Politics

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The Human Machine > by Levin A. Diatschenko

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   Imagine a robot that has a limited number of responses. If you say hello to it, the robot automatically reacts with: “Hi, how are you today?” If you keep greeting the robot, the repeated response would get annoying and it would not take long for you to recognise it as a machine. But say the creator programs it so that at every third time someone greets the robot, it changes its response to a second sentence: “Fine day, isn’t it?” In this case you would take longer to catch on it was a robot, but not much longer.


RED CRESCENT WITNESS > Report from the "Ceasefire" > Palestine Jan 2009

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RED CRESCENT WITNESS > REPORT FROM THE "CEASEFIRE"

by Ewa Jasiewicz in Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya

10-11th January 2009


Last night was a quiet one in Jabbaliya. ‘Only’ six homes bombed into the ground, the Market, again, maybe four lightly injured people – shrapnel to the face injuries – and no martyrs. Beit Hanoun saw a young woman, Nariman Ahmad Abu Owder, just 17, shot dead as she made tea in her family’s kitchen. It was 9pm in the Hay Amel area when witnesses reported ‘thousands’ of bullets shot by tanks onto homes in Azrah Street
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We got a call to go to Tel Al Zater looking for the dead and injured, around 2am. ‘This area is dangerous, very very dangerous’, warned one volunteer rescuer Mohammad al Sharif as our ambulance bumped along sandy, lumpy ground, lighting up piles of burning rubbish, stray cats,  political graffiti, and the ubiquitous strung out coloured sack cloth and stripy material in large thin squares, tenting the pavements. What is it? Protection, I am told, so that the surveillance
planes won’t see the fighters. Palestinian body armour.

Mohammad, and Ahmad Abu Foul, a Civil Defence medical services co-ordinator told me they had been shot at by Israeli snipers yesterday. Mohammd had recounted the story, still counting his blessings, earlier on at the ambulance station. They’d gone hurtling over graves and tombstones to fetch casualties when Israeli snipers opened fire. They’d laid down flat on the ground until the firing stopped. Ahmad, 24, another rescuer here, told me he had been shot in the chest – in
his bullet proof vest – close to the Atarturah area whilst trying to evacuate corpses three days ago. His brother, he had told me, had been injured 14 times working as a paramedic. ‘14 times. Then he got hit by an Apache. Then it was serious. That took him out of work for a few months’, he explained.

Back to Tel Al Zater, we searched with micro torches, sweeping over slabs of broken homes and free running water from freshly smashed pipes. A black goat was trapped in a rubble nest. We stepped over broken blown in metal doors off their hinges. Nothing, noone, ‘snipers’, on our minds. We ended up leaving with one casualty, lightly injured, more in shock that anything else. Explosions continued through the night. Abrupt slumps into concrete echoing around the hospital, like rapid beats to a taut drum skin.

This morning was a different story. I’ve been finding that the most missile-heavy times seem to be between 7-9am. I counted 20 strikes in those two hours this morning. I’d come to Mohammad’s house. He went straight to bed, exhausted. Id caught some sleep spread across the front seats of the rickety ambulance, waking up periodically to respond to calls. At Mohammad’s I did some badly overdue washing and went towards the roof with it. ‘Ewa, do you want to martyr yourself?’ said Sousou, Mohammd’s 19 year old sister, a bright sciences student unable to finish her studies due to her university – the Islamic University – having been bombed last week. Hanging out washing on the roof here is a potential act of suicide – there are stories of people having been shot dead on rooftops. Walking down the street to buy bread, also a potential act of suicide. Visiting family, going to the market, drinking tea in your own home – a potential act of suicide? In the end I do go up, with 9 year old plucky Afnan, who hands me pegs nervously as we scan the skies periodically, while the murderous sneer of Israeli surveillance drones leers above us.


Firesticks > by Scott Foyster

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verb's picture

"The Greatest Democracy On Earth" and other myths...> by Tim Parish

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"The Greatest Democracy On Earth" and other myths...

