A Look Back

Reflections are, by definition, mediated by time. And so, as we reflect on 2007, it is only by viewing the whole that an impression of anticipation and potential seems to sit expectantly at the feet of the New Year.

Many events, people, ruminations, and frustrations have filled the pages of recycledminds over the past year. From the impact of global inequalities on health, food supply, and the environment, to uplifting and promising steps for the planet’s traditional and indigenous peoples, we have witnessed the recognition of Maya land rights, the indigenous-corporate battle in Peru, the impact of Wal-Mart on class in Mexico, and, most recently, the declaration of independence from the U.S. by the Lakotas. We have also tuned into what people are saying about this crazy world we live in, from the thought provoking messages of Terence McKenna, Sean Padraig Donahue, and Daniel Pinchbeck, to Subcomandante Marcos and Henry A. Giroux. Films such as The War on Democracy, The Story of Stuff, Czech Dream, and Sicko have laid bare the problems of governments and cultures run by corporations, and, in music, Mos Def’s “Tell the Truth” sang an anti-anthem of sorts for post-911 America. Our own, more internally focused musings have told stories of mourning and of uncertainty, but also of compassion, honesty, and fruitful exchanges.

What has been truly amazing is the sense of hope that pervades all these messages; the sense that change is not only necessary, but possible.

May optimism be fervent in the New Year!

Sir No Sir

Another film recommendation ::::: "Sir No Sir," which tells "tells the long suppressed story of the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam. This is the story of one of the most vibrant and widespread upheavals of the 1960’s- one that had a profound impact on American society yet has been virtually obliterated from the collective memory of that time."

The documentary is an interesting look at how history can be rewritten, at how ideologies are manufactured. By extension, it illuminates the U.S.'s current complacency.

The Story of Stuff

here's another interesting installment in our posts about consumption, globalization, and consumerism. the story of stuff tells a compelling story (from their website):
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.
how do you consume?

Lakotas Declare Independence from the US!!

Somehow I missed this until today, and I'm sure many of you have as well. In an interesting development coming out of Native America, members of the Lakota tribe have declared their independence form the US, and have officially withdrawn from all treaties signed between the tribe and the US government. Leaders have gone to Washington DC to make the announcement, and lobby foreign embassy's for support. They have also renounced their US citizenship (by cutting up driver's licenses) and plan to take their efforts international. Reportedly, these actions were put in place based on the belief that the recent UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will offer legal and political support. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, and I'm wondering what it will take to get this on the nightly news! I will continue to post as I find out more, but you can start with checking out these sites and articles:
- from the AFP: Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse Break Away from US
- the Lakota Freedom Delegation website
- an article by Barbara Peterson: Lakota Secession: No Longer Tolerating Broken Promises

stay tuned...

GNN & the Rebel Communique

I came across this posting on GNN this morning, and thought they had some good article links to some under-publicized stories - it's called the Rebel Communique, and it looks like they do this type of thing on a fairly regular basis. Here's a sample of some of the stories they link:
- Families Pay as US Agents Under Attack Fire Tear Gas Into Mexico
- Once Volatile, Crossing Is Opening With a Whisper
- Slave Labour That Shames America
and...
- Mexico Remembers 1997 Indian Massacre

plus there's more too...

Happy Solstice!!!

this year offers us all a full moon along with the longest night of the year...
may we all know new life in the days ahead...
may the world
become
a friendlier place
for all of the people
who share
this space...
happy
solstice.
2007.

Marcos and Global Decomposition

Although this video is not new, the more opportunities to view it, the better. So, at the risk of posting something some have already heard or seen, here is Subcomandante Marcos's (Delegado Cero) greeting to the Free Media Conference in New York.
I found this video (with the help of under-mind) when I was searching for something to show to one of my English classes, something that exemplified the idea of putting belief (writing) into action. Thoroughly disheartened by my students' apathy, I had also become disillusioned by their recognition and acceptance of the problems with popular media's world view. I never did get to show this video to them, and even if I did, I'm pretty sure they would have rejected it since it was coming from me, an authority figure.
In any case. Here are some highlights from Marcos's talk about the "global decomposition" taking place, the "attempt to eliminate that multitude of people who are not useful to the powerful":

"We have a choice: we can have a cynical attitude about the media to say that nothing can be done about the dollar power that creates itself in images, words, digital communications, and computer systems that invade our minds with 'world news' but with a perspective of the powerful, of how they think the world should look.
"We could say, well, 'that's the way it is' and do nothing.
"Or we can simply assume incredulity: we can say that the media giant is a total lie. We can ignore it and go about our lives.
"But there is a third option that is neither conformity nor skepticism: that is to construct a different way, to show the world what is really happening, to become interested in the truth of what happens to the people who inhabit this world."

...czech dream...

If you're interested in consumerism, capitalism, globalization, advertising, or any combination thereof, check out this documentary film out of the Czech Republic, chzech dream. The directors - two film students - decide to see how a western capitalist advertising campaign may affect the general public in the recently post-communist country. With funding through their university from the government, they released massive advertising in the forms of billboards, tv and radio promos, ads in the paper and magazines, and fliers - all for a store that didn't exist and never will. Perhaps not incidentally, the film/hoax was filmed/carried out as the country was being asked to vote on entrance into the European Union, and it brings up some interesting points in regards to how advertising is "used" on people... Check it out.

Introducing... the "I-RACK"

I never watch MAD TV, but a friend passed this along, and it is really quite funny. I think it will at least make you smile...

Chavez....

(i appologize for the formatting on this)
I Thought Dictators Couldn't Lose Elections!

December 3, 2007
By Carlos Martinez

Last night was a very tense evening for all in Venezuela, awaiting the final results of the referendum while varying rumors about the outcome came every few minutes with the only certainty being that the vote was closer than many expected. I was in front of Miraflores, the presidential palace, at the time the results were released. As one can imagine, there were many teary eyes and bowed heads in what was a particularly perplexing moment for a people not accustomed to losing for a very long time.

