Notes and Comment Blog

Displacement behavior

Aug 8th, 2013 12:24 pm | By

I’ve been wondering how the Antis would respond, if at all. I couldn’t think of any way to do it – I have a terrible deficiency of imagination that way. I never can figure out how people are going to defend assholitude ahead of time, then when they do it it all seems so obvious. Stupid, banal, completely wrongheaded…but obvious.

A quick survey of Twitter shows some of how it’s going to go now. The vocabulary to be deployed includes

  • Drama
  • Blog hits
  • Due process
  • Slander
  • Lawsuits

There is complete silence about Carrie Poppy. Carrie Who? Never heard of her.

I also haven’t seen any response to Sasha Pixlee’s account of his encounter with DJ Grothe.

I actually first met DJ Grothe about a year before at Dragon*Con in 2010. I had admired his work on Point of Inquiry and when he became president of the JREF I thought it would be a great thing. When I got a chance to meet him that year I was excited. We encountered one another at a Skepchick party (one that had to be moved to the lobby because of noise complaints as soon as it started). He was drunk, but it was a social occasion and I’d had a couple cocktails as well. No big deal. I was fairly surprised though, when DJ turned to me and said that the reason everyone loved the Skepchicks was because they “want pussy”.

Sums it all up, doesn’t it. Ignore the substance of what a group of women does, and reduce all the women in the group to their genitalia, while reducing any possible reason for paying attention to them to the desire to put your penis (note that DJ’s “everybody” omits some people) into said genitalia. Remember what Carrie said?

The list of problems that I sent to the board was so long that my pasting it here would be comical at best, but it is relevant to note that although I didn’t list it, Mr. Grothe’s prejudice toward women was one undeniable factor. My predecessor, Sadie Crabtree, had warned me about D.J.’s misogyny and disrespect for women coworkers (she even advised me not to take the position, due to this issue), but I thought myself strong enough to endure it. I underestimated the degree to which such constant mistreatment can beat a person down. As I mentioned, I only lasted six months.

The two accounts are consistent with each other. That’s an issue. Misogyny is an issue. There are a lot of people who want to pretend it isn’t, but it is. If atheists and skeptics want a big, powerful movement, then misogyny is an issue. Blathering about “drama” and “blog hits” does absolutely nothing to change that fact.

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

The things people dream up!

Aug 8th, 2013 10:01 am | By

A comment by Jadehawk on PZ’s post containing Carrie Poppy’s account of why she quit the JREF cites a post I did on the subject last November. The subject matter was pretty funny then, and it looks even funnier now, so I’m reposting it.

November 26, 2012

Anyone else reckon?

Now that’s really funny. The things people dream up!

Anyone else reckon @CarriePoppyYES resigned from #JREF because of the abuse from #FTBullies?


What abuse? And if there were any abuse, why would it prompt Carrie to resign from JREF? It would be like resigning from your job at NASA because someone tailgated you on the Evergreen Point bridge. It would be like quitting a job at The Mayo Clinic because the counter person got your order mixed up at an Albuquerque McDonalds. It would be random, dude.

It’s like the #FTBullies hijacking all over again. Let’s just blame #FTBullies for everything – the weather, food we don’t like, bad movies, traffic, Rush Limbaugh, everything.

Also – seriously – Carrie hasn’t had any “abuse” from Freethought bloggers. Really.


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

To cleanse the palate

Aug 7th, 2013 4:20 pm | By

You can look at some anti-suffragette cartoons from the early 20th century, courtesy of Therese Oneill at The Week.

One of the most notable things about the arguments put forth by the anti-suffragette movement was how weak its position was. Anti-suffragette arguments relied heavily on emotional manipulation and downright hateful nastiness. Humor was a much-used weapon against suffragettes. They were easy to depict as embittered old maids, brutal scolds, and cigar-smoking transvestites.

(20th Century London)

Yep. You have your graceful pretty women who don’t want no stinkin voice and then you have your ugly gawky women running around messing everything up. Pretty obvious which one is the right choice, isn’t it!

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

The lid is well and truly off

Aug 7th, 2013 3:33 pm | By

Holy shit.

Now Carrie’s gone public. Carrie Poppy, former head of communications for JREF.

I knew about most of what she says. I knew about it while people were trashing me, photoshopping me, calling me names, threatening me, lying about me – partly for being a big meany to DJ Grothe.

Carrie was still at JREF when I got the two bizarre emails and decided not to speak at TAM after all. She was there when DJ replied to my email about this by blaming me for blogging about his nasty comments about women who object to harassment. She knew what a crock of shit that was but she couldn’t tell me so – not until later, not until she quit.

