From the world pool: July 28, 2018

It’s hot, hot, hot, so I’m in the coolest room in the house putting together a world pool house. 

Socio-political commentary

US politics

From ‘alternative facts’ to rewriting history

We mapped out the road to gender parity in the House of Representatives Very cool, informative infographics.

Canadian politics

Inside Tuscan: the other no-fly list Canada didn’t tell you about

Tuscan is generated and maintained entirely by the US, but if you’re included on the list you could be refused entry to Canada, or have your Canadian visa or immigration application denied. And, unlike Canada’s official no-fly list, Tuscan offers no clear process to remove your name if you think you have been added in error.

Is the Oil Industry Canada’s ‘Deep State’?

“When we’re talking about a ‘deep state,’ it’s usually when supposedly democratic institutions and the will of the people is being replaced by the will of special interests,” he observes. “And I think if you look at the development of environmental policy in this country, the oil industry is so powerful, their influence is so pervasive that I think it’s fair to call it a deep state.”


Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media

‘Crisis of Trust’: Poll Finds People Living in Democracies Think Governments Aren’t Acting in Public Interest


How Corporations Convinced Us Personality Tests Are Super Fun

As my scrolls through anonymous internet forums revealed, I am not alone in identifying myself with my results on these personality tests. We allow these psychological categories, derived from personality tests, to tell us truths about ourselves. Yes, I do prefer small groups to large parties; that explains why my partner and I fight about plans, or why my boss drives me crazy. Even as we understand ourselves through their categories, our relationship to personality tests is thoroughly mediated through the technological and economic infrastructures of corporations. Personality tests, and their claims to reveal our deepest psyche, have always been bound up in politics and business.

Feminist issues

When Women are the Enemy: The Intersection of Misogyny and White Supremacy

Every day, as virulent white supremacists make their hatred known, we immediately and rightly call them extremists. We have not been nearly as unequivocal in our condemnation when it comes to men who express violent anger toward and loathing for women.

In fact, these groups warrant a side by side examination. There is a robust symbiosis between misogyny and white supremacy; the two ideologies are powerfully intertwined. While not all misogynists are racists, and not every white supremacist is a misogynist, a deep-seated loathing of women acts as a connective tissue between many white supremacists, especially those in the alt right, and their lesser-known brothers in hate like incels (involuntary celibates), MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists) and PUAs (Pick Up Artists).

This cross-pollination means the largely anonymous outrage of the men’s rights arena acts as a bridge to the white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideology of the alt right. After all, it’s not a huge leap from “women’s quest for equal rights threatens my stature as a man” to “minorities’ and women’s quests for equal rights threaten my stature as a white man.”

It also means that to fully comprehend either white supremacy or misogyny, we have to attempt to understand both.

Are Gender Differences Just Power Differences in Disguise?

Harassment and Bullying

Digital PTSD is real  Journalists covering the alt-right are experiencing the debilitating effects of online harassment and violent imagery.

For many journalists, covering the far-right doesn’t just mean exposure to disturbing imagery. It can also entail becoming a direct target of harassment. Last month, a list of supposed anti-fascists in Charlottesville compiled by a Neo-Nazi was released online. The list, which appeared to be released for the purpose of intimidation and harassment, included the names of 650 people. Various journalists ended up on the list, including myself, Moskowitz, and Schiano. Finding my name on it was immediately jarring, and made me concerned about my ability to cover protests on the ground.

LGBTQIA issues

How I Broke, and Botched, the Brandon Teena Story

On December 31, 1993, a 21-year-old trans man named Brandon Teena was shot and stabbed to death near Falls City, Nebraska, by two other young men because he was trans. A week earlier, they had raped and brutally battered him.

I wrote about it at the time in a long, reported feature for the Voice that introduced Brandon Teena’s story to a broad audience, and helped to galvanize the cultural conversation about trans people. After moving to Falls City from his hometown of Lincoln, Brandon met a 19-year-old woman named Lana Tisdel and swept her off her feet. But a week after he was arrested on a check-forging charge, local police revealed his birth gender in the newspaper. A few days later, Tisdel’s friends John Lotter (Tisdel’s ex-boyfriend) and Tom Nissen forcibly stripped Brandon and forced Tisdel to look at his genitals; then they kidnapped, raped, and beat him, and subsequently killed him.

Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce told me in a recent interview that my article had been the major inspiration for her film about Brandon’s life and murder: “Your article was on fire. I read it and I fell in love with Brandon. It made me love his vulnerability, his daring, his innocence, the way that he gave pleasure sexually. I was in love with this person who had shaped himself.”

It also proved to be the most insensitive and inaccurate piece of journalism I have ever written.

Racism, Civil Rights, and White Supremacy

A Sociologist Examines the “White Fragility” That Prevents White Americans from Confronting Racism

In more than twenty years of running diversity-training and cultural-competency workshops for American companies, the academic and educator Robin DiAngelo has noticed that white people are sensationally, histrionically bad at discussing racism. Like waves on sand, their reactions form predictable patterns: they will insist that they “were taught to treat everyone the same,” that they are “color-blind,” that they “don’t care if you are pink, purple, or polka-dotted.” They will point to friends and family members of color, a history of civil-rights activism, or a more “salient” issue, such as class or gender. They will shout and bluster. They will cry. In 2011, DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility” to describe the disbelieving defensiveness that white people exhibit when their ideas about race and racism are challenged—and particularly when they feel implicated in white supremacy. Why, she wondered, did her feedback prompt such resistance, as if the mention of racism were more offensive than the fact or practice of it?

And a taste of DiAngelo’s writing: How White People Handle Diversity Training in the Workplace

Still, white people tend to be more receptive to my presentation as long as it remains abstract. The moment I name some racially problematic dynamic or action happening in the room in the moment — for example, “Sharon, may I give you some feedback? While I understand it wasn’t intentional, your response to Jason’s story invalidates his experience as a black man” — white fragility erupts. Sharon defensively explains that she was misunderstood and then angrily withdraws, while others run in to defend her by reexplaining “what she really meant.” The point of the feedback is now lost, and hours must be spent repairing this perceived breach. And, of course, no one appears concerned about Jason. Shaking my head, I think to myself, “You asked me here to help you see your racism, but by god, I’d better not actually help you see your racism.”

They Played Dominoes Outside Their Apartment For Decades. Then The White People Moved In And Police Started Showing Up. 

How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

In short, there is a difference between finding genetic differences between individuals and constructing genetic differences across groups by making conscious choices about which types of group matter for your purposes. These sorts of groups do not exist “in nature.” They are made by human choice. This is not to say that such groups have no biological attributes in common. Rather, it is to say that the meaning and significance of the groups is produced through social interventions.

This is what it’s like

The Holocaust Analogy

If children like Yanela are only visible through the attempt to imagine our own children being stolen and our own families being ripped apart, we become able to pretend that routine dehumanization is not a familiar and foundational aspect of American racism, which then becomes invisible. Because white racialized seeing is largely trained to focus on a single issue at a time, it sees and protests detained Central American migrant children while failing to see and protest against the quotidian practice of holding non-white children in juvenile detention.

How the resurgence of white supremacy in the US sparked a war over free speech Sounds like some of the ACLU has read up on paradox of tolerance and some hasn’t.

Economics and Capitalism

How tech’s richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse

Which region will be less affected by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked: “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the Event?”

The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr Robot hack that takes everything down.

This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers – if that technology could be developed in time.

That’s when it hit me: at least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology. Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the ageing process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape.

Generation wealth: how the modern world fell in love with money

Greenfield introduces us to characters all motivated by the accumulation of wealth. “No matter how much people had, they still wanted more,” Greenfield says of her subjects. We meet Florian Homm, a hedge fund manager living in self-imposed exile in Germany to avoid extradition to the US where he has been sentenced to 225 years in jail. Smoking cigars and dripping in gold, Homm, who became known as “the antichrist of finance” for ripping off his investors for hundreds of millions of dollars, tells Greenfield that morality changed in the 80s. “The value system changed completely. It wasn’t about who you are, but about what you are worth… Morals are completely non-productive in that value system.”

