’t say what will happen in future, but I can give you this assurance that I will write until the end of my life.”

No one is fully safe. It’s easy to murder people.

Thank you Jonas Salk

Sep 22nd, 2015 5:40 pm | By

Via United Humanists and Bernard Hurley.

Better news

Sep 22nd, 2015 5:06 pm | By

Michael De Dora says the story about the Saudi guy’s role on a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council isn’t particularly worrying after all, and it also isn’t news.

Saudi Arabia has been one of the five members of the Consultative Group for the whole year, starting with the March 2015 session. In fact, the Saudi ambassador was chair of the Group for the June session, and the vice-chair for the March session, so it’s not red-hot news in September.

What the Consultative Group does is, it evaluates applications for independent experts (mostly called Special Rapporteurs), ranking the top three candidates for each vacant mandate and providing justification for their nominations. The President of the HRC makes the final decision, and the pres can accept or depart from the Group’s recommendation. The HRC then votes on the final candidate. You can read more about this process here.

The good news is, Michael looked through the nominated independent experts and saw no evidence that they are weaker on human rights due to Saudi involvement in the Consultative Group. One of the most recent recommendations by the group, for the position of Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, is the US-based academic Karima Bennoune. Look at her bio, or her most recent book, or her articles on Open Democracy, or this piece in the Guardian. Michael says she’s a fantastic nominee for the position.

You can find information on the March and June appointments here and here.

So that’s all good. The fox has not taken over the henhouse duty after all. I thank Michael for telling me this – all the above is straight from him, mostly in his words.

Guest post: This Ricardian Hell

Sep 22nd, 2015 4:24 pm | By

Originally a comment by Bernard Hurley on Your disease is their cash cow.

This is not industrial capitalism in the sense which Smith, Marx or Ricardo would have understood it, rather it is what Ricardo called “rent seeking.” The point is that the prices do not reflect the value of the product on a competitive free market but rather the “economic rent” you can levy in virtue of “owning” property, in this case so-called intellectual property. Ricardo warned that we may end up in a sort of neo-feudal society run by a few rentiers who own all the property, be it real estate, intellectual property or so-called financial assets. Just as the serf could only exist if he/she paid whatever tithe to the feudal lord demanded, so the ordinary person will only be able to exist by paying whatever rents the rentiers demand.

One of the problems for the left is that Marx argued that this “Ricardian Hell” as one 19th century commentator put it, is impossible because the financial sector could never become more powerful than the industrial sector. This leads to some orthodox Marxists denying that this is happening and actually supporting many neo-liberal policies, after all, if the “iron laws of history” tell you that society cannot revert to some sort of feudalism then it obviously cannot be happening.

Plus a comment on the Facebook post of Your disease is their cash cow.

Ayn Rand did not advocate a free market as it would be understood by the Classical economists Smith, Ricardo or Marx nor as understood by the neo classical economists sudh as Hayeck, Friedman or Bernanke; she just advocated naked greed whether through the market or through rent-seeking or probably through anything else. Neo-liberal theory says you should try to prevent rent-seeing in order to protect the free market. This is the rationale for ant-trust laws and for breaking up monopolies.

The problems the Western economies have are much greater than those that would be posed by a neo-liberal government that consistently followed neo-classical economic principles. The greater problem is that the FIRE (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) sector has become so powerful that it can, if politicians let it – and not many seem to want to stand up to it, control the economy. Meanwhile “free market” has just become an expression of approval/disapproval and is banded about by economic ignoramuses in the media. When something is baptised as being in accordance whith the “free market” it shuts down rational discussion of the issues.

Consider this: in the nineteenth century the USA refused to recognise European patentents because “free market.” Now it is attempting to impose, through international trade deals, its own patents on the rest of the world. Again because “free market.”


Sep 22nd, 2015 3:44 pm | By

Hahaha oh dear no it’s not nut-ella, it’s nu (noo but sharper) tella. I must have first encountered it in the UK because I’ve always pronounced it that way. Apparently Americans think the first three letters mean nut.

