Notes and Comment Blog

When the cane strikes

Jan 29th, 2015 10:24 am | By

A report commissioned by Amnesty International says – entirely unsurprisingly – that further lashes to Raif Badawi would cause permanent damage. Ludovica Iaccino gives the details.

Now, a medical expert from from the charity Freedom from Torture has warned in a report commissioned by Amnesty International that more lashes are likely to cause permanent damage.

Dr Juliet Cohen, head of doctors at Freedom from Torture, explained: “When the cane strikes, the blood is forced from the tissues beneath… Damage to the small blood vessels and individual cells causes leakage of blood and tissue fluid into the skin and underlying tissue, increasing the tension in these areas.

“The more blows are inflicted on top of one another, the more chance of open wounds being caused. This is important because they are likely to be more painful and at risk of infection, which will cause further pain over a prolonged period as infection delays the wounds’ healing.”

Which is the goal, isn’t it. Cause lots and lots of pain, and do serious and cumulative damage. Do as much harm as possible, in as visible a way as possible – do it in public, in front of a crowd, right after “prayers,” in front of The Holy Building. Make very very sure that everybody within reach of this vile regime

  1. hates liberals and infidels
  2. is terrified to say anything about anything

It’s not just the skin and muscle on the back, either.

There is also the long-term damage done to the victim’s mental health caused by flogging.

“Psychologically, flogging may cause feelings of fear, anxiety, humiliation and shame. Anticipation of the next scheduled flogging is likely to cause heightened emotions especially of fear, anxiety and difficulty sleeping… pain and fear together over a prolonged period have a deeply debilitating effect and recovery from such experiences may take considerable time,” said Cohen.

And all this is not for someone who tortured a bunch of people to death. It’s not for a murderer. It’s not for a génocidaire. It’s not for a Bernie Madoff type who stole the savings of thousands of people and left them broke. It’s for a guy who said something the rulers and the clerics dislike. That’s all. That’s all this murderous sadism is about.

Speaking to IBTimes UK, director of Amnesty UK Kate Allen said: “The world should be shocked and horrified by what’s happening in Saudi Arabia.

“The flogging is going to happen as long as Badawi’s health holds up. We are campaigning worldwide, to have this flogging stopped and to have him freed from prison. Because he is a prisoner of conscience.

“We will continue to campaign and we need to make sure that the international community raises its voice.

“There is no freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, where the government uses torture and death penalty in a shocking way and human rights are not observed.”

It’s a government of murderous sadists. It’s the Kingdom of Murderous Sadists. Sadist Arabia.

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

She is a ghost buster

Jan 29th, 2015 10:00 am | By

So let’s ask an actual female ghostbuster, shall we? Is it totally weird and off the wall to remake Ghostbusters with women in the eponymous roles? Is it weird the way it would be weird to remake Lone Star with frogs playing all the parts?

Ask her. Ask Hayley Stevens. Or don’t bother to ask her, because the answer is already there on her blog.

Throughout the history of paranormal research women have often been the leading figures despite being under-represented at every step of the way.

Eleanor Sidgwick was a leading figure in the Society for Psychical Research – easily the most established organisation dedicated to paranormal research in the country, if not the globe. Sidgwick was the president of the Society from 1908 to 1909. She had a huge hand in the work that went into theCensus of Hallucinations, described by the SPR as ‘a survey on a very considerable scale which set out to establish the probability of reports of crisis apparitions being due to chance coincidence; the report on this work, prepared largely by Eleanor Sidgwick, ruled out this possibility.’

Whether you agree with the researchor not isn’t the point here. The point is that the contribution of women is not ignorable. Other female SPR presidents have included Edith Balfour Lyttelton and Deborah Delonoy who, by the way, was also the president of the Parapsychological Association.

And there’s Susan Blackmore, she goes on; there’s Caroline Watt, there are Ann Winsper, Jenny Randles, Mary Rose Barrington. They are there.