The Libertarian Who Accidentally Helped Make the Case for Regulation

Alex Tabarrok is no one’s idea of a big-government liberal. A libertarian economist at George Mason University, he’s best known for cofounding Marginal Revolution, one of the most popular economics blogs on the internet. A deep skeptic of government bureaucracies, he has written favorably of private prisons, private airports, and even private cities.

That’s why a study he co-published earlier this year is so noteworthy. When Tabarrok and his former grad student Nathan Goldschlag set out to measure how federal regulations impact business growth, they were sure they’d find proof that regulations were dragging down the economy. But they didn’t. No matter how they sliced the data, they could find no evidence that federal regulation was bad for business.


Underpaid and exhausted: the human cost of your Kindle

Dozens of workers are arriving, casually dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Most are young and there is a good mixture of women and men. Ahead of them lies a 60-hour week, eight regular hours for five days, plus two more of overtime each day and another 10 on Saturday. They will be expected to hit tough targets and must ask permission to use the toilets. The overtime – up to 80 hours a month – is far in excess of the 36 hours stipulated in Chinese labour laws, but companies can and do seek exemptions and workers want the overtime, to boost their basic pay.

… The Foxconn factory in Hengyang relies on the tried and tested formula of low wages and long hours. But here there is another element: the extensive use of agency workers who don’t have the security of a regular job. These employees – known as dispatch workers in China – are hired in from labour companies as an off-the-shelf workforce. They are generally slightly better-paid than permanent members of staff, but they get no sick pay or holiday pay and can be laid off without any pay at all during quiet months when production drops off. In some ways they resemble the Amazon products they are making: wanted one day and discarded the next.

Urban Planning

Andy Yan, the analyst who exposed Vancouver’s real estate disaster

Nowadays he’s the director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, and while he’s too modest to boast about it, along the way he’s picked up a couple of exceedingly rare civic distinctions.

The first is the enduring enmity of all the politicians, real estate speculators, white-collar currency pirates and money launderers who have turned Vancouver into a global swindler’s paradise for real estate racketeering, a city that is now also one of the world’s most hopelessly pathetic urban landscapes of housing affordability. The second thing Yan has earned is an unfettered and unimpeachable right to say “I told you so.”

Post-Narco Urbanism

In 1995 the Medellín Metro opened, linking parts of the previously fragmented city. The richest southern district was now easily connected with the poor comunas to the north. Worried that cartels might target this new transit infrastructure, but knowing many were also Catholic, the city placed statues of the Virgin Mary at each stop.

To complement the metro, the city built something else: an innovative system of cable cars that went right up the steep mountainsides to link the comunas to the rest of the city. And this made a huge difference. It had once taken people in the comunas over an hour to get to the city center. Now it took fifteen to twenty minutes. Before, people in the comunas used to say “I need to go to Medellin to run an errand.” Now they felt like they were part of Medellin, like they belonged.

There were other investments in the comunas too. The city built big public libraries, parks, soccer fields, job training centers, and health clinics. In a way, Medellin’s big innovation was to tackle crime and violence not through more policing but through urban planning, infrastructure, and social programs. They invested in the neighborhoods that had been the most isolated, and where the cartels had previously had the most success recruiting members.

And the city started to change. Commute times dropped, soccer fields stayed lit up into the night, the city built inviting new outdoor spaces, and the streets became busy again.

And along with all these changes, the murder rate plummeted by ninety percent from its peak in 1991 to today.


In India, Summer Heat May Soon Be Literally Unbearable We have seen nothing like the destabilizing mass migrations that are coming if this happens.

Indeed, a recent analysis of climate trends in several of South Asia’s biggest cities found that if current warming trends continued, by the end of the century, wet bulb temperatures — a measure of heat and humidity that can indicate the point when the body can no longer cool itself — would be so high that people directly exposed for six hours or more would not survive.

Riddle of the sands: the truth behind stolen beaches and dredged islands

No one knows how much damage is being done to the environment because sand extraction is a largely hidden threat, under-researched and often happening in isolated places. “We are addicted to sand but don’t know it because we don’t buy it as individuals,” says Aurora Torres, a Spanish ecologist who is studying the effects of global sand extraction at Germany’s Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research. “Extraction has grown strongly over the past four decades and has accelerated since 2000. Urban development is putting more and more strain on limited accessible deposits, causing conflict around the world. Sand dredging degrades corals, seaweeds and seagrass meadows and is a driver of biodiversity loss, threatening species already on the verge of extinction. Our consumption of sand is outstripping our understanding of its environmental and social effects.”

