Saturday, March 28, 2015

Video: Naomi Klein launches her new book in Barcelona


"Si hi ha un desig democràtic per la... by vilawebtv

Canadian journalist and activist Naomi Klein this week launched her new book, "This Changes Everything, Capitalism vs The Climate" at the Centro de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona (CCCB).

In this short [VilaWeb] video (with Catalan subtitles) Klein links the idea of political independence with a more independent energy policy.

She was my first journalistic interview in 2000 at the time her excellent first book "No Logo" came out and (even over the telephone) was one of the nicest people I've ever talked to for an article.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Video: "Seeking ‘Brave Journalists’ in Spain to investigate the TTIP Trade Agreement"




"The main concerns for groups that oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and North America are the lack of transparency and the way in which the agreement will affect the communities involved. 
 
In Madrid, Spain, the Asamblea Popular de Tres Cantos (Tres Cantos Popular Assembly), a community activist group that is well known for its participation in protests against the economic crisis, is “seeking brave journalists” as part of an appeal to the media to investigate the treaty.

In the video published on the organization's blog and various social networks, members of the assembly appear with photographs of employees from Spain's large media organizations, which have largely ignored the treaty in their coverage, and offer them a challenge:" [see English subtitled video above.]

More from Global Voices Online source article here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Homage to George Orwell: free lecture in Barcelona

Michael Shelden, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his biography of George Orwell, is holding a conference about the author on Wednesday the 18th of March at 7.30pm at the Institute of North American studies, Via Augusta 123 in Barcelona.

Friday, March 13, 2015

"320,000 Catalans receiving food aid due to rise in “poor workers” "

"The real scope of the work being done by social institutions in a matter as basic as covering the food requirements of poor families is reaching scandalous figures: over 320,000 people are currently receiving food aid in Catalonia.

The report...presented yesterday...by the Catalan Red Cross dignif[ies] and defend[s] the right to food. [It] highlights elements that suggest these needs are not going to diminish any time in the near future, such as the increase in “poor workers” - earning wages that do not allow them to meet their basic needs - increasingly more chronic poverty and growing inequality.

Given this scenario, social organizations are committed to working on two areas: first, the dignifying of the system when providing aid, and second, providing people with full care, that is, not only food but also support in housing, hygiene and school materials, as well as training and employability guidelines for finding work.

Last year, the four food banks in Catalonia distributed nearly 22.4 million kilos of food to a total of 260,497 people. All this while every year 262,471 tonnes of food are wasted in homes, shops and restaurants."


[Sònia Pau - Source: Catalonia Today news.]

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Why go the public way? (Part two)" - My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine

When I was much younger my mother used to tell me that one day if I ever needed a pay raise I should just go and ask my boss for one. In the 1950's when she was at work, before having my brothers and I, this might have got some results.

The first (and last) time I tried the technique of simply asking for an increase in my pay I was unceremoniously sacked. I had been paid between 20 and 21 euros per hour over four years working as a high school teacher of three different subjects at an international school near the wealthy coastal resort town of Sitges and I had become, like my most of my colleagues, frustrated at also doing hour after hour of unpaid labour. 

Teachers in the Spanish and Catalan public education system are routinely criticised, sometimes legitimately so, but their conditions of work mean that they cannot be unfairly fired from their jobs, as I once was.

Of course, it's not only public school employees and civil servants that benefit from the protection that the state can give. A doctor or nurse with security of tenure has one less source of stress and therefore is more likely to do their job better - patients and their families may well receive good care at least partly due to the fact that they are in the hands of people who have the reassurance of employment that cannot be terminated by a short-tempered employer. 

Personally, this is just one reason why I think government health care is preferable to private and my experiences with both kinds of treatment have so far backed this up.

It's also the case that privatisation - governments selling parts of the public sector to private companies - has largely been disastrous for users of services that were formally run by government organisations. The company behind Britain's first privately run hospital recently said it planned to pull out of its contract but in an extraordinary piece of irony, blamed government budget cuts for making it's emergency department too busy...and naturally less profitable.

The railway network in the UK is a very clear example of how after privatisation prices can skyrocket, while trains are more crowded and late in arriving - regardless of which private firm is operating the line. Since assistance to job seekers in that country was palmed off to various companies, some employees have claimed that they scored “brownie points for cruelty” to the unemployed and were constantly pressured to impose 'benefit sanctions' (meaning cuts to monthly payments) on even the sick and disabled for no good reason.

In Australia, after the telephone system was sold off a large number of rural families were told that they were not as deserving as others to have telephone lines, because they were less “economically-viable” living in small towns. It is a cast-iron rule of economic 'rationalism' that people can be 'rationalised' just like stock.

Some governments are working against privatisation though. Late last year it was reported that Catalan officials are seeking legal tools that might allow them to undermine Spain's Rajoy administration in it's plan to privatise state-owned airport operator AENA, which runs El Prat airport. As well, the new national government in Greece has announced that it is halting the privatisation of both the electricity grid and Athens' port at Piraeus. 

It may be that citizens across Europe are again starting to see the merits of going the public way.

 [This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, March 2015.]