Some of what she said on PZ’s blog:

Most of these details have to do with my former employer, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). I left the JREF in November 2012, after only six months there. I quit in protest of a number of ethical issues; foremost was what I perceived as the president, D.J. Grothe’s constant duplicity, dishonesty, and manipulation. I did not believe he had the best interests of the organization or community he “served” at heart. This was difficult for me, as Mr. Grothe and I had been friends prior to my joining the staff. Yet, it was very clear by the time I left that my continuing to work there was being complicit in unethical behavior, including the kind of behavior of which Dr. Stollznow is now on the receiving end. I have not spoken very publicly about my experience at the JREF, for various personal reasons, but one of them was cowardice. I simply didn’t want to have to defend myself, relive the six months of misery I’d already endured, or be branded as on one “side” or another of an ongoing debate. I simply wanted to move on. But as Dr. Stollznow’s story, and others, came to light, I knew I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. Dr. Stollznow’s experience is too much like so many women’s in skepticism.

Then she details his dealings with Karen Stollznow. They are not good dealings.

In my time at the JREF, I witnessed continuous unethical behavior, much of which I reported to the Board of Directors. I was assured on more than one occasion by James Randi that D.J. Grothe would be fired (I hear Randi denies this now, though he repeatedly promised it to another staff member as well, and that staff member and I represented the entirety of JREF full-time staff other than D.J. and his husband, Thomas), but after several months of waiting and being asked to wait, it became clear that D.J. was not going to be fired. The list of problems that I sent to the board was so long that my pasting it here would be comical at best, but it is relevant to note that although I didn’t list it, Mr. Grothe’s prejudice toward women was one undeniable factor. My predecessor, Sadie Crabtree, had warned me about D.J.’s misogyny and disrespect for women coworkers (she even advised me not to take the position, due to this issue), but I thought myself strong enough to endure it. I underestimated the degree to which such constant mistreatment can beat a person down. As I mentioned, I only lasted six months.

The final straw, for me, was that Mr. Grothe attempted to remove me as a speaker from the Women in Secularism 2 conference, going above my head (and Melody Hensley’s head) to her male boss, Ron Lindsay, and telling him that it would be bad for the JREF’s image if I attended a “feminist conference.” In defending his actions to me, D.J. told me he didn’t trust me to handle the event, saying I would be asked if he was a sexist (an unanswerable question in his mind, apparently) and that I might break down in tears crying about my own sexual assault, if the issue of rape arose. I was given no credit for the fact that I am a professional spokesperson with almost a decade of experience, that I have a successful skeptical podcast, am a published author, and that my personal assault experience makes my opinions on assault more relevant, not less. To him, I was a hysterical woman, nothing more.

So now you know.

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


Aug 7th, 2013 12:01 pm | By

Too much incoming today.

Rebecca on Ben Radford Accused of Sexual Harassment.

I’ve heard of several other “big name” skeptics who loudly argue online against any and all anti-harassment measures who are known for actually sexually harassing women in the meatspace. I’m hesitant to name them for legal reasons, because none have ever sexually harassed me personally and the women who told me about them haven’t gone on record. I’m very glad that Radford’s name was leaked, because it’s extraordinarily important that women know who to watch out for and for conference organizers to know who they’re putting on stage.

If you’ve been seriously harassed by a member of the skeptic/atheist community, I hope that you consider publicizing the name.


There’s a post at Jezebel.Amanda Marcotte has a post at Slate.

Most mainstream media stories about women in the growing skeptic/secularist/science education movement (the boundaries between the three are pretty porous), it’s usually with articles and videos asking, “where are all the women?” But people within these circles know that there are actually a lot of female leaders, and the real woman problem is sexual harassment.

As Rebecca Watson, a major writer and speaker on the skeptic/atheist circuit wrote in Slate last year, the amount of sexual harassment aimed at women over even the tiniest suggestions of how to make the movement more female-friendly is absolutely stunning. Watson herself has been subject to two years of non-stop online harassment because she made a video where she casually suggested that cornering women in elevators in the middle of the night is not best practices for making them feel safe. When the Center for Inquiry, a major free thought organization, held a conference titled Women in Secularism (full disclosure: I was a speaker at this conference), angry anti-feminists in the movement deluged the Twitter hashtag for the conference with so much misogynist garbage that it became unreadable.

And that experience was repeated, though I think with less intensity, at the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference six week later.

