The economist says that the US's post-crisis job creation record and the EU's lagging record demonstrates that austerity cripples recoveries.
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The economist says that the US's post-crisis job creation record and the EU's lagging record demonstrates that austerity cripples recoveries.
Read the rest
Read the rest
The Inspectorate of Constabulary says that police now tell victims of property crimes to "solve the crimes themselves," directing them over the phone to review CCTV footage and canvas their neighbourhoods for witnesses.
Read the rest
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Joly writes, "It seems the BBC are capable of tracking down a single Scot in Brazil who cheered a goal against England but fail to notice 50,000 demonstrating on their doorstep." The Guardian noticed. There's much bigger stuff -- likely too big for the Beeb to ignore -- coming in October.
A reader writes, "Robert Buckingham, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan since 2009, was fired last Wednesday for critical comments about the university's restructuring plans. When he showed up for work Wednesday morning, two campus security guards escorted him off campus. The university not only fired him as dean, but also stripped Buckingham of his tenured faculty position. The termination letter signed by Provost and VP Academic Brett Fairbairn said that by speaking out against the school's restructuring plans, Buckingham had 'demonstrated egregious conduct and insubordination' and was in breach of contract."
Read the rest
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The street protests in Brazil have gained momentum, with huge crowds in the streets. At issue is a kind of corporatist corruption symbolized by two upcoming football tournaments that are to be held at enormous public expense, even as poor Brazilians find themselves struggling with substandard infrastructure and price-hikes for public services. As in other BRIC nations, Brazil seems like a place where the economic future is here, it's just not evenly distributed -- not by a long shot.
The Brazilian president has praised the protesters for demanding justice but the state's spies have ramped up their social media surveillance, and the Brazilian police have met the protesters with extreme use of force, including gas, rubber bullets, and shotgun-toting cops on horseback and motorcycles:
Simultaneous demonstrations were reported in at least 80 cities, with a total turnout that may have been close to 2 million. An estimated 110,000 marched in São Paulo, 80,000 in Manaus, 50,000 in Recife, and 20,000 in Belo Horizonte and Salvador.
Clashes were reported in the Amazon jungle city of Belem, in Porto Alegre in the south, in Campinas north of São Paulo and in the north-eastern city of Salvador.
Thirty-five people were injured in the capital Brasilia, where 30,000 people took to the streets. In São Paulo, one man died when a frustrated car driver rammed into the crowd. Elsewhere countless people, including many journalists, were hit by rubber bullets.
The vast majority of those involved were peaceful. Many wore Guy Fawkes masks, emulating the global Occupy campaign. Others donned red noses – a symbol of a common complaint that people are fed up being treated as clowns.
Brazil protests: riot police scatter crowds in Rio [Jonathan Watts/The Guardian]
Diego sez, "Protestors - mainly students - are taking the streets of Sao Paulo. The problem: the government just raised the bus fare from R$3 to R$3,20. The protests are getting a really violent reception from the police. You can see a video of the police action. The problem isn't the 20 cents. I think the real problem is that we are having so many issues of inflation, very high taxes, corruption - 2014 World Cup stadiums being built with public money, costing about $1 billion each pop - so future looks really bleak here. Everything seems to be boiling after this 20 cents. If you ask me, Brazilians are getting tired of being treated as clowns. Tonight (6/13), there's going to be a new protest. People won't stop until they get what they want. Hopefully, with some international attention, Sao Paulo's police may stop hitting students with their batons and tear gas."
Yesterday, the Greek government forcibly shut down the state broadcaster, ERT, sending in the police to drag journalists away from their microphones. The government claimed that the shutdown was the result of inescapable austerity measures. In response, the European Broadcasting Union -- an umbrella group representing public broadcasters across Europe -- has set up a makeshift mobile studio where ERT broadcasters can continue to work and stay on air.
This is being fed around Europe on an EBU satellite as part of its European news exchange operation and can be picked up by commercial stations in Greece but not the general public.
A spokesman for the EBU, which is headquartered in Geneva, said a "high-level meeting with a conference call" with the director general of ERT would take place later on Wednesday to decide on next steps.