I didn’t know its history though.

Nutella® spread, in its earliest form, was created in the 1940s by Mr. Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company. At the time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II rationing.

So Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy (northwest), to extend the chocolate supply.

It was just to extend the chocolate. But it’s so delicious. Extend shmextend, bring on the hazelnuts.

Here’s an Italian ad for it, so you can hear how they pronounce it. Nu, not nut.

Not Duck Dynasty but C-Span

Sep 22nd, 2015 10:52 am | By

Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon says harsh things about Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins on Ahmed Mohamed…harsh, but not obviously false.

Then, full time crap-stirrer Dawkins took time out from retweeting fawning accolades from his fans on Sunday to just, know, ask some questions, posting a link to a YouTube clip from Thomas Talbot claiming Mohamed’s “a fraud” who didn’t invent or build the clock in question.

Ouch. That’s harsh. But you can’t say it’s false, can you – he does spend a lot of time stirring crap (but not full time, so you could say that claim is an exaggeration) and he does retweet fawning accolades from his fans.

But for the great kicker, Dawkins then humble bragged, “Sorry if I go a bit over the top in my passion for truth.” Well, when you put it like that, it’s not vague character assassination of a 14 year-old, it’s downright noble. Just like Gamergate is really about “ethics in gaming journalism.” You tell it like it is, Dawkins!

Yes, that one got up my nose too. “Passion for truth” ffs – via a random video by a random guy, always a reliable source for truth.

Skepticism and curiosity are vital and sadly lacking nutrients in our daily public discourse. But it’s unfortunate that an intellectual who once had the power to provoke insightful, challenging debate has in recent years turned into a sour crank, eager to leverage his brand as a prominent atheist as an excuse to go big on Islamphobia and congratulate himself on his horrendous views on sexual assault. And it’s pathetic that Maher and Dawkins are wrapping themselves up not in the rigorous quest for knowledge they claim to stand behind but their own petty prejudices and fears — and they’re basically the same baseless, dumb crap you could get from a doofus like Sarah Palin. The difference is that their schtick has its following not among the “Duck Dynasty” watchers but the C-Span ones. And even as they peddle ignorance, they have the arrogance to believe themselves incapable of it.

Harsh, definitely harsh. But true. (And we all have a passion for the truth, don’t we.) The fact that Dawkins has been citing Breitbart as a source is indeed one of the bigger carbuncles on this latest drama.

Your disease is their cash cow

Sep 22nd, 2015 10:37 am | By

If you want to feel completely nauseated at capitalism in a matter of seconds, you could do worse than to read the New York Times article by Andrew Pollack on price gouging in life-saving drugs.

It starts with the jacking up of the toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 a table to $750, which is not an isolated example.

Although some price increases have been caused by shortages, others have resulted from a business strategy of buying old neglected drugs and turning them into high-priced “specialty drugs.”

Cycloserine, a drug used to treat dangerous multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, was just increased in price to $10,800 for 30 pills from $500 after its acquisition by Rodelis Therapeutics. Scott Spencer, general manager of Rodelis, said the company needed to invest to make sure the supply of the drug remained reliable. He said the company provided the drug free to certain needy patients.

It’s not just “needy” people who can’t afford 11 grand for 30 pills. Also, commodities that are necessary for life should not be price-gouged in that way. It’s immoral. Capitalism has no truck with morality, which is why stuff like this can make you so nauseated so fast.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association sent a joint letter to Turing earlier this month calling the price increase for Daraprim “unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population” and “unsustainable for the health care system.” An organization representing the directors of state AIDS programs has also been looking into the price increase, according to doctors and patient advocates.

Daraprim, known generically as pyrimethamine, is used mainly to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasite infection that can cause serious or even life-threatening problems for babies born to women who become infected during pregnancy, and also for people with compromised immune systems, like AIDS patients and certain cancer patients.

