Three interesting case studies this week in the use of social media in my journalism (or in one case just my life), which I hope might be of some interest to others (especially colleagues who have been skeptical of its utility – you know who you are).
New Mexico had a historic storm this week, a freeway-clogging, school-closing, pipe-freezing, gas-service-interrupting mess. One of my jobs at the newspaper is to pay attention to the weather and explain/warn as needed. I could not have done that, or done it as well, without Twitter.
Every newsroom I’ve worked in over the decades has had, as its soundtrack, the chatter of a police scanner. We know how to use that – quick bursts of information, often unconfirmed, that are worth paying attention to in a low level, background way.
My Twitter feed is like that, but on a broad range of topics. It includes, for example, a number of people working at the National Weather Service’s Albuquerque office, who do a great job of sending out links to their latest forecast information, interesting data, and a heads up when the weather is about to get interesting. (That’s Kerry Jones and Daniel Porter you see in the accompanying picture, passing along a link to Daniel’s latest storm update.) My feed also includes other journalists, emergency services folks (both agency and individual feeds) and a lot of regular people who live around New Mexico. When an event like our epic cold happens, the chatter picks up, creating an ambient awareness of the developing situation – tidbits to check out, alerts from government officials, journalists linking to their latest info, people asking questions, other people giving answers.
There is, for example, Melwell Romancito up in Taos, where the gas has been off for more than 48 hours. I have no idea who she is, but people started Retweeting her stuff, I followed her, and she’s become a great source of information. (She just pointed out a problem with some info that’s currently making the rounds from an earlier gas company release. Turns out we still have that info on the newspaper’s web site. Must get it fixed.) Or TaosJohn, who shared a link to the Taos Police Department Facebook page. There also are official channels, like the New Mexico public safety folks.
This is the sort of ongoing, rapid fire communication that has always gone on in a story like this – trying to reach out and communicate as quickly as possible with a range of people who might have relevant information. Twitter is simply a huge force multiplier.
The second case study is far simpler and less freighted, but has a lot of similarities.
I don’t write much directly about economics, but it is an important boundary condition for a lot of what I cover – water policy, energy, environmental issues. So I try to have a sort of ongoing ambient awareness about what’s going on in the economy, to help me understand when I need to dive into in more detail. My Twitter feed includes a list of economists and economics journalists (and probably some people who are both) that acts as a sort of police scanner for the economy. When Friday’s confusing set of jobs/unemployment numbers came out, I didn’t have the time or the expertise to sort it out myself. But that was OK, because the people I follow on Twitter did it for me in a 24-hour burst of shared links – first alerting me to the data release, then taking me through the sorting out they were all doing.
Again, this is the sort of thing I could have done (and often still do) in other ways – hunting through the econ blogs and work of various journalists or diving into the data myself. Twitter made it far easier and more serendipitous.
There are a lot of other subject areas like these – New Mexico politics and the state legislature, climate science and politics, energy policy, western water – where a carefully assembled Twitter feed of smart people chatting about what they know is an incredibly useful way of tracking what’s going on. Having the equivalent of a police scanner for the water policy beat is awesome.
In the previous cases, I am my own “curator”, picking which feeds to follow, getting a feel for who to listen to and how. The previous cases also relate directly to my job. The final case study is Egypt, where I’ve joined 39,414 other twitter users (as of 8:27 p.m. MST Saturday) and outsourced the curation to Andy Carvin. Amy Gahran at Knight Digital Media explains a bit about who Carvin is (NPR “senior strategist”, whatever that means) and how he’s doing it. The bottom line is that he’s find and sharing information at an amazingly rapid fire and amazingly useful rate.
New York, February 3, 2011--EgyptianPresident Hosni Mubarak unleashed an unprecedented and systematic attack on international media today as his supporters assaulted reporters in the streets while security forces began obstructing and detaining journalists covering the unrest that threatens to topple his government.
"This is a dark day for Egypt and a dark day for journalism," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "The systematic and sustained attacks documented by CPJ leave no doubt that a government-orchestrated effort to target the media and suppress the news is well under way. With this turn of events, Egypt is seeking to create an information vacuum that puts it in the company of the world's worst oppressors, countries such as Burma, Iran, and Cuba.
"We hold President Mubarak personally responsible for this unprecedented action," said Simon, "and call on the Egyptian government to reverse course immediately."
Here is a round-up of attacks on the press:
The Washington Post told CPJ that they have heard from multiple witnesses that the paper's Cairo bureau chief, Leila Fadel, and Linda Davidson, a photographer, were among a number of journalists detained this morning. Their status was unclear late today.
The New York Times reported today that two of its reporters were released after they were detained overnight in Cairo.
Canadian Globe and Mail journalist Sonia Verma tweeted that she was being taken "into some kind of custody." She later reported that she was held by the military for three hours.
CNN-IBN reported that video journalist Rajesh Bharadwajm was "taken away" from Tahrir Square by military forces. Bharadwajm's status was not immediately clear.
