Skeptoid’s Dunning: The Story of a Man Who Hoodwinks Unskeptical Skeptics*

It’s a very good thing other folks have written things about Brian Dunning’s wire fraud shenanigans, because you won’t find anything about it on his site. Not even his it’s-my-fault-only-kinda-not-and-everybody-was-doing-it-and-it-didn’t-really-make-me-any-money-and-who-cares-about-eBay-never-mind-the-other-affiliates-I-probably-ripped-off-and-anyway-I-once-helped-some-people-who-got-stuck-and-hey-listen-to-my-podcast-while-I’m-in-prison! letter. In fact, if you’re only a Skeptoid fan, you may not really know anything about what’s going on, especially since he or someone in his organization has set up the Twitter feed to neverever let on that anyone’s talking about him being a big fat fucking fraudster:

This lovely little screenshot our own Jason Thibeault got shows that the Twitter feed widget's set to exclude words like -cookie -ebay -fraud -cookies -criminal -jail -prison - y'know, all mentions of Brian Dunning's fraudulent ways. Can't have the rubes - I mean, skeptics - finding out!

This lovely little screenshot our own Jason Thibeault got at Skeptoid.com shows that the Twitter feed widget’s set to exclude words like -cookie -ebay -fraud -cookies -criminal -jail -prison – y’know, all mentions of Brian Dunning’s fraudulent ways. Can’t have the rubes – I mean, skeptics – finding out!

I’ve not paid much attention. Brian Dunning means jack diddly shit to me – I never even knew his podcast existed before it came out that he’d been defrauding eBay out of a lot of money. Clever people doing stupid things to rake in illicit dollars doesn’t surprise me a bit. And the brigade of screaming howler monkeys constantly attacking some of my favorite atheists, combined with a bunch of Big Names turning out to be horrible people, has given me a certain immunity to crushing disappointment. Skeptics can be just as bad as the rest of humanity, news at 11. Brian Dunning’s story is an old, tired one: making his way in the world by hook, but mostly by crook, and not owning his crimes in the end.

But due to the fact that people I like are being trodden on by self-declared Skeptics™ who cannot believe their own Hero is a criminal jackass, I figured I’d go ahead and signal boost. And hey, one or two of you may have missed the news that Brian Dunning is a big fucking fraudster, someone you cannot trust, because he is willing to lie to your face, even in his supposed mea culpa. Skeptics deserve better. Skeptics should be better. So read up on this ratfucker, so that when he returns after his 15 or so months in the Big House, he doesn’t sucker you in.

Fraudster skeptic Brian Dunning’s shell game

The Worst Thing Brian Dunning Has Done for Skepticism

Brian Dunning Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Fraud

A Critical Analysis of Brian Dunning’s Explanation

The virtual radio silence on Brian Dunning’s fraud

Why won’t you “skeptics” let Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning put his misdeeds into the memory hole!?

The sophistry and revisionist history in Skeptoid Brian Dunning’s statement 

And, as a reminder that even as a skeptic (minus the fraud) he fails, just one example of Brian Dunning doing it rong:

Brian Dunning’s DDT Fail

Surely the skeptic community is not so hard-up for skeptic entertainers that we can’t boot fraudsters out.

Brian Dunning, wire fraudster. Image courtesy DarylNickerson via Wikimedia Commons.

Brian Dunning, wire fraudster. Image courtesy DarylNickerson via Wikimedia Commons.

*I don’t mean you, if you liked his podcast but, when news broke of his perfidy, carefully considered the evidence against him, and waited to see how the trial shook out before coming to a conclusion, and are not, now he’s convicted and sentenced, trying to tell yourself he’s a really great guy who just happens to have maybe done some shady things to a big rich company, so no big. You’re not unskeptical if you didn’t catch on from the very first podcast. You’re only unskeptical if you’re now trying to spin the facts in this con artist’s favor.

Attention Brian Dunning’s Loyal Fan Club: Yes, he committed a serious crime. Yes, he deserves to go to jail. Yes, you really are a rotten skeptic if you think his actions are defensible, but a psychic’s claims they can talk to your-dead-relative-whose-name-begins-with-j-no-wait-maybe-a-w are not. Yes, you are a sucker if you read that “explanation” of his and didn’t have every this-asshole’s-got-a-thick-wool-sack-and-is-coming-at-my-eyes-with-it-whilst-preparing-to-reach-for-my-wallet alarm. And yes, it is a fact that you won’t be allowed to whine all over the comments here. Go elsewhere.

White America Has Outlawed Existing-While-Black

That’s the only conclusion I can come to after a day spent reading about 18 year-old unarmed black kid Mike Brown’s murder by a white cop with a god complex. It’s 2014, and we’re still a society in which black parents have to explain to their kids how not to get killed by the police, and a society in which a black man can get executed for selling untaxed cigarettes, a black woman for opening her door to police, a young black man for lying face-down as the police compelled him to., and a black man can’t be assaulted by a white one without getting pepper-sprayed and detained. Meanwhile, white people can carry assault rifles wherever they wish, and even brandish them at police without getting shot instantly, but a black man can’t carry a BB gun in Wal-Mart without getting executed by police. An unarmed black teenager gets murdered by a policeman, and a white pundit wants to know why President Obama won’t offer the murderer condolences for having given in to the impulse to destroy an innocent human being.

Are we happy, white Americans? This is the country we’ve made. Remember all that tough-on-crime talk that’s kept us electing people who’ve promised more cops with more powerful weaponry? Remember how we all panicked after 9/11 and decided it was okay if our police were turned into paramilitary units? And how we’ve put all this heavy weaponry in the hands of white people who disproportionately target black people?

I want you to look at what’s happening in Ferguson, to the people who are peacefully protesting a black teenager’s murder.

