From the world pool: April 14, 2017

I didn’t post last week, so the world pool is extra deep today. 

Socio-political commentary

US politics

Experts in authoritarianism advise you to keep a list: week 20

Watching the hearings, I learned my “Bernie bro” harassers may have been Russian bots

Democrats may not have been as divided as we were led to believe during the 2016 election season. I received daily abuse from “pro-Bernie” Twitter accounts I now know were not real people, but Russian bots.

LA Times: Our Dishonest President  A six-part analysis. Also: Why we took a stand on Trump.

The answer is simple. Even though we’re only 11 weeks into the Trump presidency, there is good reason to believe that rather than grow into the job, he’ll remain the man he was on the campaign trail — impulsive, untruthful, narcissistic, ignorant of the limits on presidential power and woefully unprepared to wield it. Rather than wait until the public grew inured to the lies, the undermining of democratic institutions, the demagoguery and bluster, we decided to lay out our concerns at length and in detail.

…We decided to move ahead because the future of the nation is at stake. These editorials set a baseline to help measure the president’s performance over the rest of his term, especially how truthful he is, his relationship with the media and how well he curbs his recklessness and impulsiveness.

Country Folk Aren’t Perfect, but No, Coastal Liberals, Trump Is Not Their Fault

If you want to mitigate bigotry and hate, try focusing on the system and the people who perpetuate it instead of merely pointing and laughing at the people who consume its outputs. It is never excusable and should be obliterated with vigor and force—especially when the bigotry comes from people who actually have the political power to enforce and perpetuate it. 

But it seems we still need to blame someone who isn’t ourselves. We aren’t ready yet to grapple with what it says about this society that we elected a kleptocrat who’s incapable of politely shaking hands with foreign leaders or going more than a month without a rally to shore up his fragile ego, but who has found time to install his family and crypto-Nazis in positions of power while he terrorizes small children because their parents overstayed their visa. So instead of doing that, we’re taking this opportunity to blame the poor for the behavior of the well-off, because otherwise we’d have to admit that it was just normal Republicans who voted for Trump. Worse, we might have to admit that economic anxiety isn’t just a punch line any more than it’s just for white people.

Top Democrats Are Wrong: Trump Supporters Were More Motivated by Racism Than Economic Issues

For Sanders, Warren and others on the left, the economy is what matters most and class is everything. Yet the empirical evidence just isn’t there to support them. Yes Trump won a (big) majority of non-college-educated whites, but he also won a majority of college-educated whites, too. He won more young white voters than Clinton did and also a majority of white women; he managed to win white votes regardless of age, gender, income or education. Class wasn’t everything in 2016. In a recent essay in The Nation, analysts Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel point out that “income predicted support for McCain and Romney, but not Trump.” Their conclusion? “Racial identity and attitudes have further displaced class as the central battleground of American politics.”

Why are liberals now cheerleading a warmongering Trump?

So now we know what it takes for an unhinged, bigoted demagogue to win liberal applause: just bypass a constitution to fire some missiles.

Trump craves praise. We praise him for bombings. What possibly could go wrong?

Watchtowers, drones and a toxic moat: the designs for Trump’s border wall

Crisis Resolution Security Services of Clarence, Illinois have clearly been inspired by the Great Wall of China with their scheme for a hefty crenelated concoction, complete with decorative parapets, buttresses and square castle watchtowers, all perched atop a vast earthen berm. It is the work of Michael Hari, a former sheriff’s deputy who most recently ran an agricultural food safety certification business before setting up his security outfit, who says it would be “as pretty as the Parthenon”.

Canadian politics

Trans Mountain expansion will cost B.C. motorists over $100 million a year

One of the significant economic costs of constructing Trans Mountain’s heavy oil pipeline is the impact it will have on B.C. motorists at the pumps. This is because the price to transport petroleum products to British Columbia along the existing Trans Mountain system will more than double once the expansion becomes operational. As confirmed by Natural Resources Canada, transportation costs for delivery of crude oil and petroleum products to British Columbia are passed onto consumers.

By rejecting $1bn for a pipeline, a First Nation has put Trudeau’s climate plan on trial

 “I’m not sure what science the forces of no bring together up there except that it’s not really about the science,” Premier Christy Clark declared. “It’s not really about the fish. It’s just about trying to say no. It’s about fear of change. It’s about a fear of the future.” Some grade A bullshit there.

Editorial: Health firings a train wreck

But there is a difference between scapegoating and holding people to account for what they have done. This was not an accident caused by momentary inattention, it was sustained and repeated violations of policy, procedure and human decency. And the dismissal of MacIsaac just days before his term ended came close to sadism. 

