Category Archives: Community

Quote of the day: Mere anarchy is loosed. . .


And with apologies to William Butler Yeats for our headline.

From Adam Curtis, brilliant documentary filmmaker and cultural critics, writing at his BBC blog:

Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events.

But now there are no big stories and politicians react randomly to every new crisis — leaving us bewildered and disorientated.

And journalism — that used to tell a grand, unfurling narrative — now also just relays disjointed and often wildly contradictory fragments of information.

Events come and go like waves of a fever. We — and the journalists — live in a state of continual delirium, constantly waiting for the next news event to loom out of the fog — and then disappear again, unexplained.

And the formats — in news and documentaries — have become so rigid and repetitive that the audiences never really look at them.

In the face of this people retreat from journalism and politics. They turn away into their own worlds, and the stories they and their friends tell each other.

I think this is wrong, sad, and bad for democracy — because it means the politicians become more and more unaccountable.

Brazil’s acting president hews to neoliberal line


Michel Temer, Brazil’s acting president and chief neoliberal, is setting about the most ruthless privatization of the nation’s commons since the Portuguese colonialist first arrived.

And just as with the Portuguese, the nation’s indigenous peoples are shapping up to be the first victims of the relentless drive to turn everything public into a center of private profit.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Brazil’s interim government is moving ahead with plans for a constitutional amendment that would weaken indigenous land rights and pave the way for new plantations and dams to encroach on lands inhabited by native peoples, a United Nations official said.

Erika Yamada, a member of the U.N’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a human rights advisory body, said the proposed constitutional change would result in Brazil moving backwards on indigenous land rights.

The procedures used to identify and indigenous territories could be altered to give lawmakers more power to decide which territories belong to native peoples, she said.

>snip<

“They (lawmakers) will try and move forward with changes to the constitution that would make it much harder to defend indigenous rights,” Yamada told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview this week.

“I think they will also weaken the process of authorization for large development projects with great social and environmental impact for traditional communities.”

And it’s not just the land and water of the indigenous that are marked for the auction block

From Bloomberg:

Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer is studying the sale of state assets to shore up public accounts, as well as an audit of the country’s largest savings bank, said a government official with direct knowledge of the matter.

A government task force will consider selling stakes in companies such as power utility Furnas Centrais Eletricas SA and BR Distribuidora, a unit of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the oil producer known as Petrobras, said the official, who asked not to be named because the plans haven’t been made public. The intention is to help plug a near-record budget deficit and improve the efficiency of state-owned enterprises.

Petrobras’s preferred shares rallied as much as 1.6 per cent on the report, after posting losses during most of the morning.

The plans are the clearest sign yet of a policy shift since the Senate’s suspension last week of President Dilma Rousseff, who had increased the role of the government and state companies in the economy.

Temer has also take the first steps to privatizing the national public broadcaster, reports teleSUR English:

Michel Temer, head of the coup government in Brazil, fired the head of the Brazil Communications Company, the public firm that manages the country’s public media outlets.

The action was rejected by the firm’s board of directors on the grounds that the law that regulates the company prohibits political interference.

“The notion that the president-director of the company should have fixed term, that does not coincide with a presidential mandates, was enshrined precisely to ensure the independence, impartiality and guiding principles of public outlets,” read a statement by the board of the Brazil Communications Company.

“The aim is to ensure autonomy from the federal government and protect the right of Brazilian society to free and public communications, which ensures the expression of diversity and plurality — foundations of a modern and democratic society,” added the statement.

The head of the company, Ricardo Melo, was appointed by democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff for a four year term earlier this month.

The coup government, however, ignored the concerns of the board.

Melo was replaced by Laerte Rimoli, who served as spokesperson for Aecio Neves, the right-wing candidate defeated by Rousseff in the 2014 presidential election. He also previously served as press officer for Eduardo Cunha, the embattled former head of the Chamber of Deputies who was recently suspended by the Supreme Court.

There’s much more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

A must-watch: Requiem for the American Dream


The definitive Noam Chomsky video, featuring an extended interview conducted over four years in which he outlines his view of the state of American democracy.

And do set it to high resolution and full screen.

Requiem for the American Dream

The synopsis from IMDB:

REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM is the definitive discourse with Noam Chomsky, widely regarded as the most important intellectual alive, on the defining characteristic of our time – the deliberate concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a select few. Through interviews filmed over four years, Chomsky unpacks the principles that have brought us to the crossroads of historically unprecedented inequality – tracing a half century of policies designed to favor the most wealthy at the expense of the majority – while also looking back on his own life of activism and political participation. Profoundly personal and thought provoking, Chomsky provides penetrating insight into what may well be the lasting legacy of our time – the death of the middle class, and swan song of functioning democracy. A potent reminder that power ultimately rests in the hands of the governed, REQUIEM is required viewing for all who maintain hope in a shared stake in the future.
– Written by Jared P. Scott

Using interviews filmed over four years, Noam Chomsky discusses the deliberate concentration of wealth and power found in the hands of a select few.

Release date: January 29, 2016 (USA)

Directors: Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott, Peter D. Hutchison
Music composed by: Malcolm Francis
Screenplay: Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott, Peter D. Hutchison
Producers: Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott, Peter D. Hutchison
Cinematography: Rob Featherstone, Michael McSweeney

Numbers of the day: The shame of the city


From USA Today‘s interactive database of arrest rates around the United States:

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Massive Internet shifts from fear, privacy worries


Nearly half of Internet users from 41,000 households surveyed by the Department of Commerce report  they have stopped doing basic things online — ranging from posting on social media sites to expressing themselves on public forum and making online purchases.

