Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Lessons From Spider Jerusalem and Georgia Mason: You're Quotable and The Truth Will Set You Free

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TL;DR: Fair use is there to allow and promote criticism and critique of public ideas, posts, and people. Anyone who tries to use copyright to try to silence criticism is a goddamned fascist. Treat them accordingly.

(As an aside, if you haven't read Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy - where the Georgia Mason quotes come from - do yourself a favor and get it NOW.)

Because someone hasn't heard of the Streisand effect, let's have a quick civics lesson about online posts, privacy, journalism, and fair use.  (NOTE:  I am not a lawyer. I am a layman. M'kay?)

First, the Streisand Effect is defined as "the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet."

As a practical matter of course, trying to get people to remove information, especially publicly available information about you, is a good way to get people to make sure that information is out there.  For example, Corey Andon is currently telling me that I'm "required" to remove my post from Monday where I quote his public Facebook post

I wouldn't have mentioned it again without this prompting; I've got other things to do with my time.  But I am not down with people trying to silence another's protected free speech, so hopefully this example is useful for other activists, bloggers, and reporters.

It's arguable that Mr. Andon - as well as myself, FWIW - are public figures, in that we are pervasively involved in (local) public affairs. I meet that test through my online activities, blogging, and role as a publisher; he meets that test via his sponsorship and organization of multiple public demonstrations. This only matters in terms of libel, which is not the way that Mr. Andon has tried to silence me so far.  For what it's worth, I'm trying to ensure that I am accurately representing what Mr. Andon has said, so that you can determine whether he, or Socialist Alternative, is worth your time, energy, or money.

Mr. Andon instead said - in a private message that I'm paraphrasing - that his public post that I quoted, cited, and critiqued was his "intellectual property".  This is so much bullshit and a clear example of trying to use copyright law to silence those who disagree with him.

Given the strong talk of Trump, I was expecting such tactics from the right, but to get them from someone representing the "Socialist Alternative" is both startling and deeply disappointing.  One hopes that he won't try the DMCA takedown route to silence those who disagree with him;  Plagarism Today has a good recap as to why that's a flawed tactic at the best of times.

It's somewhat ironic that Mr. Andon is so invested in me not quoting a public Facebook post. Even Facebook warns you that it's public (screengrab from the post in question as of ~ 1900 EST 28 Feb 2017):

When Facebook TELLS you that your stuff is public.

Once you've posted something publicly on Facebook (or anywhere on the internet), it's public, and therefore quotable. (Also, the internet doesn't forget; the Wayback Machine is a wonderful tool.)  Now, it's true that posting something publicly does not repeat not put it into the public domain. I don't have a right to simply cut-and-paste.  So did I just cut-and-paste his words?

My original post was 1057 words; excepting screencaps (not just of his words) 958 of them were original writing by me.  That's 90.6%.  The additional response was 602 words, of which 450 were by me - that's 74.7% original writing.  If you're keeping tabs, that means that 84.8% of my post was critique, criticism, or otherwise commenting on Corey's clearly labeled and sourced words.

The Guide Through Through the Legal Jungle points out that fair use principles apply to Facebook postings (and other social media postings as well).

Take a look at Purdue's analysis of what factors are considered in determining if a work qualifies as "fair use" at  Specifically, the first test, where the law specifically mentions (emphasis mine) “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.”

Reporting and critiquing Mr. Andon's bait-and-switch (a tactic he seems to have left behind with events since this Sunday), Dale Grimm's anti-LGBT publishing practices, and the use of government resources by Ohio lawmakers to organize religious protests are pretty clearly all fair-use reasons to quote the source material.1

Let's make something clear.  I can be a complete and utter asshole. I can be rude, condescending, preachy, and all sorts of other negative adjectives that you might want to level at me.  And they're all probably true.

But I have something.  I have my goddamned self-respect.  I have my goddamned integrity.  I will tell the truth as best I can, whether about politics, publishing, or anything else. 

In the years to come, we will see attempts to shut down dissent and critique of the administration's policies and tactics.  When the administration's puppets get on the Sunday talk shows and bleat "The President will not be questioned", we know that the President must be questioned.

The ONLY acceptable response to such questioning - whether by the administration, by myself (such as I did last year with "When Twitter Comes For You"), or by a minor flunky for a nascent Socialist party crowing about winning a single city council seat, is answering the fucking questions.

Regardless of which "side" or party you're part of, when you answer criticisms with attempts to silence that criticism, you're part of the problem, so quit whining and get out of the way while the rest of us fix shit.

1As a snarky aside, way to go Mr. Andon, getting Socialist Alternative to be mentioned right alongside an unrepentant bigot and people misusing government resources for religious protests!

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Help Support Children of a Different Sky

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I'm going to step back and let Alma Alexander tell you about her current - and very relevant - project, Children of a Different Sky currently raising funds at Indiegogo at, and chip in what you can. 

Here's a brief summary; though her video (transcript below) is worth the few minutes of your time.
The time has come for the stories from the darkness, from the ragged edges of silence, to be given a voice, and the help that is needed - to shine a light into some of the most painful conditions that a human being can endure - the almost impossible to comprehend existence as an exile. “Children of a Different Sky” presents these stories to the world… and collects donations which will be passed on to organizations working to help the dispossessed human tides of our era.

