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The right-wing attempts to suppress views they don't like isn't just being
done by shutting down talk show hosts.

It's also being done on college campuses in a stunningly hypocritical

You've probably heard rumblings about this, but it's hard to actually see
examples of how the right-wing wants to control speech. But this exchange
happened online, showing exactly how hypocritical the arguments are, and
how they're clumsily trying to use the same tools we've used to protect

Here's what happened first: A college student said she's afraid of being
stereotyped because she's a Republican in college.

As a Republican in college, I am genuinely afraid to speak about my
conservative views in fear of being stereotyped or labeled negatively
— michelle shampton (@michelle_sham) March 17, 2017

...which already should have you scratching your head. "I'm afraid of being
labeled as or associated with other people who have the same views I do
when I speak about my views" is a tortured bit of logic.

My pal Patrick Tomlinson pointed out that our LGBT friends are genuinely
afraid of being murdered.

@michelle_sham That's terrible. My lgbt friends are genuinely afraid of
being murdered by Republicans. But your fear is totally important.
— Patrick S. Tomlinson (@stealthygeek) March 22, 2017

And another student (at least, she is according to the "Daily Caller") says
that fearing being murdered is a "personal problem".

@stealthygeek @michelle_sham sounds like a bit of a personal problem
— Melissa Bailes (@mamabailez) March 22, 2017

My Patrick Tomlinson ripped into them at that point.

It's arguable that Patrick was rude to these two self-labeled conservatives.

But we're seeing a huge metric ass-ton of hypocrisy here, and in an attempt
to make it so these conservatives don't feel judged for... well, doing
things like calling fearing murder a "personal problem".

Oh, and to just answer their later claim that one shouldn't
feel "threatened by an opposing viewpoint", it's not the viewpoint that's
threatening, it's the real-world violence that's on the rise.

Here's a quick factchecking note: Hate crimes are up by a 20% - 50% in the
United States. Source, source, source, source. You can find more - this was
just what was on the front page when I did a web search.

Oh, and then there's also this kind of relevant article:

LGBT People Are More Likely to Be Targets of Hate Crimes Than Any Other
Minority Group

This would have disappeared into the wilds of Twitter except that the Daily
Caller decided to make a stink about it. (If you're not familiar with
this "news" site, Ann Coulter is a columnist for them, which probably tells
you all you need to know.)

This whole exchange is important, because it shows the kind of argument
that conservatives are using to silence others by misusing the protections
designed for minority groups. Luckily, the "logic" here falls apart pretty
quickly if you restate it clearly.

So let's summarize this again.

When told that people are genuinely (and legitimately) afraid of being
murdered because of certain views, these two self-described conservatives
say it's a "personal problem".

And then the students, the Daily Caller, and a bunch of commenters proceed
to be super upset that a guy on Twitter called them names.

The hypocrisy is not just that they're ignoring the hate crimes and real
world violence to LGBT people (and all sorts of minorities).

They're also ignoring the Bill of Rights. It guarantees you the right to
free speech. You do not have a guarantee that nobody will be upset by what
you say.

Perhaps those students - along with the Daily Caller - should go back to
their high school civics class.
I'm surprised this still needs to be explained, but judging from certain events and some of the comments on the Facebook post, it does.

Are you thinking of telling a woman to smile, or that she's prettier when she smiles? I've saved this Google search for your reference.

I mean, literally the entire first page of results for that question is "DON'T DO THAT."

Telling a woman to smile - especially if you tell her to smile because it makes her prettier - is a good way to tell everyone around you that you're a sexist asshat.

You're not a sexist asshat?


The thing here is where you're dictating to someone else how they're supposed to present for your pleasure.

If you're actually concerned about their well being, you'd ask if anything was wrong and if they wanted to talk about it.

If you like the women around you being happy, then do some shit that makes them happy and treat them like real people instead of objects.

Yes, I realize that people with good intentions have done this without realizing how much they seemed like a sexist jackass. Here's what those people should do:

There's a lot of jargon out there in relationship-land, but my absolute favorite has to be brain weasels.