An unarmed black protestor retreats from police, who have enough firepower to reduce him to random chunks of meat. Image credit: Whitney Curtis, NYT

An unarmed black protestor retreats from police, who have enough firepower to reduce him to random chunks of meat. Image credit: Whitney Curtis, NYT

This country was founded on the premise that citizens should be able to express their displeasure to their government. The Constitution enshrines the right to protest:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

States are as bound by that Constitution as the Federal government. And yet, in Ferguson, a young black man with his empty hands raised to the sky, petitioning his government for redress of a very serious grievance, is met with overwhelming force. In America, if you are a black person protesting the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, the First Amendment does not apply. You will be silenced with military hardware.

As for freedom of the press, well, they are free to get arrested in McDonald’s and slammed into things by the arresting officers when they do not respond instantly to conflicting commands.

This is the world we’ve made.

Some of you may like it. You’re not likely to be targeted. You don’t have to walk out your front door with the possibility of getting shot to death by the police on your mind. You think the black people you’ve discriminated against and had your proxies brutalize and robbed of any hope of a future deserve everything the police dish out. You like the tough-on-crime rhetoric that lets you enjoy your drugs in peace while black kids have their slender chance at a decent life ruined over a little bit of pot. You can break the law in a thousand minor ways without being murdered by a cop, but will look for any tiny misdeed on the parts of the black folk executed by law enforcement. You think this society is just, that the police are in the right, and those who are suffering deserve their suffering. You think that everything the police do is justified if people who have suffered endless injustice are backed into a corner, and have no way out except to lash out. You condemn them for anything you can, just so that you won’t have to confront the uncomfortable fact that you’re part of a system that crushed them, and then sent riot police to attack them when they had the temerity to protest the brutality visited upon them.

I have nothing to say to you. I will not waste my time digging for that shred of humanity that may be left in you.

For those of us who just didn’t pay attention, who let our fear get the better of us, who didn’t realize the horrific scope of the problem because we never get pulled over for driving while white, stopped and frisked for being white in public, and are treated with at least a patina of respect by police officers who know they can’t get away with casual brutality toward white people, I think it’s well past time we wake the fuck up, and start doing something about the things we’ve allowed to happen in this country. It can start right now, with a signature on this petition, asking for a full investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown. Sign it now.

And then listen to the stories pouring out, the anger and the pain.

Listen.

Image is a drawing of Mike Brown, with the caption, "I am Mike Brown and my life matters."

Mike Brown. Image courtesy dignidadrebelde via Flickr.

In Solidarity w/Ferguson sick of your colorblind bullshit

White America:

Michael Brown.

The young man was on his way to college the next day.

Yet he was brutally executed by fascist police state thugs in occupied territory and left to bleed in the street like a dog.

He did everything that white America claimed he should do to keep from being branded a savage and was murdered in cold blood.

This Is Why We’re Mad About the Shooting of Mike Brown

As a black person in America, it’s getting exhausting to still have to explain, in the year 2014, your right to exist in this country. To explain that you are a human being whose value sits no lower than anyone else’s. To explain our basic humanity. And perhaps worst of all, to explain exactly why we are outraged.

We shouldn’t have to explain why it’s not acceptable for unarmed teenagers to be gunned down by the police.

Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By Police

Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.

So, to get folks back on track to focus on what matters most here—the killing of yet another unarmed Black teenager—I’ve compiled this list of 6 Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By the Police.

Even atheists have sacred cows

Trayvon Martin was just walking home with skittles and a fucking iced tea. He was killed for nothing, bc of a racist scumbag who should be in prison. I’ve walked to the store at night before. I’ve worn a brightly colored tee shirt, and shorts. I’ve carried my cellphone and wallet at all times. Why? Because in the back of my mind, I have to worry about the possibility that someone will want to shoot me because I’m a person of color. Nevermind that I don’t own a gun, and don’t want to. Nevermind that I’ve never been in a fight in my life. Nevermind that I’m not an aggressive person prone to violence. Nevermind that I have a hard time hurting a roach, let alone another human being. No, nevermind all that. There are people out there that wish I were dead, or would take the opportunity to kill me for nothing.

[snip]

Perhaps you’ve even heard of Ezell Ford, a 24 year old black man who was killed by police while he was walking along 65th street, some TWO HUNDRED blocks north of where a shooting had been reported. He was lying on the ground and obeying police orders when he was killed by police.

He died on August the 13th. oh look.

That’s today.

you all going to be paying attention when the next unarmed black man dies to police on the 15th? you gonna remember their names when there’s another black person lying dead in the street, killed by police on the 17th? are you going to remember eric garner’s name?

The Mellow Monkey on Even atheists have sacred cows

Racial profiling, disproportionate sentencing including the application of the death penalty, police brutality and murder, institutionalized discrimination, systemic inequality in matters of health and quality of life, changes in voting laws and redistricting to try to minimize Black votes, disproportionate rates of being the victims of violent crimes, involuntary sterilizations and contraceptives with serious side-effects offered without proper counseling, high maternal and infant mortality, children disappearing into the foster care system instead of being placed within their own communities, etc.

Some things have gotten better since We Charge Genocide, but mostly they’ve just gotten a little less official.

Midwestern Police Trying New ‘Shoot All Black People’ Approach

Here are a couple stories in which police officers shot people, and race was most certainly not a factor, because race is never a factor now that Barack Obama is President/Dictator for Life. We begin with the tragic death of a man named John Crawford, who was shot by police officers in an Ohio Walmart for the crime of shopping for a BB gun while black. While Crawford was busy exercising his Second Amendment rights, two other shoppers, April and Ronald Ritchie, decided they ought to inform the local police that a scary black man was carrying a gun in a store where guns are sold.

