Montreal cop points smoke grenade launcher point black at protester who is protesting education cuts (part of the government’s austerity plan. Cop is wearing stickers protesting cuts to his pension. (picture by Maxime Deland) (video)

Canadian police used tear gas and reportedly fired rubber bullets and sound bombs at hundreds of students protesting austerity measures at an anti-capitalist rally in Montreal. Thousands took to the streets on Tuesday to protest sweeping education cuts. (x)

Call it austerity or call it fiscal responsibility, the Quebec government’s overhaul of public spending has become the spark for what could be one of the most turbulent periods in the province’s recent history. […] In the school system, the cuts have translated into reduced course offerings, reduced library and laboratory hours and fewer support workers for students in need. (x)


I’m fucking mad.

If the PCs are trying to convince us Alberta bears a certain resemblance to Target, Thursday’s budget does the job. It bears every sign of crisis but the moving trucks.

The budget hits Albertans with personal income tax hikes and a health care levy; four cents more for a litre of gasoline; and a 10 per cent price hike for alcohol, in case you think you can drink your way out of this.

There’s a massive operating deficit and a huge drawdown of savings to cover it; gigantic borrowing of nearly $10 billion in one year; serious staff cuts in health care; energy royalties reduced to a minor budget line item.

It’s more like a budget for war than an election.

Here’s a quick reminder, as Quebec’s Health Minister Barrette has decided to limit access to abortions in the province.

The only tattoo I have is a red square. It symbolized the students strike of 2012 in Quebec, and we started wearing them again since a couple of weeks, as colleges and universities (including mine) are returning on strike against austerity.

Germania. La rabbia di Blockupy contro la Bce esplode a Francoforte

Guerriglia a Francoforte dove il movimento contro l’Austerity “Blockupy” ha portato migliaia di persone in piazza per contestare l’inaugurazione della nuova sede della Bce. Si parla di auto delle polizia date alle fiamme, tram, benzinai e negozi assaltati, e di almeno 350 persone arrestate. Eppure l’Ue non sembra minimamente rendersi conto di quanto il malcontento degli europei fermenti, con i media che preferiscono minimizzare a differenza di quanto fatto in altri scenari.  

Se le scene viste a Francoforte si fossero viste a Mosca probabilmente i giornali starebbero parlando di scontri gravissimi e di popolo in rivolta contro la dittatura. Se accade a Francoforte invece, probabilmente, viene derubricato come un fatto di ordine pubblico, come un gruppo di “teppisti” che hanno attentato alla pubblica sicurezza. Eppure a migliaia sono scesi in piazza a Francoforte, in Germania, per contestare aspramente l’inaugurazione della nuova sede della Bce, una istituzione mai come oggi sentita come distante e oppressiva dai cittadini europei, da Atene a Berlino.  Almeno in diecimila hanno deciso di ritrovarsi aderendo all’appello del movimento di Blockupy e ben presto si sono accesi scontri anche molto duri con la polizia terminati con almeno 350 arresti e diverse macchine della polizia date alle fiamme. Gli agenti di sicurezza hanno utilizzato anche gli idranti contro i manifestanti che, stando a quanto riportato dalle cronache, hanno assaltato anche tram e negozi. Difficile gestire la rabbia dei manifestanti che si sono radunati sin dalle prime luci dell’alba tutto intorno al grattacielo che diventerà la nuova sede della Bce. Sin dalle prime ore del giorno sono state create barricate in tutti gli incroci limitrofi, e al termine degli scontri si sono registrati alcuni feriti sia tra i manifestanti che tra gli agenti di polizia. Un vero e proprio scenario di guerriglia urbana che ha obbligato le istituzioni a chiudere una linea della metro e a fermare tutte le linee dei tram. Insomma, si tratta di una vera e propria contestazione in piena regola che però verrà come al solito trattata dai giornali come una questione di ordine pubblico, come un gruppo di teppisti che attacca la città, una vera e propria applicazione del “Doppio Standard” che invece li porta a parteggiare per i “rivoltosi” che si oppongono in altri paesi contro i governi considerati “sgraditi”. Quello che in troppi si rifiutano di comprendere è che il malcontento e il risentimento dei cittadini europei abbandonati dalle istituzioni e soprattutto privi di speranza nel futuro difficilmente si arresterà se le politiche spietate di austerity continueranno, come tutto lascia credere. Sopratutto la guerriglia di Francoforte dovrebbe anche mostrare come anche in Germania, il paese accusato di essere contrario alla fine dell’asuterity, stia germogliando una protesta sociale sempre più capillare e radicale nei confronti di un neoliberismo sempre più dal volto disumano che sta cercando di svuotare di significato le Costituzioni e le sovranità dei singoli paesi, portando anche a una omologazione del pensiero che rischia di diventare sempre più un pensiero unico.

What would you do to keep your baby from starving? Perhaps the same as Lucy Hill. At the start of October, the 35-year-old mother from Kidderminster was broke. After missing an interview at the jobcentre, her disability benefits had been stopped – which left her, her partner and her toddler of 18 months without anything to live on. So she went to the local Spar and stole a chicken and some soap powder.