The term itself is needed. It describes a specific group of feelings or reactions that aren't always grouped together. By grouping them together in this particular way, it's easier to identify the root causes of the reaction or feeling and address it directly.

Second: It serves as a kind of safeword.

A safeword is "a word serving as a prearranged and unambiguous signal to end an activity". The activity here are the negative feelings and reactions. And by being a prearranged label, it can cut through whatever drama is going on in the moment and invoke that calmer time. It's a way of bringing someone out of their emotional fugue and back to clarity for a moment.

And it does all that without (linguistically) laying blame.

Brain weasels, linguistically, are their own entities. By naming them as something other than your sweetie, you've managed to address the problematic behavior without actually blaming the person. This allows the person doing the behavior to address the behavior themselves without having to worry about defending their ego.
So first, let me share this video with you. It's called "Sexual Racism", and was sparked by a question on a Q/A panel:

Someone from the audience asked if having partner preferences for a certain racialized group is a form of discrimination... As if "I will only date Mexicans, is that racist?"

Their answer - in one word - was "Yes". And I'm conflicted about that.

More after the video.

And that short answer - though it's followed up by explanation - makes me a bit uncomfortable, and not in a "challenge my assumptions" kind of way.

Because I would "Yes, and..." as an answer to that question.

Yes, I agree that racism has influenced who we are and are not attracted to.

I've noticed this in my own life: As a teenager (and overwhelmingly exposed to only white people), this was definitely true. Once I hit the wider world (and especially in the military) and was around people of many different ethnicities, that stopped being the case.

Acknowledging the unspoken social forces that shape our preferences is absolutely required. The institutional racism talked about here is definitely true and persists BECAUSE it is unexamined, or because people with good intent assume that being "deliberately racist" and "being racist" are the same thing.

So I'm in total agreement with those points.

AND... at the same time I've got two things about this video that make me uncomfortable.

First, there's a blurring between individual prejudice (and individual racism) and institutional racism that leaves some really big unanswered questions.

For example, they're largely talking about those who EXCLUDE a racial type. What about those who have a preference for a specific ethnicity? What if that preference is for a racial type that (according to the data cited, which I'm not disputing at all) is typically found "less attractive"? Wouldn't that be a good thing?

Ugh. Just writing that there's some racial types that are found "less attractive" makes me feel unclean.

Anyway, that blurring between the individual and societal also removes all the other elements in attraction, which seems to be a quick route toward further objectification.

Don't get me wrong. This video makes a compelling argument for broadening your horizons, and I completely 100% agree with that. In my own experience, I can look back at who I found "attractive" and see how that's grown, broadened, and shifted.

But that's why I've got a big "and..." attached to my agreement with this video. That shift did not occur due to objectification, but from getting to know different types of people as ... well, people.

My tastes in what qualities or features I found attractive (and - importantly - in what I did or did not find un attractive) followed the shift in who I was exposed to. It was getting to know people of different types, ethnicities, religions, sizes, and [insert quality/descriptor here] first that caused the broadening in whom I found attractive.

And that's why I'm left uncomfortable with some of the video's end exhortations. Sure, don't set racial restrictions on your dating profile. That's cool. But (for example) to "swipe right on Tinder profiles if the person's from a racialized group you'd usually pass up"? That makes me distinctly uncomfortable.

Maybe because it reminds me a little too much of a few guys I've met over the years who were - and yes, this is AMAZINGLY offensive - keeping score of what races of people they'd slept with.

While I appreciate the intent of having people broaden their horizons and not excluding people of color, I am having a hard time seeing someone going out on a date with a person they're not attracted to as anything other than an offensive trainwreck 99% of the time.

I think that's because it brings me back to the point of objectification.

Again, I agree completely with examining and challenging your assumptions. In short, if you think you're not racist and you live in this culture, you're wrong.

That goes double if you say "I'm blind to race".