Government officials, pro-government journalists, and commentators loyal to Mubarak have for the past two days been engaged in a systematic campaign to present foreigners, and particularly foreign journalists, as spies. CPJ has documented at least seven instances on state-owned television or on private stations owned by businessmen loyal to Mubarak in which individuals described elaborate foreign plots to destabilize Egypt that centered on foreign provocateurs, including journalists. In several instances, they were described as "Israeli spies." In one instance, a woman whose face was obscured "confessed" to having been trained by "Americans and Israelis." She went on to say that the alleged training took place in Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based.
Mubarak supporters stormed Cairo's Hilton Hotel searching for journalists, Al-Jazeera reported today. Journalists inside the hotel posted a Tumblr entry that said: "About 20 foreign journalists are currently holed up." No injuries were immediately reported, but the journalists' status was unclear.
Dima Salem, a reporter for Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television, was attacked by pro-Mubarak supporters who took her cameraman's equipment and tried to beat her. Witnesses helped them escape, Al-Arabiya reported on the air.
Two Al-Jazeera English journalists were attacked by Mubarak supporters, the Qatar-based satellite station reported on the air. Three other network reporters were detained in Cairo, the station reported. No names were given.
A BBC producer tweeted that Margaret Evans, a CBC reporter, was forced to hand over recording equipment to military forces in Tahrir Square.
At least four Spanish journalists were attacked in Cairo, according to news reports. Joan Roura, a correspondent for TV3, a Catalan public television station, was attacked by men who tried to steal his mobile phone while he was conducting a live broadcast for the 24 hours news channel. Assaults were also reported against Sal Emergui, a correspondent for Catalan radio RAC1; Gemma Saura, a correspondent for the newspaper La Vanguardia; and Mikel Ayestaran, a correspondent for the newspaper Vocento/ABC.
Several Turkish journalists were attacked by Mubarak supporters, according to news reports. Cumali Önal of Cihan News Agency and Doğan Ertuğrul of the Turkish Star Daily were attacked and beaten by pro-Mubarak supporters on Wednesday. Both were in stable condition today.
Men with knives seized Erol Candabakoğlu, a Turkish Fox TV reporter, along with his unidentified cameraman and driver on Wednesday while they were filming in the Boulaq neighborhood of Cairo, according to news reports. The Turkish news agency Anatolia reported that Egyptian police later freed them.
Metin Turan, a reporter for the Turkish state-run TRT channel, was assaulted today and beaten by Mubarak supporters, who seized his camera, money, and cell phone, according to the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman. The reporter escaped and sought refuge at the Turkish Embassy; embassy officials told the paper they would take Turan to the hospital because he suffered from wounds and bruises. Isa Simsek, a photographer for Today's Zaman, was also assaulted today by a Mubarak supporter, according to news reports.
Popular Egyptian blogger Mahmoud (aka "Sandmonkey") tweeted " I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated, my car ripped apar& supplies taken." He said he was briefly detained.
The British-based communications company Vodafone accused the Egyptian government of hijacking its text messaging services and sending out text messages supportive of Mubarak, according to news reports.
Multiple journalists for state-owned or government-aligned media have resigned or have refused to work after the government put pressure on them to sanitize the news or to not report on violence against demonstrators, several CPJ sources said. Shahira Amin, an anchor on the state-owned Nile TV channel, said on the air: "I refuse to be a hypocrite. I feel liberated."
The Think Tank Cafe in the Smart Villages hi-tech park in Cairo. (Image: Smart Villages) WASHINGTON -- Egypt has been aggressively attracting tech companies to its wired office parks to help create jobs for its young, educated and often English-speaking workforce.
But by cutting off Internet access last week in the wake of civil unrest, Egypt's government demonstrated just how quickly it can unwind its hi-tech goals.Microsoft is among the 120 companies located in Cairo's Smart Villages , an office park created in 2003 to be Egypt's "prime" information technology park.
It includes a health club, swimming pool, video conferencing services, a conference center and a pyramid-shaped restaurant called the "Think Tank Caf."
Egypt's move to block Internet access prompted Microsoft to respond. Asked about the situation in Egypt, Microsoft said in a written response to a query that it "is constantly assessing the impact of the unrest and Internet connection issues on our properties and services.
What limited service the company as a whole provides to and through the region, mainly call-center service, has been largely distributed to other locations."Another tech firm with a presence in Smart Villages is Hewlett-Packard, which has asked it employees to stay at home .
President Barack Obama and other administration officials are urging the Egyptian government to restoreInternet services and see access as a human right. "It is our strong belief that inside of the framework of basic individual rights are the rights of those to have access to the Internet and to sites for open communication and social networking," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at a briefing Friday.
Egypt's decision to cut Internet access was apparently intended to disrupt the ability of protestors to use social networks to organize . But hi-tech companies have similar flip-the-switch abilities and can shift services in response to a natural or manmade disaster. It is almost certain that tech companies in Egypt will respond to the current uncertainty much the same way Microsoft did -- if they haven't already.