The image that appeared on the massive video screens in front of the palace immediately after the results were read was that of an unusually somber faced Chavez. What followed may have been even more unexpected for those in the opposition and weary of Chavez?s unrelenting bravado. In contrast to the lack of diplomacy that many now associate him with, Chavez went on to gracefully concede the election and congratulated his adversaries. This was especially significant considering the closeness of the margin, with 4,504,354 votes against, (50.70%) and 4,379,392, (49.29%) for the YES. Chavez went on to say that he was happy to see the election end peacefully.

While many in the progressive community have been trying to argue that democracy is in fact alive and well in Venezuela for so long now, it has been a difficult argument to maintain with Chavez always on the winning side. Certainly, Chavez?s concession of the vote and his request that those in favor of the SI recognize the results serves to delegitimize those that continue to call Chavez an "aspiring tyrant" as Donald Rumsfeld did in his editorial released yesterday entitled "The Smart Way to Beat Tyrants Like Chavez?"
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/30/AR200711300
1800.html
)

The opposition response has been jubilant. The irony is thick considering what a response from the opposition might have looked like if the results were switched. There were reports that opposition groups were already found to be printing shirts reading "Fraud". Something that has been particularly interesting in the last few months has been to see the way the opposition has come to embrace the 1999 constitution as their own, adding to the irony, since many of these same people were vehemently opposed to the that constitution's passing.

However the opposition has also been forced to recognize that many people did in fact want to see the constitutional reforms pass, leading them towards a new rhetoric. Former Chavez ally, General Isaias Baduel, who came out against the reforms has emerged as a new leader amongst the opposition. Calling for national reconciliation yet continuing to champion inclusion of the popular sectors, he is essentially establishing a more moderate opposition pole. Meanwhile, Manuel Rosales, governor of Zulia State and losing candidate in the last presidential elections has said that he will support the creation of a "Social Fund for the Self-Employed", one of the articles proposed in the constitutional reform.

A TIME FOR REFLECTION & EVALUATION

December has arrived and Venezuela basically closes down at this time of year. It will be an important time for reflection for those in support of the Bolivarian process. There are many reasons that one could offer to explain the outcome of this election. Many are pointing to the powerful disinformaton campaign launched by the opposition with heavy financial support from the United States. It is true that to a great degree the constitutional changes themselves were not actually voted on yesterday, but rather peopele's perceptions of the reform. Many did go to polls still believing that their children or their third car or their home could be taken away by the government, although in reality the constitution did not contain any such articles and actually reiterated its recognition of private property.

It is evident that many in the Chavista camp abstained from voting or actually voted against the referendum. It has been said that this outcome is not an indication of a growing opposition but rather reflects those who have traditionally been supportive of Chavez but remain tied to a
bureaucratic vision of governance and do not want their own power challenged. There has also been talk of disillusionment amongst the popular sectors, the poor and working class citizens who have been considered the real base of support for the Bolivarian Revolution. Partially this is seen
as a result of the effects of this bureaucratic class widely perceived as a primary cause for the continuing disfunction within the revolution. As I write this, a spontaneous concentration has formed outside of Miraflores Palace demanding a "house cleaning" to remove the corruption pervading the process.

Additionally, some believe that the way the constitutional reforms were proposed was not as inclusive as it should have been of these popular sectors. While this constitutional reform did receive a wide amount of consultation from a variety of social movements, there are some who believe that the participation was not profound enough for a country seeking to establish a radical model of democracy and whose citizens want to truly be at the forefront of change.

Regardless of what the actual reasons were for the outcome, those supporting more radical changes will undoubtedly be in a state of serious evaluation to try to figure out what this means for Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution. Chavez proclaimed in his concession speech "por ahora no pudimos", for now we could not, repeating the famous phrase he made in 1992 after his failed attempt at taking power through staging a military coup. Many are hopeful that this is another necessary step needed for the Bolivarian Revolution to evolve and deepen, possibly even beyond Chavez and with a greater focus on doing base building at the grassroots. Indeed many of the changes proposed did not need to be made through the process of a constitutional reform and many believe that the next steps needed to deepen the process such as the expansion of the communal councils, the acceleration of the land reform, and the growth of a grassroots economy really depend on the role that social movements play and how determined the government is in
supporting them.

--
Carlos Martinez
Global Exchange
Venezuela Program Operations Director

Local Harvest


The holiday season is one filled with home-cooking, and eating with friends and family. This is perhaps the time of year when we cook and eat the most, and what better time then now to find a local grower to supplement the needs of the season. In doing so you can help ensure the continued operation of a local farmer, but also improve the quality of food that you and your family consume. Better taste, nutrition, environmental health, and sense of community can all result if we make this effort. I linked these folks a bit ago, but if you haven't already, check out the site, Local Harvest, to help you find the growers and retailers closest to you. Sustainable Table offers a similar service, and can further explain the importance of bringing locally produced food to your home. Help make a difference this holiday season.

and....
cheers to our 200th post!!

FOUND...

Just for fun, I thought I would pass on the link to FOUND Magazine. From the website: "We collect found stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids' homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, doodles-- anything that gives a glimpse into someone else's life. Anything goes." It's fun, funny, and a good way to procrastinate for a little while.

Thoughts on Movement

How we move through the daily: our thoughts (from the immediate to the delayed to the future). …will the commute run smoothly today? Will the kids be nice today? Will I make it through the motions of the day?

But not just these banal movements. The movement of the social: communicating, interacting, emotion and physical … the momentary, the fleeting, the monotonous, and the new. The transfer of energy: eye contact and connection, averted heads and mumblings.

The meaning in movement: walking toward something (and walking away), class movement, activism, change.

THE POTENTIAL in movement.

And the static.

The stationary.

Sitting. at. a. computer.

the Avocado Tree Project

Here's something a bit different to get involved with. The Avocado Tree Project is a combination of participatory art, activism, environmental awareness, and public food production. The goals of the project in the founder's (Victor Pacheco) own words:
My goal is to provide a green tree environment in an urban setting. The trees will be exhibited in a series of places; for example in a building lobby as a group or a section of someone’s office. Maybe the trees will be installed in a school or they may travel in a portable green house and be placed next to bus stops or in front of businesses. The exhibition spaces will be specifically chosen to accommodate several project needs:
• To create an environment that can positively enliven or positively influence the mood of a place (enliven the space and how people feel about it)
• To create a place for conversation and discussion between people that don’t usually talk to each other
• To connect the arts with people who don’t usually visit art museums or art galleries
• To involve people in the process of growing a tree from a seed and parting with it to create a positive environment.

