Thursday, April 22, 2010

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"Living Well" in Harmony with the Environment, By Franz Chávez

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia, Apr 20, 2010 (IPS) - The philosophy of "Living Well" enshrined in Bolivia's new constitution is being put forward by the government as the basis for a global movement against consumerism, depredation of natural resources for profit, and current models of development.

Presenting the results of indigenous President Evo Morales' four years in office, Raúl Prada, vice minister for strategic state planning and a former member of the constituent assembly that rewrote the Bolivian constitution, exalted the virtues of the new charter, which arose from a social and political process with extensive grassroots participation.

Prada, a sociologist, proposed expanding the Bolivian government programme because it "protects biodiversity, respects the indigenous right to land and territory, and preserves water resources.

According to its proponents, the indigenous concept of "Living Well" contrasts with "living better" because it means having all basic needs met while existing in harmony with the natural world instead of seeking to amass more and more material goods at the expense of the environment.

"It is a proposal that incorporates the traditional indigenous worldview and combines well with anti-capitalist and environmental movements defending the planet," Prada said Tuesday, the first day of the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which runs through Thursday in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

The Bolivian constitution is the ultimate horizon, and is linked to the aim of "Living Well" and economic models that are alternatives to capitalism, he said.

After taking office in January 2006, the leftwing Morales administration promoted the creation of a new constitution that would reclaim the country's natural resources for Bolivians and strengthen the rights of the country's impoverished indigenous majority, workers and women.

One of its pillars is "Living Well", which reflects the interest of indigenous people in preserving nature.

"Living Well" is a fine-sounding phrase, "but we need to define what it means, and how it works in practice," Trond Norheim, a Norwegian environment expert with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), who listened attentively to the speeches by Bolivian government officials, told IPS.

"Although many indigenous communities epitomise 'Living Well', there are a range of different lifestyles in society and we need to know what it means for city dwellers. We need to put more flesh on the bones, not just make speeches," he said.

In spite of this caveat, Norheim is observing the Bolivian model with interest, because it gives low-income sectors the opportunity to demand their rights instead of "leaving everything to the government."

Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos, an active promoter of the World Social Forum, said that in his view the validity of the new Bolivian constitution is based on three elements of democracy: representativeness, participation by all social actors, and the recovery of community values.

"The concept of the plurinational state will be long-lived" and will improve harmonious coexistence between peoples, he said Monday night at a lecture organised by the Centre for Socio-Environmental Knowledge and Care of the La Plata Basin.

The Bolivian government's proposal attracted the attention of delegates from the United Left of the city of Jaén, Spain: Olga Jiménez, Ana Alcántara and journalist Francisco Sánchez, who writes for the party's magazine "Comunes".

Jiménez emphasised the opportunity the conference offers to learn about the kind of "Living Well" the Bolivian government supports, making economic models compatible with indigenous lifestyles, while Alcántara said she had confidence the administration would ensure "great strides forward for the majority, if the opposition allows Evo Morales to govern." Prada described the Bolivian model as a coming together of the indigenous peoples' demand for "decolonisation" and the renationalisation of natural resources, and cited the October 2003 "gas war" - a month of protests against plans to export Bolivia's natural gas that toppled the right-wing government of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (1993-1997 and 2002-2003) - as the moment the two demands came together.

The renationalisation of gas reserves and the convening of the constituent assembly, which recognised the right of indigenous peoples to exercise social control over the extraction of natural resources were highlighted by Carlos Villegas, head of the YPFB state oil and gas company.

He stated that indigenous communities are now being consulted before companies are allowed to exploit fossil fuel resources in their territories, in accordance with international conventions, and that compensation is being paid, in coordination with the government's oversight mechanisms.

Villegas was talking about people living in the oil and gas belt in southeast Bolivia, containing South America's second largest natural gas reserves - after Venezuela's - with an estimated volume of 49 trillion cubic feet, which provides the Bolivian state with its main source of revenue. (END)

Princeton's first Earth Day

From: blogs.princeton.edu

The May 5, 1970, PAW featured an unusual sight on the cover: Nassau Street, closed to traffic “for the first time in memory.” Students and townspeople wandered on the road and rode bicycles April 19, kicking off Princeton’s first Earth Day celebration. Princetonians will be back on the street Saturday, April 24, for Communiversity, Princeton’s annual town-gown festival. Below, PAW’s coverage of the Earth Week events in 1970.

From PAW, May 5, 1970

The University: Earth Day

Earth Day, April 22, was only part of Earth Week at Princeton. On Sunday, April 19, students and townspeople gathered in front of Nassau Hall and spread out for litter clean-up marches in various parts of the campus and community. Two hours later, the debris was dumped near the PJ&B railroad station.

There was also a memorial service for the internal combustion engine, a band concert, and exhibition of 100 wooden panels on which Princeton artists depicted aspects of the environmental crisis. For two hours, Nassau Street was closed to traffic while the crowd sang “This Land is Your Land,” handed out “polluter” awards, watched tricycle races, and looked at displays of “eco-pornography.”

On Earth Day itself, students took off [from] classes and participated in 17 workshops, beginning with a multimedia “Rite of Celebration for the Planet Earth” in the University Chapel. The panels considered such topics as “The Last Frontiers: Wilderness Areas and Resource Conservation,” “Energy Production and Consumption: Effluents from the Affluent,” “Pollution and the War: The Quality of Life,” and “Pesticides, Insecticides, and Herbicides: Better Things for Better Living Through Chemistry!”

The night before, seven speakers, including university trustee Laurance S. Rockefeller ’32, Pan American World Airways president Najeeb Halaby, and Senator Clifford Case (R-NJ) addressed a community meeting on “What Direction for Environmental Policy in the 1970s?” Finally, on Sunday, April 26, the ecologists heard from Ralph Nader, [class of] ’55 in an address in Alexander Hall.

Petitions endorsing a three-point “action program” for the university were circulated throughout the campus by the student “Ecology Action” group. They called for:

1. The establishment of an interdepartmental environmental studies program, in which everything taught would be addressed to some facet of the environmental problem — “analyzing it, finding solutions, and enacting solutions.” The university, says Ecology Action, “can be a model for informed action rather than simply a source of information.”

2. The efforts of an environmental advisory committee, a concept endorsed by the Council of the Princeton University Community, should be directed toward four areas: the functioning of the university itself as it consumes “a vast input” of natural resources; the potential impact, “constructive and/or destructive,” of university-sponsored research; use of corporate votes at stockholders’ meetings “in an informed, responsible way” after investments are analyzed as to their “support or non-support of environmentally destructive practices”; and attention to the impact individuals can have.