… From Jamaica to Morocco to India and Indonesia, sand mafias ruin habitats, remove whole beaches by truck in a single night and pollute farmlands and fishing grounds. Those who get in their way – environmentalists, journalists or honest policemen – face intimidation, injury and even death. “It’s very attractive for these sand mafias,” says Torres, who is one of the few academics studying this Cinderella issue – overshadowed as it is by climate change, plastic pollution and other environmental threats. “Sand has become very profitable in a short time, which makes for a healthy black market.”

2018 Seamount Expedition  Watch the highlight videos!

From July 5-21, 2018, the Haida Nation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Oceana Canada, and Ocean Networks Canada embarked on an expedition to explore seamounts near the islands of Haida Gwaii in the northeast Pacific Ocean off the coast of British Columbia.

The expedition team spent 16 days on board Ocean Exploration Trust’s state-of-the-art vessel, Nautilus, equipped with two remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) Hercules and Argus, and a multi-beam echosounder used for seafloor mapping.

All known seamounts located in Canadian waters are found off the coast of British Columbia, near the islands of Haida Gwaii. This expedition surveyed three of them: SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie, Dellwood and Explorer.

The ROVs installed long-term ocean monitoring instruments on Dellwood and collected scientific data and samples as well as established monitoring sites on all three seamounts. In addition, high-definition video was captured by the ROVs and streamed in real time online to share with the world.

Science and Technology

Amazing algae blooms in satellite images

Interactive 3D model of Columbia, the command center for Apollo 11.  SO COOL.

You want to know something about how bullshit insane our brains are?

Rise of the machines: has technology evolved beyond our control?

Technology is starting to behave in intelligent and unpredictable ways that even its creators don’t understand. As machines increasingly shape global events, how can we regain control?

…Flash crashes are now a recognised feature of augmented markets, but are still poorly understood. In October 2016, algorithms reacted to negative news headlines about Brexit negotiations by sending the pound down 6% against the dollar in under two minutes, before recovering almost immediately. Knowing which particular headline, or which particular algorithm, caused the crash is next to impossible. When one haywire algorithm started placing and cancelling orders that ate up 4% of all traffic in US stocks in October 2012, one commentator was moved to comment wryly that “the motive of the algorithm is still unclear”.

Art + Design + Writing


Embroidered Minds Epilepsy Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Somehow I didn’t get this into the last world pool post. Leslie was a friend of mine—we went through art school together—and this is a wonderful tribute to her, as well as an important work on its own. The garden took a silver gilt award: congratulations to Andrew and the others involved!

More here on the garden and an interview about Leslie with Andrew here.

Check out more about Embroidered Minds projects here.

Ella & Pitr

How to spot a perfect fake: the world’s top art forgery detective

Keiko Masumoto Plus an article and a video from a gallery opening.


Waiting for Happiness


The impact of the ‘open’ workspace on human collaboration I am SO not surprised by this.

In short, rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM. 

Why analogue design still endures


The complicated truth about a cat’s purr

Why stressed minds are more decisive


This is absolutely fascinating. I learned about the Stanford Prison Experiment in the 70s in a psych class. And I guess it was all wrong. The Lifespan of a Lie 

I’m sorry, I have to make fun of this

Industry Insights  My golly, the jargon-babble. I had no idea that some meat eaters ate fruit and vegetables, did you? Or that they were a movement!

Another phenomenon called the flexitarian movement which is associated with meat-eating consumers who increasingly identifying themselves as fruits & vegetable consumers as well.

Just cool

Dog Photographer Of The Year

Just for fun

Spite buildings: when human grudges get architectural – in pictures

They’re good dogs, Brent. Now making a perfect circle. (click on individual pictures in the tweet)

Mass gathering of golden retrievers in Highlands Oh, how I would have liked to be there. THEY’RE ALL GOOD DOGS

This is… amazing, and a little frightening. A Tadpole Bigger Than a Can of Soda

The race is on. I—well. This is such a golden retriever.

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