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Tearjerkers

My emotions today have reached a heretofore unprecedented level of sappiness.  I kid you not, as of 1:30pm Pacific time, I have cried over three different things I have seen online.  I’ve decided to share them with you here.

First up is Anita Sarkeesian’s TEDx talk, where she discusses the potential psychology behind the cybermob that attacked her so viciously over her Tropes vs. Women kickstarter project.

I teared up at the end.  Male and female video game characters pander so excessively to the heterosexual male fantasies that it leaves little room for those of alternate genders or sexual orientations to also indulge in the fantasy.  I love playing video games.  Love it.  But just once, I’d like to see a female character that isn’t weak, or aggressively sexualized.  Am I really asking too much when I ask to play a female character who isn’t wearing a chainmail bikini over the balloons on her chest?

And then there’s this picture.

That is Dan Savage (one of my personal heroes, though we disagree from time to time) and his longtime partner Terry, getting their marriage certificate signed in Washington state.  I wept like a baby.  I am so happy that my home state has made same sex marriage legal.

Finally, the fact that this is an actual film that will be shown at SXSW 2013 did me in.

I am so very excited for this film.  Wonder Woman is a personal favorite superhero of mine (and really, she should be for anyone else too!).  I recently read The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, and the entire premise of this movie ratcheted my geekcitement up to 11.  I’m interested to see how the filmmakers will compare with the author of The Supergirls.

Has anything touched your heart today?  Maybe made you squee a little?  Share your excitement with me in the comments below!

Facebook Community Standards

Yesterday, I reported a Facebook group that I found incredibly offensive.  It was portraying young girls (possibly some that were under the age of 18), calling them sluts, and advocating their rape.  I reported them under the “hate speech” section of the “report page” function.

I was horrified to receive the following response email from Facebook:

Hi,

Thanks for your recent report of a potential violation on Facebook. After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the specific page you reported violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Learn more about what we do and don’t allow by reviewing the Facebook Community Standards:https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards.

Thanks,
Viki

So, I went to the Facebook Community Standards.  The only thing I could find that would have excluded this particular page from suspension falls under this part of the criteria:

Hate Speech

Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.

Huh.  So, you think it is okay to suspend or remove posts from pages like A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World, which challenges gender constructs and other feminist issues, but pages like Slut Memes (choice quote: “What did the left leg say to the right leg? Nothing, they’ve never met. Get it. Cause you’re a slut.), Sluts Embarrassing Themselves, I Kill Bitches, My Whore Wife, and the cleverly titled Whores are allowed to remain because they are somehow satire?  I just found those through searching “slut” “bitches” and “whore” on Facebook.

That stuff is not satire.  I’m not the only one who has noticed that Facebook will happily censor things that could be described as feminist, but they won’t remove misogynist posts or pages.

Come on Facebook, get it together, and make sure that the people you have checking these things are versed in feminism, misogyny, misandry, and other forms of societal marginalization or oppression.

DrinkSavvy

Because I am a terrible procrastinator, and I am desperately trying to stop doing so many “This thing makes me so ANGRY! HULKSMASH!” kind of posts, I was browsing Tumblr earlier for some post ideas.  I found a few really awesome things, like the Hawkeye Initiative, where a talented artist has taken to re-drawing the poses of female comic book characters as Hawkeye.  If you need to giggle a bit, and then weep when you realize how ridiculous female comic book characters are drawn, take a look.  But that wasn’t enough for a whole blog post.

But this?  This is seriously cool.

DrinkSavvy is the brainchild of Mike Abramson, and his invention could save lives.  How many times have you heard to “never leave a drink unattended”, or “watch your drink, you might get drugged”?  I know that I have definitely had my drink spiked by someone that I trusted, while I was dating him.  Normally, this sort of advice is directed towards young women, but the creator was inspired after being drugged himself.

