From the World Pool: November 4, 2017

It’s been a rough couple of months, so I’m only now getting back to actually trying to blog. Apart from all the photos I have, there’s a considerable backlog in my World Pool box. Here’s a start. Some of it’s a bit depressing (okay, a whole lot depressing) but some of it is actually good news (Kinder Morgan!) and I’ve tried to leaven it as much as possible.

Socio-political commentary

US politics

Stop Trying To Feel Good About Trump Supporters And Get To Work

It should not be shocking to you that a White Supremacist at a Trump rally would get his picture taken with a black man. It should not seem revelatory that a White Supremacist at a Trump rally would let a black man hold his kid. Trump supporters are not evil monsters. They are human beings. And human beings are capable of having black friends, even black spouses, and still voting for policies that get black people killed. Human beings are capable of taking a friendly photo with a black stranger one minute, and explaining why Trayvon Martin deserved to die in the next. And that should not make you feel good. It should not give you hope. It should scare the fuck out of you.

Canadian politics

Court of appeal rules against Kinder Morgan, federal government on existing Trans Mountain pipeline

Social Media

Facebook Enabled Advertisers to Reach ‘Jew Haters’

Want to market Nazi memorabilia, or recruit marchers for a far-right rally? Facebook’s self-service ad-buying platform had the right audience for you. 

Until this week, when we asked Facebook about it, the world’s largest social network enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” or, “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’”

To test if these ad categories were real, we paid $30 to target those groups with three “promoted posts” — in which a ProPublica article or post was displayed in their news feeds. Facebook approved all three ads within 15 minutes.

After we contacted Facebook, it removed the anti-Semitic categories — which were created by an algorithm rather than by people — and said it would explore ways to fix the problem, such as limiting the number of categories available or scrutinizing them before they are displayed to buyers.

Facebook’s Ad Scandal Isn’t a ‘Fail,’ It’s a Feature 

…anyone who understands how Facebook works shouldn’t have been surprised. That’s because the same digital platform that offers us social interaction, news, entertainment and shopping all in one place makes its money by making it cheap and easy to send us commercial or political messages, often guided by algorithms. The recent scandal is just a reminder.

… Here’s the hard truth: All these problems are structural. Facebook is approaching half-a-trillion dollars in market capitalization because the business model — ad-targeting through deep surveillance, emaciated work force, automation and the use of algorithms to find and highlight content that entice people to stay on the site or click on ads or share pay-for-play messages — works.

The trouble is Facebook’s business model is structurally identical whether advertisers are selling shoes, politics or fake diet pills, and whether they’re going after new moms, dog lovers or neo-Nazis. The algorithms don’t know the difference, and Facebook’s customers are not its users.

Obama tried to give Zuckerberg a wake-up call over fake news on Facebook

Exclusive: Facebook Silences Rohingya Reports of Ethnic Cleansing

Triage: How hundreds of women mobilized to become the unsung heroes behind Hurricane Harvey rescues — and what can be learned from their efforts. This is a remarkable article, partly because of what it tells you about the human stories of the disaster, but partly because of how it shows ordinary people can now band together to help.

Related: Born Out Of The Chaos Of Hurricane Harvey, The American Black Cross Is Reinventing Disaster Relief

The American Black Cross (ABC) reports that it’s delivered around 400,000 pounds of emergency supplies, which small donors mainly purchase and ship via Amazon, to victims of hurricane Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida. Plans are under way to reach Puerto Rico by next week, where Hurricane Maria wreaked astounding damage, and later the U.S. Virgin Islands. There’s also some talk of projects in California, where wildfires are incinerating the landscape.

Feminist issues

The Intersectional Presidency

At least a dozen times a week a social media account with a MAGA slogan in its bio hurls “social justice warrior” and “intersectional feminist” at me with the heat of the n-word emblazoned on a thousand suns. In the bowels of white nationalist websites where an entirely new vocabulary has been created to identify, target, and delegitimize women and minorities, “intersectional feminist” has the patina of a hate word.

It is a strange thing. An academic theory, a way to understand our social world, has become shorthand for the deep-seated rage that white voters, perhaps especially men, feel at their perceived victimization. Some survey data find that a majority of white people think that the only real racism that exists anymore is racism against white people. For those who embody that grievance, intersectional feminism is slang for all that is wrong with U.S. culture.

That is why it is a most elegant twist of fate that few groups need intersectionality more than aggrieved white men and the professional intellectual class seeking to understand how they elected Donald Trump President of the United States of America.