I've seen the effects of it in my own life, and I agree completely that you've got to expand your circles of what types of people you're exposed to. (I need to work on this again myself.)

I also recognize that any romantic and sexual relationship requires a certain amount of objectification. To quote Dan Savage 1 :

The historical problem with the objectification of women wasn't that women were treated like objects, ladies, but that women weren't treated like, or allowed to be, anything else... The urge to objectify is universal, and so long as it's fairly and respectfully indulged, it's not offensive, not a problem, and not news.

But if you're going on a date with - or even signaling potential attraction to - someone simply because they're of a different ethnicity? Or worse, forcing yourself to?

I'm not so sure that's a great idea either.

1 Slightly edited because the quote deals with a specific situation, though he's said the same thing elsewhere since.
While you shouldn't judge a book by a cover (well, maybe these), you probably enjoy the covers of many of the books in your Calibre library. And since they're eBooks, you probably want to see some of those covers more often.

I like using covers them as the "screensaver" on my eReader, and sometimes for backdrops or lock screens on my phone. But as nice as Calibre is, the way it stores the files makes it vaguely difficult to pull all the covers out and intelligently rename them. It's not a big deal, but it does take up more time than it should.

My script dollop-of-book-covers aims to fix that.

It's a bash script (*nix, probably OSX) that will search your Calibre library tree, pull out all the covers, and put them in the directory of your choice while renaming them with the author and title of the book.

Oh, and if you have ImageMagick (free, cross-platform), it will resize them to whatever width and height you specify.

You can read more about how to use it and snag the script over on GitHub at

I saw this publicity still from Thor: Ragnarok of Jeff Goldblum's character and... well, here's where I ended up with it. (Marvel, feel free to steal this. Really. I want to see this. But it's gonna be headcanon for me.)

After "The Incident" and the revelations of Asgardian technology, a brilliant scientist manages to reverse engineer bits of it... y'know, like what happened in Independence Day when aliens showed up.

This isn't exactly new territory - Agents of SHIELD has been mucking about with alien tech for its whole run one way or another.

But we're just getting started.

See, our Goldblum-esque scientist doesn't just reverse engineer any old Asgardian tech. They reverse engineer Bifrost tech.

One of my favorite bits of Agents of SHIELD lately was when they were offworld. It was cool. It was bringing new realms into the show instead of just being a way to introduce other characters (Yes, I really loved the Ghost Rider in the show, but that's an exception.) You've probably already figured out where I'm going with this. Rather than a one-off alien rando teleporter macguffin, I want them to reverse engineer this:

You might think the portal they already had in Season 3 means they've traveled this road already, but with the addition of the Darkhold, this plants the possibility of a portal not just to ONE location, but a gate like the ones from Stargate.

And then, my friends... then things could get really interesting. You can have whatever kind of shows you want - exploration, sociological, overarching conspiracies... plus the regular AoS stories we're already doing. Plus the whole "how the hell would Asgard react to this" thing.

I know, it won't happen. But still, it'd be cool, wouldn't it?

Or maybe I just miss SG:U.
Image of an Amazon Alexa with these words
People in the Sixties: The government will
wiretap your home. People now: Hey wiretap,
can cats eat pancakes?

I saw this meme going around over the weekend.

I laughed. Then I sighed.

Because it's true.

Here's where it stops being funny or just me being paranoid. Remember, there's already a case in court determining whether or not the recordings generated by the "always on" feature can be used in a murder trial. This isn't a new problem; we saw this with Samsung's smart TV's a few years ago.

But it wasn't until this meme that I really realized how much we were all looking at the wrong thing.

Samsung's defense was saying that information was only transmitted after the keyword was uttered... but that's not the case across the board. Some of the other voice recognition folks store that data anyway, and not on your home system. For example, Google says that the data's stored, but unless you're logged in, it's kept anonymously and not tied to your account. For services like Siri and Alexa and Google Now, simple commands might be processed on your device, but more complex answers are sent to a remote server that provides the response. And Cortana on Windows 10 seems to be still transmitting data - of some kind - even when disabled.