Editorial: Ferry ‘break’ insults islanders

The tax deal works like this: Ferry users will be able to deduct 25 per cent of their fares from their net tax payable to the province, up to a total of $1,000. That works out to a saving of $250 a year.Really? You’re going to put ferry users through the misery of a complex income-tax manoeuvre to save them a few bucks. Why not just hide $10 bills throughout each ship and let passengers go on a treasure hunt?It’s clear what is going on here. This is similar to one of those money-back deals that companies offer customers who don’t like their product. They’re counting on most people finding the process too time-consuming to follow through.

World politics

Syria’s civil war explained from the beginning


How to set up a VPN in 10 minutes for free (and why you urgently need one)

Thanks to a decision by Congress, ISPs can sell your entire web browsing history to literally anyone without your permission. The only rules that prevented this are all being repealed, and won’t be reinstated any time soon (it would take an act of congress). ISPs can also sell any information they want from your online activity and mobile app usage — financial information, medical information, your children’s information, your social security number — even the contents of your emails. They can even sell your geolocation information. That’s right, ISPs can take your exact physical location from minute to minute and sell it to a third party.

You might be wondering: who benefits from repealing these protections? Other than those four monopoly ISPs that control America’s “last mile” of internet cables and cell towers? No one. No one else benefits in any way. Our privacy — and our nation’s security — have been diminished, just so a few mega-corporations can make a little extra cash.

Companies start implanting microchips into workers’ bodies  Call me old-fashioned, but this makes me shudder. And not from fear of the syringe, either.

The syringe slides in between the thumb and index finger. Then, with a click, a microchip is injected in the employee’s hand. Another “cyborg” is created. What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish start-up hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and start-up members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.

Trump Administration Considers Far-Reaching Steps for ‘Extreme Vetting’ Foreigners entering U.S. could be forced to hand over phones, answer questions on ideology; changes could apply to allies like France and Germany

Feminist issues

I made me.

It’s time to drop the vagina as a protest symbol

The obvious problem with vagina-motif protest is that it leaves out some women — namely, trans women. Not all women have vaginas, and not all vagina-havers identify as women. A rhetorical strategy whose goal is universality falls short if it excludes some of the most marginalized women. And an anatomical focus also erases women’s experiences. Women are a caste within society, not the owners of a particular body part. The vast majority of women do indeed have vaginas, but they aren’t preoccupied by that fact day to day. 

The 1920s Women Who Fought For the Right to Travel Under Their Own Names

U.S. passports predate the Declaration of Independence, but the documents were issued on an ad hoc basis until the late 1800s, when the process began to standardize. By then, a single woman was issued a passport in her own name, but a married woman was only listed as an anonymous add-on to her husband’s document: “Mr. John Doe and wife.”

“Restrictions on travel rarely took the form of government policy or officials actively preventing women traveling abroad. Rather, restrictions came in the form of accepted social ideas,” says Craig Robertson, author of Passport in America: History of a Document. “Put simply, it was not acceptable for a married woman to travel outside of the country without her husband; he, of course, could travel without her. More generally, a married woman’s public identity was tied to her husband, and passports reflected that in being issued to the husband, with his wife being a literal notation.”

She’s Hot: Female Sessional Instructors, Gender Bias, and Student Evaluations

New male contraceptive is safe, effective and inexpensive — but no company has agreed to sell it

O’Reilly, Trump, And Ailes: The Culture Of Predatory Harassment Dominating The Conservative Movement

Gender Quotas and the Crisis of the Mediocre Man (PDF)

A failure to recruit competent politicians remains a concern in many democracies. Some contributors to academic and popular debates see the goals of representation and competence as conflicting. In debates about gender quotas, it is common to claim that supply constraints make quotas counterproductive by replacing competent men with mediocre women. Based on first principles and empirical evidence, we have argued that, on the contrary, quotas can increase the competence of the political class by reducing the share of mediocre men.

Are you a Trump man or a decent man? Time to choose

Now, if you are a man reading this, you may well ask what all this has to do with you. After all, you are almost certainly not a despot. You’re a nice person who reads the Guardian. You probably worry about whether or not to hold doors open for women, while the bloated old gropers in power are busy slamming them in our faces. You’ve got your flaws, sure, but you’re not one of those men. That, however, is the problem. The problem is that suddenly the bar for decent blokehood has dropped with the dizzying speed of a guillotine. Suddenly, people have licence to be a bit ruder, a bit brasher, a bit less respectful. After all, they’re not as bad as Trump. That’s enough, right? Wrong.