No matter your location, you can participate in the project, grow an avocado tree, and be a part of the project. Check out the website to get involved, contact the artist, and even find support on how to sprout an avocado seed, and further be a part of this interesting experiment...

Searching for a Country of We

I know this is old news, but having been out of the country when it was in the theater, and having finally seen the film this weekend, I plead with readers to go and watch the Micheal Moore film Sicko. While the film is obviously about the various pitfalls of having or not having health insurance in the US, it also has some underlying stories. Primarily I see the message as being a critique of what it means to be a US citizen in this day and age of corporate influence and the drive to make as much money as each of us can as individuals. It makes it obvious that the US is in need of some serious soul searching and some major changes.
Here's an interview of Moore on the Bill Maher show in which they talk about the film and the experiences resulting from the whole endeavor of making it. They also get into how important diet is in maintaining a healthy body and healthy life. Watch...

the War on Democracy - film trailer

The War on Democracy is a film by John Pilger that examines the U.S. role in the internal affairs of Venezuela and other countries around the world. It's an illuminating and disturbing piece. Here's the trailer:



You can also watch the entire film, hosted on googlevideo, here.
and...
read an interview with Pilger here.

Maya Land Rights

Maybe there is some hope to be had for this world. In a surprising and exciting ruling, the Belize Supreme Court gave recognition of land ownership to Maya communities in the southern-most district of Toledo. These communities have been living for generations on what has been public land since the days of colonial British rule, and now that oil has been discovered in the area, there has been great fear that they would be forcibly removed. That crisis seems to have been averted. The added bonus is that indigenous rights seem to be making some headway after lifetimes of oppression and marginalization. From Survival International:
‘It is evident that the Maya claimants rely on agriculture, hunting, fishing and gathering for their physical survival. It is also clear that the land they traditionally use and occupy plays a central role in their physical, cultural and spiritual existence and vitality,’ said Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh.
He ordered that the government of Belize must, ‘determine, demarcate and provide official documentation of Santa Cruz’s and Conejo’s [two Mayan villages] title and rights in accordance with Maya customary law and practices’. He also ordered the government not to carry out any logging, mining or other resource exploitation projects on the Mayans’ land.
Read the rest of the article...

Check out the Belize Reports for another take on this story from someone who is there on the ground, working in Toledo as a teacher for the U.S. Peace Corps. It's also an interesting blog that offers a peek into life with the Maya in the "forgotten district."

Plant Intelligence

The science of plant intelligence...why do things of the same classification system seem so at odds? On the one hand, studying the behavior and communication patterns of plants seems so enlightened -- in the non-Enlightenment sort of way. As plant neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso has said,"If you define intelligence as the capacity to solve problems, plants have a lot to teach us. ...Not only are they 'smart' in how they grow, adapt and thrive, they do it without neuroses. Intelligence isn't only about having a brain." Sounds great, right? Except the fine print reads as a brave new world manifesto of conquer and dominate in the name of progress and science. Maybe that's exaggerating...but among the objectives of plant neurobiology are efforts to create a "plant inspired robot" that mimics the use of pods and stems to transmit information from space (read article here). They wouldn't be sending the plants out to space, per se, yet the idea of studying the intelligence of something for something else's benefit (without concern for the first something's benefit) smacks of exploitation to me. Plant rights, anyone?

Venezuela, Cuba, and the U.S: Health Care and Oil

Here's an article that came through on the LASolidarity Digest. It's a bit long, but without many outlets online or otherwise, I decided to post it in its entirety. It talks of preferential oil prices that Venezuela gives to Cuba, but in response to the huge army of health care professionals that Cuba has sent in return. Lamrani goes on to compare some related policies of Chavez and Bush, which may put things in an interesting light for many...

Venezuela’s debt to Cuba

by Salim Lamrani
October 27, 2007

The Venezuelan oligarchy vehemently criticizes President Chávez for providing fuel assistance to the government in Havana. It is true that Cuba receives 98 thousand barrels of petroleum daily at preferential prices. Nevertheless the Caribbean nation is not the only nation benefiting from favorable agreements. The majority of the countries in that region including Haiti, Jamaica and Nicaragua also enjoy this political solidarity. London as well as various United States cities are also recipients of Venezuela’s generosity without it stirring up such controversy. (1).

Chávez personally responded to these attacks during his television program “Aló, Presidente” on September 30, 2007. According to him, the debt that Venezuelans have incurred with Cuba is much greater than the fuel assistance provided to the island. “Those who [...] accuse me of giving away fuel to Cuba [are] foolish. If the account were tallied, bolívar for bolívar, cent for cent ...” the president recalled that 30 thousand Cuban doctors have been working in the country on a free and volunteer basis for more than five years. He confirmed that Cuban professionals have saved more lives in those five years than Venezuelan doctors have throughout the entire medical history of Venezuela. “This has no price,” he emphasized. “What is worth more in objective value, the barrels of oil that we sell to Cuba or this?” he asked (2).

Currently around 9 million people have benefited from medical attention provided by the Cuban doctors, who have performed more then 60 million consultations throughout the country. The health mission “Barrio Adentro” (Inside the Barrio) has ensured that all Venezuelans have free and universal access to medical services. The establishment of preventative medicine saved the lives of 1,153 children in 2007, according to the Ministry of Health. (3)

Thanks to the presence of the Cuban doctors and the political will of Chávez six new hospitals are being built in the states of Barinas, Mérida, Guárico, Miranda, Apure and in the capital. Barrio Adentro has entered its fourth phase. The government plans to invest a sum of 800 million Euros (2,500 million Bolívares) in the Public Health System. (4)

Chávez also announced a 60% salary increase for Venezuelan doctors who work for the state beginning November 1, 2007. “I know that doctors’ salaries were falling behind. [...]. It’s justice for those who work for Venezuelans’ health,” he declared. (5) He also emphasized that this economic effort is made possible by the raising oil prices. (6) Of course, the Colegio de Médicos de Venezuela (medical College of Venezuela) expressed satisfaction. (7) The minimum salary for a new doctor starting out in the public system will now be 822 Euros per month which is an extremely high salary for a Third World country. (8) Professors have not been left out. The Ministry of Public Education also decided to raise its salaries by 40% effective November 1, 2007. (9)

