From the world pool: April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day. (“Black Marble” image courtesy NASA)

Socio-political commentary

US politics

The Non-Transformation of Donald J. Trump

It’s astonishing, isn’t it, how suddenly Donald J. Trump is being viewed, in certain precincts, as—what’s the word?—yes, “Presidential,” and all it took was for him to issue an order to launch fifty-nine cruise missiles against a Syrian airbase. It’s as if a national-amnesia button got pushed, one able to wipe out memories of the actual President: the former reality-show star, real-estate brander, double-talker, and serial distorter of reality.

America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People

The richest large economy in the world, says Temin, is coming to have an economic and political structure more like a developing nation. We have entered a phase of regression, and one of the easiest ways to see it is in our infrastructure: our roads and bridges look more like those in Thailand or Venezuela than the Netherlands or Japan. But it goes far deeper than that, which is why Temin uses a famous economic model created to understand developing nations to describe how far inequality has progressed in the United States. The model is the work of West Indian economist W. Arthur Lewis, the only person of African descent to win a Nobel Prize in economics. For the first time, this model is applied with systematic precision to the U.S.

The result is profoundly disturbing.

Canadian politics

Bill McKibben: Stop swooning over Justin Trudeau. The man is a disaster for the planet

Look all you want, in fact – he sure is cute, the planet’s only sovereign leader who appears to have recently quit a boy band. And he’s mastered so beautifully the politics of inclusion: compassionate to immigrants, insistent on including women at every level of government. Give him great credit where it’s deserved: in lots of ways he’s the anti-Trump, and it’s no wonder Canadians swooned when he took over. But when it comes to the defining issue of our day, climate change, he’s a brother to the old orange guy in Washington. 

Site C dam project has become ‘uneconomic’ and should be suspended: UBC report Analysis says project is no longer going to benefit the provincial economy as once expected

Canada will legalize pot, after arresting a bunch of people for pot offences first

World politics

This Is What’s Really Behind North Korea’s Nuclear Provocations It’s easy to dismiss Kim Jong-un as a madman. But there’s a long history of US aggression against the North, which we forget at our peril.

Privacy

Chrome and Firefox Phishing Attack Uses Domains Identical to Known Safe Sites

…if you are unsure if you are on a real site and are about to enter sensitive information, you can copy the URL in the location bar and paste it into Notepad or TextEdit on Mac. It should appear as the https://xn--….. version if it is a fake domain. Otherwise it will appear as the real domain in its unencoded form if it is the real thing.

Feminist issues

First Woman to Enter Boston Marathon Runs It Again, 50 Years Later

What I have learned from five years of Everyday Sexism

To be a feminist, I have learned, is to be accused of oversensitivity, hysteria and crying wolf. But in the face of the abuse the project uncovered, the sheer strength, ingenuity and humour of women shone like a beacon. The dancer who performed for hours on the tube to reclaim the space where she was assaulted. The woman who waited five years to present her contract and a salt cellar to the careers adviser who had told her he would eat her paperwork if she ever became an engineer. The pedestrian who calmly removed the ladder of a catcalling builder, leaving him stranded on a roof.

LGBTQIA issues

Chechens tell of prison beatings and electric shocks in anti-gay purge: ‘They called us animals’ 

“Sometimes they were trying to get information from me; other times they were just amusing themselves.”

Let’s answer Chechen brutality with a global uprising against homophobia

Let the suffering of Chechnya’s gays boomerang on to their oppressors: let it become a spur to mobilise us against all forms of homophobia everywhere. Imagine if that could be the net contribution of Chechnya’s bigots. Not to break gay men and silence them and eliminate them, but rather to galvanise a movement determined to rid every society of homophobic and transphobic hatred. 

