The financial crisis cloud has no silver lining

The New York Times has a decent (though it strangely focuses a bit too muich on her appearance and clothing) article on Naomi Klein. One of the things that caught my attention was her interpretation of the genesis of the New Deal:

The New Deal is usually told as a history of F.D.R., she said, but we don’t talk enough about the pressure from below. Neighborhoods organized, and when their evicted neighbors’ furniture was put on the streets they moved it back into their homes. It was that kind of direct action that won victories like rent control, public housing, and the creation of Fannie Mae. The other thing that’s important to remember, she said, is that the organizers were a threat—of socialist revolution—and it was that which allowed F.D.R. to say to Wall Street, “We have to compromise, or else we’ve got a revolution on our hands.” Now, these market shocks are opportunities for the same reason that the crash was in the thirties, because we are seeing the failures of laissez-faire before our eyes. “It’s time to say, ‘Your model failed,’ ” she said. “This is a progressive moment: it’s ours to lose.”

As Slavoj Zizek says, events do not impose their own interpretation. It is up to the left to ensure that the financial crisis is seen for what it is: a significant blow to laissez-faire ideology. Unfortunately, the situation is, as far as I can tell, entirely lacking the sort of roiling, potentially revolutionary zeal that is, both A) an appropriate response to the grossly criminal acts of speculation, fraud and exploitation that have been perpetrated (largely) upon the American population at the hands of the right-wing elite; and B), if Klein is on to something, a prerequisite for the causes of this crisis to be taken seriously.

The Government Accounting Office report that came out in late 2008 has already found, sadly but unsurprisingly, that the bailout is being handled with insufficient oversight.

beard caught in pencil sharpener
this is going to get worse before it gets better

Ontario launches anti-poverty plan amidst economic turmoil

The Ontario government has launched a comprehensive anti-poverty plan that is receing warm reception from advocates like the 25in5 Network for Poverty Reduction. The fact that this has taken place during particularly bad times for Ontario’s economy is all the more impressive, and makes me proud to be an Ontarian–not something that happens every day. As is recognized today by nearly everyone, from economists to G20 leaders, now is actually a fairly auspicious time for large-scale government investment, not just in physical infrastructure but also in “social infrastructure,” of which poverty reduction is a key componenent.

In related news that makes this development even more timely, a study from UC Berkeley has found that the negative effects of poverty on children’s brains can in some cases be so severe that they resemble the impact of a stroke.

How not to do a call to action

As any email marketer knows, your call to action is a crucial element of your campaign. When tweaking your text can double your conversion rates, you can’t afford to ignore it. Even a 5% increase in conversion rates can translate into huge sales if you’re talking about thousands of customers.

So why PayPal, a company who you might think would know better, would use this confusing and non-clickthrough-inspiring call to action text is beyond me.

Continue reading “How not to do a call to action”

Trademarking our everyday lives

From the “wrong on so many levels” department, the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee has trademarked “with glowing hearts,” a line from the Canadian national anthem, and threatens to sue those who use the line in Canada. From the CBC article:

The committee is so serious about protecting the Olympic brand it managed to get a landmark piece of legislation passed in the House of Commons last year that made using certain phrases related to the Games a violation of law.

The list includes the number 2010 and the word “winter,” phrases that normally couldn’t be trademarked because they are so general.

Vancouver organizers have already taken small businesses in the Vancouver area to court for using the word Olympic in their names — even ones in existence long before the Games were awarded to Vancouver — and have launched lawsuits against people who’ve tried to register Olympic-related domain names on the internet.

In related pieces, CTV reports that Apple (a company for which I am increasingly losing respect) is threatening a lawsuite against a small Vancouver computer school that has an apple for a logo, and Starbucks is suing HaidaBucks, a small cafe in Haida Gwaii territory.

The climate change denial industry

From the video:

In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute gathered a group of people to draft a plan to combat the science of global warming. They called themselves the Global Climate Science Communications Team. Its members hailed from some familiar places: the same think tanks that pushed the now-discredited tobacco studies were now helping to develop a plan to stall global warming policy.


Where to get your Mac fixed in Toronto

Long story short: my macbook’s keyboard died inexplicably two nights ago. No spillage, no droppage, just no response whatsoever from the keyboard or mouse touchpad.

Luckily, we’re not that far away from iRepair, a College Street shop that repairs a bevy of Apple products. They replaced the keyboard for $180 plux tax ($20 off because they offered me a slightly dented keyboard after I explained how cheap I am), and were speedy and friendly.