From the world pool: February 17, 2017

A collection of links from the last week or so.

Socio-political commentary

US politics

Damage Report

Trump’s chief policy adviser says the president’s power ‘will not be questioned’ by the courts

“I think that it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many cases a supreme branch of government,” Miller told John Dickerson of CBS News, as first noted by Will Saletan of Slate. “The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins

What’s going on was explained lucidly by a senior Pentagon intelligence official, who stated that “since January 20, we’ve assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM,” meaning the White House Situation Room, the 5,500 square-foot conference room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings. “There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point,” the official added in wry frustration.

Katherine Cross: The Disastrous, Terroristic Rollout Of Trump’s Executive Orders Was Probably By Design

As is often the case with early fascist edicts, the order was drafted in a way that allowed different groups of people to see what they wanted to see. It allowed people to lie to themselves about the true scope of terror, and it also allowed sympathetic state agents to do as they pleased without limitation. The silent consent radiating from the White House indicated that it felt CBP was executing its order faithfully.

Trump’s exchange w/reporter asking about 48 bomb threats to Jewish centers: “A very insulting question.” I could not believe this when I read it.

“Okay. So. I’m going to dive into the Loser’s King’s press conference here.” This is a fascinating analysis of Trump’s press conference on February 16th.  Be warned, it’s very long, but it’s worth hitting the “show more” to read the whole thing.

Want to Make a Lie Seem True? Say It Again. And Again. And Again.

YOU ONLY USE 10 percent of your brain. Eating carrots improves your eyesight. Vitamin C cures the common cold. Crime in the United States is at an all-time high.

None of those things are true.

But the facts don’t actually matter: People repeat them so often that you believe them. Welcome to the “illusory truth effect,” a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth. Marketers and politicians are masters of manipulating this particular cognitive bias—which perhaps you have become more familiar with lately.

How the word ‘terrorism’ lost its meaning: Neil Macdonald.

Once America began its “War on Terror,” the word was stretched and adapted to mean anything Washington wanted.

Intolerant Liberals

Yes, it’s important to intellectual growth to have variety. It’s important that unpopular ideas get a hearing. It’s important for there to be debate, and changes of heart, and to allow sincere disagreements to continue to wrestle with one another for clarification. I have no interest in our universities being populated by people who think like me. But I do have an interest in them being populated with people who think.

Alabama immigration: crops rot as workers vanish to avoid crackdown. The day before harsh new laws came into effect, Brian Cash had 65 Hispanic men picking tomatoes. Now he has none.

In a couple of weeks Cash says he will kiss goodbye to all the tomatoes left in the fields. He has already begun to pull up the stakes and remove the plastic ground cover, and then he will take a tractor out and bury the plants under ground.

“It’s going to be a little while, but eventually people will see what has been done here. The cost of food in the supermarkets is going to go up, and in the end we will all pay the price.”

Bill McKibben: Trump’s Pipeline and America’s Shame

Canadian politics

Judge sides with indigenous survivors of Sixties Scoop  This is hugely important.

When Trudeau met Trump: Canadian exceptionalism, American envy

Last week I spoke at a conference about Canadian exceptionalism at McGill University, where scholars and journalists discussed how they could avoid the fate of the U.S. and other faltering states.

Never, as an American, had I been greeted abroad with such instinctive pity, as if I’d just returned from a funeral – for democracy, perhaps, or for national dignity. Unlike in earlier eras – the 2000s, for example, when war-mongering President Bush destabilized the world – no one expressed anger over our political plight, only apprehension, like I had a contagious disease.

“How do we not end up like you?” the audience politely inquired.

Neil Macdonald: Trump and Trudeau change the channel from existential threats to women in the workplace.  I literally roared with laughter when I read this:

At a news conference later, Trump went pretty quickly to the topic of women in the workforce, after reading out a short homily in which, rather curiously, he declared that Canada and the United States share the same values, as though he wasn’t standing beside Justin Trudeau.

Kinder Morgan pipeline has spilled six times in Jasper National Park


Five Signs Your Story Is Sexist – Against Men

Social justice

Iljeoma Oluo: Social Justice Must Be Complicated, Because Oppression Is Never Simple

People look at the last election and say that we failed to come together against Trump because we were all too caught up in our “individual” wants. If our failure in 2016 was anything other than massive amounts of white people deciding to vote for White Supremacy (and it’s really not much more than that), I’d say it was the insistence that people all pretend they were on the “left” for the same reason, and that we would all rally around a very narrow set of goals that would only meet a very narrow set of needs.

So perhaps now that we can’t weaponize a looming presidential election against marginalized voices, we can take a little time and care with our movements. Start looking around the room and asking, “Who isn’t here who should be?” and “What DON’T we have covered?”

Start addressing complex problems with appropriately complex solutions. 

Jackie Rayos-Garcia Tells About the Deportation of Her Mother, Guadalupe García de Rayos


April Hathcock: Reading and Responding to the Margins

These comments get framed as friendly debate and discussion but are actually active examples of white supremacy refusing to be in any way affected by the racialized reality of one of the oppressed. 

It’s a natural reaction. And it goes beyond discussions of race. I myself have read things by queer folks, native folks, trans folks, disabled folks, working class folks, and reacted in this very same way. I have to fight the urge to reach out to them with my response because I realize it doesn’t matter. I, in my position of privilege, get to see and hear my perspectives and realities all the time, everywhere. They, in their marginalized identity, have to fight for the right to express their truth and speak their reality without reprisal. My defensive maneuvers are not necessary and are certainly not welcome. 

Privacy and Surveillance

Facebook is terrifying

Even if you’re extremely cautious, even if you never post anything on Facebook, even if you have “location services” disabled on your phone at all times etc. etc. Facebook still knows where you are. You can’t stop other people from taking selfies in an airport.