3. The setting aside of a “natural area” on campus with assurance that it will remain unpaved and wooded.

Posted by Brett Tomlinson on April 22, 2010 12:22 PM

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

U.S. Soldier Who Felt Bad About Slaughter of Civilians in Iraq: “I was told that I needed to get the sand out of my vagina”

At the time you arrived on the scene, you didn’t know what had happened, is that right?

Ethan McCord: Right. We were engaged in our own conflict roughly about three or four blocks away. We heard the gunships open up. [Then] we were just told … to move to this [other] location. It was pretty much a shock when we got there to see what had happened, the carnage and everything else.

Wired.com: But you had been in combat before. It shouldn’t have surprised you what you saw.

McCord: I have never seen anybody being shot by a 30-millimeter round before. It didn’t seem real, in the sense that it didn’t look like human beings. They were destroyed.

centcom-screenshot
Ethan McCord had just returned from dropping his children at school earlier this month, when he turned on the TV news to see grainy black-and-white video footage of a soldier running from a bombed-out van with a child in his arms. It was a scene that had played repeatedly in his mind the last three years, and he knew exactly who the soldier was.

In July 2007, McCord, a 33-year-old Army specialist, was engaged in a firefight with insurgents in an Iraqi suburb when his platoon, part of Bravo Company, 2-16 Infantry, got orders to investigate a nearby street. When they arrived, they found a scene of fresh carnage – the scattered remains of a group of men, believed to be armed, who had just been gunned down by Apache attack helicopters. They also found 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his five-year-old sister Doaha covered in blood in a van. Their 43-year-old father, Saleh, had been driving them to a class when he spotted one of the wounded men moving in the street and drove over to help him, only to become a victim of the Apache guns.

McCord was captured in a video shot from one helicopter as he ran frantically to a military vehicle with Sajad in his arms seeking medical care. That classified video created its own firestorm when the whistleblower site Wikileaks posted it April 5 on a website titled “Collateral Murder” and asserted that the attack was unprovoked. More than a dozen people were killed in three attacks captured in the video, including two Reuters journalists, one carrying a camera that was apparently mistaken for a weapon.

McCord, who served seven years in the military before leaving in the summer of 2009 due to injuries, recently posted an apologetic letter online with fellow soldier Josh Steiber supporting the release of the video and asking the family’s forgiveness. McCord is the father of three children.

Wired’s Kim Zetter reached McCord at his home in Kansas. This is his account of what he saw.

Wired.com:
At the time you arrived on the scene, you didn’t know what had happened, is that right?

Ethan McCord:
Right. We were engaged in our own conflict roughly about three or four blocks away. We heard the gunships open up. [Then] we were just told … to move to this [other] location. It was pretty much a shock when we got there to see what had happened, the carnage and everything else.

Wired.com:
But you had been in combat before. It shouldn’t have surprised you what you saw.

McCord:
I have never seen anybody being shot by a 30-millimeter round before. It didn’t seem real, in the sense that it didn’t look like human beings. They were destroyed.

Wired.com:
Was anyone moving when you got there other than the two children?

McCord:
There were approximately two to three other people who were moving who were still somewhat alive, and the medics were attending to them.

Wired.com:
The first thing you saw was the little girl in the van. She had a stomach wound?

McCord:
She had a stomach wound and she had glass in her eyes and in her hair. She was crying. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I went to the van immediately, because I could hear her crying. It wasn’t like a cry of pain really. It was more of a child who was frightened out of her mind. And the next thing I saw was the boy…. He was kind of sitting on the floorboard of the van, but with his head laying on the bench seat in the front. And then the father, who I’m assuming was the father, in the driver’s seat slumped over on his side. Just from looking into the van, and the amount of blood that was on the boy and the father, I immediately figured they were dead.

So, the first thing I did was grab the girl. I grabbed the medic and we went into the back. There’s houses behind where the van was. We took her in there and we’re checking to see if there were any other wounds. You can hear the medic saying on the video, “There’s nothing I can do here, she needs to be evac’d.” He runs the girl to the Bradley. I went back outside to the van, and that’s when the boy took, like, a labored, breath. That’s when I started screaming, “The boy’s alive! The boy’s alive!” And I picked him up and started running with him over to the Bradley. He opened his eyes when I was carrying him. I just kept telling him, “Don’t die; don’t die.” He looked at me, then his eyes rolled back into this head.

Then I got yelled at by my platoon leader that I needed to stop trying to save these mf’n kids and go pull security…. I was told to go pull security on a rooftop. When we were on that roof, we were still taking fire. There were some people taking pot shots, sniper shots, at us on the rooftop. We were probably there on the roof for another four to five hours.

Wired.com:
How much sniper fire were you getting?

McCord:
It was random sporadic spurts. I did see a guy … moving from a rooftop from one position to another with an AK-47, who was firing at us. He was shot and killed.

After the incident, we went back to the FOB [forward operating base] and that’s when I was in my room. I had blood all down the front of me from the children. I was trying to wash it off in my room. I was pretty distraught over the whole situation with the children. So I went to a sergeant and asked to see [the mental health person], because I was having a hard time dealing with it. I was called a pussy and that I needed to suck it up and a lot of other horrible things. I was also told that there would be repercussions if I was to go to mental health.

Wired.com:
What did you understand that to mean?

McCord:
I would be smoked. Smoked is basically like you’re doing pushups a lot, you’re doing sit-ups … crunches and flutter kicks. They’re smoking you, they’re making you tired. I was told that I needed to get the sand out of my vagina…. So I just sucked it up and tried to move on with everything.

I’ve lived with seeing the children that way since the incident happened. I’ve had nightmares. I was diagnosed with chronic, severe PTSD. [But] I was actually starting to get kind of better. … I wasn’t thinking about it as much. [Then I] took my children to school one day and I came home and sat down on the couch and turned on the TV with my coffee, and on the news I’m running across the screen with a child. The flood of emotions came back. I know the scene by heart; it’s burned into my head. I know the van, I know the faces of everybody that was there that day.

Wired.com:
Did you try to get information about the two children after the shooting?

McCord:
My platoon sergeant knew that I was having a hard time with it and that same night … he came into the room and he told me, hey, just so you know, both of the children survived, so you can suck it up now. I didn’t know if he was telling me that just to get me to shut up and to do my job or if he really found something out. I always questioned it in the back of my mind.

I did see a video on YouTube after the Wikileaks [video] came out, of the children being interviewed. … When I saw their faces, I was relieved, but I was just heartbroken. I have a huge place in my heart for children, having some of my own. Knowing that I was part of the system that took their father away from them and made them lose their house … it’s heartbreaking. And that in turn is what helped me and Josh write the letter, hoping that it would find its way to them to let them know that we’re sorry. We’re sorry for the system that we were involved in that took their father’s life and injured them. If there’s anything I can to do help, I would be more than happy to.