In contrast, President Bush, under the pretext of fiscal restraint, vetoed legislation passed by the Congress that would have provided access to medical attention for poor children, while spending billions of dollars on the illegitimate and murderous occupation of Iraq. The societal views of Chávez and Bush are mirror opposites: the well-being of the neediest on one side and the profits of multinationals on the other. (10)

In order to combat excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption and to thus reduce related public health problems, the Venezuelan government decided to raise the tax on liquor by 50% and on cigarettes by 70%. “Our country has one of the highest rates of whiskey consumption,” he lamented. Sales of beer on the street will be prohibited from now on. This arsenal of measures forms part of the preventative policy promoted by the government to improve the health of Venezuelans. (11)

Cuba and Venezuela have once again strengthened regional integration by signing 14 new cooperative economic agreements on October 15, 2007. (12) Provoking the ire of the Venezuelan opposition, during his speech Hugo Chávez reiterated his admiration for Cuba: “Fidel is a father for our people. Cuba is an example for our revolution. Venezuela loves Cuba. Our people love the Cuban people and are very grateful to them.” (13) Later, addressing his detractors, he asked: “how much would we have to pay any other country to provide 30 thousand doctors, nurses, ophthalmologists and dentists, 24 hours a day, dispersed throughout the entire the territory [...]? That can someone tell me that!” (14)

The integration between Cuba and Venezuela is a model that should be followed on the rest of the continent. It is the only way to protect against the threats of Washington, achieve real independence and improve the people’s standard of living.

Salim Lamrani is a French professor, writer and journalist who specializes on U.S.-Cuba relations. He has published the books Washington contre Cuba (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2005), Cuba face à l’Empire (Genève: Timeli, 2006) and Fidel Castro, Cuba et les États-Unis (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2006).

Translated by Dawn Gable. Dawn Gable is a freelance translator, writer and member of the Venezuela Solidarity Network and the Santa Cruz Cuba Study Group. She is also co-founder of Bridges Not Walls: Uniting America one word at a time.

Notes
(1) Mauricio Vicent, «El presidente de Venezuela alude en Cuba a una confederación entre los dos países», El País, October 16, 2007.
(2) Associated Press, «Chávez asegura que Venezuela tiene deuda con Cuba», October 1, 2007.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, «Arrancó Barrio Adentro IV con la construcción de 6 hospitales especializados», September 30, 2007.
(5) Associated Press, «Chávez anuncia incremento salarial a médicos en Venezuela», October 8, 2007.
(6) Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, «Chávez anunció incremento salarial de 60% para médicos», October 8, 2007.
(7) Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, «Colegio Médico del Distrito Metropolitano conforme con aumento de 60%», October 9, 2007.
(8) Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, «Médicos satisfechos con aumento de sueldo del 60%», October 9, 2007.
(9) Associated Press, «Chávez anuncia incremento salarial a maestros en Venezuela», October 5, 2007.
(10) David Stout, «Bush Defends Veto of Health Care Bill», The New York Times, October 15, 2007.
(11) Christopher Toothaker, «Chávez la emprende contra la bebida y el consumismo», Associated Press, October 9, 2007.
(12) Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, «Venezuela y Cuba suscriben 14 nuevos acuerdos de integración», October 15, 2007.
(13) Granma, «Estamos en las mejores condiciones Cuba y Venezuela para avanzar en un proceso unitario. Discurso de Hugo Chávez Frías, Presidente de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, en el acto de firma de acuerdos entre Venezuela y Cuba, efectuado en el Palacio de las Convenciones, el 15 de octubre de 2007, “Año 49 de la Revolución”», October 16, 2007.
(14) Associated Press, «Chávez asegura que Venezuela tiene deuda con Cuba», op. cit.

Hunger Amidst the Food

With World Food Day having recently passed, a bit about the state of the global food supply seemed in order. This article from GNN sheds some light on the bleak picture facing many around the world, and the privilege that those in the U.S. continue to enjoy in the face of such brutality. The authors, Moore Lappe and Lappe, drive home the point:
Because the poor can’t exert “market demand,” 70 percent of the world’s agricultural land is devoted to grazing and crops that become feed for factory-farmed animals — all to produce meat priced beyond the affordability of the poor and hungry.
...on the concentration of the food "business" into just a few hands:
Consider that today the four largest beef processors control 81 percent of the market or that the four largest grain processors control 80 percent of the soybean market. One company — Monsanto — controls more than 90 percent of the market for genetically modified seeds and Wal-Mart collects an estimated one in four food dollars spent in the United States.
Read the rest of the article: The Right to Food Means Freedom from Dogma - see what the rest of the world is doing, and what those in the U.S. would do well to start thinking about.

Life at University...

Having been in university in the early 1990's, and then again over the last few years, I have certainly seen a difference in student behavior both in and out of class. As a teacher's assistant I have watched as students surf the net, text message, and more, all during a class or lecture. Added to the increase in what I consider disrespectful behavior, are all the facets of university life, with unlimited technology along with what seems like unlimited debt. As the life and environment of the student changes, however, the structure of the university and teaching remain largely the same. Check out this video that was on glumbert.com and created by a group of undergraduate anthropology students that addresses some of the thoughts espoused here.

Are you a Gardener?

Gardening, farming, and even simply having plants around the house requires the use of at least an occasional dose of fertilizer. This NJ-based company, terracycle, makes completely organic and non-toxic fertilizers using what they describe as the wondrous poop of worms. Added to the fact that they make earth- and people-friendly fertilizers, the company claims a zero-carbon footprint, and uses recycled materials in all of their products. Check out their website at the above link, or watch this video for more about the company and their products.

the War Against the Imagination

October 11, 2007
Check out this interesting talk by Sean Padraig Donahue that begins to outline the history of our present political, spiritual and ecological crises. This video is one in a series of three available on youtube. Sean is a writer, activist, healer, Reiki Master, and freelance journalist (he can be read on the Narco News Bulletin). You can also check out his website at www.seandonahue.org.


