Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.


First of all she’s a woman

Jul 13th, 2015 12:50 pm | By

Yet again I’m surprised. Some women athletes decide not to build muscle, because they’re girrrrrrrls.

The Times starts with Serena Williams, who has muscles. She plays tennis – muscles come in handy.

Williams, who will be vying for the Wimbledon title against Garbiñe Muguruza on Saturday, has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame, which packs the power and athleticism that have dominated women’s tennis for years. Her rivals could try to emulate her physique, but most of them choose not to.

Despite Williams’s success — a victory Saturday would give her 21 Grand Slam singles titles and her fourth in a row — body-image issues among female tennis players persist, compelling many players to avoid bulking up.

So…they actually decide not to work to have the extra power that would make them better at their chosen sport?

“It’s our decision to keep her as the smallest player in the top 10,” said Tomasz Wiktorowski, the coach of Agnieszka Radwanska, who is listed at 5 feet 8 and 123 pounds. “Because, first of all she’s a woman, and she wants to be a woman.”

Good god.

She would stop being a woman if she had bigger muscles?

For many, perceived ideal feminine body type can seem at odds with the best physique for tennis success. Andrea Petkovic, a German ranked 14th, said she particularly loathed seeing pictures of herself hitting two-handed backhands, when her arm muscles appear the most bulging.

“I just feel unfeminine,” she said. “I don’t know — it’s probably that I’m self-conscious about what people might say. It’s stupid, but it’s insecurities that every woman has, I think. I definitely have them and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I would love to be a confident player that is proud of her body. Women, when we grow up we’ve been judged more, our physicality is judged more, and it makes us self-conscious.”

That’s so desperately sad.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people could stop judging women that way?

The Times includes a picture of her gripping the racket with both hands, muscles bulging – I think she looks quite breathtaking.

Madison Keys, a 20-year-old American, was recently angered by a television show in which men discussed their picks for the most attractive female athletes.

“One of the guys on it was like, ‘Well, aren’t they all really masculine?’ and I kind of took it personally,” Keys said. “I was like, ‘No, I’m not, actually.’ I think it still is a little bit against kind of what society thinks that you should be doing.”

Little tiny bodies and little wispy voices – that’s what society thinks that you should be doing. It can take a running jump.

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



The self-justifying loop

Jul 13th, 2015 12:19 pm | By

I’m re-reading Mistakes Were Made, by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. That’s the one about self-serving bias aka cognitive dissonance, and all the exciting ways it plays out.

One item –

…if we have enslaved members of another group, deprived them of decent education or jobs, kept them from encroaching on our professional turfs, or denied them their human rights, then we evoke stereotypes about them to justify our actions. [p 60]

Thunk. Yes we do, don’t we. Consider racism in America. Doesn’t that just exactly describe our history?

  1. Slavery
  2. Grudging emancipation, with compensation for the slaveholders and penury for the former slaves
  3. Restoration of slavery in all but name through Jim Crow laws
  4. Segregation throughout the country, with attendant underfunded schools and infrastructure
  5. Barring from most decent jobs throughout the country

So how do we make ourselves feel Okay in the face of all that? How do we go on seeing ourselves as okay people in a pretty good country? We evoke stereotypes to justify our actions.

It’s not just that racism leads to bad treatment, it’s also that bad treatment leads to racism. It’s a horrible loop, and it’s taking us way too long to get the hell out of it.

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



To encourage people to take personal responsibility

Jul 13th, 2015 11:16 am | By

The Tories are all excited about a new way to shred the remaining social safety net. The UK could become even more like the US! Where an illness can make you homeless in an instant!

David Cameron is prepared to look at making workers pay into flexible saving accounts to fund their own sick pay or unemployment benefits, Downing Street has confirmed.

The idea was first floated by Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, who said he was “very keen” to have a debate about encouraging people to use personal accounts to save for unemployment or illness, even though it is not official government policy.

Sure. Fuck unions, fuck collective bargaining, fuck benefits, fuck pensions and socialized health care – just have everybody fund their own, because everybody has plenty of leftover money. Life is fair! Everybody is rich! We can all kick back and relax while pouring champagne over our heads.

Asked about the idea of workers saving up for their sickness and unemployment benefits, Cameron’s official spokeswoman confirmed he was prepared to consider such a model.

“I think the PM shares the work and pensions secretary’s view that we should be doing more to encourage people to take personal responsibility for how they manage their affairs,” she said.

Because people who aren’t paid very much are so irresponsible. Take teachers for instance – they don’t make very much. It’s irresponsible of them not to be bankers instead. Everybody knows bankers make lots of money! So anyone who decides to do something that pays less than that is being irresponsible. Let’s punish them.

The proposal of fortune accounts for the UK was examined in depth in a paper by the free market libertarian Adam Smith Institute thinktank in 1995, which looked at how people could go to a single private provider for an account that gave them long-term care insurance, disability cover, health insurance, savings fund management and unemployment insurance.

This paper suggested: “Many other things that we often regard as ‘welfare’ today are also insurable and will be part of the fortune account package. Cover against incapacity to work, long-term care services, and disability, will all be in the package.”

And you know what else? These will be bank accounts, so bankers will get even more pay. And since everyone will be a banker by then, because it’s irresponsible not to be, everyone will get hugely richer. Win win!

Emma Lewell-Buck, a Labour member of the Commons work and pensions committee, said it was “the latest signal that the Tories are determined to dismantle what is left of our country’s safety net”.

She added: “People don’t choose when to fall ill, and the right to sick pay guarantees people financial security if they are unlucky enough to be too ill to work. Under the scheme the Tories are proposing, that security would disappear.

“David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith can cope just fine without sick pay but, for millions of British people, it provides essential support and peace of mind. As always, it’s the most disadvantaged who are in the firing line under the Tories.”

