On the eve of the Icelandic Elections… WITHER DEMOCRACY, by Professor Lawrence Lessig, speaking from the University of Iceland.
Lessig explains how democracy has failed the US and other citizens of the world, and how Iceland is on the brink of implementing an entirely new and improved system, based on a PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTION. Yes, it’s a world first, but then Iceland was the first country ever to form a parliament.
Lester Lawrence “Larry” Lessig III is an American academic, attorney, and political activist. He was the co-founder, with our beloved Aaron Swartz, of Creative Commons. He is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; and the former director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.
The founder of Tesla Motors, co-founder of Paypal, and CEO/CTO of the company SpaceX, Elon Reeve Musk, aims to establish a colony of 80,000 humans on Mars by 2040. While fixing his short-term goals on sustainable energy production, Musk believes that life must ultimately become multi-planetary, to reduce the “risk of human extinction” due to global warming. Interestingly, Musk’s preference for Martian government is direct democracy “because the potential for corruption is substantially diminished in a direct versus a representative democracy”.
That truism was suppressed about 2500 years ago, when Sparta crushed the selectively direct democracy of Athens. Curiously, the exclusively adult, male slave-owners who ran Athens around 500 BCE, were quite close in number to the future demos of Mars. That land however, will impose absolute consensus on the direct democracy of ‘Elon and the Elites’. No more talk of fossil fuels being good for humanity. They require oxygen to burn.
Build a Wall!
Crazed bargaining is predictable, as Earth’s denizens enter the third ‘stage of grief’ over the presumptive loss of Mother Earth. Musk’s exit strategy brings to mind The Hanged Man, as he falls from the Twin Towers. At least he doesn’t fry. As least he gets to fly. Unfortunately the 68th wealthiest man in America, who has stated that he wants to die on Mars, but “not on impact”, will also be cursed by gravity.
Wir sind die Hautkrankheit der Erde
(We are the Earth’s skin disease) Günter Gras, ‘Dairy of a Snail’
The Mask of the Red Death?
The Washington Post reported that as climate departure looms, a year has been pinned to every major city in the world, and Kingston, Jamaica’s number is 2023. The subject of liquid democracy becomes a talking point, as the ‘plebs’ conclude that representative politics has bleached us. Might as well try something else, to delay that tipping point for a few years…
(Black as the ace of spades)
Michael Hart and Antonio Negri, in their books ‘Empire’ and ‘Multitude’, describe how a potentially new type of society is maturing inside the womb of the old; how the rise of the ‘multitude’, in the midst of capitalism, “makes democracy possible for the first time”. And how, historically, democracy was constrained by systems of political representation and hierarchically centralised state structures (‘‘the form of the One”).
The development of new forms of ‘immaterial labour’ corresponds with the rise of the ‘multitude’, who produce “not just goods or services; the multitude also and most importantly produces cooperation, communication, forms of life, and social relationships”. What thereby emerges is a vast new domain – the ‘commons’ – comprised of shared knowledge, revolutionary new forms of cooperation, social interaction, information and communications technology, etc; and this new domain is seriously at odds with the private ownership of the means of production by a privileged elite.
Directly socialised, immaterial production renders owners progressively superfluous – (good job, if they’re leaving for Mars!). The objective, material conditions therefore exist for an ‘absolute democracy’, where the associated producers directly regulate their social relations without the interference of democratic ‘representation’.
Professor Simon Tormey, in ‘The End of Representative Politics’, his study of the Arab Spring, Occupy, Anonymous and, in particular, ‘The Spanish Laboratory’, describes how ‘vertical’ systems of political representation are being subverted and overtaken by ‘horizontal’ political movements. Tormey celebrates:
“…a plethora of forms and styles of what might be called immediate or non-mediated politics: direct action, flash protests, Twitter-led mobilizations, pinging, hacking, squatting, boycotting, buy-cotting, occupying and other interventions of a direct, practical kind. Increasingly, politically engaged citizens don’t vote, they act. They don’t join mass parties contesting power; they create their own initiatives, ‘micro-parties’, networks, affinity groups, deliberative assemblies, participatory experiments. They don’t wait for elections; they seek to make their views, anger, displeasure, known immediately, now. They don’t read the media, They (to quote Indymedia) are the media.”