This sort of thing isn’t just a problem because women deserve better than this, though that alone is reason enough for leaders in the skeptic community to do more to combat sexual harassment within their ranks. This is also a problem because this movement, despite what the haters may think, needs women. Feminism and secularism are tightly entwined movements, as they share a common foe: the religious right. To deny the importance of feminism means ignoring some of the biggest fights to defend science and religious freedom, such as the battle over reproductive rights. Additionally, this kind of tolerance for sexual harassment undermines larger efforts to get more women into the sciences. Interest in skepticism and science education is a gateway for a lot of women into careers in science, but if that gateway is littered with trolls shouting sexual abuse at you, a lot of women are understandably going to turn away. (Though maybe the humanities could benefit.)

Unfortunately that’s exactly what some people want – to drive most women away.

CFI issued a rather cryptic statement.

On Twitter we’re being told that “we are sexual beings” and that flirtation out of nowhere is fine.

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

Talking about it

Aug 7th, 2013 9:53 am | By

So I did this yesterday – a live discussion thing at the Huffington Post, with Rebecca and Sikivu. It was about the atheism-women issue.

It was an interesting day to have such a discussion.


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

Is that Bugs Bunny?

Aug 6th, 2013 5:33 pm | By

Good old politics – it’s not a sport for sissies! And it’s even less a sport for the politically correct, amirite?

A Republican PAC had this funny idea…

A Republican Super PAC has put out a new online “game” where they ask their supporters to virtually slap Hillary Clinton across the face.

The Super PAC is known as The Hillary Project and is an anti-Hillary Clinton group that lists Christopher Marston–a Republican campaign consultant and a former member of the Bush administration–as its treasurer.

Geddit? Funny, right? It’s like that so so funny game where people could beat the shit out of Anita Sarkeesian. Gaming isn’t for the politically correct either. Nor is philosophy, or scifi, or skepticism…

Violence against women is not a joke.

It’s disgusting, it’s outrageous and–regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum–it has no place in our politics. Can you sign the petition demanding The Hillary Project pull down this game and apologize for advocating violence against women? 

Sign the petition.

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

600 lashes

Aug 6th, 2013 3:40 pm | By

There’s the liberal Saudi blogger sentenced to 7 years in prison and 600 lashes for “insulting Islam” and being liberal and disobeying his daddy and god knows what other horseshit. The usual Saudi horseshit.

The Criminal Court found Raif Badawi, the founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, guilty of insulting Islam through his website and in comments he made on television, and added three months to his term for “parental disobedience.”

The charges against Badawi were based solely on his peaceful exercise of his right to free expression, Human Rights Watch said. Badawi established his online platform in 2008, to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia.

Well, Saudi Arabia’s attitude to that is that it merits 7 years in prison and being lashed to death. (Do they do the 600 lashes at the end of the sentence, so that they get both thrills?)

[Badawi’s lawyer Waleed] Abu al-Khair said that the judge sentenced Badawi to five years in prison for insulting Islam and violating provisions of Saudi Arabia’s 2007 anti-cybercrime law through his liberal website, affirming that liberalism is akin to unbelief. The judge ordered the closure of the website and added two years to Badawi’s sentence for insulting both Islam and Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or religious police, in comments during television interviews.

Insulting Islam, liberalism, unbelief, insulting Islam again, insulting the religious police – all things he should be given a reward for doing.

On March 18, 2012, the well-known cleric Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Barrak issued a religious ruling declaring Badawi an “unbeliever… and apostate who must be tried and sentenced according to what his words require.” Al-Barrak claimed that Badawi had said “that Muslims, Jews, Christians, and atheists are all equal,” and that even if these were not Badawi’s own opinions but “an account of the words of others, this is not allowed unless accompanied by a repudiation” of such words.

Because any fule kno that Muslims are better than all those other listed people (as well as Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, agnostics, pagans, Wiccans, Scientologists, and people who read Harry Potter books). And that refusal to say so is a terrible crime.

Reporters Without Borders has condemned this dog’s breakfast of a prosecution and sentence.



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

Holy holy

Aug 6th, 2013 2:52 pm | By

Time for a laugh, again. Via American Atheists on Facebook.

Photo: :)</p>
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Join us at<br />
Support our mission at<br />
Tweet to us at

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

“Maybe you misread him?”

Aug 6th, 2013 11:30 am | By

Update: Ok I knew this when I wrote the post but I refrained from saying so (for the time being), but PZ posted about it a little before I did and he got a ton of emails all saying is it ___? and saying the same name. The guy in this account is Ben Radford.


Oh gosh, sexual harassment again. Again? Yes, again. (Also, still.)

Karen Stollznow reports on hers at the SciAm blog.

“I was sexually harassed for four years,” I admitted to  a colleague recently. “That’s awful!” he bellowed in outrage and  genuine concern, before he promptly changed the subject. Sexual harassment  is an uncomfortable topic to discuss with colleagues, especially when you’re the victim.