Roger Mosey, the BBC's editorial director, who is on the EBU board told the Guardian: "We're watching events in Greece with great concern. When countries are in difficulty, there's an even bigger need for public service broadcasting and for independent, impartial news coverage. I hope that's restored in Greece as soon as possible."
The EBU spokesman said ERT staff in contact with the organisation have told them the power has not yet been cut by the government, but email servers have been taken down. They are now contacting the EBU through smartphones, using Facebook and personal email accounts.
"This is unprecedented, stations have closed and re-opened for a number of reasons, but never with such abruptness," said a spokesman for the EBU.
ERT shutdown: European Broadcasting Union sets up makeshift studio [Lisa O'Carroll/The Guardian]
Michael sez, "The Greek government forcibly shut down transmissions of all TV and radio stations operated by the state-owned broadcaster ERT, with police ejecting journalists and other employees who were occupying the buildings."
A few hours ago, the Greek government announced that state television and radio channels would be silenced at midnight. No public debate, no debate in Parliament, no warning. Nothing. ERT, the Greek version of the BBC, will simply fold its tent and steal into the night. As probably the only Greek commentator to have been blacklisted by ERT over the past two years, I feel I have the moral authority to cry out against ERT’s passing. To shout from the rooftops that its murder by our troika-led government is a crime against public media that all civilised people, the world over, should rise up against.
Mark Blyth, a delightfully sweary Scottish economist, talks for about an hour to Googlers about the stupidity of austerity as a means of recovering from recession, describing it in colorful, easy-to-grasp language. This is brilliant, accessible and important economics:
Governments today in both Europe and the United States have succeeded in casting government spending as reckless wastefulness that has made the economy worse. In contrast, they have advanced a policy of draconian budget cuts--austerity--to solve the financial crisis. We are told that we have all lived beyond our means and now need to tighten our belts. This view conveniently forgets where all that debt came from. Not from an orgy of government spending, but as the direct result of bailing out, recapitalizing, and adding liquidity to the broken banking system. Through these actions private debt was rechristened as government debt while those responsible for generating it walked away scot free, placing the blame on the state, and the burden on the taxpayer.
That burden now takes the form of a global turn to austerity, the policy of reducing domestic wages and prices to restore competitiveness and balance the budget. The problem, according to political economist Mark Blyth, is that austerity is a very dangerous idea. First of all, it doesn't work. As the past four years and countless historical examples from the last 100 years show, while it makes sense for any one state to try and cut its way to growth, it simply cannot work when all states try it simultaneously: all we do is shrink the economy. In the worst case, austerity policies worsened the Great Depression and created the conditions for seizures of power by the forces responsible for the Second World War: the Nazis and the Japanese military establishment. As Blyth amply demonstrates, the arguments for austerity are tenuous and the evidence thin. Rather than expanding growth and opportunity, the repeated revival of this dead economic idea has almost always led to low growth along with increases in wealth and income inequality. Austerity demolishes the conventional wisdom, marshaling an army of facts to demand that we recognize austerity for what it is, and what it costs us.
Britain's harsh austerity measures have produced a sharp decline in real income and quality of life for the majority of the country; but the number of people earning £1M+ has doubled and is at an all-time high.
Official figures reveal that 18,000 people now earn at least £1m – the highest number recorded by HM Revenue & Customs. In 2010-11, 10,000 earned more than £1m, and in 1999-2000 there were only 4,000 earning such a salary.
There is also growth further down the salary brackets, with 5,000 more earning £500,000 to £1m in 2012-13 compared with 2010-11, an extra 31,000 earning £200,000 to £500,000, and 7,000 more earning £150,000 to £200,000.
The figures will increase concerns that the trends of the 1990s and early 2000s are continuing, with a growing disparity between the top-earning 1%, many of whom work in finance, and the rest of the workforce. In sectors such as manufacturing, construction and hospitality salaries have been squeezed in recent years. A recent report showed that if low to middle earnings were to rise by the 1.1% a year above inflation achieved in the past, average annual household incomes in this group would take until 2023 to reach £22,000 – the equivalent of where they stood in 2008.