Only because they’re so irresponsible. Responsible people take good care not to be disadvantaged.

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



Those zany Marxist libertarians

Jul 13th, 2015 10:54 am | By

Lejla Kurić did a public Facebook post on Saturday linking to a catalogue of the murdered men and boys of Srebrenica. You scroll down it and it goes on and on and on.

The third comment was from a denier.

Stephen Browne There was no genocide in Srebrenica. Noam Chomsky can prove that.

The hell he can.

Via this route, I found an article by Ed Vulliamy the day after ITN won its libel suit against Living Marxism, March 15 2000. I’m permanently fascinated by Living Marxism, because they haven’t gone away, they’ve only mutated into their own opposite (or met themselves traveling in the other direction), and they’re still covering the landscape with bullshit.

[H]istory – the history of genocide in particular – is thankfully built not upon public relations or melodrama but upon truth; if necessary, truth established by law. And history will record this: that ITN reported the truth when, in August 1992, it revealed the gulag of horrific concentration camps run by the Serbs for their Muslim and Croatian quarry in Bosnia.

The law now records that Penny Marshall and Ian Williams (and myself, for that matter) did not lie but told the truth when they exposed this crime to the world, and that the lie was that of Living Marxism and its dilettante supporters who sought, in the time-honoured traditions of revisionism, to deny those camps existed.

Of course Living Marxism was unable to offer a single witness who had been at Trnopolje, the camp they claimed to be a fake, on that putrid afternoon of August 5, 1992. Indeed, they were unable to produce any witnesses at all. Unlike any member of Living Marxism or their sympathisers, I was there with ITN’s cameras that day. We went to two camps: Omarska and Trnopolje.

Why did Living Marxism get into this fight? Was it sheer exhibitionism?

What does it take to convince people? The war ground on, the British foreign office and Living Marxism in perfect synergy over their appeasement of the Serbs while other, worse camps were revealed. The bench in The Hague issued its judgment on Trnopolje in 1997: a verdict that described the camp as infinitely worse than anything we reported – an infernal place of rape, murder and torture. Witness after witness confirmed this. The Financial Times enthusiastically re-iterated Living Marxism’s claims of a fabrication, but published a hasty and grovelling retraction when it looked at LM’s non-evidence.

And others who should have known better cheered Living Marxism on.

Hungry for controversy, a sizeable portion of London’s intelligentsia lined up to support Living Marxism. They rallied round those who had named me and others as liars in the name of free speech – so why not name them too, the great, the good and the up-and-coming? Fay Weldon, Doris Lessing, Harold Evans, Toby Young, and even a handful of contributors to this newspaper. A diverse coterie, eager to sip Living Marxism’s apparently excellent claret at the ICA, to eat their canapés and run alongside the rotten bandwagon of revisionism. But how, and why?

And why are the Living Marxism people still around and still treated as valued talking heads?

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



Butterflies and Wheels 2015-07-12 17:38:59

Jul 12th, 2015 5:38 pm | By

David Olusoga on Britain and slavery.

The history of British slavery has been buried. The thousands of British families who grew rich on the slave trade, or from the sale of slave-produced sugar, in the 17th and 18th centuries, brushed those uncomfortable chapters of their dynastic stories under the carpet. Today, across the country, heritage plaques on Georgian townhouses describe former slave traders as “West India merchants”, while slave owners are hidden behind the equally euphemistic term “West India planter”. Thousands of biographies written in celebration of notable 17th and 18th-century Britons have reduced their ownership of human beings to the footnotes, or else expunged such unpleasant details altogether. The Dictionary of National Biography has been especially culpable in this respect. Few acts of collective forgetting have been as thorough and as successful as the erasing of slavery from the Britain’s “island story”. If it was geography that made this great forgetting possible, what completed the disappearing act was our collective fixation with the one redemptive chapter in the whole story. William Wilberforce and the abolitionist crusade, first against the slave trade and then slavery itself, has become a figleaf behind which the larger, longer and darker history of slavery has been concealed.

Lots of Sir Thomas Bertrams with plantation off there across a big ocean, where we don’t have to think about it.

George Orwell once likened Britain to a wealthy family that maintains a guilty silence about the sources of its wealth. Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, had seen that conspiracy of silence at close quarters. His father, Richard W Blair, was a civil servant who oversaw the production of opium on plantations near the Indian-Nepalese border and supervised the export of that lethal crop to China. The department for which the elder Blair worked was called, unashamedly, the opium department. However, the Blair family fortune – which had been largely squandered by the time Eric was born – stemmed from their investments in plantations far from India.

The Blair name is one of thousands that appear in a collection of documents held at the National Archives in Kew that have the potential to do to Britain what the hackers of WikiLeaks and the researchers of PBS did to Affleck. The T71 files consist of 1,631 volumes of leather-bound ledgers and neatly tied bundles of letters that have lain in the archives for 180 years, for the most part unexamined. They are the records and the correspondence of the Slave Compensation Commission.

The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 formally freed 800,000 Africans who were then the legal property of Britain’s slave owners. What is less well known is that the same act contained a provision for the financial compensation of the owners of those slaves, by the British taxpayer, for the loss of their “property”. The compensation commission was the government body established to evaluate the claims of the slave owners and administer the distribution of the £20m the government had set aside to pay them off. That sum represented 40% of the total government expenditure for 1834. It is the modern equivalent of between £16bn and £17bn.

Compensation to the owners, notice. Not compensation to the slaves. Oh god no; far from it. The slaves were made to pay for the compensation – the compensation to people who had stolen their labor for generations.

The compensation of Britain’s 46,000 slave owners was the largest bailout in British history until the bailout of the banks in 2009. Not only did the slaves receive nothing, under another clause of the act they were compelled to provide 45 hours of unpaid labour each week for their former masters, for a further four years after their supposed liberation. In effect, the enslaved paid part of the bill for their own manumission.

