Chelsea Manning: The Dystopia We Signed Up for

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/13/opinion/chelsea-manning-big-data-dystopia.html

By Chelsea Manning
Sept. 13, 2017

For seven years, I didn’t exist.

While incarcerated, I had no bank statements, no bills, no credit history. In our interconnected world of big data, I appeared to be no different than a deceased person. After I was released, that lack of information about me created a host of problems, from difficulty accessing bank accounts to trouble getting a driver’s license and renting an apartment.

In 2010, the iPhone was only three years old, and many people still didn’t see smartphones as the indispensable digital appendages they are today. Seven years later, virtually everything we do causes us to bleed digital information, putting us at the mercy of invisible algorithms that threaten to consume our freedom.

Information leakage can seem innocuous in some respects. After all, why worry when we have nothing to hide?

We file our taxes. We make phone calls. We send emails. Tax records are used to keep us honest. We agree to broadcast our location so we can check the weather on our smartphones. Records of our calls, texts and physical movements are filed away alongside our billing information. Perhaps that data is analyzed more covertly to make sure that we’re not terrorists — but only in the interest of national security, we’re assured.

Our faces and voices are recorded by surveillance cameras and other internet-connected sensors, some of which we now willingly put inside our homes. Every time we load a news article or page on a social media site, we expose ourselves to tracking code, allowing hundreds of unknown entities to monitor our shopping and online browsing habits. We agree to cryptic terms-of-service agreements that obscure the true nature and scope of these transactions.

According to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center, 91 percent of American adults believe they’ve lost control over how their personal information is collected and used.

Just how much they’ve lost, however, is more than they likely suspect.

The real power of mass data collection lies in the hand-tailored algorithms capable of sifting, sorting and identifying patterns within the data itself. When enough information is collected over time, governments and corporations can use or abuse those patterns to predict future human behavior. Our data establishes a “pattern of life” from seemingly harmless digital residue like cellphone tower pings, credit card transactions and web browsing histories.

The consequences of our being subjected to constant algorithmic scrutiny are often unclear. For instance, artificial intelligence — Silicon Valley’s catchall term for deepthinking and deep-learning algorithms — is touted by tech companies as a path to the high-tech conveniences of the so-called internet of things. This includes digital home assistants, connected appliances and self-driving cars.

Simultaneously, algorithms are already analyzing social media habits, determining creditworthiness, deciding which job candidates get called in for an interview and judging whether criminal defendants should be released on bail. Other machine-learning systems use automated facial analysis to detect and track emotions, or claim the ability to predict whether someone will become a criminal based only on their facial features.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/13/opinion/chelsea-manning-big-data-dystopia.html

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We Are Taking Trump to Court to Stop His Illegal and Cruel Ban on Transgender Service Members

From The ACLU:  https://www.aclu.org/blog/lgbt-rights/transgender-rights/we-are-taking-trump-court-stop-his-illegal-and-cruel-ban

By Chase Strangio, Staff Attorney, ACLU LGBT & HIV Project
August 28, 2017

When President Trump took to Twitter on the morning of July 26 to issue a series of lies about transgender individuals serving in the United States armed forces and announce a ban on open transgender service, he disrupted the lives and careers of thousands of transgender troops.

His announcement came as a shock to almost everyone, including members of Congress, military experts, and the Secretary of Defense.

While he claimed to have consulted with his “Generals and military experts,” that was not the case. Instead, he allied himself with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council who dismissed the service of transgender individuals as the “social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military.”

We hoped that the ill-advised ban would languish on the president’s Twitter feed, but unfortunately, he turned the tweets into a directive banning open transgender service on August 25.

The new directive bars enlistment by transgender individuals, prohibits coverage for certain critical medical procedures, and bans those currently in the military from serving, with the Secretary of Defense given discretion to determine how to carry out that ban.

Today, we and the ACLU of Maryland filed a lawsuit to challenge President Trump’s cruel policy on behalf of Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone, Staff Sergeant Kate Cole, Senior Airmen John Doe, Technical Sergeant Tommie Parker, Airman First Class Seven Ero George, and Petty Officer First Class Teagan Gilbert.

Our lawsuit argues that the ban violates the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and substantive due process by singling out transgender individuals for unequal and discriminatory treatment.

Every justification that the president has offered in support of the ban has already been thoroughly reviewed and debunked by the Department of Defense itself when it adopted a policy permitting military service by transgender individuals last year.

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Military, medical and legal experts have concluded that allowing open service by transgender individuals, many of whom have been serving in silence for years, does not disrupt military readiness or unit cohesion and imposes negligible costs. By contrast, barring transgender individuals from joining the military and discharging those who are already serving is exceedingly costly and undermines national security and military readiness.

President Trump’s hateful and discriminatory agenda has nothing to do with military readiness. As Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a combat veteran, explains:

“When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter after I was shot down, I didn’t care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white or brown. All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind. If you are willing to risk your life for our country and you can do the job, you should be able to serve—no matter your gender identity or sexual orientation. Anything else is not just discriminatory, it is disruptive to our military and it is counterproductive to our national security.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.aclu.org/blog/lgbt-rights/transgender-rights/we-are-taking-trump-court-stop-his-illegal-and-cruel-ban

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Joy of unisex: the rise of gender-neutral clothing

Lately I’ve been seeing a bunch of macho men wearing “Tactical Kilts”, meaning kilts with lots of pockets.  I’d wear skirts more if they actually had useful pockets.  But casual clothes like parkas, sweats, shorts, t-shirts, flannel shirts, the stuff hippies and a lot of lesbians wear has tended towards the androgynous.