PayPal freezes Canadian media company’s account over story about Syrian family

The weekly Flin Flon Reminder entered the article — titled “Syrian family adapts to new life” — last month as part of its submissions to the annual Canadian Community Newspaper Awards. The feature story from July 2016 outlines the challenges and triumphs as the family settled in the Manitoban town of 5,100 and the community’s willingness to make them feel welcome.

Reminder publisher Valerie Durnin said when she tried to pay the $242.95 for the paper’s entries, PayPal flagged the payment as possibly not in compliance with its “acceptable use policy,” which she said she hadn’t been able to track down. PayPal did promise to follow up within 72 hours of its investigation, which it never did. Instead it reversed the payment.

This week, Durnin called News Media Canada — formerly Newspaper Canada — to find out what had happened. They realized PayPal had frozen the News Media Canada account, said Nicole Bunt, who processes the awards entries.

…”You may be buying or selling goods or services that are regulated or prohibited by the U.S. government,” PayPal said in an email to News Media Canada.

The note also requested a “complete and detailed explanation of the transaction” and the purpose of the payment, which identified with the story’s headline.

“We would like to learn more about your business and/or some of your recent transactions.”

It’s not just your TV that can track your habits without consent

The root of the problem is that companies and consumers — and in Vizio’s case, the FTC — don’t always see eye to eye on what information is personal.

“My name is fundamentally less valuable to advertisers and marketers than all of my device browsing behaviour being combined into one place,” says Khatibloo. “That tells people so much more about who I am than my name does.”

The same goes for television viewing habits, how often you use your light bulbs, or your smart lock’s record of the people entering and exiting your house.

One particular concern is that such information, when combined with other aggregate or anonymous sources of information, can be used to re-identify and target specific users — a practice explicitly forbidden by many companies who share or sell such data, but exactly what happened in the Vizio case. 

‘Give Us Your Passwords’

“What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords.”

That’s what U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wants foreign visitors to hear before they’re allowed to enter the United States. “If they don’t want to give us that information, then they don’t come,” he said, while testifying in front of the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday.

I’ll never bring my phone on an international flight again. Neither should you.

Canadian policies on cellphone searches at border aren’t easy to find

According to CBSA policy, the agency doesn’t need a warrant to search your phone, laptop, or electronic device, which all fall under the Customs Act’s broader definition of “goods.”

Pre-clearance bill would give U.S. border agents in Canada new powers

U.S. border guards would get new powers to question, search and even detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil under a bill proposed by the Liberal government.

Legal experts say Bill C-23, introduced by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, and likely to pass in the current sitting of Parliament, could also erode the standing of Canadian permanent residents by threatening their automatic right to enter Canada.

How to legally cross a US (or other) border without surrendering your data and passwords

Meet the “Cowboys of Creepware”—Selling Government-Grade Surveillance to Spy on Your Spouse

In a 2015 Women’s Aid survey of 693 women, 29 per cent said they had spyware or GPS locators installed on their phones or computers by a partner or ex. In 2014, NPR surveyed 70 women’s shelters, finding 85 per cent were working with victims whose abusers tracked them via GPS, or what’s often referred to as “spouseware.”


Powerful Supercut Shows Why LGBTQ TV and Movie Fans Deserve Better This came round again, and I thought I’d post it again.


Anil Dash: Tech and the Fake Market tactic. In one generation, the Internet went from opening up new free markets to creating a series of Fake Markets that exploit society, without most media or politicians even noticing.

[W]e’ve lost the ability to discern that a short-term benefit for some users that’s subsidized by an unsustainable investment model will lead to terrible long-term consequences for society. We’re hooked on the temporary infusion of venture capital dollars into vulnerable markets that we know are about to be remade by technological transformation and automation. The only social force empowered to anticipate or prevent these disruptions are policymakers who are often too illiterate to understand how these technologies work, and who too desperately want the halo of appearing to be associated with “high tech”, the secular religion of America.

First They Got Sick, Then They Moved Into a Virtual Utopia.

Today, Second Life is mostly forgotten by the broader public. An estimated 800,000 users are active on a monthly basis, according to Second Life parent company Linden Lab. That’s tiny compared to the 1.86 billion users who are active on Facebook each month.

Yet some communities have quietly continued to thrive in the virtual world. One of these is the disability community, a sundry group whose members include people who are blind or deaf, people with emotional handicaps such as autism and PTSD, and people with conditions that limit their mobility, such as Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis. There are no official tallies of their numbers, but Wagner James Au, who has written extensively about Second Life, estimates they may account for roughly 20 percent of users. Some active members estimate the number higher — at as much as 50 percent.


Canada: Let’s save the bees. For good. If you don’t like signing online petitions, consider contacting Health Canada directly.

Indivisible Guide: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda

With Big Ag Giveaways In the Works, Sessions Urged to Reject Mega-Mergers  Here’s the letter to the Attorney General.  Avaaz has an online petition.

According to experts, if all three deals were to close, the newly created companies would control nearly 70 percent of the world’s pesticide market, more than 61 percent of commercial seed sales, and 80 percent of the U.S. corn-seed market.


Archaeologist ‘decolonizes’ B.C.’s road signs via Photoshop The project signs are on the Twitter hashtag #rewriteBC.


An Obedience Experiment

12 Fundamentals Of Writing “The Other” (And The Self): How to respectfully write from the perspective of characters that aren’t you.

Quote of the week

Look for where your privilege intersects with somebody’s oppression. That is the piece of the system that you have the power to help destroy.

—Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo)

Just cool

Hikaru dorodango: shiny mud balls  Detailed instructions here. I think… I want to do this.

Just for fun

Penguins: clumsy but adorable.

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