LGBTQIA issues

This could also be filed under Labour. Organizing Baristas in Halifax Cafes: Precarious Work and Gender and Class Identities in the Millennial Generation

We argue that the barista union drive in Halifax illustrates a framework for understanding how gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation inform unjust experiences in precarious workplaces and strategies for confronting them. A gendered analysis of the barista union drives underscores the importance of organized labor’s outreach to young workers and, further, that engaging with workers with attention to intersectionality is an important organizational strategy.

Racism and Civil Rights

Whites Have Huge Wealth Edge Over Blacks (but Don’t Know It)

“It’s very difficult to consider the possibility that some of what we’ve achieved or gained is due to forces that aren’t our own individual hard work,” Ms. Richeson said. “That’s hard to grapple with, especially in American society. We really believe in egalitarianism and meritocracy.”

These findings suggest that the motivation to see the world as fair may be even stronger in this context than stereotypes white Americans hold, for instance, equating blacks with poverty.

White Privilege: “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” and “Some Notes for Facilitators” 

Indigenous Issues

Children of the Poisoned River  Should also be listed under Environmental issues.

Ninety per cent of the population in Grassy Narrows experiences symptoms of mercury poisoning, which include neurological problems ranging from numbness in fingers and toes to seizures and cognitive delays, according to a recent study by mercury specialists. Then there’s the psychological stress of seeing your friends and family stricken with these problems.

But health services are limited to a small nursing station, and mental health counselling on the reserve is nearly non-existent.

…The disability board was established in 1986 as part of a court settlement with Ontario and Canada and the two paper companies involved in the contamination. Neither the companies, the governments nor the disability board has ever admitted that anyone at Grassy Narrows has been poisoned — only that some people experience symptoms of Minamata disease.

Justice and Policing

Shock Tactics: Inside the Taser, the weapon that transformed policing.  Note especially Part 3, How Taser inserts itself into investigations involving its own weapons

Taser International has defended the safety of its stun guns by spending millions on studies and forging close ties with police, medical examiners and consultants. When someone dies after an altercation involving a Taser, the manufacturer is quick to offer guidance to investigators, Reuters found.

Taser says its weapons don’t kill people, so Reuters built a massive database of 1000+ Taser deaths


Why Canada’s endangered species are declining faster than ever 

Group taking action on increased freighter anchorages around Thetis Island 


In Real Life

Mary Oliver

Art + Design + Writing

Etiyé Dimma Poulsen

Susanna Bauer

Olga Wisinger-Florian 

Jill Kerr. Oo, I especially like this one.

Artist Tightly Rolls Newspaper to Craft Incredibly Detailed Animal Sculptures This is all about Chie Hitotsuyama  and this video shows some of her process.

What Richard Dawkins could learn from Goldilocks and the Three Bears

…As she was sleeping, the three bears came home. They did not say, “Someone’s been eating my porridge,” or “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed”, because bears can only speak bear.

They did what bears do. They ate her. And they lived happily ever after.

There are many people who believe this is the proper way to tell a fairy story. With facts. Because facts are true, and a fact-based education will, according to the British government, be far more useful at helping you to get a job once you’ve graduated from university.

Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, agrees. He announced a few years ago that most fairytales do not stand up to scientific scrutiny. “There’s a very interesting reason why a princess could not turn into a frog,” he said. “It’s statistically too improbable.”

Fairytales are dangerous, Dawkins believes. Parents “should be fostering in children a spirit of scepticism instead of filling their heads with fantasy”. Children’s imaginations are dangerous.

… At the start of every amazing story – literary or scientific – is a person with enough imagination to ask a good question. A physicist might ask: “What makes up all that empty space in the universe?” A geneticist might ask: “Is there a different way to cure cancer?” A science fiction writer might ask: “What do creatures in another galaxy look like?” You or I might ask: “Will anyone ever want to have sex with me?” or “How can I live in a world where Donald Trump is president?”

…One of the best ways to start answering questions such as “who am I?” and “what can I do in the world?” is to read books.


The Most Epic Moving Checklist in the History of Moving

Just cool

This mural was painted upside down to reflect off of the water

Grow your own furniture using fungus

He makes prosthetics for kids in his shed. For free.

‘Fancy believing in the Goblin King.’ 

Just for fun

Penguin falls down resulting in best sound ever

Nothing else matters You may have to click on the auto-playing video to turn on the sound.

65,000 people singing Bohemian Rhapsody.  But the really interesting part of this is in the comments.

“My music lover, sweet child” You may have to click on the auto-playing video to turn on the sound.

Become as gods

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