Martin Shkreli, the founder and chief executive of Turing, said that the drug is so rarely used that the impact on the health system would be minuscule and that Turing would use the money it earns to develop better treatments for toxoplasmosis, with fewer side effects.

Pardon me if I fail to believe that.

In 2011, Mr. Shkreli started Retrophin, which also acquired old neglected drugs and sharply raised their prices. Retrophin’s board fired Mr. Shkreli a year ago. Last month, it filed a complaint in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accusing him of using Retrophin as a personal piggy bank to pay back angry investors in his hedge fund.

But hey, he totally just wants to make better versions of existing drugs. It’s his dream.

With the price now high, other companies could conceivably make generic copies, since patents have long expired. One factor that could discourage that option is that Daraprim’s distribution is now tightly controlled, making it harder for generic companies to get the samples they need for the required testing.

The switch from drugstores to controlled distribution was made in June by Impax, not by Turing. Still, controlled distribution was a strategy Mr. Shkreli talked about at his previous company as a way to thwart generics.

Nothing sleazy about that.

Greetings, Fox, here are the keys to the henhouse

Sep 21st, 2015 3:18 pm | By

Who better to head an important panel on the UN Human Rights Council than that paragon of human rights, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

UN Watch, an independent campaigning NGO, revealed [Faisal bin Hassan] Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, was elected as chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council.

As head of a five-strong group of diplomats, the influential role would give Mr Trad the power to select applicants from around the world for scores of expert roles in countries where the UN has a mandate on human rights.

Such experts are often described as the “crown jewels” of the HRC, according to UN Watch, which has obtained official UN documents, dated 17 September, confirming the appointment.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said the appointment, made in June but unreported until now, may have been a consolation prize for the Saudis after they withdrew their bid to head the 47-nation council following international condemnation of the kingdom’s human rights record.

So they withdrew their bid after (and probably because) the world was noticing how horrifically bad they are at human rights, and the UN gave them a consolation prize? In the shape of a different but still very influential position?


The Saudis’ bid emerged shortly after it posted a job advertisement for eight new executioners, to cope with what Amnesty International branded a “macabre spike” in the use of capital punishment, including beheadings, this year.

Raif Badawi could not be reached for comment.

That will be an additional $736.50

Sep 21st, 2015 2:58 pm | By

Capitalism at its worst.

A former hedge fund manager turned pharmaceutical businessman has purchased the rights to a 62-year-old drug used for treating life-threatening parasitic infections and raised the price overnight from $13.50 per tablet to $750.

Next up: fire departments start charging $100,000 for every house fire they respond to.

Daraprim is used for treating toxoplasmosis — an opportunistic parasitic infection that can cause serious or even life-threatening problems in babies and for people with compromised immune systems like AIDS patients and certain cancer patients — that sold for slightly over $1 a tablet several years ago.  Prices have increased as the rights to the drug have been passed from one pharmaceutical company to the next, but nothing like the almost 5,500 percent increase since Shkreli acquired it.

People just need to cure their own toxoplasmosis like responsible adults instead of relying on pharmaceutical investors not to charge extortionate prices.

World Future Forum 2015

Sep 21st, 2015 12:04 pm | By

Something Dawkins said reminded me of the Secular Policy Institute’s upcoming event, that I blogged about last June. It’s this fall, isn’t it, I thought – I wonder what events and speakers they’ve lined up, I thought. The program was rather thin when I blogged about it, you may remember, with only two people named, Laurence Krauss and Gregory Copley. It did have a day of events though, even though it was unclear who would be doing the talking:

9:00-10:30 am – Future of Earth’s Climate (Ballroom)
How will global warming affect life as we know it? Will climate interventions become commonplace mechanisms to save our planet?

