The Roundup for June 2-8, 2018 Edition

A New Light by Christopher Parsons

It’s one day after the 2018 Ontario provincial election. The winning party ran on a semi-platform that is designed to actively undermine the province’s climate change reforms, dismisses the importance of raising the minimum wage, and is actively hostile to efforts to improve sexual education. In the stead of these values, the party asserted they would reduce the cost of beer, reduce taxes, reduce energy costs, and otherwise work to promote ‘business friendly’ policies. The ways in which these values and objectives would be reached were never explained in a rigorous and methodical way: people voted for values and out of anger at the former governing party.

On days like today, it’s easy for progressives to get upset, angry, and/or depressed. But such emotions are reflections of our own dark and often unproductive states of mind. While a government can significantly affect the policy landscape, damage can be undone and most harms repaired or remediated. Instead of falling into dark states of mind, we are in a time when it is essential to evaluate where we can contribute to our societies and advance the values that we think with enhance our lives, and the lives of those around and affected by us. To promote a more progressive society we might actively promote, support, and elevate the roles of persons of colour, indigenous persons, and women in our communities so that they are better situated to accomplish their personal and professional goals. We might volunteer for causes that are important for progressive politics. We might even actively work to support a political candidate or party that didn’t accomplish the results we wanted.

In effect, it’s during times of change that it makes the most sense to get actively involved in our world, to influence the persons and organizations we’re involved with, and seek to effect change that extends and supports civil rights protections and equality amongst all people. Now is not the time for getting angry, per se, nor the time to lay down and wait for the next four years. No, if anything, today is just like yesterday, and is just like tomorrow should be: it’s a day to actively work towards improving the communities we find ourselves within so as to ensure that all persons enjoy equal rights and are able to thrive in their personal and professional lives.


I absolutely am floored by the reality that Anthony Bourdain killed himself in a hotel room. I’ve watched him from afar for many years, as so many have, and I’ve always appreciated the vigour and honesty that he projected in his public life. His frank discussions about troubled pasts and the difficulties people face everywhere around the world, and how North American and European activities endanger the lives and wellbeing of persons everywhere else in the world, were and remain important assertions and lessons. But rather than remembering him most for his travels I think I’ll remember him for the positions he unwaveringly took in the face of bad actions. His essay on #metoo struck me as particularly powerful, and specifically the paragraph where he wrote:

In these current circumstances, one must pick a side. I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women. Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage — as much as I’d like to say so — but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories. I am grateful to them for their courage, and inspired by them. That doesn’t make me any more enlightened than any other man who has begun listening and paying attention. It does makes me, I hope, slightly less stupid.

This was the kind of language and public assertion that needs to be made. Bourdain himself was a deeply flawed individual, and he at least presented the image of someone who was trying to work through those flaws and present them as things that can overcome in the course of life. However, while those facets might be worn down over time they were unlikely to ever be entirely eliminated. Rather than showcasing himself as having overcome his past he, instead, presented himself as a man involved in an ongoing narrative, without a clear conclusion, but with an intent to rectify and avoid the sins of his past. There are far worse narratives to carry us through our lives.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

  • Jack Layton

Great Photography Shots

These aerial shots of Buddhist temples in Myanmar by Dimitar Karanikolov are stunning.

Music I’m Digging

Max Richter-Sleep (Remixes)

Art I Want

Di•a•graph•i•a by Sarah Hulsey

 

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Things

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How sexism and bigotry won Donald Trump the presidency

This election is already being spun as “voter backlash,” as if the most widely touted legislative policies and court decisions over the last eight years – the Affordable Care Act, same-sex marriage, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – don’t say something about the people who wish to reverse them. There will soon be conversations about the transformation of the American electoral landscape which dance around the deliberate naming of sexism and bigotry as the proximate cause for nearly causing President-elect Donald Trump. All of this misses the point unless that darker urge in American politics is finally identified and examined.

That urge to halt progress, to let people who traditionally have not held power know their proper place in the hierarchy, is a familiar one. That a man as unpopular, temperamental, and inexperienced as Donald Trump could pull this off speaks not only to the inevitability of this cycle, but to the fact that even the worst possible candidate can be the best possible President when the mood is right.

God help us all.

The implications of this election are entirely unknowable: America has done something that is practically unthinkable. Everyone who examines and advocates for policies, regardless of political stripe or interest, has no idea what is going to follow. And it’s not evident that the lack of stability is a problem given that a significant swathe of Americans have given a mandate to a man who possesses a resevoir of ideology and, at best, a thimble of policy prescriptions.

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WikiLeaks Isn’t Whistleblowing

Mass data releases, like the Podesta emails, conflate things that the public has a right to know with things we have no business knowing, with a lot of material in the middle about things we may be curious about and may be of some historical interest, but should not be released in this manner.

All campaigns need to have internal discussions. Taking one campaign manager’s email account and releasing it with zero curation in the last month of an election needs to be treated as what it is: political sabotage, not whistle-blowing.

These hacks also function as a form of censorship. Once, censorship worked by blocking crucial pieces of information. In this era of information overload, censorship works by drowning us in too much undifferentiated information, crippling our ability to focus. These dumps, combined with the news media’s obsession with campaign trivia and gossip, have resulted in whistle-drowning, rather than whistle-blowing: In a sea of so many whistles blowing so loud, we cannot hear a single one.