Wired.com:
Wikileaks presented the incident as though there was no engagement from insurgents. But you guys did have a firefight a couple of blocks away. Was it reasonable for the Apache soldiers to think that maybe the people they attacked were part of that insurgent firefight?

McCord:
I doubt that they were a part of that firefight. However, when I did come up on the scene, there was an RPG as well as AK-47s there…. You just don’t walk around with an RPG in Iraq, especially three blocks away from a firefight…. Personally, I believe the first attack on the group standing by the wall was appropriate, was warranted by the rules of engagement. They did have weapons there. However, I don’t feel that the attack on the [rescue] van was necessary.

Now, as far as rules of engagement, [Iraqis] are not supposed to pick up the wounded. But they could have been easily deterred from doing what they were doing by just firing simply a few warning shots in the direction…. Instead, the Apaches decided to completely obliterate everybody in the van. That’s the hard part to swallow.

And where the soldier said [in the video], “Well, you shouldn’t take your kids to battle.” Well in all actuality, we brought the battle to your kids. There’s no front lines here. This is urban combat and we’re taking the war to children and women and innocents.

There were plenty of times in the past where other insurgents would come by and pick up the bodies, and then we’d have no evidence or anything to what happened, so in looking at it from the Apache’s point of view, they were thinking that [someone was] picking up the weapons and bodies; when, in hindsight, clearly they were picking up the wounded man. But you’re not supposed to do that in Iraq.

Wired.com:
Civilians are supposed to know that they’re not supposed to pick up a wounded person crawling in the road?

McCord:
Yeah. This is the problem that we’re speaking out on as far as the rules of engagement. How is this guy supposed to [decide] should I stop and pick them up, or is the military going to shoot me? If you or I saw someone wounded on the ground what is your first inkling? I’m going to help that person.

Wired.com:
There was another attack depicted in the video that has received little attention, involving a Hellfire and a building that was fired on.

McCord:
I wasn’t around that building when it happened. I was up on a rooftop at that time. However, I do know some soldiers went in to clear that building afterwards and there were some people with weapons in there, but there was also a family of four that was killed.

I think that a Hellfire missile is a little much to put into a building…. They’re trained as soldiers to go into a building and clear a building. I do know that there was a teenage girl [in there], just because I saw the pictures when I was there, that one of the soldiers took.

Wired.com:
Have you heard from any other soldiers since the video came out?

McCord:
I’ve spoken with one of the medics who was there. He’s no longer in the Army. When this video first came out, there was a lot of outrage by the soldiers, just because it depicted us as being callous, cruel, heartless people, and we’re not that way. The majority of us aren’t. And so he was pretty upset about the whole thing…. He kept saying, we were there, we know the truth, they’re saying there was no weapons, there was.

I’ve spoken with other soldiers who were there. Some of them [say] I don’t care what anybody says … they’re not there. … There’s also some soldiers who joke about it [as a] coping mechanism. They’re like, oh yeah, we’re the “collateral murder” company. I don’t think that [the] big picture is whether or not [the Iraqis who were killed] had weapons. I think that the bigger picture is what are we doing there? We’ve been there for so long now and it seems like nothing is being accomplished whatsoever, except for we’re making more people hate us.

Wired.com:
Do you support Wikileaks in releasing this video?

McCord:
When it was first released I don’t think it was done in the best manner that it could have been. They were stating that these people had no weapons whatsoever, that they were just carrying cameras. In the video, you can clearly see that they did have weapons … to the trained eye. You can make out in the video [someone] carrying an AK-47, swinging it down by his legs….

And as far as the way that the soldiers are speaking in the video, which is pretty callous and joking about what’s happened … that’s a coping mechanism. I’m guilty of it, too, myself. You joke about the situations and what’s happened to push away your true feelings of the matter.

There’s no easy way to kill somebody. You don’t just take somebody’s life and then go on about your business for the rest of the day. That stays with you. And cracking jokes is a way of pushing that stuff down.

That’s why so many soldiers come back home and they’re no longer in the situations where they have other things to think about or other people to joke about what happened … and they explode.

I don’t say that Wikileaks did a bad thing, because they didn’t…. I think it is good that they’re putting this stuff out there. I don’t think that people really want to see this, though, because this is war…. It’s very disturbing.

Image: U.S. Central Command

Greece Welcomes Its New IMF Overlords With Day Of Rioting And National Strikes

What do you do when you are the prime minister of a bankrupt country and your only recourse is to get the Washington D.C.-based IMF to come in and tell you you have to cut wages by about 120% and fire 75% of the country (especially after the same Germans you recently demanded WWII reparations from, mysteriously have decided in the eleventh hour to have their last laugh at your expense). Why, you send in the national guard, armed with fake six-pack ridged bulletproof vests and gas masks, to repeat the miracle of Thermopylae against the marauding population which has suddenly realized that the past 10 years of chimeric happiness were a one-time miracle thanks to Mr Goldman and fat, and somewhat stupid, uncle Almunia. The next thing you do, once you realize you are about to have a [revolution|uprising|civil war] is to declare a moratorium on your €300 billion of debt, make your people happy and stick it precisely to the same bankers that you complain about every single day for "speculating" against you. Tomorrow Greece will face the trifecta of a much delayed hangover as 1) its bonds hit 9% as the hedge funds who have been buying up in expectations of a snapback capitulate, 2) EuroStat declares its deficit was officially 14%, and 3) a Greek civil servant strike in their fourth national walkout this year. 
Bloomberg reports.
The strike will shutter hospital and schools and also affect ministries and government offices, according to an e- mailed statement from Athens-based ADEDY, the umbrella group for more than 500,000 state workers. It will hold a rally in central Athens at 11 a.m. local time.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is under fire from voters who say his austerity measures have gone too far and from investors who argue that further action is needed to cut the EU’s largest budget deficit. As Greece meets EU and International Monetary Fund officials to agree on the conditions tied to any loan, the extra yield investors demand to hold Greek debt over German bonds has surged to a record 522 basis points.

“Papandreou is caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Jacques Cailloux, chief European Economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. “The market has zero confidence in what the Greeks are saying, and any further austerity measures pushed for by the IMF could be the ones that break the camel’s back if they are deemed unfair by the population. He doesn’t have any option though.

Today’s strike isn’t expected to affect public transport or air traffic, after air-traffic controllers postponed a planned walkout to clear a backlog of flights caused by the spread of volcanic ash from Iceland across Europe.

PAME Hellas, a union affiliated with the Greek Communist Party, called its own labor action. Members of the group blockaded entry to the port of Piraeus yesterday, preventing ferries from sailing. Others picketed luxury hotels in the city center, including at least one where IMF negotiators are staying.