Two weeks later, Hill was up before the magistrate. Her police interview noted that she said “sorry to the shop … but had no money … and was in a desperate situation”. She was ordered to pay compensation, a fine, costs and a surcharge: a total of over £200 to be taken off someone who’d only committed a crime because she had no money. Her solicitor John Rogers remembers that the mother’s chief worry was that the social services might  find out and take away her baby.

After running me through the details, Rogers sighs. Cases like this keep coming his way, he says: “They miss an appointment so their benefits are sanctioned [docked or stopped altogether], so they have no money, so they steal.” His local office now handles “at least half a dozen” such cases each month – up from almost nothing a year ago.

He’s just one lawyer in one post-industrial town, describing a national policy: of starving the poor into committing crime. Nothing is accidental about this regime.

ewgetoffofme asked:

Sorry to bother you but i am from england and dont quite understand what is happening in frankfurt, could you please explain if it isnt too much bother?

The Blockupy protest in Frankfurt coincided with the official opening of the new building of the European Central Bank. The ECB is pretty much everything that’s wrong with the EU. It’s an enormously powerful, unelected and undemocratic group of bankers and ex-wall street people that sets much of the policy in the European Union. They are the driving force behind the terrible austerity policies in much of Europe that favour paying back loans to financial institutions to keeping a functioning, social society. In this time of Austerity, where they have been actively destroying people’s lives (in Greece for example following the austerity measures the number of suicides rose by almost 40%) the ECB has built a new head-office, costing 1.3 billion Euros.

So that’s what the protests are about. They are against capitalism, against the violence that is austerity and poverty and against the stranglehold of the financial institutions over what should be a democratic system.

NIH: We could have developed a vaccine for Ebola if it weren't for 'budget cuts'

Oh the austerity!

As we recently reported, the left is officially blaming Republicans for the spread of Ebola. You know, sequester and such. It doesn’t matter that the NIH budget has nearly tripled since 2007, the NIH can’t possibly be expected to do its job with the paltry sum of $31 billion the taxpayers give it every year.

But let’s see what the NIH has spent some of that money on within the last couple of years (with links to sources):

  • $386,000 to massage rabbits
  • $3,200,000 to study drunk monkeys
  • $484,260 for studying the effect of hypnosis on hot flashes
  • $666,905 (pg 87) on how watching TV reruns might be good for you
  • $325,525 to conclude that wives would be happier if they could calm down faster after arguments with their husbands
  • $900,000 (pg 100) on a study determining that male fruit flies do indeed like female fruit flies
  • $548,731 (pg 127) on a study that suggests that heavy drinking in thirties is linked with immaturity
  • $702,558 on a study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam
  • $423,500 on why men don’t like to wear condoms
  • $1,500,000 to study why lesbians are overweight

In just a few minutes, I was able to find nearly $10 million of wasted NIH funds that could have gone toward the creation of an Ebola vaccine. But yeah, it was those draconian cuts that are the real culprit.

Subprime loans aren’t just for homes: A quarter of people who took out auto loans last year are considered subprime, meaning they have bad credit scores, typically lower than 640. And like defaulting homeowners, life’s not getting easier for them. In a recent report, The New York Timesrevealed that many borrowers with low credit ratings have to endure more than just sky-high interest rates if they want to drive a car off the lot. Now they must also allow the repo man to ride with them at all times.

This repo man isn’t a flesh-and-blood person occupying one of the car’s seats, though. He’s a technological extension of the lender — called a starter interrupt device —installed in the vehicles of subprime borrowers. The device allows lenders to track and monitor the location of the vehicle — both in real time and over time — and provides them with the ability to remotely shut off vehicles if, say, the borrower falls behind on payments (sometimes by just a few days) or drives outside an approved area.

There is no escaping debt collectors who can, with the push of a button on their smartphones, disable your car until you cough up payment. As one collector told the Times, “I have disabled a car while I was shopping at Walmart.” The Times provided a number of stories from people who had their cars surprisingly stop working because lenders switched them off for one reason or another. They range from startling — one woman was temporarily stranded at a gas station with her children — to mind-boggling: Another woman’s car shut off while she was driving, “sending her careening across a three-lane Las Vegas highway.”

The danger the starter interrupter poses to borrowers and other drivers is problematic in its own right. But these technologies of control are more than just instruments of aggressive lenders that want to ensure they get the expected return on their investment; they are also a natural product of our terribly exploitative financial system, which is always churning out innovative ways to squeeze the socioeconomically disadvantaged.

The political climate has clearly shifted in favor of creditors, which can demand near absolute certainty that they can extract payment from debtors. As starter-disabling devices proliferate, that certainty is becoming more important than your certainty that the car in front of you isn’t going to suddenly decelerate and veer off the road. Or that a once mobile vehicle idling at a stoplight won’t become an immobile hunk of metal blocking the road.