Super-rich on rise as number of £1m-plus earners doubles [Daniel Boffey/The Observer]
The G8 Summit is coming to Fermanagh, a county in Northern Ireland that has been devastated by austerity. To spruce things up and maintain the fiction that austerity will get us out of the global economic depression, the county has spent £300,000 giving local businesses "a facelift" -- including installing a fake butcher-shop window full of imaginary meat in a derelict storefront.
Two shops in Belcoo, right on the border with Blacklion, Co Cavan, have been painted over to appear as thriving businesses. The reality, as in other parts of the county, is rather more stark.
Just a few weeks ago, Flanagan’s – a former butcher’s and vegetable shop in the neat village – was cleaned and repainted with bespoke images of a thriving business placed in the windows. Any G8 delegate passing on the way to discuss global capitalism would easily be fooled into thinking that all is well with the free-market system in Fermanagh..
The butcher’s business has been replaced by a picture of a butcher’s business. Across the road is a similar tale. A small business premises has been made to look like an office supplies store. It used to be a pharmacy, now relocated on the village main street.
Elsewhere in Fermanagh, billboard-sized pictures of the gorgeous scenery have been located to mask the occasional stark and abandoned building site or other eyesore.
Recession out of the picture as Fermanagh puts on a brave face for G8 leaders [Dan Keenan/Irish Times]
(via The Atlantic)
A UK Parliamentary committee blasted the Office of Fair Trading -- a consumer watchdog agency that is supposed to regulate moneylenders -- for doing effectively nothing to curb the growth of usurious, predatory moneylenders who attack poor and vulnerable people. There are 72,000 consumer credit firms in the UK, some chargin annual interest rates of 4,000%, but the OFT has never fined a single firm for breaking lending rules. On some rare occasions, it did shut down firms, but did nothing to stop them from reopening immediately under another name.
This week the charity Citizens Advice said it knew of cases where loans had been given to under-18s, to people with mental health issues, and to people who were drunk at the time of securing the loan. One client who took out a £50 loan was targeted with emails and texts offering more cash and ended up with debts of £800.
"Some of these lenders use predatory techniques to target vulnerable people on low incomes, encouraging them to take out loans which when rolled over with extra interest rapidly become out of control debts," the committee's chair, Margaret Hodge, said. "Meanwhile, the OFT has been ineffective and timid in the extreme. It passively waits for complaints from consumers before acting."
PAC's report said the OFT lacked information on how much lending was being done by each firm, and about how different people used consumer credit. A study commissioned from the National Audit Office suggested the scale of consumer harm was at least £450m a year, but the OFT was accused of lacking detailed information on the types of harm suffered by different groups of borrowers.
OFT criticised over 'ineffectual' payday loans policing [Hilary Osborne/The Guardian]
(Image: La Danse macabre, Guy Marchant/Wikimedia Commons)
Into the Fire writes, "Into The Fire is a film with a difference. Besides being a hard hitting documentary which shows the plight of refugees and migrants amidst a collapsing Greek economy, it's also an experiment in new film production and distribution techniques. A year ago, we made a first, crowd-funded trip to Athens. We filmed shocking levels of racism, police brutality, and right-wing extremism - as well as the courageous and inspiring people who are organising against it.
"Into the Fire will be released on 21st April on the internet. We crowd-funded the film and crowd-sourced the subtitles: it's been translated into eight languages using the open subtitler Amara. We are also using crowd-sourcing as the release and distribution strategy for the documentary: anyone who signs up to participate will receive embedding details ahead of time, and the film will be released on various websites simultaneously. The audience becomes the distribution network."
A new paper called Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin from UMass Amherst tries and fails to replicate the classic work on austerity, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff's 2010 Growth in a Time of Debt.
Reinhart-Rogoff is the main research cited in favor of cutting public services and spending in bad economic times. It's a big part of why the local library is shutting down, why they're kicking people out of public housing, shutting down arts programs, slashing education and public transit, and laying off public employees. It purports to show that countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios of 90 percent or more are a "threat to sustainable economic growth."