Imagine if you kidnapped some girls and held them prisoner for years, the way Ariel Castro did…and then after ten years they escaped. Imagine the state making the kidnapped girls go on being Ariel Castro’s sex toys for another four years to “compensate” him for not being able to own them forever. It’s like that. The former slaves were owed billions, and they were never paid a dime.

The large slave owners, the men of the “West India interest”, who owned huge estates from which they drew vast fortunes, appear in the files of the commission. The man who received the most money from the state was John Gladstone, the father of Victorian prime minister William Ewart Gladstone. He was paid £106,769 in compensation for the 2,508 slaves he owned across nine plantations, the modern equivalent of about £80m. Given such an investment, it is perhaps not surprising that William Gladstone’s maiden speech in parliament was in defence of slavery.

The records show that for the 218 men and women he regarded as his property, Charles Blair, the great-grandfather of George Orwell, was paid the more modest sum of £4,442 – the modern equivalent of about £3m. There are other famous names hidden within the records. Ancestors of the novelist Graham Greene, the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott all received compensation for slaves. As did a distant ancestor of David Cameron. But what is most significant is the revelation of the smaller-scale slave owners.

There were lots of them. It was just an investment like any other.

Sometimes I just don’t like human beings very much.

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



The fox is INSIDE the hen house

Jul 12th, 2015 5:16 pm | By

Golly. That bozo Abdullah al Andalusi, who goes on The Big Question to say stomach-turning theocratic things, worked at the Inspectorate of Constabulary until someone belatedly noticed him on tv. Bit of a blunder there.

For almost two years Abdullah al Andalusi, led a double life, the Telegraph can reveal.

By night, he taught that the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) was “no different to Western armies,” said that “kaffirs,” non-Muslims, would be “punished in hell” and claimed that the British government wanted to destroy Islam.

By day, using a different name, he went to work for the same British government at the London offices of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the official regulator of all 44 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

HMIC’s staff, who number less than 150, are given privileged access to highly sensitive and classified police and intelligence information to carry out their inspections.

The inspectorate’s work includes scrutinising police forces’ counter-terrorism capabilities and top-secret plans for dealing with terror attacks.

It has also recently published reports on undercover policing and the use of informants.

HMIC admitted that Mr al Andalusi, whose real name is Mouloud Farid, had passed a security vetting check to work as a civil servant at the inspectorate.

Maybe he’s a double agent. Maybe it’s the al Andalusi part that’s fake.

He was subsequently promoted to executive grade, a management rank, placing him at the heart of the security establishment.

He was only sacked after bosses spotted him on television defending extremist Islamic positions on behalf of his organisation, the Muslim Debate Initiative, which is heavily dependent on Saudi money.

The inspectorate insisted that he did not handle classified material but former friends of Mr al Andalusi said he had done so.

Well…maybe they could burn everything and start over.

MPs have called for a full investigation into how someone with as long a record of extremism as Mr al Andalusi had survived vetting and been appointed to his post.

Under the name by which he was known to HMIC, Mouloud Farid, his links with the Muslim Debate Initiative were a matter of public record.

He was registered as a director of the organisation at Companies House, though he earlier this year changed to yet a third name, Wazir Leton Rahman, on the companies register.

“This man’s unsuitability for sensitive work should have been obvious from the start,” said Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr.

This is kind of amazing.

“There is a lack of understanding of different strains of Islam in the civil service. I will be asking why the systems designed to prevent this did not work.”

Mr al Andalusi, a prominent figure on the extremist lecture circuit, is closely associated with the extremist group Hizb ut Tahrir, which believes that voting and democracy are un-Islamic.

Yet he had a job supervising the police.

How very inept.

He said that “those who reject IS merely because IS’s school of thought is disagreeable to them should remember that Islam permits difference of opinion. To reject something as outside the fold of Islam, due to it being a different school of thought to one’s own, makes one a purveyor of disunity among Muslims.”

Hahaha yes Islam permits difference of opinion as long as everyone agrees on keeping women down.

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



Just a tiny drop

Jul 12th, 2015 4:47 pm | By

Bill Cosby gets squeally-excited about the powers of a potion that makes girls flop down and open their legs.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtZwL4c2JYA

Hellooo America. Very amusing.

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



Biblical I don’t think so

Jul 12th, 2015 4:10 pm | By

More from the “Biblical” pig at Biblical Gender Roles, this time about whether or not it’s ok for a man to insist on having sex with his wife even if she’s in pain. This guy is so full of shit…and cowardly with it, because he’s anonymous.

Question 1 – Was the husband wrong for having sex with his wife while she was pregnant and in pain?

It depends. Had he just had sex with her in the last few days? Then perhaps he should have put her need to not experience more pain and discomfort ahead of his need for sex. But if she had been in pain for weeks or a month and he finally came to her and said “Babe I need this, I promise I will make it quick” – then she should have put his need for sex above her need to not experience additional discomfort.

So there you have it. I suppose this piece of human garbage thinks that disgusting claim is “Biblical” because it’s hierarchical, and that’s all that counts. I suppose he thinks it’s “Biblical” because it boils down to saying the man gets to order “his wife” to do whatever he wants and she has to obey. I suppose he’s worked things out in his mildewed “mind” in such a way that the Bible says whatever he wants it to say for the purpose of dominating another adult human being.

Either way, the hell with the bible. What kind of piece of human scum insists on poking his wife when she doesn’t want to because it hurts? What kind of piece of human scum wants to do that? A decent human being would want first of all not to cause a spouse pain, especially via sex. (To put it in selfish terms for a moment, way to put her off the whole thing for the future, not to mention losing her trust and affection.)