Analysis of the US Federal Elections

by Tim Parish

Editor, Undergrowth.org

As the US Election draws to a close, the rest of the world has to just watch and wait as the self described "Greatest Democracy On Earth" continues to be one of the worst representatives of the democratic process of all western nations - although it does create fantastic political theatre... With the global economy in freefall, Republican Party (or GOP as they like to call it there - "Good Old Party", seriously), candidate John McCain has spent the last few weeks of the campaign trying to talk about anything else. They've linked Obama to Bill Ayers of the radical left wing group The Weather Underground from the 60's in millions of dollars of paid advertisment (actually I highly recommend the documentary about them which came out a few years ago to understand where they actually came from and what they represented). Although Obama was eight years old when all this took place it was enough for them to try and pin the dirtiest word in America on him; terrorist, and apparently this was shouted out at various Republican campaign rallys. They've compared Obama to a pop star (Paris Hilton and Britney Spears to be exact). He's been called a socialist by the "pitbull with lipstick" Palin (her words) and McCain having said what I think is one of the worst quotes of the entire campaign; "America didn't become the most powerful nation on earth from spreading the wealth around...". Oh really...


eleven's picture

MAGIC WANDS - Labour, Capital and Magick > by Levin Diatschenko

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“I am the sceptre of the rulers of men.”

– Krishna.


Money Madness & the Crisis of Civilization > by Charles Eisenstein

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Suppose you give me a million dollars with the instructions, "Invest this profitably, and I'll pay you well." I'm a sharp dresser -- why not? So I go out onto the street and hand out stacks of bills to random passers-by. Ten thousand dollars each. In return, each scribbles out an IOU for $20,000, payable in five years. I come back to you and say, "Look at these IOUs! I have generated a 20% annual return on your investment." You are very pleased, and pay me an enormous commission.

Now I've got a big stack of IOUs, so I use these "assets" as collateral to borrow even more money, which I lend out to even more people, or sell them to others like myself who do the same. I also buy insurance to cover me in case the borrowers default -- and I pay for it with those self-same IOUs! Round and round it goes, each new loan becoming somebody's asset on which to borrow yet more money. We all rake in huge commissions and bonuses, as the total face value of all the assets we've created from that initial million dollars is now fifty times that.

Then one day, the first batch of IOUs comes due. But guess what? The person who scribbled his name on the IOU can't pay me back right now. In fact, lots of the borrowers can't. I try to hush this embarrassing fact up as long as possible, but pretty soon you get suspicious. You want your million dollars back -- in cash. I try to sell the IOUs and their derivatives that I hold, but everyone else is suspicious too, and no one buys them. The insurance company tries to cover my losses, but it can only do so by selling the IOUs I gave it!

So finally, the government steps in and buys the IOUs, bails out the insurance company and everyone else holding the IOUs and the derivatives stacked on them. Their total value is way more than a million dollars now. I and my fellow entrepreneurs retire with our lucre. Everyone else pays for it.

This is the first level of what has happened in the financial industry over the past decade. It is a huge transfer of wealth to the financial elite, to be funded by US taxpayers, foreign corporations and governments, and ultimately the foreign workers who subsidize US debt indirectly via the lower purchasing power of their wages. However, to see the current crisis as merely the result of a big con is to miss its true significance.

I think we all sense that we are nearing the end of an era. On the most superficial level, it is the era of unregulated casino-style financial manipulation that is ending. But the current efforts of the political elites to fix the crisis at this level will only reveal its deeper dimensions. In fact, the crisis goes "all the way to the bottom." It arises from the very nature of money and property in the world today, and it will persist and continue to intensify until money itself is transformed. A process centuries in the making is in its final stages of unfoldment.

Money as we know it today has crisis and collapse built into its basic design. That is because money seeks interest, bears interest, and indeed is born of interest. To see how this works, let's go back to some finance basics. Money is created when somebody takes out a loan from a bank (or more recently, a disguised loan from some other kind of institution). A debt is a promise to pay money in the future in order to buy something today; in other words, borrowing money is a form of delayed trading. I receive something now (bought with the money I borrowed) and agree to give something in the future (a good or service which I will sell for the money to pay back the debt). A bank or any other lender will ordinarily only agree to lend you money if there is a reasonable expectation you will pay it back; in other words, if there is a reasonable expectation you will produce goods or services of equivalent value. This "reasonable expectation" can be guaranteed in the form of collateral, or it can be encoded in one's credit rating.