Here’s the full report from Rafi Goldberg, policy analyst for the agency’s Office of Policy Analysis and Development of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration:

Every day, billions of people around the world use the Internet to share ideas, conduct financial transactions, and keep in touch with family, friends, and colleagues. Users send and store personal medical data, business communications, and even intimate conversations over this global network. But for the Internet to grow and thrive, users must continue to trust that their personal information will be secure and their privacy protected.

NTIA’s analysis of recent data shows that Americans are increasingly concerned about online security and privacy at a time when data breaches, cybersecurity incidents, and controversies over the privacy of online services have become more prominent. These concerns are prompting some Americans to limit their online activity, according to data collected for NTIA in July 2015 by the U.S. Census Bureau. This survey included several privacy and security questions, which were asked of more than 41,000 households that reported having at least one Internet user.

Perhaps the most direct threat to maintaining consumer trust is negative personal experience. Nineteen percent of Internet-using households—representing nearly 19 million households—reported that they had been affected by an online security breach, identity theft, or similar malicious activity during the 12 months prior to the July 2015 survey. Security breaches appear to be more common among the most intensive Internet-using households. For example, while 9 percent of online households that used just one type of computing device (either a desktop, laptop, tablet, Internet-connected mobile phone, wearable device, or TV-connected device) reported security breaches, 31 percent of those using at least five different types of devices suffered this experience (see Figure 1).

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Similarly, 22 percent of Internet-using households that used a mobile data plan to go online outside the home experienced an online security breach, compared with 11 percent of those not using data plans while outside the home. Perhaps not surprisingly, these figures suggest the prevalence of data breaches is higher among segments of our population that are constantly connected.

Online Households Are Concerned About a Range of Privacy and Security Risks

NTIA also asked households to identify what concerned them the most about online privacy and security risks. Interviewers did not suggest possible answers when asking this question, and respondents were free to give multiple answers or to say that they had no concerns. Despite the lack of prompting, 84 percent of online households named at least one concern they had about online privacy and security risks, and 40 percent cited at least two different concerns. By far the most frequent concern—shared by 63 percent of online households—was identity theft. Other common concerns included credit card or banking fraud, data collection or tracking by online services, loss of control over personal data, data collection or tracking by government, and threats to personal safety (see Figure 2).

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Privacy and security concerns were even more prevalent among online households that had been affected by a security breach during the year prior to the survey. Seventy percent of such households named identity theft as one of the issues that concerned them the most, compared with 62 percent of their peers that had not experienced a breach. We observed the same pattern across the board; for example, 30 percent of breach-affected online households were concerned about data collection or tracking by online services, versus 21 percent of their unaffected counterparts.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Map of the day: Under-three childcare in Europe


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From Eurostat:

Families make use of different arrangements to care for their children under the age of three (under-threes). Some parents care for their children themselves. Other parents make use of day-care centres (formal childcare),
child-minders, grand-parents, other household members, relatives, friends or neighbours (informal childcare) or a combination of formal and informal childcare.

In 2014, the European Union (EU) totalled almost 15.5 million children aged under three. Half (50%) of them were cared for by their parents only, while 28% attended at least partially formal care, meaning that the Barcelona target of 33% of under-threes in formal childcare was still not reached. There were however major differences between Member States.

Highest share of under-threes cared for only by their parents in Bulgaria, lowest in the Netherlands

Care by the parents only was the main childcare arrangement for under-threes in a majority of EU Member States. There were however big differences between the Member States. The highest proportions were registered in Bulgaria (73%), Latvia (70%), Hungary and Slovakia (68% each), while the lowest were recorded in the Netherlands (23%), Portugal (27%), Denmark (30%) and Cyprus (32%). At EU level, one in every two children aged under 3 was cared for by his/her parents only.

Barcelona target of 33% of formal childcare reached in 10 Member States

In 2002 at the Barcelona summit it was decided that Member States should remove disincentives to female labour force participation and strive to provide childcare to at least 33% of under-threes. In 2014 this target of 33% of formal childcare, whether exclusively or partially, was reached in 10 Member States: Denmark (70%), Sweden (56%), Belgium and Luxembourg (both 49%), the Netherlands and Portugal (both 45%), France (40%), Slovenia and Spain (both 37%) and Finland (34%). Overall in the EU, fewer than a third (28%) of under-threes attended formal childcare.

Map of the day II: The dying U.S. urban middle class


BLOG Urban

From America’s Shrinking Middle Class: A Close Look at Changes Within Metropolitan Areas, a new report [PDF] from the Pew Research Center:

The American middle class is losing ground in metropolitan areas across the country, affecting communities from Boston to Seattle and from Dallas to Milwaukee. From 2000 to 2014 the share of adults living in middle-income households fell in 203 of the 229 U.S. metropolitan areas examined in a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. The decrease in the middle-class share was often substantial, measuring 6 percentage points or more in 53 metropolitan areas, compared with a 4-point drop nationally.

The shrinking of the middle class at the national level, to the point where it may no longer be the economic majority in the U.S., was documented in an earlier analysis by the Pew Research Center. The changes at the metropolitan level, the subject of this in-depth look at the American middle class, demonstrate that the national trend is the result of widespread declines in localities all around the country.

This report encompasses 229 of the 381 “metropolitan statistical areas” as defined by the federal government. That is the maximum number of areas that could be identified in the Census Bureau data used for the analysis and for which data are available for both 2000 and 2014. Together, these areas accounted for 76% of the nation’s population in 2014.