This is one of the best arguments against the recent activities of Wikileaks. Not because Wikileaks is operating as a front for Russia. Not because the contents of the recent leaks aren’t newsworthy. Not because the public doesn’t find the revelations to be interesting and fun.

No, the core issue with the latest rafts of leaks is that they were not sufficiently currated, with the impact being that obstensibly private information is taken and circulated and mischaracterized. This has the effect of stunting the electoral process while, simultaneously, reconfirming to persons in power that they need to adopt a culture of oral communications and decisions. This is not a governance direction that is in the public’s best interests.

However, it’s important to also situate Wikileaks’ activities in some context. Wikileaks is designed to clog up the machinery of government states and bureaucracies. Part of its mission is to scare organizations with the threat of leaks in an effort to hinder what Julian Assange/Wikileaks regards as harmful or objectional activities. So the leaks associated with the DNC and staff affiliated with Clinton are perfectly aligned with Wikileaks’ raison d’être. In the past such activities may have been regarded are more legitimate – the organization was principally focused on state level activities – but it is now focused on deliberately releasing information at core points in an electoral cycle. Doing so may have affected the unfolding of the election but it’s important to acknowledge that Wikileaks’ intent was not driven by Russia (presuming that was a source of at least some of the leaked information): instead, this was a case where Russian and Wikileaks just happened to have directly overlapping objectives.

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Donald Trump’s companies destroyed or hid documents in defiance of court orders

Newsweek:

Trump’s use of deception and untruthful affidavits, as well as the hiding or improper destruction of documents, dates back to at least 1973, when the Republican nominee, his father and their real estate company battled the federal government over civil charges that they refused to rent apartments to African-Americans. The Trump strategy was simple: deny, impede and delay, while destroying documents the court had ordered them to hand over.

Shortly after the government filed its case in October, Trump attacked: He falsely declared to reporters that the feds had no evidence he and his father discriminated against minorities, but instead were attempting to force them to lease to welfare recipients who couldn’t pay their rent.

The debates about who had hidden the most, and the significance of such hiding, continues unabated in the American election…

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Trump’s Empire: A Maze of Debts and Opaque Ties

New York Times:

Tracing the ownership of many of Mr. Trump’s buildings can be a complicated task. Sometimes he owns a building and the land underneath it; sometimes, he holds a partial interest or just the commercial portion of a property.

And in some cases, the identities of his business partners are obscured behind limited liability companies — raising the prospect of a president with unknown business ties.

A revealing analysis of Trump’s actual financial situation.

Online Voting Continues to Rear Its Ugly Head

From an editorial in the Cape Breton Post:

Elections Nova Scotia also touts “a dozen ways to vote.” But that’s a little misleading. Nine of those “ways” involve a write-in ballot.

Conspicuously, none include electronic voting. The significance of Doiron’s claim that Elections Nova Scotia’s changes will make it easier for people to vote fizzles when we consider the fact that electronic voting allows people to vote from virtually anywhere.

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality successfully implemented e-voting during the last round of municipal elections in 2012, with 26,949 — or 32.8 per cent — of CBRM electors voting electronically.

And as Postmedia News recently reported, Elections Canada has been touting Internet voting since 2008, although budget cuts put the kibosh on plans to introduce online voting in byelections held this year. But at least Elections Canada acknowledges the potential value of e-voting.

So, what are the chances of an elector voting electronically in a provincial election anytime soon?

“The registration and voting and the security — maintaining the integrity of the election — is still a very tricky game,” Doiron told the Globe and Mail. “And that’s one of the reasons that no provincial or federal authority has online voting yet because it’s just not secure enough for the kind of integrity we have to deliver.”

The CBRM had e-voting success. And at the federal level, barriers to implementing electronic voting seem to be more fiscal in nature than about security.

I’m curious as to how the author of this opinion piece concludes that fiscal issues are more significant than security issues. I presume that they are referring to Elections Canada’s decision to scrap an e-vote test, but despite not running the test the federal agency recognized that security was an issue with online voting.

These security challenges have been highlighted repeatedly: a recent election in Nova Scotia used online voting, and officials cannot guarantee that votes were recorded properly based on significant technical deficits. Similarly, voting events during the NDP Leadership election in 2012 suffered from third-party interference, which ultimately caused people to not vote. Moreover, even if the servers that recorded votes in both situations were secured all of the intermediary systems were not; consequently it is functionally impossible to assert that the malware-ridden computers that people vote on or intermediary network points didn’t alter voting outcomes.[1] This isn’t to say that malware or intermediary interference did affect the outcomes, but that the authoritative conclusions of online votes are much, much weaker than those reliant on paper ballots.

Voting matters. A lot. And folks that insist that we can ignore the security and privacy issues either don’t care enough to learn the detailed problems of online voting, or don’t seem to care that most verifiable online voting mechanisms enable the tracking of how people vote. That kind of tracking is something that a large number of people fought hard to excise from our democratic electoral systems. We invite it back in at our peril.

For more on this point, see “Online Voting and Hostile Deployment Environments”  ↩