At least some people are having the conversation

It’s under the hashtag #YesAllWomen, and it’s largely women doing the talking. Laci Green is also explaining the importance of this issue.

When she was describing all the ways our culture shapes how men are supposed to regard women, I suddenly recalled all those times playing video games when women would join the group, and the orders would ring out: “make me a sandwich.” A joke. But think about what that joke says about our expectations of women’s roles. There’s a long stretch from “make me a sandwich” to gunning down random strangers because women wouldn’t have sex with you, but they’re both on the same continuum.

By the way, this should settle all those claims that he was mentally ill and Aspergers: a comment from a friend of the Elliot family.

Astaire said Elliot had not been diagnosed with Asperger’s but the family suspected he was on the spectrum, and had been in therapy for years. He said he knew of no other mental illnesses, but Elliot truly had no friends, as he said in his videos and writings.

Well, that explains everything

An expert on a news program has figured out why Rodger killed all those people.

He was gay. Also schizophrenic.

She never met him, but she’s a psychologist on Fox News. That’s enough for a diagnosis, right?

Otherwise, the consensus I’m seeing all over the place is that we don’t need more gun control, other than adding more psychological screening to the process of buying a gun. Huh. What kind of screening would catch an Elliot Rodger, but wouldn’t also cause every Tea Bagger and gonzo flying a Confederate flag from his pickup truck to be similarly prohibited from purchasing any ol’ gun they want?

What I saw on the Rodger video was a well-dressed, wealthy young man who was lucid and speaking hatred in clear language, and who was perfectly in control. If he were getting a few questions to determine if he could buy a gun, I don’t see any reason to think he wouldn’t be able to choke back the hate long enough to be approved.

For that matter, hating women or any other group probably won’t be among the criteria for denying someone a gun — imagine, a restriction that would prevent a Republican from buying a firearm!

Let’s be clear about something: I am not agreeing with this irresponsible psychologist. My point is that Elliot Rodger was as sane as your average Republican. You will not solve gun violence by locking up everyone who ever had psychological counseling.

He was also not gay. Full stop. It’s ridiculous to even bring it up.

He did not kill people because he was frustrated about not getting sex. We’ve all been there: I went through adolescence, when my hormones were sizzling at their peak, and I managed to survive years of ‘involuntary celibacy’ without so much as punching anyone. And I was a homely shy nerd who didn’t own a BMW (I had to pick up my dates in my dad’s station wagon.)

The insanity defense, the gay nonsense, and the toxic blue balls excuse are simply not valid explanations for what happened.

The real culprit in all of this is a culture of thriving misogyny, in which women are dehumanized and regarded as grudging dispensers of sex candy, who must be punished if they don’t do their job of servicing men. Elliot Rodger was a spoiled, entitled kid who had his brain poisoned with this attitude. First he learned that women are disposable, then he learned that they were evil for not having sex with him, and then he rationally put together two delusions and acted on them.

And it’s not just MRAs and PUAs that spread that poison. Every politician and media blowhard who bargains away women’s rights, who dismisses efforts to correct economic inequities, or patronizingly decides that they must manage women’s lives for them, is polluting the atmosphere further.

Yet another explanation.

Even more strangely, the proudly racist Steve Sailer – a hero to Heartiste and others in the “alt-right” wing of the manosphere – has declared that Rodger wasn’t motivated by misogyny but rather by “anti-Blondism,” and that his targeting of “ blonde sluts” in a popular sorority house was “an extremely intentional racial hate crime.” Never mind that the half-Asian Rodger idolized blonde women as superior (even as he hated them) and that his comments online are littered with rather crude, rather traditional racism against people who weren’t white.

Somehow, I’m not surprised that the scientific racists share many common causes with misogynists.

There is a lesson for women in this

I’ve been reading about the shocking dismissal of Jill Abramson, executive editor at the New York Times. It says so much about what is going wrong here: if there is any paper that personifies journalism in the US, it’s the NY Times, and at the same time we’ve been witnessing the decay in journalism as an institution, we can see the rot blooming all over the flagship. I’m not a media insider by any means, but when you see the deck sagging and one of the masts falling off, even us outsiders can see something is seriously amiss.