We must dare, otherwise we will be led like lambs to the slaughter,” said Aleka Papariga, head of the Communist Party of Greece, the third-largest parliamentary party. “The working people aren’t about to be used to allow passage of policies that will bring the worst barbarity we’ve seen in the past 35 years.”
That's funny, cause America recently allowed passage of policies that would make Greek debt-to-GDP ratios seems like a midget in Liliput compared to the monster our own Treasury is about to spawn. Yet, as always, it isn't until it is far too late to fix something proactively that the people of any country, be it Greece or the US, wake up from their deep slumber. Greece has now officially woken up (we will show you footage of tomorrow's hopefully non-violent riots to confirm). We wonder how long before America does the same.

h/t Rodrigo


Nader Asks D.C. Court Not to Permit 2004 Pennsylvania Challenger to Take Money out of his Bank Account

Ballot Access News reports

On April 21, Ralph Nader’s attorney Oliver Hall argued in the D.C. Court of Appeals that the Pennsylvania court order, awarding $81,000 to the people who challenged Nader’s ballot access petition in 2004, was fundamentally unjust. See this story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10111/1052186-100.stm

The people who challenged Nader’s petition in 2004 used state government employees, on government time, as well as state government databanks and computers. Today is the first time that any court has been willing to hold oral arguments on Nader’s claim that the Pennsylvania challenge system, as it worked in 2004, is illegitimate.

The case is in court in Washington, D.C., because that is where Nader’s bank account is. Generally it is very tough for any attorney to persuade state courts in one state not to honor a court order from another state. Of course D.C. is not a state, but it has courts that are the functional equivalent of state courts. The D.C. Appeals Court is not the same as the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Thanks to Ed Bortz for the link.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Photographers Prepare for a Moment in May


Journalists are often at their worst when trying to predict the future. But it seems safe to say that many hundreds — if not thousands — of shutters will be released simultaneously on Sunday, May 2, as photographers around the world help Lens create “A Moment in Time”; one single moment in the life of the planet.
That moment will be 15:00 hours in Coordinated Universal Time or U.T.C., the contemporary equivalent of Greenwich Mean Time. In the United States, under daylight time, this would be 11 a.m. on the East Coast, 10 a.m. in the Midwest, 9 a.m. in the West and 8 a.m. on the West Coast. For local times around the world, you can consult this converter from timeanddate.com.

Lisa Gottlieb Berkowitz said she may be in labor at that moment and promised that she’d “be very careful” about any picture she takes. Brenda Sinclair Dutton expects to be flying to Indianapolis and plans to take a photo in the plane. In Alaska, Sarah Kennedy noted, it will be 7 o’clock. “I’ll sure to try to take a photo of the pretty sunrise,” she said. “If I’m awake.”

Rob Kunkle was less optimistic about the scene in San Francisco. “Sunday at 8 a.m.?” he asked. “I don’t think anyone is awake then in S.F.” But Dick Halstead, of Palymyra, N.Y., is confident that his day will be well under way. “I hope to include the United Church Choir,” he said. “We will just be concluding our Sunday Service.”

These were among the responses to our initial invitation, “A Timely Global Mosaic, Created by All of Us,” in which we asked everyone, everywhere, to join in making this worldwide photographic mosaic, with each photographer submitting their one best picture. As guidance, we suggested a few broad topics like arts and entertainment, community, family, money and the economy, nature and the environment, play, religion, social issues and work. And we also suggested that you might find the experience even more rewarding if you do some planning in advance, taking into account how best to represent yourself, and your community, with a single image.

You asked how long you’d have to submit your picture. |
The answer: up to five days from the time you took it. The submission form will be live and usable from 15:00 (U.T.C.) on Sunday, May 2, until 15:00 (U.T.C.) on Friday, May 7.

You asked how large your file ought to be. |
Because the pictures will be published up to 1000 pixels wide on the Web (that’s big), the larger your file, the better — up to a point. But please don’t send anything larger than 5 MB. If you’re using an adjustable camera phone, be sure to set it for the largest file size possible.

You asked whether we were aware that “A Moment in Time” was scarcely an original concept. |
Yes, we certainly knew we weren’t the first. We’d love to be able to say we remembered that May 2 was also the date chosen in 1986 by David Elliot Cohen and Rick Smolan for “A Day in the Life of America.” But our memories aren’t that good. It’s merely a happy coincidence.

You asked how it could possibly be midnight in Beijing when it’s 15:00 (U.T.C.). |
It can’t. Our calculations were off. It will be 11 p.m.

As the moment nears, you can follow the project on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This’


By Chris Hedges

Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect. He curtly dismisses our two-party system as a mirage orchestrated by the corporate state, excoriates the liberal intelligentsia for being fops and courtiers and describes the drivel of the commercial media as a form of “brainwashing.” And as our nation’s most prescient critic of unregulated capitalism, globalization and the poison of empire, he enters his 81st year warning us that we have little time left to save our anemic democracy.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”

“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on. “Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

“I listen to talk radio,” Chomsky said. “I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing.”

Chomsky has, more than any other American intellectual, charted the downward spiral of the American political and economic system, in works such as “On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures,” “Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture,” “A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West,” “Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky,” “Manufacturing Consent” and “Letters From Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda.” He reminds us that genuine intellectual inquiry is always subversive. It challenges cultural and political assumptions. It critiques structures. It is relentlessly self-critical. It implodes the self-indulgent myths and stereotypes we use to elevate ourselves and ignore our complicity in acts of violence and oppression. And it makes the powerful, as well as their liberal apologists, deeply uncomfortable.

Chomsky reserves his fiercest venom for the liberal elite in the press, the universities and the political system who serve as a smoke screen for the cruelty of unchecked capitalism and imperial war. He exposes their moral and intellectual posturing as a fraud. And this is why Chomsky is hated, and perhaps feared, more among liberal elites than among the right wing he also excoriates. When Christopher Hitchens decided to become a windup doll for the Bush administration after the attacks of 9/11, one of the first things he did was write a vicious article attacking Chomsky. Hitchens, unlike most of those he served, knew which intellectual in America mattered. [Editor’s note: To see some of the articles in the 2001 exchanges between Hitchens and Chomsky, click here, here, here and here.]

“I don’t bother writing about Fox News,” Chomsky said. “It is too easy. What I talk about are the liberal intellectuals, the ones who portray themselves and perceive themselves as challenging power, as courageous, as standing up for truth and justice. They are basically the guardians of the faith. They set the limits. They tell us how far we can go. They say, ‘Look how courageous I am.’ But do not go one millimeter beyond that. At least for the educated sectors, they are the most dangerous in supporting power.”

Chomsky, because he steps outside of every group and eschews all ideologies, has been crucial to American discourse for decades, from his work on the Vietnam War to his criticisms of the Obama administration. He stubbornly maintains his position as an iconoclast, one who distrusts power in any form.

