ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

A Message To Fellow White People: Speak up.

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Fellow white people:

Speak up against bigotry and fascism.

Loudly.

Every. Time.

In person, online, whenever and wherever you can. Make it a topic of conversation where people don't want to talk about it.

Publicly call out and shame those who are racists.

Like it or not, we have privilege.

The racists and fascists can't discount us as easily.

So speak up.

Speak up like lives depend on it.

Because they do.

[originally posted on FB; I thought it deserved tweaking and a larger audience.]

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Six Rules For Survival Under An Authoritarian Power (Text Transcript)

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[Edit: Printables are at the links that follow:  2-to-a-page, 4-to-a-page ]

Six Rules For Survival Under An Authoritarian Power

Rule 1: Don't stay indifferent. It WILL concern you eventually. It will concern your family, your friends. Voice your objection IMMEDIATELY. Show them you care. RESIST.

Rule 2: They thrive on FEAR and IGNORANCE. Expose their scaremongering, show flaws in their arguments. Raise awareness. EDUCATE people around you. They will try to distort FACT, rewrite history. DON'T LET THEM.

Rule 3: Organize protest movements, mobilize civil society. They're well organized, so should you be. FLOOD THE STREETS. They WILL back off when they see your numbers. They depend on you - the PEOPLE.

Rule 4: Don't let them divide you into a "better sort", "true Americans" vs. "traitors", "enemies of the state". You're ALL citizens, ONE nation, despite different beliefs and ideology. Make your diversity your STRENGTH. Stay TOGETHER for a common goal - survival of your country, of freedom and democracy.

Rule 5: Don't give up, don't get tired, and don't try to wait it out. Don't hope it will pass. It WON'T. They will manipulate the people, control the media to sway public opinion, fix the electoral system, and STAY FOR GOOD.

Rule 6: If you don't get them to back off or to step down, you better make goddamn SURE that when the next elections come, and there's still any democracy left, NO ONE will vote for the same bastard again!

- With love, your Eastern European friends   #LearnFromEurope

(I saw this graphic on Twitter, along with a request that it be turned into text for people with disabilities.  Sadly, while I saved the image, I forgot to save the link I got it from. I claim no credit for it, other than I typed the thing out.)



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Help Preserve The Rules That Make Our Country Great: Act TODAY.

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Dear Republican and Conservative friends, family, and citizens: 

Last night I went to sleep with the normal cat and mouse game that is our checks and balances and our country. That is, the executive policy about banning people from certain "Muslim" countries and the Judiciary putting a stay on enforcing  that executive order. 

This is not about that order. 


Look, we probably disagree on what's best for this country or at the very least how to achieve what's best for this country. That's understandable. That's the sort of thing that a well-functioning democracy needs. We need someone with a different point of view to call us on our mistakes, our errors of judgment, and our echo chambers. 

But as part of this country we all agree to play by the rules.

That is not what is happening now. 

When I played dominoes with my grandfather he insisted on playing by a specific set of rules. We played by different rules at home. But wherever we were, all the players agreed on which set of rules we were using. If I'd decided to change the rules because I wasn't winning, because I wasn't getting my way, then that meant I was cheating.

We may disagree on what the best thing is for our country. We may disagree on the best ways to make our country great. We may even disagree or what the rules should be. 

But you play by the rules.

This flat-out ignoring of the historical checks and balances, one of the things I've always been taught that made our country great, the current administration has decided that they don't have to play by the rules.

I'm willing to bet that you agree that working hard and playing by the rules are values that we all share. 

I ask that you, along with me, insist that our government - including the executive branch - follow the rules that we have all agreed to. 

Contact all your representatives and elected officials right now by phone, if possible.

You can find contact information at: 


or


Thank you.

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I aim to misbehave. What say you?

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The Serenity ship logo with the White Rose on either side
I aim to misbehave.

Let's make that clear.

I've identified with the Operative in Serenity before. The idea of sacrificing yourself, of being the nasty defensive antibody to provide something better for others... there's something appealing about that to me.

But if you go back and watch Serenity - and you should - you'll quickly realize that the Operative would side with the incoming administration.

He would have seen it as a step - perhaps an unpleasant step, but a step - toward the transition to something better. To a better world.

And in doing so, he would - as he did in the movie - become complicit in perpetuating the very horrors that he wanted to eliminate.