Rather than hash this out again here – I have answered this entire issue from a Biblical perspective in the my article “Is a husband selfish for having sex with his wife when she is not in the mood”. But the short answer is no he is not being selfish for having sex with his wife simply because she is not in the mood. The Bible is clear that for the purposes of sex “The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” – I Corinthians 7:4.

Notice that makes it mutual. Notice that first Corinthians is actually more decent than this piece of shit Mr Biblical Gender Roles.

I saw this via Vyckie Garrison at Raw Story:

I wish I could say the teachings at “Biblical Gender Roles” are a rare and extreme interpretation of biblical manhood and womanhood in American contemporary Christian community, but while the anonymous fundamentalist writer lacks much of the subtlety and sugar coating of more established and prominent ministries, his interpretations and instruction are not misrepresentative of the “biblical” advice which married couples who seek Christian counselling for relational problems encounter on a daily basis.

It’s sickening.

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



Non-random mass murder

Jul 12th, 2015 11:55 am | By

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. The remembrance didn’t go smoothly. The Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić was chased away by protesters throwing stones.

Mr Vucic is a former radical Serb nationalist who served under Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in the late 1990s.

He is now a pro-Western politician seeking to steer Serbia into the European Union. His government managed to secure support from its ally Russia on Wednesday to veto a UN resolution calling the events in Srebrenica a genocide.

Well that would explain why the Bosnian protesters were pissed off.

It was a genocide. They were killed because they were Bosnian; that’s genocide. “Ethnic cleansing” is genocide.

Tens of thousands of people came to pay their respects to the victims of Srebrenica and show their solidarity with the people of this much-diminished town. They heard international dignitaries speak of the horror of what had occurred here and how it must never be repeated.

Then former US President Bill Clinton made a specific point of praising the courage of Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic for turning up in the face of hostility from many ethnic-Bosniaks. They are angry that while Serbia has condemned the massacre, it has never used the word genocide to describe what happened.

Serbia, meet Turkey.

On the other hand…

Mr Clinton praised Mr Vucic for being there.

However, later the Serbian leader was heckled by crowds shouting “Allahu Akbar” as he entered to lay flowers.

As some chanted “responsibility” and “genocide”, others proceeded to throw objects – reports suggested stones, water bottles and a shoe were among the items used.

Skip the “Allahu Akbar” – that’s just more sectarianism. Skip all that. Leave it alone.

Maajid Nawaz said the same thing in a comment on his public post about the anniversary.

Louis Joon Ahh so that was the event that motivated you and took you to Egypt, the outrage and the injustice to fellow Muslims, would that be a fair assessment,,,?
Like · Reply · 2 · Yesterday at 10:23am

Maajid Nawaz Yes, but I should have seen them first and foremost as fellow human beings, I tribalised it & played to the identity politics of it all. That can only lead to more & more division.
Unlike · 55 · Yesterday at 11:14am

Don’t tribalize. See the fellow human being first. Don’t see “women” or “Christians” or “Tutsis” first; just see the fellow human being first.

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



How to silence the peasants

Jul 12th, 2015 11:26 am | By

Still at it. Still muddying the waters by saying Tim Hunt was sacked by UCL, when he was never employed by UCL in the first place. Simon Heffer in the Telegraph:

How to silence Sir Tim’s bullies

Except that it didn’t “sack” him.

Also, the claim that “silly” dismissive contemptuous remarks about women are “entirely harmless” is highly debatable. (I think they’re just flat-0ut wrong, but then that’s what I think, and it’s debatable.)

UCL acted after a particularly nasty display of mob rule by denizens of Twitter, where it is too easy to vent bovine opinions first and reflect later, rather than treat these grandstanding bullies and halfwits with the contempt they merit.
No it didn’t. There hadn’t been any big Twitter uproar at that point. He’s just making it up as he goes.
When will the Government defend Sir Tim? Now he is available, why don’t they give him a great position in the world of science or higher education, and show the bullies they can’t win?

You know what I think he should do? Offer his services to do outreach to girls or young women or both, to encourage them to go into science. I think that would be great.

And this business of calling it “bullying” when underlings push back against contempt from their upperlings – that’s a very ugly business indeed.

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



What’s up, Doc?

Jul 12th, 2015 10:17 am | By

Oh good grief. Unconscious sexism – it gets in everywhere.

A BBC story about the finding of a medieval ring in Norfolk.

The ring, found by a metal detectorist in South Creake, Norfolk, dates from between 1350 and 1430.

Dr Jonathan Good, author of The Cult of St George, said the ring “attests to the popularity of St George” and may be linked to a guild devoted to the saint.

Dr Good, who is associate professor of history at Reinhardt University, in Georgia in the US, said the ring “could have have owned by a guild member. It could have been a way of them showing their dedication”.

“It is in these pre-reformation times that St George came into his own in England,” said Dr Good.

Kathleen Kennedy, an expert in medieval rings and associate professor at Penn State-Brandywine University in the US, said it was “a wonderful find for Norwich”.

She said the ring was “originally enameled, so like so much of the medieval statuary remaining to us today, what we see as one colour would have originally been brightly variegated”.

Dr Adrian Marsden, a coin expert based at Norwich Castle Museum, said: “The ring has on it St George spearing a dragon. That is unusual and interesting because St George was a very popular saint in Norwich.”

A tweet from DOCTOR Kathleen Kennedy:

Kathleen E. Kennedy ‏@TheMedievalDrK 2 hours ago
hey @BBCNews If the 2 men quoted get to be called “Dr” why don’t I? http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-norfolk-33427306 … #medievaltwitter

Was it because they couldn’t remember if it was Doctoress or Doctorette?

