Sporting a red shirt embossed with a picture of the revolutionary Che Guevera, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez received a hero's welcome Sunday at the World Social Forum, where activists greeted him with cries of "Here comes the boss!"
A female comrade on IMC's internal mailing list just wrote this:
"I really wish people took sexism more seriously and didn't throw
such words around every time they get a little upset with somebody until
the words don't mean anything anymore..."
This came up because our IMC is being attacked by a woman who has worked herself into a frenzy in the belief that the Portland site is "harboring sexual harrasers." It's complicated and I won't go into the details, but it's pretty crazy.
I have so many things to blog, but I will relax for the moment and just post this one nice photo.
I uploaded this straight from iPhoto using a cool plug-in written by a flickr user.
Well even though the project is rapidly looking more like it may stall for months now, I might as well post the photos of our building the computers we want to send to Bolivia. We also go some good local TV coverage, which I'm going to digitise and post soon, i hope.
[I've been taking a lot of photos over the last month, since I got a new digital camera for xmas. ]
Sigh. I'm so much better at documenting things than actually doing things.
Well, to be fair to myself, I'm still waiting for more quotes from shipping companies, and trying to figure out what to do. I've been arranging to get palettes and boxes and warehouse space at freegeek, even though I don't know whether we should go ahead and palettize the computers and then let the palettes sit in the warehouse, or just leave everything on the shelves and hope it doesn't get stolen, or not even worry about it because it might be months before we ship anyway and by then we might as well make better computers from the better parts that may be available. Should these machines be given away to other causes closer to home till we can get our act together?
I dunno. it's just a big quandry.
On the A-Infos Radio Project site is a lot of interesting stuff, including these 2 mp3s of Derek Jensen talking about civilization and related problems. His talks are always so great. He talks in a really nonlinear way, and is very entertaining despite the fact that he's talking about dead serious stuff that is really disturbing, like details of how our culture is destroying the natural world.
"It is my judgement in these things that when you see something that is
technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do
about it only after you have had your technical success."
- J. Robert Openheimer, when asked about development of the H-bomb
(quoted in the new issue of Harper's, in an article about cloning)
Very belatedly, I have been, for the last hour or so, scanning through the archives of the indymedia tech solidarity mailing list, trying desparately to gain some wisdom from the past. From October 2002 to May 2004 there was lots of activity and several projects worked on, discussed, contemplated. Ecuador seems to have been a success, though mistakes were made. the Argentina shipment, I understand, ended up in Paraguay instead, for customs reasons (?). The Brazil one never happened, for customs reasons. Other projects that there were hints of: Guatemala, South Africa, Beirut.... ? then after May of last year, the list just fell silent. What happened? Actually March of 2004 is when things started tailing off. Did people just get so burned out or disillusioned by the Brazil and Argentina projects that they gave up on the whole concept, except for rabble with his Venezuela project?
Why did I ever commit to this Bolivia project without doing the research to find out how freaking hard it is? Why did I not look at the list archives before and realize that these other projects involved many many people all over the world cooperating and working hard together? And somehow I thought me and Kim and Luis were going to be able to do it all ourselves? I should have known in the beginning that without more people helping it was going to be doomed to failure.
I just feel like shit. Will this be yet another unfinished project in my life? I feel like there are so many things I never followed through on. A friend that became an employer and then became a non-friend, back in the disillusioning and disorienting dot-com era, once said that another friend of ours told him that I wasn't good at finishing things. Was he just making that up to try to goad me into doing more free coding for him, or did the other friend actually say that? I never asked him, and if I did, I don't know if he would ever admit to saying that about me.
I know that if I look back on my life there ARE important accomplishments that I HAVE completed. But the failures and incompletes are the ones that stick out. That's just human nature, to amplify the memories of pain over the pleasures. But I do feel like I need a completion soon to get my self-esteem boosted back up where it should be.... if, at least, some others would step in and say "hey yeah, don't worry, we'll help out and get it done WITH you," then I could feel good again. How does one inspire that in others? I can get people excited enough to throw 20 bucks in a hat, or maybe spend an afternoon screwing together computer parts, but beyond that, I don't think I know how to motivate people... I need people to spend hours on the phone with customs officials and freight fowarders, writing grants and talking to NGOs and lawyers... I need people to OWN this with me.... cuz I can't do this alone. I thought maybe I could be I can't. I just can't and I shouldn't have even tried. I'll go insane if I try any more.