10:30-10:45 am – Break

10:45-12:15 pm – Future of Violence and Terrorism (Ballroom)
How will violence reconfigure earth’s geopolitical borders, boundaries, and relationships? Is civilization heading in the direction of greater or lesser violence over the history of its evolution?

12:15-3:30 pm – Future of Space Exploration
Will humans colonize other planets? Will space travel become commonplace? Will time travel become possible?

3:30 – 4:00 pm – Conclusion

7-9 pm – World Future Forum Conversations & Considerations – The George Washington University Lisner Auditorium
The world’s foremost experts convene to talk about the future of everything. This event is ticketed separately and not included in conference registration.

Ok not so much a day of events as a day of questions, but anyway. I was curious about the added speakers so I looked it up. The page now looks different. There are no scheduled events listed, there’s not even a date or location. Gone are Krauss and Copley, gone is the Phoenix Park hotel, gone is the October 25-26. All that’s left is a description.

World Future Forum

The Secular Policy Institute convenes some of the world’s most prestigious scholars and scientists to develop and disseminate compelling resources to influence the world’s decision makers. Open to policymakers and the public alike, this inaugural World Future Forum provides an unparalleled opportunity for an informed discussion of authoritative perspectives on the critical issues facing contemporary societies across the globe.

Panel Topics Under Current Consideration

  • Future of Earth’s Climate
  • Future of Violence and Terrorism – Michael Semple
  • Future of Religion
  • Future of Humanity
  • Future of Space Travel
  • Future of the Multiverse
  • Future of Space Exploration
  • Future of Morality
  • Future of World Security
  • Future of World Economies
  • Future of World Resources
  • Future of Life Expectancy
  • Future of Transportation
  • Future of World Health
  • Future of Technology

Speakers and Experts

Secular Policy Institute will present speakers who are distinguished scientists and scholars, and who are dedicated to policymaking informed by the most current, accurate information available. Through proactive education and ongoing collaboration, SPI Fellows and Experts offer leverage to their allies and lobby for political and societal change around the world.

So…what happened?

“Send this genius an invitation to the White House”

Sep 21st, 2015 10:40 am | By

It’s still going on, and getting worse – Dawkins calling Ahmed Mohamed, age 14, a “fraud” on Twitter, and complaining that he was invited to the White House and MIT, and defending the use of Breitbart as a source. He’s trending on Facebook. Multiple news outlets are reporting on his Twitter bullying.

One example of that bullying:

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 3 hours ago
Cool invention.
Send this genius an invitation to the White House.
Brilliant short film, says it all.

This is a senior scientist, a best-selling author, famous and loaded with awards – being sarcastic about the genius of a boy of 14, a brown immigrant boy in Texas.

It’s not a good look.

An hour later:

Huge numbers, including me, + the White House, were taken for gullible fools & police were fooled in a nastier way.

How were we taken for gullible fools? I don’t recall anyone claiming Ahmed had made some sort of extraordinary invention. I assumed it was tinkering, of the kind that boys of 14 do, that’s a sign of interest in tinkering and maybe the principles that guide it. I didn’t assume he was doing real engineering at his age. The fuss wasn’t because he was taken to be a genius, it was because his school treated him badly.

Dawkins is energetically setting fire to his own reputation today.

Possibly wanted to be arrested?

Sep 20th, 2015 5:10 pm | By

Dawkins’s display of irritation with Ahmed Mohamed was even worse than I realized, because I missed one tweet. (Or maybe more than one.) I find this one really horrible.

Someone asked what he thought Ahmed’s motives were.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins
@HarryStopes I don’t know. Possibly wanted to be arrested? Police played into his hands? Anyway, now invited to White House, crowdfunded etc

That’s so hateful. It’s reminiscent of the way a bunch of obnoxious people claimed Rebecca Watson said “guys, don’t do that” as part of a cunning plan to become famous and harassed on the internet…only it’s even more so because Ahmed is fourteen years old.

It’s Paul Vale at the Huffington Post who reported on that tweet.