DrinkSavvy is a series of products (cups, glasses, straws and stirrers) that actually change color in the presence of GHB, a common “date rape” drug.  Although it has a slightly salty taste, GHB is colorless and odorless, and can be difficult to detect in a flavored drink.  Here’s what GHB can do to a person, according to Wikipedia:

Its effects have been described anecdotally as comparable with alcohol and ecstasy use, such as euphoria, disinhibition, enhanced sensuality and empathogenic states. At higher doses, GHB may induce nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, agitation, visual disturbances, depressed breathing, amnesia, unconsciousness, and death. The effects of GHB can last from 1.5 to 3 hours, or even longer if large doses have been consumed. Consuming GHB with alcohol is dangerous as it can lead to vomiting in combination with unrouseable sleep, a potentially lethal combination.

If these products become widespread, then we can effectively eliminate one tool in the date rapist’s arsenal.  Do me a favor, share this indiegogo campaign on every social media platform you currently use.  I want to see these used in every bar in the US.

I donated to the campaign, will you?

Random Ramblings

I am suffering from some serious writer’s block.  I was unexpectedly too busy to post yesterday, but I’ve had a couple of hours to write, and I just don’t have a topic that I can write a full post about today.  So today, you get snippets of things that are rolling around in my brain.

First off, can we please STOP calling other women “whores” and judging them for having sex?  One of my family members shared this on her Facebook wall, and it made me see red.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have definitely judged other girls that I didn’t know well, and called them “whore”.  But you know what?  I look back at those times, and every single time, it was an insult made out of jealousy.

You heard me.  I have called other women awful names because I was jealous.  I was jealous because I thought they were prettier, or because they had a nicer body, or they wore clothing that I could never pull off, or they were more socially confident than me, or they were better at flirting, or they had the attention of the guy that I thought was cute/dating/liked.  Look deep within yourself when you decide to label someone “whore” or “slut”.  Unless that person actually works in the sex industry, chances are, the reasons behind your loathing of another person is actually emotions that you’re directing at yourself.

Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.  - Cady from 2004′s Mean Girls

I’d like to add that calling someone a whore doesn’t make your sex or love life any better.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to be funny on the Nice Girls twitter account, and joked that The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino was so sexy, I was scared I’d run out of batteries.

One of my followers, who is also a friend of mine in real life, said that I should invest in a Hitachi Magic Wand.  When I replied that I didn’t really have the money to spend on it, she actually bought me one!  It gets delivered tomorrow, and you can expect a review after I’ve taken it for a test drive.

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There are some really amazing conferences that I want to attend, but I always find out about them too late.  I really wanted to go to CatalystCon, the Good Vibrations Sex Summit, and I barely found out about Arse Elektronika in time to attend one day of the conference.  How does one go about getting on the mailing list for these things?  Readers, if you hear about an interesting sex conference that you’d like to see me at, or read about on Nice Girls, could you let me know about it?

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I read what seemed to be a really amazing, sex positive, open relationship positive book called Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles.  I say that it seemed to be that way, because up until the final chapter, it was purely discussing how women and men are programmed to seek out partners outside of their primary relationships, and it even had some interesting theories regarding homosexuality.  In the last chapter, it had a cloying story about an elderly couple and how being monogamous throughout their entire lives was the best possible reproductive strategy.  It seemed like an odd way to end an otherwise open minded and rather engaging book.  I’m still wrestling with how to review it properly.

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In the interest of giving Nice Girls some more diverse voices, I am approaching some of my fellow sex educators about writing articles or columns for this blog.  I’m also planning on starting a YouTube channel, so that I can interview some of the interesting people I come across in this line of work, and you can see it all!

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Finally, today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  I’d like for you all to take a minute, and take a look at that website.

And now, I’d like to challenge you to be a transgender ally.  When you see injustice, bullying, or any sort of hate-motivated violence (whether physical or verbal), take a stand.  Make sure that your words are not going to hurt another.  Intervene.  Call the police, and then stand witness when they arrive.  Make sure that those around you, whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, know that you won’t stand there and let someone else hurt them.

What on EARTH Are We Teaching Children?