The goal is to cut out those spots of inefficiency where the disadvantaged might have been able to momentarily enjoy a brief respite from the usual struggles of life — whether it’s floating a check for a few days or having some wiggle room with a loan payment’s due date. We know, abstractly, that wealth is the shadow side of debt. The car starter interrupter heightens the tension, making the lender’s life more secure by making the borrower’s life more precarious.

Naturally, this is not how the lenders would frame their ever-expanding powers. As the Times reports, “Lenders and manufacturers of the technology say borrowers consent to having these devices installed in their cars. And without them, they say, millions of Americans might not qualify for a car loan at all.” So everything is rosy, because borrowers give their consent as a term of the loan and in exchange they get access to a vehicle — granted at an exorbitant cost when you factor in principal plus interest.

The basic rationalization here is the logic of unintended consequences. Reformers may help currentsubprime borrowers by limiting digital repossession strategies, lenders say, but futureones will be hurt, because lenders will charge more to make up for defaults they could have avoided if only they could disable cars remotely. Ordinarily, an abuser who argues, “If you limit my options now, I’ll just be more brutal in the future,” wouldn’t be persuasive. But somehow, among a prominent subset of free-market economists, it’s a winner.

Let’s take that unintended-consequences logic seriously, in the other direction. What happens if remote monitoring and disabling become a deeply rooted practice in car lending? And what if the repossessed cars are worth less than the value of the loan on them? Should we allow further contingency planning for lenders — say, automatic garnishment of wages? Electric shock devices implanted in the skin for gentle reminders to pay your bill and not drive outside the approved area? These might really cheapen the cost of credit.

Those possibilities will, of course, be dismissed as a slippery slope — even though a new gadget called the Pavlok wristband already offers worrywarts the chance to be shocked if they miss deadlines. And the auto lenders’ defenders will treat their predictions of rising credit costs due to regulation as infallible science — even though mortgage rates appear to be affected little, if at all, by certain state laws declaring mortgage debt nonrecourse.

So it’s hard not think of the libertarian tough-love stance here as a rhetorical veneer, rationalizing and exacerbating an exploitative system that strips away privacy, autonomy and dignity. An early version of these devices was used to help pet owners track and manage their animals, and its origins speak volumes about the power dynamics implicit in its deployment. Paternalism propels tracking of people as well as pets. Lenders and collectors cynically marshal the language of fairness, equality and opportunity to cast these technologies — which ensnare and control those who are already marginalized — as necessary tradeoffs if (poor) people want to gain the privilege of freedom (i.e., a vehicle).

If only the starter interrupter were an isolated case, then all we would need to do is resist its spread and regulate its use. Problem solved. Alas, things are not so easy.

The device is beneficial to us in at least one way, though: It’s a stark representation of the near future, in which such technologies of control continue to proliferate and become the norm. And not just among poor people, who have been harnessed with intrusive systems of surveillance and control for a long time.

Back in 1990, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze saw the writing on the wall, saying in an interview with Antonio Negri, “We’re moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people but through continuous control and instant communication.” This transition to control societies — in which people are entangled in a web of systems that continuously keep track of and analyze their actions and have the power to grant or deny freedoms of, say, movement or access — corresponds with the rise of computerization.

The examples of technologies that fit the trend Deleuze describes are varied and increasing. There are biometrics, such as facial recognition, that create new capacities to monitor, monetize and manipulate people; insurance companies that take advantage of the Internet of Things (objects embedded with sensors and networked) to more intrusively surveil and discriminate against clients; and everyday appliances receiving smart upgrades that come with effective abilities for social engineering. The starter interrupt device is simply a more in-your-faceexample. And the same logic might soon be applied to people’s homes. Electronic locks are starting to be used in apartments and houses, thus opening the opportunity to remotely or automatically lock out delinquent debtors until they pay up.

Our transition toward living in societies of control is well underway. The consequences raise fundamental issues of justice. No one proposed putting starter interrupters on the cars of CEOs of bailed-out banks, lest they fail to repay government largesse. And such degrading, invasive tactics are sure to creep up the social ladder to burden middle class or prime borrowers after they’ve been accepted as standard solutions in subprime contexts.

A first step toward fighting against these types of devices would be to regulate their use by putting strong restrictions on the reasons for their installment, the type of data that may be collected, how that data is stored, who may view the data and when vehicles may be remotely shut off. While regulating individual technologies is important for curbing their effects, it can’t be the endpoint. We should be careful to not let reform become a rationalization for technologies of control. Merely fighting to make the process of imposing swift, brutal punishments more fair has a tendency to normalize the punishments. Rather, we must always keep in mind that the real problem is the system itself and its expansive powers for exploitation. Without focusing on ways to restrain and undermine these systems, we are likely to just see the continual development of perhaps even more inhumane innovations or strategies for imposing control over and extracting value from people.

Everyone is talking about protests in Hong Kong and The U.S, but lets no forget Europe, due to Austerity cuts, corrupt governments and the failing of political parties to put people before profit, this is our modern Europe.

Rome, Italy


Glasgow, Scotland


Brussels, Belgium