Archive for the ‘Science, rationalism and irrationalism’ Category

by Daphna Whitmore

fallon

Fallon Fox

Fallon Fox became a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter in 2013 and won her first fight in two minutes and the next fight in 39 seconds. A few days later Fox came out as a trans woman after being contacted by a reporter who told her “I know”. Fox had kept her trans status a secret from her trainer and her opponents. She stated it was a private medical matter and that the women she was competing against did not need to know.

Fox went on to win several more professional fights, beating Tamikka Brents in a TKO in two-and-a-half minutes. Brents was concussed, with a smashed eye socket and needed seven staples to the head. Brents described the fight:

I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right… I still disagree with Fox fighting. Any other job or career I say have a go at it, but when it comes to a combat sport I think it just isn’t fair.”

There are gender and weight classes in sports to ensure fairness and to reduce the risks. So where does that leave trans women in sports competitions? (more…)

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Dave Hansford, Protecting Paradise: 1080 and the fight to save New Zealand’s wildlife, Potton & Burton, 2016, 250pp, $34.99; reviewed by Don Franks

Along New Zealand roadsides, especially on the South Island’s west coast, are hammered hand painted signs. “1080 poisons our water”, “Kea killed in 1080 drop”, “1080 kills everything”.

The  accused 1080 is an organic salt, sodium monofluoraetate. First developed as a rodent killer during World War II by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1080 has since been in wide use for vertebrate pest control. The substance is spread in New Zealand today by the Department of Conservation (DOC), aimed at killing rodents preying on native plants and animals.

Some opponents claim 1080 does  (more…)

Eirígí banner: “No freedom without the freedom of women; Cat Inglis is on right

In 2015 the south of Ireland became the first state in which the people voted for gay marriage.  In a referendum in May that year a decisive majority voted in favour of the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The next big battle for social progress was inevitably going to be abortion, as the reactionaries had got in early, securing a victory in a 1983 referendum that added a ban on abortion to the constitution of the state (the 8th amendment).

On Friday this week (Irish time), voters in the south will go to the polls to vote on whether to repeal the 8th amendment,

Recently Philip Ferguson of Redline interviewed Cat Inglis, a long-time left-wing activist and a member of the socialist-republican organisation Éirígí about the issues.

Philip Ferguson: Could you tell us a bit about the role of religion, especially the Catholic Church as an institution, in the life of southern Irish society and in terms of the state, public services etc?

Cat Inglis:  Since the inception of the state the church has had a firm grip on many aspects of Irish life, schools are still run mainly by the diocese and are mostly catholic although in recent years there has been an upsurge in educate together style model among others.  Until about 20 years ago hospitals were run by sisters from various orders.  Overall there was a large religous presence in daily life; in recent years it has been greatly reduced.

PF: How did the 8th amendment come about and what was its practical, legal effect?

CI: Abortion was already (more…)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the partial liberalisation of anti-gay laws in Britain.  The reform applied to England and Wales, but not Scotalnd or the part of Ireland still incorporated in the ‘United Kingdom’ – nor to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.  The reform also did not extend to the armed forces or the merchant navy.  In the article below, a longtime British marxist and former activist in the gay liberation movement looks at the significance of the law change – then and now.  

by Mike McNair

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act homosexuality between consenting adult males in private was no longer an offence. ‘Adult’ was defined as someone over the age of 21; and ‘in private’ was subsequently defined by the judiciary: homosexual acts were only permitted in private property and there had to be only two people present. In a public place like a hotel it would still be an offence. Given the limits of the 1967 act, I did not expect anything like the scale of celebration there has been around its 50th anniversary.

In addition we have had a brief rush of publicity around a group of LGBT anarchists forming a fighting unit alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria against Islamic State. Rather startlingly, the Daily Mail on July 25 ran the headline, “These faggots kill fascists” – a photo showed them raising the rainbow flag in Raqqa.1

This story of a very small group of volunteers has been all over the mainstream media. There has been, I think, a valid argument, presented on Al Jazeera by a Syrian-Palestinian woman activist, that this group was in substance holding up the flag in favour of the general frame of western intervention in Syria, rather than having any realistic expectation that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will display strong and persistent solidarity with lesbian and gay rights.2

But the coverage demonstrates that this summer’s celebration of gay rights is very broad. The story is that our modern liberal society has liberated lesbians and gay men from the chains of medieval oppression. Alongside this celebration, LGBT issues, just like women’s issues, have been made into an instrument for the justification of dropping bombs on foreign countries.