Here’s How You Can Help Stop Chechnya’s Gay Concentration Camps

Diversity, Racism and Civil Rights

The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black

Perhaps it really was that simple. I couldn’t escape Rachel Dolezal because I can’t escape white supremacy. And it is white supremacy that told an unhappy and outcast white woman that black identity was hers for the taking. It is white supremacy that told her that any black people who questioned her were obviously uneducated and unmotivated to rise to her level of wokeness. It is white supremacy that then elevated this display of privilege into the dominating conversation on black female identity in America. It is white supremacy that decided that it was worth a book deal, national news coverage, and yes—even this interview.

And with that, the anger that I had toward her began to melt away. Dolezal is simply a white woman who cannot help but center herself in all that she does—including her fight for racial justice. 

Yes, You Can Measure White Privilege

White privilege does not mean that any white person who achieved anything didn’t work hard for it. It is an irrefutable, concrete phenomenon that manifests itself in real, measurable values, and we should use it as such.

Teaching While White

Over 80% of teachers in the U.S. are white. But most don’t know that their whiteness matters. TWW seeks to move the conversation forward on how to be consciously, intentionally, anti-racist in the classroom. Because “white” does not mean a blank slate. It is a set of assumptions that is the baseline from which everything is judged; it is what passes for normal. This means if you are not white or don’t adhere to those assumptions, you are abnormal or less than. TWW wants to have conversations about those assumptions: what they are, how they impact our students, and how we can confront our assumptions to promote racial literacy. 

Get Out of Gilead: Anti-Blackness in The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopia that is neither revolutionary nor liberatory. Writing a story about white supremacy with no Black characters, while using the erasure and exploitation of Black pain, is art that further silences and marginalizes Black women at its core. 

Prisons

Readings on the prison industry:

(Via https://nevaehtyler.tumblr.com/post/155641073386/this-is-important)

Labour

Addicts or not, workers don’t deserve public shaming 

So, let me boil this down for you: I’ve got more chance of being forced to piss in a cup for a drug test than to be given adequate bathroom and meal breaks as a hospitality employee. What does that tell you?

Environment

Could the Salish Sea Become Canada’s Next World Heritage Site?

Receding glacier causes immense Canadian river to vanish in four days First ever observed case of ‘river piracy’ saw the Slims river disappear as intense glacier melt suddenly diverted its flow into another watercourse

Miami’s fight against rising seas

“This would be no different than if I came to you and said ‘Hey, in 40 years, gravity’s going to change. I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to be. But let’s assume roughly between 50% and 80% stronger or weaker than it is now.’ You’d look around and say ‘Shoot, what’s that going to affect?’

“And the answer is: it affects everything.”

Science and Technology

Robots are racist and sexist. Just like the people who created them

Automation is a great excuse for assholery – after all, it’s just numbers, and the magic of “big data” can provide plausible deniability for prejudice. Machine learning, as the technologist Maciej Cegłowski observed, can function in this way as “money laundering” for bias.

When Robots Are An Instrument Of Male Desire

In the Spike Jonze movie Her, set in the near future, a man falls in love with his operating system, Samantha. She is essentially sapient and her ability to learn and cognitively develop is the equal of any human; she has desires, dreams, and consciousness. But she exists in a society where OSes like her are considered property, part of the furniture. Yet this ostensible romance movie does not once broach the issue of power and sexual consent; after all, if she’s legally an object, then could Sam ever say no to her would-be boyfriend without fear of reprisal?

That this is not even considered, in what is otherwise a touching and even somewhat feminist film, should make clear what assumptions we’re both taking on board as a society — assumptions that Silicon Valley is likely building into what will one day become a properly sapient AI. The service industry, already highly feminized in both fact and conventional wisdom, is made up of people who almost never have the right to say no, and virtual assistants who simply can’t are increasingly the model of the ideal service worker.

We tested bots like Siri and Alexa to see who would stand up to sexual harassment

Art + Design + Writing

Six More Canadian Trans Women Writers You Should Know

Welcome to the post-apocalyptic National Parks 

Useful!

Cultivating Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Just cool

Mother-daughter team attempt to traverse length of Coast Mountain range

The Real Story of That Giant Squash: Separating Myth from Reality Now I want to get hold of some seeds; this sounds delicious.

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