Archive | April 8th, 2010



 Those progressive Lib Dems posted by lenin

Nick Clegg’s magic electoral solution – praise Thatcher, outflank the Tories on cuts:

In an interview with the Spectator, Clegg says he has come to view Thatcher’s victory over the unions as “immensely significant” and goes further than the Conservative party in courting economic liberalism, by saying he would end the structural deficit with 100% spending cuts, as opposed to the 80% cuts the Conservatives have proposed.

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 Digital Economy Bill – Stable Door. Horse. Bolted. posted by lenin

A little noticed bill was passed into law by MPs in the ‘wash up’ between the calling of the general election and the dissolution of parliament. It was pushed through without a great deal of real debate, and with a lot of last minute negotiating by party fixers and whips.
Most MPs were not present in the house to vote on it, and most of those who were participated in a Labour-Tory pact to see the bill signed into law. It’s called the Digital Economy Act (née Bill), and it’s supposed to protect grumpy ‘creative’ industries – embracing music, film, publishing, software, IT and other manufacturers – from the file-sharers.

The central proposal was originally to disconnect users who were found to have infringed copyright on fifty occasions. This sounds like you would have to be a dedicated file-sharer to fall foul of the law, but a few albums would be sufficient as each song constitutes a copyright infringement. The value of said infringement wouldn’t have to amount to much – about £20 – for the law to come into effect.

The language of the legislation now appears to give the government more leeway in determining the scope of Ofcom responses to copyright infringement – they can potentially order ISPs to undertake a range of measures against subscribers, from bandwidth shaping to account suspension. Internet access is, for those who have it, a vital tool for work, communication, political organisation, etc.

Most of the world’s population who can be polled on such matters say access is a “fundamental right”, which I think is reasonable since anyone without access is liable to be excluded from access to the crucial forms of political association, public discourse and economic opportunity that the great majority with access will have. Disconnecting someone is therefore quite a severe response to what could be a minor breach of copyright.

And, although it is assumed that file-sharers – ie, people uploading as well as downloading files – are the specific targets, the language of the bill isn’t that specific. So, you could infringe copyright by merely visiting a site that contained images or text that are protected by copyright. And the risk is naturally greater if you find something useful online and decide to download it.

Scribd, rapidshare, megaupload, hotfile, depositfiles, 4shared, and similar websites have been designed for the purpose of allowing people to post files online – mostly pornography, I gather, but not all of it in breach of copyright, and not always posted without permission. In fact, such sites are a very useful way for authors of, for example, academic texts that would be expensive to print and publish widely to make their work freely available to the inquiring public.
By definition, any site that allows this to happen also allows the opportunity for file-sharers to post and share copyrighted material. The only way to avoid having your internet access terminated, it seems, would be to stop downloading anything found for free online. Which seems to go against the very point of the internet.

Specific online locations can also be blocked in an amendment to the legislation. One effect would be that public web providers, such as libraries and internet cafes, could be forced to take legal action to maintain their right to provide internet access. They would have to prove that they take serious measures to prevent copyright infringement. If these became too costly, the logic would force them to remove internet access.

Law suits designed to force ISPs to block access to subsribers, or block specific locations, could also be vexatious or malicious, designed to protect companies from unwelcome scrutiny etc. More worrisome still, websites like Wikileaks depend on publishing copyrighted materials. All leaked documents are copyrighted. One of the government’s responses to Craig Murray’s torture memo docs was to say they were copyrighted and had to be excluded from publication.

This may not be the aim of the legislation, but the government was made aware of such concerns, and offered no assurances that such uses could not be made of it. Given that the US government now deems Wikileaks a threat to national security, and has been spying on the site (what, because of things like this and this?), it’s not hard to see a US-friendly government – a tautology as far as the UK is concerned – using the law against the site.

The forces pushing for the Digital Economy Act look like nothing so much as the Save Schiavo crowd, determined to sustain the dead on life support on the off-chance of a miracle. They would be far better placed thinking up an alternative to the copyright model of production, but instead are trying to hold back the tide with legislation, court proceedings, DRM, etc.

