Belated raging

Today I found out from my dad that when my mom was in the hospital recovering from a serious surgery to remove the tumors from her ovarian cancer, some evangelical Christians came into her room uninvited during a rare moment when my dad was away to try to convert her and ask if she’s heard the good word about her lord and savior Jesus Christ.

Is there anything more fucking reprehensible than preying on the vulnerable who are recovering from a near death experience and undergoing a battle with stage 4 cancer? It fucking disgusts me.

They should consider themselves damned lucky that my dad and I weren’t there, because we would have NOT been friendly atheists.

Assholes.

Urgent: Friend’s car stolen in Seattle

I know I have a lot of readers in Seattle, so I want to ask you guys for help. A dear friend of mine had their car stolen in the last 24 hours. For reasons I won’t get into for privacy’s sake, they believe it was moved somewhere and possibly made to look abandoned. If you could keep your eye open for the car, it would be much appreciated.

  • 1998 White Subaru Impreza, wagon
  • Bumper stickers include Human Rights Campaig blue and yellow equal sign symbol, Burning man 2005 sticker, Mote Marine Aquarium sticker
  • Last seen in Fremont, possibly still in Fremont or nearby in Wallingford/Ballard/Greenlake, could be farther away

1998-subaru-impreza-d568d

Photo is of the general make and model of the car, not the exact car.

Police have already been contacted, but basically they can’t really do anything until it turns up in a towing lot or someone spots in on the street. So if you see a car matching this description, please email me at blaghagblog (at) gmail (dot) com so my friend can go check and see if it’s the one.

Thunderf00t’s unethical breach of our privacy

If you read any other blog on Freethought Blogs, by now you’ve probably heard of Thunderf00t’s despicable actions. FtB has a private email listserv where we discuss boring technical problems (“My YouTube video isn’t embedding properly!”), ask for feedback or discuss certain topics, promote posts or causes we care about, and talk about cats (or how much they suck, depending on what side you’re on). But we also frequently discuss things that are very private in nature, like what’s going on in our personal life, where we live and work, our medical conditions, gender transitioning, rape, abuse, and (for pseudonymous bloggers) our real identities. We do this in agreement that nothing will leave the list, and there’s a disclaimer at the bottom of every email:

“All emails sent to this list are confidential and private. Revealing information contained in any email sent to the list to anyone not on the list without permission of the author is strictly prohibited.”

Well, Thunderf00t has violated that confidentiality. Now, I was on a different continent with limited internet access when the original Thunderf00t drama went down, so I don’t even want to get into that. But being removed from the network was apparently enough motivation for Thunderf00t to breach our privacy. Ed summarizes what happened:

On August 2, a close friend informed me that a mutual acquaintance of ours had been forwarded messages from that private mailing list by Thunderfoot. A few hours later, I received an email from a longtime commenter on the site telling me that “your email distribution list is not secure. Take the time to verify that only the people who are supposed to be on the list are actually members, as messages have been leaked.” Prompted by those messages, I went into the admin panel of our mailing list software, did some checking and discovered that Thunderfoot had somehow managed to get back on the mailing list after he was removed from it on July 1, when the decision was made to close his blog and remove him from the network. I double checked to make sure that he had been removed from the list at that time and he was (I have email confirmation from the system at the time). I then had our site tech do some digging into the database and he discovered that Thunderfoot had used a security loophole (now fixed) to regain admission to the list only a few minutes after he was removed from it on July 1 and had been receiving all of the email traffic between everyone else from that moment forward, without our knowledge. When that fact was discovered, he was, of course, removed from the list a second time and the settings were changed to close the loophole in our security that allowed him that access; over the next half hour he tried multiple times to get back on the list again but failed.

Jason has the technical details, including logs for evidence, in case you want them. Thunderf00t has confessed to breaching our privacy, but of course he’s trying to spin everything to make himself look like some sort of Wikileaks hero against the Big Bad Evil FtB Bullies. He insists that he doesn’t “doc drop,” even though in that very post he releases private statements from the mailing list. And we already have outside confirmation of people receiving mailing list emails through him. Keep diggin’ that hole!

What’s incredibly ironic is that not even a year ago, Thunderf00t was threatened by Muslims that they would release his private information, including his real name. He blasted them for this violation of privacy and “doc dropping”…which is exactly what he’s doing right now. What a hypocrite.