One of the problems is simple corporate sexism.

There are two intertwining narratives of Abramson’s downfall, and both probably have some truth to them. The story that’s gotten the most attention, of course, is about sexism. “Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs,” Ken Auletta reported in The New Yorker. “’She confronted the top brass,’ one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was ‘pushy,’ a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect.”

She got paid less than Bill Keller? Ethically challenged, insensitive, entitled Bill Keller? Say it ain’t so. And then she dared to actually point out this problem to the corporate executives? How dare she.

I don’t think that if a man did exactly the same thing, that his pay was not equivalent to that of his predecessor, that he’d get called “pushy”. That would be a case of pointing out an unfairness, whereas women are supposed to simply accept an unfairness. She was clearly a bad woman.

She broke the clubhouse rules. She never became that mythical female boss who is assertive but not aggressive, nurturing but not mothering, not so strong that it bothers the men, but never weak like a woman.

The top quote mentions that there were two factors contributing to her firing. One was sexism. The other was independence and ethics. She was for ’em, clearly something that put her at odds with NYT management, the newspaper that allowed Judith Miller to work until she retired.

But if Abramson’s demise is about gender, it’s also about newsroom values—and here, the implications are almost as troubling. At, Gabriel Sherman describes how she clashed with Thompson over native advertising or ads designed to look like editorial content. He writes about how she resisted Thompson’s push for a greater emphasis on online video, and about how she enraged him by sending a journalist to investigate his role in the unfolding Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal at the BBC, which he led before going to the Times. In all of these conflicts, she was right, and in two of them, she was defending fundamental journalist principles.

Mark Thompson is the NYT’s CEO, formerly of the BBC, where he was in charge when a documentary on Jimmy Savile, long in preparation, was squelched as just too embarrassing for management (hey, who knew the BBC and the Catholic Church would have something in common?). He’s keeping his job. The woman who thought it was newsworthy to investigate a cover up is fired.

So clearly, the lesson from this story is that if you are a woman in journalism, you must be submissive and you must abandon any sense of what is right. I guess working while female at the NYT is a bit like having a role in Fifty Shades of Gray.

Furious at a breach of ethical behavior…by an evolutionist

I thought it was simple plagiarism, but it turned out to be so much worse. Commenter A. Noyd discovered that anti-creationist arguments posted here were being regularly parroted elsewhere, on a site called, without attribution. Jon Milne was in a debate with a creationist named Iredia, and he was getting handy rebuttals straight from me and various other regular commenters here, including Nerd of Redhead, Amphiox, a_ray_in_dilbert_space, and David Marjanović, which he’d simply copy and paste straight from here into comments there, under his name.

That’s disgraceful. I was shocked to hear of it: we often accuse creationists of this game, of simply pasting together quotes without understanding them, and here was someone acting as a debater for evolution doing the same thing. It was patent plagiarism, and ethically wrong.

But then it turned into something else altogether, something even more contemptible. From his confession, it turns out that he’d been doing something truly dishonest. He had a second account here. When a creationist gave him an argument on another site, he would copy it, word for word, come over to Pharyngula, pose as a creationist (“biasevolution”), and paste it into a comment, to trigger a response from us.

He was plagiarizing creationists.

He then used a sockpuppet account to parrot their words.

He would then plagiarize us in his replies on this other site.

He was simply shuttling arguments from one site to another, providing no creative input of his own other than to carefully remove any evidence of the origin of arguments. Why? I don’t know. Maybe he wanted to look really clever. But all I know is that his every argument on is now tainted, and he’s managed to discredit a lot of people with seriously damaging behavior that reflects poorly on the science side of these arguments.

He has been banned, along with his “biasevolution” creationist sockpuppet. And I’m really pissed off.

Aaargh. Stephanie tells me he’s been doing this for a good long while.

He’s been plagiarizing for a couple of years, too. His email address brings up a short-lived LJ account where he bragged about bringing the “epic smackdown” on a creationist.

His material? Lifted from Rational Wiki.

And the Iron Chariots Wiki.

And Rational Wiki again.

Yeah? This is my angry Viking face.


Pay attention

“I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.”