NAACP Should Already Know That The Politics Of Respectability Cannot Save Black People’s Lives

This is not the same as every race’s intraracial crime (yes, every fucking race has intraracial crime; every race does not face anti-Blackness [or settler colonialism, which connects to this history] and this particular historic structure of violence, however) nor would be prevented by the politics of respectability. Black people in America do not have the power of the police or the State. We cannot “earn humanity” through behavior, dress, or even beliefs. We are dehumanized as Black people based on who we are, the fact that we are Black, not based on what we do. A lack of “respect” for the city (one already under investigation for profiling and racist policing long before Michael was executed) didn’t kill Michael Brown. A long legacy of anti-Blackness and violence in that city, in this country, in our history is why he is dead.

Silence is Not an Option

I don’t care if Mike Brown was going to college soon. This should not matter. We should not have to prove Mike Brown was worthy of living. We should not have to account for the ways in which he is suitably respectable. We should not have to prove that his body did not deserve to be riddled with bullets. His community should not have to silence their anger so they won’t be accused of rioting, so they won’t become targets too.

America Is Not For Black People

Officers have tanks now. They have drones. They have automatic rifles, and planes, and helicopters, and they go through military-style boot camp training. It’s a constant complaint from what remains of this country’s civil liberties caucus. Just this last June, the ACLU issued a report on how police departments now possess arsenals in need of a use. Few paid attention, as usually happens.

The worst part of outfitting our police officers as soldiers has been psychological. Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he’ll reasonably think that his job isn’t simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying.

If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they’re working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy. And because of correlations, rooted in historical injustice, between crime and income and income and race, the enemy population will consist largely of people of color, and especially of black men. Throughout the country, police officers are capturing, imprisoning, and killing black males at a ridiculous clip, waging a very literal war on people like Michael Brown.

Protesters use hands-up gesture defiantly after Michael Brown shooting

Yet again, the protesters took to the sidewalks and streets, facing a row of police guarding the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office. “Hands up!” they chanted, their arms aloft. “Don’t shoot.”

“This is how the boy died!” Kendrick Strong, 42, hollered at police officers Tuesday morning. “This is how the boy died! With his hands up in the air!”

[snip]

The hands-up — a sign of surrender and submission black men and boys here say they learn early on when dealing with police — has been transformed into a different kind of weapon.

Police in Ferguson Fire Tear Gas on Protesters Standing in Their Own Backyard

Standing in his backyard along with a few friends and family was 24-year-old Rich West. And after seeing the police deploy tear gas as they marched down the empty street, West and his friends felt like protesting.

“You go home! You go home!” they chanted. As the police come closer, they all put their hands up.

Once again, the police officer with the megaphone ordered the protesters to go home.

“We’re in our yard!” they responded.

At one point West walked to his fence with his hands high up in the air.

“This my property! This my property!” he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.

Be Proud Americans Still Know How to Riot

Whether you identify positively or negatively with the term or the idea, whether you feel that uprising is an appropriate reaction to state violence or whether you prefer the term rebellion instead, the act of the riot is a historical one as necessary to democracy as any form of civil or uncivil disobedience.

Hey, Step Back with the Riot Shaming

One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s lesser known quotes ‘riot is the language of the unheard’ keeps me grounded here. In fact, did you know that MLK and many other non-violent black activists employed armed guards in the 60s?

Besides, all of this talk about ‘violence’ this and stereotypes that is just so unhelpful. Let’s maybe talk about the fact that in cases like this police deliberately censor footage gathered, in some cases arresting photographers for fear of sparking unrest. You know why that is? Because they understand what most riot shamers don’t: if you corner injured people, there is no where to go but against.

Ferguson P.D. Would Like All Y’all Black People To Hush Up And Be ‘Respectful’ Now, Ya Hear?

When your town is two-thirds black, your police force is almost exclusively white, and you’ve taken to the streets in tanks like it’s fucking Fallujah, you need to hush your cracker mouth about “respect.”

Rachel Maddow on the record of racial disparity in Ferguson

The white establishment is absolutely terrified that they may have gone just slightly too far by murdering a young black boy who was unarmed and whom witnesses claim was 35 feet away from the police officer who murdered him. And they’re expressing this terror by creating a paramilitary presence to gas and attack and try to frighten the living bejeezus out of the people who dare say “yeah, murdering that boy WAS a little too far over the line, thanks.”

Inaji on Even atheists have sacred cows

You also think the stomp of boots, rumble of tanks, teargas, rubber bullets, big damn guns and real bullets can’t ever come marching to you. Because you don’t want to understand what happened yesterday. That day when a police force went rogue military and shut down a town is a day I thought I would not see. I didn’t think I’d live to see that happen, but I have. And what I have lived to see is fucking terrifying. It should scare the hell out of every single person in the U.S., regardless of class, colour, or location.

Go look at what the police are doing there.

Never think it can’t happen here.

It’s time for the police to be de-militarized, time for this country to truly confront its problem with racism and racial injustice, and time for us to demand the brutality stops.

Start today.

Nerp. Still Not Deep Enough

Let us reassess whether atheism should be divided or not. Lemme see… Would I want to be on the same side as The Amazing Atheist, f’r instance? Ha ha ha ha no.

My, that was easy. Someone that despicable clearly has no place on my side of the Deep Rift™. I don’t fancy wading hip-deep in festering hatred just to get a larf at creationism. Why, all I need for that is to read their very own textbooks.

But what about his addled supporters? Should I, perhaps, build a small rope bridge between us?

No, I don’t think I shall tolerate hanging with the same side that thinks violent misogynists are no big so long as they deride creationists in a manner they find pleasing.

I shall be assidiously avoiding all association with those who think it’s better to defend an asshole than find and promote the non-assholes who do the same work. I am not so desperate for allies that I need to accept such grotty specimens.

No, the side that embraces people who find it sporting good fun to deliberately trigger rape victims, threaten to rape people with a fist, and hate on teenage girls because society frowns on them salivating on same, can stay far, far away from my side. They, to me, are what the Westboro Baptist Church is to my liberal Christian friends.

Image shows a statue of David Livingstone shading his eyes. Caption says, "No, I'm afraid I can still see them. Do keep widening."I think we can do nicely without that sort, thanks. In point of fact, I think we must.