Phil Fersht, the CEO and head of research at Horses for Sources, an outsourcing research and advisory firm, said top-tier providers rely on Egyptian resources largely for call center work and software support and development. For these firms "it's a massive, massive concern when the government shuts off the internet and all hell is breaking loose," he said in an e-mailed response to questions."
Egypt has proven capable as a good quality resource location for the Middle East, Africa and European regions in areas such as IT, BPO and call center services and has invested significantly in promoting its capabilities worldwide," said Fersht. "The country has invested millions to promote its capabilities -- and now that investment is looking under threat."Not surprisingly, the government agency responsible for hi-tech development in Egypt, the Information Technology Industry Development Agency, (ITIDA), has been offline.
Efforts to reach officials by telephone, e-mail or through a Facebook account have been unsuccessful.Fersht suggested that the current problems in Egypt could prompt hi-tech firms to re-think the risks they face in other regions."If situations, such as what is currently happening in Egypt, proliferate to other countries with sourcing support services, the first reaction of governments now seems to be to 'shut off the Internet,'" said Fersht, "You have to question how this impacts ITO/BPO services that are hugely reliant on the Internet to succeed."
The Egypt situation is a serious blow to many of the developing nations seeking to take their share of global services [that] have potentially questionable political stability," said Fersht.Smart Villages said that by the end of 2009 there were 28,000 professionals working at various companies in the office, and that by 2014 it expected that more than 100,000 would be working at some 500 companies.Microsoft is one of numerous tech firms with a presence in Egypt's Smart Villages hi-tech park.
Working Around the Internet Kill Switch - Egypt workarounds Mood:
lyrical Now Playing: Explaining the tech work-arounds for keeping the "net connected" Topic: TECHNOLOGY
Without Internet, Egyptians find new ways to get online
Nancy Gohring and Robert McMillan
"When countries block, we evolve," an activist with the group We Rebuild wrote in a Twitter message Friday.
That's just what many Egyptians have been doing this week, as groups like We Rebuild scramble to keep the country connected to the outside world, turning to landline telephones, fax machines and even ham radio to keep information flowing in and out of the country.
Although one Internet service provider -- Noor Group -- remains in operation, Egypt's government abruptly ordered the rest of the country's ISPs to shut down their services just after midnight local time Thursday. Mobile networks have also been turned off in some areas. The blackout appears designed to disrupt organization of the country's growing protest movement, which is calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"[B]asically, there are three ways of getting information out right now -- get access to the Noor ISP (which has about 8 percent of the market), use a land line to call someone, or use dial-up," Jillian York, a researcher with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said via e-mail.
Egyptians with dial-up modems get no Internet connection when they call into their local ISP, but calling an international number to reach a modem in another country gives them a connection to the outside world.
One of the dial-up numbers is run by a small ISP called the French Data Network, which said it was the first time it had set up such a service. Its modem has been providing a connection "every few minutes," said Benjamin Bayart, FDN's president, speaking in an online chat.
The international dial-up numbers only work for people with access to a telephone modem and an international calling service, however. So although mobile networks have been suspended in some areas, people have posted instructions about how others can use their mobile phones as dial-up modems.
The few Egyptians able to access the Internet through Noor, the one functioning ISP, are taking steps to ensure their online activities are not being logged. Shortly before Internet access was cut off, the Tor Project said it saw a big spike in Egyptian visitors looking to download its Web browsing software, which is designed to let people surf the Web anonymously.
"We thought we were under denial-of-service attack," said Andrew Lewman, the project's executive director. The site was getting up to 3,000 requests per second, the vast majority of them from Egypt, he said. "Since then we've seen a quadrupling of Tor clients connecting from Noor over the past 24 hours," he said.
Even with no Internet, people have found ways to get messages out on Twitter. On Friday someone had set up a Twitter account where they posted messages that they had received via telephone calls from Egypt. A typical message reads: "Live Phonecall: streets mostly quiet in Dokki, no police in sight. Lots of police trucks seen at Sheraton."
Others are using fax machines to get information into Egypt about possible ways to communicate. They are distributing fax machine numbers for universities and embassies and asking people to send faxes to those numbers with instructions about how to use a mobile phone as a dial-up modem.
We Rebuild describes itself as "a decentralized cluster of net activists who have joined forces to collaborate on issues concerning access to a free Internet without intrusive surveillance." It has set up an IRC for people who can help with ham radio transmissions from Egypt. They are trying to spread the word about the radio band they are monitoring so that people in Egypt know where to transmit. Some ham enthusiasts are setting up an FTP site where people can record what they hear and post the recordings. So far, they say they've picked up Morse code messages.
Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the National Association for Amateur Radio, said no one has picked up any voice transmissions from Egypt for the past couple of days. But it's possible that people in Egypt are transmitting over shorter-range frequencies that carry only 30 or 50 miles, he said.
One problem with ham radio is that most people who know how to use it in Egypt were probably trained by the military and may be opposed to the protests. Others may be wary of transmitting because they are worried about who might be listening.