Which means that device is not only "always on", but is potentially always transmitting. Sure, sure, there's privacy policies. Hell, there's groups like the newly-founded Voice Privacy Industry Group setting up "best practices" for companies.

That's not the real problem.

It's Not Just the Developers and Big Tech

The last round of Wikileaks dumps showed that the CIA not only knew about security holes that could let them listen in on secure communications. Oh, no, that's not supervillain enough. The CIA knew about these security holes the day the devices and software got into the public's hands - and usually before the company in question knew about the security problem. And they never did tell the tech companies what they'd found.

There's a reason why "white-hat" hackers release info about security holes right away. They want problems can be solved so nobody can exploit them. Not so the CIA. They wanted to keep listening in, and didn't think of the consequences.

As NYMag points out, this "means if the CIA knew about these exploits, you can bet other foreign and domestic actors did as well."

Yes. That means Russia.

But "most" of those exploits were patched!

While Google and Apple are quick to reassure everyone that "most" of the CIA exploits are patched now, that doesn't mean they were patched right away. Remember, the CIA knew about many of these before the tech companies.

And that's when we're talking about devices that get updated frequently. When you've got an older device - or one that's not from the biggest names - you may not see security updates for a long time.

While we're at it, don't forget that Internet Of Things stuff - you know, like Alexa or the single press buy buttons from Amazon. Or your CCTV. Or your printer. Or your router. Or your modem?

Yes, Alexa (and Google Echo) get OTA updates. But the smaller devices? Heck no. Have you ever checked to see if there was an update for your router or modem? And if you did check, was there one? There have been real exploits that effected routers and modems in the last three years.

If you're starting to worry, check out http://routersecurity.org for things to start checking and fixing.

But that's still not the real problem.

Spies lie professionally, remember?

Let's remember that - predating Trump - the NSA, FBI, and CIA have twisted the law (or outright lied) about spying on US citizens. They collected everything from records of most phone calls made in the USA, an unknown (but presumably large) number of e-mails, Facebook posts, and instant messages, "massive" amounts of internet data, and finally, lots of actual phone calls.

How'd they manage that? Turns out that with a global network like the internet, it's not that uncommon for some of your traffic to go outside the country, which makes it legal for them to spy on you. And if they got a bunch of extra data too, well, that was just a big whoopsie. TERRORISM and all that.

Oh right, new decade. ISIL and all that.

Anyway, those didn't really require any special exploits like the ones in the last leak. Those made it easier, but the spies didn't really need it. Because there's still one more giant problem.

The Biggest Problem
Top everything above with a big steaming pile of cooperation from your ISP. (AT&T gets named a lot, but they weren't the only one that got outed - and that's assuming that we know about all the ones participating.)

That's the same ISP which is currently salivating. The GOP is giving them the opportunity to sell all your browsing and personal information without bothering to ask you first, so I'm pretty sure that your ISP is ready to roll over anytime they're asked.

And probably some times before they're asked.

Let's be clear. This is your ISP - the company that has a near-monopoly in your area - keeping track of every site you visit, then both selling it and offering that information up to people spying on you.

Sure, maybe the NSA/CIA/FBI don't have direct access to the servers at Google and Facebook and Amazon.

They don't need to.

Putting Some Locks on the Doors

There are some ways you can keep some degree of privacy. Use a VPN (I use Private Internet Access). Make sure your router and modem are updated. Follow some of the settings in the links above. Encrypt your web communications using HTTPS Everywhere and limit tracking using Privacy Badger. Learn about encrypting your e-mail, texts, and calls. Make sure you use DNS servers like OpenDNS, Google's, or DNS.watch (or your VPN's if they have one - and they probably should.) And turn off as many of the "always listening" devices and apps as you can.

In some ways, this is like having a deadbolt on a standard door. A determined attacker (or spy) will get through, no matter what you do.

But that doesn't mean we should go around leaving our doors - virtual or not - unlocked and wide open.

Got nothing to hide?