What Recent Supreme Court Decisions Have Told Me About My Value as a Woman and a Human Being

I’ve learned so much from the Supreme Court over the last few years:

Corporations are totes people who have the right to put as much money where their mouth is as they want – well, they don’t technically have mouths, but they’re still American people who have every right to talk as much as those mere biological people they’re notorious for trodding upon.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) Limits on corporate and union political expenditures during election cycles violate the First Amendment. Corporations and labor unions can spend unlimited sums in support of or in opposition to candidates as long as the spending is independent of the candidates.

(Notice we hoi polloi are thrown a sop in the form of labor unions being able to spend unlimited sums – which would be nice, if it weren’t for the fact that corporations have been busy murdering unions for decades. Hey – does that count as first-degree murder? Because that means we should be able to imprison or execute them, then.)

Corporations and rich people have lots more freedom of speech than people who aren’t rich or corporations.

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) Limits on the total amounts of money that individuals can donate to political campaigns during two-year election cycles violate the First Amendment.

Image shows Supreme Court portrait: the conservative justices have corporate logos on their robes. Caption says, "I don't always undermine the Constitution of the United States, but when I do, I make sure I get paid."

People who want to keep guns around in order to shoot other people (but not corporations, because while corporations can “speak,” they can’t actually bleed) are more important than people who would rather impose sensible limits on guns for the safety of total non-people (such as children outside of wombs).

McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010) The individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense is fully applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

People of color don’t need any protection from systemic racism. Nossir. Times have changed and there is no longer any such thing as, oh, say, corporations (which are Very Important People) and political parties (*coughRepublicancough*) discriminating against people whose skin is other than white. They certainly wouldn’t refuse to hire them or prevent them from voting!

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) A Michigan state constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which contains the coverage formula that determines which state and local jurisdictions are subjected to federal preclearance from the United States Department of Justice before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices based on their histories of racial discrimination in voting, is unconstitutional because it no longer reflects current societal conditions.

Making everybody in government pray to Jesus doesn’t violate anyone’s free exercise of religion. Why wouldn’t Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and atheists and pagans and all them other (totally fake) people love praying to Jesus? Their objections are silly and can definitely be ignored. Remember: being forced to pray to a god your religion or conscience tells you doesn’t exist is no big, even if your god is a jealous fucker who will cut you for paying lip service to someone else’s god.

Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) A town council’s practice of opening its sessions with a sectarian prayer does not violate the Establishment Clause.

We look forward to seeing the Court twist into pretzels to define why praying to Allah is totes a violation of the Establishment clause.*

The Court has given me to understand that women are definitely lesser people than corporations. Corporations have the right to force women and trans men who haven’t had surgery to pay for their own birth control, because a corporation can be totes religious just like a person, and private for-profit corporations are so pious that they, like churches, can impose their beliefs that women should be baby factories upon women, trans men, and other folks with a uterus. Uterus-having folks, however, have no right to impose their desire for appropriate healthcare upon the corporation providing health insurance as part of their compensation. No word yet on whether corporations must pay for the aspirin they’re telling ladies to keep between their knees as a substitute for effective birth control, but I’m sure they won’t have to if they classify all pills as birth control.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, 573 U.S. ___ (2014) Closely held for-profit corporations have free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Viagra, of course, will be provided to the menfolk with limp willies free of charge.

Image is an angry Captain Picard with his hand extended as if protesting. Caption says, "Hobby Lobby is not a church, it's a fucking crafts store."

But hey, isn’t it sweet that the Court’s enlightened enough to finally realize there’s no good reason for the federal government to say “I don’t” to same-sex marriage?

United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines—for federal law purposes—the terms “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to marriages between one man and one woman, is a deprivation of the equal liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The federal government must recognize same-sex marriages that have been approved by the states.

Shorter Supremes: “We’re going to give corporations insane control over the political process, and gut all the laws protecting you from racist jackasses, and let Christians force their prayers and beliefs upon you even in government settings, and we don’t give a single shit about women’s reproductive rights because every fetus and potential fetus is sacred until it’s born, after which we don’t care if it gets shot, but hey, we’re not bigots – you can have all the same-sex weddings you want! Just, y’know, don’t expect us to tell corporations, which are completely religious people, that they can’t discriminate against you. Because it’s obvious we think they own you.”

Image shows Scalia. Caption reads, "Equality? Not founder's intent, lol."

For those who say elections don’t matter, I just want to point out one thing: the majority are all Reagan / George W. Bush appointees. The dissenters: Clinton and Obama. Just one less Bush term, and women might not have to put up with their employer forcing their religious views up their vagina. Had Obama lost, same-sex marriage would still be a distant dream rather than an impending reality. So fuck you if you’re one of those who was willing to risk McCain or Romney just to punish the Dems for not being progressive enough. Play those games with local and state elections where there’s less risk and more reward, people. Leave the ability to appoint Supreme Court justices in hands that aren’t bloody evil.

Image shows Voting Rights Act being signed. Caption says, "Undone by 5 justices. #whycourtsmatter"

And go read Greta Christina’s piece on this travesty. Get outraged. Get voting. Don’t ever let yourself believe elections don’t matter. The only thing that’s going to defeat all that corporate cash is a lot of good people willing to pull the right levers.

Image is a gray cat in a suit. Caption says, "Lawyer cat objects to everything."Boycott Hobby Lobby. Get involved with SafeAndSecular.org.

*I will soon be running for office as an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – if you vote for me, I assure you each meeting will begin by invoking his saucy blessing upon our government business. Does anyone know where I can find meatballs that are halal, kosher, and don’t violate Hindu dietary laws?

Snippets about the landmark rulings filched from Wikipedia’s handy list.

The following memes were found by Ophelia, who has been blogging this case all day. Take them. Spread them. Annoy your Tea Party relatives with them.