During earlier protests in Iran and Tunisia, the governments clamped down on specific websites, but access to the Internet was not severed in such a wholescale fashion.
It is not unprecedented though. In a blog post Friday written with a colleague, York from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society noted that in 2005 the government of Nepal cut off the Internet connection there, and in 2007 the Burmese government did the same in that country.
Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com
If you expect equal pay for equal work, you're not the only species to have a sense of fair play. Blame evolution. Researchers studying brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) have found that the highly social, cooperative species native to South America show a sense of fairness, the first time such behavior has been documented in a species other than humans. The question of whether human aversion to unfair treatment—now shown by other primates—is an evolved behavior or the result of the cultural influence of large social institutions like religion, governments, and schools, in the case of humans, has intrigued scientists in recent years. The new finding suggests evolution may have something to do with it. It also highlights questions about the economic and evolutionary nature of cooperation and its relationship to a species' sense of fairness, while adding yet another chapter to our understanding of primates. "It looks like this behavior is evolved … it is not simply a cultural construct. There's some good evolutionary reason why we don't like being treated unfairly," said Sarah Brosnan, lead author of the study to be published in tomorrow's issue of the science journal Nature. Brosnan, a biology Ph. D. candidate schooled in zoology and psychology at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Living Links Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said her research was inspired, in part, by studies into human cooperation conducted by Swiss economist Ernst Fehr, who found that people inherently reject unfairness. Monkey Business To test whether or not such behavior is found in other species, Brosnan designed an experiment for brown capuchin monkeys, a species well-known for strong social bonds and relatively cooperative behavior, particularly in shared food-gathering activities like hunting squirrels and locating fruit trees. Individuals were drawn from two large, well-established social groups of captive brown capuchins from colonies at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and paired with a partner. Pairs were placed next to each other and trained to exchange with human handlers a small granite rock within 60 seconds to receive a reward, in most cases, a piece of cucumber. "That may actually sound simple, but not very many species are willing to relinquish things, especially intentionally," Brosnan said in a telephone interview. (Think of trying to pry a large bone from a dog's mouth.) Only female capuchins were tested because they most closely monitor equity, or fair treatment, among their peers, Brosnan said. Partners of capuchins who made the swap either received the same reward (a cucumber slice), or a better reward (a grape, a more desirable food), for the same amount of work or, in some cases, for performing no work at all. Brosnan said the response to the unequal treatment was astonishing: Capuchins who witnessed unfair treatment and failed to benefit from it often refused to conduct future exchanges with human researchers, would not eat the cucumbers they received for their labors, and in some cases, hurled food rewards at human researchers. Those actions were significant. They confirmed that not only did capuchins expect fair treatment, but that the human desire for equity has an evolutionary basis. Susan Perry, a primate expert at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, studies the behavior of Cebus capucinus, a capuchin species closely related to brown capuchin monkeys, in the wild. Based on her review of a brief summary, Perry described Brosnan's research as a "fascinating paper." "It is not so surprising to me that the monkeys act in this way," Perry wrote via e-mail. "After all, humans often respond in an apparently irrational way … accepting no reward for both them and their partners rather than accepting unequal rewards … in the ultimatum game," she wrote, referring to the classic laboratory test of inequity aversion. Primate Culture The study is the latest in a series of findings on human and primate behavior, culture, and evolution that has spurred new fields of inquiry. In recent years, researchers have identified an array of unique behaviors found among distinct groups of primate species, including chimpanzees, orangutans, and capuchin monkeys, and associated them with culture. Scientists have sought to explain the social-learning processes by which such behavior is acquired by individual members. In 2001 Andrew Whiten at St. Andrews University, Scotland, together with Jane Goodall and other researchers analyzed five decades of data on chimpanzees and identified 39 distinct behaviors tied to mating, eating, grooming, and tool use, concluding that chimps have culture. Researchers are turning their gaze to other primate species. "People are looking at these so-called cultural behaviors, which are behavioral variants between two different groups of the same species that can't be explained by their ecology," said Brosnan. "In other words, how come some [chimpanzees] nut-crack and some [chimpanzees] don't, even though both of them have nuts available that could be cracked?" "Social learning is believed to be the mechanism by which cultures evolve," said Brosnan, who notes that the ability to socially learn and a species' sense of fairness must be linked, in her view, since both require individuals in a social group to closely observe and monitor the behavior of their peers. Brosnan's research strengthens the tie between aversion to unfair treatment and cooperation in species. However, scientists have yet to tease an answer from the chicken-and-egg dilemma of which came first, cooperation or a sense of fairness? "We don't know whether individuals become cooperative and then learn to not like being treated unfairly, or the other way around," said Brosnan. "But that opens up a whole new research field." Her study and other research leads scientists to ponder just why cooperation evolved and what benefits it bestowed to species. Cooperation Economics The finding adds new information to the debate about why species cooperate and the economic decision-making process behind such behavior. "No one really seems to know why individuals should cooperate," said Brosnan. Some economists and scientists have argued that cooperation is not a rational, or logical, behavior for species individuals since energy or other resources must be expended in the effort—with no direct benefit to the cooperative individual. But Fehr, the Swiss economist from the University of Zurich presently based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, among others, rejects such thinking. He argues that logic applies not just to the ends but to the means during economic decision-making. "There is nothing irrational in being altruistic," he said in a telephone interview. Brosnan echoes similar notions. "People often forgo an available reward because it is not what they expect or think is fair," she said in a press statement. "Our findings in nonhuman primates indicate the emotional sense of fairness plays a key role in such decision-making." Fehr, who has published key research on the economics of human equity, cooperation, and altruism since 1999, observed: "The new finding that even monkeys reject unequal pay is very important, I think, because it suggests that this is a very deeply rooted behavior that we observe among humans."