And please, for those about to say "I have nothing to hide", go read the links at the bottom of the post - and if you still think that way, just send me a copy of every e-mail, text message, and letter you've ever sent. Add in the GPS data from your phone. Add in every web page that you've ever visited - even in "incognito mode".

To paraphrase Cardinal Richelieu, "If one would give me six day's full browser history of even the most honest person and I would find something in it to make them look awful."



In 2016, the FCC ruled that internet service providers had to get your permission before selling your raw browsing data .

While that wasn't hard for them to do, the Trump-led GOP is trying to remove that tiny bit of privacy.

While there's little substitute for tools such as HTTPS Everywhere, a VPN, and setting your DNS to ones other than your ISPs, I worked up a BASH script to pollute your web browsing history.

The idea is simple - by adding in random requests, your actual web browsing history is hidden among the noise and chaff.

I'm calling it the Saurian Spider (because, dinosaurs?), and you can find it at:


The script maintains a list of URLs - creating one at $HOME/.config/saurianspider.conf if needed - and retrieves them randomly at random-ish (1-30 second) intervals. Any new links it finds on those pages, it'll add to the list. It also switches the useragent between Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Opera Mini, Edge, and Internet Exploder semi-randomly as well, thus making it more difficult to filter out these requests from your legit ones.

The URL list is seeded with the current events page at Wikipedia and the "Random" page on Wikipedia; that said, it doesn't ADD links from Wikipedia or Wikimedia, as that could get really obvious, really quickly.

If you want to use your own list of URLs in a different location, the file location should be the first (and only) argument.

Depends upon/uses (most of these are GNU coreutils):
head & tail

You will know them by their works.

Do they strive to provide a better education to all people, or do they
encourage ignorance?

Do they try to promote opportunity for all citizens, or do they try to
remove equal opportunity in education 1 ?

Do they make sure that the children of our nation's farmers, that our
nation's children that are most in need, and the children of those who
first lived here... or do they pretend that those who live in the
countryside, who are First Nations, or who are homeless have nothing
different about their situation than a child who lives in an affluent
suburb 2 ?

Do they make sure that children get healthy food and don't go to classes
hungry, or do they want to get rid of nutritional standards for school
meals 3 ?

Do they recognize that children are individuals, and that some need more
help than others, or do they want to leave those most in need of help with
the fewest resources 4 ?

Do they want to ensure that schools are held to an evidence-based
interventions to fix schools with underperforming subgroups, or do they ...
well, apparently not care about those children 5 ?

House Bill 610 was introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4) and mirrors
pretty much every talking point that Betsy DeVos has ever said about the
Department she now leads. And if you didn't get it, the bill clearly shows
the priorities of DeVos and the administration.

It's obvious why they're doing it. The right wing has been trying to make
education a dirty word for my entire life.

They want people who don't think for themselves. They want people who they
can control.

They want sheep, not Americans.

While the bill has only been introduced in the House, a Senate version must
take shape and pass through both houses of Congress before it stands a
chance of becoming law.

That's what makes calling BOTH your Representative and your Senator about
HR 610 so important: Without a Senate companion bill, HR 610 won't ever see
the light of day.

Here's a quick guide on how to find your congresspeople's phone numbers, or
you can use https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members
or find them via Project VoteSmart.

(Helpful hint: Once you've looked it up, put them in a text file on your
phone or a specific contact group. We're gonna have to keep calling a lot
for a while.)

Here's a script for you to use, snagged almost wholesale from Romper.com:

Tell them that you not only oppose the repeal of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act of 1965 as outlined in HR 610's "Choices in
Education Act of 2017," but that you believe the national school lunch and
breakfast programs should meet basic nutritional standards. See if you can
get a firm commitment from them that they will oppose such legislation if
it comes before them. If they won't commit or just flat out say no, tell
them you'll be calling back every day until they change their mind — and
follow through on that promise, too.
And you might as well add this in:

We will know you by your works.