In fact, as far as the music industry goes, artists do better in a world of extensive file-sharing – so they should be the last people to be blackmailed into supporting such legislation. It is the record labels, not the artists, who lose out. Yet, the unions representing actors, artists, musicians, etc. almost uniformly backed the bill. To hitch the protection of jobs and incomes for ‘creative industry’ workers to such standpat, head-in-the-sand legislation was a dreadful mistake.

This law is a hasty ramshackle compromise between conflicting sectors of capital. But it also enhances the power of both the state and private capital to suppress information and the individuals making that information available. Sadly, it coincides with this decision by a US court, which puts net neutrality in some jeopardy.

The ruling says that the FCC was without its rights when it sanctioned Comcast for slowing internet access for peer-to-peer file-sharers. In this case, the FCC was supporting “open internet principles”, namely that all internet traffic should be treated equally. I don’t believe for a second that abolishing net neutrality will save copyright.
There are always mirror sites, and there is always encryption. The extent of state interference that would be required to successfully stop the bulk of copyright infringement would be phenomenally expensive, elaborate, onerous, and ultimately death blow to the promise of the internet. But the futile efforts to maintain forced tribute to intellectual property holders (long after the original labour has been paid for and revenues become pure profit, I might add) can do a lot of damage in the interim.

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Worst. Election. Ever. posted by lenin

The 2010 general election will result in a victory for the nasty party, whoever wins. All three major parties, having supported the mammoth bank bailouts, stand for the deepest cuts in the public sector for over 50 years, far outstripping anything accomplished by Thatcher. Outdoing Thatcher in the cuts stakes is, in case the point passed you by, as nasty as can be. The chancellors’ debate – which, underscoring the poverty of alternatives, was won by the drab former Shell economist Vincent Cable – reinforced this quite starkly.

There is only a difference of emphasis and timing between the parties, and these differences all sound eminently reasonable and plausible within the terms of the discussion – but they are largely technocratic differences with policy flavours attached. And even if New Labour pretends to be protecting frontline services, the fact is that it is already driving cuts through the education sector. It is continuing its savage cuts in the civil service. Health departments are already budgeting for big cuts.

For example, the London NHS Trust is conducting secret meetings behind locked doors, in which no notes are taken, in order to plan approximately £5bn in cuts. And that’s just one city. Already, cutbacks in other areas, such as maternity wards and A&E departments in the north-east are causing difficulties for sitting Labour MPs – Gordon Prentice, the left-wing Burnley MP, is having to fight his own government over the closure of an A&E department in Burnley. To which the other parties say, amen, and faster, please!

The narrowness of the choice between the major parties is underscored by the scramble by both New Labour and the Tories to prove that their plans are the best for businesses. Mark New Labour’s pain on discovering that dozens of capitalists (69 individually so far, plus all the employers’ lobby groups) are swinging behind the Tories. The issue at stake is rather pitiful.

New Labour plans to raise National Insurance contributions, which the Tories and the employers (and, in Scotland, the SNP) say is a tax on jobs. There is a distinct whiff of hypocrisy about employers who are always happy to cut staff for the sake of increased profits now complaining that a modest tax on profits (and earnings) will cause them to hire fewer people. Nonetheless, the Tories’ pledge-of-the-week is to reverse this, and – sotto voce – cut spending in its stead.

The total amount affected by this is £6bn per annum. It’s not an insignificant sum, roughly equivalent to Job Seekers’ Allowance for 1.5m people (that’s £4k per annum per person for those over 25, in case you were wondering). But the government is in deficit to the tune of £167bn. It intends to cut spending over the next four or five years to reduce the deficit from 12.6% of GDP to 4% of GDP, which will mean cuts of up to a quarter in some departments.

If the economy stops growing or falls into negative growth again, the deficit will expand and, with it, the cuts and/or tax rises deemed necessary to pay off the deficit. That £6bn is a relatively small amount of the money that will have to be found to pay off the holders of bonds and gilts, with interest, whether by means of taxes or spending cuts.

Consider the controversy in light of another fact. Since June 2009, national income has grown by £27bn. Of that, £24bn went to profits, and only £2bn to labour (the rest, presumably, went to taxes and other costs). That is, approximately 89% of all new income produced went straight into the pockets of capital.