We need more women to get involved in the field though, and we need to make those are involved in the field more visible because they often go without the credit they deserve – Becky Smith is just one example. Smith conducted a sort-of 21st Century version of the Census of Hauntings and has a Ph.D on ghosts and yet gets hardly any attention. I hope this will change because at paranormal research-related conferences male speakers routinely dominate and they don’t always deserve to (I’m looking at you, Malcolm Robinson.)

Sound familiar? The availability heuristic in action. Male speakers dominate so when people organize another conference, male speakers come to mind, so they continue to dominate, so when people organize another conference, male speakers come to mind, on into infinity. No, Dr Sommers, it’s not just preferences, it’s also invisibility, it’s also what comes to mind easily, it’s not being invited once becoming not being invited ever.

I’m not an academic and probably never will be. I am a ghost geek though and although I don’t believe in ghosts I actively investigate and research alleged paranormal activity using rational inquiry and scientific scepticism. I literally bust ghosts in my spare time, looking for rational causes for weird things people experience and detecting hoaxes. I’m not the best and I’ve still got loads to learn but I do my bit.

I am a ghost buster. A female ghostbuster.

This is not as startling as it would be if a frog said the same thing.

At school we would play Ghostbusters in the playground and I would be the receptionist, Janine. I would stand in the playground and shout “Ghostbusters! We got one!” and the boys would come to the rescue.

That’s why I think it is so bizarre that a number of people are angry at the recent news that a Ghostbusters film with an all-female cast has been announced. I’ve seen a small number of people say “I grew up with male ghostbusters and I find it difficult to accept an all female cast” Yeah? I grew up with an all-male Ghostbusters too and I don’t find it difficult to accept an all-female cast so I wonder what the difference must be?

What oh what could it be?

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

Stop making it about you!

Jan 28th, 2015 5:54 pm | By


Yes, there's already a meme.

It’s about their childhoods??

How? Is the remake of Ghostbusters (with – shudder – women playing the parts formerly played by men oh god I’m frightened) going to cause the original to disappear? Every single copy, including pirated copies, just poof gone like that?

No. So how can it be about anyone’s childhood?

Nobody’s going to arrest all the men and force them to watch the new pussy-based Ghostbusters. Nobody. They can all just ignore it. They can laugh and jeer and call it a chickflick, or Cunthunters, or whatever they want to call it. They can go on remembering the Ghostbusters of their childhoods, the manly man one, the one without all the bitches.

There there. It’s all right. It will be ok.

Manboobz collected some ragey commentary. I stole the meme from him.

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

One offending page

Jan 28th, 2015 4:49 pm | By

Turkish authorities want Facebook to block pages that insult Mohammed. If it doesn’t, Turkey will take its toys and go home.

A court has threatened to cut off Facebook across Turkey if the US tech giant does not block a number of pages which it believes insult the Prophet Mohamed.

The ruling passed on Sunday was followed by a request by a prosecutor, state broadcaster TRT reported.

By Monday, Facebook had blocked one offending page in response to a valid legal request from Turkish authorities, a source told Reuters.

The court order is the latest move to crack down on material seen as offending religious sensibilities in the secular but majority Muslim nation.

Religious sensibilities could always consider growing up, you know. That would be one way to deal with the “problem.”

Earlier this month, prosecutors launched an inquiry after a newspaper reprinted parts of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, in the wake of an attack by extremist Islamic militants on its offices in Paris.

How dare a newspaper cover an event like that? What an outrage to religious sensibilities.

attempts to curb social media use are not new in Turkey. Last year, the government blocked access to Twitter after users tweeted the Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu with links to a corruption scandal, and implemented a two-month ban against YouTube on similar grounds, The Verge reported.

And in December, police arrested more than two dozen journalists and media executives in a move that the European Union condemned as an attack on the free press.

Mohammed is a poopy head. There.

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

Maybe they were there for the shopping

Jan 28th, 2015 4:12 pm | By

On the one hand there are the censors in the University of Manchester Student Union, and on the other hand there are seven scholars of religion who have offered to take 100 lashes apiece in Raif’s place.

