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Apr 15 2014

Ania Bula needs your help to table at WiS3

Ania Bula and Alexander Gonzalez of Scribbles and Rants are doing a fundraiser to get to Women In Secularism 3. Well, they WERE, until some kind soul paid for their and Miranda’s tickets. Now Ania’s asking for help funding the fundraiser so she can table as well.

Thanks to a generous donation, Alex, Miranda, and my tickets have been taken care of. As such, I am going to up the ante a little bit. If I make my goal, I will use the money that would have gone towards buying a ticket to purchase a table at the con and sell my artwork and a variety of other products of mine. In return, I will donate a percentage of my profits (from the con table) to either the con itself, or to help out the fundraisers of great people to be able to move to safer places.

Considering she’s doing some quite wall-worthy art, it might be worth your time and effort to help her succeed in this endeavour.

Fundraiser is here!

Apr 11 2014

Dr Henry Morgentaler’s Legacy

I hail from New Brunswick originally. I left for university, and by the end of my degree, I had decided to remain. At the time, the government was growing more conservative, and one of their great bugaboos was the number of people moving out — their population was essentially in free-fall.

Granted, the population wasn’t exactly huge to begin with. It had declined from 738,133 in 1996, to 729,498 in 2001 — a loss of 1.2%. It stagnated through 2006 — 729,997. The government started making noises about enticing emigrants, about stabilizing the job market and doing something about its flagging tech sector; there was a big to-do about this decline, to be sure. And the population began to swell again, to 751,171 in 2011.

In late 2013, another population decline — a mere 1000 person shortfall — caused another huge stir, such that the “Progressive” Conservative legislature under leader David Alward lamented the possibility of only seeing his grandchildren through Skype.

In the wake of that first scare, followed by the more recent revelation that outmigration is skyrocketing, it’s no surprise that the conservative New Brunswick political scene voted for the “Medical Services Payment Act”, Regulation 84-20, which had a bomb in it for abortion services. Now, throughout the province, abortions are no longer funded by the government as mandated by Health Canada, unless certified by TWO doctors as being “medically necessary”. How else are you going to swell your numbers except to force women to give birth?

As a result of this abrogation of women’s right to bodily autonomy, the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton — founded by the legendary Dr. Henry Morgentaler himself — is forced to close.

The rules of the clinic were set up such that nobody who needed abortion services would be turned away under any circumstances, and because the government stiffed them on the bills and they took a huge loss last year, they have to close up shop.

Back in 2009, Carl Urquhart, a Conservative MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly, the Canadian equivalent of a congressman) suggested with regard to the population decline that women should be making more babies, a statement he posted on Facebook that he’d later walked back. He was especially chastised for this in light of the province’s growing teenage pregnancy problem.

That’s about as transparent a reasoning as you can get for Conservatives’ anti-choice efforts. It was a refreshing moment of honesty from that party.

And this huge success in the fight to control what people can and cannot do with their reproductive organs comes just shy of a year after Dr. Henry Morgentaler — founder of the clinic — died of a heart attack. Morgentaler’s efforts practically single-handedly won the fight for safe, legal abortion nation-wide in 1988 with his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, where they overturned the whole of the Canadian abortion law as unconstitutional. The man was a lion for women’s rights, human rights, and reproductive freedom. And his legacy is being rent before our eyes.

Women can still theoretically get abortions in hospitals — providing they get two doctors to sign off on the “medically necessary” waiver — but as this map shows, access to abortion didn’t come with its newfound legality. When your government tightly controls the demand for babies, you can force the supply by restricting access to any choice but becoming a baby-factory.

You might understandably make the mistake that the “demand” is actually for abortions, but then you’d be misunderstanding the directionality of these laws. In the fight for women’s bodily autonomy, the uterus is actually the supply, and the government apparently gets to make the demands.

For what it’s worth, here’s the state of the struggle for abortion rights through Canada. You’ll note that almost no place in Canada actually has access to an abortion clinic or hospital within a reasonable travel time, and that the gestation limits are terribly restrictive in a number of cases — some as low as 12 weeks, like New Brunswick. Many provinces have absolutely no access to abortions, medical or otherwise.

This fight is hardly won, despite it being unconstitutional to restrict abortions, and despite it being both legal and defined explicitly by Health Canada.