Instead, I find myself identifying more with Jesse Custer (from Preacher) these days.

Jesse has a strong sense of right and wrong like the Operative, but with more than a little understanding of the fallibility of people and a strong sense of compassion for those who are less powerful.

The last, in particular, is what the Operative lacks.

The Operative will "punch down" if he thinks it might be needed. Jesse never would. He'd blow the whole system to high heaven instead.

"Half of writing history is hiding the truth." - Malcom Reynolds

"We've done the impossible, and that makes us mighty." - Malcom Reynolds

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We have waited. Here's an incomplete list of what we've seen.

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Remember "wait and see what he does?" 

To recap, incompletely, LESS THAN A WEEK in office:

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Minority Business Development Agency.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Economic Development Administration.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the International Trade Administration.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Legal Services Corporation.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Fossil Energy.
* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.
* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered the National Parks Service to stop using social media after RTing factual, side by side photos of the crowds for the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations.
* On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.
* On January 20th, 2017, a member of the International Workers of the World was shot in the stomach at an anti-fascist protest in Seattle. He remains in critical condition.
* On January 21st, 2017, DT brought a group of 40 cheerleaders to a meeting with the CIA to cheer for him during a speech that consisted almost entirely of framing himself as the victim of dishonest press.
* On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”
* On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” on national television news.
* On January 22nd, 2017, DT appeared to blow a kiss to director James Comey during a meeting with the FBI, and then opened his arms in a gesture of strange, paternal affection, before hugging him with a pat on the back.
* On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.
* On January 23rd, 2017, Spicer said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea, essentially threatening war with China.
* On January 23rd, 2017, DT repeated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing him the popular vote.
* On January 23rd, 2017, it was announced that the man who shot the anti-fascist protester in Seattle was released without charges, despite turning himself in.
* On January 24th, 2017, Spicer reiterated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing DT the popular vote.
* On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.
* On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.
* On January 24th, 2017, the USDA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to stop publishing any papers or research. All communication with the press would also have to be authorized and vetted by the White House.
* On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.
* On January 24th, 2017, Director of the Department of Health and Human Service nominee Tom Price characterized federal guidelines on transgender equality as “absurd.”
* On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.
* On January 24th, 2017, it was discovered that police officers had used confiscated cell phones to search the emails and messages of the 230 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges for protesting on January 20th, including lawyers and journalists whose email accounts contain privileged information of clients and sources.
* On January 24th, 2017, an executive order with a federal hiring freeze expected to cause problems for DoD managers and veterans.

And yesterday: the wall and a Muslim ban.

If you plan to share, please copy and paste rather than share. You'll reach more people.

Originally on Facebook; I'm also posting here for (hopefully) wider reach after adding the bit about the hiring freeze.

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Silence equals Death: Wherein I get scolded for pointing out a guy's a Nazi

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The following actually happened. I'm not going to say who, or where. But it actually happened to me. I am not paraphrasing; this is as close to verbatim as I can get it while still obscuring the identities of the other people involved.

"I don't know why people are whining and protesting," they said. "Trump's president, it's over, they're just sore losers. They were afraid of what we'd do if we lost." 

"Maybe it's because people are horrified at what he's actually doing," I said. I wanted to say more, to remind them that Trump supporters literally stated they'd have an armed revolution if he lost. I wanted to tell them why we marched.

But I didn't get a chance.

They claimed that hundreds of thousands of people were rioting on Saturday.

There was some small amount of rioting on Friday - 230 people were arrested. This is roughly comparable to a lot of sports riots (which happen all the time and get completely different reactions).

And beside the point, that wasn't the Women's March on Saturday, a completely separate event where literally millions of people across the world marched, and there were no arrests.

I wanted to point out that they were mixing up the numbers of people who marched on Saturday and the people they were thinking about were Black Bloc anarchists.

I didn't get a chance to say that.

"Oh, and that guy got punched in the face!" they cried.

"He is a Nazi," I said, perhaps a bit emphatically. "My grandfather fought Nazis. I am not okay with Nazis."

"Oh, what's he done? How is he a Nazi?" they demanded, clearly disbelieving.

"For starters, that guy wrote articles asking if we need a Black race and if there should be a "Black Genocide"."

"Ugh," they sighed. "Don't turn this into a Black and White race thing," and the few people left in the room walked out.

