From the world pool: February 10, 2017

Sorry, there’s not a lot of light stuff in today’s post.

Socio-political commentary

US trashfire politics

Sarah Kendzior: It’s Already Happened Here

But as Lincoln’s letter reminds us, this has always been America. We have always vacillated between lofty precepts on paper and the refusal of white men to apply them in practice. 

Donald Trump’s team ‘having meetings in the dark as they can’t find right light switch in White House’; The President is also reportedly  obsessed with TV coverage and decorating  I don’t think anyone will ever come up with a more shade-throwing headline than this one.

WH official: We’ll say ‘fake news’ until media realizes attitude of attacking the President is wrong  So: apparently lies are only strategic tools, not ethical issues.

Trump’s faux-pas diplomacy: The State Department is struggling to contain the fallout as Trump goes off topic in calls with foreign leaders.

President Donald Trump spent much of a recent phone call with French President Francois Hollande veering off into rants about the U.S. getting shaken down by other countries, according to a senior official with knowledge of the call, creating an awkward interaction with a critical U.S. ally.

While the Hollande call Jan. 28 did touch on pressing matters between the two countries — namely the fight against the Islamic State — Trump also used the exchange to vent about his personal fixations, including his belief that the United States is being taken advantage of by China and international bodies like NATO, the official said.

At one point, Trump declared that the French can continue protecting NATO, but that the U.S. “wants our money back,” the official said, adding that Trump seemed to be “obsessing over money.”

“It was a difficult conversation, because he talks like he’s speaking publicly,” the official said. “It’s not the usual way heads of state speak to each other. He speaks with slogans, and the conversation was not completely organized.”

Exclusive: In call with Putin, Trump denounced Obama-era nuclear arms treaty – sources

When Putin raised the possibility of extending the 2010 treaty, known as New START, Trump paused to ask his aides in an aside what the treaty was, these sources said. Trump then told Putin the treaty was one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration, saying that New START favored Russia. Trump also talked about his own popularity, the sources said.

National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say  Whoa.

National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.

Trump’s Radical Anti-Americanism

Some choose to find comfort in the belief that the incompetence will undermine the anti-Americanism. Don’t bet on it. Autocratic regimes with a demagogic bent are nearly always inefficient, because they cannot create and extend the network of delegated trust that is essential to making any organization work smoothly. The chaos is characteristic. Whether by instinct or by intention, it benefits the regime, whose goal is to create an overwhelming feeling of shared helplessness in the population at large: we will detain you and take away your green card—or, no, now we won’t take away your green card, but we will hold you here, and we may let you go, or we may not.

This is radical anti-Americanism—not simply illiberalism or anti-cosmopolitanism—because America is not only a nation but also an idea, cleanly if not tightly defined. Pluralism is not a secondary or a decorative aspect of that idea. 

Behind the Internet’s Anti-Democracy Movement

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is reportedly a reader of neoreactionary political theory. A tour through the pro-authoritarian philosophy gaining visibility on the right.

The World According to Bannon

The chaos unleashed by President Trump’s executive order selectively barring Muslim entry into the United States has stoked an urgent debate about the man behind it, Stephen K. Bannon. Bannon, we now know, had a direct hand in both drafting the travel ban and directing the Department of Homeland Security to bar lawful residents and green card holders from entering the country.

Some commentators see the indifference to legal procedure and mass protest as evidence of Bannon’s gross incompetence; others divine incipient signs of a full-scale coup. Often overlooked, however, is the broader vision of politics informing Bannon’s new experiment with state power.

Behind the chaos he’s let loose stands a prophetic theory of civilizational crisis and violent renewal — one with deep roots in the American political tradition.

Elizabeth Warren:

It’s Not Foreigners Who are Plotting Here: What the Data Really Show

There may be people around who know the data even better than I do, but one of them is clearly not Kellyanne Conway, who either misspoke on national television in a particularly embarassing fashion or simply made up a terrorist plot. The only true fact she relayed to Chris Matthews about the “Bowling Green massacre,” was this one: “Most people don’t know [about] that because it didn’t get covered.” Indeed, the Bowling Green massacre didn’t get covered—because it never happened. Nonetheless, in response to the media criticism of Conway, the White House released a list of 78 terrorist attacks it says were underreported; the New York Times has annotated the list with the paper’s coverage of every attack.