Well sure. You might start talking about a buddy of theirs.

Sometimes we don’t even know how to identify sexual  harassment because its methods are changing. Today, sexual harassment  is not always as bold, brazen and blatant as the boss who slaps his  secretary’s ass. It doesn’t have to involve leering or groping. It happens in a virtual work environment as much as it happens around the water cooler. More people are telecommuting although physical distance doesn’t prevent staff from being targeted by a harasser. Harassment from afar can include sending unwanted communication of a sexual nature, including emails, texts, instant messages, mail, tweets, phone calls, images, Facebook “pokes”, and stalking on networking sites.

Yes. Yes it can.

Confronted with these stereotypes and influenced by  the various forces of social conditioning, we often don’t know how  to react to sexual harassment anymore. Here are some of the attitudes  and opinions expressed to me, both directly and indirectly, when I began speaking out about my situation.

When they didn’t know the details, some people reacted with  concern that was tempered with cautiousness. “Could you be overreacting?”  or “Maybe you misread him?” There was suspicion over the delay in  reporting the incidents, “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”  and, “Why did you continue to work with him for so long?” Not observing  the harassment was a cause for doubt. “I couldn’t tell there was  anything wrong!” Some were prejudiced by their positive personal experiences  with the harasser, “I know him. He’s a good guy. He wouldn’t do  that!” My claims were also dismissed with the old adage that boys will  be boys. “It’s a guy thing,” and, “That’s just how men behave.”  One man offered a backhanded compliment, “Hey, what guy wouldn’t be interested in you!?”

So what you’re saying is, people haven’t learned anything over the past thirty or forty years.

As often happens in these situations, the blame is  shifted to the victim. Like the woman in The Drew Carey Show, the victim  may be labeled a prude or “uptight”. She lacks a sense of humor.  She’s crazy. She may be portrayed as a troublemaker by the accused  and his supporters. To undermine her claims, she might be branded a  serial complainer, where sexism and sexual harassment are often confused,  “You know, she’s accused other men of sexism before.” The case  may be demonized as a witch-hunt, and become a cautionary tale told  by those who fear that they too could be branded a “harasser” over  the slightest comment or glance. “Watch out, or she’ll accuse you  too!” I was held up to scrutiny in this way too. According to gossip  about me, I gave him mixed-signals, I led him on, I’m flirtatious,  and I’m a dirty little slut.

Demonized as a witch-hunt? Surely no one would go that far!

Alternatively, both the accused and accuser are blamed  for the situation. Those who didn’t know the extent of the harassment  reacted as though we simply don’t play well together in the sandbox.  “Why don’t you two just get over it and move on!” The matter was  misconstrued as a lover’s tiff, or that we were a couple in an on again, off again relationship. Others didn’t have time for my problems,  “I have my own worries.” One person was surprised that I confided  in him, saying, “It’s none of my business.” A number of people  commiserated but then moaned, “I’m sick of talking about sexual  harassment!”

Some were sympathetic, but from a safe distance. They  chose to stay out of it, because they “hate drama.” I didn’t ask  to become involved in a real-life soap either. I feel stigmatized by those who feel too awkward to face the situation, or me. I had a mutual friend who barely contacts me anymore, as he is unable to take a “side”.

All familiar.

From late 2009 onwards I made repeated requests for his personal  communication to cease but these were ignored. He began manipulating the boundaries by contacting me on the pretext of it being work-related.  Then came the quid pro quo harassment. He would find opportunities for  me within the company and recommend me to television producers, but  only if I was nicer to him. One day the company offered me an honorary  position that I’d worked hard for, but he warned me that he had the power to thwart that offer. I threatened to complain to his employer,  but he bragged that another woman had accused him of sexual harassment  previously and her complaints were ignored. According to him, she had been declared “batshit crazy”.

Uh huh. Aren’t they always.

Sometimes an organization under-reacts to the claims.  This was my experience. Following “Elevatorgate”, the company introduced  a “zero tolerance policy for hostile and harassing conduct”. When  I approached them with my accusations they appeared to be compassionate  initially. I spent many hours explaining my story over the phone and  days submitting evidence. Then they hired an attorney to collect the  facts and I had to repeat the process. I provided access to my email  account. I also devoted two days to face-to-face discussions about my  ordeal. This “fact collector” also collected a lot of hearsay from  my harasser, about how I’m a slut and “batshit crazy”. This tactic  of the accused is so common it’s known as the “nut and slut” strategy.  I soon learned that the attorney was there to protect them, not me.