Review: END: CIV Posted on January 26, 2011 by Joe B When Frank Lopez first was promoting Derrick Jensen, I have to admit that I was skeptical. Actually, skeptical may have been too light of a term. I didn’t like Derrick Jensen, and I still don’t like Derrick Jensen. To me, Derrick Jensen sounds too much like a con man, who is looking to sell his books. He tells people, the converted, things that he wants them to hear.
Now, those of you who are familiar with Franklin Lopez and Submedia may be familiar with the show “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”, which features commentary from “The Stimulator”, who uses foul language and goes over various news throughout the world. Below is one of the year-end specials, “Riot 2010, Part 1″: The difference between “It’s the End of the World as We Know it and I feel fine” and END: CIV is the tone.
While ITEOTWAWKIAIFF is optimistic, but barely scratches the surface of various issues, END:CIV on the other hand, gets deep to the heart of the matter. The movie is based on 4 premises of Derrick Jensen’s Book ENDGAME, and while I think that Primtivism and END:CIV are themselves also death cults that don’t appear to provide anything new or constructive to the conversation, I have to say that I don’t totally disagree with this movie, most likely because of the way it deals with Violence, the State and its Monopoly of Force.
One thing that is really frustrating about talking to people who are pacifists is that they use what Derrick Jensen calls the Ghandi Shield. They repeat the names of Ghandi and Martin Luther King over and over again. However, the fact is that without the more radical elements in the civil rights movement, and the Indian Independence Movement, neither of these people would matter as much as they do.
This is a discussion that radical movements need to seriously have in the world right now. Personally, I agree with Derrick Jensen when he says that we need it all, however I think that people lack basic strategy and don’t realize that the certain opportunities for change only come once in a lifetime. The thing that I find interesting about the concept of END:CIV is the fact that I expect to be dead in the world after Civilization.
I’m clearly part of the old world, and most other people who are on the Internet are. The Internet is an interesting thing, but it’s a product of civilization and without the Internet, and without the ability to get food from the Supermarket, combined with the fact that the only weapons in my apartment is probably my multi-tool and maybe a hammer, I’m pretty fucked. Most people that aren’t super rich, or armed or are already able to cope outside of this society are going to be fucked! However, I’m OK with that, because I’ll either be totally fucked and die when the Civilization ends, or I’ll die before it ends. However, If there was a nice Post-Civ solution, one where we’re NOT fucked, I’m all ears.
Right now there isn’t anything substantial, and that’s because people believe that things are fine. The purpose of films like END: CIV are to highlight that things aren’t fine and that these are things that we should be thinking about. However, the world is NOT black and white, and you’re going to have to help people as well as the animals, because nothing is more dangerous than corporate leaders with people cornered like scared animals during the collapse, which is what we see in disaster situations. Anyway, I highly recommend seeing this film, and not only because I’m friends with Frank, and a lot of the other people who put this film together. The film is going on tour, and I recommend checking it out at the dates on the website.
Arab politicians fear that the revolution still working itself out in Tunisia is inspiring their own subjects to revolt. The escalating protests that managed to unseat the 23-year rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali were immediately sparked by the self-immolation of a fruit peddler after police seized his vending cart, an event that people chafing under political repression and economic marginalization could not ignore. As an anarchist — an advocate of maximizing individual liberty by eliminating authority — I recognize the Tunisian revolution is unlikely to immediately establish my ideal, but I celebrate it nonetheless.
The flight of Ben Ali from the country he once ruled is a warning to other tyrants, particularly those in the Arab world. There are limits to the amount of oppression people will suffer passively. Tyrants who go too far in their domination and looting of the ruled will lose their seats of power. The top oppressors might be able to take some loot with them and retire under the protection of fellow criminals, but even they should not rest easy in a time of revolution. When enough individuals are motivated to withdrawal acquiescence to government, tyrants will be unseated. The powers of persuasion, solidarity, technology, strike, and direct action can help freedom-seeking people overcome all the lies and terrorism that ill-gotten wealth can purchase.
Withdrawing support for one government leaves the question of who and what will replace it. Within society there are many groups of individuals pushing for different interests. Some of them are well-positioned to move into the blind spots of unrest and establish their power over other people. Foreign and domestic economic interests and political ambitions threaten liberty in any revolutionary scenario.
