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Archive for July, 2010

Why Cities?

I’ve just gotten into reading Derrick Jensen’s two-volume sociological treatise “Endgame,” published in 2006 by Seven Stories Press. I’m already deeply impressed, and he hits early on at a theme that I’ve always felt strongly about.

That is, that cities are inherently a bad thing.

Mind you, I’ve only read several chapters so far. But within those, he points out the obvious (much of this work is about pointing out obvious, but scary things about our culture) fact that cities cannot survive without importing goods; animal, mineral and botanical, from the country.

Okay, that sounds good, right? Trade?

Well, what do cities have to offer, that they can’t grow or mine?

Culture? Technology? Protection?

1. Culture. Cities can winnow their artists and promote the most talented ones. They can effect the transportation of the works of these artists, via media, to the country.

But it’s an assumption that this makes culture better. It’s an assumption to presume that rural cultures are made better by this, that their amateur artists, the ones who live next door to you, the ones who married your children; are not all that important, compared to these heavily winnowed artists from the cities. Living in a city doesn’t make you more talented. It just gives you different material to work with.

I think the same applies for intellectual property. To assume that we must support cities, because there are smarter people there, is horribly elitist and generally unsound.

Living in a city doesn’t make you smarter. It just gives you different ways to hype your brains.

To assume that cities are necessary for talented people, smart people, to reach their full potential, constitutes an arbitrary philosophy that makes sense only in terms of itself. Talented people, smart people, are mostly in cities; thus we must have cities to fully engage them.

2. Technology. People in cities make more technology. They do that by importing resources.

One of the great definitions of higher technology is better weapons.

People in rural areas (including the entire third world) may not really want any of that. They may be perfectly happy with their own cultures, their own art, their own self-sustaining way of living. They may not think that better weapons are necessary, as they live in their communities, where weapons are pretty much about hunting game, and hunting is not considered a brutal sport, but instead an endlessly engaging contest that rewards the clever, and the purpose of which ends at the stew-pot, or as clothing, or for making tools, or for a myriad other purposes people use animals they hunt and kill, or raise and kill, as well.

But, for cities to be a given, that’s not an option. The cities MUST import goods, for their citizens to survive.

And, they have better weapons, because of the technology.

So, the story that is told, is that the people in the country, the people in the third world…NEED the stuff the people in the cities make.

What if the people in the rural communities, in the country, etc.; decide they don’t need any of that? What if they decide they’re just fine with their own resources; animal, mineral and botanical, not to mention cultural; and would prefer to make their own decisions about what to do (or what not to do) with all of that?

Will the people in the cities just complacently sit on their hands and starve to death?

I think not.

3. Protection. That’s another pro-city argument; the people in the rural communities, the third world, etc.; need the people in the cities, the City-States, to protect them from marauding bands.

What if the only marauding bands are from the Cities?

 

None Of The Above, For President

Or for any other office.

Why not?

Now that Citizens United has opened the door..

(crossposted from all over the place)

None Of The Above is a candidate who wants you to vote for per (that is a term that means either him or her).

None Of The Above wants to be a candidate who is there for you, where the other ones aren’t.

None Of The Above would like to get it across to you that if you vote for None Of The Above, and None Of The Above wins, then the election in question has to be done all over again.

Yep. All the money, spending and everything.

When you vote for None Of The Above, you’re voting for kicking out the faux candidates, and for partying for better ones.

When None of The Above wins, it’s not over.

It just means we start over again.

With a new ballot. With better candidates.

Maybe some who don’t have as much money to buy ads with.

Maybe anybody, who is good and strong, and brave, and willing to stand up to the liars.

When None Of The Above wins, we start again.

Oh, is this too expensive?

Unlike wars?

Unlike bank bailouts?

No, it is NOT too expensive, peoples.

Better options. More free choice.

And choice to say “NO! None of you are good enough, start again.”

That really would not be all that expensive, peoples.

Compared to billions in war.

Billions in bank bailouts.

Love and peace,

Miep

 

Uncle Google Is Watching You

Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring

Wired
July 28

The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

 

The Delusion Revolution

The Delusion Revolution: We’re on the Road to Extinction and in Denial

by Robert Jensen
Alternet
Aug 2008

Terrific article. h/t to Edger at Antemedius, who posted some good quotes here. Thanks, Edger!

 

Thoughts on Corners

I do like living with other people. I think there has to be some space, though. I think I’d like a village where there was a central group of buildings for community things (like cooking, working with processing agricultural products, hosting guests, parties, art venues, hospitals)

and then we all had our own little places that would start radiating maybe a quarter mile out from the center. That would be the first outside circle. There would be a green belt outside of that, that would involve agriculture, in a much more sophisticated way than we’re used to – it would look like wilderness

That would be cool, because you’d have space, but you’d also have your neighbors at your level of the circle, and others further out, who would help to guard what would keep reframing itself as the perimeter. – and some people could have their living places further out. Total population? 10K? Too much?

Yeah, possibly. 5K. But the model is flexible.

Everybody would have some freedom to move further towards the center, or further out. This kind of setup would be especially helpful for the kids, because the center would be the safest place, where there were guaranteed to be wise, kind people in charge.

And the kids would always know that they could go there, if things got rough. And they would always know where that was, because that would be part of the deal, that everybody knows that’s the safe place, where you go if you get in trouble.

The people out on the outlying fringes of the circle, would include those who could not handle society too much, but who were exceptionally good at paying attention to the physical world. They would include some of the hypersensitive, including hermits.

They, too, would have a job. They would be guardians. And they would be mentors, occasionally, as appropriate, for the kids who showed signs of needing to be reclusive, sensitive, oddballs.

The guys might well tend to migrate especially toward the outer circles, but it wouldn’t be a given. Everybody of any gender would have a choice as to where to seek their places, and also to change, adapt, evolve over time.

And eventually, the circle would get so big that people would spin off into starting other circles. And then they would run into people from other circles.

But there would be language, and people riding back and forth, on horses or donkeys, or camels or llamas. And there would be things traded between the circles, and there would be marriages.

So far, so good. But what happened when everybody ran out of room?

Oh, horrors.

It stopped being about circles, then. People started running out of space, so they started thinking about squares, because you can put more squares into the same space, than you can circles.

Unfortunately, squares require corners, and corners are always the furthest away, and besides; when you’re in the corner, you’re cornered.

Corners imply not having enough room. Otherwise, we’d still be running stuff with circles.

Nobody wants to be in the corner.

That’s where you get trapped.

You might ask, where are the jails in this model?

I’ll answer that. What I’m trying to dream up here is a model of civilization that doesn’t require jails, where jails are anathema.

Where people who are getting into trouble know they have someplace to go for help – to the center. Where the guaranteed grownups are. The wise kind ones. The old ones. The young and extraordinarily talented ones.

The ones who know that rules are for fools.

The ones you know will be there for you, if you get into trouble. Because that’s how it works; everybody knows that! That’s how we roll here.

Sure, we all have problems, and sure, we like to diss the people in the center.

But we still know in our hearts they are there for us, even in all of our corners.

All we have to do is come out and come in.

That’s my vision.

Miep Rowan O’Brien

July 28, 2010

All of my writing should be considered Creative Commons; i.e.; you’re free to copy, post, anything – just please give me credit. Thanks!

 

JT

h/t End Homelessness & Invisible People.

 

Worse Than the Rainforests

Are our oceans dying? Phytoplankton has declined 40% in 60 years as figures reveal Earth has been getting hotter since the Eighties

Daily Mail
Now

Microscopic marine algae which form the basis of the ocean food chain are dying at a terrifying rate, scientists said today.

Phytoplankton, described as the ‘fuel’ on which marine ecosystems run, are experiencing declines of about 1 per cent of the average total a year.

According to the researchers from Dalhousie University in Canada the annual falls translate to a 40 per cent drop in phytoplankton since 1950.

This is from an article published in the journal Nature. (access requires payment or subscription)

The co-author of the Nature article is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying that phytoplankton produce 50% of the oxygen we breathe.

 

The Entire World

Poem d’jour

The Entire World

The entire world
is falling together at the seams,
We are imploding.

Oh, no. Oh, no; not my world.
Not my sweet world.

Maybe yes. Maybe no.
Oceans rumble. Death swills.

When I was a young girl,
we didn’t think of this.

We were brave
we were strong.

We knew we would not let the bastards grind us down.

Instead, they ground down
everything else.

Figures.
Now we live on little mental islands
typing, typing, typing

Waiting and wondering

Will we live?
Will our species live?
Will mammals at least survive?

Will there be fish? (no, probably not).
Will there be insects? (possibly)

Plants? Will there be plants?
Can we at least keep plants?
Leave us that much?

Or will you leave us to the theoretical bacterial constructs, that
we think about, when we think of Mars,
or moons of Saturn, or planets of reasonably close stars.

Will that be all we get?
Will that be the “hope?”

Is that it?

I didn’t want so much to go,
though I always suspected that a lot of things were going to be gone
even when I was a small child.

I used to think it mattered what I wanted, and then I started getting old and
realized that it really didn’t matter very much what I wanted.

And now I think of pond scum, and think; wow. How amazing.

I walk through the mundane circumstances of my world
streets, ill-kept lawns, sporadic trash.
People in grocery stores. Groceries! So astonishing, all of that.

And I think of it all overtaken by the moons of Saturn, the storms of Venus.
Shopping carts hurled into the abyss, flaming away

What songs will be sung then? Because there must always be songs, no?
How will we sing of the end of the world? Because we must be prepared.

It really might happen, in fact it must, eventually. The Sun won’t last forever; nothing does.

I just didn’t think that I would have to get ready for this,
to create the fairy tales of such, in my lifetime,

as an obligation for my niece’s grandchildren,
my nephew’s grandchildren
anybody’s grandchildren
anybody who is alive now and has children.

But now I’m starting to feel a kind of obligation, to start early
on these myths.

Because, here we go folks,
down the roller coaster
The really big one
Into the really scary one.

What do I have to offer? I ask myself constantly.
What do I have to offer?

Well, I can tell stories.
I can tell stories.

And at the end, that may be
all that is left.

Miep Rowan O’Brien
July 27, 2010

 

Superheroes vs. the Westboro Baptist Church

Comics Alliance

They’ve faced down humans time and time again, but Fred Phelps and his minions from the Westboro Baptist Church were not ready for the cosplay action that awaited them today at Comic-Con. After all, who can win against a counter protest that includes robots, magical anime girls, Trekkies, Jedi and…kittens?

Some of these are really funny. I especially like “God Hates Sentries” and “Magnets – How The *?*! Do They Work?”

 

Afghanistan war logs: Massive leak of secret files exposes truth of occupation

The Guardian

A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and over 1,000 US troops.

Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US navy sailors captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.

Support Wikileaks!

Pakistan Spy Service Aids Insurgents, Reports Assert

NYT

Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harbored strong suspicions that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports to be made public Sunday.

The documents, to be made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.