Hello, my name is Alma Alexander… and I am one of the unmoored.

I have been lucky enough in my lifetime not to have been one of those truly adrift – I have never been forced out of a home, or a country, or made to go to strange places I could not understand, against my wishes, terrified and frozen. But I left the country of my birth aged 10, never to return there permanently to try and re-connect the severed roots. This does not mean I ceased to love it – this is the ground where the bones of my ancestors are buried, where their ghosts walk yet if such things can be; this is the place where the river I love so much runs eternally between shores of mud and thistle and weeping willow, the place where a sliver of my spirit lives still, lives always. And I understand, on that visceral level, what it means to be FORCED to leave a place one calls home.

I feel for the children whose early – whose *only* – memories involve bombs and fire and fury and guns and bullets and dust and blood and loss and grief. I feel for the emptiness I see blossoming behind their eyes, underneath the pain, the inability to understand why such things can be. I understand the way an older child might feel when torn apart from those first precious friendships with one’s peers, from the security and warmth of a family home; when witnessing the carnage of a hot war blowing up around them, none of their doing, something that they can do absolutely nothing about and that is completely capable of destroying everything they have ever believed to be true, like a dragon breathing a plume of flame on their lives and leaving ashes behind.

I watch these driven people who have lost everything climb on overladen boats which sink under the weight of frightened women and children and the few men who are trying to save them. I can see pictures daily of the hungry, of the abandoned, of the families torn apart, of children sitting catatonic with pain and loss under streaks and smears of blood and dirt. I can see it all on the news, on social media, in headlines, across the world, every day.

And I wonder what I can do. What I, and those like me, can do.

We can tell stories. Not THEIR stories – those are theirs to tell, some day, maybe. But stories like theirs. Stories which will reach out and tell other people about the truth of their lives, through the “lies” of fiction, of fantasy. We can shine a light, we who create art, into the dark places of this world. That is what we are for. That is what we do. That is what the best of us do, anyway. What we want to do. What we NEED to do.

This project is a collection of stories. Some by names you might recognize quickly; others, from writers who might have a more intimate, more visceral, connection with the subject matter, and of whom you might not have heard (yet). We are here to tell the stories. And when you choose to help us do this, with this book, with the collection of stories by the “Children of a Different Sky”, you join us to learn, and to share, and to grieve, and to make sure that the least and the most bitterly lost amongst us are not – are NEVER – forgotten.

Back in the land I come from, there is a beloved poet called Aleksa Santic, and a beloved and well known poem entitled, “Ostajte ovdje” – “Stay Here”. Young children of my heritage and culture know these lines – they are engraved on the souls of the humans of my nation. They are these:

Ostajte ovdje – sunce tudjeg neba

Nece vas grijat k’o sto ovo grije.

Gorki su tamo zalogaji hljeba

Gde svoga nema i gde brata nije.

Loosely translated, with poetic licence, they read:

Stay here – the sun of a foreign sky

Will never warm you like this one in your own heaven

Bitter is the bread in that place

Where you you’re among strangers and not amongst your brothers.

We who were born under that sun, understand. There is no place like home, after all.

Like I said, I was never amongst those forced to leave such a place, which they knew, which they loved, where they belonged. But I left, nevertheless. And the poet is at least halfway right in that I never really feel more myself then when I (rarely, now) return to stand on the shores of the river which flows past the city of my birth. I, too, in a distant and rather more comfortable sense than some are today, am a refugee.

And this book, this collection, this effort to gather the stories and to make sure that they are not forgotten, this is my attempt to help save both the souls and the bodies of those who now need us most.

The vast majority of the money raised by this crowdfunding project will be passed on to several agencies who work with and offer aid to the refugees of our era. They used to be Jewish children running from the German Reich; today, they might be Syrian kids running from the ruins of Aleppo or Yazidi women fleeing enslavement in the darkness of cultural recidivism; Tomorrow, they might be ourselves.

We are all one. And there, where one of us stumbles over rubble, bloodied and in pain, having lost everything… there, but for the grace of God, goes any of us.

If you marched in a pussy hat in any city in the world where like-minded people gathered together… if you had the courage and the fury to follow your passion by being one of the thousands who streamed to America’s airports after Donald Trump’s heavy-handed sledgehammer blow of the refugee/immigrant travel ban in the last days of January 2017… if you spent your precious time on the phone to your representatives decrying the injustices of the new era… I salute you, and I love you all, very much. If for whatever reason you could not march or raise your voices in the “No Fear/NoHate” cries at the airport or your voice strangles in your throat if you have to speak on the phone to a stranger… there are always ways to make your stand. Supporting this crowdfund – buying this book – throws your support both towards the writers and artists and other publishing professionals who made this happen, and in the days of defunding the arts that also is a statement of defiance, and makes certain that you have been a part in funneling much needed funds to organizations which work directly with the lost and the dispossessed. You helped. You can sit right there at your computer, right now, and click the “No Fear/No Hate” button. Help us help those who need us most in this moment.