“Most intellectuals have a self-understanding of themselves as the conscience of humanity,” said the Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein. “They revel in and admire someone like Vaclav Havel. Chomsky is contemptuous of Havel. Chomsky embraces the Julien Benda view of the world. There are two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege it will always be at the expense of truth and justice. Benda says that the credo of any true intellectual has to be, as Christ said, ‘my kingdom is not of this world.’ Chomsky exposes the pretenses of those who claim to be the bearers of truth and justice. He shows that in fact these intellectuals are the bearers of power and privilege and all the evil that attends it.”

“Some of Chomsky’s books will consist of things like analyzing the misrepresentations of the Arias plan in Central America, and he will devote 200 pages to it,” Finkelstein said. “And two years later, who will have heard of Oscar Arias? It causes you to wonder would Chomsky have been wiser to write things on a grander scale, things with a more enduring quality so that you read them forty or sixty years later. This is what Russell did in books like ‘Marriage and Morals.’ Can you even read any longer what Chomsky wrote on Vietnam and Central America? The answer has to often be no. This tells you something about him. He is not writing for ego. If he were writing for ego he would have written in a grand style that would have buttressed his legacy. He is writing because he wants to effect political change. He cares about the lives of people and there the details count. He is trying to refute the daily lies spewed out by the establishment media. He could have devoted his time to writing philosophical treatises that would have endured like Kant or Russell. But he invested in the tiny details which make a difference to win a political battle.”

“I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions,” Chomsky said when asked about his goals. “Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself. There is plenty of information. You have got to learn how to judge, evaluate and compare it with other things. You have to take some things on trust or you can’t survive. But if there is something significant and important don’t take it on trust. As soon as you read anything that is anonymous you should immediately distrust it. If you read in the newspapers that Iran is defying the international community, ask who is the international community? India is opposed to sanctions. China is opposed to sanctions. Brazil is opposed to sanctions. The Non-Aligned Movement is vigorously opposed to sanctions and has been for years. Who is the international community? It is Washington and anyone who happens to agree with it. You can figure that out, but you have to do work. It is the same on issue after issue.”

Chomsky’s courage to speak on behalf of those, such as the Palestinians, whose suffering is often minimized or ignored in mass culture, holds up the possibility of the moral life. And, perhaps even more than his scholarship, his example of intellectual and moral independence sustains all who defy the cant of the crowd to speak the truth.

“I cannot tell you how many people, myself included, and this is not hyperbole, whose lives were changed by him,” said Finkelstein, who has been driven out of several university posts for his intellectual courage and independence. “Were it not for Chomsky I would have long ago succumbed. I was beaten and battered in my professional life. It was only the knowledge that one of the greatest minds in human history has faith in me that compensates for this constant, relentless and vicious battering. There are many people who are considered nonentities, the so-called little people of this world, who suddenly get an e-mail from Noam Chomsky. It breathes new life into you. Chomsky has stirred many, many people to realize a level of their potential that would forever been lost.”

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nader, Superman, Kryptonite , the 80's


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nader criticizes state of American democracy By Susan Kim

The theory of democracy is hopelessly out of line with the way the United States practices democracy, said Laura Nader, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, on Friday during her address in Maxwell Auditorium.
“The democratic vision that we gave to the world is believed in different parts of the world,” she said. “We have given the world a vision they are excited about.”
During the lecture, titled “If You Want to Spread Democracy You Have to be One,” Nader, the sister of four time presidential candidate Ralph Nader, spoke about how corporate America destroyed democracy, the one thing for which it is admired by the rest of the world. Nader called for an anthropological study of the United States to discover what went wrong in American democracy.
People in the United States are taught the ideology of democracy, Nader said. But the practice of democracy has been lost as corporations are slowly starting to control everything; and Americans need to start reacting to get the practice of democracy back on track, she said.
“If you don’t, then you’ll lose more and lose more, and you’ll lose it incrementally,” she said.
She also said there has been a 100-year transition from regional capitalism to corporate capitalism. Communities that have built enterprises with their own hands and their own prosperity have lost hope because corporations are “claiming the fruit of all their labor, their own and their children’s prosperity,” she said.
“A cultural revolution of the gospel of wealth is replacing the gospel of work, which means a superiority of capital over labor,” Nader said.
To fix the shift away from democracy, in which hard work is valued over wealth, the United States needs people from other parts of the world to come and study the nation to get a diagnosis of what is wrong, Nader said. Outsiders can help us recognize problems, which Americans are reluctant to admit to and fix, she said.
Not only are Americans reluctant to fix their problems, they are lying to themselves and believe they have no problems to fix, she said.
“Lying is more than deception,” Nader said. “The liar wants what is unreal to be accepted by actuality. Untruth becomes reality.”
Megan Lucas, a freshman international relations major, said the lecture was interesting because Nader defined what made a democracy effective and ineffective from a new perspective.
“I really liked the fact that she was looking at this from an anthropological perspective,” she said, “rather than a political science perspective.” 

The Democrats’ Mea Culpas, by John Murphy

From: dissidentvoice.org

April 15th, 2010
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.

– Patrick Henry: delivered to the Virginia Convention in 1775
The number of articles written by contrite Obama supporters that have appeared over the last year is almost uncountable. Forgiveness, however, requires not only that penitents renounce their sins but that they make a sincere resolve not to sin in the same way again. Democrats will never make such a resolve. Regardless of the number of whining articles by “progressive” Democrats, Rahm Emanuel — Obama’s political twin – who called liberal activists “retarded,” knows very well that Democrats, especially the self-styled “progressives” will never vote for anyone other than a Democrat. Regardless of Obama’s atrocities, the Democrats will line up behind him in 2012.

There can be no absolution for the Obaminable Democrats; they can be no more forgiven for supporting Obama than they can be forgiven for supporting John Kerry or William Clinton. Clinton, you will recall, was the president who killed a million innocent Iraqi men, women and children with bombs and sanctions while domestically destroying the women’s movement with “welfare reform” and American jobs with “free trade agreements.

These are the people who followed the inane philosophy of ABB (“Anyone is Better than Bush”)!  Imagine believing that Kerry would be better than Bush even though he promised that he would out-Bush Bush by sending 40,000 more troops to Iraq and declaring that, if he had been in charge, he would have burned Falluja to the ground. A few days later Bush granted his wish killing mostly women and children! Even the ever hawkish William Safire (d. 2009), columnist for the New York Times, was positively gloating after the September, 2004 Kerry-Bush presidential debate: “As the Democratic Whoopee Brigade hailed Senator John Kerry’s edge in debating technique, nobody noticed his foreign policy sea change. On both military tactics and grand strategy, the newest neoconservative announced doctrines more hawkish than President George W. Bush.”

