The Troll History of the Secular Movement

I’ve been thinking more about the parallel universes we apparently inhabit within the secular movement, where there are factions on either side of a great rift who see certain narratives as being more useful to their ends, even where they hardly match anyone else’s memories or documented facts of the events in question. When I noticed a large number of the narratives against harassment policies were predicated on misreads of timing or misreads of intent or misreads of targeting of arguments, I put together my widely-referenced timeline to stomp some of those memes flat. This seems to me like evidence that one side of the divide is reality-based, and the other significantly less so. And the only remedy for that is chronicling the events so you can point to that chronicle and show why people are getting things so wrong so consistently.

This time, however, I thought it might be useful to put together a timeline of that parallel universe. I’ll extend this service mostly to benefit “our side”, so we can get our bearings whenever talking to someone who inhabits that other universe. Care to help crowdsource some of it for me while I travel today? No need for extensive references, just point out those things that people seem to think actually really happened and we’ll, I’m reasonably sure, eventually hone in on a close approximation of the alt-reality history of the movement. This all assumes the alt-reality idea that there is a single secular movement comprising atheism, skepticism and secularism that involves all practitioners thereof.

Allons-y!
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CONvergence: Growing Up Online

The second of my three panels from SkepchickCON at CONvergence. I grew up online and was probably in the first generation that would have had the opportunity to spend all of my formative years on the internet (if you include that hairy period where the “internet” was a series of BBSs and the connections you made were over 300-baud modems).

This panel discusses the difference between “online” and “meatspace”, e.g. that there is no real difference, just that “online” is a sort of shadow-culture that evolves in parallel with “meatspace”. We also discuss flame wars and their genesis, which Stephanie posts about in greater detail.
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Rush vote on CISPA passes. The US can now legally spy on anyone using the internet. (EDIT: okay, not the Senate.)

Damn it all. I was writing a link round-up about all the to-and-fro in the CISPA sausage-making and all the good news I’d heard, when I got the news — Mike Rogers (R-MI) got it put to a last-second rush vote at the end of the day and it passed as-is, rejecting all proposed amendments, scuttling everything I had written.

[I]t would usher in a new era of information sharing between companies and government agencies — with limited oversight and privacy safeguards. The House Rules committee yesterday rejected a series of modestly pro-privacy amendments, which led a coalition of civil-liberties groups to complain that “amendments that are imperative won’t even be considered” in a letter today.

That prompted some politicians, including House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), to reluctantly oppose the bill. Schiff said that because his proposed amendments were rejected, he had to vote against CISPA “due to my concerns about civil liberties and the privacy of Americans.”

What made CISPA so controversial is a section saying that, “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” companies may share information with Homeland Security, the IRS, the NSA, or other agencies. By including the word “notwithstanding,” CISPA’s drafters intended to make their legislation trump all existing federal and state laws, including ones dealing with wiretaps, educational records, medical privacy, and more.

Emphasis mine.

The White House has outright stated that advisors would tell the President to veto the bill should it pass without those now-rejected safeguards in place. Granted, I don’t have a lot of faith that Obama’s administration is necessarily on the side of the angels on this one, but at least there’s some pretense that they are trying to do right by us common folk. Maybe, MAYBE, Obama will kill this bill. Then again, he probably won’t want to look soft on cyberterrorism, so I’m sure the last vestiges of privacy will be signed away in due course.

Previous coverage at my blog — you know, in case you’re curious as to just how horrible this is.

Edit: Right, right, it has to pass the senate too. So there’s two hurdles for it to clear yet.

Relative Importance in IT survey

James Hall is asking IT professionals to take a short survey to collect some information on relative importance of various aspects of your position. It is a purely anonymous survey, and is comprised of four properties within which you must allot ten points to represent how big a slice of your responsibilities each property represents.

Do you work in IT? We would like to update last year’s Relative Importance in IT study. Please help us by responding to a few simple questions in this survey. The survey should take less than 5 minutes of your time. We’ll post a new analysis in May, based on the updated results. Thanks!

If you have a moment to spare, and want to add your input to this survey, I’d strongly encourage you click this link. And then click a few appropriate items. And then the submit button.

CISPA marches onward with precious little fanfare or opposition

What happens when the government wants to fire a salvo in the copyright war that will, as a function of its broadside, accidentally break the foundation of the internet? Everyone gets upset, from the common folk to the mass media — because, see, everyone uses the internet. Thus, SOPA and PIPA died.

What happens when a whole lot of companies and a whole lot of House representatives want to push a bill that serves as another (more stealthy) salvo in that same copyright war, which indemnifies companies against being sued for any privacy violation that happens when the government demands personal information about customers without a warrant, allowing a completely legal totalitarian Big Brother state that extends far beyond the borders of the state in question? Apparently nothing — because, see, evidently nobody gives a shit about privacy.
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Stop CISPA. NOW. It goes to vote MONDAY.

Here’s an infographic that explains succinctly why this matters. Facebook supports this bill, and has evidently been stripping links to information about CISPA from people’s messages.

Total internet surveillance, without legal recourse. Facebook and other big tech companies are supporting giving information to the government without warrants, so that when they cooperate with the government they can’t be held accountable to the users whose privacy they violated.

If this goes down, my Facebook account will be purged of everything I can purge, and will go dark permanently. Not that it’ll matter, because if the law is passed, using any server geolocated in the US is tantamount to saying “yes, US government, you can have all my personal information.”

Stephanie has some form letters you could use to rally your congresscritters against this nonsense.
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SCOC ruling: Harper’s warrantless internet wiretapping unconstitutional

Via Ottawa Citizen:

The Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark ruling that emergency wiretapping without a warrant is unconstitutional — which could pave the way for a new federal law that better safeguards privacy rights — is being used by critics to revive their attacks on the Harper government’s controversial Internet surveillance bill.

“It’s a huge blow to the Conservative’s Internet snooping bill,” NDP justice critic Jack Harris told Postmedia News.

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RCimT: The SOPA / PIPA protest has had direct results

Harry Reid has postponed PIPA indefinitely after information about who’s doing the lobbying for it came out, and after the protests peeled off 25-odd House reps and galvanized another 50 against the proposed laws. These laws may be well and truly dead this time.

But there’s still some ripple effects to be had.
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SOPA is dead, long live PIPA (or: Computer Armageddon, here we come!)

The SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is an empirically bad thing. Cory Doctorow has an hour-long talk explaining the road to this onerous set of laws, this spider-swallowing to catch a fly to borrow Doctorow’s analogy, but the route to this terrible toll bridge on the information superhighway is less interesting than the toll itself. It is a toll that seems easy enough to swallow, like the spider, where all you have to do is accept that companies have the right to assert their copyright and unilaterally have websites removed from the internet. The spider’s consequences on the body of the internet will however be destructive and ultimately deadly.
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