From the world pool: March 24th, 2018

black and white cat

The biggest thing this week that I saw was the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal. Lots of links for that, and lots else as well.

Socio-political commentary

Puerto Rico

‘We are the forgotten people’: It’s been almost six months since Hurricane Maria, and Puerto Ricans are still dying

The Battle For Paradise: Puerto Ricans and Ultrarich “Puertopians” Are Locked in a Pitched Struggle Over How to Remake the Island

Massol-González and his allies know well that they are not alone in seeing opportunity in the post-Maria moment. There is also another, very different version of how Puerto Rico should be radically remade after the storm, and it is being aggressively advanced by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in meetings with bankers, real estate developers, cryptocurrency traders, and, of course, the Financial Oversight and Management Board, an unelected seven-member body that exerts ultimate control over Puerto Rico’s economy.

For this powerful group, the lesson that Maria carried was not about the perils of economic dependency or austerity in times of climate disruption. The real problem, they argue, was the public ownership of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, which lacked the proper free-market incentives. Rather than transforming that infrastructure so that it truly serves the public interest, they argue for selling it off at fire-sale prices to private players.

This is just one part of a sweeping vision that sees Puerto Rico transforming itself into a “visitor economy,” one with a radically downsized state and many fewer Puerto Ricans living on the island. In their place would be tens of thousands of “high-net-worth individuals” from Europe, Asia, and the U.S. mainland, lured to permanently relocate by a cornucopia of tax breaks and the promise of living a five-star resort lifestyle inside fully privatized enclaves, year-round.


I’m sure there will be a lot more articles, but here’s a start.

Canadian politics

Weigh Anchor

With the BC Greens and NDP reaching an agreement to form government, the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline is up in the air. The expansion project could bring billions in new revenue, but it would also mean an increase in coast-to-port tanker traffic, and with that, an increased risk of oil spills. We follow a tanker as it threads the needle from Burnaby to the open ocean.

How to stop Kinder Morgan

The im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber is: De­ci­sions that mat­ter come down to pol­i­tics and eco­nomic­s. If you want to stop this stupid pipeline, the thing to do is to make it po­lit­i­cal­ly painful for its back­ers and eco­nom­i­cal­ly painful for its in­vestors. Then go back and do it again and again and again.

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook

‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower
A long read, but a fascinating one.

Two weeks later, on 27 February, as part of the same parliamentary inquiry, Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane, asked Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix: “Does any of the data come from Facebook?” Nix replied: “We do not work with Facebook data and we do not have Facebook data.”

And through it all, Wylie and I, plus a handful of editors and a small, international group of academics and researchers, have known that – at least in 2014 – that certainly wasn’t the case, because Wylie has the paper trail. In our first phone call, he told me he had the receipts, invoices, emails, legal letters – records that showed how, between June and August 2014, the profiles of more than 50 million Facebook users had been harvested. Most damning of all, he had a letter from Facebook’s own lawyers admitting that Cambridge Analytica had acquired the data illegitimately.

‘Utterly horrifying’: ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine

Asked what kind of control Facebook had over the data given to outside developers, he replied: “Zero. Absolutely none. Once the data left Facebook servers there was not any control, and there was no insight into what was going on.”

Parakilas said he “always assumed there was something of a black market” for Facebook data that had been passed to external developers. However, he said that when he told other executives the company should proactively “audit developers directly and see what’s going on with the data” he was discouraged from the approach.

He said one Facebook executive advised him against looking too deeply at how the data was being used, warning him: “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?” Parakilas said he interpreted the comment to mean that “Facebook was in a stronger legal position if it didn’t know about the abuse that was happening”.

He added: “They felt that it was better not to know. I found that utterly shocking and horrifying.”

These are two of a whole series of articles from the Guardian, some providing background, some news, and each one a must-read: see the Cambridge Analytica Files.

Facebook’s Surveillance Machine 

In 2014, Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling company that would later provide services for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, reached out with a request on Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk” platform, an online marketplace where people around the world contract with others to perform various tasks. Cambridge Analytica was looking for people who were American Facebook users. It offered to pay them to download and use a personality quiz app on Facebook called thisisyourdigitallife.

About 270,000 people installed the app in return for $1 to $2 per download. The app “scraped” information from their Facebook profiles as well as detailed information from their friends’ profiles. Facebook then provided all this data to the makers of the app, who in turn turned it over to Cambridge Analytica.

… Facebook doesn’t just record every click and “like” on the site. It also collects browsing histories. It also purchases “external” data like financial information about users (though European nations have some regulations that block some of this). Facebook recently announced its intent to merge “offline” data — things you do in the physical world, such as making purchases in a brick-and-mortar store — with its vast online databases.

Facebook even creates “shadow profiles” of nonusers. That is, even if you are not on Facebook, the company may well have compiled a profile of you, inferred from data provided by your friends or from other data. This is an involuntary dossier from which you cannot opt out in the United States.

Canada’s privacy watchdog launches investigation into Facebook after allegations of data leak  ‘If true, the allegations raise a major challenge for privacy rights,’ says Daniel Therrien

Other media

You Say Data, I Say System

In a quest to avoid the daunting spectre of bias, data visualization practitioners often style themselves as apolitical. However, the very process of visualization is necessarily a political one; as I’ve said for years to my students at NYU, the true medium of data visualization is not color or shape; it’s the decision.