Meantime, during this ABB farce, Michael Moore and Bill Maher assumed the typical Democrat position: kneeling and begging.  No, they were not begging for the scraps from the corporate table, the traditional Democrat plea.  This time they even more grievously disgraced themselves by begging the antiwar candidate, Ralph Nader, not to interfere with John Kerry’s plans to slaughter, more efficiently and effectively, the people in Iraq while continuing to outsource American jobs with so-called “free trade” agreements. These are the very same kind of bottom feeder who would have begged the Liberty Party to stop its opposition to slavery and let the lesser of two pro-slavery parties make things a little better for the slaves. These latter-day court jesters demonstrated that they lack even the dim flicker of sentience needed to qualify them as imbeciles. The Democrats are beyond redemption; they are to be condemned not forgiven. Their priority was to elect Kerry, not oppose the war.

The Democrats did not get a chance to whine about a Kerry presidency as they do about the Obama presidency. They did not even get a chance to continue maligning Ralph Nader for Kerry’s defeat. Now, since Barack Obama, the mocha messiah of the Democrats, has assumed the imperial mantle of George Bush, that dreadful sound can be heard once again rising up from the Democrats. Oh, the mind numbing din of whining Democrats!

Whether they thought Obama would end the wars instead of escalating them or stop the torture instead of outsourcing it to Jordan and Saudi Arabia or prosecute the torturers instead of giving them a pass or encourage the Congress to pass single-payer healthcare instead of cutting backroom deals with big Pharma and providing corporate welfare for the insurance companies or bail out homeowners instead of bankers, Democrats from Dave Lindorff to David Swanson can be heard wailing about the betrayal of Barack Obama who now gives every indication that he is more monstrous than George Bush.

To be sure, Bush was a war criminal who invaded Iraq to fulfill the mission of the Project for New American Century (PNAC) which was to secure a US-Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. That strategy was identical to the Democratic Party’s think tank the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). Bush also invaded Afghanistan to secure a land area for a liquid natural gas pipeline. Obama plans to continue the occupation of Iraq, has escalated the war on Afghanistan (reinforcing the lies of the Bush administration) and rained down three times as many unmanned drones on Pakistan in one year than Bush did in his last three. Obama has also opened military hostilities against Yemen, Somalia and the Philippines. Obama recently proclaimed that he has the right to murder American citizens on the mere suspicion that they might be terrorists. This leaves us all vulnerable to murder at Obama’s whim. Those of us on the “watch list” must now say an extra prayer each night that our spouses and children are not slaughtered when Obama’s drone hits home. No wonder the Teabaggers are afraid of government and Obama in particular!

It must not be overlooked that Obama also plans to use Colombian insurgents to commit “false positive” border incidents blaming Venezuela as a pretext for a retaliatory attack, supported, of course, by Washington as a way to target and perhaps remove Hugo Chavez.

He continues destabilization tactics for regime change in Iran and may, preemptively without cause, attack that nation’s nuclear facilities. He supports the worst of Israeli war crimes and oppression against Palestinians and keeps alive the long dead “terrorist organization” called Al Qaeda in order to suppress civil liberties at home, maintain the pretense of a flourishing economy through defense spending and ultimately secure corporate money for his re-election.

Democrat Talking Heads
To be fair, not all the Democrats are whining. Listening to “liberal” talk radio the Democratic Party talking heads can be heard spinning every one of Obama’s atrocities into an inspired strategy of golden fabric. According to the Democratic Party’s counterparts of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, Obama is a “master chess player” and all of his monstrous brutalities merely appear to be brutal.  When the mist clears however, according to “big Ed” Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Bill Press and the other skull splitting defenders of Barack Obama AKA “Barry the Bomber”, we will see that a brighter day has dawned; that the atrocities committed against all the nations Obama is devastating and the American working people he is crushing are simply pawn sacrifices made by the master gamesman and in the end we will all be thankful to “Barry the Beneficent”.

In case anyone is wondering about the “change” promised by Obama, fear not. Democrat talking head Rachel Maddow explained to us earlier this week that Obama’s nuclear summit was the promised change! As it turned out, “change did not mean that everybody suddenly had a job or that the banking crisis was suddenly fixed or that our wars magically ended.  But change, in part, has meant a return to diplomacy”. Of course, Israel, the greatest threat to world peace next to the United States, refused to participate and Iran was not even invited. Like all of the Democratic Party talking heads Maddow fails to mention the ever present threat from the Obama administration’s “diplomacy” when dealing with other nations: “all options remain on the table”. This is not a very diplomatic way to tell the world “you will do it our way or you will face the possibility of a US invasion or at the very least a carpeting of cluster bombs, white phosphorus and unmanned drone missiles”. This bogus nuclear summit is simply more advertising hype and does not represent any significant change from the second Bush administration.

The Incompetent Machiavellian 
Machiavelli refused to be deflected by utopian dreams or romantic hopes and by questions of right and wrong or good and bad. He rejected the entire concept of moral philosophy. He is often considered to be the father of modern political realism, or what has been called “realpolitik”. It is one of the most seductive ideas of our time. The constant cry of the Democratic Party is: “be realistic… you’re living in the real world…. it’s good to have idealistic visions of a better world, but you’re living in the real world, so be practical.”

Every time Ralph Nader tried to get Democrats to stand on their hind legs, party leaders quickly reminded them that they must be “practical” that they must be “realistic”. Like Machiavelli, the Democratic Party is not concerned with right and wrong or good and evil. It has rejected all moral philosophy by accepting the Machiavellian concept that “the ends justify the means”.

How many times have the ideas and positions of Ralph Nader been demeaned as foolish idealism impractical in a world where one must “win elections”?

Realism is seductive because once it has been accepted as a reasonable notion that actions should be based on “practical” reality people are too often led to accept, without questioning, someone else’s vision of what reality is. It is a crucial fact of independent thinking, typical of Ralph Nader, to be skeptical of someone else’s description of reality. Democrats never question the “reality” presented to them by the Democratic Party. For this reason the Democrats present an even more dangerous and violent threat than the tea party movement which it has engendered and which it continues to empower by its own lack of moral clarity.

The Democratic Party’s talking heads from the most articulate and erudite to the more brutish philistine serve the same purpose as the Republican Party talking heads. Their job is to secure the election of Democrats not to present an objective evaluation of their performance and recommend the appropriate action. Far from playing the role of chess master, Obama is an incompetent Machiavellian. Virtually nothing Obama and his representatives in the liberal media (the talk show hosts previously mentioned) have told us about this health care reform bill is true. The entire thrust of the legislation was to prevent campaign contributions from big Pharma and healthcare insurance companies from flowing into Republican coffers. By euphemistically calling this piece of corporate welfare “health care reform” Obama has sacrificed the needs of the American public in order to achieve his re-election and that of the Democratic Congress. For Obama, the ends justified the means. No moral philosopher in Eastern or Western civilization condones such a philosophy. Only Niccolo Machiavelli advanced such a thesis.