[T]hat is the proposal which seven members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom have made to the government of Saudi Arabia, in the hope that Raif Badawi, a young Saudi blogger who has already endured 50 strokes, will be spared further suffering.

The signatories wrote in their personal capacities to the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC, about a case which has focused attention on the uniquely harsh way in which the kingdom deals with religious and philosophical dissent. In a letter dated January 20th, they noted that Saudi Arabia had participated in a vast gathering of world leaders and ordinary people in Paris, who had come together to defend free speech and protest against the terrorist attacks of the preceding days. The signatories asked how that could be reconciled with the cruel way that Mr Badawi, the founder of a liberal web forum, is being treated.

Seriously. I said that at the time. What were they even doing there, since they don’t believe in free speech as commonly understood. It was insulting. There they were, the floggers of Raif Badawi, there to soak up some of the cred of people who object to theocratic censorship – insulting. Raif did not “insult Islam” but Saudi Arabia insulted Charlie Hebdo and the people at all those protests.

To drive home their concern, they told the ambassador that each of them would be prepared to endure 100 lashes with a Saudi cane if it could bring leniency for the blogger.

The signatories are religiously diverse. They include Katrina Lantos Swett (pictured), who is chairman of the USCIRF, and also runs the Lantos Foundation, a human-rights NGO which commemorates her father Congressman Tom Lantos, who was a Holocaust survivor. There are also two prominent Catholic intellectuals, Robert George and Mary Ann Glendon, respectively associated with Princeton and Harvard; Zuhdi Jasser, who heads a groupof conservative (in the American sense) Muslims; Hannah Rosenthal, head of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation; and Eric Schwartz and Daniel Mark, both professors who are active in Jewish affairs. Although Ms Lantos Swett’s parents were Jewish, she converted to the Mormon faith.

Ms Lantos Swett said all the signatories had agreed that they would not put their names to the document unless they really were willing to undergo the penalty. Signing it had given her a “deeper sense of how terrifying it can be to stand at the mercy of a despotic government.”

This isn’t going to go away, Saud family.

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

It’s the pineapple all over again

Jan 28th, 2015 3:30 pm | By

Via the University of Manchester Free Speech and Secular Society on Twitter – here we go again.

Their flier

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There they are -

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Mais non – interdit -

Students Union told us not to display the Charlie Hebdo paper at refreshers fair at Uni of Manchester

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

What next, grilling?

Jan 28th, 2015 10:57 am | By

Wow. This is one I couldn’t have imagined if I’d tried for a week. (That’s a silly hypothetical really, because I get bored with trying after about ten seconds so I stop. But if I had tried…) Gwyneth Paltrow says women and others in possession of a uterus should steam their innards. Yes steam them. Squat over some steam and let it scour out the uterus. Jen Gunter has the story.

On today’s episode of ask the experts we pit the gynecologic advice of Gwyneth Paltrow, a consciously uncoupled actress and self-professed lifestyle expert who dabbles in vaginal health, against that of yours truly, a board certified OB/GYN who has completed a 5 year OB/GYN residency and a fellowship in infectious diseases and is an expert in vulvovaginal disorders.

Ms. Paltrow, recommends a V-steam. Her words:  “You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels. If you’re in LA, you have to do it.”

What, because LA is uniquely full of uterus-targeting microvermin? Because the smog gets all up in there and dirties everything? Because the desert is roughh on the equipment?

Jen says don’t.

Here’s why.

The vagina (and uterus and vulva for that matter) should be viewed as self-cleaning ovens. We know that douching is harmful, heck, even seminal fluid can be harmful (exposure to multiple partners without condoms is a major risk factor for imbalance of the vaginal ecosystem). The upper and lower reproductive tracts have very intricate mechanisms for regulating local health and they are very easy to mess with. It’s a delicate garden, if you will. So one needs to be thoughtful, nay conscious about what one uses in said garden.