In this context it is worth looking a little bit further at what has been celebrated: the 1967 Act, what followed it and what went before it. As I have said, it decriminalised homosexual conduct between consenting males over the age of 21. Even though the ‘age of majority’ was reduced to 18 in 1969, as far as homosexual acts were concerned, it remained at 21 until 2000.3

The 1967 Act had an interesting consequence, in that it initially led to a substantial increase in prosecutions! Roy Walmsley, a member of the Home Office Research Unit, reported in 1978 that offences for ‘indecency between males’ recorded by the police had doubled since 1967, and the number of persons prosecuted trebled between 1967 and 1971. Most of the additional prosecutions involved two males 21 or over, so it was not primarily about consent, but about the ‘in public’ issue. In 1978 there were wide variations between police areas in respect of this.4

This is by no means the only instance of law reform leading to an increase in prosecutions. The same was true of the reforms of street prostitution (introduced under the Street Offences Act 1959), of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, and of the 1967 Abortion Act. Nearer to the core of criminal law, it was also true of the various offences under the Theft Act 1968. The replacement of laws which are understood to be ancient, unfair, technical and difficult to understand by new legislation incentivises the police to prosecute – and makes it easier for them to do so. And it makes it easier for magistrates and juries to convict.

I might add that the ‘gross indecency’ offence, which had previously been triable by jury, became, as a result of the Act, triable before magistrates. That increased the number of prosecutions, as magistrates have always been more willing to convict than juries.

Resistance

This is not the whole story, however. There has also been a good deal of judicial and prosecutorial resistance to (more…)

by Daniel Lopez

In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, who had for years passed as black, was exposed as having Caucasian parents. She was accused of blackface and epitomising white privilege. Unsurprisingly, she was ruined.

In a recent autobiography, she defined herself as “transracial”. The feminist journal Hypatia then ran an article by Rebecca Tuvel, which defended her. Also unsurprisingly, Tuvel was attacked viciously. More than 500 signatories demanded that her article be rescinded and condemned. Yet, something different happened. As a New York Times op-ed by Roger Brubaker noted, many voices spoke out in defence of Tuvel’s article; it was not retracted after all.

The point isn’t to defend Dolezal or the idea of transracialism. Rather, this debate is a sign of changing times. While the millennial left’s preoccupation with identity has not disappeared, the moralistic fire has grown dimmer.

Moralising culture

This moralising culture was built on what Brubaker called “epistemological insiderism”. That is the view that only the bearer of an identity is entitled to speak about that identity. To question this was considered tantamount to silencing oppressed voices and erasing history. So, too, micro-aggressions and misuse of language were identified with actual violence.

In a self-righteous race to the (more…)

freedom-quotes-53982-statusmind-com

The following article first appeared in issue #6 of revolution magazine, May-June 1998.  Although nearly 20 years old, the article – which is actually based on talks given between 1995-97 – unfortunately remains highly relevant.

by Philip Ferguson

Over the last few years the term ‘political correctness’ has started to enter the vocabulary here.  Originating with a layer of liberals and leftists in the United States, politically correct practices and outlooks have gained a hold among elements of the professional classes in New Zealand.  The Anna Penn case in 1993, in which a trainee nurse was expelled from the nursing course at Christchurch Polytech for allegedly being “culturally unsafe”, and several cases in other nursing schools and social work courses, have garnered widespread media coverage.

In many ways, political correctness is stronger in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world.  It has become an important industry, with lucrative financial rewards, for a host of touchy-feely middle class liberals.  We have a range of counsellors now operating in most spheres of human problems, along with various consultancy agencies and individuals doing very nicely for themselves advising establishment institutions on how to be “culturally sensitive” to the people upon whose oppression these institutions depend.

In a real sense, political correctness in New Zealand has become the new (more…)