What's Left 2016-08-07 Volume 69

There should be no rushing the “Internet of Things”; Another world is still possible, and more necessary than ever; Extreme climate change is real and it's here; LEFT NOISE (Special edition)

Page content


There should be no rushing the “Internet of Things”

As technology progresses, everyday appliances are being built so that they can be connected to the internet. Fridges, cars, thermostats, door locks, lights, and airplanes are just some of those things that are now connected to the world wide web so that they can be remotely monitored and controlled. But, while there are some advantages to these advances, there are critical and often unrecognized dangers.

While there is no perfection when it comes to online security systems, those built into these new “smart” devices are built with very little oversight or follow-through. Some of these new devices have ignored security completely. For those that do have a modicum of security built-in, once they are sold they are almost never updated with fixes of publicly revealed security holes. The implications can be disastrous as many of these internet connected devices are also connected to bank accounts and other private (real world and digital) spaces. These unpatched security holes allow anyone with the tools and skills to access your private data.

Data privacy breaches have become common in recent years. The hacking (by Russian interests?) of the Democratic National and Congressional Campaign Committees made recent headlines. The theft of millions in digital currencies from banks and insurance companies gets released months after the attacks. But, less reported is an increase in small scale hacks of personal devices – many of which can go undetected. Unfortunately, the public and many policy makers do not understand that, without taking issues of security more seriously, future hacks can and will be far worse.

In a recent series of posts, security expert Bruce Schneier details the important aspects of internet security that need to be understood when considering the devices we use every day. He also highlights the very real dangers to the democratic system.

Electronic voting machines that are not connected to the internet have become common in many countries, including the United States and Canada. Even without being connected to the internet, these machines have proven vulnerable to all kinds of nefarious manipulation. Many who see technology as a panacea are pushing for more of these devices and, more dangerously, the connection of the devices to the internet. Such thinking is a combination of clueless, careless, and wilful ignorance that can put the very fabric of democracy at risk.

Schneier makes an important and compelling argument for vigorous regulation and testing of technologies that play a critical role in transportation, privacy, and the democratic system. He states how important it is that voting machines not be connected to the internet and that, if they are electronic, they must have a verifiable paper trail. It is clear that the free market will not take the precautions necessary to protect the public. Only an educated government, pushed by democracy activists, have the power to regulate and establish sensible standards to ensure privacy, safety, and the integrity of the voting system (and your internet connected fridge or “smart” TV) be sustained.

Real-World Security and the Internet of Things

Privacy? I don’t have anything to hide. HA! (privacy tools)

The Security of Our Election Systems

Hacking the Vote


Another world is still possible, and more necessary than ever

Thousands will gather in Montreal this week for the World Social Forum (WSF), a large-scale summit of “civil society” from all over the world. The first to be held in the northern hemisphere, the Montreal forum follows a long line of forums that have been held since 2001.

Originally, the WSF was organized to counter the World Economic Forum held yearly in Davos, Switzerland. The WSF aimed to create a space where activists from international social movements could gather and strengthen their connections and struggles. It inherently represents the early stages of the anti/alter corporate globalization movement. The WSF originated in Brazil where social and democratic movements thrived after the overthrow of the country’s dictatorship.

While the first few forums got a lot of public funding and support, later iterations began to lose touch with their initial intent. In 2007, the social forum in Nairobi, Kenya was widely criticized for showcasing the world’s richest international development NGO’s, while providing little space for social movements and locals to organize. As a result, no global social forum was held the following year.

This year’s forum is being held in Montreal, but continues with the problematic focus established in Kenya. Being held in Canada means that many people from the Global South may be prevented from coming because of the great difficulty accessing visas and securing the funding needed to travel so far. Access to the physical venue of the World Social Forum is not a new issue, but having it in the Global North exposes the conflict between the theory and the practice driving these events. North-South solidarity means little if activists from across the South are not present at the WSF.

However, even as forums progressively became distorted and removed from any socialist roots, the main narrative remains the same: another world is possible, and indeed it is necessary. And, since the World Social Forum is an international gathering of progressive forces, there will still be many opportunities to debate and establish connections with local movements around the world.

Part of the struggle for justice and equality is building spaces for international solidarity. These spaces are necessary, but it must be remembered that social activism is local first. So, for those attending the WSF this year, remember to always bring the conversation back to how the discussion can actualize progressive work in your own workplaces and communities.

World Social Forum - Montreal 2016



Extreme climate change is real and it’s here

The latest report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has arrived and it’s conclusions are grim. Several key climate milestones were reached this year, with hundreds of scientists from 62 countries agreeing that 2015 is the hottest year ever recorded (with 2016 likely to be even hotter). Oceans have reached new record temperatures, with the Arctic ocean 8°C warmer than average and the Arctic ice caps at their smallest size recorded. Draught has also increased world-wide, with 75% more land experiencing severe draught than 2014.

Environmental records shattered as climate change ‘plays out before us’


“LEFT NOISE (Special edition)”

“Please remember Victor Jara in the Santiago stadium!” From Washington Bullets by the Clash

“How terrifying is the face of Fascism. For them, blood is a medal, carnage is a heroic gesture.” Excerpt from Jara’s last poem, smuggled out of the stadium where he was tortured and murdered.

Victor Jara was a Chilean political activist and folk singer who was murdered when the US-backed Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected Salvador Allende in 1973. In June of this year, 2016, a Chilean army officer was found liable for the murder of Victor Jara in 1973.

Here is Democracy Now! on the recent court decision, with good background on Jara

Two great background pieces on the politics of the situation by the Jacobin and the Guardian

Victor Jara: Allende’s Poet

The life and death of Victor Jara – a classic feature from the vaults

The Clash knew who was to blame

The Clash ask us all to remember Victor Jara in their song “Washington Bullets”.

For Jara’s music, lets begin at the end. The very end.

“Manifiesto” is reportedly the last song Jara wrote before he was tortured and killed.

Here is Bruce Springsteen tribute to Jara covering the song “Manifiesto”.

Here are the lyrics in english

Three great, sad, moving, and important songs to get you started

This is the song “Luchín” from an incredible complete concert with Victor Jara on peruvian TV from July of 1973, just months before his death.

Victor Jara - Herminda de la Victoria

Victor Jara - Cancion De Cuna Para Un Nino Vago

Phil Ochs was a big fan of and friend of Victor Jara

Ochs was in Chile and South America with Jara just prior to his death. Phil Ochs was back in the US when he heard the news of his torture and death. Ochs was devastated by Jara’s death.

Ochs wrote one of his best songs “When I’m Gone” about his friend