Americans United meme. Text reads, "Apparently, the Supreme Court's HOBBY is acting as a LOBBY for the interests of corporations run by the religious right." Image is a 50s illustration of two women. Caption reads, "Face it, dear. Corporations have more rights than we do." Fight back at www.safeandsecular.org. Atheists.org meme: Image shows a Hobby Lobby store, with a Monopoly-style card over it that reads "Fake religious freedom. Get out of the law free. This card may be used to treat women as second-class citizens." Caption says, "A gift from the Supreme Court to religious extremists."  Elizabeth Warren quote: I cannot believe that we live in a world where would even [sic] CONSIDER letting some big corporation deny the women who work for it access to the basic medical tests, treatments or prescriptions that they need based on vague moral objections. The current Supreme Court has headed in a very scary direction.

A Thought Experiment for the Philosophy Dudebros

Hey, let’s do some philosophy for any more philosophy dudebros who might show up wanting to talk abortion rights. I LOVE philosophy!

All right, dude. Ready for a thought experiment? You’re always totally down with one, I’m sure, cuz you’re a philosophy dude. You’ve signed up to be an organ donor, right? Right? If not, exit the conversation now and never ever even consider you have anything to say about what women should do with unwanted pregnancies. If you’re not willing to let your dead body save other lives, you don’t even get to hypothetically consider what I should do with my alive and aware one.

Okay, organ donor wanna-debate-abortion philosophy dudebro. You’ve been in an accident. You were riding your bike, you forgot your helmet, swerved to avoid hitting a dog and ended up going ass over ankles over the handlebars on to the pavement. Cracked your head wide open. Now, you got flown to the best trauma hospital in the world, and they’ve put you back together again. You’re never going to contribute much to society, though, because your brain is so damaged that your cognitive function is greatly reduced and you’re never going to be able to live without 24-7 care again.

Hey, what’s this on your license? Is that an Organ Donor YES that I see?

Image shows part of an Organ Donation form with the box for "Donate all my organs and tissue" checked.

Organ donor form. Image courtesy Magnus D on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Sweet! Look, philosophy dudebro: there’s so many lives you can save! Sure, you can still feel pain, and being stuck in the hospital rather than a residential facility makes you really upset, and you’re aware of just how bad the quality of your life is when you can’t control what’s done to your body, but you don’t matter as much as all those people you can help, do you? After all, you’ve got two functioning kidneys – why shouldn’t we take one to save the life of a person who, with a working kidney, will go on to be a productive member of society? Right? I mean, you’ve got two, you don’t need the other one. Except if your remaining kidney fails, you’re shit out of luck, and if you develop kidney stones in that one remaining kidney, you might have complications, and there’s the fact that the surgery is hella painful and can lead to the potential for infection, complications and death, but you wouldn’t mind being forced to donate part of yourself to save another life even with those risks, would you? After all, you once marked yes on a donor registration form. Look, if you survive the removal of your kidney, and you don’t have anything bad happen to your other one, the long-term risks are minimal. That other person has as much right to live as you do. Hey, maybe even more, since they don’t need residential care. So that’s a good argument for forcing you to donate your kidney, right?

You know what, I don’t see why we can’t do it right now. Sure, you have a fully-functional brain, and your own hopes and wishes and dreams, and you don’t like to suffer, but you’re a match for this person whose kidneys have failed. It’ll only take you about four weeks to recover from the surgery. Isn’t it more ethical to save a life than keep both your kidneys? Shouldn’t society be able to choose for you whether to save a life or not? And if you’ve said you’ll be an organ donor after death, why wouldn’t you want to be one now?

I mean, it’s not like you’ll have to go through nine months of having something feeding off of you. It’s not like you’re risking all these complications, or these complications, or maybe these really bad ones, or these permanent changes to your body (not to mention lotsa complications). Compared to that, kidney donation’s a breeze!

Image is a stylized representation of a person giving blood.

Blood donation pictogram courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s have some blood out of you. It’s totally safe – your risk of complication is virtually nil. Sure, you may faint. Sure, you may despise needles and panic every time. Sure, there could be bruising and bleeding and scarring and nerve damage and stuff, but surely it’s worth it to save lots of people. Right? We can come take your blood any time we need to, and you won’t mind a bit, because life is so darn precious. I mean, wow, your blood might save that poor pregnant lady who’s bleeding to death while trying to deliver that child you forced her to have. How cool would that be?

You know what, let’s go whole hog here. You can totally donate some bone marrow, and it’ll barely hurt a bit! Barely any risk! Sure, you may suffer complications from anesthesia, but what’s a teeny-tiny little risk of death compared to saving a life, huh? I mean, you’ll be at far less risk of dying than pregnant women are! So there should be no problemo, right, philosophy dudebro?

I’m sure it’s totally fine to perform all of the above procedures on you, whether you consent or not, because greater good and life is precious and all that jazz – not to mention, you consented to be an organ donor once, and you risked your life on your bike once, and that means you’ve totally consented to the consequences we decide to impose on you. Surely, you don’t think you matter more than other people. What if the person you save is the next Elvis? Or the next Einstein? Or a fetus? Yeah, buddy! You know we can’t risk potentially losing any of those potential awesome people just because you have some silly notion about bodily autonomy, so hop up on that operating table and let’s get crack-a-lackin. Hey, you might be saving the person who grows up to cure cancer! Betcha that’ll make all the pain and fear and complications you suffer feel like nothing.

What’s that? You won’t let me cut on you? How very selfish of you. Ah, well, as you know, it’s your body and we can’t force you do use it to keep other people alive without your permission, now, can we?

So why is it you have such a hard time understanding women and trans men are people, just like you?

Image shows a thoughtful velociraptor with the caption "You mean to tell me... that women are people too?"

Yep.

