Thoughts on a Conference

Yesterday was Minnesota Atheists’ regional conference, the first conference our group has run on its own. (Though American Atheists provided some sponsorship for this conference, they did not get involved in the planning as they did last year.) Friday night was the Mr. Paul Aints game. Although I can’t yet say how they did financially, because we worked hard to keep prices down, I hereby declare both big successes as events.

Some thoughts from the two days: [Read more...]

If You Won’t Shut Up… (Update)

Update: The terms of service portion of this post has been updated below.

I mean, when it’s one person speaking out about being harassed and assaulted and receiving no satisfaction for reporting it, that you can ignore. It will blow over soon, right? But man, what a day–for you.

When another person comes out and reveals serious problems at the top of an organization asked to deal with the assault? Maybe you chatter a bit more about unrelated things. I mean, really, how long can this last? AND WHY WON’T PEOPLE IGNORE THIS LIKE THEY USED TO?

But when this stuff keeps coming out, when people keep telling us they’ve been ignored when they tried to report abuse? Well, then there’s only one thing to do: attack. Yep. Ad hominem for the…win? [Read more...]

Gender Equality in the Secular Movement

More video out from Women in Secularism 2! This one even includes me. I don’t remember very much of what I said. Shortly before the panel started, I’d been lying down in a quiet room hoping the migraine meds would kick in. What I do remember is that this is the panel that had Richard Dawkins subtweeting about the meaning of the word “cranky”. So there’s that.

If that’s not enough of a tease for you, this panel was also moderated by Greta Christina and featured Ophelia Benson, Elizabeth Cornwell, and Debbie Goddard.

More Names Will Be Named

Oh, I really should have finished writing this post on Sunday. My reputation as a seer would have been made. At least Twitter has time stamps.

In 2010, the behavior of Jim Frenkel, editor at Tor, was the cause of much chatter in the F&SF world. Jim Hines provided information on how to report him and other professionals who engage in sexual harassment while representing their companies to their employers. Some F&SF conventions took a look at their own anti-harassment policies (or their lack) and made changes.

Frenkel wasn’t named publicly.

In 2013, Frenkel harassed Elise Matthesen at WisCon in front of witnesses. Matthesen reported Frenkel, with help and encouragement from her friends, to both Tor and WisCon. She was told by Tor that this was the first time Frenkel had been “formally” reported. She wrote up procedures for reporting with comprehensive detail on how it felt to report. Her signal was boosted significantly by several friends and others who take sexual harassment in F&SF very seriously.

This time, Frenkel was named publicly. Why?
[Read more...]

A TED Fellow

Over at Dubito Ergo Sum, Tom Foss has a lovely post about a bizarre notion:

This would make for a great game of spot the fallacy, wouldn’t it? Farley lists all these qualifications, but none of them are “noted anti-spam crusader” or “longtime anti-bigotry activist,” not that those would be excuses either. See, none of these qualifications are inconsistent with “abusive [...] anti-feminists, MRAs, or all-round assholes” or “annoying and irritating”3. It’s possible to be an Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning comedian and also be an annoying asshole who delights in baiting feminists with disingenuous arguments, just as it’s possible to be a Ph.D. biochemist who believes in intelligent design. This is a pro hominem argument, an argument from false authority, that these people’s lofty credentials make them somehow incapable of being bigots, jerks, trolls, abusers, or just antagonistic assholes to specific groups of people.

You see, Tim Farley wrote a post suggesting that a group of people shouldn’t be listed on The Block Bot, even at Level 3 (Annoying), because they have done certain things:

  • A Research Fellow for a U.S. think-tank who is also deputy editor of a national magazine, and author of numerous books
  • A Consultant for Educational Programs for a U.S. national non-profit
  • A long-time volunteer for the same national non-profit
  • An organizer for a state-level skeptic group in the US
  • A past president of a state-level humanist group in the US
  • A former director of a state-level atheist group in the US
  • An Emmy and Golden Globe award winning comedian
  • A TED Fellow
  • Co-founder of a well known magazine of philosophy and author of several books
  • A philosopher, writer and critic who has authored several books

Now, as someone who has some of those people blocked myself, and who was already shaking my head at a few people who claimed to want to sue the BBC over the NewsNight segment on The Block Bot, some of those jumped out at me. And while Tom’s post does a very good job of talking about why Farley’s reasoning on this list is fallacious (seriously, go read it), I’m firmly in the camp of providing positive evidence as well. I tend to agree with Amanda Marcotte that making people look at this stuff is one of the more important things we can do. So, without further ado, let’s tackle one of these. [Read more...]