Maureen tells me there are stories in tomorrow’s Guardian and Independent, too.

Which is true?

Sep 20th, 2015 1:54 pm | By

Oh honestly.

I saw this on Twitter but didn’t feel like doing another seen-on-Twitter post, so I’m grateful to the Evening Harold for doing a parody.

Eminent scientist turned huffy, proselytizing sideshow, Richard Dawkins, has had his motives for taking to Twitter to heap shit on a fourteen year old boy questioned, with many believing that he knew exactly what he was doing and that it was a pre-meditated attack carried out purely for attention.

“Assembling a Twitter rant is fine. Making it look like it was done as part of some great crusade for truth, and isn’t a famous 74 year old man picking on a boy is not fine. Which is true?” said the first villager we found in the Squirrel Lickers, Phil Evans.

Wait, what, you’re thinking – he didn’t, did he? Yes, he did. He did it repeatedly. He defended it.

What’s his objection? That Ahmed Mohamed called his clock an invention when he may have simply disassembled and reassembled an existing clock.

Yes really.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 12 hours ago
Assembling clock from bought components is fine. Taking clock out of its case to make it look as if he built it is not fine. Which is true?

Why do you ask?

All there is to it

Sep 20th, 2015 12:50 pm | By

Nick Cohen has extensive and complicated experience of the purity-sniffing Left. He’s done with it.

The one prophesy I can make with certainty amid today’s chaos is that many on the left will head for the right. When they arrive, they will be greeted with bogus explanations for their ‘betrayal’.

Conservatives will talk as if there is a right-wing gene which, like male-pattern baldness, manifests itself with age. The US leftist-turned-neocon Irving Kristol set the pattern for the pattern-baldness theory of politics when he opined that a conservative is a liberal who has been ‘mugged by reality’. He did not understand that the effects of reality’s many muggings are never predictable, or that facts of life are not always, as Margaret Thatcher claimed, conservative. If they were, we would still have feudalism.

The standard explanation from left-wingers is equally self-serving. Turncoats are like prostitutes, they say, who sell their virtue for money. They are pure; those who disagree with them are corrupt; and that is all there is to it.

Let me emphasize that last point.

They are pure; those who disagree with them are corrupt; and that is all there is to it.

Just a bit of fun

Sep 19th, 2015 5:45 pm | By

Charlotte Proudman reports on the harassment she’s getting, and why she’s not apologizing.

Why all the fuss? Should women not be grateful that they’re being complimented on their looks by strangers, particularly by powerful, senior men? Let me be clear: the compliments I receive from friends or family, and those I choose to give, are a private matter. I do not welcome unsolicited remarks about my body from someone I don’t know and who, in a professional context, is in a position of authority over me. Sexist comments are part of the process that seals and cements women’s subordinate position to men in the workplace.

Yet many professional women believe that because of their relative disempowerment they simply have to tolerate such intrusive and oppressive behaviour. After all, it is just casual, everyday sexism – just a bit of “fun”. Properly understood, however, it constitutes social policing, gender control, and – in its darker manifestations – a hidden form of social violence. We have to fully recognise this fact and take it seriously before we can change it.

The right wing media trashed her, and inspired extra levels of harassment and abuse.

But it’s necessary to fight back.

A woman messaged me to say that a man in a senior position at her work made sexist comments about her physical appearance. When she informed her boss, she was told not to take it seriously. Other women are contacting me to ask how they can call out sexism without fear of recrimination.

I can’t sugar-coat this. I would never want any woman to face what I have endured in challenging sexism. But if we genuinely want to eradicate everyday sexism at work, we need a zero-tolerance policy. And I encourage women and men to support one another in identifying and challenging sexism in all professional contexts. We will only get the equality we fight for. It will not come easily, and it will not be painless. But if we are to value and respect women in the workplace, that fight is ahead of us.

We’ve only been trying for fifty years or so.