I'm not religious or a believer in fate, but it's definitely uncanny how 3 different things have come up that are making it difficult for me to leave Portland next week like I planned: 1) The Bolivia computer project has hit some snags regarding shipping - i was hoping they would be on their way by next Monday, but now I don't know; 2) a small health situation that makes it advisable for me to not do much heavy lifting for a few days, which makes it hard for me to pack all my stuff up (both what I'm taking with me to Tucson and also what I'm storing here); 3) I plan to take the train, but Amtrak has these rail repairs happening in California that mean I may not be able to even get to Tucson.
So, it's weird. Am I meant to stay in Portland a little longer?
At least the weather is kind of nice (knock on wood), so I'm not like miserable about that while wishing I could escape to the desert. Still, it's very frustrating.
This open letter from local "hippie lawyer" Alan Graf to Tom Potter, the new mayor of Portland, about city police treatment of protesters, is really great. Graf is famous for defending protestors who've been wrongly arrested and abused by cops, and for suing the city for the same. His team won a $300,000 settlement a few months ago for a case dating back to the start of the Iraq War protests. Perhaps his successes, the new mayor, and the new police chief will all come together to make some noticeable difference around here.
I spent most of inauguration day in the portland web radio studio helping out with our coverage. The contribution that I am most happy about is some interviews I did on the air with 5 different people in 4 different countries: Spain, Germany, Brazil and Bolivia. I talked with them about what people in their country thought of George Bush and the U.S., and it went very well. Best of all, we used internet telephony, so it was free. My friend Lenara in Porto Alegre used her internet phone to call, but for the rest we used Skype. The tech setup was pretty jury-rigged, as we didn't have the time to prepare an actual "phone patch" sort of a set-up. Instead I ran Skype on my powerbook with a line out, and used the built-in mic to talk to the caller, while holding up the regular studio mic close to my mouth also so I could be heard by listeners. It made for an odd posture, and others in the studio couldn't really take part in the discussion. But it was still very cool. The only other problem is the net lag, but we lived with it
For the last week or so I've been experimenting with a new, for me (actually the concept itself is only a couple years old), anti-spam measure called greylisting. The basic idea takes advantage of the fact that most spamming software doesn't retry when a message is temporarily delayed. So if you make all mail wait a while, and make a record of whether they already tried, you cut out most spam. You also keep a record of what sender/receiver pairs have already successfully undergone the process, and you don't delay them for future messages.
Well it turns out that it seems to work really really well. There's some kinks to iron out, but the fact is that it cuts down on 95% of spam. Some of my users are reporting various problems, but I think I'm working them out. It's really almost eerie how well it works, because the total volume of email is just so much lower coming into my email box. As far as I can tell I'm not missing anything, but it feels like I might be, because there's so little email -but that's because most of my email was spam before. Which, as a user pointed out, is sad, isn't it? I'm sure it's true of everyone these days.
I'm really happy to report that we're already halfway finished with building the 100 diskless terminals that is our goal, after only 2 days out of the 6 days planned.
Of course, more time will be needed making the terminal servers, but I think with the this week spent researching what software to put on them, we will have plenty of time next weekend to get them done, along with the rest of the terminals.
This is really exciting to see things go so smoothly and quickly, and it's been great to see so many volunteers show up.
The story I just posted to portland indymedia is here: http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2005/01/308252.shtml
Three other geeks joined me at Free Geek tonight to start assembling the computers that will be sent to Bolivia and Venezuela. It is great to finally be doing this, after over a year of planning and organizing. The low turnout was understandable, as it was a Saturday night and everything outside was sheathed in a coating of ice. The city is basically shut down and hardly anything is moving.
Hopefully tommorrow more will make it down there.
Despite these obstacles, just the four of us built 12 diskless terminals in about 4 hours. At this rate we will easily have 100 made by the end of our 6 days. Of course making the terminal servers will be the hard part. But I figure we will finish up on the 24th, and then on the 30th, we'll palletize everything that's going to Bolivia, about 50 machines, and on the 31st load the pallets onto the truck. This is my naive hope, at least. And then on February 1st I head to Tucson! The Venezuela machines, I'm not sure what will happen. Maybe they'll get stored somewhere till that project is ready to ship, which might be later in February.
Freezing rain is falling here in Portland. I can't wait to get out of here and head south in a couple weeks.
It's funny, the range of behavior in people here when it's cold. Some crazy wierdos wear shorts and t-shirts no matter what time of year. Others don't know how to deal with it. Drivers are all idiots here in this weather, they're so unused to these road conditions. I saw out my living room window this morning a woman getting her car ready to drive. She got out some can of some spray-on stuff and squirted it all over her windows. Like ice is some magically difficult substance that you need some weird chemical to get off your car? what ever happened to just a scraper and a little elbow grease?