Support Children of a Different Sky at

Full disclosure by Steve: Other than having known Ms. Alexander for several years, I have no relationship to this project... but I am a backer.)

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Does Your Group or Party Have Socialist In Its Name? Maybe You Should Read This And Think Real Hard.

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TL;DR:  I've had personal experience with Socialist parties co-opting protests and rallies for their own gain for over a quarter century.  If you're going to organize a rally, great - don't make it a recruitment drive.  Further, requiring some kind of orthodoxy rather than finding commonalities is simply disgusting.

Also, protest votes at least cost Clinton AZ's and FL's electoral votes, so please don't tell me that your third-party vote doesn't do measurable harm.

Also, the public figure I quote below started asking me not to quote his public Facebook post.  Which seems a strange thing to do when someone is making a big deal about transparency.


Wherein Our Narrator Doesn't Make It To A Protest

I didn't go to a protest on Sunday afternoon/evening because I'd been sick for most of the prior week. The protest was billed as "Resist Trump Rally - Dayton", with this copy (see a screenshot at
On February 26th, we will unite at the courthouse in downtown Dayton to voice our outrage with the Trump Administration. We will march through the streets of Dayton and then meet back up on the courthouse square.

It is important that we put action behind our words. It is essential that we stand in solidarity and collectively say "No!" to a divisive and oppressive administration that does not work to serve the people.

Join the resistance!

If you would like to speak at this or event or wish to contact us, please email us at The starting point for the protest is 23 N Main Street Dayton, OH 45405.
Sounds good, right?  Hell, sounds a lot like the mission statement of the protest against the Muslim Ban I went to (and had a prepared statement for).

If you look at the screenshot you'll note that I did not fuzz out the name Corey Andon as one of the organizers.  That's because Corey is a public figure, and really at the center of what I want to talk about here.

At that rally I didn't speak at, Mr. Andon did. I didn't mention it at the time because there were a lot of other people who did speak after him, and they were all directly representing (as in lawyers, in some cases) or were immigrants, Muslims, or both.  If you were at that protest, you'll remember Mr. Andon as the guy who went on about Socialist Alternative.

Still, whatever. Props to the guy for having organized a protest in Columbus, and if he's helping organize protests in Dayton as well, no problem. Someone's got to, and I've been too sick.

Wherein Socialists Do The Thing I'm Sick Of Them Doing

Y'all realize that I'm at worst liberal, and have a lot of sympathy for a lot of socialist ideas, right?  Okay.  Keep that firmly in mind, because I'm about to get annoyed at a Socialist.

Late Sunday evening I saw Mr. Andon's post on Facebook (full-size screenshot at, too long to transcribe here:

That annoyed me already, but then I scrolled down and I saw that one of the protests' own speakers was booed, and Mr. Andon not only failed to apologize and build bridges, but instead doubled down. (Names of private individuals fuzzed out, screenshots also at

Not only do I get annoyed when Socialists focus on recruitment instead of fixing problems, I really can't stand it when men double down on being assholes to women who have been working for women's rights.

Being duplicitious about the reason for a protest, requiring orthodoxy instead of searching for commonalities, and mansplaining why a woman is wrong is doing nothing but helping Trump, Bannon, and the rest.

Additionally, complaints about that behavior not only got doubled-down on, but repeatedly got met with nothing more than "organize your own protest".  (Yeah, I'm thinking maybe that does need to happen.)

I wrote the following on Facebook, and only edited here for a typo or two. It's an open letter to Mr. Andon, and any members of any political party that have "Socialist" in their name. 

And Mr. Andon, maybe you should leave the mansplaining to the pussygrabber.

(See below the letter for more)

Welp, I was coming here to explicitly ask Corey Andon to clearly state if a rally was going to be about opposing Trump (which will require a COALITION, thanks), or if it was going to be an explicitly Socialist Party event/ membership drive.

While the Socialists are more than welcome to demonstrate, organize, and so on, for nearly three decades I've noticed a habit of Socialist Parties either organizing rallies and then pulling a bait-and-switch (as apparently happened here) or trying to take credit for rallies and protests they simply showed up at.

Having personally witnessed the latter at demonstrations against BOTH Gulf Wars, in two different states, I've grown somewhat distrustful of the politics of organized Socialist Parties in the US. The bait-and-switch (and taking credit for what they didn't do) are tactics of the far right; witness how many people toed the GOP line against Obamacare, only to later realize it was the ACA?

There is framing, there is spinning, and then there is obfuscation. One would hope that with the (rightly) Sanders-inspired new blood such awful tactics would have gone by the wayside, but it appears that is not the case.

Corey Andon - and other Socialist Party leaders - I'm not asking you to vote Democrat. I'm not asking you to join the Democratic party. My stake is not about any particular party or organization, it's about this country and the people in it.

I *am* asking you to do two things:

1. Realize that sponsoring a rally does not mean that it can (or should) become a recruitment drive.

2. Realize that coalitions on commonalities (rather than RHINO-style enforcement of orthodoxy) is absolutely required.

3. Focus on promoting ideas, frames, and concepts rather than brand loyalty. We NEED the disillusioned and duped Trump voters and GOP members; demanding a high degree of orthodoxy rather than finding commonalities is only going to give Trump and his ilk more power.