Let that sink in for a moment.

I got told to "not make it a race thing" when stating that a guy is a Nazi because of what he actually said.

Last time I checked, the person calling for racial genocide is the one who made it "a race thing".

We are only a few days into this administration, and the normalization has already begun.

I suspect the people who said these things won't read this post, and almost certainly won't read the links I've provided to source material.

But you have.

And we must continue to speak. We must continue to be our nation's bad conscience.

Please share this story - and your own stories - widely.  Speak the truth. Refuse the lies, no matter what they call them.

Silence still equals death.


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Ohio govt. officials are using govt. resources to organize a religious rally TODAY

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While the Dayton Daily News reported the existence of a planned anti-abortion prayer rally over the weekend, they failed to note the time of the rally (5:30pm today) or to point out that the elected officials - State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, and state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp - are using government resources to help organize the event.

As with many such events, the prayer rally is paying lip service to the metric of being open to all faiths. Rep. Antani, in an e-mail to me said specifically "All pro life Christian, Catholics, Jews, Hindus etc are welcome to come."

That said, both the keynote speaker (Secretary Husted) and Sen. Lehner are publicly Catholic1 and the rally is being led by a Catholic priest, Father Brian Phelps of Incarnation Centerville, which gives a strong impression that this event is both explicitly religious and strongly leaning toward a specific faith. 

More troubling is that organization for the religious event explicitly used government resources, with those wishing to attend directed to contact Representative Antani's office in Columbus2.

These phone calls and emails to the dot-gov addresses were being answered during normal business hours. 
 
It is perverse that the same organizers who are embolded by the new federal administration have missed Trump's call for reducing governmental spending.

If you are a constituent of Sen Lehner (614-466-4538) or Rep. Antani (614-466-6504), or a resident of Ohio and under Secretary Husted (614-466-2655), I'd encourage you to call and enquire why state governmental resources and employees are being used to organize explicitly religious events.

If you'd wish to ask them this in person, they will all be outside 1401 E. Stroop Road in Kettering at 5:30pm today, 24 Jan 2017. (Remember, no permit is required if you're on a public space such as a sidewalk, as long as you are not blocking pedestrian traffic.)

If you'd like to contact the Dayton Daily News and inquire why they didn't ask this very simple question, their "customer care" number is (937) 222-5700, and their feedback form is at https://myaccount.daytondailynews.com/Feedback.aspx


1 Rep. Antani did not make his religious affiliation explicit, nor is it listed on his webpage. When asked specifically via e-mail, the question was not answered.
2 I got an answering machine when I called back to ask for comment.  [EDIT @ 1048: Rep. Antani's office called back, said they'd discuss policy as well at the prayer rally, and simply said they'd pass my concerns along.]

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When they're neither "pro-life" or "anti-abortion", just "anti-women"

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Two state lawmakers in Ohio, feeling embolded by the new administration1, are reviving a pro-life prayer rally in Kettering tomorrow.2  Despite the local paper calling it a "march", the organizers self-describe it as a prayer rally.

There will be two state representatives and the Ohio Secretary of State as a keynote speaker for their prayer rally.  [EDIT: The prayer rally is apparently being organized by elected officials, as my RSVP was answered from an ohiohouse.gov address.]

Anyone wanna bet how many faith traditions are represented in their prayers?

But that's not the biggest problem.

If they're really against abortion, then perhaps they should support the federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Federal funds for PP don't go for abortions, and haven't for almost my entire lifetime. Instead, those federal funds go to support women's health and... wait for it... contraceptives that PREVENT ABORTIONS.

There are far more effective ways to reduce unplanned pregnancies with a great deal of research backing them up:  Comprehensive sex ed and free or extremely low cost birth control.  Between 2009 and 2013 (before the program got axed by the Colorado state GOP), a program doing exactly that reduced statewide teen pregnancies by 40% and abortions by 42%.

But they don't.

Further, these groups don't focus on increasing welfare benefits to single mothers, or having a daycare provision as part of welfare. They don't focus on increasing WIC or foodstamps. They don't focus on funding more programs like HeadStart or increasing the resources of public schools.

It's policies like that which demonstrate that these groups are not "pro-life", nor are they even "anti-abortion".

Despite their pretty rhetoric, their actions clearly show their aim is to police and limit women's sexuality.