Apr 08 2014

Mock The Movie: Battle Beyond the Stars transcript

I’m somewhat behind on everything after the effort put into Skeptech, and my days are going to be filled for the foreseeable future with fights against Heartbleed. So, no witticisms here. I’m kinda spent at the moment. I’ll get the transcripts and SRTs up on the page as soon as I can, I promise.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 25 2014

Radford / Stollznow defamation case: What we know and what we can infer or extrapolate reasonably

I’ve noticed a trend in amongst the so-called “skeptics” who have, from the get-go, denied every single claim of harassment in the community. That trend is denialism masquerading as skepticism, and a willingness to lie about who said what, when. That’s why I’ve been fighting that trend by building timelines. Someone needs to document what was actually said, and what can be reasonably inferred from these events. It also helps to document the attacks launched by certain people against certain other people, because it helps define the tribal lines against which these denialists are aligning.

“I didn’t write it, I never agreed to it, I never signed it, and I’m not the liar here.”
–Karen Stollznow, Twitter, March 25th, 2014

One of these big accusations of harassment has resurfaced in the past few weeks, with new movements occurring for the first time in months. As a refresher, here’s all the points from my sexual harassment accusations timeline.

I don’t claim to know for certain that these allegations are true, but I can certainly develop a narrative that, I think, accounts for all the actual points we apparently do know, as well as what we could reasonably extrapolate.
Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 23 2014

Did I just get a letter from President Obama?

Is this a real letter? You decide! All the evidence you need is right here in this very post!

A totes legit letter

A totes legit letter


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Mar 22 2014

Skeptech fundraiser gameathon right now!

Entertainment! Get in here!

CLICK

Mar 21 2014

Twitter blocked in Turkey; activists graffiti alternate DNS workaround

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has instated a ban of Twitter ostensibly over concerns that it hosts pornography, but from all appearances actually in response to repeated leaks of damning recordings of government officials.

However, the way that the ban is implemented is very rudimentary — the government has forced all ISPs in the country to remove twitter.com from their DNS servers.

In response to this ban, activists have been graffitiing Google’s DNS servers:

Graffiti on a turkish wall reading 'DNS: 8.8.8.8 Alternatif: 8.8.4.4'

Picture obtained here, can’t find the original source — if you do, let me know.

It’s not clear how long this workaround will last, but there are other avenues. One could, for instance, switch DNS to OpenNIC, or if changing DNS no longer provides enough of a workaround and these ISPs are forced by the government to shut down all traffic to Twitter’s servers, then you could instead connect to Tor or some other anonymizing VPN or proxy service.

When people complain that they’re being silenced for being blocked or moderated on a blog, I have to laugh — that’s not in any way an abrogation of your freedom of speech. Having all access to the internet cut off by a totalitarian government, on the other hand, is most decidedly one, and is most decidedly something we all must fight.

Mar 19 2014

MRA-style blockquoting activated!

So, inspired by a conversation on Twitter, I finally did something I’ve wanted to do for a while: I created a special blockquote style for MRAs for my blog. Every time an MRA uses the word “female” instead of “woman” or “girl”, I have always heard it like a Ferengi from Star Trek, with a super-elongated first syllable and a note of disdain or horror. “A feee-male!?” So I thought that the Ferengi head would make a great replacement for the more traditional blockquote quotation mark symbol.

To wit, here’s a comment I never bothered clearing through moderation last month or so, on this post from a full year prior.

Daniel Factor:

mostly lies and smears. Mra…anyone who doesn’t believe all men are the scum of the earth. Which apparently is being anti women and sexist.

I’ll be sure to use it liberally when I next post any MRA bullshit. You should be able to use it in comments as well, much like PZ’s Gumby for Creationists. Instead of <blockquote>, use <blockquote class="mra"> .

It’s a little iffy on shorter quotes, though. But those kinda look like cartoon balloons coming out of the Ferengi’s mouth, so that kind of works regardless.

Oh, and yes, I traced that head from a screencap of DS9, showing off my professional manga art skills. I mostly did it because I wanted to make one with the Ferengi touching his own ear, which if you remember anything from the canon, is an erogenous zone. (Seeing a Ferengi touch his ears whenever there was profit to be had or a woman to try to charm always skeeved me out just a little for that reason, which I’m sure was the intent of the show’s authors.)

Mar 19 2014

You rolled a natural twenty! Go straight to hell!