While engaging on twitter regarding my post on Tuesday, one of the awesome people I follow re-tweeted some very disturbing images.  The original poster’s brother came home from school with a classmate’s paper.  This paper is supposed to be a debate piece, and it argues about rape and pregnancy by citing Todd Akin and 12th century British texts.  This kid is apparently 15 years old.

I took debate for 3 years in high school.  Let’s go point for point here.

You can view the pictures of the paper here and here.  For those of you too lazy to click, here is the entire paper, that I have painstakingly transcribed for you, typos and all, with my commentary:

Ladies and gentlemen: the topic for today’s speech is that: women who get pregnant after rape were not really raped.

I firmly agree that women who get pregnant after rape were not really raped.

Firstly, this is stated in the book of Fleta published in circa 1290.

In addition, this is a long lived legal argument and is also contained in Samuel Farr’s Elements of Medical Jurisprudence, published in 1814.

In this case, young sir, you are correct.  Farr did indeed make this argument, and the Fleta did discuss this very topic.  However, Farr also believed that the normal signs of puberty in a young girl were sufficient evidence that she could not be raped (because if she was undergoing puberty, then she probably was having sex), and he also believed that an imbalance of “humours” were the way that someone became sick.

Moreover, this valid medical point is supported by many reputable, well-educated and informed people such as Todd Akin, Senator Steve King, Dr. Fred Mecklenburg and GP John C Wilke to my first argument.

I’m sorry, what?  For starters, politicians are never a good source for a medical argument, so we are striking those two right off the bat, especially since they both cite your third and fourth examples of “reputable, well-educated and informed people” for their poorly informed arguments.

Firstly:

This is stated in the book of Fleta, which was the standard legal handbook of Britain in the 13th century.

“For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place.  So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, she would not become pregnant.”

This paragraph is from book one volume two, although this is an old point, it makes it no less valid and is stated in many other medical journals.

This clearly demonstrates both the value of the book of Fleeta and even in the 13th century that people and Doctors knew the truth about rape and pregnancy.

Yes, the Fleta was the standard legal handbook during the time of Edward IV.  You have that correct.  But that is most definitely not from the Fleta.  In fact, that quote comes directly from your second source.  Not the Fleta.  Doctors in the 13th centry also believed in trepanning, bloodletting, and that birthmarks were a sign that a child was conceived via witchcraft.  13th century physicians are not reputable sources for your arguments here.

And now to my second point,

Sir Samuel Farr, who was a reputable doctor and medical researcher with over seven published medical journals, stated that:

“If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.”

Although this was published in 1814, this was a time of many medical breakthroughs and is still constantly being proven by doctors and medical researchers and has the full support of many people.

Oh! There’s the quotation from the Fleta!  Really, young sir, this was poor debating strategy on your part, and indicates that you were not paying much attention to your paper.

I believe that there is an underlying point to both of the original arguments that you are missing.  At both of these points in history, doctors actually believed that a woman could not conceive if she did not orgasm during intercourse. In fact, both of these treatises drew from the ideas that a woman’s sexual organs were simply the inverse of a man’s.  The vagina was an inverted penis, the ovaries were actually testes, the uterus was a scrotum, etc.  I’m sorry, was that too much for your still-developing brain to handle?  Of course, “many medical breakthroughs” that are “still constantly being proven by doctors and medical researchers” have shown this to be patently false.

Thirdly,

This has the support of many reputable people such as:

  • Todd Akin, who is a reputable politician and Republican, he is also a strong Christian and family man.
  • Senator Steve king, who is a congressman for Iowa and scored a 100% rating with the National Right to Life Committee

Ohhhhh.  I see where you’re going with this.  I’m sure that much like these men, you believe that if a woman was raped, she was “asking for it”.  Or, conversely, that those sluts who dare to have sex before they are ready to care for a child should just keep their legs closed or suffer the damned consequences, right?

  • Doctor Fred Mecklenburg, who has four published medical journals on the subject.
  • And GP John C Willke who has a distinguished career as a physician.