If you're interested, the other two videos can be found here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koBR0qeaLRM
and here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmdI_zUT15g

Eat Local!!! part 2

I thought I would offer up this link to Local Harvest, an online resource that connects you (the consumer) to farmers (the producers). They offer and collect information on farmer's markets, and other retailers of locally produced foods from around the country. If you're unsure why you should do this, watch here on this site for more articles and links in the future, or take a meander around the site of Local Harvest, which offers some perspectives on why this is such an important decision for every household.

The Indigenous-Corporate Battle: Peru

Last month a group of indigenous people were spotted in a stretch of Amazonian forest where many thought nobody existed. The small group was spotted and filmed by ecologists who were looking for illegal logging sites, and they are believed to be one of the few remaining uncontacted tribes in the world. What makes this significant? Loggers, oil companies, and interests in the Peruvian government want to open the region to development. According to the Guardian online:
The contact was fleeting but the repercussions could be profound because this swath of Amazon, 550 miles east of Lima, is at the centre of a battle pitting indigenous rights groups and environmentalists against the Peruvian state, loggers and oil companies.
All too often in the past, the corporate interests have won this battle, and have been allowed to develop or extract resources from traditionally indigenous lands. Not surprisingly, members of the corporate contingent scoff at the idea of uncontacted peoples:
Those who want to develop the rainforest have played down the impact on its human inhabitants. Some even questioned their existence. Daniel Saba, president of Perupetro, the state oil company, said the notion of uncontacted tribes was "absurd" since no one has seen them. A company spokesman compared the rumours to the Loch Ness monster.
Contact with the outside world could prove deadly to groups like these, as there is still little resistance to western and urban illnesses, although their disappearance would likely go unprotested by the corporate interests. ABC news also reported the event.

Poor Suffer Most from Crime and Disasters, Says UN

Published on Tuesday, October 2, 2007 by Inter Press Service

by Frank Mulder


THE HAGUE - The urban poor are the worst affected by crime, natural disasters and insecurity, says the Global Report on Human Settlements published by UN-HABITAT on World Habitat Day Monday.


Just policies and good governance at the local level are crucial for safe cities, the report says.


Half the world’s population lives in cities. By 2030 an estimated two thirds will be urban dwellers. This rapid urbanization is creating new challenges, says the report, “Enhancing Urban Safety and Security.” The Global Report on Human Settlements is published every two years by UN-HABITAT, the United Nations human settlements program.


Between 1980 and 2000, recorded crimes increased by 30 percent from 2,300 to more than 3,000 per 100,000 people, the report says. As a result, fear has become an important factor in city life. Public opinion surveys in both developed and developing countries reveal that more than half of citizens worry about crime often.


“About 60 percent of urban dwellers in developing and transitional countries have been victims of crime over the past five years,” UN-HABITAT executive director Anna Tibaijuka said at the launch of the report here. “It shatters the misconception that the rich are most targeted by crime.”


About 100 million street children are a consequence of drug and human trafficking, violence, abuse and poverty, the report says.


“For a city to be safe, people have to be safe at home,” said Tibaijuka. But a third of the urban population is constantly threatened by forced evictions or insecurity of tenure. This undermines the safety of almost 1 billion slum dwellers. As land values within cities continue to rise and as housing solutions are increasingly left to market forces, at least 2 million slum dwellers are evicted annually, the UN-HABITAT report says.


The report also reveals that 98 percent of the 211 million people affected by natural disasters between 1991 and 2001 were in developing countries. The consequences have been severe, as natural disasters have increased fourfold since 1975, and man-made disasters increased tenfold. Many of these have hit cities, and the poor are often located in the most hazardous areas of the city.


“It was shocking for us to discover the figure of 98 percent,” Naison Mutizwa-Mangiza, chief of the research division of UN-HABITAT told IPS. “At this moment, 19 African countries are affected by floods. That hasn’t ever happened before in my life.”


But the report is not only about gloom and doom, he said. “We describe many successful policies that give us hope. Cuba, for example, developed a successful system to prevent disasters. It is completely integrated in their planning system, and kids learn in the schools about disasters. It doesn’t take additional money, it takes political will.”


Something can be done also to prevent poor people from becoming criminal, and that goes beyond just a strong police force. “It is not just poverty, but idleness that leads to vice,” Anna Tibaijuka told IPS. “Therefore it is necessary to focus on entrepreneurship. The majority of the poor are young, so creating employment for them is the key to a safer society. They are often ignored by politicians.”


Urbanization is sometimes driven by poverty in rural areas, but that doesn’t mean it is bad, Tibaijuka said. “Urbanization creates opportunities, and people want them. But we should focus on secondary towns, in order to prevent all the people from ending up in one big city.”


Lindiwe Sisulu, minister for housing in South Africa, and keynote speaker on World Habitat Day, focused on the importance of housing after a period of conflict. “In the beginning we didn’t realize that shelter is critical for reconstruction,” she said, “but we discovered that people need the possibility of improving their lives. Otherwise they will never improve their environments, and that shapes society.


“We consider secure tenure as a right,” she told IPS. “We want to provide all indigent people with free basic housing and free sanitation. Ten million people have already been provided for, but another 7 million are still waiting for it.” The main difficulty is the people themselves. “They often don’t want us to upgrade their settlements. Besides, all success stories attract new migrants, creating new problems while we are solving the old ones.”


Sisulu pointed out that combating crime has to be cross-sectoral. “Our National Crime Strategy hinges on the community.” Safety cannot be created by building walls, she added, criticizing the rich who often concentrate in “gated communities.”


“Many rich people are living on islands,” conference chair Jan Pronk, former Dutch minister for international cooperation and former minister for housing, told IPS. “However, social and economic integration is needed for real development.”


In his home country, the Netherlands, the problem is slightly different. “Here the rich are moving back to the rural areas, leaving the cities with problems and less capacity to solve it.”


Migrants, on the contrary, want to live in cities, because they can find more opportunities there, said Ella Vogelaar, Dutch minister for housing. The segregation that results from this creates a lot of tensions and socio-economic problems. “We decided to choose 40 problematic neighborhoods in the country. Together with other departments we integrate our housing, employment, education, integration and safety policy.”


The solutions are similar across the world, she told IPS. “We have to focus on opportunities for the angry young population in the same way as developing countries do.”