4. If you are going to have a rally/protest that is explicitly about advancing the Socialist agenda, be clear about naming it such.

And seriously, Corey Andon, decide NOW. Is this about gaining a few members for your organization, or is it about the people who live here in this country?

I'm disappointed in you.

In between the time I finished writing that post and going to bed, Mr. Andon had replied on Facebook (to his public post).  I'm not going to full-out quote his reply which seemed to miss what I was saying (you can read it here), but since FB kept deleting when I tried to respond to his points, I thought I'd include what I wrote (and enough context that it doesn't seem like I'm insane) as a bonus for y'all, and maybe him if he bothers to read it.
1. Sponsoring a rally and encouraging people to learn about and join and organization does not inherently mean that the message is lost.
When it looks like a bait-and-switch, yes it does. Be transparent about who is organizing and the WHOLE purpose of the rally/protest.  ("We're resisting Trump by being Socialist" is NOT being transparent, as an aside.")
2. Commonalities include the fact that 99% of the population has no voice.
Yes, AND? Doubling down that you were right to mansplain to a woman's rights activist is not finding commonalities with real people.

Remember real people?  Not ideas, people.
3. The ideas, frames, and concepts are clearly outlined by Socialist Alternative.
Then it would have been nice if that had been indicated AT ALL in the official description of the event. That way people - including workers like myself - would be able to evaluate things and think about them.
4. The socialist agenda is one that is inclusive to all. It fights back against the nationalistic movement of Donald Trump and the neoliberal movement of Hillary Clinton. The "resist Trump" rallies are a chain of socialist events across the country that have been set up to fight Donald Trump.
Logical fallacy; you're throwing several statements here and demanding that they all be evaluated as a single true/false statement.  Also, this has nothing to do with my point #4. 
You can be disappointed in me, but is it because of the event or because you are refusing to understand socialism?
It is because of the event and the way it was billed and handled. I already answered that. Cute that you're trying to make me out as someone who doesn't understand socialism.  Remember, there has to be a dialectic here in order for progress and communication to happen, rather than a repetition of talking points.

I am also disappointed in how you've handled this since.
Socialist organizations are on the rise right now. We're not going anywhere, and we won't be backing down anytime soon.
And that's good.  I have no problem with socialism (lower case).  Instead of alienating people - especially those who are most maligned by the corporate classes and duped by them, why don't you try being transparent with people as a refreshing change of pace from the GOP?  Probably get more people interested in socialist ideas, and I'd definitely be thrilled!
Also I would prefer that my words not be used for your blog.
This is a public post as of this writing, for a public event, and you're arguably a public figure (an activist organizing protests is inherently pervasively involved in public affairs), so rather than invent a straw man, I am going to quote you in context.  This is quite clearly to comment upon and criticize your words, thus fulfilling multiple ways in which my quoting of you is fair use. I also added in links directly to your words so people can read for themselves, as well as links to SA, so... not sure what you're upset about here.

Again, I hope you reconsider doubling (tripling?) down.

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Choose: Four thousand full-time workers, a $1/hr raise for 56K workers, or golfing trips for someone else's family?

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I was really angered by this thing written by a paramedic about fast food workers making as much as they do.

Not because of what they wrote.

Because it doesn't go far enough.

Look, if you've not read it before, take a moment and read that red text over there to the right.  It's good ... but it's only a start.

Because just before this crossed my Facebook feed, a different article already had me upset:

Trump's Family Trips Cost Taxpayers Nearly As Much In A Month As Obama's Cost In A Whole Year

Yeah, you read that right.

So let's do some basic math, shall we?

Obama's trips cost taxpayers $12.1 million per year, or an average of $1,008,334 per month.

Trump's vacation and golfing trips to Florida are currently costing an estimated $10,000,000 per month.

This is all pretty straightforward, but this is what I want you to think about:

The difference between those two numbers is $8,991,666.

At the $15/hr rate, the difference in travel costs between the two presidents was enough to employ three thousand, seven hundred forty-six full-time people last month.

Do the math yourself.  $15*40*4 =  $2400/month.  $8991666/$2400 = 3746.5

(When I worked in fast food, I was lucky to get anywhere close to part-time hours, let alone full-time, but that's a separate issue.)

Okay, that's not compelling enough? Okay, how about this:  the difference between Trump and Obama's travel expenses would be enough to give fifty-six thousand, one hundred and ninety people an instant raise of a dollar an hour for that entire month.

Can you really tell me that Trump's golfing trips are more beneficial to our country and our fellow citizens than providing a full-time wage to four thousand people for a month?  Or more beneficial than providing fifty-six thousand people with a raise of $1 an hour?

Remember, if you will, that thanks to an ill-thought-out hiring freeze and a lack of competitive pay that our Veteran's Administration isn't able to take care of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Remember that there's still members of our armed forces using food stamps to make ends meet.

They want you to forget.

They want you to be afraid.

They want you to be scared.

Because if you're scared and afraid, if you're focusing on someone else doing a little bit better, you won't notice them robbing you blind and playing golf.