And for me - as someone who is both pro-choice and not fond of abortions - that's simply unacceptable.


1 "With new pro-life leadership in the White House..."
2 It will be at 5:30 pm outside of 1401 E. Stroop Rd., Dayton, Ohio, if you're interested in asking these questions of your state representatives directly.

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Welcome to the Ministry of Truth, Where Your Pants Are Inflammable

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Hi. I'm a postmodernist. I believe everyone has individual perspectives, and that individual truths can be an important thing. One person's experience may be remarkably different than another, due to interpretation, context, and lived experience.

The number of people at an event does not fall under that bailwick.
“Why put him out there for the very first time, in front of that podium, to utter a provable falsehood?” Chuck Todd asked Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. “It's a small thing, but the first time he confronts the public, it's a falsehood?”
After some tense back and forth, Conway offered this:
Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You're saying it's a falsehood, and they're giving — our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts to that. But the point really is —
At this point, a visibly exasperated Todd cut in. “Wait a minute. Alternative facts? Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered . . . were just not true. Alternative facts are not facts; they're falsehoods.”
Welcome to the Ministry of Truth, people.


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Why We March

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There's folks who think we're marching and protesting because we're sore losers. And I guess there's a small chance of that.

But maybe...just maybe... we are looking at Trump and seeing how he's sullying the traditions and history of the office. How he's already tarnished the reputation of the office and our country by handwaving away corruption and putting the swamp-people he campaigned against into office. Maybe it's because we respect our sisters and wives and daughters and girlfriends and mothers, and want them to be treated with respect. Maybe it's because we value the purity of our air and water for our people and our forests and our farms, and see how our legacy is being handed over to rich absentee businessmen. Maybe it's because we remember our nation's foundation with wave after wave of immigrants, and realize the strength that brought us.

Maybe it's how all those values are being cast aside that have us horrified and scared and angry.

No, those aren't "maybe" reasons.

That's exactly why.

[This was originally posted on Facebook; you are welcome to repost this with attribution to the Facebook post or to this blog post.  - Steve]

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You are the cure. Spread the immunization through your words and actions.

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Once you have survived any kind of abuse - but especially emotional abuse - it's almost like you're immunized.

Yes, until the immunization is complete, until your emotional immune system has recovered from the abuse, you're more susceptible. This is true.

But.

Once you've survived, once you've had the vitamins of supportive friends and loves, once you've had a chance to un-fuck your head and deconstruct the loops that your abuser trained you to follow... once that has happened, you react differently to abuse in the future.

Instead of the self-rationalizations and bullshit that abusers leverage in order to gain control of you, their attempts at manipulation create an emotional histamine response.

It is anger.

It is rage.

It is a deep unwillingness to be subject to that bullshit any longer.

I am writing this as millions of women worldwide are marching to protest a gaslighting abusive asshole president. I am writing this as millions more are having to deal with their smaller, personal episodes of gaslighting, self-eradication, of minimization and subjugation.

Whether in the personal or political realm, keep your immune system strong. Share your immunization. Call out the abusive tactics where and when you see them. Do so loudly, and without shame.

You are not the sickness.

You are the cure.

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It's time.

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It's time.

We had our initial moment with our white roses, our buttons, and our safety pins. And then, despite a few salvoes here and there, we had a chance to breathe.

Now it's time to stand up.

Now it's time to speak up.

Now it's time to be visible.

Now it's time to bear witness.

Now it's time to say, not here, not now, not ever.

Put those safety pins and white roses back on.

Tell those telling their stories of abuse and assault and harassment that you believe them.

Time to follow their playbook and use their formula.

Time to learn how to change their view.

It's time.


I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone - if possible - Jew, Gentile - black man - white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness - not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost....

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men - cries out for universal brotherhood - for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world - millions of despairing men, women, and little children - victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say - do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed - the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. .....

Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes - men who despise you - enslave you - who regiment your lives - tell you what to do - what to think and what to feel! Who drill you - diet you - treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” - not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power - the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then - in the name of democracy - let us use that power - let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world - a decent world that will give men a chance to work - that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world - to do away with national barriers - to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

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Citing Sources: Everybody doing their part to stop fake news

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I recently had an old friend mock me for sharing a link from an aggregator blog (it was boingboing; that's beside the point).