Usually, those who try to get away with “the ends justifying the means” at least have some noble end in mind. The re-election of the Democrats is anything but noble and the means was a purely cynical act on the part of the Democratic Party. Even a Machiavellian, however, would be embarrassed at the incompetent execution of Obama’s loutish strategy.

A good Machiavellian would certainly have planned for the possible unintended consequences of such a strategy and hence have prevented their occurrence. A competent Machiavellian would have started his administration by ensuring that the Senate changed the filibuster rule from 41 to 49 votes. This rule only requires a simple majority vote in order to be changed. It is a Senate rule, not a law. Moreover, the incompetent Obama administration, while achieving its ends created such blowback from the ridiculous right that the United States is now as close to collapsing into a fascist regime as it has ever been in its history.

The attitudes of the people in the tea party movement are completely justified. Not only has there not been any increase in the standard of living over the last 30 years while productivity has increased by over 78%, real incomes of working Americans have actually declined. While Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton are to blame for the adoption of “neoliberal economics” the Obama administration with its continuing support of the banking industry was the straw that broke the political camel’s back.

Obama, more than any Republican, is linked to the bankers. They supported him over McCain. When Obama started to criticize the bankers, in true Machiavellian fashion, he did an about-face proclaiming: “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free market system.” Of course, Obama is completely in error. Americans actually do begrudge the $17 million bonus awarded to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase and the $9 million issued to Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs. No one should be surprised that Goldman Sachs contributed $1 million to Obama’s presidential campaign.

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans like to talk about class warfare but that is precisely what the incompetent, Machiavellian, cynical Obama administration has engendered. Unemployment is reaching near depression levels while Obama’s banking buddies bathe in bonuses beyond imagination and people are not happy about it. The job growth statistics quoted by the Democrat talking heads are mostly in non-tradable services area such as janitors, retail sales persons, waiters and waitresses, orderlies and attendants.

These minimum wage paying jobs were created by corporations which have outsourced good paying American jobs in engineering, manufacturing and information technology.1 Such outsourcing continues under the “free trade” supporting Obama administration. Ironically, the highly trained workers in those well compensated fields are now used to account for the “new jobs” being created by the Obama administration. Such a clever way has the Obama administration devised for job creation; turning well paid information technology specialists into low paid retail clerks!

The working class has been marginalized as the costs of our economic collapse are socialized and profits are privatized. Frustration and outright rage is the natural and expected response to the callous Obama administration. Instead of getting answers from the left, however, they receive political placebos along with the puerile pabulum fed to them by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.

Chris Hedges warns us of “the Weimarization of the American working class”.2 Just as demagogues in post-World War I Germany were able to play upon the despair of the working class, the same type of forces are now in place in the United States. He suggests that even though the tea party movement, itself, may be tiny, it is a well-funded and well-organized group. Properly managed, Hedges suggests “this tiny group can count on the sympathy and support of perhaps as many as 100 million evangelicals”. It would only take a crisis to catapult the leaders of this movement into power.

Naomi Klein in her work The Shock Doctrine3 spells out precisely how such a crisis could produce a disastrous political, social and economic revolution. Another terrorist attack would be all that is necessary. Such an attack is not just probable but inevitable. The resulting fascist order would face no resistance. At a time when violent resistance from the left might be required, the left has been disorganized and distracted by the Democratic Party.  As the left smokes Obama’s wacky tobacci and sings “Kum By Ya”, the forces which would destroy civil society as we know it are singing “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”.

There is good reason to be afraid. We must not, however, confuse fear with cowardice. In the final analysis we either stand up for our convictions or we stand for nothing. The continued voting for the lesser evil has not, nor cannot, save this country; it can only hasten a total collapse. Those who are too afraid to voice their conscience and make it felt politically, by any means, are already slaves; they simply have not yet heard the rattling of their chains.
  1. Paul Craig Roberts, How the Economy Was Lost; (California: AK Press, 2010), 20-21. []
  2. Chris Hedges, American Fascists (The Christian Right and the War on America) (New York: Free Press, 2006): 266. []
  3. Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism; (New York: Metropolitan Books; Henry Holt & Co. 2007): 309. []
John Murphy was the independent candidate for House of Representatives in Pennsylvania's 16th district in 2006 and 2008 . He is a founding member of the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition where he represents the independent candidacy of Ralph Nader. He can be reached at: johnamurphy@comcast.net.

Edupunks

DIYURevised.jpg
This article is excerpted from DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. This excerpt is about the "edupunks," the radicals who want to liberate scholarship and learning from the constraints of institutions altogether. I also call them the monks. The book was just published by Chelsea Green.

The monks' world starts with a toaster.

Well, not quite a toaster. What Thomas Thwaites exhibited at London's Royal College of Art in the summer of 2009 was a couple of leafblowers, a suitcase full of chunks of iron ore, and a microwave, with which he had managed to smelt a piece of pure iron "about the size of a ten-pence coin." The Toaster Project was a solo attempt to fabricate, from raw natural materials, the same Chinese-made appliance that sells in British stores for £3.99 ($6.60). Thwaites took his cue from sci-fi humorist Douglas Adams, who in his novel Mostly Harmless wrote of the average modern human, "Left to his own devices, he couldn't make a toaster."

In his artist's statement, Thwaites wrote, "It's about scale, the total inter-reliance of people and societies, the triviality of some (anti) globalisation discourse, what we have to lose, and DIY." To translate: The chain of industrial processes, transportation miles, and person-hours that snakes behind even the simplest object is invisible even to the best-educated among us. Living within this invisible matrix is profoundly alienating. We ignore the cost to the environment and the fate of the people around the world who serve as cheap labor to make our cheap products. DIY is one possible response.

Not explicitly educational, the Toaster Project nevertheless illustrates two basic strategies important to DIY education. The first is to seek out the vividness of direct experience, to
encounter the world, and, if possible, to make yourself useful. Henry David Thoreau argued for a Toaster Project approach to education.

Students, he wrote, should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. . . Which would have advanced the most at the end of a month,-the boy who had made his own jackknife from the ore which he had dug and smelted, reading as much as would be necessary for this -- or the boy who had attended the lecture on metallurgy at the Institute in the mean while, and had received a . . . penknife from his father?
Which would be more likely to cut his fingers?