We don’t know the effect of steam on the lower reproductive tract, but the lactobacilli strains that keep vaginas healthy are very finicky about their environment and raising the temperature with steam and whatever infrared nonsense Paltrow means is likely not beneficial and is potentially harmful. Some strains of lactobacilli are so hard to cultivate outside of this very specific vaginal environment that growing them in a lab is next to impossible. There is also the possibility that the “steam” from these plants could contain volatile substances that are harmful to lactobacilli or other aspects of the vaginal ecosystem.

Also? There’s the fact that it’s…how shall I put this…steam. Um, no?

I do wish movie and tv stars would stop using their fame to promote pseudomedical bullshit. I’m looking at you Mayim anti-vax Bialik.

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

Common goals

Jan 28th, 2015 10:07 am | By

Does the Obama administration give a shit about Raif Badawi? No. It gives a shit about “stability” in the region.

That’s stability of torture, obliteration of women, and zero freedom of inquiry and expression.

Today as in years past, Americans value their ties with Saudi leaders, working closely with them on counterterrorism and intelligence issues.

Not everything is perfect, though.

The Saudis wish US officials would push harder for Syria President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, for instance. But overall, the US and Saudi Arabia have a shared history – and common goals.

What common goals? I don’t have any common goals with Saudi Arabia.

For these reasons Mr Obama and his advisors appear to have downplayed the issue of human rights during their visit, though the subject has been in the news.

A Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, was sentenced to weekly floggings recently, charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels”. The scheduled floggings have twice been postponed.

In addition Saudi Arabia is a world leader in beheadings, according to Foreign Policy. Still these issues were not high on Mr Obama’s agenda during this trip.

By his own account he felt reluctant to press matters at this time. Talking about human rights makes some allies “uncomfortable,” he explained on CNN. “It makes them frustrated.”

That’s rather the point. We want you to make them uncomfortable so that they will stop the violation of human rights. (They could make you uncomfortable in return, by talking about the death penalty. That would be fair.)

The new king has been careful to explain what people could expect in the future.

“We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” King Salman said in a speech broadcast on state television.

Like 1000 lashes for dissent? Like barring women from public life? Those correct policies?

Yet continuity makes it harder for US officials to push for a new approach to human rights. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, for example, takes a hard line against human-rights campaigners.

Thomas Wright, director of the project on international order and strategy at the Brookings Institution, says US officials face a choice between stability in the region and pressing for change.

Both options are fraught with peril.

The close ties Americans have developed with Saudis have been forged because of a strategic necessity. “It’s not out of love for the Saudi regime,” he says.

“There’s a pretty big values gap,” he says. “But there’s a lack of alternatives for regional stability.”

Yet the strategy of cultivating a close relationship with Saudi rulers – and downplaying human rights – also carries risks.

“When human rights are ignored, it creates other problems – dissatisfaction among the local population and the rise of radicalism,” he says.

In the end, he says, US officials have to “decide which downside it wants.”

Let’s help them decide.

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

Meet at the Curzon Street entrance

Jan 28th, 2015 9:54 am | By

English PEN reminds us that it’s holding a vigil for Raif every Friday.

According to an update issued by our colleagues at Amnesty International (26 January):

‘Although Raif Badawi’s scheduled public flogging on Friday 23 January was not carried out, the prison doctor who examined Raif Badawi that morning argued he was fit to be flogged. This is in direct contradiction to the recommendation of a medical committee only two days earlier. He continues to be at risk of receiving the remaining 950 lashes.’

English PEN is in regular contact with Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who remains gravely concerned for his well-being. She is extremely grateful for PEN’s ongoing support and has urged us to keep fighting.

What can “fit to be flogged” mean other than “he will die slowly rather than quickly”?

Please join us and Index on Censorship for our third vigil this Friday, 30 January, from 9am. Activists are asked to meet at the Curzon Street entrance to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mayfair, London (note: the postal address of the Embassy is 30-32 Charles Street).