In the new Amherst paper, the authors reexamine Reinhart-Rogoff's original data and conclude that the numbers don't add up. They show that Reinhart-Rogoff cherry-picked which years of high-debt GDP they measure, that they put their thumbs on the scales with "unconventional weighting" and made a "coding error" that "entirely excludes five countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, and Denmark." This last error -- literally the wrong formula in a spreadsheet cell -- badly skews the outcome.
Here's the tl;dr: "the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent, not -0.1 percent as [Reinhart-Rogoff claim]."
Selective Exclusions. Reinhart-Rogoff use 1946-2009 as their period, with the main difference among countries being their starting year. In their data set, there are 110 years of data available for countries that have a debt/GDP over 90 percent, but they only use 96 of those years. The paper didn't disclose which years they excluded or why.
Herndon-Ash-Pollin find that they exclude Australia (1946-1950), New Zealand (1946-1949), and Canada (1946-1950). This has consequences, as these countries have high-debt and solid growth. Canada had debt-to-GDP over 90 percent during this period and 3 percent growth. New Zealand had a debt/GDP over 90 percent from 1946-1951. If you use the average growth rate across all those years it is 2.58 percent. If you only use the last year, as Reinhart-Rogoff does, it has a growth rate of -7.6 percent. That's a big difference, especially considering how they weigh the countries.
Unconventional Weighting. Reinhart-Rogoff divides country years into debt-to-GDP buckets. They then take the average real growth for each country within the buckets. So the growth rate of the 19 years that the U.K. is above 90 percent debt-to-GDP are averaged into one number. These country numbers are then averaged, equally by country, to calculate the average real GDP growth weight.
In case that didn't make sense, let's look at an example. The U.K. has 19 years (1946-1964) above 90 percent debt-to-GDP with an average 2.4 percent growth rate. New Zealand has one year in their sample above 90 percent debt-to-GDP with a growth rate of -7.6. These two numbers, 2.4 and -7.6 percent, are given equal weight in the final calculation, as they average the countries equally. Even though there are 19 times as many data points for the U.K.
Now maybe you don't want to give equal weighting to years (technical aside: Herndon-Ash-Pollin bring up serial correlation as a possibility). Perhaps you want to take episodes. But this weighting significantly reduces the average; if you weight by the number of years you find a higher growth rate above 90 percent. Reinhart-Rogoff don't discuss this methodology, either the fact that they are weighing this way or the justification for it, in their paper.
Researchers Finally Replicated Reinhart-Rogoff, and There Are Serious Problems. [Mike Konczal/Next New Deal]
As the subprime bubble continues to burst in Spain, locksmiths find themselves complicit in putting families out on the street. In Pamplona, the local locksmiths have banded together and will not accept work from the banks changing locks or opening doors, even though it's costing them business:
Tired of accompanying court officials to evict unemployed people as banks foreclosed mortgages, De Carlos consulted his fellow Pamplona locksmiths before Christmas. In no time at all, they came to an agreement. They would not do the dirty work of banks whose rash lending pumped up a housing bubble and then, after it popped, helped bring the country to its knees.
"It only took us 15 minutes to reach a decision," says De Carlos amid the racks of keys in the family's shop in the centre of this small northern city best known for its annual bull-runs and the adoration heaped on it by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises. "We all had stories of jobs we had been on where families had been left on the street. When you set out all you have is an address and the name of the bank, but I recall an elderly, sick man who was barely given time to put his trousers on."
The logic behind their decision was clear and simple. While Spain's banks mop up billions of euros in public aid, they are also busy reclaiming homes that in some cases they lent silly money for. At the height of Spain's housing madness, banks were, in effect, offering mortgages of more than 100%. They aggressively chased clients – especially among the immigrants who arrived from Latin America in their millions to build new homes – creating an uncontrolled spiral of self-fulfilling, but ultimately doomed, demand. Complex networks of guarantors were pieced together by middlemen among immigrants who often barely understood what they were doing.