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



Elementary good manners by way of an introductory salutation

Jul 11th, 2015 5:54 pm | By

One from more than three years ago, March 20 2012: I get email:

I got one today from someone who has commented here a few times as nmcc or NMcC, and who commented yesterday to tell me how wrong I am about the word “cunt” and to say “Sarah Palin is a cunt.” I deleted that comment and put him – his email address showed he’s a Nigel – in moderation. The message I got this morning expressed surprise at the deletion of the comment. (It started with “Hi” – this is more significant than you might think.) I replied, brusquely,

Really? You would have thought “Sarah Palin is a cunt” was well within my commenting policy? I’ve been very explicit about that. Other things not within my commenting policy: “Al Sharpton is a nigger.” “Woody Allen is a kike.” “Salman Rushdie is a wog.”

I hope that clears things up.

——– Ophelia Benson, Editor Butterflies and Wheels ———

He replied. This is how he replied:

Dear Ms Benson,
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my email.
I must say, I don’t expect much in the way of civility from the ‘new’ atheist type, but I confess I thought elementary good manners by way of an introductory salutation might not have been beyond you. Obviously not.

In regard to my comment: This is simply a difference of opinion, though one that you have blown up into a difference of principle – or, rather, you have attempted to do so. In my opinion (I assume I’m allowed to have an opinion since we don’t live in a ‘new’ atheist world yet, and neither, thank Christ, are we ever likely to!), and as I said in my comment, the word cunt, like the word dick, and like the word asshole, are rarely, if ever, used to refer to a particular anatomical feature of a male or female. Words can take on a life of their own. Language evolves and grows and changes to the degree that words are unrecognisable from what they first meant, implied or described. The word gay, of course, is an obvious example.
I use the word cunt all the time. So do a lot of people I know. I never use it with the slightest thought of it having any connection with the female genitalia. To my knowledge, neither does anyone else.
So, in fact, you are quite simply wrong to ascribe any inference of misogyny to me or anyone I know. Indeed, your introducing the terms nigger, kike and wog,  simply shows how ludicrously – not to mention hysterically and self-righteously – wrong you are.  The simple fact is, there is NO comparison to be made with the words mentioned. All 3 of those words, as far as I’m aware, were specifically coined to refer to others in a racist and openly hateful and derogatory way. Those words refer to specific people and are used to degrade and denigrate those specific people. The word cunt is NOT used in any such way by the majority of people who use it. It most certainly is not used to denigrate or degrade women.
You have a different opinion. Good for you. Keep advocating your point of view. Perhaps you’ll change my mind on the issue.
I am unlikely to change your mind for the simple reason that you have got no qualms about DELETING my point of view, and would further, in the unlikely event of you ever being in a position to do so, have no problem in countenancing my being made to conform to your mistaken and ludicrous views through threats of censorship.
I, on the other hand, am a democrat, and would not entertain for a second the idea of shutting anyone up, let alone you.
Incidentally, have you any idea how pathetic you appear to me in your phoney concern for women’s interests?
Are you not the person who is encouraging your fellow dopey ‘new’ atheists to attend a gig at an American military base? What was it you called those state-sponsored thugs and murderers? Oh yes, ‘good people’.
Tell me, what’s worse: Using the word cunt completely bereft of any hateful connotations or intentions in regard to women, or sanctioning and applauding those who, at the behest of a religious nut, are responsible for wrecking their already impoverished lives through murdering and maiming their children and husbands?
Go ahead, tell me. You hypocritical cunt.
Yours sincerely,
Nigel McCullough

Now back to the present day…where I was curious about past interactions I’d had with Ken White of Popehat, so I googled, and the first thing I found was a post Ken did about the above post about Nigel.

He says it’s great having lots of commenters – especially the silly ones.

Today’s case in point: Ophelia Benson, who one suspects is not a strong booster of Sarah Palin, declined to publish a comment calling Ms. Palin a cunt. The commenter, one Nigel, professed disbelief that anyone would not welcome his trenchant commentary. Hilarity, as they say, ensues. Watch as Nigel works himself into a fury in reaching the conclusion that when people won’t publish “Sarah Palin is a cunt” on their blog, THAT’S FASCISM. Also, protip: if it requires 10 paragraphs to justify why you are not being a dick, you are probably being a dick.

One last thing: if you don’t want your name associated with such wankery, don’t sign your name to abusive emails containing such wankery.

There are a lot of amusing comments on that post, especially Ken’s.

I don’t know how free discourse can survive if we can’t go to a woman’s blog and argue about whether “cunt” is offensive or not without being ridiculed. That’s FASCISM.

@David Leech:

1. For someone who comes out swinging with “soviet” and “embarrassment,” you sure are a big girl’s blouse when it comes to “ad hominem.”

2.

I would be very upset if anybody I invited back to my place thought they had to censor their speech because I was very sensitive.

Here you’re just being prissy because you disagree with the tastes of others. If you enjoy the society of people who are deeply invested in calling people “cunt” and engaging in multi-paragraph wanks about how it ought not be construed as offensive, then go seek out the society of such people. But here’s the thing about the real world: we’re not obligated to invite assholes into our house. We might have to tolerate assholes at work, we might have to tolerate assholes at school, but in our private space, freedom means not having to invite them in. Ophelia things Nigel is an asshole. Plenty agree with her. You don’t have a protected right to be liked if you’re a creep.

The good old days.

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



A boring job, but somebody has to do it

Jul 11th, 2015 1:10 pm | By

Some words of wisdom from Janet Stemwedel:

Janet D. Stemwedel ‏@docfreeride 3 hours ago
Next time you think you “hear” outrage online, imagine it is being delivered in a bored voice. Pointing out racism, sexism, etc. is BORING.

But even though it’s boring, pointing out words & deeds that harm others is NECESSARY to get folks doing them to notice, care, stop doing it.