Connect the dots

Start here. Andrew Breibart attended a white nationalist conference in 2006, with panels by Jared Taylor and John Derbyshire.

He was attending with his protege, James O’Keefe.

O’Keefe has acquired some notoriety for dishonest stunts in the name of far right wingnuttiness. Among them was the Landrieu break-in.

According to reports, on January 25, 2010, O’Keefe and his friends Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan visited the New Orleans office of Senator Mary Landrieu. Basel and Flanagan disguised themselves as repairmen, and attempted to access the office’s telephone system by saying there was something wrong with the phone lines. O’Keefe was in the office and videotaped the some of the events with his cell phone camera. Office workers smelled a rat and called the authorities. The three of them were arrested, along with a fourth man Stan Dai, and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.


Notice the guy on the right? That’s Joe Basel. It’s a bit embarrassing, but he attended UMM a few years ago — we did not get along. I do find it amusing that one of his complaints was that the university ought to remove all reference to me from its website, because I offended him. So if O’Keefe was Breitbart’s protege, Basel was O’Keefe’s — I guess he’s kind of a third rate Breibart imitator, which is not something to be proud of.

Basel previously was the editor (or some such role) at the Counterweight, the conservative alternative newspaper here at Morris a few years ago. He is now the CEO of something called the American Phoenix Foundation, which is yet another wingnut ‘thinktank’ with a mission.

The mission of the American Phoenix Foundation is to protect the American Republic through ethical, innovative, and technologically driven journalism.

A descendant of Breitbart/O’Keefe/Basel is protecting ethical journalism? OK. I’m laughing, but OK.

Thankfully, Basel is now gone from UMM, and the Counterweight is defunct. Unfortunately, its successor is that rather nasty racist rag, The North Star. It’s editor, John Geiger, was named a Phoenix Fellow by the foundation last year.

Breitbart → O’Keefe → Basel → Geiger, all with a nice infusion of racism throughout. It’s all kind of ugly and incestuous, isn’t it?

When will this situation improve?

Maybe never. I know a lot of you hate facebook (with good reason), so I’ll just copy this straight from facebook so you can read it here.

From former JREF Outreach Coordinator Brian Thompson:

“Let me explain why I’m supporting Karen Stollznow’s legal defense fund. Maybe some of my Facebook friends don’t know who she is or what this is all about. Karen is a linguist, writer, and investigator who looks into claims of the paranormal, the supernatural, and the outrageous with a skeptical eye. Skeptics like her do a lot of good for the world in ways large and small. They’re the ones fighting against the kind of scientific ignorance that keeps people from vaccinating their kids, for example. And if it weren’t for skeptical investigators, I might still be cowered in fear every night thinking aliens were going to abduct me or ghosts were going to throw things around my bedroom. Now I’m just cowered in fear thinking that I might never be on one of those interior design makeover shows. This is progress.

I believe so strongly in the good work these skeptics do that several years ago I started hanging out with them, working on activism projects with them, and drinking lots and lots of booze with them. I went to their conferences and meetings and pre-swingers’ parties, and for a couple of years I even worked in an official capacity with one of the world’s most well-known skeptical activism nonprofits, the James Randi Educational Foundation.

In that time I got to know a lot of great people. I’m not going to name them all, because I know I’ll leave out Christian Walters, and then our lovemaking will take a passive-aggressive turn. But a lot of people who share this common interest in making the world a better place through rationalism are kind, honest, funny, talented, and valuable friends. Then there are people like Christian who are maybe just two or three of those.

But I no longer identify with this community of benevolent know-it-alls, because not all of them are the best folks in the world. In fact, a good percentage of the top ten worst humans I’ve ever met are prominent members of the skeptics’ club. They’re dishonest, mean-spirited, narcissistic, misogynistic. Pick a personality flaw, and I can probably point you to someone who epitomizes it. And that person has probably had a speaking slot at a major skeptical conference.

I grew particularly disgusted with the boys’ club attitude I saw among skeptical leaders and luminaries. The kind of attitude that’s dismissive of women, sexually predatory, and downright gross. When I first started going to skeptical conferences as a fresh-faced know-it-all, I started hearing things about people I once admired. Then I started seeing things myself. Then I got a job with the JREF, and the pattern continued.