Even if all the officials bearing large responsibility for the old regime were ousted, the exchange of rulers would be disdained by those who want no rulers. Anarchists should take steps to prevent the rise of new authorities. This requires not being overly dogmatic, but knowing to apply and discuss principles in a way that is relevant to peoples’ lives.
An empowered populace with strong libertarian principles can prevent new tyrants from gaining hold. The oft-lamented “power vacuum” that political strongmen take advantage of would be less of an issue if power is widely distributed through social networks that empower individuals and challenge authority.
Popular revolution, even when it does not immediately make a country ungovernable, can be a step in society’s evolution toward anarchy. Anarchy may be a continually evolving process, but some evolutions are more crucial and sudden than others. A popular revolution can result in a more favorable environment for establishing libertarian autonomous zones, and enable people to seize and mutualize services and resources controlled by the government and its cronies. As always the political climate must figure into any reasonable calculus of action. Action should motivate more people to support projects of anarchy than it motivates to support reactionary projects of repression.
From an anarchist perspective, there is merit to the argument that the establishment of a less-bad government perpetuates the institution of government: If an evil is tolerable, it is more likely to be tolerated, but if a peoples’ only experience with government is negative, they might be more inclined to discard it altogether. However, it seems at least as likely that severely oppressed people will aim to create a government that is better relative to what they are used to. A government that does less evil might create a more favorable environment for the expansion of libertarian social organization to the point where government is popularly looked upon as an unnecessary intrusion and thereby disintegrates. In the Tunisian case, the experience gained in undermining oppression through direct action will probably be beneficial to cultural development.
However events in Tunisia unfold, they show that revolution is possible and that individuals outside the power structures are not stuck with the roles of spectator, cheerleader, or pawn in the maneuvers of the powerful. I congratulate the revolutionaries of Tunisia and hope they make this revolution a major step in the evolution toward maximum individual liberty.
Martin Luther King Holiday - and i slept in and missed it Mood:
irritated Now Playing: My Hero's Birthday - and i slept throug it shamelessly Topic: CIVIL RIGHTS Ok First off I’m upset...I had months in advance planned and have taken the day off on MLK birthday / holiday to go to events and film and document my hero’s birthday celebrations in my city. Instead I stay up late and sleep all day missing everything.When I woke up this afternoon, after hitting SNOOZE about 30 times it was well past 1PM in the afternoon. I drink some coffee look at some emails and my calendar of events to partake in (film) I see that I missed just about everything going on in my city (Portland Oregon) to celebrate human / civil rights and to celebrate the great Dr King’s birthday.What I did do the NIGHT before, was go to an event in Washington County (25 min drive from my house) to a Martin Luther King Celebration at the 10th. Annual Southminister Presbyterian Church and filmed part of their presentation. I stayed up till midnight editing and rendering the file for public viewing. I had it uploaded and ready to be viewed on the internet by 2:00AM You can see it here on Portland Indymedia: http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2011/01/405366.shtmlSo probably for the fact I stayed up late, didn’t help for me getting up early ... for the MLK breakfast, at 8:30AM... then over to PSU multicultural room by 12 noon...then over to the Highland Christian Church on Glisan Then back over to the march (?) at 2:00 PM to city hall.Darn .... I took the day off from work and slept my way through my hero's birthday party. I am ashamed of myself and disappointed. This will never happen again.~joe anybody 1/17/2011
The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts Giving and Receiving the Teaching of the Precepts
The great precepts of the buddhas are kept carefully by the buddhas. Buddhas give them to buddhas; dharma ancestors give them to dharma ancestors. The transmission of the precepts is beyond the three existences of past, present and future. Enlightenment ranges from time eternal, and is even now. Shakyamuni, the buddha of this world, transmitted the precepts to Makakasho, and he transmitted them to Ananda. Thus they have been transmitted down through the generations. This is the meaning of the transmission of living wisdom.
The Gateway of Contrition
Because of their limitless compassion, the buddhas and dharma ancestors have flung wide the gates of compassion to all living things. Although karmic consequence is inevitable at some point in the three periods of time, contrition brings freedom and immaculacy. As this is so, let us be utterly contrite before the buddhas.
May the buddhas and ancestors have compassion upon us, help us see the obstacle of suffering we have inherited from the limitless past, and lead us in such a way that we share the merit that fills the universe. For they, in the past, were as we are now, and we will be as they in the future.
All my past and harmful karma, Born from beginningless greed, hate and delusion, Through body, speech, and mind, I now fully avow.
A contrite heart is open to the dharma, and finds the gateway to the precepts clear and unobstructed. Bearing this in mind, we should sit up straight in the presence of the buddha and make this act of contrition wholeheartedly.
With a pure heart, we can take refuge in the three treasures. We should repeat with bowed heads, making gassho: I take refuge in the buddha, I take refuge in the dharma, I take refuge in the sangha.