Five months after I lodged my complaint I received  a letter that was riddled with legalese but acknowledged the guilt of  this individual. They had found evidence of “inappropriate communications”  and “inappropriate” conduct at conferences. However, they greatly  reduced the severity of my claims. When I asked for clarification and  a copy of the report they treated me like a nuisance. In response to  my unanswered phone calls they sent a second letter that refused to  allow me to view the report because they couldn’t release it to “the  public”. They assured me they were disciplining the harasser but this  turned out to be a mere slap on the wrist. He was suspended, while he  was on vacation overseas. They offered no apology, that would be an  admission of guilt, but they thanked me for bringing this serious matter  to their attention. Then they asked me to not discuss this with anyone.  This confidentiality served me at first; I wanted to retain my dignity  and remain professional. Then I realized that they are trying to silence  me, and this silence only keeps up appearances for them and protects  the harasser.

The situation has disadvantaged me greatly. I have  lost a project I once worked on, I have had to disclose highly personal  information to colleagues, and I don’t think that I’ll be offered  work anymore from this company. Perhaps that’s for the best considering  the way they have treated me. I have since discovered that this company  has a history of sexual harassment claims. They also have a track record  of disciplining these harassers lightly, and then closing ranks like  good ol’ boys. Another colleague assured me this was better than their  previous custom of simply ignoring claims of sexual harassment.

Maybe in a century or so companies will do better than this…if they’re not all under water by then.


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

I love how

Aug 5th, 2013 6:04 pm | By

Meta meta meta. Discussion of discussion of discussion.

Discussion of discussion of Tim Farley’s post on oolon’s block bot.


The stupid burns, says Travis Roy. Tim Farley comments:

I love how the follow-on blogs are all entirely focused on one section, about 10% of the 4,300 word post. Principle of Charity? What’s a principle of charity?

That’s annoying. That’s very annoying.

There is no rule that says you’re not allowed to disagree with one part of an essay or blog post. That rule does not exist. Now if an essay or blog post is one argument and nothing else, such that it’s not possible to address only a part of it, then fine. But that was far from the case with Farley’s post. The part about the list of credentialed people who, in his view, should not be on the block bot list, is separable from the rest of the post, which is much more technical. And people have told Farley that – I’ve told him that, and I’ve seen other people tell him that. It’s not hard to figure out, in any case. The principle of charity has nothing to do with not disputing one part of a long piece of writing unless you address all of it.

He could have used the time he spent complaining that people were focusing on part of the post, to reply to what people said about that part of the post, instead of just repeating that people were focusing on part of the post. I don’t know what the name of that principle is, but it’s a good one.

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

When talking to a woman, be sure to add gratuitous insults

Aug 5th, 2013 12:52 pm | By

That seems to be the policy of Willis Eschenbach, who wrote An Open Letter to Dr. Marcia McNutt, new Editor-In-Chief, Science Magazine. He found a picture of her, too, which confirmed that she is indeed a woman, just as her name would suggest.

Eschenbach’s open letter is about the tragic decline of Science mag due to its move from science to advocacy, specifically on climate change. Nothing to do with the fact that McNutt is a woman, one would think, yet Eschenbach drags that in anyway, for the sake of gratuitously insulting and patronizing her, as if that really were written down in a real book of rules.

He patronizes her from the outset, patronizingly congratulating her and including the picture of her for no apparent reason. Then later he gets down to the real thing.

With a new Editor-In-Chief, I’ve been hoping that might all be in the past. Unfortunately, after taking over at the helm, you’ve chosen to reveal your … umm … well, let me describe it as your newness to the concept of “scientific journal editor” by following in the foolishly activist footsteps of your immediate predecessors. I’d hoped you might be smarter than they were, and indeed you might still show yourself to be. But to jump into the middle of the climate debate and stake out a position for Science magazine? Why? That’s suicide for the magazine. Science magazine should never have an editorial stance on the science it is discussing and overseeing. Leave that to Mother Jones magazine, or to National Geographic, or Popular Science. Your magazine taking a strong activist position on climate science is just evidence that you have abandoned all pretense of being concerned with climate science itself. When the science is strong it doesn’t need defenders … and if the Editor-In-Chief of Science feels it’s necessary to defend some part of science, that simply proves that the “science” involved must be of the weakest.

And regarding you personally taking a position? Well, that’s interesting. The problem is that you are extremely well educated, strong, strikingly good looking, and a wickedly-smart woman by all accounts … and while those are all good things, that’s a scary combination. One downside of that particular melange is that as a result, it’s very possible that people, particularly men, haven’t told you the unvarnished truth in years. So some of what I have to say may be a surprise to you.