A mix of urban planning, policy, design and governance can help make cities safe and secure, UN-HABITAT believes. Therefore local authorities need to be democratic and accountable, said Bert Koenders, Dutch minister for international cooperation. “Where there is lack of governance, horror scenarios can unfold like in Guatemala City,” he told IPS. “The elite flies to Miami for private health care, services like public transport go down, and 6,000 people are killed annually.”


He points to the example of Rwanda. “Kigali is the cleanest city of Africa. People even do community service on Saturday mornings.”


© 2007 Inter Press Service

Evo Morales on John Stewart



Check out this interview with Bolivia's first Indigenous President who is trying to make all kinds of changes in his country. He has some things to say that we should all consider and think about. Morales was interviewed on Comedy Central's John Stewart's Daily Show on Wednesday, September 29, 2007. He talks of the need to think in terms of humanity in efforts to bring equity to people around the globe and perhaps even save the planet.

Hugo Chavez in NY

Venezuelan President Chavez is coming to NYC this week, Wednesday, September 26 for the UN
Summit.
People are organizing a demonstration of
SUPPORT FOR CHAVEZ
IN FRONT OF THE UN
WEDNESDAY 3-5:30PM, specifically for:

1. HUMANITARIAN ACTS
2. PEACE PROCESS IN COLOMBIA

If you're in NY this week, go show your support for this unique leader...

Mos Def on 9/11 and the U.S. system

well... just when we thought it was all over, the 9/11 memorials come around, reminding us to be scared. Then the new Mos Def video starts making the rounds, which just lays all the crap on the table. Mos Def is a Muslim rapper from NYC who has been outspoken politically in the past on issues such as the fucked up Katrina response and other poverty related issues. Check out his thoughts on 9/11 in this new video with Eminem:

can we see anything?

these days i'm at a loss...
we live in a world
with so much regulation.
to do something
anything
out of the ordinary...
is
a risk.

a risk...

to lose
your life
of
complacency
and
apathy
and
indecision...

lose
your
life...

EAT LOCAL!!

Check out this short video that will explain the importance of eating locally. As a researcher of food choices and gardening, I have come to realize how choosing to eat foods that are grown or produced closer to home can be one of the most important decisions we make in regards to the health of the environment and the planet. As an added bonus, by supporting and engaging in the local food movement, an increased sense of community and support can be a nice byproduct.

"Urban tumbleweed"

Here is an interesting article from Alternet about the consequences of paper and plastic bags. Apparently, neither compostable plastic bags nor recycled paper bags are viable options.
They are merely "alternatives" that don't address the real issue: our throwaway culture. So...a question still remains for me. We have trash. And if you live in the suburbs or a city or a small town, chances are your waste removal services require your trash to be bagged in some way. Composting is not always an option if you're a renter or otherwise have no land and/or usable space. In the interest of taking steps in a positive direction, I would like to know how to "bag" my trash. Any suggestions??

Radiohead done by Marching Band

Here's something a bit different - especially for fans of Radiohead. Check out this clip of a marching band from Arizona performing a few songs - a really cool performance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIBEZYQAPEE

Labor Day Theory....

In keeping with the previous post that mentioned Eisenhower, I present a short book description today. The author is theorist and U.S. cultural critic Henry A. Giroux, and his latest book is titled The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex, published by Paradigm Publishers in 2007. From the publisher:
President Eisenhower originally included "academic" in the draft of his landmark, oft-quoted speech on the military-industrial-complex. Giroux tells why Eisenhower saw the academy as part of the famous complex--and how his warning was vitally prescient for 21st-century America. His newest book details the sweeping post-9/11 assault being waged on the academy by militarization, corporatization, and right-wing fundamentalists who increasingly view critical thought itself as a threat to the dominant political order. Giroux argues that the university has become a handmaiden of the Pentagon and corporate interests, it has lost its claim to independence and critical learning and has compromised its role as a democratic public sphere. And yet, in spite of its present embattled status and the inroads made by corporate power, the defense industries, and the right wing extremists, Giroux defends the university as one of the few public spaces left capable of raising important questions and educating students to be critical and engaged agents. He concludes by making a strong case for reclaiming it as a democratic public sphere.
Giroux seemingly hits on some interesting points here concerning the transformation of the university from a place of critical thinking and exploration to an entity that pumps out 'good' citizens.
I might argue for virtual space to be taken over as the truly democratic public sphere. While computers are not available to everyone, they are becoming more and more common not only in the U.S., but even in resource poor areas of the world. In short, access is greater than ever, and only improving. I wonder what potential the blog has - perhaps something like community blogs or topical blogs that are open to public input and discussion. There are of course versions of these ideas already out there - but we have once again seemingly hit a plateau. Could a combination of the idea behind social networking sites with the blog and chat-room type space for discussion and distribution of news and ideas work? Of course the most difficult part would be to then re-transfer out of the virtual world and into our everyday realities with steps taken toward action, activism, and movement toward real change.

Some words from Fidel....

I just came across a statement released a few days ago by Fidel Castro, and really it just drives home what an interesting man he really is. He talks of playing golf with Che in an effort to mock Eisenhower. He mentions Jimmy Carter as the only president with a conscience. He wonders about the authenticity of the U.S. electoral system, and notes how Florida plays an important and questionable role therein. You can check out the article here, but here are a few excerpts:
One day, Che [Guevara] and I went to play golf. He had been a caddie once to earn some money in his spare time; I, on the other hand, knew absolutely nothing about this expensive sport. The United States government had already decreed the suspension and the redistribution of Cuba’s sugar quota, after the Revolution had passed the Agrarian Reform Law. The golf game was a photo opportunity. The real purpose was to make fun of Eisenhower.

In the United States, you can have a minimum of votes and still become President. That is what happened to Bush. Having a majority of electoral votes and losing the Presidency is what happened to Gore. For that reason, the State of Florida is the prize everyone aspires to, because of the presidential votes it provides. In the case of Bush, an electoral fraud was also needed; for this, the first Cuban emigrants, who were the Batista supporters and the bourgeois, were best masters.

Today, talk is about the seemingly invincible ticket that might be created with Hillary for President and Obama for Vice President. Both of them feel the sacred duty of demanding “a democratic government in Cuba”. They are not making politics: they are playing a game of cards on a Sunday afternoon.