From Scarcity To Abundance: stories from the streets of Oaxaca > by Joel Catchlove

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There´s something brewing on the streets of Oaxaca. The genteel colonial centre is vividly scrawled with graffiti and much of it is political. Spray paint depicts everything from giant, masked Lucha Libre wrestlers with the caption La lucha sigue (The struggle continues), to repeated references to the Zapatistas, the indigenous-based rebel movement in the neighbouring state of Chiapas. Small, scrawny figures in the trademark Zapatista ski-masks adorn street signs, the masked face of Zapatista spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos appears in bold black on freshly painted walls, while on another, stencils depict a masked indigenous woman harvesting corn beneath the line "corn is our life". Amid the Zapatistas, another line repeats itself, in stencil or running spraypaint: Oaxaca Libre, 14 de Junio, No se olvida (Free Oaxaca, June 14, Do not forget).
 
While it scarcely registered in the Australian media, and few media outlets anywhere fully grasped the depth of what was happening, for five months in 2006, the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca was, as Al Giordano describes "a government-free zone", "not governed from above, but rather self-governed by popular assembly.” What began as a teachers´ strike for better wages and conditions grew into a massive, non-violent, broad-based social movement that drove the corrupt and universally despised governor into hiding, and laid the foundations for a truly participatory democracy. As the people of Oaxaca realised that the corrupt government needed them more than they needed it, they began a shift (to use a phrase of Oaxaca´s Universidad de la Tierra) from the scarcity of dependence to the abundance of community self-reliance.
 
Oaxaca has a heritage of community self-government in its diverse indigenous population. Four out of five municipalities in the state still govern themselves through a process of communal assemblies, known as "practices and customs" or usos y costumbres, a system that doesn´t acknowledge political parties and functions by consensus. Furthermore, as Nancy Davies describes, "statewide, the greater part of public works in four hundred small communities are still carried out by citizen tequios [the traditional indigenous system of unpaid community service] that accomplish a variety of tasks like building roads; repairing churches, bringing in the harvest; and sharing the expenses of weddings, baptisms and deaths." With state and federal levels of Mexican government apparently riddled with corruption and with governments everywhere increasingly wedded to neoliberal economic policies that privilege the health of corporations over the health of communities, the critical importance of community self-reliance is becoming increasingly clear. It is this self-reliance that two Oaxaqueño organisations, Casa Chapulin and the Universidad de la Tierra, seek to cultivate.
 


The Empire of Crime by Alex Steffen

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Nyéléni - The World Forum for Food Sovereignty > by Joel Catchlove

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April 2007

On the dusty shores of Lake Sélingué, Mali, West Africa, amid mud brick huts and donkey carts, peasants, family farmers, fisherfolk, nomads, pastoralists, indigenous and forest peoples, rural workers, migrants and consumers from across the world laid down a challenge. From their many languages and regions emerged a global call for food sovereignty.


'Free Media v Free Beer' by Andrew Lowenthal

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The free beer Richard Stallman loathes is everywhere. Media companies are currently falling over themselves to produce the new hive for user generated content. The names have rapidly become common place - YouTube, MySpace, Flickr - and their affect has been enormous, dramatically changing the production and distribution of media globally. Free beer pours from the taps of these new hubs of participatory media as they clamor to get you in the door. But free beer, as Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman has always emphasised, is not the same as freedom.

The Free Software Foundation has a stock standard one liner about what free software is and is not: "free as in free speech, not as in free beer". That is free software is not about price, but liberty. Free software is software that may be freely shared and modified, generally on the basis that those modifications also be made available to others. The defining document for free software is the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL).

Free software is the philosophical Genesis of a much broader set of practices that seek to empower the user and challenge the limitations of the proprietary model in the realm of software, culture, media, politics, science and more. The model and ethics of free software production can be ported to a range of other realms. I will explore two activist media and software projects that attempt to embody free software principals and challenge the proprietary model.

They are;

EngageMedia.org - an Australian based free software project and video sharing site for social and environmental justice film from Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific.
* Transmission.cc - a new global network of social change online video projects co-founded by EngageMedia.

But first.....

WHAT'S NOT FREE ABOUT FREE MEDIA?


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