Stop the torture, you fiends.

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

What to admire

Jan 28th, 2015 9:13 am | By

The BBC says people in Saudi-family Arabia mostly don’t care about Michelle Obama’s daring to appear in public without her head bandaged.

Although some foreign media reported a big social media controversy, an Arabic hashtag that translates as “Michelle Obama with no headscarf” or “Michelle Obama immodesty” was in fact tweeted about 2,500 times – not a small number, but not overwhelming in a country with a relatively high Twitter following.

And significantly, this “backlash” was dwarfed by another tag related to the US President’s visit to the kingdom. “King Salman leaves Obama to pray” attracted more than 170,000 messages. Saudis used this slogan to show their warm admiration for new King Salman leaving during the Obamas’ visit to pray, as shown in a news report that was widely viewed on YouTube. “This is the man who left the leader of the most important country in the world to pray,” a Saudi tweeted.

Yes, because it’s just so admirable to interrupt everything five times a day to talk to someone who isn’t there.

Mind you, the phrasing is ambiguous – it could mean the dictator king left Obama alone so that Obama could pray. But that’s not a likely scenario, to put it mildly, so I’ll assume it’s the other meaning. The dictator interrupted serious business to talk to his imaginary friend. It’s not something to admire.

You know what would be something to admire? The dictator-king putting Raif Badawi on a plane bound for Montreal.

BBC Monitoring, which was tracking the criticism of Michelle Obama, said most tweeters from the Arab world using Michelle Obama with no headscarf” were making fun of the situation and of conservative Saudi regulations. Some were sharing pictures of a Michelle Obama wearing a headscarf during a trip to Malaysia in 2010, while others used the tag to call for more freedoms in the kingdom.

Far fewer voices were angry at the first lady’s uncovered head, and a huge number of tweets came from US users slamming Saudi traditions. In fact only 37% of the tweets using the “Michelle Obama with no headscarf” tag came from Saudi at all.

Nothing about what Barack Obama was wearing?

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

Insult the monotheisms

Jan 27th, 2015 5:23 pm | By

Meanwhile, in Egypt

An Egyptian court has sentenced a student to three years in jail for announcing on Facebook that he is an atheist and for insulting Islam, his lawyer said Sunday.

Karim al-Banna, a 21-year-old whose own father testified against him, was jailed by a court in the Nile Delta province of Baheira on Saturday, lawyer Ahmed Abdel Nabi told AFP.

I’m going to have to start doing more of this “insulting Islam” thing, to make up for the people who aren’t allowed to.

Abdel Nabi said his client’s father had testified against his son, charging that he “was embracing extremist ideas against Islam”.

Banna’s name had appeared in a list of known atheists in a local daily after which his neighbours harassed him, said Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher on religion and beliefs at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

When Banna went to file a complaint against them at a police station, he was accused of insulting Islam and arrested, said Ibrahim, who has been tracking Banna’s case.

Banna has been in custody since November.

Simply for being an atheist.

The authorities have stepped up measures, including organising workshops, to counter atheism.

Egypt’s constitution outlaws insults against the three recognised monotheist religions — Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

Oh yes? Well they all smell bad and are bad at sports and tell terrible jokes.

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

On the job training

Jan 27th, 2015 5:19 pm | By

King Salman is kicking off his new job with allowing a beheading to proceed.

Well, to be fair, I don’t know of Obama’s intervening in any executions either.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud has already overseen his first beheading just days after succeeding his brother, ignoring widespread claims that the case against the man was weak.

The controversial killing of Moussa al-Zahrani came shortly before President Barack Obama arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday to pay respects to the late King Abdullah.

Al-Zahrani, a teacher, was executed in the city of Jeddah. He had been convicted of sexually assaulting underage girls in a string of attacks in 2011. Al-Zahrani had maintained his innocence throughout two appeals and released a 20-minute video urging King Abdullah to intervene last year.

