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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!

Mar 10 2014

David Silverman’s “Darwin Was Wrong” Moment

Surely New Scientist’s terrible choice in creating the “Darwin Was Wrong” cover happened not so long ago that the skeptical community has forgotten the sturm und drang that rightly came after it. And yet, here we are.

To explain: the science rag’s cover was designed to tease an article wherein the phylogenetic “tree” shape is explained to be less accurate than the more web-like structure with speciation and cross-pollination that we now understand to be the case today. So, Darwin was wrong, yes — but he was not wrong about evolution. And yet to this day, you will find creationists who use that misleading cover to suggest that evolution did not happen, therefore God. Despite being technically correct, the messaging was so poor as to cause splash damage, and atheists and skeptics were pretty mad despite the right-on-a-technicality nature of the problem.

So it’s honestly surprising to me that so many people are so bent out of shape over David Silverman’s poor messaging very recently at CPAC — no, not the people who are upset that what he said caused splash damage to women and was worth criticizing. I mean, the people who are bent out of shape over the CRITICISMS of such.
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Mar 09 2014

“It’s sad I can’t take my kid”

Someone sent me an email with regard to the timeline I had put together of harassment reports in the secular / skeptical / atheist communities, and it came at a very good moment for me. Just when I was feeling the strain of the sisyphean task of combatting harassment in a community that would rather we have a “big tent” that includes the harassers, this email came to bolster my spirits.

I got permission to republish excerpts in hopes that it helps you too.

I wanted to say thank you for the work you’re doing, because no matter what I say, I will never be taken seriously when I talk about sexual harassment in geek space- because I’m a woman. It’s doubly hard for me now, because my daughter is old enough to start being interested in going to various conventions in geek culture.

The second I say anything, no matter how mild, I’m instantly going to be viciously attacked. I’m moderately used to the nastyness, but I’m completely unwilling to subject my 13 year old child to that sort of crap.

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Mar 07 2014

If only this was a real Canadian Heritage Moment

It’s high-enough quality that it should be. I wonder if Canada will ever commission new ones, or if we’ll just keep seeing the Winnie-The-Pooh one over and over again. Not that I should complain, since there’s a few that are about women’s suffrage and the systemic repression of women in education that still also get circulation. But still — we should celebrate our more recent human rights victories too, right?

Mar 04 2014

Fraudster skeptic Brian Dunning’s shell game

It’s been known for quite some time that Brian Dunning is dirty. From 2006 to 2007, he and his brother set up their joint venture Kessler’s Flying Circus as part of the eBay affiliates program wherein you get commission from every sale if someone purchased something after clicking on a banner ad on your site. Two of Dunning’s other websites, WhoLinked.com and ProfileMaps.info were configured to “stuff cookies” for eBay — that is, to create persistent cookies in your web browser such that if you visited one of those sites, the next time you visited eBay it would imagine that you’d clicked on one of those banner ads. Basically, by going to the site, without knowing it, you were treated as though you’d clicked on the Dunning brothers’ ad campaign even if you’d never even seen that ad. And the cookie would persist such that all your purchases looked as though they came from that ad campaign.

He’d figured out to do this by reverse-engineering Shawn Hogan’s tools — Shawn Hogan being the top-most eBay affiliate, who had himself defrauded eBay of $30+ million USD.

In 2008, eBay filed a lawsuit alleging that Dunning and Dunning had defrauded them of $5,300,000 USD. Though not as big a fraud as Hogan’s case, the Dunnings were the number two affiliate, and this was not chump change. eBay was definitely not getting the advertising bang for their buck. In 2010, a federal grand jury indicted him on five counts of wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. The FBI issued a press release in April 2013 showing that Brian Dunning had pled guilty. He faces 20 years jail time for his crimes.

Given that his general defense to the FBI was that eBay had been “stupid” in the way they set up the program, it’s fairly self-evident he was not repentant of his crimes and thought he could fight the suits in a sort of characteristically Libertarian “if you can do it, then it’s okay to do” defense. Now that he’s pled guilty, it’s fairly evident that he could not fight this case with that method of thinking.

Dunning’s legacy, his skeptical podcast Skeptoid, has long been known to be a cash cow as well — with its own advertisements, and a kitsch store with huge markups on t-shirts and mugs and the likes. However, now that Dunning has pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing, Skeptoid’s fate is in question.