LGBTQIA issues

Who Would Go After LGBT Elders? The Trump Administration

Our first indication of where this president’s idle promises were headed came in January, after his administration quietly removed all mention of LGBT rights from the White House website, not to mention deleting the Office of National AIDS Policy page. Then, when the administration and congressional leadership unveiled their so-called American Health Care Act — which would rob millions of older Americans of health insurance — HIV and other critical health needs of LGBT communities were never even mentioned. The thread running through these early actions was erasure — making LGBT people invisible in the eyes of the federal government. The attacks on our community continue to escalate. Just last week, without any warning, SAGE learned that all mention of LGBT elders in the federal government’s leading survey about publicly funded elder services — the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants — had been quietly wiped out. 

Read Judge Davis’s Powerful Opinion Vacating The Gavin Grimm / Virginia Transgender Bathroom Injunction

Today, G.G. adds his name to the list of plaintiffs whose struggle for justice has been delayed and rebuffed; as Dr. King reminded us, however, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” G.G.’s journey is delayed but not finished.

Racism and Civil Rights

Fear of Diversity Made People More Likely to Vote Trump  “Fear of diversity” is what we’re calling it now, eh?

In short, our analysis indicates that Donald Trump successfully leveraged existing resentment towards African Americans in combination with emerging fears of increased racial diversity in America to reshape the presidential electorate, strongly attracting nativists towards Trump and pushing some more affluent and highly educated people with more cosmopolitan views to support Hillary Clinton. Racial identity and attitudes have further displaced class as the central battleground of American politics.

The Internet Is Telling White Men To Kill Black Men And ‘Sluts,’ And White Men Are Listening

You know what the reaction was on 4chan — the troll site now best-known for catapulting Donald Trump to the presidency — on the day James Jackson was arrested for driving a sword through 66-year-old Timothy Caughman? Disappointment. Disappointment in the fact that he had such a low body count.

Unarmed. Not wearing a seatbelt. Running away.

For 18 years, I thought she was stealing my identity. Until I found her

It was then that it became clear to me: the reason for the tickets wasn’t that these Lisa Davises were petty criminals. The reason was likely that they lived in highly policed areas where even the smallest infractions are ticketed, the sites of “Broken Windows” policing. The reason, I thought, was that they weren’t white.

That could have been the “proof” I offered to the judge. Brownsville’s population is less than 1% white. It almost couldn’t have been me. My neighborhood, though fairly diverse (and cheap) when I moved there in the early 90s, is now 76% white. I have never heard of anyone getting tickets in my neighborhood for any of the infractions committed by the Lisa Davises in neighborhoods of color.

I felt there was only one thing to do. I had to find the Lisa Davises, to untangle myself from them, to talk to them about being Lisa Davises, and to see if they agreed with my supposition: that the real “crime” they had committed was being non-white.

Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums Than White Areas With the Same Risk: Our analysis of premiums and payouts in California, Illinois, Texas and Missouri shows that some major insurers charge minority neighborhoods as much as 30 percent more than other areas with similar accident costs.


Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons

When a person is incarcerated, that imprisonment has reverberating effects on their family, loved ones and community. This 10-part series will dive deeply into these impacts, showing how with the incarceration of more than 2 million Americans, many millions more are harmed by prisons in lasting ways. Join us as we lay bare the way in which incarceration ruptures the human ties that hold a society together — and explore the strategies by which families, activists and incarcerated people are striving to map a different path.


Wages rise on California farms. Americans still don’t want the job

In the last five years, he has advertised in local newspapers and accepted more than a dozen unemployed applicants from the state’s job agency. Even when the average rate on his fields was $20 an hour, the U.S.-born workers lost interest, fast. “We’ve never had one come back after lunch,” he says.

Business Insider To Minimum Wage-Slaves: Have You Tried *Not* Being Poor?? An Info-Graphic! A takedown of some of the stupidest advice to the poor that I’ve seen in a long time. And the takedown barely scratches the surface of the idiocy. For example: you are supposed to live in a city and find accommodation under $600. And ride your bike instead of taking your car! Which is fine, of course, except that it assumes everyone is physically capable of biking to work if they are working, and ignores the fact that because rents get cheaper the further you go from a city centre, many people live well outside reasonable biking distance because they can’t otherwise afford the rent. Whoever wrote this is utterly clueless.