The second strategy is to share information with a community. I found out about the Toaster Project on Google Reader, a free application. Every day when I'm surfing the Internet reading news and blogs, I can click a button and share what I'm reading on Reader, Facebook, or Twitter with several thousand of my friends and contacts, who also share their links with me. The Toaster Project is highly shareable; Thwaites put a lot of information online, including step-by-step videos. If I wanted to, I could probably draw on these resources and use my microwave to smelt iron too.

The monks contend that community- and practice-based learning can transcend the limitations of existing educational institutions. Jim Groom ("The great Reverend @jimgroom, Groom and Doom, Groom Fills The Room," as he was announced, via Twitter, at the 2009 Open Education conference in Vancouver) is a chainsmoker with glasses and an ever-present five-days' growth of beard. He has the discursive, occasionally irascible manner of a longtime graduate student. Groom's day job is educational technologist at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. His secret identity is open education blogodaemon and coiner of the term "edupunk."

"Edupunk is about the utter irresponsibility and lethargy of educational institutions, and the means by which they are financially cannibalizing their own mission," is the opening salvo of his first e-mail. Higher education has become a given for most high school students in our culture, and the fact that they have to pay out the nose has become a kind of unquestioned necessity to secure a job. But as we are increasingly seeing with big media, newspapers, and the like -- traditional modes of information distribution are being
circumvented, and higher education is just as vulnerable in this new landscape. . . There remains a general refusal to acknowledge the implications of how easy it is
to publish, share, teach, and even apprentice one another outside of the traditional logic of institutions.

What edupunk -- DIY education, if you will -- promises is an evolution from expensive institutions to expansive networks; it aims to fulfill the promise of universal education, but only by leaving the university behind. Educational futurist John Seely Brown talks about "open participatory learning ecosystems." Alec Couros at the University of Sasketchewan calls my blend of news sources and contacts on Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and e-mail a "personal learning network."

He draws a diagram that looks like a dandelion head. You, the learner, are at the center. The seeds are people, texts, courses, Web sites, blogs-any knowledge resource. George
Siemens and Stephen Downes, who collaborated in offering the Massively Open Online Course, call their theory of learning in the digital age "connectivism."

Learning networks in previous decades were insular groups formed around academic journals, learned societies, and professional conferences. Today, galaxies of students, academics, professionals, and amateurs are using blogs, wikis, presentation tools like Slideshare, YouTube videos, and e-mail lists to collaborate, pursue, and present knowledge in any discipline. All are supported by, yet independent of, universities, other cultural and government institutions, and private companies, not to mention hours of volunteered time by enthusiasts. Just now I picked a topic out of thin air -- Tuvan throat singing. In hardly more time than it takes me to type the words, I find YouTube videos, personal blogs, ethnomusicology papers on Google Scholar. A few more keystrokes and I've opened up a dialogue by sending an e-mail to Ted Levin at Dartmouth, who, I find, the Washington Post called the world's foremost expert on the subject.

In my e-mail, I ask him how often he responds to queries that he receives out of the blue. Just hours later I got an incredibly generous response in which Levin said, in part,

Yes, a lot of people e-mail me with questions about Tuvan throat singing, and yes, I respond to each and every inquiry. But I don't respond equally. The depth of the
response is commensurate with the thoughtfulness of the inquiry. . . My point: that "research" via Internet can get you only as far as the doorstep in certain kinds of knowledge seeking, and that to go beyond that requires that you step off the Internet and into more personalized forms of knowledge transmission. Since I'm committed to this kind of knowledge transmission, I believe it's my duty to share what I know with any serious seeker or researcher who comes along, whatever the portal by which he or she reaches me.

The casual intellectual venturer can dip in and out of established learning networks to answer a specific question, as I did when contacting Levin, or get a good introduction to a person or subject. But as Levin argues, actually becoming a part of a learning network requires some level of participation and contribution of your own-contribution that typically takes the learner from the virtual world to the real world and back again. The quality of the answer is dependent on the quality of the question.

Ideas travel faster over informal, digitally connected networks than when they are siloed inside academic departments. Such networks are especially useful in emerging, cross-
disciplinary frontiers of research, where there are no established departments. In fact, the open-education movement is itself a primary example of this kind of learning network.
"Given the abundance of information and given the connective and social opportunities around technology, perhaps the teacher's role is one of multiple nodes amid an overall network," says Siemens. "The world has become more and more complex. As a student you need to create your own learning network that will allow you to make sense of the abundance of information. It's a process of wayfinding, social sensemaking." Like Hansel and Gretel leaving trails of crumbs through the woods, or like bees doing waggle dances to point one another to the nectar, "Students need to be able to connect, provide continual feedback to each other, and form sensemaking social systems."

The whole project of formal education has been historically based on the idea of society transmitting its ideas, values, and technologies from one generation to the next, and from dominant civilizations and cultures to "backwards" or "primitive" ones. In the modern era we added the task of making and incorporating new discoveries into the curriculum year after year. As our society got more complex, we developed bigger and bigger institutions to teach more and more people more and more things.

Well, now the world is changing too fast, and the need is growing too much, for institutions to keep up. Scientists say we have less than ten years to reinvent how we use energy, how we get around, and how we make things if we don't want our civilization to collapse from the effects of global warming. And to do that, we as a species also have to find better ways of communicating, making decisions, and understanding and weighing each others' needs. No one person knows how to do this; it requires a new synthesis of the wisdom of the ancients and cutting-edge discoveries. Our best hope is to get better at empowering individuals to find answers for themselves. In other words, forget about giving the guy a fish, or teaching him how to fish, either. Teach him how to teach himself, and he'll always be able to acquire the skills he needs to find food, skills you haven't even thought of yet for things you didn't know you could eat.
 
Ask your questions about the impending education evolution during a free live call with "DIY U" author Any Kamenetz, Thurs, April 29.  This call is open to all RS participants as part of the Evolver Social Movement.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Top 12 Websites To Download Free E-Books

From: technologytosoftware.com
by jaspal

An E-Book so called as a digitally transformed book where simple text converted into e-text that built the digital media similar of our common printed book. An E-Book, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary of English, is “an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a personal computer or hand-held device designed specifically for this purpose”.

We all know the importance of books in life to design our interest level and develop sharp knowledge. Hard copy of book are inconvenient in carrying all the time, anywhere for book lovers. So E-Books have revolutionized the print media, hence reducing deforestation and at the same time it has provided better option for securing the information for longer period of time.

After putting long hours and effort we succeed in covering up “Top 12 Websites To Download Free E-Books” for your use so that you are able to save your time rather than hanging around on plenty of website on internet.

1. Scribd

2. PlanetPDF

3. UFindBook

4. Bookyards

5. Free-Ebooks

6. FictionWise

7.  FreeBookCentre

8. MemoWare

9. OnlineComputerBooks

10. E-BooksDirectory

11. FreeBookSpot

12. Ebookslab


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