Keeping Up With the Creationists, Vol. I, Issue 1: Ain’t Just Private Schools, Kids

Hello and welcome to what I hope will be a weekly feature, Keeping Up With the Creationists, in which we peruse some creationist news and remind ourselves that, no, alas, creationism isn’t dead. It’s not even sleeping. It’s wide-awake and kicking in not only Christian private and home schools, but in our very own public school systems.

Yes, public.

If you haven’t already, read Zack Kopplin’s eye-popping exposé of supposedly-secular charter schools busily teaching kids (using government monies, let’s not forget) “that the fossil record is ‘sketchy.’ That evolution is ‘dogma’ and an ‘unproved theory’ with no experimental basis. They will be told that leading scientists dispute the mechanisms of evolution and the age of the Earth.” This is bog-standard creationist crap. I’ll be filing an Open Records request of my own to see what they’re doing to the earth sciences, but as we can tell from what Zack’s uncovered, there’s a major problem there. Those who thought creationism was beat need to go have a re-think.

As if that wasn’t enough to make you pop an extra blood pressure pill or two, here’s another bit of outrageousness: Louisiana public schools are openly teaching creationism. And they’re belittling Buddhist kids to boot. This isn’t a rogue teacher, mind, this is an entire school, up to and including the superintendent, and they’ve got Jesus hanging over the door, just to ensure the kiddies know who their lord n’ master is. The public school kiddies.

Amanda Marcotte makes an excellent point in a post about this: “bullying is a weapon that the Christian right loves and does not want to give up.” Because they adore school situations like this:

Students are frequently led in prayer, and students are required to attend an annual “See You At The Pole” prayer event. Teachers routinely hand out Christian pamphlets that [father of the bullied child] Lane describes as featuring “[t]he entire New Testament of the Bible as well as cartoons that denounce evolution and trumpet the evils of birth control, premarital sex, rock music, alcohol, pornography, homosexuality, sorcery, and witchcraft.” Needless to say, when he told the superintendent about his concerns about his stepson being routinely bullied and humiliated for being Buddhist, the superintendent “was dismissive and told us that we live in the ‘Bible Belt’ and that this is just how things are.”

So yeah, no, creationism’s not the least bit dead, and Christianists are busy undermining public school education and ensuring kids who don’t believe right are made miserable. Because Jesus.

Image is a giraffe, looking as if it's pointing to a duck that's waddling away from it. The caption is "Shun! Shun the non-believer! Shuuuunnnnnn!!"

They’re busy in not one, not two, but three state legislatures, trying to get creationism in through the backdoor. It’s not even the end of January, and nearly 10% of our states have jackasses jacking up science education. Local elections matter, folks. So does political participation. If you live in Virginia, Oklahoma, or Missouri, raise merry hell with your elected officials. Remind the saner ones that what the fuckwads are trying with these bills is the same type of shitty legislation that got Louisiana in a position where teachers are teaching creationism with impunity.

For a good editorial on the Virginia situation, one that pertains to all three bills, see here. I can forgive the tongue-bath they gave Del. Bell at the end in light of the full-throated defense of science and evolution at the beginning.

Turning now to Christianist schools, we’ve got some excellent insider tales from students a student* suffering ACE. A student at Gospel Haven Academy woke up halfway through his sophomore year in high school to realize, horrified, he’d been “taught pseudoscience, revisionist history, [and] right-wing propaganda.” Wait until you see what they’ve done to music. *shudder*

One of our own is also stuck within an ACE school: Tyler is a 17 year-old atheist who has discovered the joys of debunking the dreck he’s being taught. This line will remain one of my favorites of all time: “If teaching God’s point of view requires you to teach blatant mistruths, maybe it’s time to rethink God’s point of view.” I want this on t-shirts. I’ll see if I can in touch, and work out a nice little arrangement for a line of clothing to feature this quote, plus a humorous picture, suitable for wearing to your next church school potluck.

PZ has an excellent post on “engaging silly beliefs in multiple ways” that I urge you to consider. Those interested in Noah’s Ark might like to know it’s actually round.

And, finally, get your Sunday fix of Christianist history with Doktor Zoom. Today, we learn some very interesting… um, facts (if you can call the fucked-up things Christianists believe about FDR, Hitler, and Japan “facts”)… about WWII. Such as:

As for the Nazis’ racism, well, that’s just the inevitable result of Darwinism (never mind that the Nazis banned Origin of Species, shhhhh):

Hitler combined Marxist-socialism with Darwin’s theory of evolution, proclaiming that the German people had evolved into a superior or master race. He called for a world war to kill off the weaker races (especially the Jews) and assure the “survival of the fittest” (the German people). Because many Germans believed the notion of evolution, they accepted Hitler’s ideas. Soon public hospitals began to practice euthanasia (killing the terminally ill, the mentally retarded, and those with physical handicaps) and abortion (killing unborn babies).

That’s all for this week. Join me for more creationist shenanigans next Sunday. I’m sure we won’t lack for material…

 

*Derp. As Jonny points out, they are the same kid.

The Doxxing of Isis: Selected Links – UPDATED

There are few worse sins in cyberspace than outing a pseudonymous blogger. It’s barely forgivable to do it to someone who was using their pseud to break the law. Doing it to one who did nothing worse than harshly criticize you is roughly equivalent to the Unforgivable Curse. Henry Gee, an editor at Nature, apparently saw a few posts and the occasional sideswipe on Twitter as terrible persecution. I hope to contact Henry and get evidence of this defamation, persecution, and bullying very soon, as I was unable to discover any in several days of Googling. Certainly, it must be severe in order to justify giving a woman’s meatspace name to the public, therefore opening her private life to all of the lovely death threats, rape threats, and endless harassment enjoyed by women everywhere on the intertoobz. Would a white man with power punch down at a woman of color without suffering a campaign of harassment that would put Rebecca Watson’s stalkers to shame?

I wish I could say I think not. But perhaps he’ll surprise me. I live in (cynical) hope.