Yes but the king’s hands are tied – he’s only the absolute monarch of the place.

Al-Zahrani’s relatives had gone on Saudi talk shows and claimed the case against him was riddled with inconsitancies. They said several cases of assault against young girls took place while al-Zahrani was already jailed.

Amnesty International condemned news that an execution had already taken place.

Sevag Kechichian, Amnesty’s Saudi Arabia researcher, told The Independent: “It’s extremely distressing to see that the Saudi executioner has already been at work, just days after King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ascended the throne.”

He’s a workaholic, that’s what it is.

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

Blasphemous hair

Jan 27th, 2015 4:28 pm | By

Barack Obama didn’t say anything about Raif Badawi on his visit to Saud-family Arabia, but Michelle Obama gave them a slight poke in the eye by not wearing a bag over her head.

In Saudi Arabia, that’s unusual: The country is one of the few on Earth where women are expected to cover their heads, and most Saudi women wear niqabs.

Exceptions are made for foreigners, however, and Michelle – who did wear loose clothing that fully covered her arms – appears to have been one of them. In photographs from the official events, other foreign female guests are also shown not wearing headscarves.

More than 1,500 tweets using the hashtag #ميشيل_أوباما_سفور (roughly, #Michelle_Obama_immodesty) were sent Tuesday, many of which criticized the first lady. Some users pointed out that on a recent trip to Indonesia, Michelle had worn a headscarf. Why not in Saudi Arabia?

Sure enough, she did

Creepy pictures. She looks muffled up and blotted out. She looks partially erased.

…the Obamas’ trip to Saudi Arabia comes at a time of remarkable international criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, prompted largely by the flogging of blogger Raif Badawi for insulting Islam. The trip was apparently designed to be apolitical – Obama has said he was “unlikely” to discuss Badawi’s case with the new Saudi king.

But in Saudi Arabia, the simple act of not covering your head can be political, intentionally or not.

Well, I hope she intended it, but on the other hand – if I could choose one I would choose the prez talking about Raif.

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

Guest post: Oh, no one complained so far

Jan 27th, 2015 3:51 pm | By

Originally a comment by Ben Finney on Repainting the break room.

If you accept that there weren’t any complaints – and you explicitly do – what is there to excuse?

This is the same defense used by people who act completely surprised when yet another courtroom is found to have exclusive Christian symbolism in it. Oh, no one complained so far, so why would you expect anyone to have done anything about it?!

It’s bullshit for the same reason: The fact that such depictions express the attitude that some people are deserving of unequal treatment by the institution.

No complaint is needed for the institution’s management to know that this depiction expresses that attitude to anyone who comes in. They are responsible for getting rid of it, even if no-one complains.

Are the management supposed to be fucking clairvoyant or something?

They’re supposed to treat everyone equally no matter their religion, sex, ethnicity, etc. That extends to expressing that, and removing expressions that say otherwise.

This is true whether we’re talking about an expression like a Ten Commandments monument which expresses that Abrahamic-religion-followers will be treated specially well, or a huge mural expressing that women are sex objects.

We don’t need anyone to complain about the expression for the management to know this. They should show they’re part of a progressive society and remove these harmful displays before any complaint.

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

Guest post: Now that men are facing the same kinds of hard choices

Jan 27th, 2015 2:44 pm | By

Originally a comment by Jennifer Phillips on That’s why you have a wife.

Although some encouraging changes (or at least awarenesses, which are necessary precursors to changes) seem to be afoot, this is sadly just ‘the way things are’ in STEM fields. I had both of my kids in graduate school, and I was a freakish anomaly for doing so. Part of it was my unusual financial stability–I was lucky enough to have a gainfully employed partner to supplement my meager grad student stipend–but part of it was that it’s just not done. My first pregnancy was seen by at least some members of my department (and I know this because they openly told me so) as a sign that I wasn’t ‘serious about my career’, that I was just taking up space in a lab and clearly wouldn’t be doing anything meaningful with my PhD (assuming I could find time around all that icky maternal bonding to finish it, that is). My second pregnancy pretty much solidified all that. It was an isolating and occasionally humiliating condition.

