Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- George Monbiot comments on the outsized influence of advertisers on children:
How many people believe this makes the world a better place? A company called TenNine has hung hoardings in the corridors and common rooms of 750 British schools. Among its clients are Nike, Adidas, Orange, Tesco and Unilever. It boasts that its "high impact platform delivers right to the heart of the 11-18 year old market".

Other firms are closing in. Boomerang Media, which represents Sega, Atari, Virgin, Umbro and others, has persuaded schools to distribute Revlon perfume samples to their pupils. This campaign, it says, "was effectively linked into their PSHE and PE classes". PSHE means personal, social, health and economic education, or "learning to live life well". How the disbursement of perfume by teachers helps children to keep fit and live well is a mystery I will leave you to ponder.

Advertising in schools offers corporations a genuine captive market. Trade associations which defend the dark arts of persuasion argue that if you don't like advertisements, then you don't have to look at them. But in this case you do. While surveys suggest that roadside hoardings raise awareness of a company's products among 28% of the people who pass them, posters in schools, according to TenNine, reach over 80%.

Every year, advertisers press a little further into our lives, shrinking the uncontaminated space in which we may live. In ways of which we are often scarcely aware, they change our perceptions of the world, alter our values, infiltrate the language.
In his book Childhood Under Siege, Joel Bakan shows how computer games and social networking are being merged to create new advertising platforms. The aim, according to an executive he quotes, is to "get users in the door to play for free and then monetise the hell out of them once they're hooked". One way is to issue points or virtual coinage to kids who click on advertisements.

All this is promoted as fun and freedom. Parents who try to restrict children's access look like prudes and killjoys. "As our kids become immersed," Bakan notes, "in a [corporate] culture that works to pry them loose from us, we become less able to find the connection, respect, authority and credibility we need to keep them safe, healthy and in the long term happy."
So it didn't take me long to decide to sign the open letter by a new campaign called Leave Our Kids Alone, asking for a ban on all advertising aimed at children under 11. It is long overdue: it's a marvel that we have for so long tolerated this capture of children's minds by companies exploiting their innocence and wonder. This is a campaign about more than advertising. It's about who we are: free-thinking citizens, raised on the best information and judgment that parents and teachers can provide; or captive consumers, suckled at home and at school on subtle corporate lies. I urge you to join it.
- But Erika Shaker notes that corporate interests haven't been able to completely override critical thought - with the Cons' temporary foreign worker system looking like a prime example of an issue where the general public is rightly questioning why actual people have no place in Conservative and corporate decision-making.  And Ken Georgetti calls on the Cons to fix the system they've broken.

- Martin Regg Cohn points out that the Ontario Libs' gas plant scandal also serves as a case in point as to the dangers of ill-advised privatization:
It was the Liberal embrace of privatization in 2004 that drove the government to contract out any new power generation — from gas-fired plants, solar and wind — to the private sector, explicitly sidelining government-owned Ontario Power Generation.
Think about that: OPG happens to have decades of experience in siting power plants — including nuclear reactors — across Ontario while engaging with local communities (ever notice our nukes aren’t plagued by active NIMBYism?). It also has enormous fiscal capacity to borrow money for power plant construction without resorting to parasitical U.S. private equity funds charging nearly criminal rates of interest and penalties.
Instead, the Liberals bought into the fantasy that privatization equals efficiency. And the shibboleth that the private sector always delivers on time and on budget.
Not in Mississauga, where the private sector ran out of time — and money. Eastern Power won the contract by bidding low for the project, but turned out to be a high-cost operator: Not only did it borrow money at 14 per cent (compounded quarterly), as the auditor noted incredulously, it demanded to be compensated for supposedly paying an administrative assistant at the rate of $110,000 a year.
So much for efficiency.
- Which offers a useful reminder to work on avoiding the same types of problems with a new Regina wastewater treatment plant.

- And finally, CBC reports that while Peter Penashue gets ever more shrill in shouting that he abused his ministerial authority in order to secure pork for his riding, his party refuses to even acknowledge that anything of the sort ever happened.


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