Once again, your failure to delve deeper into the subject at hand has failed you, young sir.  Mecklenburg and Willke used the one test performed by the Nazis on the very same prisoners who they were starving, beating, raping, and putting to death by the millions to inform their opinions regarding rape and pregnancy.

The Nazis chose women who they believed were ovulating, and put them in a gas chamber, but didn’t turn on the gas.  Because, as the Nazi researchers claimed, these women didn’t ovulate, Mecklenburg and Willke then extrapolated that data and spun it to assume that when under extreme stress, like, oh, during rape, that women were incapable of ovulating.  Never mind that most of these women were literally starving!  Did you know that women who are malnourished won’t ovulate?  Of course you didn’t.  And I bet that you didn’t know where Mecklenburg and Willke got their information.

In fact, according to research done by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (a peer-reviewed journal, unlike the publications that your illustrious doctors have published) in 1996, at least 5% of women who are raped annually become pregnant.  That’s over 30,000 unwanted pregnancies due to rape.  A separate study in 2001 showed that the number was closer to 6.5%.

You forgot one other politician in your list of crazies, young scholar.  Former Pennsylvania state Rep. Stephen Freind claimed that women have some special secretion that will kill a rapist’s sperm even before it reaches the uterus.  I can only imagine that when he was asked how this occurs, he just threw up his hands and said “I dunno, MAGIC!”

You see, your examples have been proven wrong, time and time again.  [Hold onto your seats, dear readers, you're not going to believe the next part!]

And finally,

The bulk of people opposed to this argument are feminists and people wanting to cash in on child support.
Evidence of this is that the mother of a child can receive 10% of the father’s income, which can amount to large amounts of money.

You’ve got to be kidding me.  10% is a large amount of money?  According to the US Census Bureau, in 2006, the average wage for a man in the US is $39,403.  Do the math, kid.  10% is $3,940.30.  The average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 is currently estimated to be $295,560.  No, that piddly 10% figure that you have quoted does not mean “large amounts of money” to the average person.

[Here's where we veer into the territory of the truly crazy.]

With the issue of Feminists, these people are women, usually with poorly paid jobs with no skill or training who wish to receive more money than men doing the same job and are more often than not balding.

I laughed so hard at this point that I had tears streaming down my face.  No, young sir, we are not.  More often than not, we are college educated, have high paying jobs, we just want to be paid the same amount as a man doing the exact same job, and we have hair in all colors and styles.  Yes, some feminists are bald, but I imagine that’s only because they choose to shave their heads.

I suppose that, being all of 15 years old, you have embraced the popular culture’s idea of what a woman should look like, right?  Thin, gorgeous, impeccably dressed, perfectly shaped big breasts, long hair, makeup (but not too much, or she looks like a whore).  Well, kid, you’re in for a rude awakening when you learn that not everyone lives up to your impossible standards.  I’m a feminist, but I have long hair.  I’m a little overweight, and I prefer to wear jeans in my everyday life.  Your idea of what a real woman (and a feminist!) looks like is skewed so far that I feel sorry for you, and any girl you date.

So look at the facts, would you trust a balding woman attempting to cash in on child support or many reputable people, including doctors.

I’ll take the bald feminist any day of the week over the men you cited.  At least they will research their positions thoroughly, and have credible sources to back up their viewpoints.

I hope your teacher is a feminist.

“Fake” Geek Girls

Let’s get one thing public here, right off the bat.  I am a self-identified “geek”.  I wasn’t one of the “cool kids” in high school, though I stood up for myself enough times to never be outright bullied to my face.  I’ve always managed to find my fellow geeks in whatever city I reside. [Please note: although I am sure that there are people who will react with vehement outrage, for the sake of argument, I am going to use the words "geek" and "nerd" interchangeably.] Read the rest of this entry