I got my PhD in 2003, so one might hope that things have changed a bit since then. My current position is as a ‘second tier’, non-tenure track postdoctoral research associate, informally called a ‘super postdoc’ or ‘permadoc’. I’ve been here long enough to see several cycles of graduate students as well as more ‘top tier’ postdocs come and go. It is still quite rare for women scientists in training to have children. Slightly more common (within that slice of rarity) for postdocs vs. grad students. It’s undeniably difficult to stay on the tenure track as a trainee with kids without rock solid domestic support, to say nothing of the difficulty in achieving the heights outlined in this article once a tenure-track position is obtained.

I guess now that men are facing the same kinds of hard choices that generations of professionally minded women have dealt with, there’s a hope that the definition of how to achieve excellence and stature in a STEM field will expand somewhat. There are some rigid logical boundaries in place, however. It does take a certain number of consecutive hours to do things, e.g. Scientific discovery already moves slowly. It slows down even more when you have to leave early to take a kid to soccer practice, etc. Only a privileged few are situated to navigate these limitations and stay on the top tier. The rest of us, when faced with the option, have to choose a different path.

I don’t mean to sound like I regret having a family. I adore my children and I’m pleased with the balance between work and family that I’ve been able to strike. But I think it’s still fair to be candid that such choices are still reality. “Having it all” is a myth for many definitions of “all”. That is the bare truth of it.


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


Jan 27th, 2015 1:00 pm | By

Update: the Beeb updated this into the past tense, confirming that he did not mention Raif to his nice new friend King Salman.

The two leaders also discussed the security situation in Yemen as well as stability in the global oil market.

Mr Obama stressed the importance of human rights, US officials added, but did not raise the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

The Beeb reports on Obama’s plans for his trip to Riyadh.

US President Barack Obama is heading a large, bipartisan US delegation travelling to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah.

Large and bipartisan because Saud-family Arabia is such an important “ally,” I suppose.

He is being accompanied by prominent Republican officials, including former Secretaries of State James Baker and Condoleezza Rice.

Saudi Arabia is a key US ally in a region riven by war and rivalries.

Saudi Arabia is also a source of many wars and rivalries.

In an interview with CNN before he left India, Mr Obama suggested he would be unlikely to raise the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison last May for “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience”.

Of course he did, and of course he is, because…key US ally.

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

Free Waleed, Free Raif

Jan 27th, 2015 10:58 am | By

King’s College Cambridge, if I’m not mistaken.

Public Facebook post.

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

The doctor wanted to approve the flogging

Jan 27th, 2015 10:51 am | By

Terrible news via a public Facebook post by Ensaf Haider.

Important-Urgent: We received information that last Friday ‪#‎RaifBadawi‬ was subjected to a third medical examination to see if he was fit for a second session of lashing!

This surprising/unsettling examination came despite the conclusion of a previous medical check that was done two days earlier which recommended the stopping of any future flogging. #RaifBadawi

Strangely, the doctor conducting the examination wanted to sign the paper and approve the flogging, but due to discussions that took place and the previous medical report, he finally agreed to postpone the flogging for a further medical examination!

As a result, the intentions of the Saudi authorities are not clear and there is a possibility that the flogging of #RaifBadawi may take place again this Friday.

Keep up the pressure.

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

To help the nation

Jan 27th, 2015 10:37 am | By

Mike Huckabee wants to set us all straight about where laws come from. They don’t come from Hoboken. They don’t come from Walmart. They don’t come from Microsoft nor yet from Apple. They come from god, gee oh dee god.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said during an appearance Thursday on a Christian television show that he’s thinking about running for President to help the nation know where laws come from: God.

“We cannot survive as a republic if we do not become, once again, a God-centered nation that understands that our laws do not come from man, they come from God,” he said on the show “Life Today.”

