Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

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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Dayton Ohio area! Join us TODAY at 5:30pm to protest the refugee ban! #NoBanNoWall

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At 5:30pm today, at the Dayton Courthouse Square, there is a rally to protest the refugee ban.

I'm glad to say that I will be there.

Not only will I be there, but I am one of the speakers.

Speaking List:
1. Introduction
2. Kandice Abdul Kader
3. Corey Andon
4. Katie Kersh
5. Professor Camillo Perez-Bustillo
6. Megan Baxter
7. Jamar King
8 Ron Bryant
9 Rae Horowitz
10. Jessica Ramos
11. Professor Mohsen Khani
12. Mohammed Al Mandi
13. Sheherazadh Ishraq
14. Tom Shoemaker
15. Steven Saus
16. Zack Silver

If you're in the area, I hope that you will be able to join us.

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The Polite Way They Try To Silence You

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"If the protesters would only..."

You've heard it. Even if the people around you are relentlessly on the same side as yourself, you've heard it. Whether it's framed as the protesters being cry babies, or shrill or unreasonable... 

If you have had the luxury of not being exposed to the tone argument in the past, welcome! It's an argument that boils down to the idea that if someone simply says what they want or need differently than they are now, then it will somehow, miraculously, be granted.

This is simply not true.

The tone argument is one of those things where people will never be satisfied. 

No matter how you say it, it will never be "right". It is meant as a way to discredit and disqualify objections. It is a refusal to acknowledge the real problems and discontent of those for protesting, objecting, or speaking out about politics.

It is meant to silence. 

The person who says they're tired about hearing about politics on your social media feeds, or says that "it just needs to be expressed more politely" really wants you to be quiet and not disturb the power and privilege that they have now.

I cannot know their motivation. 

Perhaps they like the power and privilege they have. Perhaps they are scared to speak out themselves. Perhaps they are worried that if they hear and acknowledge what you were saying that they will have to do something themselves.

It does not matter.

When we are silent about the abuses of power, we give silent consent to the abuses of power.

To paraphrase: All that is required for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing and say nothing.

Speak up.

Say something.

And say it loud.

We are saying it with you.

This is not normal. 

These are not American values.

This. Is. Not. Normal.

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Wherein a "Joke" is Simultaneously Right and Completely Wrong

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I ran across the "funny" cartoon over to the right recently.

It's flat-out wrong while simultaneously almost being right.

It's the same argument that gets floated every year about this time when people (nearly always white people) complain about Black History month. 

And y'know, it would be nice if it was right. It would be freaking swell.

But it isn't.

The history that's taught in our schools is still overwhelmingly white history, except for the same few Black people that feature in the same lesson plans year after year... and the only reason those few Black people get featured at all is due to Black History Month. 

Pretending that reality is otherwise is willful stupidity.

Likewise, yes, it would be great if we could just treat children to just respect everyone. And that's definitely the goal.

But that's NOT how it is. Women are systemically discriminated against worldwide - including the USA and the global West - in a way that men just aren't. Sometimes that disrespect is large and obvious ("grab them by the pussy"), and sometimes it's microaggressions and small systematic ways that women are instructed that they're somehow less worthy of respect.

Pretending that reality is otherwise is willful stupidity.

The end result is that those who create and defend "jokes" like the one up there are perpetuating and increasing disrespect toward women.

Maybe it's not intentional. Privilege tends to be invisible when you're the one with it.

But now you know. And now you can tell others.

And you can tell who is unaware...and who is being willfully stupid.

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