Post Election Recap

Last night was a night of things both wonderful and heartbreaking.  Here’s my pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Same sex marriage (also known as “marriage”) has been legalized in three states (Maine, Maryland and Washington), and a fourth (Minnesota) struck down a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage.  I’m pretty proud of my former home state, Washington.
  • Wisconsin elected the first openly gay Senator, and she’s their first female Senator!  Congratulations, Tammy Baldwin!
  • The first Asian American female Senator, and the first Buddhist Senator, is Mazie Hirono from Hawaii.
  • Bonus points to Hawaii for electing the first-ever Hindu Senator too.
  • There are now 20 women in the Senate.  That’s an additional three from the previous record!
  • All of New Hampshire’s delegates, AND their Mayor are women.
  • Most of the candidates who made headlines with ill-conceived notions regarding rape, abortion, or contraception were defeated!

Cons:

  • Proposition 35 in California won by a landslide.  But there’s some good news, as the EFF and ACLU have already filed suit to strike it down as unconstitutional.  I will remain heartbroken about this until it is struck down.  I have friends who are sex workers, and I am very concerned about how this will affect them.
  • Some really awful people decided that calling our President a monkey, and the “N” word were totally acceptable on Twitter.
  • Donald Trump completely lost his mind last night.

Overall, I think that it was a great night, with impressive leaps forward for women and the fight for equality.  I am proud of my country for making huge strides forward.  Now let’s fix that economy!

PS: This marks the 100th post for Nice Girls!  Thanks for joining me on this ride, and here’s to a few hundred more.

Californians, Please Vote NO on Proposition 35, Part 2.

So, I know that I already had a blog post about this, but honestly, this issue is too important to me and people I care about to let it sit.  If you haven’t read it already, please take a look.

There’s even more to the story. People need to know that the proposition with the “feel good” name isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

From this post:

Another HUGE problem with Prop 35 is that it mandates that anyone convicted of lewd conduct since 1944 register as a sex offender. Lewd conduct is what the police like to charge women and men working on the street with when entrapping them for solicitation seems like too much of a hassle. So thousands of people who are not traffickers and were never accused of being traffickers are going to have to register as sex offenders. And here’s another kicker – throughout the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s, when it was practically illegal to be queer, the police had a tendency to charge gay men with lewd conduct. So now thousands of gay men will be required to register as sex offenders – because they’re gay. Yes, there are people being exploited, sexually and otherwise, and they should be getting help. But Prop 35 is not the way to do it. Maybe the police should start enforcing the laws we already have against rape, statutory rape, assault, and kidnapping.

This bill has over $1.85M backing it, and the people who oppose it have no budget to buy commercial time on the radio, or TV, or for big splashy advertisements in local papers.  Please.  Please share this information.

Naming and Shaming

Have you heard the name Amanda Todd?  Hers is a heartbreaking story of a young teenager who was relentlessly bullied by an anonymous online man, and then in person by her classmates because of a youthful indiscretion.  Specifically, she was encouraged to lift her shirt and flash someone on a cam-chatting site, and the man who encouraged her then shared a screenshot with others, including her classmates.  The man has been identified by Anonymous, they of the “we are legion” variety, and his personal information is now available for any person who has the desire for vigilante justice.   I admit, I felt a little thrill of joy when I saw the video on the Anonymous YouTube account, stating the name of Todd’s harasser, but I immediately felt guilty about it.

How about the name Violentacrez, also known as Michael Brutsch?  He’s been outed from his anonymous screen name as a chief moderator and expert troll on several unsavory subreddits.  He’s also been targeted, and he has subsequently lost his job, and his wife has become a target as well.

I have shared my opinion on “naming and shaming” publicly before, and I am going to do it again.  Right now.  I find it all incredibly distasteful.

Amanda Todd and her parents should have gone to the police with the information she had regarding her harasser.  He was ACTUALLY distributing child pornography, and blackmailing her in the process.  When her classmates were harassing her in person, she and her parents should have gone to the principal, or called the police.  The Gawker writer who outed Brutsch should also have turned over his information to the police, as he was also distributing child pornography.  Yet no one is talking about the things that could have been done to stop these people from hurting others.  There is no discussion of how the legal system is the proper venue for reporting harassment, or turning in evidence that someone is committing illegal acts.