Whilst I search for evidence of this terrible persecution that was so, so horrible he had a right – nay, a duty – to dox a mouthy woman uppity female critic, I thought I’d share some recent musings on the situation. If you know of ones I’ve missed, please do include them in the comments.

And Nature? After at least three spectacular fails when it comes to the way your hallowed pages and your editors treat women, I’d be seriously reconsidering what one must do in order not to behave as raging sexist assclowns. I will here simply point out that two of the three incidents infuriated women in science and their allies involved your esteemed Henry Gee, and leave it at that. Also, I see Henry’s Twitter page was somehow tragically lost. If you need its contents from the time of the incident in question, I have preserved them.

On with the linkage, then…

Isis the Scientist: Be Not Afraid… Wherein Isis discusses her outing by Henry Gee, and explores its optics and possible consequences.

Pharyngula: Oh, Henry. In which PZ adds his caustic two cents.

Biological ANthropology Developing Investigators Troop: Outing Dr. Isis: A retaliation of consequence by a Nature editor. Wherein we are advised that we should not poo-pooh this incident as “just happening online.”

Balanced Instability: On bullying and being outed. In which Gerty Z discusses why being outed is being bullied, and how damaging it is.

Jezebel/Groupthink: Do people know about Nature editor doxxing a science blogger? Oh, dear. Looks like this misstep’s gonna make it out of the sci-com community… whoops.

Tobias Buckell: Dear Mr. Gee: you don’t punch down. In which the propriety of an editor of one of the most prestigious science journals in the world outing a young university scientist of color is explored.

DrugMonkey: The protection afforded by pseudonyms depends on the community. In which community standards are discussed. Hint: they do not include outing pseuds.

Supernova Condensate: We must not tolerate this and An addendum. In which both doxxing and behaving like assclowns towards women is strongly discouraged.

it is NOT junk: On anonymity in science and on Twitter. In which a former target of Dr. Isis’s wrath explains why he’s grateful she nailed his ass under a pseud.

FrogHeart: Is it Nature or is it Henry Gee? science’s woman wars continue (or start up again). A battle-weary soul takes Henry Gee to the woodshed, whilst wishing that woodshed doesn’t have to be used so damned often.

 

UPDATED LINKS 1/23/2014

Popular Science: Why Did This Top Science Journal Editor Expose A Blogger’s Pen Name? Title says it all, really.

Respectful Insolence: On “Orac,” Isis, pseudonymity, and anonymity. This post was perfect in nearly every particular, and a welcome, happy surprise.

NPG: Statement from Nature. Oh, Nature. Nature, Nature, Nature. This is a step, but… you’re still so very, very far from getting it. Step one: this isn’t something that just happened, it was something one of your editors did. Sigh.

Pharyngula: Henry Gee is gently, delicately, softly chastised. In which PZ explains how Nature done fucked up. Again.

The End Of The Pier Show: Reflections On This Weekend’s Events. Henry apologizes. Not perfectly, and amusingly under a pseudonym, but I’m going to hold out a tiny sliver of hope that this will be the beginning of Henry Gee finally coming around. Sometimes, it happens. Sometimes, it takes fucking up hugely, harming people in the process, to realize you’re not the person you wish to be, and to change. And while I’m fairly positive my tiny sliver of hope will be ground to powder and then set on fire, and then nuked, I’m not going to crush it preemptively. I’ll have some possibly helpful advice later for you, Henry, and good on you for taking this step towards being a better human. Just remember: nobody owes you a damn thing. And some people won’t accept your apology, not one iota of it, and don’t owe you the benny of the doubt. Step one in being a better human is realizing and accepting that.

 

unacceptable

And, last and very much least, Larry Moran gets to stand as the example of the (mostly) White Doodz Who Don’t Get It. Look, you little fucks: women, minorities, and other less-powerful folk have many and good reasons for shielding their identity. They would prefer not to have other Clueless White Fuckers like you google their name while, oh, say, researching them for a job, and find their name linked to their ‘nym by some asshat, which in turn is linked to some pointed things they said to Clueless White Fuckers, which might cause you to dismiss them outright as being Not The Right Type. Among other reasons. (The wishing to avoid threats of rape, death, and having raging asswads show up at their door to deliver a little comeuppance at two in the morning is also a favorite reason to be a ‘nym. There are ten thousand others.)

Let me repeat for the terminally hard-of-thinking: A ‘NYM IS NOT AN UNKNOWN.

And a huge, ginormous thank-you to all the dudes who’ve got, I mean, really, got it. There was an encouraging number of you out there. Thank you for taking the time to understand the lives of people without your advantages, and act. You are awesome and give me (non-cynical) hope.

In a future post, I will highlight posts that took Nature to school over the previous bout of dumbfuckery. And if Henry Gee decides to speak with me in regards to this incident with Dr. Isis, I will be happy to publish that exchange.

Full disclosure: I also blog at Scientific American, which is part of the Nature Publishing Group. The views expressed in this post are my own.

Unfollowing Bora

I see Bora’s decided he’s spent enough time in the penalty box, and has returned to the social media world. This move was classic: mention you moved your blog from Scientific American, but fail to mention why, as if sexually harassing several women is just a minor whoops you needn’t bring up, then paste on a butthurt addendum saying you had no idea you should apologize again. That, combined with the fact he’s so pleased to have his balls lovingly sucked in public by his good buddy Anton Zuiker and assorted harassment-denying hangers-on, tells me he hasn’t learned a damned thing.

you_are_doing_it_wrongMy worst fears are thus confirmed, much to my utter and complete lack of surprise: he isn’t a man who realizes he fucked up and will do everything necessary to make amends. No, he’s a predator who’s too bloody stupid to move on to a fresh victim pool.