Pamplona's locksmiths join revolt as banks throw families from their homes [Monica Muñoz and Giles Tremlett/The Guardian]
(via We Make Money Not Art)
This little blog is my attempt to keep track of all of the comings and goings of Canada's Conservative government. Every week I spend an hour or two putting together a weekly round-up of the bad things done by the Conservatives in the name of "fiscal responsibility" and "family values". Honestly, there's always so much material to work with that it practically writes itself. I figured it would take no time at all to put together a nice little list of my favourite Conservative moments/people/events of 2012. But there was just so very much to work with I very quickly became sad, angry, confused, overwhelmed and then sad, all over again. There's a few holes and a few things missing, but this list should provide a nice little primer for anybody that wants to know about the fantastic accomplishments of Canada's Government in 2012! Highlights include:
- A Conservative MP who keeps falling asleep at work and then gets really angry when people ask him about it
- An incompetent energy company attempting to hack a pipeline through the wilderness of British Columbia
- A Conservative Minister who attempted to destroy Internet privacy but threw a hissy fit when the details of his divorce were made public (spoiler: he may-or-may-not have slept with the babysitter!)
24 Percent Majority: 2012 Best Of - Week 87 - Dec 25-Jan 1 (Thanks, Dave!)
When I myself was a protesting student, I remember vividly remembered the cold warning in the text by Pier Paolo Pasolini. He reminded us youngsters that the police we faced in the streets were also someone's children, that not all young people were fortunate enough to be in colleges rather than wearing uniforms, and that we should join all together against the general oppressor, the system, capitalism, the corporations, name it…
That was then, and this is now, and while the students and policemen still have the same interests, they are still on the opposite sides of the barricade. Austerity has driven Italy to its knees. Day by day the future of Italy's young people is vaporizing, and now the streets are flooded by torrential rains, to boot. Italian cities rocked by earthquakes might as well settle for witchcraft, rather than find responsible and competent government officials who can rescue the nation's casualties. Read the rest
Read the rest
Dan Hancox sez,
You may have heard about Spain's 'Robin Hood Mayor', Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo - who last week made global headlines after he led farm labourers into supermarkets to expropriate basic food supplies, which were then distributed to the massed ranks of the local unemployed (currently 34% in Andalusia).
The Spanish economic miracle has become a catastrophe; with a government whose cuts have pushed miners to armed conflict (firing home-made rocket launchers at riot police), an Economics Minister whose last job was director of the Spanish branch of Lehman Brothers, and a lost generation of 'indignados' with no homes, no work, and no faith in the system. And right in the middle of it all, Marinaleda, a self-described communist utopia led by the charismatic poet-rebel, Sánchez Gordillo: a town of landless labourers who for over 30 years since the death of Franco, have fought capitalism - and won. 'Utopia and the Valley of Tears' is their story, published this week. There is a short extract in The Guardian.
A post in a thread on rightsnet.co.uk claims that ATOS (a French private company that administers disability benefits assessments for the UK Department of Work and Pensions) has declared a man in a coma to be fit for work and cut off his benefits. This is part of a the stepped up campaign to stop "benefits cheats" by requiring complex paperwork from claimants. A companion piece on Libcom has comments from others who've been cut off, including a man who's suffered brain injuries that caused him to file his paperwork late.
Client’s husband is in hospital in a coma. He was sent ESA501.
Client contacted DWP to explain situation and was asked to obtain letter from hospital confirming he is in a coma. Did so. Was told to send it to ATOS rather than local BDC. Did so. Husband has now received decision letter – yep, as he has failed to return the ESA50 without good cause and is therefore capable of work [he is] no longer entitled to ESA…
Share or Die is a new anthology from Shareable.net (whose mandate is to promote sharing in all its guises), written by 20-somethings struggling through austerity and econopocalypse, who find in sharing a solution to some of their problems. I was privileged to write the book's foreword, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You can buy a copy or get a PDF for free -- all the book's publishers ask is that you tweet the fact that you've gotten a copy yourself. Here's a snip of my foreword:
This was supposed to be the disconnected generation. Raised on video-games and networked communications, kept indoors by their parents' fear of predators and the erosion of public transit and public spaces, these were the kids who were supposed to be socially isolated, preferring the company of video-game sprites to their peers, preferring Facebook updates to real-life conversations.