Surely it’s outrageous that folks need repeated reminders that saying & doing harmful stuff is harming people, & that harming people is bad…

But sometimes it feels like the “outrage” is coming from folks who want to be able to do & say harmful stuff w/o being called on it.

With “sometimes” defined as “all the damn time.”

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



He did say some stupid things which cannot be supported

Jul 11th, 2015 12:57 pm | By

Maybe this will persuade the ragers to shut up at last: Paul Nurse says what Tim Hunt said was not acceptable. Sarah Knapton, science editor at the Telegraph, reports.

Sir Paul Nurse, a joint-Nobel Prize winner and friend of Sir Tim, told the Telegraph the embattled professor’s “chauvinist” comments had “damaged science”.

He added that since Sir Tim stood down last month, Sir Paul has been sent hundreds of vicious letters. Some argue that the Royal Society has not gone far enough in its condemnation of the Noble Laureate, while others criticise the 350-year-old institution for not backing the beleaguered scientist.

“Some have threatened to do things to my body parts,” said Sir Paul, in a weary tone. “The discussion has become totally polarised with extreme views on both sides. I have had hundreds of letters. I had five just this morning. It doesn’t seem to be going away.”

Louise Mensch, for one, is determined not to let it go away.

Sir Paul has stayed largely silent about the matter until now. He is a close friend of Sir Tim and they shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in recognition of their work on the cell cycle which hugely advanced cancer research. He describes him as ‘a lovely man’ who he has known since 1993.

See I’ve never thought he wasn’t a lovely man. It seemed pretty clear that he is one – lots of people said so, including lots of the people who deplored his clumsy “jokes” in Seoul. Lovely men can screw up. Sexism and casual contempt for women are entrenched and pervasive, at the same time as they’re considered not ok by people who give a damn. This means that it’s pathetically easy to be both lovely and sexist.

So Paul Nurse read about Hunt’s comments with a heavy heart.

Sir Paul, 66, said the affair had been hugely damaging for science and the Royal Society.

“Tim is a lovely man and I have known him a long time,” he said. “But there is no question about it, he did say some stupid things which cannot be supported and they had to be condemned. He said he was a chauvinist and that is not acceptable.

“It is sad because since I started working as a researcher in the late 1960s there have been really significant improvements and this kind of thing tends to set things back.

“The Royal Society can come across as old fashioned because you stay a member until you die so it can seem that we’re 30 years behind the times. But half of the Council are now women and we have a lot of initiatives to improve diversity. We have a Diversity Committee and allow mothers or fathers to work half time. Most other companies don’t do that.

“So it’s frustrating when things like this happen which make the Society seem out of touch.”

I wonder if Richard Dawkins will call Paul Nurse a witch hunter.

On June 11 Sir Tim stepped down from his role on the Biological Science Awards Committee and the Royal Society issued a strong condemnation of his comments saying they had ‘no place in science.’ The statement also acknowledged that gender discrimination was still holding back too many talented scientists.

Then it went further, announcing last week that it will replace portraits and busts of some of Britain’s most renowned male scientists at its London headquarters with artworks depicting leading women.

However the furore shows no signs of diminishing, mainly because so many eminent scientists have now backed Sir Tim.

And because Louise Mensch tweets about it nonstop (literally), and she has a column in the Sun.

“The hate mail that I get is divided into those who don’t think we have done enough and we should be more extreme in our censorship of Tim, and those who think we have treated him badly,” added Sir Paul.

“These are the extremes and it is sad that this is what the discussion has become. I have had physical threats. People feel very strongly on both sides. But I think it is right that Sir Tim resigned.

“He did a really stupid thing and then went on the Today programme and made the whole thing worse. I don’t hold with people who say it has shone a light on the issue. It would have been better if it hadn’t happened. It hasn’t been good for science or the Royal Society.”

Or for women in STEM or for women generally. It’s been bad for all four.

Sir Paul, who was knighted in 1999, became President of the Royal Society in November 2010, succeeding Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal.

In addition to the Nobel Prize he has received a Royal Medal, the Copley Medal, the French Legion d’Honneur and in 2013 became the winner of the Albert Einstein World Award of Science. He holds honorary degrees at the University of Kent, Warwick and Worcester and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Sir Paul, who is from Wembley, the son of a part-time cleaner and mechanic at Heinz, claimed his interest in science emerged on his long walks to school in north west London.

Not a child of privilege then, not a product of posh prep schools and posh public schools. I wonder if that’s one reason he gets the point.

H/t Maureen

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



The foundation of your personality

Jul 11th, 2015 11:08 am | By

Want to take a goofy online quiz? Here’s one that claims to be asking What Is Your Gender Identity? Only, that’s odd, because I answered the questions as truthfully as I could (as usual with goofy quizzes, many questions offered zero replies that really fit) and I got “you are Cis-Male.” Well, no, that’s not right.*

But the questions are fatuous anyway, because they’re mostly about superficialities. To be accurate my replies to several of them would have had to be “I don’t care one way or the other.”

But then it’s understandable that the questions are fatuous, because the opening claim is fatuous squared:

Your gender is the foundation of your personality and indicates how you choose to express yourself.

No, it isn’t. That’s completely, comprehensively wrong. My gender absolutely is not the foundation of my personality, and I bristle angrily at being told it is. It’s part of it; I can accept that much; but it’s absolutely not the foundation. And thank fuck for that, because really, why would it be? Why should it be? Why does it have to matter that much? There are other foundations of personality, to put it mildly, so why should I think my gender is the one and only? Why should anyone?

I could give you a considerable list of other things that are much more foundational to my personality, but I won’t, because it would be tedious and narcissistic. But my point is basically fuck gender. Gender needs to get over itself.

*I saw the quiz via a woman friend who also got the Cis-Male result. The quiz is probably a parody…or maybe just an unconscious parody.