Persuasive? You be the judge.

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

Guest post: Very Naturopathy

Aug 5th, 2013 11:29 am | By

A guest post by SpokesGay.

Socializing as a liberal in Vermont is sometimes difficult, and for non-obvious reasons. Last night was a potluck at Neighbor’s house. About 20 people. The kitchen was, as usual, filled with people eating and drinking, the table overflowing with food. Crowded and convivial.

“Mommy” is one of the social circle. She has two children and a third on the way in about a month. She believes the physical travails of pregnancy—including her difficulty having an orgasm with Daddy in her third trimester—make up the most compelling cocktail chatter. “Maybe that’s the secret to not having another late baby,” she mused in a recliner with a can of sparkling water infused with 100% all-natural essential berry-ness. “If I can orgasm enough in the last few months maybe that will get things moving.”

Most of her maladies, you see, are due to how long it took her to figure out Western Medicine didn’t Know Everything. Here are some excerpts from her conversation with neighbor’s housemate:

Mommy: “I can’t believe I just tried coconut oil—it’s so much better for my rash. Sure, the hydrocortisone makes it go away, but it also makes it come back—it’s treating the symptom, not the problem. Although I am having a hard time determining the dosage of coconut oil.”

Housemate: “You should probably dilute it. The body works better when it absorbs trace amounts of ingredients. Your system is just overwhelmed. I’ve been doing this with tea tree oil. . blah. blah. . blah.”

Mommy: “Oh, my doctor is a naturopathic doctor and she recommended the same thing. She’s so great, so non-judgmental.”

Mommy’s second-most-scintillating topic is Her Children. “Higgins” and “Agatha” (not their names, but so that type of name) come to every party, every event. They are 7 and 8. The family travels with a portable toy store to keep them busy. Reasonable enough, sure. But these children are indulged.

They are sullen unless they know you. They’re not shy, or awkward. They have no vocabulary deficiencies. They’re voluble with all the “aunts and uncles” that make up our circle. But they will stare straight at me with a Village of the Damned look and walk away if I try to talk to them. No response. Nothing. Joking, praising their toys. . nothing works.

Back to the potluck. As I said,  the kitchen was super crowded, and there was an abundance of food; fried tofu, pasta salad, chips, salsa, guacamole, fresh bread and oil, green salad, spring rolls. Anything one could want from bland to spicy.

Mommy nudged her way into the corner near the sink (no mean feat considering the size of her belly, and you’d better be considering the size of her belly) and started opening cabinets. Neighbor asked her what she needed. “Oh, a pot; Higgins wants me to make him macaroni and cheese.” I had to turn away because I couldn’t control the look on my face. With that bounty of food, and an entire table taken over by crayons and Jenga, and toy cars. . . Higgins needs boxed macaroni and cheese made for him at someone else’s house in a too-crowded kitchen.

It was, of course, Annie’s mac and cheese. Because a box with a hippy-dippy fun font and rustic cartoon bunnies makes it Wholesome, not “boxed macaroni and cheese.” Because if you make Kraft Dinner you’re not being very naturopathy.

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

Time passes, people change

Aug 4th, 2013 4:31 pm | By

It’s a theme among the people who hate feminists dirtying up their atheism their skepticism their skeptoatheism and atheoskepticism, that we dirtying-up feminists are in some way outrageous for doing feminism instead of or in addition to skepticism or atheism or athoskeptolibertarianism.


That’s a strange claim. What’s outrageous about it? I guess if they’re talking about people who have prominently displayed somewhere a solemn oath always to talk/write/tweet about atheism or skepticism and nothing else, then…those people broke an oath. But even then – an oath to whom? Who cares? Why would anyone swear such an oath anyway? And why would anyone else care about it?

I’m in a fortunate position, myself, because I never said or implied or hinted I was going to blog or website-edit or write about one thing only. I never signed up to anything in particular. I’ve always felt free to talk about anything I want to. I have a point of view, of course; I have a lot of strong opinions; I have interests; but I haven’t promised to adhere to them and only them forever and no matter what. Tomorrow I could develop an interest in hang-gliding or ballet. And? People could skip those posts, or not – but either way I wouldn’t have done a bad thing. I wouldn’t have cheated anyone.

I saw a post from the “they’re contaminating the clubhouse” school of thought, by someone called Shane P Brady. It’s full of this unreasonable indignation about other people’s changes of attention.