Feminist/Racist/LGBTQIA issues

Because these articles belongs in all those categories.

The Anger of the White Male Lie

Somebody needs to stop telling these white boys that they can be anything they put their mind to.

I say that in jest. A lot. But I’m only half joking. Actually, I’m not joking at all. Somebody really does need to stop telling these white boys that they can be anything, and that they can have everything. Because it is not true, and it was never true, and we’re the ones who have to pay when they find that out.

Dear Michael Che, As a Black Woman, STFU

Something that stuck with me from watching Dave Chappelle perform live discussing his feelings about the backlash he got from his trans jokes was “when have people ever cared about black men’s feelings?” referencing Caitlyn’s whiteness. This part bothered me then and it bothers me now because it ignores, once again, women of color.

The trans women who are getting murdered the most in this country are not Caitlyn Jenner. They are black women.

The erasure of the black and brown trans woman experience when these comedians are sharing their jokes is intentional. Caitlyn as a white woman is a perfectly mockable figure because her connection to the Kardashians and being a Republican, but when you misgender Caitlyn the negative repercussions of those jokes will not hurt Caitlyn.

Indigenous Issues

A Short History of Sex-Based Inequities in the Indian Act

Reconciliation amid racism: Is it possible on the Prairies? 

“It’s not just up to governments to bring reconciliation. It’s not going to be bestowed by Ottawa. This is the handiwork of all of us,” FineDay said. “Canada needs to recognize that we aren’t who we think we are.”

Updated: No, we will not publish Gerald Stanley’s story (PDF)


Prisons and Justice

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner Promised a Criminal Justice Revolution. He’s Exceeding Expectations.


Postal-Service Workers Are Shouldering the Burden for Amazon 

“We welcome the work from Amazon, but we want to make sure we can serve the public without too much stress or injury on our employees,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, which represents USPS sorters and clerks. “And as of right now, we’re feeling it.”

The result of this refusal to adapt to higher package loads, Amanda said, has been strain and injury. Clerks in her often short-staffed station frequently reach the breaking point of exhaustion, storming off a work floor piled high with packages as managers try to get employees to work overtime or call in help from other stations.


B.C. is About to Become Last Place on West Coast to Allow Open-Net Fish Farms  This article says Washington state was considering banning farming Atlantic salmon in state waters; they now have.


March 16th: A forgotten hero stopped the My Lai massacre 50 years ago today

Then Thompson and his crew chief, Glenn Andreotta, and his gunner, Lawrence Colburn, “saw some civilians hiding in a bunker, cowering, looking out the door. Saw some advancing Americans coming that way. I just figured it was time to do something, to not let these people get killed. Landed the aircraft in between the Americans and the Vietnamese, told my crew chief and gunner to cover me, got out of the aircraft, went over to the American side.”

What happened next was one of the most remarkable events of the entire war, and perhaps unique: Thompson told the American troops that, if they opened fire on the Vietnamese civilians in the bunker, he and his crew would open fire on them.

Art + Design + Writing

Reparations by Design

In order to celebrate restorative design, we must first recognize that designers have at times adopted and promoted a widespread attitude of assuaging correctness. The uses and abuses of buzzwords like “green,” “sustainable,” “organic,” and “aware,” to name a few, have been culpable in producing an illusion of participation in reparative measures toward the planet. Yet goodwill and provisional approaches—much like Dr. Haber’s—are no longer effective. It is time for designers to start building comprehensive reparations into objects and concepts.

Kimika Hara Really, really cool embroidery.

Matt Adrian: bird paintings LOOK AT THE TITLES OF THEM.

Science and Tech

12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech

Technology isn’t an industry, it’s a method of transforming the culture and economics of existing systems and institutions. That can be a little bit hard to understand if we only judge tech as a set of consumer products that we purchase. But tech goes a lot deeper than the phones in our hands, and we must understand some fundamental shifts in society if we’re going to make good decisions about the way tech companies shape our lives—and especially if we want to influence the people who actually make technology.


People are Knowledge

People are Knowledge is a film made during the course of a research project that explored how alternate methods of citation could be employed on Wikipedia. The film documents a series of specific situations with regards to published knowledge, and, subsequently, with oral citations.

Quote of the week

It’s not some boogeyman, some nameless face behind a keyboard; it’s your neighbour, it is the person you are shopping next to in the grocery store.

Max FineDay, Canadian Roots Exchange, on racism

Just cool


Parahawking is paragliding with a trained bird of prey. It was pioneered in Pokhara, Nepal by renowned bird trainer and paraglider, Scott Mason. Now based in Algodonales, southern Spain, birds of prey such as American Black Vultures are trained as part of an award winning enrichment program, to fly with paragliders and, by using their incredible ability to conserve energy, can guide the paragliders to the best thermals. They will then land on the passengers gloved hand for an inflight reward. Parahawking is a perfect mix of adventure, eco-tourism and conservation. A Parahawking Tandem Experience is more than just a paragliding flight with a trained bird, it’s an education into vultures and the problems they face in the wild. Proceeds from Parahawking tandem flights go directly towards vulture conservation projects.

Just for fun

I’m afraid this may hurt your head a little.

Poem: I lik the form  I’m… boggled by how this works three ways. (If you don’t know what bredlik poetry is, here’s an explanation.)

House for sale: MY EYES

Comments are closed.

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: