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Thunderf00t’s credibility has dried up

I’ve stayed out of the whole Thunderf00t affair until now. However, I am simply not going to after what he’s just done: he hacked into a private backchannel on Freethoughtblogs and stole confidential emails, before forwarding them on to other people.

One of the people on FTB who was affected is Natalie Reed. In her post here, she explains why this sort of thing isn’t acceptable:

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

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

She is a very brave person to even bring herself to talk of such things. But this is just one reason that email list was confidential, and there are plenty more.

Jason Thibeault has the technical details and evidence. Basically, the server program they were using never expires an invitation ticket, and the original confirmation email still allows you to log back in without informing the admin. I’m not an IT expert, but that seems like a big flaw in the software they were using, and I’ll have to keep a note of that for future reference.

This seems like as good a place as any to reiterate my opinion on pseudonyms. I do this myself on other sites, so I have no problem with people using them, as long as they don’t involve bigotry or unless those people create a second one to support themselves – in short, I tend to apply the Golden Rule. However, even if you use a pseudonym, I believe people should be held accountable for what they say, which is why I ask people for an email address when commenting.

This sort of thing is just not acceptable, and by doing so, Thunderf00t has lost any credibility and support he may have had with me. It’s one thing to publish an email sent to you that contains threats if you explicitly state that you will, but private ones between other people who may be discussing technical issues, or simply be bouncing ideas off each other for an event or even a joke like a massive April Fool’s Day prank earlier this year, are off-limits. What Thunderf00t did here was utterly wrong, and in fact it leads me to suspect he has almost no empathy for other people, given that he was threatened with it himself a while ago. Jen McCreight’s finishing paragraph on her post is right on the money:

How are you that obsessed with taking down a freaking blog network because you disagree with the fucking no-brainer of having sexual harassment policies that you’re willing to cost innocent people their jobs and safety? How is destroying lives of your atheist allies your priority over combating creationism in the classroom, faith healing, the Religious Right, and homophobia?


Oh, it’s Easter

Oh, so it’s Easter Sunday. I’d be sitting outside getting some sun if the wind wasn’t a nuisance, but there’s some great views from my bedroom window of Lago di Varese. But instead of boring myself stiff in a church listening to somebody waffle on about some zombie or other, I’ve had a lovely fry-up (including some potato cakes I made yesterday), and done some extra revision for the exams. A tad more productive, I’d say!

To be honest, I’ve never really seen Easter as anything but time off school – and in recent years as exam revision time. The whole supernatural aspect makes no sense to me at all, especially Jesus “rising from the dead”. You know what geeks call that, and how they deal with it? It’s a zombie, and all too many geeks have pages-long lists of plans for something they want to happen.

What really, really annoys me – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – is that it changes all the time! According to a friend of mine (Aengus Finnegan, a Gaeilgeoir who was doing a PhD in Irish place names) the issue has been going on for nearly 1600 years: some of the written records in Irish dating from back then concern arguments between Rome and the Irish church on when Easter should be, and between both parties and a splinter group that did it differently. If it’s been going on for that long, then it won’t be solved any time soon, which is a bit of a nuisance.
Finally, I just don’t see any difference between the Easter Bunny and the whole resurrection thing in terms of reality. They’re both fictional – only the Bunny actually gives you nice things 🙂

UPDATE: I found this image on Pharyngula. I think it’s pretty funny.

Hibernia college doesn’t like atheists

My jaw dropped when I read this. Seriously, Hibernia College was claiming in course notes that:

“What bothers very few of its latter-day exponents is the fact that atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed, namely Nazism, Fascism and Marxism…”

Complete and utter bullshit. Hitler was NOT an atheist, in fact he regarded himself as doing a god’s work. The Fascist regimes of Franco’s Spain and in South America were supported by the Catholic Church. As for the Soviet Union and other Marxist regimes, they were totalitarian regimes which replaced the church with the state and/or personality cults – something I happen to disagree with, in part because I’m just a little irreverent about authority. The College also had

a mock examination where the student is expected to answer that it is “True” that “Atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed.”

So basically the Crusades were the work of atheists and secular humanists? The Inquisition wasn’t a part of the church? And I suppose that Iran, with it’s excellent human rights record, is a secular country.

Now, replace “atheist humanism” in those notes or that exam with another religion – Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Wiccanism, etc. – and there WOULD be an outrage in the media. But because we don’t believe in a god or gods, we’re apparently acceptable targets? And then the religious ask atheists why some of us get so “angry”. If anyone wonders that…just sit down and think about it, hmmm?

Happy atheists

Via Pharyngula: a photographer is collecting photos of atheists who aren’t miserable (which is most of us, certain bullshit prejudice to the contrary) to show how diverse we are and what brings joy to our lives. If you’re interested, the project is here.

The only thing atheists agree upon is that we don’t believe in any gods. That’s it. One atheist may not like another’s hobby, just like with other people; the reason for this is that – GASP – we’re human!?!? And all this while I wondered why I don’t look like a robot.

Now, as for what makes me (and just me – I don’t know about anyone else) happy: I’ve listed a few hobbies on my “About” page, but here they are anyway.

Writing science fiction. I love creating other worlds where I can explore human nature and how we’d react to a situation. This is in part because I have Aspgerger’s and don’t always understand humans – I’ve joked in the past about being from another planet as a result of this – but also because I try to apply what I’ve learned in physics. I actually like trying to get things correct, and I haven’t got the ability to teach people face-to-face, so writing can be a good way to do this.
Hiking. Admittedly, I often ask myself what the hell I’m doing up an untracked, bog-riddled mountain in Galway/Mayo, but it is so satisfying when you’ve finished, and if the weather cooperates (which does happen, even in Ireland!), the views compensate for it. Other benefits include the exercise (obviously) and the ability to learn useful skills like cross-country navigation.
Photography. This follows on from the hiking, or even just a walk around town. Getting a good photo is quite satisfying, especially if you can compensate for lighting conditions and capture a scene from an interesting angle. I’ll grant that you can’t get perfect images, but you can get close, and learning how to improve on them is educational in itself. And if you take a beautiful photo, like this randomly-selected aurora photo I found on flick, that is one of the most wonderful things you can do.

I’ll probably think of some more stuff to add later.