1 House 601, sponsored by the GOP, would do so by eliminating the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESSA)
2 House 601, sponsored by the GOP, would do so by eliminating ESSA, which
covers programs for struggling learners, Rural Education, classes for
Native Americans, and Education for the Homeless
3 House 601, sponsored by the GOP, would do so by abolishing the
Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act)
4 House 601, sponsored by the GOP, would do so by eliminating ESSA, which
ensures access to accommodations on assessments, access to general
education curricula,
5 House 601, sponsored by the GOP, would do so by eliminating ESSA, which
requires local education agencies to provide evidence-based interventions
in schools with consistently underperforming subgroups
You might have seen a friend or three of yours post a single heart icon
into their social media profile (usually on Facebook). You might have done
it yourself.

This is supposedly to promote "Breast Cancer Awareness Week".

Let's get this straight: There is no "Breast Cancer Awareness Week" in
March. There is a day in March for triple-negative breast CA (3rd March)
and International Women's Day (8th March). There is a whole month for
breast cancer; I'm pretty sure you noticed it last October.

Further, let's call this out for what it is: A way to feel good without
doing anything. This is more inane, useless, and harmful than the
clicktivism that pervades so many things.

Posting a single icon of a heart - more on that symbol at the end - is NOT
actually helping anyone. Not. A. Single. Person. Oh, it makes you feel like
you did something... but at exactly NO effort on your part.

It also lets you feel superior, since it's an inside "code" that you are
part of. Added bonus: The especially Heathers wannabes will feel snarky and
superior those who don't post the heart icon.

So it's useless. How is it harmful?

After breast cancer awareness became the hip thing for businesses to donate
trivial amounts of money to while using cancer as an advertisement, I don't
think awareness is the problem. Hell, big funding for research isn't the
problem - in 2008 breast cancer funding per death outstripped every other
and was still listed among the top-funded in a 2014 study.

But this little, meaningless way of checking off the "I did something about
it" box distracts people from what will help women and lower breast cancer
rates in the real world:

Inexpensive health care for women.

But instead of posting a heart icon, that might mean standing up for
Planned Parenthood. Because as Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of
medical services for Planned Parenthood, said (I'm quoting FactCheck.Org

“Planned Parenthood does help women nationwide get access to mammograms,”
as part of the health care services it provides to nearly 3 million persons
each year. “Women rely on Planned Parenthood for referrals for and
financial help with mammograms and specialized diagnostic follow-up tests
(like ultrasounds and biopsies) when indicated by age, history and/or
clinical breast exam.” Nucatola said that “for many women,” Planned
Parenthood is their only health care provider and “thus the only way they
will get a referral for a mammogram.”

Don't care about women who need Planned Parenthood? Fine.

Your fight still isn't done. Because with the impending repeal of the ACA,
it's likely that gender rating is going to come back on the scene.

You don't remember gender rating? To quote the UPenn Public Policy

Gender rating is the practice of charging men and women different rates for
identical health services...Research conducted before the implementation of
the ACA showed that women on the individual market could pay up to 1.5
times more than men for health insurance...It also showed that gender
rating costs US women approximately $1 billion dollars annually.

Yeah, getting rid of that crap that was part of the ACA. Obamacare. The
thing the current administration is still adamant they're going to get rid
of, and still hasn't presented any kind of replacement.

If you don't care about keeping gender rating away from our health care but
care about posting a heart to social media or wearing the latest
pink-ribbon fashion, you've got your priorities pretty messed up.

Look, I get it. Cancer is fucking awful.

That's my point.

Instead of posting a contextless heart on social media and feeling good
about it, ovary up and fight for something that will actually make a
difference in breast cancer detection and prevention.

Use your social media post to remind those around you that you support
inexpensive health care for women.

Use your social media profile to remind those around you that you oppose
discrimination in health care pricing.

Do it in honor of International Women's Day.

Maybe posting something so political seems a little indiscreet or blunt to

But it's too late if you already posted that heart to your wall.

After all, that heart symbol gets its shape from a seed pod that used to be
used for birth control and reminded the Romans of nothing so much