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Addressing A Percieved Double Standard In Speculative Fiction Publishing

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There's some musings (most recently by Lela Buis here and here) comparing the treatment of Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Sunil Patel, and Greg Andree after their bad behavior in the writing community. Is it racism? Is it sexism? Is there a double standard?

As I have published both Ms. Sriduangkaew and Mr. Patel, Alliteration Ink came up. 

So I figured I should probably say something.  I'm speaking here as a private individual, but since Alliteration Ink is me, you can consider this an official statement as well.

A Quick Note About Who Gets The Money

I should clarify that for both Steampunk World and No Shit, There I Was, the authors were paid a flat fee. The authors don't get further royalties from those books; purchasing them supports me and the editors who get paid from retail sales rather than the Kickstarter.

Comparing Treatment of Three Authors

First, Mr. Andree.  I don't know the guy, haven't published him, and know very little about the allegations about him. If he were to submit to me or want to participate in something I was organizing, I'd have to investigate... but I'd probably pass just because there's so many other authors who don't have any allegations attached to their name.  (He did get a brief mention in my public statement about Mr. Patel.)

I - like many small publishers or editors - have a day job. Or hell, the publishing job. Usually by the time I hear about something, it's already hit full boil because I'm doing or reading something else.  So when faced with a choice of publishing an author who has scandal following them around or someone else... it's an easy choice.

Which brings us to my business relationship with Mr. Patel and Ms. Sriduangkaew.

Mr. Patel's behavior came to my attention during the Kickstarter fulfillment phase of No Shit, There I Was. One of the backer rewards was a video chat with him, which given the allegations, was particularly problematic. Because of the timing and the backer reward in particular, this required a public statement from me.

In contrast, I became aware of Ms. Sriduangkaew's behavior as Requires Hate after the fulfillment phase of Steampunk World (after the publication date, even), and there were no backer rewards involving them specifically.  Others had more than sufficiently covered RH's behavior at the time - hell, they'd won a Hugo for it - so I didn't weigh in with a public statement.  I figured my stance was understood and obvious.

Am I going to be buying any more stories from either of them? Probably not. As I said above, there's a lot of bad behavior there to atone for, and there's a lot of other authors with talent who would love that opening.

The authors I've named are not the only ones that I won't publish. 

As I've stated before, there are some people I won't publish because of their behaviors.  It's not only the ethical thing to do, it's also a prudent business decision.  But unless there's a direct reason for me to do so (such as the Kickstarter above with Mr. Patel), I'm not going to publicize my decision.  For me, it's as simple as that.

It's perhaps fortuitous that most of those (unnamed here) people I won't publish don't want anything to do with me either; no tears there.

So that's me done. 

Why the different treatment?

I think there might be an even bigger reason why Benjanun Sriduangkaew and Sunil Patel were treated differently when their scandals broke.

In short:  Because Requires Hate was a fucking horrific troll, and had a tendency to go after anyone who criticized RH/Sriduangkaew in psychologically damaging ways - and even to goad followers into doing the same.
Often BS/RH will then begin to pursue the person she has decided to target, issuing multiple vituperative posts or death threats on blogs they frequent, and/or on Twitter, and/or in the online forum where she first targeted them. She then erases—at the very least—the most violent and abusive comments and posts, leaving the target reeling but with no visible proof that the threat occurred. Often, she deletes everything. Therefore not many screencaps of her worst abuses exist.
Ironically, this is the same behavior that racist and conservative assholes (RH's nominal targets) would use over the next several years to intimidate, silence, oppress, and harass women and people of color.

So why poke a hornet's nest when you don't have to? 

Maybe that's why Ms. Sriduangkaew's presence is tolerated in the community today: a fear that if you don't walk on those eggshells just right, Sriduangkaew will put on a new pseudonym and resume those old tactics.

I don't know - Steampunk World predates the report exposing her, and I've not published her since.  You'd have to ask some of the other publishers who have why they've discounted past behavior so much.

For myself, I still have my respect policy.  And while I've been struggling with issues of my own health (mental and physical), and I'm behind on so many things, there are some principles you can be sure that I will always strive to adhere to.

Also, yes, I'm aware that this post is exactly the sort of thing that would get that kind of response from RH in the past.  We'll see - maybe RH is really gone for good.

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I'm sick and so might be the person on the other side of the screen

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I am sick.

Having a fever, runny nose, coughing, getting nosebleeds every time I sneeze sick.

I mention this as a reminder that what you see of someone online isn't really them.  It might be a close approximation of them (I do my best to keep them congruent), but it's not the same.

Maybe I can write a blog post or share a funny meme or the like when I'm sick.  Or I could have a bunch of stuff already set up in the pipe using services like Buffer or

And maybe I look like I'm online because I have chat clients that stay online, so it just looks like I'm "away" instead of "head pounding like a drum" or "asleep".

So remember that of the people you're interacting with online.  You only get a facade, not the whole story.

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The Writing's On the Wall: How the *IDEA* of Fake News can hurt democracy

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In our rush to decry the problems with "fake news" (and there are many problems with it), we solved one problem... but created another.

And in his fumbling supervillain way, Trump is already trying to make that new problem happen right away.
@PresVillain is a treasure.
We're setting up a system where all our information is in the hands of a very, very few people.