I’ve nothing more to say to him. There’s a smidgeon of residual appreciation rattling around for his having been the one to offer me a blog on SciAm, but his actions have definitely shrunk it. I’m still trying to scrub his stink off the walls over there, and while I’m reasonably certain I got the job by virtue of SciAm wanting another geosciences writer and me being one with the free time to do it, plus the friends to push me forward,* he’s made many other women wonder if he gave their careers a boost because he believed in them or because they gave him trouser-tingles.** That infuriates me, and his actions throughout this long saga of wrong have left me disinclined to ever welcome him back. He could have left bridges intact and possibly in crossing condition when he apologized, resigned his positions, and left. He burned them to molecules by traipsing back the way he did, as if the turning of a calendar page had made it all better.

Nope.

Like Physioproffe says,

Key to demonstrating true contrition is making the following clear to those who have been wronged: (1) I respect your right to have no dealings with me, now or ever; (2) my efforts at making amends are driven not by my selfish interest in regaining the rights, privileges, and power I have lost as a consequence of my violations of trust; (3) I embrace the fact that no matter what I do, trust may never be restored, yet I still make amends and demonstrate my trustworthiness on an ongoing sustained basis.

None of which Bora has done by strutting back the way he has, demanding his victims tell him what to do if people feel he hasn’t done enough. Fuck that noise. That’s a predator’s actions, and have nothing to do with a desire to make things right.

I’ve got nothing much more to say about him that Martin Robbins hasn’t already said in a guest post on Janet Stemwedel’s excellent blog, but one thing there gave the old synapses a jog:

The three women who spoke out suddenly find themselves thrust by Bora into the unwanted position of public judge, jury and executioner, dragged into the middle of his personal redemption drama, and put under enormous public pressure by someone who remains a key community figure with 20,000+ Twitter followers. [emphasis added]

That made me realize I hadn’t unfollowed the rat bastard when he scuttled away in disgrace. I’ve remedied that, and invite you to join me. Unollow him on Twitter, uncircle him on G+, unfriend him on Facebook – clear him out of your social media feeds if, like me, you’d rather not let a predator think he can return to the flock as if all is well. If you’re in charge of conferences, don’t invite him to participate in any capacity; don’t hire him for jobs within the community; don’t offer him support or credibility. Don’t let him step into his old shoes as if nothing had happened and he won’t return to his old victimizing ways. It’s clear from his behavior that he hasn’t learned a damned thing, and will continue not to learn if we accept him back with open arms.

The only way we’re going to get through to these predatory fuckheads – or at the very least, remove their social capital in order to limit the damage they can do – is by excising them from our communities like a cancer. Show them the consequences of their actions is serious and long-lasting. Yes, even if they’re as seemingly nice and useful as Bora. Yes, even if we loved them a lot (and if they were our blogfathers), and still wish they hadn’t turned out to be such awful gits. Yes, even if they accepted some penalties, proffered a bit of an apology, and faded out of sight for a short while. Until they can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that they understand the gravity of their actions and are fully committed to never offending again, they need to be locked firmly out. And if we decide never to let them back in, well, them’s the tough breaks when someone’s chosen to shatter trust. Too bloody bad.

We have plenty of talent to draw on. We don’t need the predators. For the sake of the community, we need to stop letting them back in.

 

*If I’d been his first choice, I’d be among the doubters right now, and likely triply-furious with an extra topping of rage.

**Having read their work, I’d like to observe at this point that all of them are outstanding writers. They have nothing to doubt when it comes to being among the best writers going. They unquestionably are.

New at Rosetta Stones: Wherein I’m #standingwithDNLee

So this thing happened where the editor of a sciencey sorta website *cough Biology Online cough* decided it would be hi-larious to call a black woman an urban whore for refusing to write for his shit for free. Punchline? She’s a SciAm blogger, and SciAm won’t stand with her.

I have a thing or dozen to say about that.

I’m ashamed to be a SciAm blogger right now. But I’m proud to be #standingwithDNLee.

In Solidarity With Students, I Present Jesus -n- Mo

The following photo would be enough to get me kicked out of just about any freshers’ fair in Britain:

Jesus -n- Mo

Jesus -n- Mo

So these are two lovely rocks from the Skykomish River, and I’ve named them Jesus and Mo because it seems many religious people have not yet learned to be reasonable adults. I know, I know, this comes as quite the shock to those of us in countries where the religious majorities are oh so sensible. But for those who have not yet learned that one group’s sacred thingies are other groups’ not-at-all sacred thingies, it seems random things will need to have the names of mythological folks plastered to them until the dumbfuckery stops.

Believers: I do know your prophets and messiahs are important to you. I remember a time, brief though it was, where seeing Jesus mocked was almost physically painful. But I knew I had no damned right to demand other people refrain from offending my religious sensibilities, just as I know now that I have no right to demand religious people refrain from criticizing my philosophies. You could pass out literature at a student fair saying that atheism is a terrible idea and name a kumquat Epicurus, if you like. That’s fine. You might annoy me, I might think you’re a douchebag, but while you’ve attacked ideas that have deep meaning for me, you haven’t attacked me. So it’s up to me to discuss these ideas with you, or avoid you, or counter your ideas with my own – but you’d howl if I got your ass removed from an open venue for being a shit, wouldn’t you?

You god-botherers are in the majority just now, and you’re able to play the thug, throwing out people who offend your sensibilities. But thuggish behavior won’t earn you any sympathy: it’ll just earn you a plethora of people finding ways around you, leaving you and your narrow world views behind.

And really, what weak-ass sort of god is threatened by having the name of one of their special favorites plastered to an inanimate object? Think about what you’re saying about your god/s when you pull shit like this.

All we’re hearing is that these beings, should they exist, aren’t in the least worthy of worship. Way to win converts.

 

For the background on this matter, see:

LSE pounces on non-existent “Islamophobia” again

Jesus and Mo respond

Chris and Abhishek report what happened at LSE yesterday

LSE Student Union gives its version

Act 2: what happened at LSE today

Reading University has banned its atheist society. Why? Because they named a pineapple Muhammad

Atheist society harassed by student union at LSE freshers’ fair