The Internet's reputation for isolation is undeserved and one-dimensional. If the net makes it possible to choose to interact through an electronic remove from "the real world," it *also* affords the possibility of inhabiting the "real world" even when you've been shut away from it by your fearful parents or the tyranny of suburban geography.
Even as entertainment moguls were self-servingly declaring "content is king," they failed to notice that content without an audience was about as interesting as a tree that falls in the deserted woods. Conversation is king, not content. If we gather around forums to talk about TV shows or movies or games or bands, it's because we enjoy talking with each other, because "social" is the best content there is. Content is just something to talk about. That's why telcoms -- the industry that charges you to connect with other breathing humans -- is 100 times larger than entertainment.
Which is to say that our "disconnected" generation is more connected than any generation in history -- connected via a huge, technologically augmented peripheral nervous system of communications technologies that gives them continuous, low-level insight into their peers and the world they inhabit. Which is not to say that being wired up to the net's social radar is an unadulterated good: adding capacity and velocity to your nervous system can be a recipe for disaster, creating race-conditions in which minor disagreements snowball into vicious fights, where the bad as well as the good can find itself magnified through positive feedback loops that ratchet minor stimuli into feedback screams.
Long-term unemployed workers say they were bussed to London to act as stewards for the Queen's Jubilee, told they would be paid for the work and cared for while in town. When they arrived, they were told they wouldn't get paid (this was "work experience" not a job), and were made to strip down and change into uniforms in public, pitch tents in the rain, sleep under a bridge, and left without toilet facilities for 24 hours. They were told that if they didn't accept this "training," they wouldn't be considered for work during the Olympics.
Unemployed bussed in to steward river pageant
Close Protection UK confirmed that it was using up to 30 unpaid staff and 50 apprentices, who were paid £2.80 an hour, for the three-day event in London. A spokesman said the unpaid work was a trial for paid roles at the Olympics, which it had also won a contract to staff. Unpaid staff were expected to work two days out of the three-day holiday...
A 30-year-old steward told the Guardian that the conditions under the bridge were "cold and wet and we were told to get our head down [to sleep]". He said that it was impossible to pitch a tent because of the concrete floor.
The woman said they were woken at 5.30am and supplied with boots, combat trousers and polo shirts. She said: "They had told the ladies we were getting ready in a minibus around the corner and I went to the minibus and they had failed to open it so it was locked. I waited around to find someone to unlock it, and all of the other girls were coming down trying to get ready and no one was bothering to come down to unlock [it], so some of us, including me, were getting undressed in public in the freezing cold and rain." The men are understood to have changed under the bridge.
The female steward said that after the royal pageant, the group travelled by tube to a campsite in Theydon Bois, Essex, where some had to pitch their tents in the dark.
The Canadian federal government recently announced that they are cutting $9.6 million from the budget of Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Canada's national archives. This will seriously undermine the archives, which was already struggling due to chronic underfunding to live up to its mandate 'o preserve the documentary heritage of Canada.'
Hundreds of other archives across Canada will also be negatively affected by these cuts because LAC is terminating the National Archives Development Program (NADP), a long-running contribution program that helped fund projects by small archives to preserve documentary heritage locally and make it publicly available. The NADP cost only $1.7 million annually, but has done a world of good in helping to ensure that Canadian history survives and is accessible by all. If you want to help fight these devastating cuts to Canada's archival heritage, please sign the online petition to save the NADP and spread the word about these harmful cuts.
Chris sez, "The budget bill currently before the Canadian Parliament (Bill C-38) does a bunch of things that don't seem to have much to do with the budget--including completely gutting Canada's federal environmental laws. The Environmental Assessment Act is being completely repealed and replaced with a regime that gives the government the power to basically approve any project they want without any environmental review--including mining projects in Alberta's Athabasca Tar Sands and the Canadian portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. And while environmental protections are being slashed, $8 million is going to the Canada Revenue Agency to audit charities (with the understanding that the main targets will be environmental charities--which the government has labelled as money launderers working for foreign interests). By putting this in a budget bill, the Conservative government has ensured that there will be minimal debate on these changes, and they will almost certainly be passed by the majority-Conservative parliament. Canada's largest environmental groups have organized a website blackout on June 4 to protest and raise awareness of these changes."