If you've managed to avoid all news from Standing Rock, here's some links to what's going on right now (as I type this) from the NY Daily News, The Guardian, and Reuters.  They range from just two to six hours earlier today.

I ran across a post on Facebook being spread that alleged worse things were happening, but that major media was being kept away.

Seeing the coverage that I could find, it seemed possibly true1. (I come from West Virginia; I remember the coal wars, even if most of the people in my state apparently don't.) I decided to cut-and-paste it after adding my own header:

Does anyone know of ANY other media out at Standing Rock that can confirm/deny this? This report is, given past events and behavior of govt. entities, entirely too probable.

And then I hit post, and saw that my post had been truncated so that only the last line, "Send love & support by reposting if you will" showed. I tried to edit it and re-copy and paste.

Pulling it up to edit
Just before I hit "Save". The part I can't verify is blurred out by me after the fact here.

Just after I hit save (and replied to my own post)
The screenshots above were from try #3.  I eventually tried six different times, on four different browsers.

To quote Ian Fleming's aptly-named "Moscow Rules"...
Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.
Given that I used multiple browsers, it's difficult to chalk this up to me simply having "a bad Facebook day" or a technological issue on my side.  All evidence appears to indicate that I ran across a server-side example of Facebook's attempts to curb "fake news".

Let's be clear - we don't need misinformation and made up stories flying around.  With almost two thirds of Americans getting their news from social media, and almost half from Facebook in 2016, and analysis showing that fake news got more engagement than real news,  the possibility of lies being accepted as truth is worrying.2

But with the current Administration peddling lies (Politifact has Trump's statements as "Mostly False", "False", or "Pants on Fire" 69% of the time) and other "alternative truths", it kind of inherently means that our government is going to be peddling "fake news"... but presumably not going to be restricted by Facebook.

While the example is so obvious as to be insane when talking about Trump, this is a horrible standard to set.

While Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler's take on covering Trump "the Reuters Way" is laudable, it provides a choke-point for those who wish to control information, especially when the information is both time-sensitive and physically remote.  Especially when government agencies have shut down cell and wireless signals in the past to disrupt protests - something that's difficult to prove unless you're the FCC, but has been reported at Standing Rock since November by multiple sources

While we're going to have to continue doing self-monitoring (I've had a few articles I passed along called out by others, thank you!), both as private citizens and as movements, we cannot rely on any single source of communication or information.   (Yes, I'm looking at you, all those groups that only exist on Facebook.)

And that's harder than you think.

The problem isn't that free speech isn't protected. It's that you don't have a right to use someone else's press.  Shout all you want from your front yard, but your reach is going to be severely limited.

That is worrisome enough when you realize that 90% of US media (or so) is really just a few big companies:

But at least we could take comfort in snarky memes like this one, right?

Yeah, not anymore.

But with so many people mistaking "Facebook" for "The Internet" and Trump's hollering about "Fake News" having a chilling effect on even the left's independent news... the possibility is all too obvious and all too chilling.

If we don't diversify both how we consume, transmit, and create information, the writing is on the wall.

Or rather, it won't be for long.

1It's worth noting that after digging around some more, what I was trying to post was probably hyperbolic.  Probably.  Again, the history of strikes (and the violence used to suppress them) has a nasty history of being downplayed and left out of "official" accounts.

2Though a study from researchers at Stanford and NY University indicated that fake news didn't impact the 2016 election, and I really have to wonder if Facebook is going to clamp down on anti-vaxx lies anytime soon, though I suppose we could start reporting them as fake news...

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In Which The GOP Leaders Point Out How Much They Love Trump, And Don't You Too, We All Do, Really, Honest.

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Hi, and welcome!

You may have been holding out some hope that the GOP leadership wasn't fully in line with Donald J. Trump's policies and positions as President.

You may have been thinking that you're a Republican, but not that kind of Republican.

Or maybe you're a Democrat (or Independent) who thought that while the Donald is a festering ****-show, surely the Republican party (the party of Lincoln!) wasn't that bad overall, and maybe we should think about understanding.

Yeah, look. I'm sorry to break this to you.

The GOP as a political party is fully and completely in bed with Donald Trump.

Paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee authorized by and composed of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and the Republican National Committee

The "Mainstream Media Accountability Survey" (if you decide to answer, try using Guerrilla Mail to provide a fake e-mail address) is yet another survey-as-fundraising tool that starts out with reasonable-sounding questions...
Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?

...and quickly gets into laughable questions...
Do you believe that the mainstream media does not do their due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration?

...and then into oblivious ironic propaganda questions...

Do you believe that people of faith have been unfairly characterized by the media?

...'cause it's not like people of an Abrahamic faith are going to be unfairly characterized by this very survey two questions earlier...
Do you believe that political correctness has created biased news coverage on both illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism?


Anyway, this fundraising tool ... er, "survey"... tells us two very, very important things.

First, as the footer above points out, the GOP has gotten over any misgivings about The Donald, and is fully in bed with him. If you consider yourself a Republican but not in favor of Trump, Pence's homophobia, or Steve Bannon's neo-Nazi leanings, then your party has deliberately decided to leave you behind.

