Archive for the ‘Social Activism’ Category

FTR, you *CAN* be sued for outing a creeper on the internet

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

twistpeach@LiveJournal recently published a 100% awesome journal entry, which went viral, about her experience with a creeper at Arisia 2014 and what she did about it. There is so much good in what she did, and what she wrote about it, that if you have anything to do with SFF Fandom, and probably even if you don’t, you should go read it right now if you haven’t already.

However, I feel I must take issue with one thing she wrote in a follow-up journal entry:

3) There was much discussion of libel and slander in the discussion of the deleting, which honestly made me laugh. I support anyone who doesn’t want to host a discussion of my blog on their blog. But the idea that someone who DOES wish to host this discussion might be in legal trouble for slander is ludicrous. First of all, I don’t have to prove that my version of events happened (even though I have ample evidence and witnesses to do so). Slander and libel require that the story be demonstrably false. And the blog alone includes confirmation from the Arisia con chair of my report.

I have two concerns with spreading this kind of information to people who might have experiences similar to twistpeach’s and need to decide after the fact what to do about it. First of all, “Slander and libel require that the story be demonstrably false,” is hardly a universally true statement. Second, whether or not you actually committed slander or libel, you can still be sued, and it can cost you a great deal of time, money, and stress extricating yourself from such a lawsuit.

Before I go into more detail about these concerns, there is one thing I want to be absolutely, 100% clear about. I think that outing creepers like twistpeach’s did is absolutely, positively the right thing to do. I am in awe of her for doing it, and I think if more people with similar experiences reacted similarly and outed the perpetrators, there would be fewer of them and less social acceptance of their actions.


On the rationality and wrong of racism

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

After George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, a narrative quickly emerged that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin, that he considered Martin suspicious merely because of the color of his skin and the fact that he was wearing a hoodie.

Leaving aside the question of whether that narrative is accurate in the particular case of the Zimmerman / Martin incident, it is indisputably true that profiling and judging people based on their race occurs every minute of every day in this country, leading to vastly disparate treatment of individuals.

Those who decry racism are right to do so. It is the root cause of a great deal of unfairness and suffering in the world, it causes strife where there need not be any, and it deprives individuals of liberties, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled.

However, there are three crucial facts about racism that are often ignored or at least unacknowledged by those who fight against it, even though they are also indisputably true:

  1. In many (but certainly not all) contexts, racism is rational.
  2. When people are prevented by force of law from behaving in a racist way, their liberty is infringed.
  3. Although we have chosen as a society to oppose racism (a choice I fully agree with), that fact does not negate either of the other two.


MIT Peeps: Have you heard what JonMon is up to nowadays?

Monday, May 6th, 2013

This post is mostly for the benefit of my fellow MIT alumni.

Remember Jonathan Monsarrat?

If so, then you may have gotten the same impression of him back at the ‘tute that I did, to wit, that he gave off creep vibes.

Judging from what has been written about him online since then, he’s done other things to reinforce that vibe, but this just about takes the cake… He has recently filed a lawsuit against several people, including Ron Newman whom many of you probably also know, alleging that they defamed him in discussions that took place in various forums on LiveJournal almost three years ago.

The lawsuit is clearly baseless and doomed to fail if it makes it to trial, but it seems likely that JonMon isn’t so much interested in prevailing in court, but rather in scaring people into removing their LiveJournal postings by raising the specter of an expensive legal defense.

Ken White has put up the Popehat signal asking for pro bono legal help defending against this attempt to suppress people’s free speech.

I’ve known Ron online for over two decades. He’s a good guy, and if he ends up needing financial help defending himself against this suit, you bet I’ll be contributing to his legal defense fund.

If there’s anything you can do to help — whether it’s providing pro bono assistance yourself, hooking Ron up with somebody who can provide such assistance, or just kicking in a few bucks to his legal defense fund if one is set up — then I encourage you to do so. And if you’re an MIT alum, make sure to mention it when you help…. It’s important to let people know that JonMon’s conduct is considered neither normative nor acceptable to most of the MIT community.


MBTA responds to my public records request

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Last month, I sent the MBTA a public records request, trying to obtain more information about how aware they are of the problem of air quality problems in the passenger compartments of their buses, and what they are doing about the problem.

The Massachusetts Public Records Law requires “custodians of records” like the MBTA to respond within ten days to such requests. It took the MBTA 26 days to respond, which they did only after I appealed to the supervisor of records in the Secretary of State’s office Correction: I mailed my appeal to the Secretary of State’s office on February 11, and I received the response below from the MBTA on February 12, so it appears that they although they were quite late in responding to my request, they did respond before my appeal was brought to their attention. The job of the supervisor of records is essentially to force custodians to obey the law. This is necessary because custodians regularly violate the public records law until the supervisor is involved, and sometimes even then. This sorry state of affairs persists because there are no penalties for violating the law (stupid!).

Anyway, here is the response I received from the MBTA yesterday (click here to see it in a separate window), followed by the letter I sent back to them this morning. (more…)

Public Records Request to the MBTA about air quality in buses

Monday, January 14th, 2013

I just sent the following letter to the MBTA.