There’s a particular guy popular with the skeptical crowd who writes books, gives talks, and wears bicycle shorts. What’s not to love? Well, a female friend of mine told me she didn’t like it very much when he locked eyes with her from across a room and pointed to his dick. When I started working for the JREF, my boss described this same guy as an “old school misogynist”. Then a friend told me this same skeptical celebrity had groped another speaker at a conference. Grabbed her breast without invitation. Sexually assaulted her. Then my boss told me that not only did this assault happen, but that he witnessed it and intervened. The woman who was assaulted won’t name names for fear of being dragged through the mud. Another woman I know has told me that this same guy assaulted her. Others have confirmed her story to me. I believe her. But she’s remained anonymous for much the same reasons.

I’m tired of this. I’m tired of hearing about sexual predators like Mr. Bicycle Shorts, who has yet again been invited to speak at the JREF’s annual conference. I’m tired of hearing things like what I’ve heard from [redacted]. That my old boss grabbed his junk in a car and said he would be “presidentially displeased” if [redacted] didn’t give my old boss a kiss.

I’m tired of people like Richard Dawkins, whose lashing out at my friend Rebecca Watson for having the nerve to talk about what kind of male attention makes her uncomfortable has led to years of the most heinous abuse being flung at her and her colleagues. Heinous, woman-hating abuse from enthusiastic members of this broken little community of freethinkers.

Pardon my Yiddish, but oy, that shit’s fucked. And it’s also fucked that people are afraid to speak out about their stories for fear that it will become the focus of their careers or that their privacy will be destroyed or that they’ll be sued or that they’ll somehow damage organizations that do a lot of good work.

This makes me sick, and it makes me mad. So of course I’m going to help Karen speak up and fight back.

Here’s the situation in a nutshell: Karen used to work with another writer and investigator named Ben Radford at an organization called CFI. Karen says Radford continually harassed and abused her. She brought the situation to CFI, which found Radford guilty of some of Karen’s charges. Then they let him off with a slap on the wrist. Karen blogged about this. Radford sued her for defamation.

Based on the evidence I’ve seen, my own experience with Radford’s dishonest and creepy behavior, and the assurances from friends of mine who know more about this situation than I do, I’m willing to believe Karen. And more than that, I’m willing to put my money behind her efforts to fight back in court. Because she deserves the chance to make her case instead of having to fold under insurmountable financial pressure. Defending yourself in court isn’t cheap.

Also, I don’t like bullies or creeps. Especially the kinds of bullies and creeps who have been protected by their peers and allies in a community that places pseudo-celebrity and books about how lake monsters aren’t real above the well-being of women who are at least as vital to fighting the good fight. A fight, by the way, that’s about the righteousness of the truth.

So I’ve given to Karen’s fund. You can do the same here:

As long as atheism is about nothing but disbelieving in gods, and as long as skepticism is about nothing but demanding evidence, as long as there is no human heart behind the goals of these organizations, this behavior will continue. We must have secular values beyond simply rejecting claims; we must recognize the import and implications of living in a material, natural world; there must be secular values that give us purpose.

It’s been a good day

I’ve spent a long day in a dark quiet room with a red pen in my hand slogging through a mountain of grading, but at least you got something significant accomplished — it only took you 8 hours to completely meet Karen Stollznow’s initial legal fees. Don’t stop now, keep on going! This ink-stained wretch looked up from his labors and felt a twinge of hope, like that there really are good people in this movement.

There was also a bit of schadenfreude. Adam Lee has posted some of the slymey comments he’d been getting after Ben Radford’s premature ejaculation — you know, where some of the gullible haters who succumbed to some motivated reasoning, saw the unsigned ‘apology’ written by Radford in Stollznow’s name, decided the whole thing was over now, and started sniping about, demanding immediate apologies, claiming that they had the confession in hand, etc. I have some of the same noise in my spam queue, so I thought I should share it, too.

Do you think that retraction letter was a fake? Are you a birther as well? Was 911 an “inside job”?

Yeah, they went there, claiming that rejecting the ‘apology’ was equivalent to being a conspiracy nut and denialist. Of course, I was sitting here with inside information — I knew that Stollznow hadn’t signed it.