We take refuge in the buddha as our true teacher; we take refuge in the dharma as the medicine for all suffering; we take refuge in the sangha as its members are wise and compassionate.
In the three treasures there are three merits. The first is the true source of the three treasures; the second is their presence in the past, the foundation of our tradition; the third is their presence at the present time.
At the source: the highest truth is called the buddha treasure; immaculacy is called the dharma treasure; harmony is called the sangha treasure.
In the past: those who realized the truth completely are called the buddha treasure; the truth realized is called the dharma treasure; those who have transmitted this dharma are called the sangha treasure.
In the present: those who teach devas and humans in the sky and in the world are called the buddha treasure; that which appears in the world and in the scriptures, becoming good for others, is called the dharma treasure; they who release their suffering and embrace all beings are called the sangha treasure.
These three merits mean that when we are converted to the three treasures, we can have the precepts of the buddhas completely. This merit bears fruit whenever a trainee and the buddha are one. We should make the buddha our teacher, and not follow wrong ways.
Having taken refuge, we can embrace the three pure precepts:
Cease from evil — release all selfattachment. This is the house of all the ways of buddha; this is the source of all the laws of buddhahood.
Do only good — take selfless action. The dharma of the anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, perfect enlightenment, is the dharma of all existence, never apart from the present moment.
Do good for others — embrace all things and conditions. Leap beyond the holy and the unholy. Let us rescue ourselves together with all beings.
Having embraced the three pure precepts, we can commit to the ten grave precepts:
Do not kill — cultivate and encourage life. In the realm of the everlasting dharma, holding no thought of killing is the precept of not killing. The life of buddha increases with life; no life can be cut off. Continue the life of buddha; do not kill buddha.
Do not steal — honor the gift not yet given. In the realm of the unattainable dharma, holding no thought of gain is the precept of not stealing. The self and the things of the world are just as they are; the mind and its object are one. The gateway to enlightenment stands open wide.
Do not misuse sexuality — remain faithful in relationships. In the realm of the ungilded dharma, not coveting or creating a veneer of attachment is the precept of not misusing sexuality. The three wheels are pure and clear. When there is nothing to desire, we follow the way of all buddhas.
Do not speak dishonestly — communicate truthfully. In the realm of the inexplicable dharma, putting forth not one word is the precept of not speaking dishonestly. The dharma wheel turns from the beginning. There is neither surplus nor lack. The sweet dew covers the earth, and within it lies the truth.
Do not become intoxicated — polish clarity, dispel delusion. In the realm of the intrinsically pure dharma, not harboring delusions is the precept of not becoming intoxicated. We are naturally pure; there is nothing to be deluded about. This is enlightenment itself. Understand this truly, and no intoxicants can be taken in.
Do not dwell on past mistakes — create wisdom from ignorance. In the realm of the flawless dharma, not expounding upon error is the precept of not dwelling on past mistakes. In the buddha dharma there is one path, one dharma, one realization, one practice. Do not engage in faultfinding. Do not condone haphazard talk.
Do not praise self or blame others — maintain modesty, extol virtue. In the realm of the equitable dharma, not dwelling upon I versus you is the precept of not praising self or blaming others. All buddhas and ancestors realize the empty sky and the great earth. When they manifest the noble body, there is neither inside nor outside in emptiness. When they manifest the dharma body, not even a speck of dust is seen upon the ground.
Do not be mean with dharma or wealth — share understanding, give freely of self. In the genuine, all-pervading dharma, being jealous of nothing is the precept of not being mean with dharma or wealth. One phrase, one verse — that is the ten thousand things and one hundred grasses; one dharma, one realization — that is all buddhas and dharma ancestors. From the beginning, not one thing has been begrudged.
Do not indulge anger — cultivate equanimity. In the realm of the selfless dharma, not contriving reality for the self is the precept of not indulging anger. Not advancing, not retreating, not real, not empty. There is a brilliant sea of clouds. There is a dignified sea of clouds.
Do not defame the three treasures. In the realm of the One, holding no concept of ordinary beings and sages is the precept of not defaming the three treasures. To do something by ourselves, without copying others, is to become an example to the world, and the merit of this becomes the source of all wisdom. Criticize nothing; accept everything.
Respect the buddha. Unfold the dharma. Nourish the sangha.
Within these precepts dwell the buddhas, enfolding all things within their unparalleled wisdom. There is no distinction between subject and object for any who dwell herein. All things, earth, trees, wooden posts, bricks, stones become buddhas once this refuge is taken. From these precepts come forth such a wind and fire that all are driven into enlightenment when the flames are fanned by the buddha's influence. This is the merit of non-action and non-seeking; the awakening to true wisdom.
These sixteen precepts are roughly thus. To be obedient to their teaching, accept them with bows.
My Cousin Ted Mood:
blue Now Playing: http://www.iraqwarheroes.org/westhusing.htm Topic: WAR
Theodore S Westhusing
June 5, 2005
United States Military Academy
West Point, New York
Died in Baghdad, Iraq, from non-combat related injuries.
