What's Left 2015-04-12 Volume 8

by Editors (What's Left) last modified 2015-04-13T18:06:01-04:00
John Oliver misses the mark in Edward Snowden interview: Last week television host and comedian John Oliver sat down with Edward Snowden to discuss surveillance and the media’s coverage of Snowden’s revelations that the US, UK, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand governments have been collecting and analyzing pretty much every single piece of electronic text, audio, and video communication. While Oliver was right to point out the need for an educated debate on the merits and dangers of comprehensive state surveillance, his criticisms of Snowden’s actions missed the mark on several fronts.

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FEATURE

John Oliver misses the mark in Edward Snowden interview

Last week television host and comedian John Oliver sat down with Edward Snowden to discuss surveillance and the media's coverage of Snowden's revelations that the US, UK, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand governments have been collecting and analyzing pretty much every single piece of electronic text, audio, and video communication. While Oliver was right to point out the need for an educated debate on the merits and dangers of comprehensive state surveillance, his criticisms of Snowden's actions missed the mark on several fronts.

First, he failed to acknowledge that an educated debate requires an educated public, and that this would not have been possible before Snowden's leaks since no one understood what these governments were up to.

Second, Oliver's attempt to highlight the futility of Snowden's actions by interviewing people and asking them if they know who “Edward Snowden” is misses the point that this isn't and shouldn't be about Snowden.

Third, Oliver's attempts to blame Snowden for the way in which the leaked documents are being presented by the media is a red herring. Snowden provided the documents to trusted media outlets specifically so that they could decide how to present them. Oliver should be aiming his criticism at the media's coverage of the unfolding story, not Snowden. Perhaps Oliver is right and there hasn't been enough “dick pic” reporting – but there certainly has been now.

More: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government Surveillance

More: Why John Oliver can't find Americans who know Edward Snowden's name (it's not about Snowden)

CANADA

Harper's balanced budget legislation a cynical re-election ploy

Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has gone on the record stating that the new balanced budget legislation proposed by Joe Oliver is a purely political tool introduced in advance of the fall election, noting that it will do nothing to limit budget deficits. Research by the Parliamentary Budget Office shows that this legislation is bad economic policy and that modest deficits are not necessarily a bad thing. It's important to remember that the Conservatives have been in deficit since they came to power and this year's “balanced” election budget will take a lot of creative math.

In a desperate move to balance the books, the Conservatives have announced that the government will be selling its remaining $2.7 billion stake in General Motors. While the sale will provide a one-time influx of cash, unionized jobs and communities across Canada will be put at risk.

More: ‘Balanced budget' bill a political move, says former PBO Kevin Page

More: Balanced-budget law more political posturing than firm commitment

More: Reality check: NDP still best fiscal managers – Liberals are the worst

More: Tories help balance budget by selling final 73.4 million GM shares from bailout

Ontario skilled trades grant benefits business, not workers

The Ontario government has announced it will be investing $55 million in “skilled trades”. Instead of benefiting the the tens of thousands of youth looking for employment, this initiative will help to normalize skills training outside of the workforce. This will allow companies to disengage from training new employees, and offload the costs onto the government and public institutions.

More: Ontario Investing $55 Million to Help More People Enter the Skilled Trades

Being inclusive means respecting neurodiversity

Social movements and progressive organizations are often those taking the lead on developing new and more inclusive ways to ensure member participation. Activist Elizabeth Kessler calls upon progressive movements to create more inclusive and accessible spaces for neurodivergent folks. She provides a short, and very useful guide that lays out a framework for thinking about the less visible barriers that exist when it comes to participation.

More: How to make your social movement more inclusive of neurodiversity

Marx in Soho comes to Fredericton

Resident Citizens' Press contributor Jeffrey Bate Boerop will be taking on the role of Marx in Howard Zinn's acclaimed “Marx in Soho” at Saint Thomas University's Black Box Theatre in Fredericton New Brunswick. If you're in the area between April 30 and May 2, you should check it out.

ELSEWHERE

Austerity protests roll across France and Italy

More than 100,000 filled the streets of 70 French cities last week. They were demonstrating their opposition to the government's “loi Macron” austerity programs. Led by the more militant trade unions under the banner “Enough is Enough”, workers in the transport, services, school, hospital, and entertainment industry walked off the job. Even the Eiffel Tower was closed as workers show their anger at a government they feel has betrayed their socialist ideals.

Strikes and protests were also organized by socialist and communist trade unions and students in Rome, Italy. They vocally oppose the continuation of government's current austerity regime which has been driving many into poverty while the wealthy continue with “business as usual”.

More: Eiffel Tower, schools, airports shut down as thousands take to French streets in nationwide strike

More: Anti-austerity, anti-Macron Law: Thousands protest on streets of France

More: Thousands in Paris and Rome protest austerity measures

Greece's request for war reparations expose the hypocrisy of Germany's demands

Greece is demanding €278.7 billion from the German government in reparation for the tens of millions of dollars in stolen money, resources, and destruction Germany was responsible for during World War II. Partly a negotiation tactic meant to put a spotlight on the fact that, following the war, much of Germany's debt to countries such as Greece went uncollected and the demands that Greece now pay Germany back is just a little hypocritical.

More: Greece Releases Graphic Footage From Nazi Occupation, Ups WWII Reparations Pressure

Considering an anti-austerity European Government

Working with the left-wing Greek government, economist James K. Galbraith describes why Syriza is the real alternative to austerity politics in Europe. A good long read, Galbraith details the history of Syriza's fight with right-wing's ideological austerity politics and European finance capital.

More: The Real Thing: An Anti-austerity European Government

General Electric shifting focus, selling hedge fund assets

US conglomerate and industrial giant General Electric has decided to sell its financial hedge fund arm. GE started their Capital arm in 1932 as a way to offer credit to those buying their consumer products. However, after financial acquisitions in the early 1980s, GE Capital became more than 30% of their already giant corporate empire. GE's move is significant since it marks a shift away from the artificially inflated profits of finance capital that impacted the 2008 crisis.

More: This was the perfect time for GE to do this mega-deal

More: GE to sell bulk of finance unit, return up to $90 billion to investors

Podcast: Patrick Cockburn on the Rise of the Islamic State

Intrepid war reporter and Middle East correspondent for the Independent, Patrick Cockburn delivers a guest podcast with Lindsey Hilsum on the UK's (publicly funded) Channel 4. He provides his analysis of the rise of Islamic State and the Sunni revolution.

Listen: Patrick Cockburn on the Rise of Islamic State subscribe

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