Transparency, privacy, and political opportunism
The publication of hacked emails and documents seems to have become a regular occurrence in recent years. However, while the government documents leaked by Edward Snowden were combed through by journalists who made it a priority to write about and publish only stories that served the public interest, more recent leaks have not been handled so well.
These recent leaks have been made available to the public in their entirety, with issues of genuine public concern mixed in with personal conversations and confessions. While emails detailing the decision-making process behind a party policy might contain concerning revelations (did donors have any influence over the matter?), discussions about the conduct of a staff-person, or someone’s health issues should remain private.
Unfortunately, in the hands of a media and blogging community obsessed with sensationalism, some of these private and personal conversations are being published regardless of whether they are really of any public concern. In some cases, they are ruining people’s lives. Additionally, the most recent leaks of Clinton campaign emails have been timed to intentionally cause as much damage as possible.
In a discussion between Glenn Greenwald (one of the journalists who wrote about the Snowden leaks) and Naomi Klein (a Canadian author and activist), the two talk about the careful balance required when reporting on leaked documents. What responsibilities do journalists have? How do they determine which stories are actually in the public interest and provide proper context? Greenwald and Klein may not have all the answers, but their discussion is informative in shaping the contours of the debate.
Cyber attacks are constant and a reminder of the importance of security and privacy
The internet has become so important to global and local economies that if a connection goes down, it becomes a major disruption to peoples' lives and work. This has made it a prime focus for those who want to cause economic damage. Last week saw an attack on Dyn, a major part of the Domain Name Service (DNS) infrastructure of the internet. Many major “cloud” services and internet companies saw their websites become unreachable. Sites affected included big players like Twitter, Paypal, Reddit, and Github which are sites that many workers (contract and permanent alike) rely on to get contracts and get paid.
Digital privacy, security, and encryption will continue to make headlines so long as there are cyber attacks on major parts of the internet. And, there will be increasing attacks on the internet infrastructure by state agencies, criminal entities, organized hacktivist communities, and terrorist groups. Unfortunately, the major news media continue to ignore some important reasons these attacks have been possible. The pundits (and governments) also seem to ignore any of the reforms that could be implemented to improve the internet’s resistance to these attacks.
Luckily for you and your loved ones, What’s Left has written about the vulnerabilities before and suggested some positions the left should promote to address the broader problem. Even on the left, socialist organizations and unions need to adopt more resilient systems of communication (and avoid some entirely) to avoid being caught-up in these problems. All security vulnerabilities that affect international companies and cloud hosting solutions are also an issue for our organizations. The difference is that international capital and the state intelligence agencies are unlikely to come to our rescue.
Video game voice actors on strike
After almost two years working without a contract, the actors who provide the the voices for many of the most memorable video game characters have gone on strike.
Members of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG–AFTRA) voted last fall, giving the union a strong mandate (96.5%) to pursue a work stoppage if deemed necessary by their bargaining committee. With video game companies refusing to meet the union’s demands, SAG-AFTRA members walked off the job on on Friday.
The existing contract between union-members and the industry was largely negotiated before video games became a multi-billion dollar entertainment behemoth. Now voice actors are asking for many of the benefits they get for doing the same work for television shows and movies – including transparency about what games actors are being hired to work on, residuals for games that sell over two-million copies, as well as protection and compensation for “vocally stressful” recordings.
North of the border, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) are acting in solidarity with their American counterparts and refusing to provide voice talent to any of the targeted video game companies until an agreement is reached.
Unlike the movie and television industries, far fewer members of the video game industry are unionized. That means that video game companies will still be able to hire non-unionized talent, and they will also be able to point to other non-unionized employees and try and make the case that the union’s demands are unfair.
Of course, this should be used as a wake-up call and opportunity for everyone involved in video game productions (artists, animators, level designers, testers, sound-designers, etc.) to come together and organize themselves so that they can enjoy the same benefits as voice actors.
Food Security and Unions
Local Toronto food activists are working with unionized workers to shift local food procurement at the University of Toronto. By in-sourcing production and cooking real food they are showing that by working together, workers and activists can make a positive impact in our communities.
From the outside, many may wonder why unions care so much about food security – defending their members' interests at work and shopping at the grocery store seem far apart. However, food requires a lot of labour at every stage of production – planting, harvesting, transporting, storing, cleaning, preparing, cooking etc.. Workers are engaged at every stage so their working conditions are the conditions that produce our food, affect access, and drive quality.
Democratic unions play an important roll in protecting the interests of workers in their communities as well as the workplace. Unionized food workers, as well as their friends and family live and work in the community. As such, they have voted to make access to quality food a human right. In food industries, the tension between cost, quality, labour time, and working conditions are stark. This makes the need for simultaneous activism on the shop-floor and in the community obvious. In-house food production means more control over the quality of food and better jobs in the community.
Previous global union movement work
Unions around the world have long been conscious of the impact of capitalist food production models. Driven by local experience, global union federations pushed for class and gender analyses to be included in policy formation at the UN and Bretton Woods institutions. Thanks to this work, in the 1990s these concepts were included at the World Food Summit organized by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the UN. The Summit was focused on food security in response to the global recession and “surprising” increases in food costs.
Unfortunately, while class and gender became part of the discussion, the Green Revolution of industrializing food production and linking food production to burning oil continued forward unaltered. As the economy recovered in the late 1990s, policy makers once again forgot about the problems of linking food production to global capital markets.
Move ahead to the 2008-09 recession and we see that this was an obvious mistake. While wages were collapsing, the implosion of markets sent sent food prices soaring. Food costs, as measured by the UN, hit a 229 on the price index – an index pegged to 100 in 2002. By comparison, the index was at 170.9 in 2016. The price of food has led, in no small part, to revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and exacerbated imperialist wars in the Middle East. Once again, many were left wondering why food production was in any way linked to unstable capital markets.
In advanced industrialized countries, food prices all lead to hardship for families, making problems caused by low-value food (like obesity and diabetes) worse. The response has been a a growing rejection of processed food and a realization that the knowledge of sustainable quality food production was being lost through outsourcing to industrial multinational food companies.
Food security now includes demands for real food pushed by a renewed movement calling for quality, locally-sourced ingredients and meals made fresh on-site. It is not surprising that the battlegrounds for advancing this call have been medical care facilities (including hospitals) and public universities. By their very nature, universities are more susceptible to democratic activism and show it is promising that campus activists at U of T were able to convince the university to bring food services back in house, with meals being made on campus from fresh ingredients in consultation with nutrition experts. The positive benefits for workers being brought in-house is obvious: raises, job security, education and health benefits, and a pension for all the workers. The benefits for the university community is delicious food that supports the local economy that is sold basically at cost.
Victories like this should inspire those on other campuses and medical care facilities to take action to improve their local food production. Nowhere else is the link between quality food and life so obvious.
30 Days, 30 Songs: Artists for a Trump-Free America
Death Cab for Cutie - Million Dollar Loan
EL VY - Are These My Jets?
Jim James (from My Morning Jacket) - Same Old Lie
Bob Dylan’s embrace of Israel’s war crimes
Youth in Revolt: is 2016 a new dawn for young, politicised musicians?
Remember when Donald Trump endorsed Eminem for President?
Eminem - Mosh