The Hard Work of Poverty: Linda Tirado’s Hand to Mouth

The majority of all poverty in the U.S. is the result of forces beyond individual control. This is not ideology or bias but social science, and it is time we stopped humoring ignorance out of misplaced concern for “fairness” or “objectivity”. Just as we dismiss those who deny the evidence of global climate change, so should we mock those who insist that if people only tried harder they wouldn’t be poor. It’s a lie, and Hand to Mouth shows in painstaking human detail how it is a lie and why it is a lie.


Letter From a Drowned Canyon: The story of water in the West, climate change, and the birth of modern environmentalism lies at the bottom of Lake Powell.

When the Sierra Club pronounced Glen Canyon dead in 1963, the organization’s leaders expected it to stay dead under Lake Powell. But this old world is re-emerging, and its fate is being debated again. The future we foresee is often not the one we get, and Lake Powell is shriveling, thanks to more water consumption and less water supply than anyone anticipated. Beneath it lies not just canyons but spires, crests, labyrinths of sandstone, Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs, and burial sites, an intricate complexity hidden by water, depth lost in surface. The uninvited guest, the unanticipated disaster, reducing rainfall and snowmelt and increasing drought and evaporation in the Southwest, is climate change.

TransCanada shuts down Keystone after oil seeps to surface


‘Let’s Talk’, WHO says, as depression rates rise 18 percent in a decade

Science and Technology

A very cool rethinking of wheelchairs.


I’m an only child. I’ll always wish I wasn’t.  Summary: my life was ruined by my mother.

It’s easy, of course, to idealize nonexistent siblings. I could just as easily have had a brother who beat me up or a sister who ignored me, a sibling of either gender who outshone me or who needed my parents more than I did. But even if I had — even if I’d been just as lonely or had different emotional issues to deal with as a child — I believe that growing up with siblings teaches children lessons that I never learned, that I would be infinitely better off for having internalized early, when I was too young to notice I was doing so.

I can’t read except in total silence. I can’t share things — books especially — without my whole self cringing. And people? Forget about sharing people. Embarrassingly, I still ache for best friends, for people who belong exclusively to me. My heart still pangs when someone I’m close to seems to care a little too much about someone else, because I didn’t learn in childhood that a person can love someone besides me, without it diminishing their love for me.

As an only child, I’m with these commentators on the article. This writer has issues that have nothing to do with being an only child.

“We’d write letters to each other!” becomes “oh Christ, someone who wants a letter and is gonna get pissy when I text “Not dead, just busy!”


Why Don’t We Think Fat People Are Worth Fighting For?

A few days ago, I wrote two posts on fat acceptance and body positivity. I wrote about my personal experience with fat-shaming and diet culture, and the toll it has taken on my life. The response was overwhelming. Thousands of shares, hundreds of comments — a few write-ups about the post in major magazines. While there were quite a few assholes who showed up to make sure we all knew they hated fat people, the vast majority of responses were messages of love and understanding from other people of all sizes who have similarly struggled with the expectations of thinness that society places on us.

I am known to be someone who is not only concerned with problems, but also with solutions. A few days later, while people were still connecting with and praising my posts, I decided to ask a question on Facebook and Twitter:

“If you are thin, and believe in body positivity, why do you buy clothing from labels and stores that don’t sell plus sizes?”

It was, to me, a simple question. 

College Student Creates A Mobile Directory Of 600 Books That Prioritize Diversity

Art + Design + Writing

Linda Tirado on freelance writing process

I’m With Her: What I learned designing a logo for Hillary Clinton

It isn’t pleasant to have talk show hosts making fun of your work on national television. And there was something all so gleefully vicious about it. It was just some simple geometric shapes and a couple of primary colors, yet it seemed to drive so many people crazy. My wife Dorothy helped put things in perspective. “Maybe,” she said, “this isn’t really all about your little logo.” 

The Parisien Sphinx: oh, now this looks like an interesting project worth supporting.


Remember this painting by Manet? If you studied art I’m sure you do.

The book The Parisian Sphinx, a mystery and a treasure hunt, is the remarkable true story of the life and lost work of French painter and model Victorine Meurent, who burst onto the 19th century Parisian art scene in a swirl of color and scandal, changing the face of modern art forever. Despite being ridiculed in the press by critics who considered her an abomination, the bold and unconventional Victorine—supported by her longtime romantic partner Marie—devoted herself to her craft until her own work hung in the same galleries as that of the men who painted her.

Art historians wrote that she died young as an alcoholic prostitute, penniless and old before her time. None of that was true, but it would be fifty years before modern researchers began to piece Victorine’s real life back together again, and another forty before her lost paintings would begin to reappear.