He had a point...and he didn't.

There is a point in that the various aggregators - regardless of which ones you like and trust - sometimes (or often) pass along poorly-sourced material, rumor, or spin things so hard that their headlines are counter to the actual news.

At the same time, just because someone you don't like or don't trust says a thing, it's not automatically false either.  If he'd bothered to actually look at what they were talking about, he would have seen a link to the primary source. Which goes to illustrate something all of us are guilty of, and all of us need to change:

We can't rely on the headline and auto-generated snapshot on social media.

Let me repeat that.

We can't rely on the headline and auto-generated snapshot on social media.

So...what are we to do?

There's a really simple guideline, and you probably already know it.

Get as close to a primary source as possible.

You might have learned this as "don't cite Wikipedia". If you had a good instructor, they told you to not cite Wikipedia directly, but to go to the sources that Wikipedia itself cites.

For the rest of us, that means that if you're sharing an article from an aggregator site, at least check out what they link to and cite before sharing. And preferentially share the source material instead of the aggregator site's page.

I've also shifted my primary news gathering to several well-known and (largely) respected organizations - Reuters, Wired, the BBC, and so on.

This won't quell the controversy over issues and disagreements.

But it does mean that we'll be doing our part to both help get rid of "fake news" and stop giving others easy ammunition to attack us and our beliefs.

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How to be a social butterfly when you're not

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I was recently described as a "social butterfly" by a new acquaintance.

They were - to my surprise - serious.

They didn't realize that I'm really quite introverted, and can gladly spend days without seeing anyone. Social interaction with nearly anyone is really emotionally draining for me. (If it isn't, that's a really important sign for me, but beside the point of this post.)  There's the very good post "Taming the Mammoth" which is recommended reading if you find yourself having problems with this.

Additionally, there's two concrete techniques that I learned to use.

The first - and perhaps the most important for anyone who's played a RPG - is that I'm usually playing "Convention Steve".  (See Season 3 of The Guild for this technique in use at the end.)  ConSteve isn't someone different; he's just me with the intensity and outgoingness turned up to 11.

You may have a character that you identify with who's pretty close to how you are. Play them. Yes, you're larping, but nobody needs to know. If someone reacts negatively, they aren't judging you, they're judging the character you're playing.

It sounds stupid, yes. But it works, and works well.

If you're not a gamer, or have problems conceptually with that first technique, there's another I learned.  I learned it either from The Four Hour Workweek or Crush It!, and I can't remember which at the moment, so I'm going to summarize it.

Go to a public place (coffee shop, etc, with someone else if you like). Approach random person with a bit of paper and a writing utensil. If the person is in a group, all the better. Say the following as close to verbatim as possible.

"I'm in a class working on public speaking, and one of the exercises is to get more comfortable in social situations. For that, we have to go and ask random people for a phone number. If it's okay, I'm going to hand you this paper and a pen, and ask you to write a phone number on it. It can be yours or a fake one - no matter what, I'm going to throw this away in that trash can right there. [point to trash can] The exercise is more about asking. Is that okay?"

You, of course, IMMEDIATELY throw away the bit of paper without looking at it.

The beauty is this: It's LITERALLY a no-risk situation for you - you're not going to see them again. They have minimal risk - it's a public place, you ask permission, they can write a fake number, and they see you throw it away. But you also get practice DOING THE THING. It really does make it easier, after you learn that the world doesn't immediately end.

Between these two techniques - and learning that mammoth brains lie! - it can help you navigate situations where before you'd end up vapor-locked.

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Understanding and forgiveness are two way streets. Unless you're a jerk.

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I said it before, and I stand by it: the most important question on OKCupid is 
Would you rather date someone who almost never made a mistake but doesn't admit their flaws, or someone who often messes up but takes full responsibility for their mistakes?
There is only one correct answer to this question.

Because we all fuck up. Fairly regularly. We may have had the facts wrong at the time. We may have misunderstood something. We might have had emotional baggage getting in the way. Hell, we might have simply misremembered something - our memory is pretty fallible and easy to outright manipulate (yes, even yours, yes, even if you're aware someone's going to try).



Sometimes the best you can do is to acknowledge, to the best of your ability, what was going through your head, what led you to the actions and decisions at the time, and then apologize.

This quality doesn't make you better than someone else. It's not about the quantity or quality of your reasons.