…So let’s take a hard look at some empirical data I put together on who the terrorists are and how they relate to the assumptions in the executive order.

For those who don’t want to do this deep dive, here’s a quick two-sentence summary: Conway’s position is empirically indefensible. Absolutely nothing in the large body of data we have about real terrorist plots in the United States remotely supports either a focus on barring refugees or a focus on these particular seven countries.

Nothing.

Audrey Watters: Ed-Tech in the Time of Trump

One of the “hot new trends” in education technology is “learning analytics” – this idea that if you collect enough data about students that you can analyze it and in turn algorithmically direct students towards more efficient and productive behaviors, institutions towards more efficient and productive outcomes. Command. Control. Intelligence.

And I confess, it’s that phrase “collect enough data about students” that has me gravely concerned about “ed-tech in a time of Trump.” I’m concerned, in no small part, because students are often unaware of the amount of data that schools and the software companies they contract with know about them. I’m concerned because students are compelled to use software in educational settings. You can’t opt out of the learning management system. You can’t opt out of the student information system. You can’t opt out of required digital textbooks or digital assignments or digital assessments. You can’t opt out of the billing system or the financial aid system. You can’t opt of having your cafeteria purchases, Internet usage, dorm room access, fitness center habits tracked. Your data as a student is scattered across multiple applications and multiple databases, most of which I’d wager are not owned or managed by the school itself but rather outsourced to a third-party provider.

Flying Home From Abroad, a Border Agent Stopped and Questioned Me … About My Work for the ACLU

It didn’t happen during the Bush years when I traveled to meet with and represent Afghan and Iraqi survivors of U.S. military torture, to Guantanamo as an observer at the military commissions there, or to attend meetings and give talks abroad about U.S. human rights abuses in the national security context. It didn’t happen during the Obama years when my work included challenges to unlawful targeted killing, anti-Muslim discrimination, unfair watchlisting, illegal spying, and other U.S. government abuses at home and abroad.

Over all those years, government officials made their views known about this work — often in opposition, sometimes in support. But no government agent ever asked the chilling question I was asked this time: Do you understand why someone might have a different perspective about you?

What the Fuck Just Happened Today? Logging the daily shock and awe.

Free speech

What Liberals Don’t Get About Free Speech In The Age Of Trump

You can think whatever you like, and even say it without fear of government reprisal, but when you introduce force-multipliers for speech into the equation, things begin to get very hazy indeed. You have a right to a view; do you have a right to pronounce it to millions of New York Times readers, however? No. We have no problem recognizing this when it’s about something silly like Bigfoot, but the minute matters of consequence enter the frame, suddenly people are mystified by the very existence of standards.

To speak to so vast an audience is a privilege, not a right. To speak through a newspaper or magazine column, a TV talk show, an interview on national TV, a speech at a university, or a primetime debate program, is, by its very nature, a privilege not open to all. There are billions of people on this planet, each speaking their views at any one time, but they can’t all appear on the Today show. Once again, we intuitively grasp this basic logistical matter, but forget about it entirely when a raving bigot shows up, feeling cornered by an abstract principle into insisting that he or she be given not only space to speak, but the largest possible platform and audience for it.

Free Speech and the Paradox of Tolerance

Hate speech, and other speech acts designed to harass and intimidate (rather than merely express criticism or dissent), are routinely used to thwart other people’s freedom of expression. Free speech absolutists tend not to consider or fully appreciate this, probably because most of them have never felt silenced by pervasive or systemic hatred and intolerance before. Others of us, however, have experienced this first hand.

And Then the Breitbart Lynch Mob Came for Me: For 15 years, I’ve spoken out against executive overreach. But in the Trump era, even theoretical criticism puts a target on your back.

For decades, we’ve had the luxury of assuming that the United States would always have a professional, nonpartisan civil service. We’ve had the luxury of assuming that the fearsome coercive powers of the federal government would be exercised responsibly and constitutionally. For those of us who often find ourselves criticizing government actions, that has been a vital assumption: For the most part, we’ve been able to take for granted that notwithstanding occasional mistakes, the FBI and Secret Service will focus on genuine threats and won’t target journalists, NGO advocates, or other critics.

Looking ahead, I’m not sure we will continue to have that luxury.