Second, the people in charge of the GOP are very, very afraid that Trumpism is losing the support of mainstream Republicans.  Consider, if you will, questions #19 & #20:

Do you believe that the media purposely tries to divide Republicans against each other in order to help elect Democrats?

Do you believe that the media creates false feuds within our Party in order to make us seem divided?
See, here's the thing - and I say this mostly to Republicans who might be reading this:  Donald J. Trump (and Mike Pence, and Steve Bannon) do not represent what most Republicans stand for.  There's an extensive list of Republicans who opposed Trump during his runTrump's Russian ties are concerning to a great number of Republicans who believe in our countryThe public as a whole loathes the guy.

So the GOP leadership is trying to both stay firmly in bed with The Donald while simultaneously convince you that Republicans as a whole are all right there in line with him.

That's an "alternative truth". 

Or as we call it, a fucking lie.

Republicans of conscience and Republicans of faith know that Trumpism is mocking everything they have stood for. That Trumpism is corrupting our country, our businesses, and even capitalism itself.

Know your morals.  Know your ideals.  Know the ideals our country - however imperfectly - strives for.

And damn these opportunists trying to tarnish our bright beacon of democracy.

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Punk For Our Times: BLXPLTN

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I've been trying to come up with a good way to get the sound of BLXPLTN across in words since Anton Cancre introduced them to me on Facebook... and I think I've got it.

Take one part Big Black - pick your album of choice.  Add some of The Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy.  Add in a the politics and dark humor of the Dead  Kennedys, flavor with some The Land of Rape and Honey era Ministry and some Pretty Hate Machine, and, depending on the track, a bit of a hip-hop album that I'm not familiar enough with the genre to pick... and you'll be close.  Probably.

Okay, so I totally dated myself with that description. Screw it.

BLXPLTN call themselves electro-punk or politically-charged futurepunk, and that's as good a genre as any.  This band has got me excited about punk in a way that I haven't in quite some time.

They've got two full-length albums out that you can get via Bandcamp - Black Cop Down and New York Fascist Week.

Black Cop Down is much more noise/punk oriented, as exemplified by these two tracks - "Start Fires" and "Pressure".

New York Fascist Week is a somewhat more "produced" album, but still keeps a hard edge throughout, as exemplified by the title track and "Auf Wiedersehen"

And finally, the official video for "Blood on the Sand", which is what drew me in and instantly made me a fan. I hope you enjoy their work as much as I do.

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I won't be striking on Friday - but I support it all the same.

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There is (or is supposed to be, depending on who you ask) a national strike against Trump this Friday.

There are naysayers - the LA Progressive sums up the arguments against (at least this particular) general strike.  On the other hand, In These Times illustrates when (at least local) general strikes have been a force for change.

While I support a general strike, I won't be striking on Friday.

I thought about it, but came to this simple conclusion: My day job is at a hospital. With our current staffing levels, my absence would have a significant negative effect on how well my department could care for patients. Not being there could lead to an avoidable delay of care with negative outcomes for the patient.

I don't think this reason holds for most people in most sectors. Most people work in an area where being closed for a day randomly won't mean life or death; it just means inconvenience. This reason doesn't even hold for all medical workers (someone's carpal tunnel surgery being delayed a day is an inconvenience, not a life-threatening ailment).

But the dilemma of those people who work in areas where a strike or slowdown could actually lead to someone's death is poorly addressed at best, and actively ignored at worst.

Regardless, I do support the idea of a general strike. I do support (and will participate) in the buy-nothing aspect of the day. I hope you will as well.

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Tolerance, Acceptance, and Approval

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There's a difference between tolerance, acceptance, and approval.

The distinction is often blurred by people when they're trying to slander a group1 or hide thier real feelings.

It's not just a semantic difference; this distinction is having a very particular and specific effect on my life, right now. (I'll tell the story later, maybe.)

So, here's the definitions.

Tolerance: to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.

Accept: to believe or come to recognize (an opinion, explanation, etc.) as valid or correct.

Approve: to officially agree to or accept as satisfactory.

Accept and approve can be a little blurry between the two sometimes (and there might be regional connotations), but if you're expecting to treat them as different, you can easily find out which is being used in which way.

These sorts of things are easier in practice, so let me give you a musical example...from my workplace.

I tolerate listening to Justin Beiber at work.  I don't like it. I don't think he creates particularly good music, and in general don't like anything I've heard of him as a person. But I don't run screaming from the room... though I do question the musical taste of someone who does like him.

I accept listening to Rhianna at work. Some of her songs I like, some I really like, and some are just okay, but I can definitely see the appeal of her work, even for the songs I don't particularly care for.

I approve of Bruce Springsteen at work, particularly from the Born In The USA era. This album is totally acceptable and completely satisfactory to me.

Of course, your opinions of what music and albums are intolerable, tolerable, acceptable, and approvable will vary, but that's not the point. When people say that they want others to tolerate their lifestyle, life choices, partner(s), and so on, they're not asking for you to agree with them.

They're asking you to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.

They're asking you to be civilly polite.

If that's too much for you to deal with, then that's your problem, not theirs.