The New City on the Gulf - Latinos in New Orleans

The anniversary of Katrina has reminded everyone of the mess that was created in New Orleans, not only by the hurricane itself, but also by the response of the federal government to the emergency situation. In the aftermath, the population of New Orleans has been infused with a Latino migrant work force that has taken advantage of relaxed labor laws and helped to rebuild the city.
Here is a short video highlighting the efforts of these new residents of the city:

Also check out this article and website detailing the abuses faced by this new labor force:

no brains no beauty

If you need to laugh today, please take a look at this clip of a Miss Teen USA contestant showing just how brilliant our youth of today really are...
I know it's all over the net, but it is really hillarious -
and sad...

Acting Locally

Cheers to the person who took it upon himself to have the newspaper he works for reveal Wal-mart's sneaky attempt to stay below the radar when they "quietly" pulled toxic dog treats from their shelves.
Although he remains anonymous in the news coverage, we can hold him up as an example of how acting locally can have important consequences!
Check out the article that gives some credit to where credit is due.

travel...


ok... when this shit hits yahoo news - you have to wonder at least a tiny bit. is yahoo just a crock of shit quasi-news site, or do they report the news...

well.... check out THIS article about induced out of body experience that may help you decide.

cheers to what may come...

SciVee!

This little bit of news came from Anthropology.net - check them out for some interesting anthro-related news. The integration of technology into all things related to science, research, community development, and so forth is inevitable really, and allows us to reach a wider audience, and communicate with our global neighbors...

SciVee: YouTube for Science!

From Slashdot, is news of new upcoming science 2.0 hotness called SciVee. Think
of it as YouTube for Science. It comes by way of a partnership between the
National Science Foundation, Public Library of Science and the San Diego
Supercomputing Center.

This is such an awesome idea, and I hope it will
revolutionize the way we communicate science.

Why is it such a good
idea? Well, in the past, I’ve uploaded science videos, such as footage of
chimpanzees doing what chimps do, to accompany reviews of research papers
directly to YouTube. When I uploaded the video I underestimated the impact
actually seeing a chimpanzee in the unique behavior that was documented in the
research paper. It now has over 80,000 views and two comments shy of breaking
200.

Having this sort of multimedia available helps people digest the
otherwise dense content much more easily,

“Scientists can upload their
research papers, accompanied by a video where they describe the work in the form
of a short lecture, accompanied by a presentation. The formulaic, technical
style of scientific writing, the heavy jargonization and the need for careful
elaboration often renders reading papers a laborious effort. SciVee’s creators
hope that that the appeal of a video or audio explanation of paper will make it
easier for others to more quickly grasp the concepts of a paper and make it more
digestible both to colleagues and to the general public.”

Personally, I
learn material much better when it comes from the mouth of one the authors of a
paper. Most often, no one knows the content of a paper better than the people
who wrote it, so to have an author explain their research in normal lingo is a
phenomenal concept. I don’t know why anyone hasn’t jumped on an idea like this
before.

But SciVee has some flaws that I see will hinder its growth. It
is yet another social network to sign up for and yet another one to keep track
of. I recently withdrew from over a dozen networks because they weren’t growing
fast enough for me to be a part of.

Why founders of SciVee couldn’t fold
this sort of service into an already established technology like YouTube, I
don’t know. YouTube already has a massive userbase. A community of that size
could not only expose videos and generate more discussion, but more people can
be potentially educated, as opposed to a small, not-yet-cohesive community.

Furthermore, SciVee videos are currently kinda sorta proprietary in that
I currently have no easy way to embed videos into blogs, and that will greatly
determine how much I/we will use this service. Once SciVee understands the
importance of blogs in communicating and distributing research, that may change…
but for now, it is lacking a big feature that helped make YouTube, Google Video,
etc. the big multimedia powerhouses they are now.

But I totally welcome
this sort of innovation, especially as someone interested in the intersection of
technology and anthropology. I hope some of the big names in anthropology start
embracing new technology like this to distribute their research, thoughts,
ideas. We’ll see if they do.

..:post secret mini - movie:..

well... it has been a little while....
life took me away for a bit...
now that the states have me again
i'll try to post a bit more...

and to start with...
the guy at Post Secret made a mini-movie...

it's posted on youtube here...
check it out...

Energy of the Future

I love the way the Yes Men think. In one of their latest clever feats, they posed as National Petroleum Council (headed by ex-Exxon CEO) representatives at the GO-EXPO in Canada, where their speech received star-billing in the program. At tee-time, they unveiled "Vivoleum": energy for the future, made from human flesh. As Andy Bichlbaum, Yes Man and "NPC rep," explained:

"We've got to get ready. After all, fossil fuel development like that
of my company is increasing the chances of catastrophic climate
change, which could lead to massive calamities, causing migration and
conflicts that would likely disable the pipelines and oil wells.
Without oil we could no longer produce or transport food, and most of
humanity would starve. That would be a tragedy, but at least all
those bodies could be turned into fuel for the rest of us."

Reminds me of Swift's 18th c. "A Modest Proposal" in which he proposes eating babies to alleviate poverty. Isn't it uplifting to think we still have great minds today?



Google-eyed in the Amazon


Here's an interesting tidbit from an AP article:
Apparently, a Brazilian Indian tribe is teaming up with Google Earth to stop deforestation and mining in the rain-forest. Although the area doesn't have internet access, people hope that images of the rain-forest on Google Earth will have enough impact to stymie the illegal destruction of the land. A case of futile optimism, ulterior corporate motives, or a step in a positive direction? I wonder...

Chat

there is nothing here really

a small town

but stuff is coming together i guess

i'm going out to a village on thursday


to start trying to introduce myself to the communities

i need three - and this will be the first one - i hope

i don't know about the maya though

are you enjoying yourself so far?

umm... it's ok - people are really nice

but i've been a bit bored and lonely

so...does there seem like there might be people to get to know?

well... i don't know... there are a lot of people doing work here from the states

well - not a lot

but some

and the locals are really nice

i don't know

i mean.. i've talked to a whole bunch of people.

i'm kind of thinking of just doing my own thing to a certain extent

but we'll see i guess.

besides that

i don't know

it's different down here

everyone speaks creole

which i'm starting to understand a little already

i don't know what anyone is saying when they're talking amongst themselves

but they all speak english too

but - i've been hearing it so much and i'm realizing that i understand it a little

some times more than others

and the people are from all over too. it's heavily african and mayan

but there's chinese

and east indian

which i'm not sure what that means

there's nowhere to hike or no beach and there's nothing to do in town

so it's really got nothing

but maybe once i start getting out of town, i'll feel better about it all

i'm not sure why any tourists would come here really

besides to see a small water side community that is really friendly

Five Years Left...