Canadian politics

E-petition demanding electoral reform

Ex-soldier and cancer survivor evicted during wait for military pension  Disgraceful.

Beauchamp was released to civilian life last summer and, like thousands of other ex-soldiers and air crew, she was forced to wait for her military severance, pension and veterans benefits. “I felt like I was pushed through the cracks,” Beauchamp told CBC News. “I have been so stressed it’s unreal. I’m lucky I have kids that understand.” She said she barely scraped by through the summer, fall and early winter with virtually no income except nominal support payments from her ex-spouse. But because of the wait, she was evicted in November from the house she was renting in a small community outside of Ottawa.

Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages

The Port of Vancouver and others representing international shipping interests want to create 5 new anchorage sites in the pristine waters along the northeast shore of Gabriola Island.

Despite no demonstrated need for them, these anchorages would mean ships up to 300 meters long could be parked in a place they do not belong for days and weeks at a time, industrializing a part of British Columbia’s coastline that is more than twice the size of Stanley Park. At risk are countless sea creatures including British Columbia’s iconic Orcas, humpback whales, sea lions, chinook salmon, herring, rock cod and many bird species including the threatened Marbled Murrelet. Also at risk is the social and economic fabric of one of British Columbia’s protected Gulf Islands. It’s a bad idea and it must be stopped.

Africa

Meet Aisha, a former antelope hunter who now tracks Boko Haram

Privacy

Cellphone Spy Tools Have Flooded Local Police Departments: Major cities throughout the U.S. have spent millions on mobile surveillance tools—but there are still few rules about what happens to the information they capture.

“A lot of the guys using it are saying, ‘I don’t have to tell anyone I’m using it.”

What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen

Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.

Now’s Probably the Time to Consider One of These Burner Phones

Feminism

‘Problem for an entire gender’: Boys, men not adapting to changing job market

Male-dominated industries are disappearing, leaving a pool of men with largely non-transferable skills unemployed. …Opportunities in female-dominated industries have continued to expand, Swartz says, but men have not been gravitating toward those jobs. …”In a lot of these female occupations, they are not really paid well,” Swartz said. “If you lost a high-paying job, you don’t want to move too far down the ladder. We still have wage discrimination in the labour market.”

Which is exactly why equal pay should be a men’s issue.

Racism

White People: I Don’t Want You To Understand Me Better, I Want You To Understand Yourselves

You have not had to know these things; even if you studied some of these topics in school, you did not have to know them. People of color, on the other hand, have lost so much when we’ve gotten it wrong.

A Few Pointers for Protesting While White

The Prison in Twelve Landscapes. This doc looks really good.

Resistance

Anti-fascist activists take on Trump and the far right: ‘Resistance is our only shot’ 

The true story of how Teen Vogue got mad, got woke, and began terrifying men like Donald Trump

Once upon a time, there was news, and there was women’s news. Your local paper—let’s assume you subscribed; this would have been several decades ago—came to you every day packed with meaty, manly sections such as “Business” or “Politics.” Then, perhaps on the weekend, you would get an extra section, containing—oh, happy day—news that even your wife could read.

…This dichotomy is simplistic and sexist. And it never entirely held water—even back in the 1960s, Cosmopolitan published daring-for-the-time coverage of birth control. But it’s what we’ve been taught to expect from the media. Men cover and read Real News; women cover and read … well, woman stuff.

…Thus it is that, when liberal pundit Keith Olbermann takes a job at GQno one blinks an eye; but when Teen Vogue turns out a solid explainer on vice president-to-be Mike Pence’s stance on reproductive and LGBTQ rights, minds are blown.

The March For Science Has Set Its Date — & It’s Perfect

Meanwhile, in New York City

What happens when we stop stereotyping people Watch it.

Art + Design

Vector Architects: Seashore Chapel, Beidaihe New District

Michael Pederson (Miguel Marquez Outside)  Oh, I love these.

Metropolitan Museum of Art image and data resources FAQ

You are welcome to use images identified by a CC0 icon for any purpose, including commercial and noncommercial use, free of charge and without requiring permission from the Museum.

Useful!

A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science

Just cool

There’s no place like home: NASA releases beautiful satellite photos of Earth

Just for fun

Europe is trolling the hell out of Trump one hilarious video at a time

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