Apparently someone thought enough of Jack Chick’s original tract that they decided to run a Poe-alarm-tweaking Kickstarter to get this movie made. Seriously, this thing is self-parodying, so I cannot tell if this JR Rails character is doing this in earnest, or as a parody. But either way, with the amount of money the Kickstarter made, we can expect such gems as this:

Stretch Goal #2: $21,000 – One of the most powerful ways to get across the powerful emotions that a serious drama like this raises is through song. I’d like to include a dream sequence where Debbie visualizes her internal struggle through verse:

(Debbie, in a sad, thoughtful singsong:)
“Is this God in my hand, or is it just a d4?
Oh can anyone tell me what I’m rolling for?
Are there traps and daggers, magic missiles galore?
No, this ain’t God in my hand, it is just a d4.”

(Ms Frost, cackling:)
“You have mastered the magic, you have mastered the spell,
You are ready to unleash the powers of hell!
You have God in your hand, and you have your d4.”
Now I hope that you know what you’re rolling for.”

Do Christians still get all jimmie-rustled over Dungeons and Dragons? Really? Its popularity explosion was a passing fad and an unnecessary moral panic, sadly. Now the kids are all about their Pokeymans and their hairy potters.

Hat tip to James.

UPDATE: Sasha Pixlee’s sharp eyes and incredible stamina for scrolling on monolithic websites clued him in to something I missed — he points out that if you go to the homepage and read the FAQs carefully, it’s pretty plain that it’s a satire-and-parody claiming honest representation by virtue of what Chick actually believed. It’ll only read as parody to us because it’s already so outlandish. Dude’s one of us, going for “very earnest Poe”.

Mar 15 2014

Skeptech Gameathon Fundraiser – March 22nd!

Last year, the first Skeptech conference was, entirely unsurprisingly, a big success. With some big names talking about some big topics in and around the intersection of science, technology and skepticism, they’ve got a tough act to follow this year.

And yet, they seem to have managed just fine on the speakers front, with Jesse Galef, Tim Farley, and Debbie Goddard, to name a scant few.

They’re still in a drive for fundraising though, since the rocket packs they’re strapping to all these cats don’t come cheap. So, I’ve agreed to host a twelve hour gaming fundraiser telethon, with games broadcast via Twitch TV while we concurrently run a Google Hangout On Air. Brendan Murphy and Chelsea DuFresne will be the real hosts, while I play video games and run tech and probably get more than my fair share of screen time regardless. Stephanie Zvan will visit in person, as will Brianne Bilyeu; we’ll have a number of guests join us via the Hangout, including Rebecca Watson, Scicurious and Surly Amy.

From the teaser:

On the 22nd, this page will be outfitted with a Google Hangout, Twitch Stream & Chat, and an easy way to donate to the Skeptech conference (paypal).

Here are some initial incentives (more will be added):

$5 to be a member of our Organ Trail team.
At $200, we’ll buy Super Meat Boy and fail horribly.
At $1000, we’ll buy Amnesia, and play it at full-volume in the dark. You’ll be able to watch our horror on the hangout.
We hope you’ll join us! Stay tuned for a rough schedule of what we’ll be playing, who will be joining us, and when.

I don’t have this rough timeline myself, but I can reveal a few other incentives we have on tap. For $20, you can jump into the Hangouts for 15 mins and try to go all debate-club on us, while we try to multitask and out-debate you while also staying on the course on Rainbow Road in Mario Kart or some other such outlandish gaming stunt. Wanna talk about gaming handicaps, there you go.

For $100, I’ll write the blog post of your choice — you get to pick the topic, the side you want me to argue (and I’ll even steel-man some positions I’d otherwise never take or even strongly disagree with!), and you can even give me a specific phrase to work in. Minimum of 1200 words, to boot, EXCLUDING blockquotes. This is a quote-miner’s goldmine, and it could be yours for a mere hundred clams.

Or for $50, you can point me to a post by anyone on any topic, and let me blog whatever I’d like about it, taking whatever angle I so choose. Minimum 1500 words — a better value, but you don’t know necessarily what I’ll argue or how!

And I’m sure if you come up with specific gaming stunts or bounties, we could come to some arrangements. It’s interactive entertainment, all to serve a higher cause: dispelling the demons of ignorance and delusion while talking about the science and technology that proves our side is the side of angels.

See you there!

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