This desire to mix progressive politics has even creeped into the skeptic movement, highlighted first to me by a panel at TAM9 where the idea of expanding the skeptic movement to tackle issues like drug legalization or minimum wage might be good ways to expand the skeptical movement.  I could write lots on how wrong this is, but if you want to read something well done, check out Barbara Drescher’s website

Why is this push lately? Why are people wanting this?  Why are sites like Skepchick (a name that contains a word that many women I’ve worked with find offensive, btw) writing more and more politics and feminism and less and less actual skepticism?

So my question is this:

“Do you even really care about skepticism anymore?”

What a strange question – as if skepticism were an abandoned lover. People who talk this line seem to have a surprisingly emotional view of skepticism, one that would make more sense (to me at least ) about, precisely, a progressive political movement. Union organizing, civil rights campaigns, working to defend asylum seekers or immigrants, feminism, LGBT rights – movements like that inspire loyalty (for good and ill), but skepticism?

Meh. Skepticism is, basically, a tool. It’s a skeletal thing to get passionate about. It’s useful, it’s necessary, and all the more so in a combination of culture and technology that is so good at deluding and seducing people – but it’s not more than that. It’s not something we should be pushed to “care” about. Skepticism isn’t pissed off because we never bring it flowers any more.

And then, Skepchick…One reason Skepchick is writing more about feminism and (perhaps – I really don’t know) less about skepticism, is because people keep giving the women at Skepchick a lot of sexist shit.

Here’s an interesting fact: if you give women a lot of sexist shit, it tends to push them in the direction of feminism. Startling, I know, but true. I write a hell of a lot more about feminism now than I did three years ago. Sexist shit will do that to you.

But in any case: what of it? Why is anyone policing other people for the quality and quantity of their skepticism? Why is it an issue?

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

Apologies and threats collide in midair

Aug 4th, 2013 12:52 pm | By

Tony Wang of Twitter UK issued an apology for the harassment yesterday.

Twitter’s UK boss Tony Wang and senior director Del Harvey have apologized profusely to Caroline Criado-Perez, Stella Creasey and the leagues of other women who have received tweets that threaten death or rape in a response to their activism — including a handful of female journalists who have received bomb threats.


And now, the changes: Wang says that an in-tweet “report abuse” button was in the latest version of Twitter for Apple smartphones, and from next month on it will be available on and Android phones — in other words, users don’t have to use the “Help” page to report abuse. The Twitter Rules page has also been updated to reflect their no-abuse policy.

And, one hopes, the rules themselves have also been updated to reflect their no-abuse policy, so that people who report genuine abuse will no longer get messages saying this here abuse doesn’t violate Twitter rules so you’re just going to have to suck it up.

Anyway, hours after the apologies, Mary Beard received a bomb threat.

The classicist and TV presenter Mary Beard has been sent a bomb threat on Twitter hours after the UK boss of the social networking site apologised to women who have experienced abuse.

Prof Beard, who has faced abuse on Twitter previously, told the BBC she had reported the new message to police.

It used similar wording to a tweet sent earlier to a number of women, some of whom have also received rape threats.

That’s not good.

Prof Beard told BBC Radio 5 live: “I think it is scary and it has got to stop.

“To be honest I didn’t actually intellectually feel I was in danger but I thought I was being harassed and I thought I was being harassed in a particularly unpleasant way.”

Which is what the people who send such tweets want the recipients to feel. They want us to feel like the objects of hostile, potentially violent attention and rage.


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

A string of subtle but demeaning comments

Aug 4th, 2013 11:42 am | By

The journalist Olivia Messer was pleased to return to her home state of Texas to write about the legislature. She quickly realized there was a down side.

Within weeks, I’d already heard a few horrifying stories. Like the time a former Observer staffer, on her first day in the Capitol, was invited by a state senator back to his office for personal “tutoring.” Or, last session, when Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton interrupted Marisa Marquez during a House floor debate to ask if her breasts were real or fake.

Thankfully I never experienced anything so sexually explicit. Instead, I encountered a string of subtle but demeaning comments. One of the first interviews I conducted for the Observer, in February, was with a male senator about an anti-abortion bill. I was asking questions about whether the bill would reduce access to abortion. At the end of the interview, as soon as I turned off my recorder, he said, “How old are you, sweetheart? You look so young.”

And random guys kept hitting on her.

At a certain point, after enough of these run-ins—which included male staffers from both chambers, some of whom I knew to be married, hitting on me, making comments about my physical appearance, touching my arm—it finally occurred to me that, when I was at work, I was often fending off advances like I was in a bar.

The Texas legislature is not a bar. Working there should not feel like being in a bar.

What surprised me was how many women who work in the Capitol—legislators, staffers, lobbyists, other reporters—felt the same way. Everyone, it seemed, had a story or anecdote about being objectified or patronized.