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



Guest post: A choice by a feminist is not necessarily a feminist choice

Jul 10th, 2015 6:22 pm | By

Originally a comment by sambarge on Only when it is nothing more than a personal choice.

When the practice of hijab becomes nothing more than a personal choice, only then may it be considered a feminist statement.

I would argue, even then, that the choice to wear a hijab would be feminist neutral. There is nothing inherently feminist in the choice to wear a hijab and its history (whatever it may develop into in the future) is rooted in oppression.

A choice by a feminist is not necessarily a feminist choice. Allow me to give a non-veiling example:

25 yrs ago, I was an under-grad, thinking about grad school and my unwieldy last name. My parents were Italian immigrants and our family name included the dreaded “gigli” combination that English speakers find almost impossible to pronounce. Tired of the mispronunciations, I looked into the cost and process of changing my name. Initially, I chose my mother’s birth name. No feminist reasons, only that it was a family name I felt an ownership to, I had cousins with that name and it was easier for Anglos to say. But the cost was prohibitive and I didn’t like the idea of a new a birth certificate, as if SamBarge had never lived. It was weird. Also, my parents were uncomfortable with me changing my name. It seemed like a rejection, which is certainly wasn’t but all the same, what would they tell their friends? I didn’t hate my birth name, I just didn’t want to lug it through my whole life. I wanted life in my Anglo country of birth to be a little easier.

While I considered my options, my then boyfriend (now spouse) and I decided to get married. Suddenly, I was offered the opportunity to change my name to a lovely Anglicized German name for the low price of $26 (the cost of a new driver’s licence). My family’s protests about me changing my name disappeared. They were thrilled that they wouldn’t have to explain to their friends why I changed my name. All their friends completely understood this sort of name change. No one wondered why, my birth certificate stayed the same. This name change was easy, peasey, lemon-squeezy. It was as if society had been set up to make this choice easy.

And, of course, society was set up to make this choice easy. And it was my choice. My spouse would never have forced me to change my name and was a little surprised when I chose to do it. I had a lot of good personal reasons to make the change but he knew that I was a feminist who didn’t view marriage as an erasure of my previous existence for a rebirth as Mrs. Husband’s Name.

So I made a choice to which I had the privilege as a heterosexual woman to access. I made that choice as a feminist but it was not a feminist choice. It was a choice that was expedient and useful to me but it was a choice that upheld a patriarchal tradition.

That point was driven home a few years later when our friends were getting married. At the reception, the groom insisted that I tell the bride to change her name after marriage. Apparently, she wanted to hold on to her easy to pronounce and spell (and frankly preferable to her new spouse’s) name. Why would I tell her to do that, I asked? Because I had done it and I was a feminist so she should do it too, was his reasoning.

And so, every act by a feminist is not necessarily a feminist act AND sometimes our actions help to keep our sisters who would choose otherwise oppressed.

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



Nothing is perfect

Jul 10th, 2015 5:47 pm | By

Dr Amy Tuteur says breastfeeding isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and trying to force it to be can be dangerous.

The scientific literature contains new and disturbing reports of infant deaths due to hypernatremic dehydration as a result of inadequate breast milk consumption, deaths from falling out of mothers’ hospital beds as a result of pressure to room-in to promote breastfeeding, and, most recently, reports of hyponatremia due to dilution of breastmilk with water. It’s only a matter of time before there are illnesses and deaths from contaminated breastmilk bought and traded on the internet.

Why are these babies dying? They’re dying because lactivists are lying, exaggerating the benefits of breastfeeding far, far beyond anything in the scientific literature. And they’re lying about non-existent “risks” of formula to the point that mothers are afraid to use it even when supplementing with formula is a matter of life and death.

Tuteur points out that to be the perfect food for infants, breastmilk has to be not just nutritionally ideal but also abundant enough and accessible enough. If it isn’t, it’s not the perfect food.

Lactivists routinely ignore critera 2 and 3, and babies die as a result. They get around the need for an adequate supply of milk with a claim that is manifestly a lie, the claim that all mothers produce enough milk. It’s pretty clear that up to 5% of mothers cannot produce enough breastmilk to fully meet a baby’s needs. That’s hardly surprising since no biological process is guaranteed to work perfectly. If established pregnancies can have a 20% miscarriage rate, and they do, it is hardly surprising that breastfeeding can have a failure rate of only a fraction of that amount.

Lactivists get around the third criterion with another lie, that every baby is capable of efficiently extracting milk from the breast. Some babies just can’t do it for anatomical reasons, because of weak muscle tone, or because they simply never get the hang of it. It is a serious problem that lactivists simply fail to address.

At the end she provides some sources:

Breastfeeding-Associated Hypernatremia: Are We Missing the Diagnosis?

The incidence of breastfeeding-associated hypernatremic dehydration among 3718 consecutive term and near-term hospitalized neonates was 1.9%, occurring for 70 infants…

Conclusion. Hypernatremic dehydration requiring hospitalization is common among breastfed neonates…

Neonatal hypernatremic dehydration associated with breast-feeding malnutrition: a retrospective survey

Hypernatraemic dehydration and breast feeding: a population study

Deaths and near deaths of healthy newborn infants while bed sharing on maternity wards

H/t Lady Mondegreen

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



Very defiant

Jul 10th, 2015 4:03 pm | By

Via Ken White at Popehat, a horrible story of a judge abusing her power over children in a bad divorce case.

Judge Lisa Gorcyca, a judge in Oakland County, Michigan, is getting quite a lot of press this week for sending three kids to juvenile detention.

Judge Gorcyca doesn’t preside in criminal court. She doesn’t rule on delinquency petitions in juvenile court. She’s a judge in the Family Division. And she sent three kids to juvenile detention — and specifically ordered them separated — because they didn’t obey her orders to cultivate a warm relationship with their estranged father.