Greta emphasizes why this violation of privacy is so serious:

There’s a reason these conversations are private. Among other things:

People — especially anonymous and pseudonymous bloggers — reveal private information that could jeopardize their jobs if it were made public.
People — especially anonymous and pseudonymous bloggers — reveal private information that could jeopardize their physical safety if it were made public.
People brainstorm ideas that they later decide are bad ideas, and don’t want to be held to.
People discuss private medical matters and personal family issues, which could hurt both themselves and others if they became public.
People hash out differences of opinion that they don’t want to turn into a giant public debate.
People talk about personal, emotional stuff that they don’t want to share with the entire Internet.

If you have ever said anything privately that you wouldn’t want made public — because you were thinking out loud, because you knew the people you were talking with would understand the context but the general public wouldn’t, because you were mad and said things you didn’t really mean, because you don’t want everyone on the Internet to have your home address and phone number, because some things are just private and you bloody well have the right to decide who to tell them to — then you almost certainly understand exactly how important this is, and what a terrible violation it is, and why. People need to be able to talk freely among their friends and colleagues, without parsing every word for public consumption. People need this — and they have a right to have it. That’s a no-brainer.

But if you want to hear from someone who’s privacy is probably on the line the most, read this post by Natalie Reed. Thunderf00t had previously threatened her with releasing private backchannel information before he… actually started doing it:

Natalie Reed is not my “real name”. I use a different name for “real life”… for employment, for housing, for everything I don’t necessarily want connected to my being out as a transsexual, atheist blogger. There is a huge amount of highly personal, highly stigmatized issues I discuss on this blog, or in other venues under the name Natalie Reed. Transsexuality and transgenderism, my heroin addiction, stories from my life and past, my being a survivor of multiple rapes…I’ve even mentioned my being an incest survivor, an issue that’s incredibly, deeply painful for me. Most of these things I never, ever would have felt able to write about without feeling protected by this name.

It also protects my ability to pursue housing and employment without the threat of being outed as trans, a recovering addict, an atheist and so on by a simple five minute google search. It protects the possibility of my someday choosing to go “stealth” if I ever feel the desire or need, in which I could finally live as just a woman instead of always as a trans woman. It keeps me further removed from my birth name and images of my former self, and the life I led before transition. It protects my physical safetyfrom those who feel the need to enforce their beliefs and feelings about gender through violence. It protects me from the countless rad-fems and HBSers who consistently out or dox trans women, often with the deliberate, explicit intent of exposing them to harassment, discrimination and violence.

Natalie Reed is my safety net.

The e-mail address I had been using on the FTB list was not under this name. It was under my real one.

So, yeah. Thunderf00t scared me. A lot.

Thankfully I’m not in the same situation as Natalie – I don’t believe I have any personal information I shared on the backchannel that could really damage me. But I care about my fellow bloggers, and I care about Thunderf00t’s severe ethical violations and potentially illegal actions. He is a vile hypocrite who has lost whatever shred of credibility he may have had left. And honestly, it’s just fucking sad. How are you that obsessed with taking down a freaking blog network because you disagree with the fucking no-brainer of having sexual harassment policies that you’re willing to cost innocent people their jobs and safety? How is destroying lives of your atheist allies your priority over combating creationism in the classroom, faith healing, the Religious Right, and homophobia?

Just fucking sad.

Kansas legislature proposes the Slut Tax!

That’s effectively what this bill is – a bill that would levy a sales tax on women who have abortions, with no exceptions for rape or medical necessity (emphasis mine):

Buried in the 69-page bill being considered by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee are several provisions, in fact, that opponents say would increase taxes on those who seek abortions. The tax sections do not include any exemptions for women who want an abortion after a sexual assault, to end a dangerous ectopic pregnancy or to remove the remains of a fetus following a miscarriage — the latter of which is defined as an abortion under Kansas law, according to Sarah Gillooly from Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

[...]Among other provisions in the proposed legislation are measures allowing doctors to withhold from patients medical information that might encourage them to seek an abortion and prohibiting malpractice suits if the woman or the child suffers a health complication as a result of information being withheld. A wrongful death lawsuit could be filed if the mother dies. The bill also would require doctors to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer and would prohibit state employees from performing abortions on the job.

Kind of sad that I’m spending International Women’s Day reading stories about my rights being stripped away and wishing I had been born a man.

Prepare to rage

More in the vein of “keep your legs closed, ladies”:

Rush Limbaugh weighed in on the contraception hearings taking place in the House of Representatives, taking particular aim at Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke who testified about the importance of contraception coverage for the women at religiously affiliated organizations — like law students at Jesuit schools such as herself. Limbaugh’s take on the issue:

“What does it say….that she essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right?It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the tax payers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? The pimps.”

In her testimony, Fluke was talking about hormonal contraception, and specifically about the medical reasons for having hormonal contraception beyond preventing pregnancies.