Bonus protip: If someone calls your reasons for a behavior an "excuse" while you're still taking full responsibility for your behavior, that both says something awful about them and their basic understanding of English.

What does matter (aside from both you and they trying to improve yourselves, but that's a bloody given by this point) is that you extend that same understanding to other people and their reasons for their behavior. Particularly the behavior that made your life more difficult.

Let's sum up.

Do a bad thing, explain why you did the bad thing, take responsibility, and try to improve?  Good, welcome to being a flawed human being.

Someone else then does a bad thing, explains why they did the bad thing, takes responsibility, and tries to improve ... and you are mean to them?

Then you're the awful one.


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Even if it's not a "fuck yes", it damn well still better be a yes.

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I have had to remind people - women, let's just go ahead and acknowledge that it's only been women - that "marital rape" is both morally and legally just rape in Ohio.

(Even though rapist Brock Turner lives here again.  FUCK that guy.)

I've had to remind people of the existence of marital rape more times than I should have, which is to say, any at fucking all.



So I've got mixed feelings about Ferrett's post about "Mexican Dinner Consent" post a while back.

NOT, I hasten to add, because of anything he actually wrote.

What Ferrett wrote was a nice exploration of the fact that your relationship hasn't failed if it's not all mind-blowing sex and experiences all the time. He talks passionately (ha!) about the reality that sometimes you do stuff for your partner(s) that you just kinda want to do, and it's simply okay sometimes, and that's part of what relationships are.  It's kind of a real-world reaction to the "Fuck Yes" crowd, and is definitely needed. Good stuff.

I have mixed feelings because I got asked - I'm nearly quoting here - if it counted as Mexican Dinner Consent if you just gave in after saying no several times just so they'd stop pestering you.


Here's the answer:  NO.  It fucking doesn't count. It's fucking sexual assault.

Are there grey areas? Areas where perception and intent matter?

Of course. I can easily think of an example where I was the person asking multiple times.

But there's one big difference.

I took "no" as an answer, and there was no retaliation for that "no".

If it can't be withdrawn freely, it's not consent.

That's something Ferrett acknowledged explicitly with an edit at the end of the post:

It’s good to remember the difference between “a request” and “a demand.” In my personal terminology, a request can be freely turned down; a demand has consequences for rejection.

All the above examples are requests – if my wife was going to get angry at me because I didn’t feel like having Mexican tonight, well, I probably wouldn’t advise going along with her just to keep the peace. There is a VERY LARGE distinction between “Do it or they’ll get mad” and “Do it because it’ll make their life better, and it’s not something you’re drastically opposed to.”

Or to put it more succinctly:

Even if it's not a "fuck yes", it damn well still better be a yes.

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There's always a price. Acknowledge it. Deal with it. And maybe change your life.

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Pretending you're not making the decisions you are is a fucking quick way to not only be unhappy, but to be a royal asshole to everyone around you.

Dan Savage calls this the price of admission in relationships, and it's a bloody brilliant concept, and works for pretty much everything.

Here's why: You have to acknowledge to yourself and others that you're choosing whether to pay the price of admission. You are the one who decides if the price is worth it or not. You do NOT get to be a resentful asshole later.

Hey, she's got young children? That's the price of admission for dating her. Pay it or not. He's got a lot of debt? Pay it or not. Spin up your own examples.

You may not like the price of admission. Nobody's guaranteed that. You may think the price of admission is too damn high. 

I don't like that I don't have a Green Lantern ring. Deal with it.


This goes for all sorts of other situations as well. Think about a patient in a hospital. You have a right to refuse testing. There may be consequences to refusing that test, but outside of a very narrow set of circumstances, you can't be forced to do the test.

Where problems arise is with a patient who doesn't want to do the test, but doesn't want to face the consequences of refusing it. They're not acknowledging that they are making the decision, and tend to make things worse for everyone... most importantly, themselves.

Acknowledge the choices you're making. Acknowledge the reasons for that choice, yes. Acknowledge that you're making that choice to gain something better or avoid something worse. 

And maybe you'll realize that, indeed, the price is too damn high.


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We are not things. Intent matters.

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"It doesn't matter what someone believes. It's how they act that matters."


Sometimes the most awful things are hidden behind bits of truth.

Because ultimately, behavior does matter. That's true.