You can read about it here, or here, or here, or here, or at Reason.

She what??

My god, who would do that?

I was in an anguished and anguishing custody mess as a teenager. I can’t begin to describe the guilt and conflict I felt. I also can’t begin to imagine what it would have been like to have a judge send me to juvie for whichever decision I made. I was fifteen; what did I know?

Consider the things Judge Gorcyca said to, and about, these children as she declared them in contempt of court:

To the 15-year-old, who didn’t want to have lunch with his father because, he said, he saw his father hit his mother:

“You’re supposed to have a high IQ, which I’m doubting right now because of the way you act,” Gorcyca said.

“You’re very defiant. You have no manners … There is no reason why you do not have a relationship with your father. Your father has never been charged with anything. Your father’s never been convicted of anything. Your father doesn’t have a personal protection order against him. Your father is well-liked and loved by the community, his co-workers, his family (and) his colleagues. You, young man, have got it wrong. I think your father is a great man who has gone through hoops for you to have a relationship with you.”

. . . .

But to the boy, the judge said: “You need to do a research program on Charlie Manson and the cult that he has … You have bought yourself living in Children’s Village, going to the bathroom in public, and maybe summer school.”

Holy shit. She said that to a kid in a custody case.

To the boy’s little sister:

A girl, 9, was asked if she would also like to apologize to her father, but she had no audible response.

“I know you’re kind of religious,” Gorcyca told the girl.

“God gave you a brain. He expects you to use it. You are not your big, defiant brother who’s living in jail. Do you want to live in jail?”

The girl said she would try to work with her father during visits, and Gorcyca told the children to go to lunch with their father.

“Let’s see, you’re going to be a teenager,” Gorcyca told the girl.

“You want to have your birthdays in Children’s Village? Do you like going to the bathroom in front of people? Is your bed soft and comfortable at home? I’ll tell you this, if you two don’t have a nice lunch with your dad and make this up to your dad, you’re going to come back here (after lunch) and I’m going to have the deputies take you to Children’s Village.”

Ken says Gorcyca isn’t a monster, she’s got a case of power-madness.

Judge Lisa Gorcyca doesn’t hate kids. She isn’t some monster who has hidden sociopathy her whole career. The evil of Lisa Gorcyca — and people like her throughout America’s justice system — isn’t of the cinematic sort. It’s banal. It’s not the evil of wanting to hurt children; it’s the evil of indifference to them. It’s not the evil of bloodthirstiness; its the evil of petulance, the evil of mediocrity given power and then thwarted.

The banal kind of evil, in other words. It sounds plausible. People just aren’t very good at thinking about the suffering of other people.

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



How did he manage it?

Jul 10th, 2015 2:33 pm | By

How do you rise? You work very hard and you get yourself noticed. Science has an account of doing that by Eleftherios P. Diamandis.

Here’s how it worked for me. I arrived at the University of Toronto in 1982 as a postdoctoral diploma candidate in clinical biochemistry. Coming from a rather poor country—Greece—was a disadvantage, so I did all I could to adapt to the new environment, fill in my knowledge gaps, and make a good impression with hard work and dedication. When I finished the diploma training in 1984, the chair of the department showed interest in finding a job for me. But I had to go back to Greece first to complete my medical degree. I finished it in 1986.

He went back to Toronto. He got a job at a biotech company, which wasn’t what he most wanted but he gave it his all.

The job was good and challenging, but it was not what I was aiming for in the long term. Meanwhile, a new chair had taken over in the department, and I set out to persuade him to hire me as an academic clinician-scientist.

I worked 16 to 17 hours a day, not just to make progress on the technology but also to publish our results in high-impact journals. How did I manage it? My wife—also a Ph.D. scientist—worked far less than I did; she took on the bulk of the domestic responsibilities. Our children spent many Saturdays and some Sundays playing in the company lobby. We made lunch in the break room microwave.

My colleagues and I managed to publish numerous papers, and I was invited repeatedly to present at national and international conferences. I was able to demonstrate, in the department’s annual report, scientific productivity comparable in quantity and quality to the full-time academics in the department. I made sure these activities were noticed.

Did you see it? It went by quickly. His wife worked far less than he did and took on the bulk of the domestic responsibilities.

Remember Agata Hop’s cartoon?

H/t Jen Phillips

 

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



Equality toons

Jul 10th, 2015 12:17 pm | By

There was a comic competition on gender equality.

UN Women together with the European Commission, the Belgian Development Cooperation, and UNRIC organized a Comic and Cartoon Competition on Gender Equality in 2015. The competition invited young European comic and cartoon artists and art students, aged 18 to 28 years, to picture their understanding of women’s rights and gender equality through cartoons and comics. The comics and cartoons had to be without words. Finalists were selected by a jury composed of professional comic artists, gender equality experts and communication experts. Below are the winners and semi-finalists!

It’s a little awkward that the first four winners are male, but oh well. (I’m assuming they judged them blind and so didn’t know who was female and who was male.)

I like the third place one, by Samuel Akinfenwa Onwusa Samuel:

Samuel Akinfenwa Onwusa Samuel was born in Zaragoza, Spain in 1987. He has been influenced by art and painting since he was a child. Samuel holds degrees in arts as well as in design and illustration from the School of Arts in Zaragoza. Since 2009, he has been serving as an illustrator for different companies in Spain. He also works as a graphic designer doing posters and corporate designs. Samuel has won a number for prizes for his posters.

Also the one by Agata Hop:

Agata was born in 1995 and is currently attending high school in Supraśl, Poland. She pursues her art through a number of projects covering illustration, comics, digital drawing and animation. She has worked at an animation studio, designed T-shirts for a dance workshop at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw, and created the logo for the Theatre Dolls and People in Bialystok.

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