Izzat right?

Then what went so wrong during that time when the laws of the US permitted slavery and forbade interference with slavery? Was god on a 200 year visit to another solar system, or what?

When Huckabee added that he wasn’t demanding a theocracy, host James Robison said, “We have a theocracy right now. It’s a secular theocracy.”

“That’s it!” Huckabee said, describing the current political order as “humanistic, secular, atheistic, even antagonistic toward Christian faith.”

“Secular theocracy” is an obvious oxymoron, but more to the point, I’d like to know how Huckabee thinks he can reconcile his claim about where laws come from with his claim about not demanding a theocracy.

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

That’s why you have a wife

Jan 27th, 2015 10:17 am | By

To the surprise of no one, it turns out that men who have “traditional” marriages, in which their wives take on all the domestic duties, have more time to devote to their jobs and thus rise higher up the ladder than men who share the domestic duties. Is this true also in STEM fields? Why yes, yes it is. The Washington Post explained last September.

For years, people have been puzzling over why there are so few women in science, technology, engineering and math, and why the university professors who teach the subjects are predominantly men. Is it genetics? Preference? Caregiving responsibilities? An unwelcoming environment?

Turns out, according to a new study released Thursday on men in academic science, it may have a lot to do with the boss. The majority of tenured full professors at some of the most prestigious universities in the country, who have the most power to hire and fire and set the workplace expectation of long hours, are men who have either a full-time spouse at home who handles all caregiving and home duties, or a spouse with a part-time or secondary career who takes primary responsibility for the home.

It’s a loop. They had the extra time so they got to the top so they expect their hires to be like them. Repeat.

And it’s not just women who are being squeezed out of academic science, the study concludes. It’s also men who want to be more active at home.

Naturally, because the men at the top have wives who free them up to spend all their time on the job, so they think that pattern is the best pattern.

The field remains dominated by men – more than 80 percent of the full professors in life sciences, more than 90 percent of the full professors in mathematics, statistics and physical sciences and more than 95 percent of full professors in engineering.

The study, Damaske said, showed there was potential for change, in the majority of men who wanted to take on a more active role at home as fathers. But there was also resistance to change from those in power at the institutions.

“We came to realize that it really benefits your career to have someone at home, making sacrifices for your career,” Damaske said. “The majority of men we spoke to see that. But they’re not happy about it.”

Hey I have an idea – all those men in engineering – can’t they just engineer a robot to do all the domestic duties? A childcare Roomba type deal? Paste a playpen on top of the Roombau, add a Siri to read nursery rhymes aloud, and you’re good to go?

“I never in my life made a tax return. I never in my life washed a pair of socks or cleaned a pair of shoes,” said one 67-year-old physics professor in a traditional marriage. When asked if having children is difficult to manage with being a scientist, he responded: “No, absolutely not. That’s why you have a wife.”

Unless, of course, “you” are a straight woman…but that’s just silly, because “you” never are a woman, straight or otherwise. “You” are always a man.

Men in traditional marriages rising to power faster, becoming boss and setting the tone for workplace expectations is a phenomenon seen in other fields. In a series of studies of more than 700 married men, researchers at Harvard, New York University and the University of Utah found that men in traditional marriages tended to hold positions of power in business and other organizations.

As I said: to the surprise of no one. This is well known. It’s also reinforced by the culture at every turn, even now.

That study found these bosses tended to think that workplaces with more women didn’t operate well, and more frequently denied female employees opportunities for promotion, considering them less qualified than men even when their resumes were identical. The researchers dubbed these men “resistors” to change.

Well you see it’s the design. Men need wives so that they can be more productive, and by a miraculous gift of nature, the very half of humanity that is adapted to be those wives is also maladapted to be anything else. Is that convenient or what? The very thing that makes women so well suited to doing all the childcare and floor-washing is also the thing that makes them so bad at everything else. Frabjous, isn’t it.

H/t Stacy.

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