A lot of clothing takes on its gender from the wearer.

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/04/joy-unisex-gender-neutral-clothing-john-lewis

John Lewis’s decision to stop dividing children’s clothes by gender has sparked anger and delight. But it’s not just childrenswear that is increasingly non-binary – there’s a sartorial revolution for adults, too


Monday 4 September 2017

Is John Lewis at the frontline of modern gender politics? It has never seemed so before, but judging by the reaction to the department store’s announcement last week that its own-brand children’s clothes will no longer be divided by gender, some people clearly see the retailer as radical. There will now be no separate sections in the stores, nor such binary labels on the clothes themselves; instead, the labels will read “girls and boys” or “boys and girls”.

The conversation over whether clothing should be more gender-neutral does not just apply to childrenswear – over the past decade there has also been a marked rise in gender-neutral clothing for adults. Some high-end designers such as JW Anderson, Rick Owens and Rad Hourani have championed gender-neutral clothing, while a raft of smaller companies run by young designers, such as Rich Mnisi, are pushing the idea that men’s and women’s clothes should be obsolete categories. This approach has also filtered down to the high street – H&M and Zara have both created non-gendered ranges.

The British designer Katharine Hamnett has a long history of exploring non-gender-specific clothing, and her newly reissued collection features unisex shirts, sweatshirts and silk all-in-one suits. She says that, in the past, when women stepped on to more traditionally male sartorial territory – wearing military-inspired clothing, for instance – this “was about appropriating male power”. Now, she says, a move towards equality means women “may be feeling more comfortable with themselves”; in other words, they may have the freedom to wear what they like. (It is still far less common for men to seek out traditionally female clothing.)

Chloe Crowe, brand manager for Bethnals, a London-based unisex denim brand, says that when they have run pop-up shops, men and women in couples have come in and bought jeans that they can share. The company was launched in 2014 by Melissa Clement, a former senior denim buyer for Topshop, who borrowed her partner’s clothes a lot and wondered why men’s and women’s categories had to be different. The core styles of her brand – skinny, straight and relaxed – are cut the same for men and women. “It’s just clever pattern cutting,” says Crowe. “With denim, it can vary so much depending on your body shape. One woman is not going to [fit in] the same pair of jeans as another woman. I think it makes things a lot more simplistic, and it’s about the style and design rather than your sex.”

The growth of the brand follows more awareness and discussion around gender fluidity and what it means to reject the male/female binary. A study for the Fawcett Society last year found that 68% of young people believe gender is non-binary. “When Bethnals lauched, there wasn’t a lot [about gender],” says Crowe. “More brands have released gender-neutral clothing. It has filtered its way to the mass market. There seems to be a huge demand for it.”

“You don’t look at food and say it’s going to be eaten by a man or a woman, so why should it be any different for clothes?” says Tanmay Saxena, founder and designer of LaneFortyfive. The clothing Saxena designs is mostly bespoke tailoring, including shirts and waistcoats; about 60% of his customers are women. The clothes are the same styles for men and women, in the same fabrics, and while the shirts and smocks are cut the same, only the fit for trousers is slightly different.

He has been working on the label for about three years, but formally launched it last year. “I couldn’t find clothes that suited my own style. The basic idea was I would make something that I can wear but at the same time, it has to be irrespective of gender. That idea was always in my head.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/04/joy-unisex-gender-neutral-clothing-john-lewis

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How Did Trump Remember 9/11? | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann

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Fascism, American Style

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/opinion/fascism-arpaio-pardon-trump.html


Aug. 28, 2017

As sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio engaged in blatant racial discrimination. His officers systematically targeted Latinos, often arresting them on spurious charges and at least sometimes beating them up when they questioned those charges. Read the report from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and prepare to be horrified.

Once Latinos were arrested, bad things happened to them. Many were sent to Tent City, which Arpaio himself proudly called a “concentration camp,” where they lived under brutal conditions, with temperatures inside the tents sometimes rising to 145 degrees.

And when he received court orders to stop these practices, he simply ignored them, which led to his eventual conviction — after decades in office — for contempt of court. But he had friends in high places, indeed in the highest of places. We now know that Donald Trump tried to get the Justice Department to drop the case against Arpaio, a clear case of attempted obstruction of justice. And when that ploy failed, Trump, who had already suggested that Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job,” pardoned him.

By the way, about “doing his job,” it turns out that Arpaio’s officers were too busy rounding up brown-skinned people and investigating President Barack Obama’s birth certificate to do other things, like investigate cases of sexually abused children. Priorities!

Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style.

So how did we get to this point?

Trump’s motives are easy to understand. For one thing, Arpaio, with his racism and authoritarianism, really is his kind of guy. For another, the pardon is a signal to those who might be tempted to make deals with the special investigator as the Russia probe closes in on the White House: Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/opinion/fascism-arpaio-pardon-trump.html

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