January 14, 2013

Beverly A. Scott
General Manager, MBTA
10 Park Plaza, Suite 3910
Boston, MA 02116

Re: Massachusetts Public Records Request

Dear Ms. Scott:

This is a request under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M.G.L. Chapter 66, Section 10).

I am requesting that I be provided a copy of the following records:

  • All complaints and inquiries received by the MBTA from passengers in the past year, through any medium including but not limited to telephone, U.S. Mail, facsimile, electronic mail, Web form submission, and Twitter, concerning air-quality issues (e.g., engine fumes) in MBTA buses. If such complaints and inquiries are consistently logged in a single computerized tracking system, then a spreadsheet, report or other document produced from said system, including the details of the relevant complaints, is sufficient and indeed preferable for satisfying this request.

MBTA buses are poisoning passengers

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Have you ever noticed a strong smell of diesel fumes in an MBTA bus, most strongly at the back of the bus?

The smell comes from diesel exhaust leaking into the passenger compartment of the bus. It is extremely toxic. Its short-term effects include headache, dizziness, light-headedness, and nausea. Long-term effects include cardiovascular disease, cardiopulmonary disease, and cancer.

This only happens on diesel buses, not on the buses fulled by chilled natural gas, and it only happens on some of the diesel buses. I don’t know whether this is because the T uses different models of diesel bus and only some models have the problem, or because the buses exhibiting this problem are broken and need to be fixed.


Why gays talk about leaving the country if Romney gets elected

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012


Responding to “Confused Neighbor,” you wrote, “Sophisticated people living in a country devoted to free speech should be able to tolerate different — or even offensive — perspectives without wanting to leave the country, but you don’t seem able to see things this way. This is something for you to work on.”

Rather than try to explain to you myself by just how much your comment above misses the point, I am going to refer you to someone who said it far better than I possibly could. I urge you to read this blog posting. When you’re done with that, do a little research and see if you can find out how many people have been killed in the United States of America in the past five years just because they were gay.

These will, I hope, help you to understand, that to gays living in the U.S.A. in 2012, it isn’t about free speech or offensive perspectives; it is about serious threats to their happiness, their well-being, and even their lives.


Jonathan Kamens

Pittsfield judge orders local blogger to stop writing about the news

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Ken at Popehat reports on Pittsfield judge Bethzaida Sanabria-Vega ordering a local blogger not only to stop writing about the daughter of a local public official who was the perpetrator of a hit-and-run accident which nearly killed someone and got off virtually scott-free after the courts “lost” some of the paperwork related to her case, but also to delete all articles on his blog that he had previously written about her.

Judge Sanabria-Vega’s order is blatantly unconstitutional and abhorrent to anyone who cares about civil rights and an involved citizenry.

If you are or know a lawyer admitted to practice in Massachusetts who might be able to provide the blogger, Dan Valenti, with pro bono legal assistance getting the judge’s order overturned and restoring his free-speech rights, please email

International Criminal Court Indicts God for Mass Murder

Friday, February 10th, 2012

One of God’s victims?

The Hague, The Netherlands – February 10, 2012 - The International Criminal Court today announced a sweeping indictment of the Lord God Almighty for mass murder.

An ICC spokesman explained the indictment. “We are emerging from a dark era in which humanity failed to recognize the full personhood of fertilized eggs. Now that we know the truth, we must seek justice for the trillions of innocent babies slaughtered in cold blood by the Creator. Even now, as I make this statement, the killing continues unabated.

“Since a fertilized egg has all the rights and privileges of a full-fledged human being, anything which prevents one from developing into a healthy baby is an act of murder. Anyone who has watched a teen-aged girl pee on a stick, look at it five minutes later, and cry out ‘Thank God!’ while slumping to the floor crying hysterically, knows that when a zygote fails to implant itself in its mother’s uterus, the Master of the Universe is to blame.”

“The target of this indictment is the most cruel, merciless, evil, psychopathic mass murder the ICC has ever pursued,” the ICC spokesman continued. “Since the birth of man, the the Heavenly Father has caused countless deaths of the most defenseless and innocent of victims. Not only that, but he openly boasts about his crimes in his memoir, The Old Testament, where he admits preventing the implantation of zygotes in Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah, among others.”

The indictment is not limited to the zygote murders mentioned by name in The Old Testament, which are merely specific examples of the Prince of Peace’s crimes. The Just One also readily admits to the general accusation against him: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

The indictment includes only the crime of preventing zygote implantation, not of causing miscarriages. According to the ICC spokesman, “Everybody knows that when a woman miscarries, it’s her own damn fault, so the Court expects signatories to the Rome Statute to speedily enact legislation mandating murder charges for any woman who loses a baby.”

The Merciful One, Blessed Be He, was unavailable for comment.


Abhorrent proposal to close the MBTA’s budget gap

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Dear Gov. Patrick (via Fax), Rep. Honan, Rep. Brownsberger, Mayor Menino, and members of the Boston City Council,

I am writing to you all in incensed opposition to the abhorrent plan currently under discussion to close the MBTA’s budget gap by decimating Massachusetts public transportation.