BlackOutSpeakOut - Welcome / Bienvenue (Thanks, Chris!)
A reader writes, "Yet another voice calling attention to the ever narrowing access to information in Canada as the Harper Government repeatedly thumb their nose at the Canadian Access to Information Act." And the CBC's Meagan Fitzpatrick reports:
Budget cuts threaten access to information, watchdog says
Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault reported today that the federal government's budget cuts could jeopardize a "fragile" access to information system that has been improving... Legault said the access to information areas within government departments tend to be vulnerable when there are cuts and she has already heard from some requestors that they've been told their files are being delayed because of cuts.
A reader writes, "Canadian heritage documents that used to be accessible through inter-library loan will be no longer accessible. If you want to access documents of Canada's history, be prepared to do some traveling, and even at that, those documents may no longer exist since standards of preservation may be compromised. This is of particular concern since the Harper government has revealed revisionist tendencies in the past."
From Laura Mueller in Nepean/Barrhaven Local Community News:
"Unless something is done soon, Canadians are at risk of losing key parts of their historical and cultural record," Harder wrote to Minister James Moore. "Preservation of our country's heritage is not something we can afford to sacrifice."
The Ottawa Public Library system relies on the national library for key Canadian heritage documents accessible through inter-library loans.
"It's going to have a huge impact on inter-library loans," said Jennifer Stirling, OPL's manager of service and innovation. "(The archives contains) Canadiana that just can't be replicated elsewhere ... it's very sad to see this happen."
Here's the national campaign to save Canada's archives.
The Canadian government is slowly doing away with Canada's ability to access its own history.
Library and Archives Canada's collection is being decentralized and scattered across the country, often to private institutions, which will limit access, making research difficult or next impossible. It should be noted that Daniel Caron, the new National Archivist hired in 2009, doesn't even have a background in library nor archives but, a background in economics.
"The changes and cuts are being justified by reference to digitization. A generous estimate is only 4% of the LAC collection has been digitized to date -- a poor record that will be made worse by the cuts announced on April 30, 2012, which reduced digitization staff by 50%."
Last week saw the latest installment of David Isenberg's Freedom to Connect conference in Washington, DC. One of the keynotes came from Eben Moglen, formerly chief counsel of the Free Software Foundation, now the principle agitator behind the Software Freedom Law Center. Eben's keynote is one of the most provocative, intelligent, outrageous and outraged pieces of technology criticism I've heard. It's a 45 minute lecture with a 45 minute Q&A. I ripped the audio and listened to it while walking around town today and kept having to stop and take out my headphones and think for a while.
I found out about it via a message forwarded to me by the Open University's Marian Petre from the ACM's SIGCSE mailing list, where Adelphi's Stephen Bloch cherry-picked some of the best quotes from the talk, which I've pasted in below to give you a taste of what awaits you, should you be willing to give Eben such a generous chunk of your time. I think it was a very good use of my time.
Innovation under austerity is not produced by collecting lots of money and paying it to innovation intermediaries. [Several examples of disintermediation: TV, encyclopedias, book publishing, music recording, magazine publishing] Disintermediation -- the movement of power out of the middle of the net -- is a crucial fact about 21st century political economy.
Intermediaries that did well in the past ten years are limited to two categories: health insurers in the U.S., owing to political pathology, and the financial industry. Health insurers in the U.S. may be able to capitalize on continuing political pathology to remain failing and expensive intermediaries for a while longer, but the financial industry crapped in its own nest and is shrinking now and will continue to do so.
The reality that disintermediation happens and you can't stop it becomes a guiding light in the formation of national industrial policy. The greatest technological innovation of the 20th century is the thing we now call the World Wide Web. That innovation both fuels disintermediation by allowing all sorts of human contact to take place without agents, and is itself a result of disintermediated innovation.