Anyway, I'm from Iowa so I remember worse, but that doesn't change the fact that I hate this. I can have better, and I will. I was in Porto Alegre this time last year, drinking Brazilian beers on a floating bar on the shore of the Rio Guiua.
Oh well, at least I don't have to go far today. All I need to do is go a few blocks to Free Geek later today and build some computers to send to Bolivia.
but anyway, Fuck Winter.
It looks like Bolivia's 2nd Water War has already come to a satisfactory conclusion, in favor of the people of El Alto. President Carlos Mesa has agreed to cancel the contract with Aguas del Illimani, a French company. I've just discovered a blog by Jim Shultz, head of the Democracy Center in Cochabamba and the main reason the North found out about the first Water War in 2000. The latest entry of his blog has great details about the El Alto situation. He says that unlike the Cochabamba water war "To the government´s credit, no state of martial has been declared, no one has been arrested, no city has been militarized, no one has been injured or killed." This is really good news, of course.
It's good news for me personally too because I've been waiting for activists in La Paz to get back to me about the shipment of computers we're trying to send them, but they've been too busy, apparently, with this water revolt, to reply to me. So now perhaps they will have more time.
It looks like a big hacker conference is happening
in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in early March. Seems like this would be a good way to find geeks who would want to help with the Computers for Bolivia Project. Hmm. We are very close to being able to ship the machines, but the big unknown is still: who will be there to set them up and train people at their destination?
A silly java applet lets you manipulate refrigerator magnets with dozens of other internet users at once. Warning: can be very frustrating.
It's really quite an interesting lesson in complexity and emergent behavior.
To have a more controlled experiment, I installed one on my server.
I wrote a few days ago about Immanuel Wallerstein and his writings on the rise and fall of Liberalism. Here's a great passage from his essay called "The Collapse of Liberalism":
We may emerge from the transition from historical capitalism to something else, say circa 2050, with a new system (or multiple systems) that is (are) highly inegalitarian and hierarchical, or we may emerge with a system that is largely democratic and egalitarian: It depends on whether or not those who prefer the latter outcome are capable of putting together a meaningful strategy of political change.
It's interesting that he wrote this about 13 years ago, long before the current surge in what he could call "antisystemic" activistism that exploded with the Seattle WTO protests in '99, and even before the Zapatista uprising in '94. A lot of his advice is still good, and at the same time resonates with what has already BEEN happening. He talks about how there must be "a definitive break with the strategy of achieving social transformation via the aquisition of state power." I believe a large part of the current progressive movement has accepted that idea. He also talks about the central agent of change will be groups, lots and lots of different but equal groups, who recognize each others' rights and work together but are not a unified mass, do not attempt to form one centralized huge group. "Democratic centralism is the exact opposite of what is needed."
Such a coherent, nonunified family of forces can only be plausible if each constituent group is itself a complex, internally democratic structure. And this in turn is possible only if, at the collective level, we recognize that there are no strategic priorities in the struggle. One set of rights for one group is no more important than another set for another group. The debate about priorities is debilitating and deviating and leads back to the garden path of unified groups ultimately merged into a single unified movement. The battle for transformation can only be fought on all fronts at once.
It's impossible to read that and not think of current events and debates in the progressive activist world.
The second Bolivian war over water, this time in El Alto, appears to be heating up. My spanish isn't good enough to really understand this article well enough, but people I know there are extremely busy over this.
Dynebolic is a boot-from-CD, running-out-of-the-box Linux distribution. Looks somewhat like Knoppix, but it's specifically aimed at multimedia producers, media activists, and artists. Loaded with sound and video editing tools, encoders, and the like. Wow. I'd like to try this out. Runs on the Xbox, too! Seems too good to be true. I've been wanting to see a really good bulletproof linux video editing program that is easy to install and works with firewire. That just works. If linux gets there I will stop needing to buy macs and I'd be really happy.
I've been reading this book of essays by Immanuel Wallerstein called "After Liberalism." (props to Jennifer Whitney for recommending him, though not this particular book). I've been interested for a while in the word "liberal" - what it means, why it's used as a perjorative in both right-wing and "radical" circles, and what its history is. In this book Wallerstein, an esteemed sociologist, goes into the birth of liberalism as an ideology, along with 2 other ideologies, socialism and conservatism, as a result of the French Revolution. His thesis is basically that that was the beginning of ideology itself, and those 3 were really just 3 flavors of the same thing, which developed and influenced each other but were basically after the same thing: "maintaining order" in a world where constant political change, for the first time, was normalized. Pretty fascinating stuff.