This has been possible in part because of the way the recession put organised labour on the back foot, undermining collective resistance to wage cuts, and making individual resistance – in the form of, say, seeking new employers on better terms – effectively impossible. But that in turn is due to a large extent to the accumulated outcomes of previous class struggles, in which the working class has not yet overturned the legacy of defeats in the 1980s.

In the US, reflecting a graver situation for the working class organisation, matters are even worse: national income rose by $200bn, but profits rose by $280bn – meaning that an extra $80bn came out of workers’ wages. The economic recovery, fragile though it is, has been bought at the expense of a massive attack on working class living standards.

This class offensive by the rich is hardly a trival matter. Nor is the fact that the Anglophone centre-left, led by Obama and Brown, have presided over the most socially unjust economic recovery in modern history. Yet it will not be an issue in this election – except in the sense that the hitherto disaggregated acts of resistance to this attack, whether at BA or Network Rail, will not fail to generate gasps of affronted respectability from the party leaders.

It falls to the fractious forces of the Left to raise the matter, but the Left’s resources, electorally, are divided. This is not a terrain on which we can expect big returns. Respect has some solid pockets of strength, and I wish them well, but I do not anticipate that they will pull off the hat trick of victories that they aim at.

The Greens have a solid chance in Brighton, but they have to overcome a gap of some 6,000 votes between themselves and New Labour. TUSC is an experimental alliance involving the SWP, the Socialist Party and trade unionists, and it is not going to win any seats – though it does have the advantage of putting support for trade unions and opposition to the cuts at the forefront of its campaigning. So, what is looking increasingly likely is either a Tory administration, or a de facto national government with little support and less enthusiasm, with at best some limited signs of left-wing dissent and at worst new strongholds for the far right.

This election, then, could hardly be less inspiring. At most, it punctuates the processes leading toward a ferocious class conflict, accentuating one or other facet of it, handing the advantage briefly to one or other force. But of itself, it is hard to see democracy’s summit, the conscientious register of public opinion on all vital matters, in this emaciated ritual. Labels: , , , , , ,

See: Lenin’s Tomb

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“Nonviolence has never caught on here.” Oh, yeah. Nonviolence has never caught on here in Palestine as opposed there in Israel, where nonviolence is the norm? Explain that, Mr. Bronner

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“Since June 2007 — when Zio=Nazi tightened its blockade of Gaza — the economy has sunk into a deep depression as unemployment has hit as high as 80 percent. Poverty among the 1.5 million residents has reached unprecedented levels with more than 80 percent of the population dependent on food aid provided by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees.
The dire situation is the result of Nazi’s closure, according to numerous international assessments. Although Zio=Nazi regime erratically opens border crossings for the import of food and other basic necessities to Gaza, only a fraction of the people’s requirements get in.

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“A Muslim group has demanded an apology from the British Army after it emerged that replica mosques were being used on a North Yorkshire firing range.”

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“A Canadian woman being held against her will in Saudi Arabia says the Canadian government is not taking her plight seriously. Nazia Quazi was taken to Saudi Arabia by her father in November 2007. Because of that country’s archaic gender laws, women of any age are subject to male “guardianship.”
In the 24-year-old Quazi’s case, her father has taken her passport, and refuses to sign an exit visa allowing her to leave the country.”

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“An award-winning book about a Palestinian girl whose family suffers at the hands of Nazi settlers ‘Hitler Youth’  will remain in Toronto schools after a review by board staff found it “does not cross the line into literature promoting hate or animosity towards others.”
Zionist B’Nai Brith Canada had complained The Shepherd’s Granddaughter is “vehemently anti-‘Israel’” and had asked that the book — currently part of a province-wide reading program for Grades 7 and 8 students — be removed and was disappointed with the Toronto District School Board’s decision.”

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“Haifa District Court Wednesday ruled that El Al airlines must compensate two Arab  some NIS 30,000, for humiliating them during security checks in a New York airport.
The brothers were closely guarded throughout the checks, their movements were constrained by the airline’s security detail, without anything that would determine them as a security risk.
One of the brothers was also told he would not be allowed to board the flight home unless he apologizes to one of the guards.”

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“Zionist-government funded Jewish religious school received a fine Wednesday from the Zionist regime for refusing to adhere to a court order made last August requiring the school to end its policy of accepting only Ashkenazi (white European descended) Jews, and not Jews from other racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

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