The browser made the Web very easy to read. We did not make the Web easy to write. So a little thug in a hooded sweatshirt made the Web easy to write, and created a man-in-the-middle attack on human civilization. That's the intermediary innovation that we should be concerned about. We made everything possible... and then intermediaries to innovation turned it into the horror that is Facebook. It's intermediated innovation serving the needs of financiers, not the needs of people.
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The German Pirate Party has taken seats in the fourth consecutive regional election, this time in North Rhine-Westphalia, where it received 7.5% of the vote, which will likely translate to 18 seats. These state-level elections are being viewed in part as a referendum on austerity and other Merkel doctrines, and there's a growing tide of disgust with business-as-usual across Europe. The Pirates are doing a good job of presenting themselves as a real alternative, albeit one with a specialized agenda. The trick will be for the Pirates to articulate the equation that all copyright policy ends up being Internet policy, and all Internet policy ends up being policy for everything, since everything we do involves the Internet. So far, many people are taking that idea to heart. Party founder Rick Falkvinge provides some analysis of the German PP phenomenon:
The first reason is that the German Piratenpartei was long-term from the get-go. Where most pirate parties are started like any internet project – “we’re going to change the world come next weekend” – the Germans knew they would be around for a long time, and invested early in the organizational foundation for that.
The second reason is timing and ripples on the water. When the Swedish Piratpartiet had its breakthrough in the European Parliament, and was in media all over the world, the German Piratenpartei was able to exploit that momentum when a local minister named Ursula wanted to create a net censorship to fight CP. T-shirts with the name “Zensursula” were common, zensur being German for censorship. The goverment did not win the narrative on that one, and the idea of censorship was abandoned while the Piratenpartei raked in new members. I’d say that this was the breakthrough in activist critical mass.
The third reason is Germany’s federal party support. Having won 1% in the European elections and 2% in the federal elections in 2009 entitled the Piratenpartei to considerable governmental funding, which is paid out to all parties that beat the half-percent mark in elections. This has allowed the Piratenpartei to buy themselves the appearance of an established party out in the streets – their posters and banners are everywhere on paid billboards, as well as on streetlights and more activist-associated locations. But all of it looks professional, yet with a new message. It looks electable, which is key.
Laurence Lewis's Daily Kos editorial, "The cruel stupidity that is economic austerity," is a blazing indictment of austerity as a means of recovering from recession, and it cites experts and statistics showing that austerity programs (in Europe, particularly) are deepening the recession, destroying lives, and demolishing vital social institutions that are especially needed in economic downturns. Lewis's citations are not to the usual suspects in the fight against austerity, but rather to rock-ribbed conservatives and publications like The Economist, the chief economist of Standard Chartered, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. And there's Joseph Stiglitz, who compares austerity to medieval blood-letting: "when you took the blood out, the patient got sicker. The response then was more blood-letting until the patient very nearly died. What is happening in Europe is a mutual suicide pact."
How bad is it?
* In Greece, we now have record unemployment, which includes the majority of young workers. Homelessness is up 20 percent, with soup kitchens in Athens reporting record demand, and the usually low suicide rate having doubled.
* Portugal has complied completely with the austerity demands it accepted for its bailout deal, but its debt is growing and its economy is shrinking, its unemployment rate continues to reach new heights, there is a crisis in medical care, and a 40 percent rise in emigration, with the Portuguese government acknowledging its own failure by actually encouraging its citizenry to leave.
* In Spain, austerity has resulted in falling industrial output and deepening debt, with record unemployment and a stunning rate of 50 percent youth unemployment. And the Spanish government's incomprehensible response is to impose even more crushing austerity.
* Ireland has fallen back into recession as austerity has led to falling economic output. A better future is being sacrificed, as young workers look for work abroad, "generation emigration" expected to number 75,000 this year.
* The success of Italy's wealthy technocrat government was concisely summarized in similar terms: Italy's austerity measures are stunting activity in the euro-zone's third-largest economy, recent budget and economic data show, suggesting the steps are backfiring.