Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Guardian on Bradley Manning.
Heather Brooke gets to the heart of the WikiLeaks story :

The former US ambassador to Russia James Collins told CNN the disclosure of the cables, "will impede doing things in a normal, civilised way". Too often what is normal and civilised in diplomacy means turning a blind eye to large-scale social injustices, corruption and abuse of power. Having read through several hundred cables, much of the "harm" is embarrassment and the highlighting of inconvenient truths. For the sake of a military base in a country, our leaders accept a brutal dictator who oppresses his population. This may be convenient in the short term for politicians, but the long-term consequences for the world's citizens can be catastrophic.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I've just made a donation to WikiLeaks.

Yes, what wikileaks is doing is pretty scary. There could, indeed, be bad repercussions.

On, the other hand, this is potentially the biggest shift in the relationship between governments and people in a generation.

Looking back historically, the people never get concessions out of government except through (some kind of) force. And we will not get a government that remakes itself for the internet age voluntarily. Only if we demand better behaviour and more openness from the powerful will we get it. (And I mean demand from a position of strength, not plead from a position of weakness.)

Today, the best way we can tell the governments of the world that we want (and that we deserve) a new contract with them, is to stand up for WikiLeaks in both principle and practice. Give money. Give more information. Mirror and help distribute documents. Defend the physical persons involved - if it comes to that. (Or just be willing to defend the idea of Wikileaks in that argument down the pub next week.)

In all events, the people must be willing to carry on the work that WikiLeaks has started, to ensure that governments (and the oligarchies that sway them) can no longer conspire in comfort.

Because there's going to be a tumultuous outcry, in every alleged political colour, against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. The accusation of irresponsibility, the accusation that lives will be lost, that the business of government can not be undertaken without a necessary cloak of secrecy. That *our* government cannot successfully work against *their* government to defend *us*.

There will be dirty tricks (as in the rape accusation of a couple of months ago.) There will be physical threats and possibly murder.

But if we allow Wikileaks to be destroyed, we will be giving yet more power to the already over-wealthy and over-powerful.

Update : John Powers says I should tag this story with "netocracy" as netocratic theory is a great way to understand this struggle. That sounds right to me. I hadn't really thought through that far but I'm sure there's a lot more to say about that ...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Good article about a journalist I've never heard of.

With a kicking paragraph about maths and compassion. In a psychology experiment ...

Worse still, when the authors asked one set of subjects to perform mathematical calculations and the other set of subjects to describe their feelings when they heard the word "baby," the subjects who'd done math gave only about half as much to Rokia as the ones who'd thought about babies. Apparently, just thinking analytically makes us stingier. The authors of the study concluded that "calculative thought lessens the appeal of an identifiable victim.
Today, I'm totally awestruck by Chicago Footwork and Juke. Give this a listen.

I love the fact that they've taken something incredibly simple and dumb (basically riddiculously short vocal snippets looped ad nauseum) and pushed it extreme enough to come up with a weird kind of sublime continuum of sound.

Ends up like weird cross of Steve Reich's tape phase experiments, Paul Hardcastle's 19 and hipnogogs like Oneohtrix Point Never or Emeralds.

Extra-ordinary once you overcome your initial revulsion at the stuttery vocals.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ireland will do anything to fix it's economy ...

except tax the rich and powerful.

An object lesson in how the world works.
Max/MSP class at Goldsmiths

(Not actually a lot of me composing on this. My machine was making fairly quiet sounds at the time compared to the rest of the group.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

So, government welfare reforms are released.

I'm not entirely against them. I think it would be a good idea to simplify the system and reduce the number of different types of payments. I also agree with the attempt to eliminate the "poverty trap", so that getting a job doesn't immediately result in a large drop in benefits.

However, we'll see whether these good things are any more than a cover for the main workfare agenda of forcing people into underpaid (below minimum wage) and exploitative (no security, no rights) labour by threatening to remove benefits.

If the first two of these things are good (and I agree they are) we could have them without the workfare part. If the workfare is a genuine (though I'd still say, misguided) belief that free-riders are a problem let's see some real guarantees that the innocent won't get caught up by the punishment (eg. that benefits won't be withdrawn from the "workshy" if there are fewer than a certain number of decent vacancies in the home-town etc.)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

T.U.C. Bloggers on Workfare (my emphasis) :

We oppose workfare on both moral and practical grounds. The most important moral objection to workfare is that unemployed people are not responsible for their unemployment: they are the victims in this story, not the villains. People who have been made redundant and young people who have not been able to get a job since leaving school did not cause the economic crisis and the number of unemployed people has not risen so steeply because there are 700,000 more lazy people than there used to be. But workfare is being imposed as if people on JSA were the “workshy” of today’s Mail and Telegraph headlines.