In May of 2012, Dunning filed to convert the Skeptoid Media, Inc into a 501(c)3 non-profit charity, removing the ads from the podcast and site. This is mere months after he’d been forced to publicly admit that the lawsuits were ongoing.

1926846_10153856173675705_820046112_n

This is a screenshot of the filing for non-profit status from the Department of Justice website.

It’s an easy leap to believe that this was done to protect it from fallout from his fraud; it’s an easier leap to believe that all he has to do to protect the money he stole is to donate it all to Skeptoid as soon as the non-profit status comes through. I am under the impression that Dunning is presently setting up a board for this non-profit entity prior to the status actually changing. I don’t think it’s possible, at this point, to consider the brand anything but spent and destroyed — any efforts made by any members of our community toward rehabilitating its image and disassociating Skeptoid the brand from Brian Dunning the imprisoned felon are, in my mind, wasted and themselves tainted efforts.

I’m certain that the FBI will not allow this shell game to happen, especially not with the scrutiny that’s levelled at Brian Dunning presently. But on the off chance that it does happen, that Skeptoid is allowed to use funds from the eBay fraud, and that it doesn’t die on the vine thanks to the ongoing support I see from numerous big-name skeptics in our community, at least it won’t have happened because everyone stayed silent.

I do not consent to the skeptical “brand”, insofar as there is one, being represented by malicious con-men and other ne’er-do-wells. The skeptical way of thinking is a toolset that supplements a person’s identity. Not every person’s identity toolset is complete — many people lack empathy or a strong moral compass, among other numerous lacks. The skeptical toolset has too long been associated with amoral Libertarian con-artists that comprise the big-name skeptics, like Dunning, and I’d very much like that to end now. We have enough of an image problem with so-called “honest liars”; no need to prop up dishonest con-artists as part of a package deal.

Speak up. Repudiate any efforts to resurrect the Skeptoid brand. Dissociate yourselves from it if you have ties. Dunning is an unrepentant con-man and none of us need to go down with his ship.

I say that as someone who got into movement skepticism with Skeptoid being the first podcast I ever listened to.

Mar 03 2014

Quick, while I have the TERFs and MRAs distracted, go solve all the problems!

Nearly twenty years ago, when I was a sixteen year old wide-eyed innocent who believed the human race is generally good, I was victimized by someone’s lies. I told the story on this blog in hopes of achieving some measure of catharsis for myself, and providing real support to others for whom the same sort of lie had damaged their lives. However, I recognized later that the reason I got off so easy actually meant many people who were really hurt would never see justice, and that this was a problem with society that I would have traded more personal pain to see righted.

Today, someone who ostensibly agrees with me on the existence of the overarching problem with society threw those lies back in my face, attacking me because I disagreed with her that transgender folks should be protected from her attacks, in an effort to poison my Google search results for my name. That someone is Cathy Brennan. And she’s in totally appropriate company in the attempt at poisoning my search results — the same slander is also posted on A Voice For Men.
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Mar 02 2014

Petition to remove judge who claims Down syndrome rape victim “didn’t act like a victim”

IMPORTANT WARNING: After signing and putting my weight behind this petition, I learned that the person who created it is a Trans-Exclusive Radical feminist (TERF). Please bear that in mind before signing, if you are trans and need to protect yourself. While I strongly agree on this one issue, I am very keenly aware that TERFs have been known to and continue to victimize trans folk, and I don’t want to put any of you in harm’s way.
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Mar 01 2014

Fake tweet, legit topics of discussion.

Piers Morgan is no stranger to controversy lately, where in his TV show’s dying days, he sought to turn Janet Mock’s life into infotainment, doing immense splash damage to trans folks in the process. It’s no wonder people are taking it upon themselves to shame him in innumerable ways.

Like with this very probably faked tweet, apparently taken as a photograph of a computer monitor with visible pixellation, posted by some rapper obviously looking to make a name for himself by inventing a “beef” as the kids say with a public figure:

 

piersmorganfake1

The image is ostensibly of Morgan’s Twitter stream, complete with his avatar and Twitter page background, tweeting a link to www.pornhub.com/asian .

Below the fold, I talk about pornography. Might not be safe for work.
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