But it's awful, because it pretends that we live in a world of philosophical zombies. Intent matters in relationships.

"If someone's kicking me, I want them to stop kicking me, not ask what their intent is."




(It's not a straw man argument if it's actually been said to you.)

Anyway, that's true; you want to stop problem behaviors, especially when people can lie about intent as a strategy to keep doing shitty things.

At the same time, your strategy is going to differ with someone who's kicking you because they like kicking people versus someone who is kicking you because they think you're an alien masquerading as their friend.

There's also a great deal of positive predictive power.

That person whose belief is simply "kicking people is fun"? They're gonna keep doing it. That person whose belief is that you're a pod person? As soon as you bleed regular blood, they're going to stop and apologize, and probably try to do better in the future.

But if intent doesn't matter to you, then you've responded exactly the same to a friend and a sociopath.

Which probably makes you a hell of a lot closer to the latter.

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You get to decide if you want to tell your story. Nobody else.

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Let me say it again for emphasis: You own your goddamned experiences.

You.

Nobody else.

They're your memories and stories and experiences to share or keep private as you wish. Your feelings, your reactions, your emotions are yours to spread publicly or to cover up under a bushel basket.

There will be consequences and outcomes depending on whether or not you share your memories, experiences, emotions, and feelings.  They'll vary depending on whom you share them with, when you share them, and how you share them.

Those decisions are yours.

Do not let someone else steal those decisions away from you.

Someone may ask you to keep a confidence. I've asked it of others, and had it asked of me. There's nothing wrong with that, so long as you agree freely and willingly.

But when someone judges you because you tell others what happened to you, when someone threatens you because you tell others your own story, when someone judges you for years afterward because you dared - oh fucking dared - to share your story of personal weakness and how you overcame it...

...well, that person is trying to blackmail you with their influence, aren't they?


And before you reply - and yes, I know exactly the sort of "you" I'm addressing here - make sure you'd feel comfortable making that same argument to the women who have come forward about Cosby, Patel, Chainmail Guy, Trump, Berganza, or so many many more men who have told them to keep quiet.

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You own your emotions. They're yours. Don't give control of them away.

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You own your emotions and your reactions. Nobody else does. Don't let them.

This goes both ways. Let's go in reverse order.

THE SECOND WAY

I've had too many people (women, it's women, m'kay?) tell me something like "I feel so awful because he did something shitty, and I objected / got upset / stated my boundaries and he didn't like that and now I made him sad, and it's my fault!"


Fuck no.

It's not your "fault", especially when you were reacting to their shitty behavior.  You can't "make" someone else sad. You can react as a consequence, but ultimately you own that reaction, for good or ill.

THE FIRST WAY

"He did something shitty and made me upset / angry / sad!"



No, no they fucking didn't.

Oh, they probably did something hurtful or boundary-violating (whether intentional or not doesn't matter for this particular rant). I'm not arguing that at all.

They didn't make you feel anything.

Sometimes this gets twisted into experience nullification or gaslightling-style crap. Fuck that noise too. This is empowering stuff right here.

You own your emotions and your experiences. You. Nobody else. You reacted to an experience. That's yours. Nobody else gets to dictate to you how you feel.

Are there consequences? Of course there are. But own that shit as well. They're yours, for good or ill.

And failing to own that shit will cause even more problems down the line, but that's another rant.

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You own your experiences, nobody else.

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Let's get one thing bright and sparkling clear.

You own your goddamned experiences.

You.

Nobody else.

Yes, there is a very damn good chance that someone else experienced it differently.

You should probably - at least, once you've calmed down - make a good-faith effort to try to understand where they're coming from, and why they see the whole thing differently than you. You might even decide that the way you experienced it was flawed, and change your behavior in the future.

But.

If that person isn't making an effort to realize that you saw the whole thing differently than they did as well...



...then they're fucking trying to rewrite your story.  And that's a big fat nope.

Bonus protip: Such a person will probably proactively accuse you of trying to rewrite their experiences before the idea crosses your mind. Run the fuck away.

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Sometimes you just want a lampshade.

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I mean, there's lots of things to rant about, you guys.

Like, I'm not allowed to make my amour into a lampshade.


Sometimes the frustration is real.









(And sometimes you're just joking. Serious stuff starts tomorrow, y'all.)

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A small note about the upcoming week's worth of posts.