From Brian C 04/10/08:
Ted Westhusing, was a champion basketball player at Jenks High School in Tulsa Oklahoma. A driven kid with a strong work ethic, he would show up at the gym at 7AM to throw 100 practice shots before school. He was driven academically too, becoming a National Merritt Scholarship finalist. His career through West Point and straight into overseas service was sterling, and by 2000 he had enrolled in Emory University to earn his doctorate in Philosophy. His dissertation was on honor and the ethics of war, with the opening containing the following passage: "Born to be a warrior, I desire these answers not just for philosophical reasons, but for self-knowledge." Would that all military commanders took such an interest in the study of ethics and morality and what our conduct in times of war says about our development as human beings. Would that any educational system in this country taught ethics, decision making, or even political science that's not part of an advanced degree anymore.
Ted Westhusing, the soldier, philosopher and ethicist, was given a guaranteed lifetime teaching position and West Point by the time he had finished with his service and his education. he felt like he could do more for his country by trying to shape the minds coming out of the academy that were the ones that would be military commanders. He had settled into that life with his wife and kids, when in 2004 he volunteered for active duty in Iraq, feeling like the experience would help his teaching. He had missed combat in his active duty and it seemed like an important piece for someone who not only philosophized about war, but who was also preparing the military's future leaders.
But more than that, he was sure that the Iraq mission was a just one; he supported the cause and he bought the information that was put in front of him. Considering that vials of powder were being tossed around hearings by the highest level of military commanders how could he not? This was a man who was so steeped in the patriotism of idealistic military fervor that he barely could fit in regular society. His whole being was dedicated to this path, and he was proud to serve his country.
Once in Iraq, he found himself straddling the fence between a questioning philosopher and an unquestioning soldier. Westhusing had thought he was freeing a country in bondage, keeping America safe from a horrible threat, and spreading democracy to a grateful people. But the reality of what was happening in this out of control war was too much for him. His mission was to oversee one of the most important tasks left from the war; retraining the Iraqi military by overseeing the private contractors that had been put in charge of it.
As the assignment went on he found that everywhere he looked he was seeing corrupt contractors doing shoddy work, abusing people, and stealing from the government. These contractors were being paid to do many of the jobs that would normally be done by a regulated military, and they bore out the worst fears of those who don't believe in outsourcing such vital work. He responded to the corruption that he saw by reporting the problems up the line, but the response from his commanding officers was disappointing. He had, for much of his career, idolized military commanders, and in that assignment he found himself with some of the military's most famous faces, doing the most important job, but he was terribly disappointed and alarmed to realize that they were greedy and corrupt themselves.
The wall of silence about this was impenetrable and the reality of the situation turned his entire belief system upside down, making him question everything that was going on, and his role in it. Having envisioned the top military commanders to be the most honorable that America has to offer, he was crushed to find out that ascending to power in this military could be more due to cronyism than expertise and that these men who he had aspired to be like were greedy and corrupt themselves. Upon reporting to his commanding officers, he realized that not only did the problems stretch to the level above him, but that they were systemic. To these commanders the only real problem was the fact that they had a deeply honorable soldier in their command that was likely to rock the cash cow. Westhusing was so bereft at the realization of his part in this breakdown in the military's code of conduct, and the atrocities carried out in America's name, that he became despondent and finally in June, 2005, he shot himself. It was called a suicide, though there have been some questions raised about it.
He's not the first Iraq suicide, though he was, at the time of his death, the highest ranking one. He was an oddity; a thinking soldier in a war that requires blind obedience, and unwavering dedication. The black and white world of Bush's military doesn't allow much for the grays that come into the picture when one is, at heart, a philosopher...and even in the face of seeing the reality of war, how can anyone come to terms with the revelation of corruption on this scale? More crushing was the realization that the leaders that he idolized, and the honor that he held as being the very foundation of his entire world as a military officer, were all a lie, and stories told to cadets at West Point that didn't bear out in reality. The leaders in this war didn't care, and many were, as he outlined in his 4 page suicide letter, that was addressed to General's Fil and Petraeus, his direct commanders, only out for their own selfish enrichment.
Thanks for telling me it was a good day until I briefed you. [Redacted name]—You are only interested in your career and provide no support to your staff—no msn [mission] support and you don't care. I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human right abuses and liars. I am sullied—no more. I didn't volunteer to support corrupt, money grubbing contractors, nor work for commanders only interested in themselves. I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. I trust no Iraqi. I cannot live this way. All my love to my family, my wife and my precious children. I love you and trust you only. Death before being dishonored any more. Trust is essential—I don't know who trust anymore. [sic] Why serve when you cannot accomplish the mission, when you no longer believe in the cause, when your every effort and breath to succeed meets with lies, lack of support, and selfishness? No more. Reevaluate yourselves, cdrs [commanders]. You are not what you think you are and I know it.
COL Ted Westhusing
Life needs trust. Trust is no more for me here in Iraq.