Instead, there are Facebook pages about how the man who was accused of harassing Amanda Todd is going to die; two men are being held up as the worst that society has to offer, but that’s okay because now they’ve been caught and aren’t we glad that now we know their names?

Knowing their names does nothing but allow other assholes on the internet to use the same tactics of bullying and harassment, which sinks these would-be white knights down to the same level as those they purport to abhor.  It allows those who are innocent in these dealings, like Brutsch’s wife and children, to be caught in the crossfire as the internet burns and pillages real names in a virtual world.  It creates a mob mentality that makes scapegoats out of the unsavory in their thirst for blood, and we are better than that.

Use experiences to educate about the bad situations and behaviors you want to see changed, but don’t give the internet the names of those who are guilty of perpetuating the bad situations and behaviors.  Allowing a particular person to become a scapegoat for broader problems only allows the group who accepted or encouraged the behavior to disavow that person, and then claim that they have changed.  It is the best form of misdirection, and allows the group to continue, essentially unchanged.

Using the heartbreaking story of Amanda Todd as a tool to educate other young women about how to deal with coercion, blackmail, mental illness, harassment, and bullying would be a much better way to make sure that this happens less frequently.  Turning in Brutsch privately would have given the US justice system a much better chance at a fair jury trial, and would have prevented his family from being vilified along with him.

Don’t get caught up in the sensationalism of the story, learn and teach the lessons that the story has to offer.

Men’s Rights and Feminism: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

I found this video of one of my absolute favorite Jezebel writers, Lindy West, through the Skepchick blog.  Lindy speaks to a lot of the experiences of female bloggers, especially feminist bloggers.  The amount of hate and vitriol that is directed towards female bloggers is absolutely nauseating, and it seems to be increasing in intensity.  Offhand, I can think of two bloggers I love who have been the target of some particularly nasty stalking and abuse lately, Laci Green and Surly Amy.  My dear friend, Nixie Pixel, has also been a target at times.

I attracted the attention of the MRA (Men’s Rights Activists) subreddit a few months back, due to my Dark Side of Geek Feminism post.  I had some pretty severely conflicting emotions about the fact that, by and large, they all agreed with the post.  Until that time, my only experience with the Men’s Rights movement was through some grumblings on a few of the feminist websites I had been frequenting.

I spent a lot of time on the subreddit, and read a lot.  I cringed every time I read something that was clearly sexist, whether biased towards men or women (a few instances of the posters referring to women that they perceived as acting entitled as “cupcake” really irritated me).  Overall, though, I was surprised to find myself in agreement with a lot of the threads.

I believe it is a tragedy that men who are raped are not taken seriously, and have a harder time getting access to necessary mental health treatment.  I find it infuriating that there are women who actually use rape accusations as a form of bullying, extortion, or to smear a man’s name.  I think that the courts should stop being automatically biased towards women in custody hearings.  These were the main points I read about, and I no longer think of the MRAs (as a whole) as a bad movement.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this shift in my views.  I honestly believe that both sides could use a little more positive PR.  It is my understanding that both sides are trying to draw attention to injustices and attempt to rectify those injustices.  Feminists and MRAs just want to be treated with respect and as though their gender doesn’t determine how they should be treated in everyday life, in the workplace, and by the justice system.  Both sides have their trolls, and their radical elements, but in the end, we all want to be treated equally.  In order to do this, we have to stop vilifying each others movements.  We have to stop accusing entire genders of being culpable for the actions of those few who behave badly.  Yes, making that mental shift is difficult, but it has to happen if we are actually wanting equality for all.  Otherwise, we are undermining our own movements, and creating an Animal Farm mentality, where some are “more equal” than others.

I still think the PUA (Pick Up Artist) community is full of crap though.  Sorry, Lindy, I don’t foresee my thoughts on that group changing anytime soon.

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