Saturday, July 09, 2011

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Kai Nagata's post on why he quit his job as a reporter is well worth a read in full. But let's particularly note his observations which may apply just as much to many other jobs as to positions in the media (even if the restrictions on public speech likely aren't spelled out as clearly):
I have serious problems with the direction taken by Canadian policy and politics in the last five years. But as a reporter, I feel like I’ve been holding my breath. Every question I asked, every tweet I posted, and even what I said to other journalists and friends had to go through a filter, where my own opinions and values were carefully strained out. Even then I’m not sure I was always successful, but I always knew at the CBC and subsequently at CTV that there were serious consequences for editorial. Within the terms of my employment at CTV, there was a clause in which the corporation (now Bellmedia) literally took ownership of my intellectual property output. If I invented a better mouse trap, they owned the patent. If I wrote a novel, they got a cut. Rhymes on the back of a napkin? Bellmedia is hip to the jive, yo. And if I ever said anything out of line with my position as an “objective” TV reporter, they had grounds to fire me. I had a sinking feeling when I first read that clause, but I signed because I was 23 and I wanted the job. Now I want my opinions back.
- Erika Shaker points out how a lack of precision in defining the middle class has eased the way for policies which promote inequality at the expense of people who likely self-identify with the term:
The distribution of wealth has shifted, but the self-identification as middle class has not; if anything, identification of and with the middle class has expanded to include more people than ever. And rather than political leaders addressing the vast disparities across the economic spectrum, we hear how their policies will benefit the “middle class” when even a cursory analysis reveals the real beneficiaries of many of these policies are those with much higher incomes (the very upper crust of the middle, so to speak).

So, for example, we’re told the middle class will be the beneficiary of income splitting, when they really mean families (with kids) making over $125,000 a year—the richest 20%–who still self-identify as middle class.

In spite of the “middle class” framing, tax policies are being used to help enrich the already most affluent. Meanwhile, everyone else labouring under the false impression that they are part of the middle class that politicians are talking about is left wondering why at the end of the day the so-called middle class-friendly numbers don’t seem to add up for the people who need the most help.
- Michael Geist highlights the CRTC's continued ineffectiveness in enforcing the principle of net neutrality:
The Commission unveiled its Internet traffic management practices in October 2009, establishing enforceable guidelines touted as the world’s first net neutrality regulations. Where a consumer complains, Internet providers are required to describe their practices, demonstrate their necessity, and establish that they discriminate as little as possible. Targeting specific applications or protocols may warrant investigation and slowing down time-sensitive traffic likely violates current Canadian law.

While there was a lot to like about the CRTC approach, the immediate concern was absence of an enforcement mechanism. Much of the responsibility for gathering evidence and launching complaints was left to individual Canadians who typically lack the expertise to do so. Nearly two years later, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) posts an investigation into the system that reveals those concerns were well-founded.

Although the CRTC has not publicly disclosed details on net neutrality complaints and the resulting investigations, I recently filed an Access to Information request to learn more about what has been taking place behind the scenes. A review of hundreds of pages of documents discloses that virtually all major Canadian ISPs have been the target of complaints, but there have been few, if any, consequences arising from the complaints process. In fact, the CRTC has frequently dismissed complaints as being outside of the scope of the policy, lacking in evidence, or sided with Internet provider practices.
- Finally, Cracked's article on the most disturbing examples of corporate capture is well worth a read.


  1. Anonymous8:10 a.m.

    My family makes more then $120,000 per year, but I wouldn't call ourselves any more then middle class. We can't afford to live downtown or even get a detached house in Toronto. We don't shop at Hold Renfrew, although we rarely shop at Walmart. We don't go on exotic vacations.

  2. jurist8:38 a.m.

    Which to me would place you at the absolute top end of families who could possibly have a case for assistance from new tax policies - where the Cons' choices are designed to make sure that only you and people making more money actually benefit.