Interesting odds and ends

You’re a completely different person at 14 and 77, the longest-running personality study ever has found

The findings were a surprise to researchers because previous personality studies, over shorter periods of time, seemed to show consistency. Studies over several decades, focusing on participants from childhood to middle age, or from middle age to older age, showed stable personality traits. But the most recent study, covering the longest period, suggests that personality stability is disrupted over time. “The longer the interval between two assessments of personality, the weaker the relationship between the two tends to be,” the researchers write. “Our results suggest that, when the interval is increased to as much as 63 years, there is hardly any relationship at all.”

How Google Book Search Got Lost

The ethics of good design: A principle for the connected age

Now that a new class of products have integrated themselves into our daily lives, along came design characteristics Rams couldn’t have forecasted 40 years ago. Today’s digital products can meet a Ramsian definition of “good design” while at the same time getting away with transgressions that we need to admit exist.

Though Rams was reacting to what he saw as a jumbled, confusing world full of poor design, one thing could generally be counted on: The user was empowered to decide what products to allow into their lives. They decided which products they truly loved. They decided when and to what extent they would use them. They were in control. Today, that kind of control is shifting away from a product’s user and toward its designer by capitalizing on cognitive vulnerabilities we all have as human beings. 

Rebecca Solnit: Men Explain Lolita to Me

But “to read Lolita and ‘identify’ with one of the characters is to entirely misunderstand Nabokov” said one of my less friendly readers. I thought that was funny, so I posted it on Facebook, and a nice liberal man came along and explained to me this book was actually an allegory as though I hadn’t thought of that yet. It is, and it’s also a novel about a big old guy violating a spindly child over and over and over. Then she weeps. And then another nice liberal man came along and said, “You don’t seem to understand the basic truth of art. I wouldn’t care if a novel was about a bunch of women running around castrating men. If it was great writing, I’d want to read it. Probably more than once.” Of course there is no such body of literature, and if the nice liberal man who made that statement had been assigned book after book full of castration scenes, maybe even celebrations of castration, it might have made an impact on him.

Trees Have Their Own Songs

Just as birders can identify birds by their melodious calls, David George Haskell can distinguish trees by their sounds. The task is especially easy when it rains, as it so often does in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Depending on the shapes and sizes of their leaves, the different plants react to falling drops by producing “a splatter of metallic sparks” or “a low, clean, woody thump” or “a speed-typist’s clatter.” Every species has its own song. Train your ears (and abandon the distracting echoes of a plastic rain jacket) and you can carry out a botanical census through sound alone.

The Wretched and the Beautiful

The aliens arrived unexpectedly at 6:42 on a hot August evening, dropping with a shriek of metal strained past its limits onto the white sands of one of the last pristine beaches on Earth. The black hulk of the saucer ground into the sand and stopped, steaming. Those of us who had been splashing in the surf or stamping rows of sandcastles fled up the slope, clutching our towels.


Airlines rarely pay full compensation to bumped fliers  Not sure if this applies in Canada, but I’m damned well going to find out before I fly again.

How a Browser Extension Could Shake Up Academic Publishing

Quote of the week

The reality of the wealthy will always mean condescension and bad advice, because they cannot imagine lives like ours. Not even a little.

Linda Tirado

When did being anti-war start being misconstrued as being anti-troops? I fully support firemen but I also hope nothing catches on fire.

Cody Miller

Just cool

Get Lost in Mega-Tunnels Dug by South American Megafauna

The giant armadillo, the largest living member of the family, weighs between 65 and 90 pounds and is found throughout much of South America. Its burrows are only about 16 inches in diameter and up to about 20 feet long. “So if a 90-pound animal living today digs a 16-inch by 20-foot borrow, what would dig one five feet wide and 250 feet long?” asks Frank. “There’s no explanation – not predators, not climate, not humidity. I really don’t know.”

Archeologists confirm Heiltsuk village site three times older than Great Pyramids


Just for fun

A deadpan treatise on the craft of pencil-sharpening from a master artisan

Le Cinq, Paris: restaurant review  I’m crying.

The dining room, deep in the hotel, is a broad space of high ceilings and coving, with thick carpets to muffle the screams. It is decorated in various shades of taupe, biscuit and fuck you. There’s a little gilt here and there, to remind us that this is a room designed for people for whom guilt is unfamiliar. It shouts money much as football fans shout at the ref. There’s a stool for the lady’s handbag. Well, of course there is.

…I have spent sums like this on restaurant experiences before, and have not begrudged it. We each of us build our best memories in different ways, and some of mine involve expensive restaurants. But they have to be good. This one will also leave me with memories. They are bleak and troubling. If I work hard, one day, with luck, I may be able to forget.

Obligatory department of cute animals:

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