Workfare is unfair to unemployed people because it requires them to work in return for their JSA – the amount of JSA you get depends on your family circumstances. If a job is worth doing it is worth being paid the rate for the job, but even the highest levels of benefit will still leave people working for an hourly rate well below the national minimum wage – the rate we have established as the minimum to avoid exploitation.

Workfare is unfair to disabled people – hundreds of thousands of people currently receiving Incapacity Benefit are being re-tested, using a much tougher medical test. A large majority of them will be left with no alternative but to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. Because of discrimination against disabled people and the fact that opportunities in our society are still inaccessible in many ways, they are more likely to find themselves on the benefit for a long time. Disabled people will therefore be disproportionately likely to find themselves subjected to workfare.

For the same reason, lone parents are going to be hit by this reform: since October, lone parents whose youngest child is aged 7 or over have been required to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. Childcare is still hard to arrange, jobs that are flexible enough to be combined with school hours are comparatively rare and so lone parents are likely to find themselves unemployed for longer periods and therefore likely to have workfare applied to them.

Workfare is unfair to people in work: workers doing jobs comparable to those undertaken by the workfare conscripts will effectively be in competition for their jobs. In some cases, this will lead to them losing their jobs; even when this does not happen, the competition will serve to hold down pay and terms and conditions. This is not only unfair, it is hardly what the economy needs at a time of depressed demand. Some people find it hard to sympathise with workers in this position, but a thought experiment may help: imagine that someone who has been working in the same occupation as yourself is made redundant and then required to do the same job, but for £65 a week. Would you think that was fair to them or to you?

Workfare is unfair to some businesses. Businesses and self-employed people working in the same field as the JSA claimants who do not have this subsidised labour will find themselves losing contracts.

The motivation of unemployed people is not the cause of mass unemployment. Research during the recessions of the 1980s and 90s found that, if anything, unemployed people have a stronger attachment to employment than people in work. Unemployed people are less likely to be happy than people in employment; they are likely to suffer from depression and other mental illnesses, and more likely to suffer the longer they have been unemployed. It is very unlikely that people would deliberately choose a state that had this effect.

The biggest problem face – as Douglas Alexander points out in an excellent article in today’s Independent – is that there simply aren’t enough jobs to go round. According to the latest labour market statistics, there are 2,448,000 unemployed people, 2,405,000 “economically inactive” people who say they want jobs and 1,137,000 working in part-time jobs who want to work full-time. On the other side of the equation, there are 459,000 job vacancies. Even if we limit our comparison to unemployed people, there are more than 5 unemployed people for every job vacancy; before the recession, this ratio was normally around 3:1.

Tories bring back the workhouse.

Update : Some good comments at BBC.

2. At 01:40am on 07 Nov 2010, Marnok wrote:
If there is a job there to be done, pay someone to do it. Don't treat valuable work as a form of punishment. If the job needs doing, pay someone to do it so they can earn a living and hold their head high. When manual work is treated as some kind of a punishment for the sin of being unemployed, it demeans all manual work, shows that government has a poor opinion of workers, and belittles those "forced" to work who have in all likelihood been forced into the depressing state of long-term unemployment.

6. At 01:46am on 07 Nov 2010, bujin wrote:
Cost of direct bank bailouts: £850bn
DWP estimated benefit fraud per year: £1bn

What about the benefit lifestyle the banksters are enjoying?

10. At 01:49am on 07 Nov 2010, Dada wrote:
Erm, why don't they just pay them the minimum wage to do that work? Or is this just a ploy to get cheap labour?

12. At 01:54am on 07 Nov 2010, Jon Cooper wrote:
What kind of compulsory community work is being considered?
cos I can see it being street cleaning and litter picking
so the paid council staff who should be doing those jobs turn up for work only to be told they aren't needed anymore, the 'unemployed' are being forced to do the work instead. Next thing they're down the jobcenter looking for work - with a fair chance that they could be back doing the same job they just lost, but for benefits instead of wages.