Oh, But This Is Different

By now, you may well have seen that Ashley Paramore put up a video describing a sexual assault she was subject to at TAM last year. I’m very happy to provide a spoiler now and tell you that things were handled well when she reported the assault. Her video:

Me being me, I dug into the comments, wondering what Ashley was dealing with in the immediate aftermath of posting the video. I found something interesting. I present this screen shot because it entertained me that these comments were right next to each other.

Screen shot of two comments. Text provided in the post.

illuminator83: Contrary to some other harrassment accusations (like ‘elevator gate’) this is actually a real one. I don’t think you will see any negative feedback …

zarkoff45: You’re not going to get a backlash on this because saying “he touched the no-no parts on the doll” is clear enough — it’s not like you said “he asked up for coffee while we were alone on an elevator.”

Anyone want to take bets on this? [Read more...]

#FtBCon: Of Spoons and Skeptics

On Saturday morning, a group of people with chronic pain got together to talk about how it affects their life, what is and isn’t helpful to hear from others, and their experiences with alternative medicine and skepticism on the same. It was an interesting session, and there were several points at which I wished I’d taken up the invitation to join, even though my pain issues are intermittent instead of chronic.

An hour wasn’t nearly long enough to tackle the subject, so expect ongoing hangouts to talk about various facets of the issue and to allow others with chronic pain to participate.

[Read more...]

I Get (Other People’s) Email

This letter has apparently been being sent all over the map, to organizations and (I think) mailing lists. I’ve had it forwarded to me several times because I’m mentioned in it, sort of. The poor fellow feels, despite this wide distribution, that he is being censored, so I thought he should get published at least once.

I was previously advised that my below response to the “Open Letter”, signed by a number of prominent figures in the freethought community regarding alleged sexual harrassment and the need for decorum among atheists and humanists, was to have appeared in the next edition of a major atheist magazine.

I assume the writer means this letter signed by the heads of several organizations.

The editor, who was in full agreement with the points made in my letter (printed in full below),  has just advised me that the group’s Board of Directors did not want to publish my letter or any other rebuttals to the claims made in the “Open Letter.”

I will do the editor, presumably the editor copied on at least one of these emails, the courtesy of allowing them to speak for themself. This editor is generally not considered someone who needs others to speak for them.

It is clear that the atheist/humanist movement is not immune to censorship and knee-jerk adherence to a feminist PC agenda.

Dennis Middlebrooks
FANNY (fFreethinking Activist Non-Believing New Yorkers) [Read more...]

My FtBConscience Schedule

I have a busy weekend coming up, even though I won’t be on screen for most of it. I’m hosting seven sessions, participating in one of them as a panelist and moderating Q&A in three. And then we drink.

Questions for all of these sessions can be asked in the Pharyngula chat room during the sessions themselves. For more instructions on that (they’re really simple) see the conference’s website. However, I also understand that people might have a burning question for a speaker and a schedule conflict both at the same time. (I know!) If you’re in that situation or you just have bad IRC flashbacks, feel free to ask your question on any of these sessions here in the comments.

All times are in Central Daylight. [Read more...]

So You Want to Argue About Evo Psych

Or at least about what a bunch of us had to say on the topic at SkepchickCon/CONvergence. Then maybe you should watch the video to find out what we actually said:

Or even read the transcript. Though, if you only read the transcript, and you get hung up on one tiny piece of language, you might want to watch that bit of the video anyway to make sure it was captured correctly.

Then, and only then, might it make sense to argue with what we had to say.