“This unusual situation had ancient causes.” Illustration by Samantha Hahn, for the first installment of our serialization of Rachel Cusk’s upcoming novel Outline.
“I want my stories to move people.” Since Alice Munro skipped the trip to Stockholm, the 2013 Nobel Lecture in Literature was replaced by a pre-recorded video conversation with the Laureate: “Alice Munro: In Her Own Words.”
For more of this morning’s roundup, click here.
“And I think the surveillance state is not only threatening to undermine that promise but to completely reverse it, so that as we do more and more on the Internet, as we live more on the Internet, as we engage in more activity on the Internet — all of which we’re doing — states are exercising more and more control over the Internet, and especially monitoring over the Internet, and that means this instrument is being degraded from what its promise was, which was an instrument of freedom, into probably the worst means of — the most effective means of — human control and oppression ever known in human history, because there never existed a technology before to allow people’s every thought and word and conversation and interest and reading and just interest level and fears to be comprehensively chronicled in the way that the surveillance state allows. And there’s an irony to the fact that this technology that once held such great promise in these areas is now posing the greatest threat to those same values. But I think that’s how all technological innovation ultimately ends up being fought over — that any technology can undermine the interests of the prevailing power factions and therefore it’s targeted for co-option by those same power factions, to prevent it from being used as a challenge against them, and ultimately to be used to further shield their power from challenge. And I think that’s exactly the battle we face when it comes to Internet freedom.”
With the passage of the Redford government’s astonishing new labour laws, it will be hard to see any point to public sector unions at all.
The Bill 46 abolition of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees’ right to arbitration is startling enough, and gets most of the media attention.
But the other piece of legislation, Bill 45, is in many ways even more radical in the context of Canada’s public sector labour relations.
As before, most Alberta public employees won’t be permitted to strike.
But from now on, they won’t even be able to talk about a strike or any disruptive labour action that could be seen as leading to a strike.
If there’s a hint of a work stoppage, just a puff of smoke from a shop floor, the union will have to forfeit $1 million a day, unless it can convince the court it didn’t encourage the strike talk from locals or random militants.
Along with prohibitions against specific actions such as calling a strike vote, Bill 45 contains an exceptionally vague ban on “an act or threat to act that could reasonably be perceived as preparation for an employees’ strike.”
Charter lawyers are about to cluster around this provision with sugar-plum dreams of Supreme Court of Canada arguments dancing in their heads.
It’s hard to imagine a more blatant violation of free speech, a right that always implies a certain social anarchy to function usefully.
People are not allowed to break laws, but they are permitted, except in obvious cases of threatening harm, to talk about challenging, testing, pushing or even breaking them. The offence is in the breaking, not the talking.
But not for Alberta’s public unions. Talking is now pretty much illegal.
The mere sight of pro-strike signs at demonstrations — like the three held at the legislature in recent days — could be used to bankrupt the unions. Aggressive prosecution could lead to a virtual shutdown of union criticism of the government.
The PC government points to two triggers for these bills — the illegal wildcat strike by jail guards in the spring, and the failure to reach a deal with AUPE.
To the Tories, the first justifies the heavy penalties for strike talk — even though such strikes are rare in Alberta and unions are always heavily penalized when they do strike illegally. This is hardly a rampant menace that calls for new laws.
The second case is stranger still, because AUPE is acting not much differently than teachers or doctors in resisting government offers, and pushing conflict toward arbitration.
Binding arbitration is a good system. It forces agreement, usually on reasonable terms for both parties. As many have noted, it was former premier Peter Lougheed’s olive branch to unions when he banned public sector strikes.
But now, the Redford Tories say that if AUPE doesn’t settle, a deal will be imposed without arbitration.
The government does have the power to impose contracts, and sometimes does it, most recently in the case of teachers.
But it has never formally removed arbitration as an option. If this works politically for the PCs, look for it to spread to other unions.
Over time, the practical danger could be that by leaving union leaders with no way to let members blow off steam, militancy could erupt in locals, breeding unpredictable work stoppages.
These bills are bad policy that could lead to a lot of trouble.
But the PCs know one thing in their bones — in tight economic times, pushing unions to act up is never a political loser.
Kinja user KillerMartinis provides some perspective on what it’s like to live in poverty.
Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6AM, go to school (I have a full courseload, but I only have to go to two in-person classes) then work, then I get the kids, then I pick up my husband, then I have half an hour to change and go to Job 2. I get home from that at around 1230AM, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I’m in bed by 3. This isn’t every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr. Martini and see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork. Those nights I’m in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won’t be able to stay up the other nights because I’ll fuck my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can’t afford to be sleepy. I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn’t leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn’t in the mix.
Her response to the first (agressively negative) comment is worth reading as well.
via Twisted Sifter
When it comes to homeschooling, public perception is largely limited to a few, all-pervasive tropes. The first is that of the religious homeschooler–those who, like David d’Escoto of Christian website Crosswalk.com, see public schools as the “biggest morality corrupters and worldview warpers” in America. Less common, but still prevalent, is that of the self-proclaimed “hippie homeschooler,” inspired by texts like Grace Llewellyn’s The Teenage Liberation handbook to practice an extreme version of free-range parenting, in which children are encouraged to determine their own curriculum in accordance with their passions. Yet, even as a full three percent of the school-age population in America embraces homeschooling, according to a 2012 New York Magazine article by Lisa Miller, homeschooling is all too often treated as a monolith: Homeschoolers are either fundamentalists or anarchists, religious extremists or hippies. Rarely, if ever, is it explored as a potential educational setting for so-called “gifted” children–those looking for an academic challenge beyond that which their local educational facilities can provide.
Yet, during the two years I spent on-and-off as a homeschooled middle-schooler (spanning what would have been the seventh and eighth grades), the opportunity to work at my own pace and largely develop my own curriculum provided me with a level of academic intensity and emotional as well as intellectual independence unavailable (and, indeed, unaffordable) through more traditional means. Part of the decision to homeschool was pragmatic—my mother’s work took us to France, then Italy, in quick succession. Yet no less influential was my—and my mother’s—desire to offer me a degree of challenge beyond that which the schools I had attended could provide.
Read more. [Image: Carolus/Wikimedia]