The sacking of a library in the middle of the night

The what? Yes – and by a Labour council at that. The Kensal Rise branch library, at 2 a.m., with an army of cops.

Kensal Rise library was emptied of its books and stripped of the plaque commemorating its opening 112 years ago by Mark Twain in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Residents who for more than a year campaigned to keep the library open were alerted in the middle of the night that Brent council workers, backed up by police, were stripping the branch of books, furniture, murals painted in the 1930s and the plaque marking the opening in 1900 by Twain. The move follows the council’s failed attempt to clear the library earlier this month, when they were stopped from removing books by protesters. [Read more…]

The myriad other ways the comparison to the Taliban doesn’t fit

‘Ere we go ‘ere we go ‘ere we go – the “Taliban” thing is becoming the latest casus belli for the you know whos. I’ve got one of them right here playing musical IP addresses and calling me every name in the book. Misogyny lives!

Jason has a good post on the subject.

The repeated comparison of this harassment policy to Taliban-like laws, is entirely about the “sexualized clothing” bit. Apparently all the rest of the proposed policy is perfectly fine to these people, and anyone pushing back against the meme is just strawmanning. Never mind all the myriad other ways the comparison to the Taliban doesn’t fit — like the actual protection of women, rather than slut-shaming and stoning them to death; like allowing them autonomy and self-direction instead of subjugating them to man’s will.

And don’t forget the part about not blowing up schools!

Not ready for the flood

Paul Fidalgo did another good roundup of Stuff on Women in Secularism last week (“another” in addition to the one I linked to before that one).

He quoted Jen on the perils in talking about “commonly-showcased speakers who are also bad-actors toward women”:

Look at what happened to Rebecca Watson when she simply said “guys, don’t do that” about an anonymous conference attendee. Imagine the shitstorm if there were public accusations of sexual misconduct of some very famous speakers. I’m not ready for the flood of rape and death threats. I’m not ready to be blacklisted and have my atheist “career” ruined by people more powerful and influential than me. I’m not ready to be sued for libel or slander. I’m not ready for the SSA or other organizations I’m affiliated with to also be harmed by association. And that’s exactly how all of these other women feel – hence the silence. [Read more…]

The Take the Flour Back group did not have enough support

Another message from Sile Lane (Sense About Science):

Dear Petition Signatory,

The planned direct action against the GM wheat experiment at Rothamsted did not happen yesterday. The Take the Flour Back group did not have enough support to storm the field and the local police kept them off Rothamsted’s grounds. Last night hackers attacked Rothamsted Research’s website but it is now back online. Your support has not only helped the scientists bear up under the pressure of the last few weeks but also made the threat to their research retreat in the face of opposition. There has been lots of media coverage in the last few days, including editorials in the Observer and the Times and articles in the Telegraph and Independent (links below).

Some of you came to Rothamsted Park yesterday to tell the protest group why you didn’t want them to destroy publicly funded research. We have gathered some of the comments of support from the 6000 petition signatories as a PDF on our website at

If you would like to get general news from Sense About Science you can sign up for our newsletter here and keep up to date with the fantastic work of the researchers at Rothamsted on their website

Thank you again for your support.

Best wishes,

Síle Lane

No religious test except for this one tiny thing

When I sat next to Wafa Sultan at the dinner weekend before last, she asked me if there were any penalties for being an atheist in the US, and I told her there were two states that ban atheists from running for office. She was amazed and incredulous, and I assured her it was true; Tennessee and I think Arkansas, I added.

But I was wrong. It’s not two, it’s seven.

[Update for clarification: these are all articles of state constitutions, and (I’m told) (by Matt Dillahunty) they could never be enforced. I kind of assumed that anyway, but it’s better to spell it out.]

Matthew Bulger of American Humanists lists them.

Arkansas, Article 19, Section 1: No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.

Maryland, Article 37: That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.

Mississippi, Article 14, Section 265: No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.

North Carolina, Article 6, Section 8 The following persons shall be disqualified for office: Any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

South Carolina, Article 17, Section 4: No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.

Tennessee, Article 9, Section 2: No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.

Texas, Article 1, Section 4: No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

I love the Maryland one – no religious test except for belief in the existence of God. Oh is that all!

Via Paul Fidalgo.

Go, and report child rape no more

Good to see the Catholic church learning (however slowly) from its mistakes.

The Italian Bishop’s Conference (CIE) has issued guidelines on child  protection that inform its bishops that they are ‘not obliged to report illicit  facts’ of child abuse to the police.

In their new five page document which advised Italian Bishops on how to deal  with paedophilia they failed to focus on one of the most important and obvious  means of combating the crime – informing police authorities.

Instead the document read: “Under Italian law, the bishop, given that he  holds no public office nor is he a public servant, is not obliged to report  illicit facts of the type covered by this document to the relevant state  judicial authorities.”

Not learning from their mistakes after all, then.

The Taliban comes to Foggy Bottom

Is sexual harassment a thing? Is it just a fantasy of whack-job feminists (who of course are all way too ugly to be sexually harassed)? What about the military, for example? Lots of discipline there; probably there’s no sexual harassment in among all that discipline, right?

Well, one third of women in the military reported being sexually harassed in 2008. That seems like a thing. Maybe they were all whack-job feminists, but given the bad press feminism gets, I kind of doubt it.

The ACLU considers it a thing.

While it is estimated that over 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2010, a rate far higher than among civilians, the government has failed systematically to investigate complaints, appropriately punish perpetrators, and treat trauma and other health conditions suffered by survivors. The profound personal and social consequences that arise from the government’s systemic failures are powerfully profiled in the new film, The Invisible War. Turning a blind eye to these crimes has allowed them to continue, imperiling the lives of victims and degrading their service.

Is it Talibanesque to think that’s a bad situation?

The US State Department has a sexual harassment policy. Is that Talibanesque? Should the State Department allow sexual harassment to go on its merry way, as one of our precious freedoms that we don’t want the Taliban to destroy?

You be the judge.


I get options

I just took my temporary housemate, a black Lab named Cooper, to the beach for a good vigorous outing with the chuckit and tennis ball. We came back. I sat down at the desk, and he asked to go outside. I let him outside. He went around to the garden and then came back and sat outside the sliding screen door staring at me and making a low growly noise in his throat, as he does when he wants me to grasp that he wants something.

I got up to open the sliding screen door so that he could come in. He didn’t come in, but stood still staring up at me, with his roadkill toy* at his feet. I was supposed to join him in the garden for a game of ‘throw the toy.’ I pointed out that we had just played and I wasn’t going to play any more right now, and closed the screen door.

I sat down at the desk, he went around to the garden and then came back and sat outside the screen door staring at me and making a low growly noise in his throat. I got up, saying ‘Cooper you’re being a pest.’ I opened the sliding screen door so that he could come in. He didn’t come in, but stood still staring up at me, with his tennis ball at his feet. ‘You don’t want to play with roadkill; you want to play with ball?’

Cooper in outside the door mode

A flat plush squirrel with Xs for eyes and a tire tread across its middle

For Cooper as a puppy – [Read more…]