Guess what, annoying troll? The retraction letter was a fake. Stollznow had nothing to do with it.

For PZ’s rabble: Carrie Poppy, what a piece of work. I bet Herr Myers is regretting ever trusting that ditzy bítch.

Carrie Poppy has been doing good work sharing her knowledge of what happened. Turns out she was right. No regrets, I think I’ll keep trusting her.

This message from Amy Stoker on Ben Radford’s facebook, regarding the retraction letter.

“It’s signed by Karen and notarized. Ben was over at my house tonight. I’m sure Ben will address this in the morning or at some point. For tonight he wanted to focus on those family and friends that have been by his side.
about an hour ago ”

I’m not sure who Amy Stoker is, but I’d believe her over anything that lying sack of crap PZ Myers says.

But…the letter wasn’t signed and notarized. That comment from Stoker has since been curiously memory-holed. I don’t think I’ll trust her at all — but that’s OK, I’ve still got Carrie Poppy.

Are you going to apologize to Ben Radford now, PZ? You witch hunting moron. Always believe the accuser, right? Hahahaha.


There’s a lot more, but it gets old fast, and I think my point is made. These loons were just making stuff up and were utterly convinced by a ginned-up, unsigned document. Skeptics. Yeah, right.

The kind of thing that would give me nightmares

Laboratory sabotoge. Magdalena Koziol was baffled about why her zebrafish experiments were all failing: the fish were all dying, every time. So she did a simple experiment, setting up some fish labeled with her initials, and others without the label. The fish with her initials all died, the others were fine, proving that the initials “MK” carry a curse.

No, wait, that’s not it. She put in hidden cameras and revealed the true cause of the dead fish.

The experiment was a key step in proving that someone was tampering with her experiments, according to a lawsuit Koziol filed with the Superior Court in New Haven on 7 February. When hidden cameras were installed in the lab, they revealed a fellow postdoc poisoning her fish, the complaint says. Now, Koziol is suing the alleged perpetrator, Polloneal Jymmiel Ocbina. According to the complaint, he left Yale after he was caught on video.

Ocbina is now working at a communications company in New York. He was clearly ethically unsuited to work in biology, that’s for sure. Heck, he shouldn’t be working in science, period.

All’s well now, though, right? Villain caught, sent shuffling off in disgrace, etc.? Nope. Her advisor seems to have resented losing the rascally Ocbina.

From then on, Koziol’s relationship with her boss deteriorated. The complaint says he refused to provide her with a letter about the sabotage, which presumably would have helped explain her lack of data to future employers. Koziol alleges that he criticized her work and character, didn’t help her make up for the lost time, gave her "angry looks when passing in the lab," didn’t list her as a contributor to a Nature article, and threatened to fire and "destroy" her. Koziol became depressed, suffered from sleeplessness, and gained weight; when she and Giraldez talked for 3 hours in August 2012, Koziol "cried throughout the meeting," the complaint says.

Koziol filed a grievance procedure against Giraldez, which she lost; Yale, in its statement to Science, calls her allegations against Giraldez and the university "factually distorted and legally baseless."

It would have been so easy to do the right thing here — Koziol was the victim, and she was treated like the bad guy.

But some good things have come out of it; she’s left Yale, she’s gone back to the UK, and she has an appointment in the lab of John Gurdon (The John Gurdon, I should say, and definitely a step upwards), who is wonderfully supportive.

Koziol left Yale in March 2013 and returned to the lab of Nobel laureate John Gurdon in Cambridge, where she had done her doctoral work. “I was very happy to have her back,” Gurdon says, “because her work is excellent. She was a model student.” Gurdon helped secure a small grant for Koziol and donated some of his personal money to keep her going. He’s optimistic about her chances against Yale. “They wrote her a letter promising her circumstances in which she could conduct her research,” he says. “And they quite clearly did not provide even remotely adequate circumstances.”

We can tell who the good guys are in this story, at least.

I’m just wondering how Ocbina could escape so lightly. Any student in my lab who dared to both do harm to a colleague and to do willful harm to laboratory animals would face some fearsome wrath. There would be criminal proceedings, not mere expulsion.