Additionally he asserts that with the fall of the U.S.S.R. in 1989 not only is communism over but liberalism is too. He writes a lot about colonialism and the "rights of peoples" as opposed to "human rights." Here is an excellent passage at the end of an essay called "The Insurmountable Contradictions of Liberalism":
What is the argument put forward in Great Britain, Germany,
France, the United States? That we (the North) cannot assume
the burdens (that is, the economic burdens) of the whole world,
Well, why not? Merely a century ago, the same North was assuming
the "White man's burden" of a "civilizing mission" among the
barbarians. Now the barbarians, the dangerous classes, are saying
Thank you very much. Forget about civilizing us; just let us have
some human rights, like, say, the right to move about freely and
take jobs where we can find them.
The self-contradiction of liberal ideology is total. If all humans
have equal rights, and all peoples have equal rights, we can't
maintain the kind of inegalitarian system that the capitalist world-
economy has always been and always will be. But if this is openly
admitted, then the capitalist world-economy will have no legiti-
mation in the eyes of the dangerous (that is, the dispossessed)
classes. And if a system has no legitimation, it will not survive.
The crisis is total; the dilemma is total. We shall live out its con-
sequences in the next half-century. However we collectively resolve
this crisis, whatever kind of new historical system we build and
whether it is better or it is worse, whether we have more or
fewer human rights and rights of peoples, one thing is sure: It will
not be a system based on liberal ideology as we have known that
ideology for two centuries now.
He's basically saying throughout the book that liberalism is this big 200 year old lie that finally pepole are starting to not believe in any more, and so some big changes are around the corner. I can see that some would disagree with the above passage on this key point: IS capitalism really an inherently inegalitarian system, as he says?
Really interesting, no?
I'd also like to mention that I recently got some new OCR software that I just used to scan that in, and I can say OCR software is pretty damn accurate and painless to use now. It's nice to see not just brand new whiz-bang uses for computers that we never thought of before but also things like OCR and video software, stuff I've been WANTING to do with computers for many years but that never really worked that well, cheaply, till recently. Hurray for the commodity computer economy! heh.
I just discovered that if there's a bright light (like the sun, for example) behind my powerbook display it shines right through the apple logo on the back and shows up on the screen. Kinda funny. Seems like a mistake, like they would have thought to put something opaque between the back of the display and the little logo LED assembly.
In other news, it's really really really cold today. A friend's dad arrived in town last night from Michigan and said it's colder here in Portland than in Detroit. Depressing. But, at least it's nice and sunny today. Of course the clear sky is WHY it's so cold, but i'd rather have sun and cold than overcast and a little less cold.
This article says that a study found that 8 million Americans have blogs. Yikes. Yet 62% of online users "have no clear idea what a blog is." Hmm.
It's interesting that blogs seem so strange and new. The concept seems so simple and obvious to me, and in fact has been in action since the beginning of the web, starting with one of the very first web sites, Justin's Links from the Underground, by Justin Hall, who I count as a friend (from Cyborganic days).
A blog is simply a public diary. The fact that some have taken this diary form and merged it with the newspaper form, or a couple other basic forms, is not that important. The important idea is that it's a regular place where someone publicly writes stuff, and the cloud of technological tools that surround the blog enable revolutionary ways of connecting and distributing the information in the public diary. That's where it gets really interesting. But the basic idea is still really simple. So it's not the blog itself that is that interesting or new, it's its location on the internet and the infrastructure of technology that supports it.
This report from the Center for Social Media studies the effects that intellectual property clearance requirements have on documentary filmmaking. A very comprehensive project, it looks like. This was posted to the Detritus blog, which I administer, by contributor Peter Lopez, but I feel like it's important enough to those who only read this blog to post it here too, as it's very relevant to indymedia video producers.
I've never worried that much about clearances in my films, but I suppose that as I continue to get more exposure for my work I should start thinking about it more. Of course if you know my work you know I have a radical stance on intellectual property. I'm a little concerned though, that a requisite for getting documentary work widely distributed is to be sure all the IP 'i's and 't's are dotted and crossed. But it's very unnatural to me.
Not only the IP stuff, but I also wonder about the use of footage of people only after getting a waiver or whatever it's called. I remember when I was in Juarez there was another videographer there who is from a more professional background, and she passed around these forms to all the people on the delegation. It seems ludicrous when you're doing journalistic work, because you can't reasonably expect to get a form filled out for everyone, especially when filming public events like protests and stuff. So I wonder what the actual real legal rules are? Perhaps it's as fuzzy as IP law - you basically, supposedly, want to try to cover your ass as much as you can, but you'll never completely do that, because you can be sued for anything, and even if the suit has no merit you still have to prove that and pay money to lawyers.