1In my experience this has always been the political right slandering the political left - when searching "intolerant liberals" and "intolerant conservatives" on Google images I was presented with nearly identical results which slammed liberals. For a thoughtful discussion of whether or not liberals are "tolerant", I recommend "Intolerant Liberals" by Tucker FitzGerald. The most I see the political left doing is saying "tolerance" when they mean tolerance and "acceptance" and "approval".

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Let's stop calling everyone narcissists, sociopaths, etc.

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There are trends in relationship-land.

It's not surprising; humans are great at pattern-recognition. We love models that provide explanations. We love labels that reduce people into easily-predictable stereotypes. I'm as guilty of this as the next person.

But they're trends, not diagnoses.

It's time to stop ... and to do something more effective.

There's four big labeling trends that had an impact on my adult life: ADD/ADHD, Asperger's, narcissism, and sociopathy. Sometimes that trend or label has gone along with a formal diagnosis, sometimes it's been nothing more than matching lists of symptoms that one finds on the internet.

There's a serious danger in (emotional) self-diagnosis, and it's here that labels do the most damage.

Because someone can have aspects of a condition, but not all of them.

In the middle of Jon Ronson's "The Psychopath Test" (highly recommended), he starts realizing that his wife has some of the qualities of a psychopath. Then, with a bit of horror, he realizes that he does as well. (He's not one. Probably.)

These conditions - like damn near everything else having to do with human behavior - exist on a spectrum. Our models, whether in the DSM or in a listicle, have an artificial solidity that simply doesn't exist in the real world. Someone might meet all the criteria but one - does that make their behavior okay? (No.) If we're looking for signs of a condition, aren't we going to be biased to try to find it? (Yes.)

While these models have been - and continue to be - useful, we must recognize their limitations as well.

So what to do instead?

Focus on behaviors.

If you're a person who thinks they have traits like any of the above conditions (or any other), then start looking for things that helped with those behaviors or symptoms you have issues with. I have issues with sensory overload. I use some of the same strategies that people with Asperger's (or who are on the autism spectrum) do to cope with sensory overload, even though I'm not on the spectrum.

If you're in a relationship with or interacting with someone who exhibits (negative) behaviors from any of these models, maintain your boundaries. Focus on behaviors. Be aware of what you will and will not tolerate, and be clear about it. Be understanding, but don't compromise yourself. Remember that just as boundaries are not rules, boundaries are not threats or ultimatums. They define who you are and what you are willing to accept.

Your boundaries will protect you more than any label.

And when the next trendy diagnosis comes along, examine it. See if it's useful for you. See if any of the techniques associated with it are helpful in your life. See if it describes behaviors in a more understandable way.

Just don't try to shove anyone into a label - and don't let anyone else do it to you.

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Sometimes you have to just say it with pictures (reply, comment, or tweet your own faves)

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These are some of my favorites right now. Please reply, comment, or tweet your own favorites.

This is in the Holocaust Museum

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So Say We All: My Remarks at the Rally Against The Refugee Ban #NoBanNoWall

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[Edit: Due to the cold, speakers were cut short. I still stand by these remarks, and the following essay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.]

My name is Steven Saus.

My great-grandfather's name is written in the books on Ellis Island.

He arrived here, an immigrant, in 1915, fleeing from conflict, hoping for a better life, and drawn by the words written on the base of a statue. He left his home and followed the promising light of a statue’s lamp held high in New York Harbor.

My great-grandfather worked in the mines in Ohio. His son made parts for electric poles in Cleveland and fought Nazis in World War Two. His son became a college professor in West Virginia. And I ... I stand before you here thanks to their hard work and sacrifice.

There is a tradition in our country. A tradition of all kinds of people, coming from all across the world.  A tradition of immigrants.

It is a long tradition.

Seven of the thirty-nine who signed the Constitution were immigrants.
Three of the first Supreme Court justices were immigrants.
A tenth - a full tenth - of Congressmen in the very first Congress of this country were immigrants.

We have listened too long to those who claim that immigration weakens our country. Their lies corrupt what our Founders knew from their own lives and experience. 

Thomas Paine wrote that that immigrants came to America "not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster."

Surely that is still the case today.

And yet. And yet.

And yet we hear those men - the PRESIDENT - speak from gilded halls and gilded chairs how they will refuse those fleeing cruel monsters. We hear those men say how they want to destroy the very foundations and traditions of this country that welcomed them and their ancestors. 

Our country has long been a beacon of hope, but those men want to tarnish that beacon! They want to hide it under a bushel basket. They want to steal it for their very own.

And we say no.

Men like them have succeeded in the past.

To our shame, America has turned away refugees fleeing genocide. To our shame, America has even turned against and imprisoned our own people just because of where they - or their parents - were born.

No longer.

The plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty ends with these words: "Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

We gathered here - those born in this country and those who are not - are NOT here to just protest. We are NOT gathered here in negativity and hatred.

Oh no. Though the very office of the Presidency has been corrupted, we are doing far more than just saying "no" to a petty man.

We are here to preserve the true heritage of this country. A country of immigrants.

We are here to lift high that inviting lamp and throw open that golden door. We are gathered to say loudly, in a voice that will not be silenced, "YOU ARE WELCOME HERE."

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