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I strive to be careful when writing blog posts. Careful to be as kind as I can, to be polite, to make sure that the person (or persons) that inspired the post has little idea that they sparked the conversation inside my head, or if they do realize, that I've painted them in as flattering a light as possible.

I don't always succeed, but that's the nature of practice, isn't it?

I have a bunch of notes laying around my hard drive.

Notes about things I want to talk about.

But I've not. Sometimes only for a few hours, sometimes for months.

Largely, it's because I can't think of a way to be polite about it, or to wrap it up into a larger, more positive point.

As they say, sometimes you exist simply as a cautionary example to others.

This week, before we get into the political insanity of the next four years, I'm going to get them out of my system.

A lot of them are relationship based, and I think worth sharing and reading for that reason.

But they're probably not going to be quite as kind as my last post about relationships.

I'll still follow my artistic license policy, sure.

But I'm crabby this week.  You'll probably notice.

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Should you be held accountable because of someone else's health?

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Read the whole thing I've quoted below, originally posted publicly on Facebook by a (scientist-type) friend of mine.

Then think about your parents. Think about your grandparents.

Think about all your relatives. Especially the sick ones. 

Especially the ones who have made crappy choices in life.

Wonder, for a moment, how many of their medical problems have a genetic component - even if their choices made it worse.

Then imagine being held responsible and made to pay for something you never did.

That's what repealing the ACA will allow insurance companies to do.

Why should you be made to pay for things you've not done?
 
PSA: Please protest the repeal of Obamacare/Affordable Care Act.
TL:DR The language protecting pre existing conditions is really important.
A scan of the human genome for disease biomarkers is about $1000 today. Just $1000. Scientists and drug companies are constantly adding new gene markers to help us figure out if people are likely to get diseases, especially later in life.

Without Obamacare, there is little to prevent an insurance company from asking for a 'routine' blood sample and testing your genes, and then setting your insurance rate according to all your *genetic* pre-existing conditions. Or simply deciding your genetic combination is too risky to insure, *even if you're not sick*.

GINA (the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) doesn't protect against conditions classified as disabilities or ones requiring long term care. Both diabetes and cancer could be classified as these and save health insurance companies a lot of cash.

Please. Obamacare ain't perfect and needs fixing. But don't get rid of the good parts!

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Corrupting the Spirit of the Republic: Recent Moves by the GOP

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There are political changes.

We expect this. We may not like it, but we expect it.

The "other" party will pass laws we don't like. They'll veto ones we do. And we vow that we'll change things come the next election. And when we do, in an election or two, the "other" side says the same thing.

This is the pendulum of American politics. And while we've all - all - been upset about the election of one or another political figures over the course of the last two decades, the rules have stayed the same.

For better or worse, we have fundamentally the same system that we've had for over two hundred years. This system of built-in checks and balances is exactly the kind of innovation that has kept our republic going. Whether they - or we - like it or not, no one party or group has been able to cheat.

The kind of honor that preserves the republic, even if it isn't what the people in power want, seems to be lacking after the election.

In North Carolina, the GOP decided to try to abolish the state's Election Commission (!) after their candidate for governor lost. The only reason it's not in place now is due to a lone judge.

At the federal level, the House GOP voted to strip the independence from and weaken the non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics, and bring it under the oversight of some of the very people it's supposed to watch over.

These moves are not small, though they're cloaked in all sorts of legal and political misdirection.

These moves change and corrupt the rules of the game

Imagine, for a second, that you're playing a board game with a friend. They're ahead for the moment, but there's still a good bit of the game left to play.

Then they say: "Hey, since I'm in the lead, I'm going to change the rules so I can..."

Does it really matter at all what follows? They've corrupted the game from what you agreed to into something other.

These changes are just the beginning - and tellingly, they're aimed at limiting power of political opponents and of nonpartisan organizations meant to ensure that everyone's following the same rules.

Regardless of which candidate I supported, I can understand the desire to "drain the swamp". 

When the GOP moves to weaken ethics committees, even before the President-elect takes power, I have got to wonder whether they're planning to drain the swamp, or are just going to change the color of the water.

This is an issue that Republicans must take to their leaders. The political machine is contaminating political discourse with a greedy desire to win, corrupting our government from its system of checks and balances into something awful that the Founding Fathers literally fought to free themselves from.

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