- George Monbiot criticizes the UK Cons' latest effort to outlaw any form of individual action or expression which might intrude upon the corporate bubble:
The existing rules are bad enough. Introduced by the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, antisocial behaviour orders (asbos) have criminalised an apparently endless range of activities, subjecting thousands – mostly young and poor – to bespoke laws. They have been used to enforce a kind of caste prohibition: personalised rules which prevent the untouchables from intruding into the lives of others.- Michael Geist makes the case for an independent investigation into CSIS' surveillance of Canadians (frequently laundered through foreign spy services to avoid accountability). And in an entirely related story, James MacGregor worries that pipeline politics are harming Canadian democracy.
You get an asbo for behaving in a manner deemed by a magistrate as likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to other people. Under this injunction, the proscribed behaviour becomes a criminal offence. Asbos have been granted which forbid the carrying of condoms by a prostitute, homeless alcoholics from possessing alcohol in a public place, a soup kitchen from giving food to the poor, a young man from walking down any road other than his own, children from playing football in the street. They were used to ban peaceful protests against the Olympic clearances.
[A new] bill would permit injunctions against anyone of 10 or older who "has engaged or threatens to engage in conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person". It would replace asbos with ipnas (injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance), which would not only forbid certain forms of behaviour, but also force the recipient to discharge positive obligations. In other words, they can impose a kind of community service order on people who have committed no crime, which could, the law proposes, remain in force for the rest of their lives.
The bill also introduces public space protection orders, which can prevent either everybody or particular kinds of people from doing certain things in certain places. It creates new dispersal powers, which can be used by the police to exclude people from an area (there is no size limit), whether or not they have done anything wrong.
The new injunctions and the new dispersal orders create a system in which the authorities can prevent anyone from doing more or less anything. But they won't be deployed against anyone. Advertisers, who cause plenty of nuisance and annoyance, have nothing to fear; nor do opera lovers hogging the pavements of Covent Garden. Annoyance and nuisance are what young people cause; they are inflicted by oddballs, the underclass, those who dispute the claims of power.
These laws will be used to stamp out plurality and difference, to douse the exuberance of youth, to pursue children for the crime of being young and together in a public place, to help turn this nation into a money-making monoculture, controlled, homogenised, lifeless, strifeless and bland. For a government which represents the old and the rich, that must sound like paradise.
- Mark Weisbrot takes a look at how NAFTA has affected Mexico, and finds little reason to think that its place as North America's cheapest pool of labour has done much to benefit Mexican workers.
- Finally, Ian Welsh discusses how many personal and social choices are being made based on the "death bet" - that by the time problems fully manifest themselves, the people responsible will be dead anyway:
The men and women who lived through the Great Depression always planned for the (future). They built power plants which produced more power than needed, bridges which could handle more traffic, water purification plants which produced more water than needed. They made sure infrastructure would last for decades, and then built it so well it outlasted even their (specifications).
Their heirs, the Silents and the Boomers, thought this was absurd. Why not party now, and let the future take care of itself?Call this the “death bet”. In it’s pure form, the death bet is just that, a bet that when the bill comes do, you’ll be dead. If you live a good life and die owing millions, well, what do you care?But someone will pay that bill. Maybe it will be your creditors, who might even go out of business, unable to collect what they are owed. Perhaps it will be your heirs, if the millions adhere to property. Perhaps it will be someone you don’t even know.But someone will pay. The good life, bought by debt, is always paid for.The death bet is why we are not dealing with climate change, even though we know that it is coming and we know it will kill hundreds of millions and might even destroy our entire society. The death bet is why our governments make huge tax cuts today knowing that either taxes will have to be increased in the future or spending will have to be drastically cut because the spending is not used for investment. But in the meantime the government can borrow, or print money, so who cares? The politicians who make the tax cuts won’t be in power, and many of the people who receive the cuts will be dead, so what do they care?