Audio here. I’ve got nothin’, folks. Just remember thousands millions of people agree with this misogynist asshole, and they vote.

For shame, Burzynski clinic

Why am I directing my ire at the Burzynski clinic? Any one of these reasons would be enough, but let’s go through the list, shall we?

1. Pseudoscience. The Burzynski clinic claims to be able to cure cancer with “antineoplaston therapy.” What’s that? Mainly a load of bunk (emphasis mine):

Some people promote antineoplaston therapy as a cancer treatment. But available scientific evidence does not support claims that antineoplaston therapy is effective in treating or preventing cancer. Antineoplaston therapy was developed by Dr. S. R. Burzynski in the 1970’s. He believes that antineoplastons are part of the body’s natural defence mechanisms against cancer and that people with cancer don’t have enough of them. At first, he took these compounds out of urine and blood. Now, it is possible to make them in the laboratory. There are several types of antineoplastons. They are known by the letter ‘A’ and a number such as A10, AS-25 and AS2-1.

Antineoplastons are taken either as a tablet or as an injection into the bloodstream.

There have been a number of phase 1 and 2 trials in different types of cancer. These early phase trials test what dose of treatment people should have, how safe the treatment is, and how well it works. Early trials only give the treatment to small numbers of people. Although Dr Burzynski’s own clinic have reported positive results for these trials, no other researchers have been able to show that this type of treatment helps to treat cancer. Other researchers have criticised the way the Burzynski Clinic trials have been carried out. Despite researching this type of treatment for over 35 years, no phase 3 trials have been carried out or reported.randomised clinical trial is the only way to properly test whether any new drug or therapy works.

Are we clear? There’s no evidence that “antineoplaston therapy” cures cancer, despite decades of research. Moving on.

2. Unethical behavior. Despite this lack of evidence, the Burzynski clinic will happily give you their “treatment.” The newest example of this despicable behavior is with four-year old Billie Bainbridge, who has an inoperable brain tumor.

The Burzynski clinic is happy to “treat” her – for $200,000. Which was donated by random people and even some celebrities (including the bands Gorillaz and Radiohead), who had no idea that there’s no evidence that this treatment works. Exploiting sick children for your own profit is the lowest of low.

Quackometer puts it best on why this false hope is so terrible:

False hope takes away opportunities for families to be together and to prepare for the future, no matter how desperately sad that is. It may make the lives of those treated more unpleasant and scary. (Antineoplaston therapy is not without dangerous side-effects). It exploits the goodwill of others and enriches those that are either deluded, misguided or fraudulent. It may leave a tragedy-struck family in financial ruin afterwards. Giving false hope may be more about appeasing the guilt and helplessness of ourselves rather than an act of kindness to the sick.

3. Bullying. If you can’t back up your claims with scientific evidence, it seems like the next step is propaganda and bullying. Burzynski claims he’s some of “brave maverick doctor” who’s being persecuted by the scientific community. There’s a whole propaganda documentary supporting his clinic.

But now the clinic has turned to bullying bloggers who dare question the efficacy of his treatment. Marc Stephens, who represents the Burzynski clinic, has been sending deranged pseudo-legal rants to these bloggers, threatening to sue for libel. Andy Lewis of Quackometer had his family threatened:

“Be smart and considerate for your family and new child, and shut the article down..Immediately.”

If that wasn’t enough, Marc has aggressively gone after 17-year-old blogger Rhys Morgan, including a screen capture of a Google Maps satellite view of Rhys’s house in order to intimidate him. 

If Burzynski really is a visionary, his research should speak for itself. Bullying and silencing is not how science is done, despite how highly you think of your ideas. The Texas State Medical Board is holding a hearing next April to revoke his medical license – not because he’s a rebel – but because he’s unethically exploiting sick people with his pseudoscience.

If you want to learn even more about “antineoplaston therapy” and Burzynski’s history, Dr. David Gorski has an excellent and lengthy summary over at Science Based Medicine. And if you want to show these bullies that silencing tactics do not work, spread the word far and wide. Let’s teach them about this little thing called the “Streisand Effect.” 

Religion is all about peace and love

For example, Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball wrote this about rape:

““In a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation where this is no voluntary participation.It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”

And what’s the result of such a statement? Mormons who say stuff like this about 18 year old girls who commit suicide after years of being sexually abused by her family members:

I don’t care what did or did not happen to her. First and foremost, I don’t believe rape exists. When there are incidents that are classified as “rape,” or names that are similar, what usually ends up happening is that the “victim” tends to “forget” to mention immodesty, flirty actions, or other conduct on their part that contributed to the matter. A woman who dresses immodestly must accept accountability for her choice of attire.

