Another week, another slew of depressing world events. Let's talk about surveillance, baby. Start with "Surveillance: A Taxonomy of Known Knowns and Known Unknowns," by Julia Angwin, who writes frequently for The Wall Street Journal on privacy issues but posts this extraordinarily useful public-service cheat sheet to her own blog.
"If there’s fallout, if there’s blowback, I would absolutely do it again, because I think this information should be public. Whatever part I had in helping to do that I think is a service. At Salon, Irin Carmon interviews documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who was co-credited on both the Guardian's story and the Washington Post story about NSA monitoring of Americans' phone and internet communications.
"But the decision has had lasting repercussions for the dozens of companies that store troves of their users’ personal information and receive these national security requests — it puts them on notice that they need not even try to test their legality." At The New York Times, Claire Cain Miller reports on the 2008 secret court decision that forced Yahoo into cooperating with the surveillance program, Prism.
"But when you go to a news site to read about PRISM — including washingtonpost.com — you’re watched by dozens of commercial data trackers, mostly marketing or analytics firms and advertising networks. Caitlin Dewey at The Washington Post on the commercial databases that watch your every move online. (Via Dan Sinker.)
Amy Davidson at The New Yorker and Laurie Penny at the New Statesman both unravel some of the underlying power structures fueling surveillance and the response to whistleblowers, taking on class status and patriarchy, respectively.
At The Atlantic, Rebecca J. Rosen offers a useful summary of Daniel J. Solove's argument that the literary model we should turn to in understanding the threat that government surveillance presents is not Orwell's 1984, but Kafka's The Trial.
Lastly, one more explainer: at ProPublica, Quinn Norton describes metadata, message, cryptography — and what you can do if more privacy (er, any privacy) is what you need.Read it; there are lolcats.
"The photocopies of the manual lay in heaps on the floor, in stacks that scaled one wall, like Xeroxed, stapled handouts for a class." Returning to the reasons why government started spying on us in the first place! The AP's Rukmini Callimachi is back this week with more dumpster-dived documents from al-Qaeda in Mali, documents that suggest that the group now possesses and is training members in the use of shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles capable of bringing down a commercial airliner.
Two from Turkey. "'One of my friends saw himself on television. He was kicking a woman who was lying on the ground. "Oh, God," he said, "that can’t be me, I don’t remember kicking this woman, how can a human being act that way?"'" From Elif Batuman at The New Yorker.
"I obtained records, however, from the hospitals in my neighbourhood, which is close to Taksim Square. I was stunned by what I read: each hospital listed hundreds of injuries — ‘A 22-year-old male has lost his left eye due to a plastic bullet … a 19-year-old male is being watched closely with a subdural haematoma diagnosis … trauma in the testicle … trauma of the left eye … has lost all eyesight … maxillo-facial trauma … brain haemorrhage … life-threatening condition…’" From Claire Berlinski at The Spectator. (Via Elif Batuman.)
"A Navy doctor at Guantanamo who refused to have his face photographed and called himself "'Cmdr. SMO," short for Senior Medical Officer, told visiting reporters in September 2010 that one captive hadn't consumed solid food for four years at that point." Carol Rosenberg reports on a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine calling on Navy doctors to halt their facilitation of forced feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo.
"Throngs of photographers clicked their shutters in flurried bursts and reporters bumped elbows at the press tables, as each ribbon-bedecked witness declared that to deprive commanders of the right to adjudicate sex-crimes cases would lead to the breakdown of “good order and discipline” in the ranks, a breakdown that Gillibrand and other women on the committee concluded had long ago occurred, given the statistics offered in the May Pentagon report. For RH Reality Check, Adele M. Stan pulls no punches in reporting on the Senate's conduct over measures to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military.
"One ordered mentally challenged inmates to sing “I’m a little teapot” in order to improve their living conditions and get more mental-health treatment. One inmate told DOJ investigators that he had tried, but couldn’t remember the song." By Sarah Childress at Frontline, a report on the abusive — and ineffective — conditions of solitary confinement in prisons in Pennsylvania and around the nation.
Six months later, two stories from the Newtown Bee. By Ana Radelat, on Newtown residents who have become determined lobbyists, "'Before the worries were about drinking and driving and maybe checking the kids for ticks,' Ms Murray said. 'It’s all different now.'" Second, "What the grieving families with whom we share a terrible bond all know is that they did not fail their children in the hours and moments before their deaths. What they now expect is for the government to do its job and to care for families throughout this country – any one of us – who could be the next victims of random and tragic gun violence. " By Gabrielle Giffords and Roxana Green. (Via Jo Ling Kent.)
"There are 600 Filipino teachers who paid up to $8,000 each in fees to work in Baltimore schools. In El Paso, two school administrators were sentenced to probation for their role in a human trafficking case in which 273 Filipinos paid $10,000 apiece for teaching jobs, but arrived to find fewer than 100 positions available." From Farah Stockman at The Boston Globe, a piece that asks the mind-boggling question, "Is your child's teacher a victim of human trafficking?"
"Drought is different along the border." Fascinating piece by Priscilla Mosqueda at The Texas Observer on the failure of South Texas farmland, and the international treaties that govern the uses of the Rio Grande. (Via Melissa del Bosque.)
"We are opening the box on Schrödinger’s cat every time we flip a coin or check the weather, and countless other times during every day. Jennifer Ouellette at Nautilus on how the uncertainty in even large-scale systems ultimately derives from quantum probabilities.
"When it comes to our guilt or innocence as parents, we are at the mercy of chance." Also at Nautilus, an extraordinary essay by Claire Creffield about the moral hazards of parenthood.
"For me there’s a layer of consciousness on it, that really is looking to build gender equity as opposed to gender equality. At Colorlines, Julianne Hing interviews author and publisher Janine Macbeth about engaged fatherhood — and bringing to life books despite a lack of interest from white publishers.
" It deserves to be listed on bridal registries — gay and straight. It could single-spine-edly replace at least a quarter of the sexual self-help section and the world would be better for it. It is a revelation, a story of redemption." At Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory really, really, really recommends Daniel Bergner's new book on women's sexuality.
"If you're confused about how airplanes stay up, you don't fucking e-mail Richard Branson. And if you did, and you didn't hear back, you wouldn't assume that he isn't really committed to making airplanes stay up—or that airplanes aren't really in the sky." Lindy West at Jezebel is really, really, really tired of the gazillion derailing emails demanding that she prove sexism to their respective writers.
"In many, many parts of the country right now, if you want to go to see a movie in the theater and see a current movie about a woman — any story about any woman that isn't a documentary or a cartoon — you can't. You cannot. There are not any." Linda Holmes at NPR. (Hat tip to Rachel Hartman.)
"Six Fairy Tales for the Modern Woman," by Renee Lupica for The Hairpin.
"Look to the shawls; let them show you the way." Finally, and I say this as someone could not roll her eyes hard enough at Stevie Nicks back in my angry adolescent years, Jada Yuan's New York Magazine profile of the fairy godmother of rock music is absolutely the best thing you are going to read this week, or possibly ever. (Via Rebecca Traister.)