Author and freak, Daniel Pinchbeck, has penned an interesting read titled 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. It's a story about the Maya. It's a story about time. It's a story about the end of time. Drawing from an array of sources, from anthropology, history, physics and other hard sciences, philosophy, and literature, among others, Pinchbeck brings together the many thinkers who believe we are entering a period of planetary change and even human evolution.

I want to just bring out a quote from the book by John Jenkins (on page 245) that I found interesting and thought provoking:
"The highest Maya political office required the taking of hallucinogens... imagine the U.S. president ingesting psilocybin mushroomes ten hours before giving the State of the Union address. Such an idea seems far-fetched to the modern imagination, but it made sense to the Maya. The leaders of society should be able to journey into the deep psyche, to access the fount of all creativity and genius, to communie with the ancestors and beings from other realms and times, and to deliver into their country the organizing frequencies emanating from the cosmic source. Our incapacity to envision such a situation is part of the intrinsic incompatibility in worldviews. Something very basic to the Western mindset prevents us from understanding the full profundity of Mesoamerican cosmovision."

What we often forget is that the Maya are still living and practicing their ancient techniques and methods today throughout the Central American region. The Maya are a people who have survived and prospered through the centuries - an example of what we call a modern-day indigenous group which, through intimate knowledge of and respect for their surroundings, has managed their environment in a largely sustainable manner, and continues to do so to this day.

Perhaps it is time that we begin to look at these ancient traditional cultures, and begin to identify what has made them so successful, along with the practices and beliefs that we in the "Great West" know nothing of...

What could be behind Facebook?

It seems like just about everyone has a myspace or facebook page these days. And why not? These sites provide users with fun and convenient ways to stay in contact with friends from around the world. Sharing pictures, quotes, favorites, stories, and more, users of these sites end up providing a good deal of personal information to the public and the site in question - whether it's myspace, facebook, tribe, friendster, or one of the countless others out there. The question arises then, is there something to be worried about? Well... check out the link below to a short video-doc that traces the origins of facebook to a not-so user-friendly ideal. It may have you thinking twice about posting your pics from the 'cinco de mayo' party the other night.

http://www.albumoftheday.com/facebook/

Happy Earth Day!!!

Take care of this planet while we still have time left to spend on her. Take this day, take anyday, and do something kind. Make change. Be positive. Show some love...

VIVA PACHAMAMA!!!

Ousting the Wolf...

Sick of Paul Wolfowitz?
So is the rest of the world. The folks at AVAAZ.org have created this video based on the show, 'the Office', accompanied by a petition for the firing of this corrupted individual.
Let's keep the changes rolling.

now now...


will i fall?
can i make it through
this...
who is there
around me?
who is there
that will
also
come on down...
i want to
have hope.
i want to
know.
know that
things will be...
and
i suppose
there it is.
things
will
be.

Refugee Crisis

I was just forwarded this great article from Salon.com concerning the African refugee crisis. This article uses an event in Egypt when 5000 Egyptian riot police stormed a protest being held by Sudanese refugees trying to get official 'refugee status' from the UN. If you are unfamiliar with what is going on, read the article, and consider this: the situation has only become worse.
Here is the 'must-read' article by David Morse: Murder from Darfur to Cairo

The Problem of Global Inequalities

So it’s the week of the applied anthropology conference (SfAA), and I’ve been hitting up some sessions. Of course there have been some great talks. I have heard Paul Farmer, MD and anthropologist, a few times. While his talks have been a bit on the disappointing side, it was still pretty cool to see and listen to a guy who has made such a big impact in the realm of global public health. I’ve heard some interesting talks about race and ethnicity and how the misunderstanding of these terms is really fucking up health research and health care here in the US. I’ve heard about research being done in Guatemala with Mayan communities, and in Mexico with Zapatista communities. I’ve listened to a discussion about the various types of violence that permeate our everyday lives, and how the poor and marginalized experience violence to a larger degree, and more often. I was introduced to the idea that governance itself is violent and to increasing numbers of people - just look at our prison populations, drug-abuse, uninsured populations, and poverty levels in the U.S. and abroad. I’ve seen some really interesting people, and some really egotistical people - all doing interesting work.
Overall, I think the theme that I’m taking out of the meetings is that inequalities are very real around the globe - both in developing countries and in western “rich” countries, and we are reaching a point of urgency in the need to address the situation. These inequalities span the spectrum of what make up people’s lives, but perhaps most importantly are the ways in which they affect health. The health of people in resource poor settings are decidedly and drastically worse than their counterparts living in the wealthier northern nations of the world. What’s worse are the policies of these northern countries (and I’m talking primarily about the U.S. and Europe here) that only serve to exacerbate the problems. The neo-liberal, capitalistic, profit at all cost approach is serving to widen the gap between the wealthy and non, while increasing the numbers of needy, and decreasing their way of life in innumerable ways. We are experiencing what has been termed the “Development Wars,” which can be seen as the increasing competition for a shrinking number of resources in increasingly distant and disparate places around the globe. Competition, by its very nature, results in winners and losers. We tend to forget about the losers, however, their numbers are becoming so large, that it’s nearly impossible to ignore them. In many ways - economically and militarily for example - the global competition that is taking place between the U.S., other “first world nations,” and the developing world is completely out of whack. It can be seen as a professional NBA team for instance, playing against a bunch of junior high intramural kids. It’s no secret who the losers in this game are, and it’s not even worth playing really - except the winner’s rewards are things like oil, lumber, food, water, power, labor, and many other natural and manufactured resources, while the losers face dire consequences in all aspects of their lives, and really just struggle to stay alive.

May the losers eventually know victory.