If, in fact, this girl was being molested or forced into prostitution as the media outlets say her tweets claimed, then it was her fault that it happened, and continued to happen.

My brain just exploded with rage. What a monument of evil. What’s even scarier is you don’t have to dig into fundamentalist Mormonism to see people blaming rape victims because of their immodesty, or flirtiness, or sexy clothes. Walk into a college bar. Browse reddit. Attend a Republican rally. Hell, select a random person on the street. That victim blaming is depressingly common.

If any post deserves the “I hate people” tag, it’s certainly this one.

(Via Pharyngula)

Catholic Church apologizes for 150,000 forced adoptions

From ABC News:

It is believed at least 150,000 Australian women had their babies taken against their will by some churches and adoption agencies between the 1950s and 1970s.

Psychiatrist Geoff Rickarby has treated scores of affected women, and says it is a stain on Australia’s history.

[...]The chief executive of Catholic Health Australia, Martin Laverty, says he is sorry for what happened. [...] “It’s with a deep sense of regret, a deep sense of sorrow that practices of the past have caused ongoing pain, suffering and grief to these women, these brave women in Newcastle but also women around Australia,” Mr Laverty said.

[...]Juliette Clough is one of the women who says she was forced to give up her baby at a Catholic-run hospital in Newcastle in 1970.

She was 16 at the time and says she was alone, afraid and desperate.

“My ankles were strapped to the bed, they were in stirrups and I was gassed, I had plenty of gas and they just snatched away the baby,” Ms Clough said.

“You weren’t allowed to see him or touch him, anything like that, or hold him and it was just like a piece of my soul had died. And it’s still dead”

[...]Greens Senator Rachel Siewert is chairwoman of a Senate inquiry currently examining the country’s former adoption practices.

“Women have told stories about going into hospital not realising that they were going to have to give up their babies, but that pillows were put over their faces, that curtains were put up so they couldn’t see the baby,” Senator Siewert said.

Women have also told the ABC they were given milk suppressing drugs that have now been linked to cancer, as well as barbiturates that caused sedation and in some cases delirium.

Mr Laverty says it is not a period to be proud of.

Bit of an understatement, Mr. Laverty. I kind of don’t think “I’m sorry” makes up for one hundred and fifty thousand women having their children forcefully taken away from them.
As if all the child molestation wasn’t enough. Why do people still associate themselves with this evil organization? I’m starting to lose patience for the excuses of culture and community. Pretty sure you can find a replacement religion that doesn’t molest and steal children. I hear the Unitarians are nice.

Bill O’Reilly is a misogynistic moron

What’s new, right? Here’s what Bill had to say about the recent recommendation that birth control be subsidized:

“Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex. They’re not going to use birth control anyway.”


Yep. Women only get pregnant because they’re drunk sluts who don’t care about birth control.

…I don’t even have to say anything else, do I?

This is post 31 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

How one Christian responded to the "It Gets Better" project

Did you come here hoping this was one of those times a Christian defies negative stereotypes and welcomes gays with open arms?

Well, sorry to disappoint you.

A couple days ago I mentioned Dan Savage’s wonderful It Gets Better project, which aims to reach suicidal gay teens via YouTube since many can’t get help anywhere else. I can hardly watch the videos without getting choked up. But here’s a video this Christian decided to upload as a response, named the Lot Project:

A partial transcript for those who are too enraged to watch to completion:

“Billy Lucus, who hanged himself, obviously because he was gay, and unable to endure the guilt that the words of others prompted in him. This was indeed a tragedy, but not anywhere near the tragedy that Billy will discover in eternity when he faces the wrath of God upon rebellious and unrepentant sinners. Then, he will realize that his sin could not be atoned for by his own death, and he will realize that people like Dan Savage who encourage sin are deceivers. He will see them for what they are, the blind leading the blind. And he will realize that he has fallen into that ditch that the blind leading the blind inevitably fall into: that’s eternal destruction and misery. Sadly, it’s too late for Billy. For those who are viewing this video, however, their remains the opportunity of turning from sin to the obedience of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now, before someone jumps in here screaming about how I’m a horrible person for assuming all Christians are this hateful, delusional, and ignorant – save your breath. I know. Plenty of Christians are wonderful people, pro-gay rights, and even gay themselves. This by no means represents every single Christian on the planet.

But you know what? If you want us to think those good, loving, caring Christians outnumber the awful ones, maybe you should put forth just a *tad* bit more effort in making that obvious, since this version of Christianity seems pretty common to me.

And no, hollering that this man isn’t a “true” Christian doesn’t help your argument.