But isn’t that just what you deserve for the crude mistake of being born not male? No, it’s not.

Even the most powerful women in the Legislature experience it. When I started interviewing women lawmakers, they all—Republican and Democrat, House and Senate, rural and urban—said that being a woman in the statehouse is more difficult than being a man. Some told of senators ogling women on the Senate floor or watching porn on iPads and on state-owned computers, of legislators hitting on female staffers or using them to help them meet women, and of hundreds of little comments in public and private that women had to brush off to go about their day. Some said they often felt marginalized and not listened to—that the sexism in the Legislature made their jobs harder and, at times, produced public policy hostile to women.

Yet, despite their strong feelings, women in the Capitol rarely talk about, except in the most private discussions, the misogyny they see all the time. It’s just the way the Legislature has always been.

It’s normal. So many things are normal. Stereotypes are normal. “It’s more of a guy thing” is normal. Microaggressions are normal. Harassment is normal.

Women comprise more than half of the state’s population, yet only about 20 percent of the Legislature—just 37 of the 181 members of both chambers. Women in leadership positions are even more scarce. There have been two female governors of Texas, zero female lieutenant governors and zero speakers of the House. That means neither chamber has ever been led by a woman.

That history makes what happened on June 25—when Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered a restrictive anti-abortion bill for 11 hours—so remarkable. When the mostly male GOP majority cut her off and tried to pass the bill minutes before a midnight deadline, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte had had enough: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The largely female crowd in the gallery erupted and, over the next 15 minutes, shouted the Senate into paralysis. It was a rare moment when women seized control of the Capitol, and the first time I’d heard a woman lawmaker in this state publicly admit she felt sidelined.

But the moment was fleeting. Three weeks later, in a new special session, the Legislature passed the anti-abortion bill, and Gov. Rick Perry signed it. Texas politics, briefly upended, returned to normal.

Misogyny, as I had come to learn, is rampant in the Texas Capitol.

So we have to holler back.



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

Affirm, not swear

Aug 4th, 2013 10:48 am | By

So Barney Frank came out as an atheist.

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


Aug 3rd, 2013 5:44 pm | By

Via Gnu Atheism on Facebook.


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

There was that stolen apple, too

Aug 3rd, 2013 5:17 pm | By

There’s a Kenyan lawyer, Dola Indidis, who is trying to sue Israel for…

…now take a deep breath…

…for the “trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.”

Um. Statute of limitations, bro. Also – lack of evidence. Story. Story not evidence. The Iliad not evidence of the murder of Hector.

A Kenyan lawyer has filed a petition with the International Court of Justice in  The Hague, suggesting that the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ was  unlawful, and the State of Israel among others should be held responsible,  Kenyan news outlet the Nairobian reported on Friday.

Dola Indidis, a  lawyer and former spokesman of the Kenyan Judiciary, is reportedly attempting to sue Tiberius (emperor of Rome, 42 BCE-37 CE), Pontius Pilate, a selection of Jewish elders, King Herod, the Republic of Italy and the State of  Israel.

I can think of more urgent violations of human rights than that one.

When asked about the case, an  official from the ICJ told legal news website Legal Cheek, “The ICJ has no  jurisdiction for such a case. The ICJ settles disputes between states. It is not  even theoretically possible for us to consider this case.”

I wonder if the Jerusalem Post accidentally picked up a story from the Onion.

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

In order to use the licence fee efficiently

Aug 3rd, 2013 4:13 pm | By

The BBC sent a boilerplate response to all the complaints about the block bot and the BBC’s vile attack on the character of people the BBC never mentioned.

The report on Newsnight on 30 July which featured The Block Bot was part of an ongoing news story on the use of Twitter and its consequences, which has generated a great deal of debate across all forms of media. We received a number of contacts about this broadcast and in order to reply promptly and to use the licence fee efficiently we are sending a single response to everyone. However we would like to reassure you that your concerns about the programme were brought to the attention of Newsnight and senior BBC management.

At no stage in the Newsnight report was any individual named as being on The Block Bot’s list. The report also did not mention how the list of names might be obtained. As you are probably aware, the list of names on The Block Bot is updat…ed constantly and numbers many hundreds.

Although the script explained that The Block Bot was self-policing, and the report clearly showed on screen that The Block Bot has different levels of blocking, the report could have explained those details more clearly.

In a subsequent report on Newsnight on 31 July 31 the programme reported the ongoing debate on the use of tools like The Block Bot, including the fact that some of those who are blocked by it object to their blocking. Again, no names were mentioned.

I hope this address your concerns. Thank you for taking the time to raise them with us.”

Now kindly fuck off.

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