In his 1929 short story, Chains (Láncszemek), Frigyes Karinthy first introduced the notion of ‘six degrees of separation’– where everyone is potentially connected, via ‘friends of friends’ through a maximum of six intermediaries. In 1990, we still thought that idea equally viable, or dubious. Four years later, author Kevin Kelly would write ‘Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World’, which would predict our post-millennial vision of ‘Chains’, as a Hive Mind. One giant leap for mankind, that would disrupt all manner of hierarchy and ruse…
Brigitta Jónsdóttir – former Wikileaks associate, co-founder of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative and leader of Iceland’s Pirate Party – is likely to become the country’s Prime Minister this November.
The Pirates were already well ahead in the polls before the current coalition government’s PM, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, was named in the Panama Papers in relation to the offshore secretion of funds. Although he allegedly did not break Icelandic law, almost 10% of the population took to the streets outside of Parliament to oust him. Gudni Johannesson, historian at the University of Iceland, and man most likely to become the next President of Iceland, explains:
“His message to the country was more or less that we should all be together, we are all in the same boat, but at the same time he had taken a boat of his own, filled it up with gold and moved it abroad.”
Same old same old… Dr Aleks Kotaris, who created the series: The Virtual Revolution, advances the notion that the greater the number of people who contribute to a body of knowledge, the more reliable that body of knowledge becomes, if it is structured to ‘self-correct’. She was alluding to Wikipedia, which in its nascence was scorned, but which rose over time to be 1% more reliable than Encyclopædia Britannica.
So, the panopticons of power, media and knowledge seem to be crumbling… Bring it on! It is perhaps time to pool together to ‘future proof’ our communities, education and planet. Clive Hamilton, at the launch of his book Requiem for a Species said it would take thousands of years to undo the damage Capitalism and the Industrial Age has done to our eco-system, even if we were to drastically reduce our carbon emissions tomorrow. We won’t, while “Coal is good for humanity” continues to dominate our airwaves, and Trump convinces 40% of his followers that climate change still isn’t real.
Mr Assange once made a rather cynical comment, that it wasn’t so important who was telling the truth, as who had the biggest megaphone. My first port of call, within the context of this project, will be Iceland, to visit my friend, ‘The Mouse That Roared’ – Birgitta Jonsdottir. She and the Pirate Party have agreed to welcome me, and it is my intention to document the events leading up to the November Elections. The world has its eyes on Iceland. Not only did they refuse to bail out their ‘banksters’ after the GFC; not only did they jail them and go on to successfully re-build their economy… should the Pirates win, this will be the first government in the world to operate on a model of Liquid Democracy.
‘Liquid’ is a form of Direct Democracy, on an interactive, online platform; where (rightfully!) informed citizens can discuss, approve and create policy directly – or nominate ‘floating’ representatives whose expertise they trust on a given issue. I’ll be looking at the efficiency of specific platforms, such as Liquidfeedback, which was developed in Germany, as well as DemocracyOS, which is used by Pia Mancini and the Net Party in Argentina.
As for my own position within the ‘hive mind’, I became a citizen journalist in 2010, in the wake of the Wikileaks revelations, and I played my part in the genesis of a people’s movement that concerned itself with holding power to account. Over the next few years, I wrote around 200 articles on my citizen journalist’s blog Thing2Thing.com (see ‘Archives’), and self-produced about 80 films, including a DVD edition entitled The Wikileaks Tapes. It took little time (given my skills, media strategy and deep investment) to attract the attention of those who would provide wind for my sails.
This review of The Wikileaks Tapes tells much of my story, and style… During my travels to put this production together, I surprisingly befriended people who had changed history, such as Daniel Ellsberg; I collaborated with other citizen journalists, such as Alexa O’Brien, who ‘self-produced’ the daily transcripts of Bradley Manning’s trial; and I recorded the laments of many professional journalists and members of the legal community. This was a big labour of love; I did a pretty good job; and I kept the connections open…
The Next Generation
Briefly, I also plan to re-visit my friends in the US, including a number of whistle-blowers, film-makers and writers. Ecuador is also on the wish-list, to examine how their 2009 constitution is panning out, particularly in relation to the laws governing media ownership. Finally, there is much to document regarding the congregation and cross-talk between social movements in Australia; from the Climate Angels to the Knitting Nannies; from Lock the Gate to Stop the War; from WACA to RACS. It’s a small world after all, and although ‘we the people’ will be hard put to save it, there appears to be much that can be done to mitigate the worst effects of inclement weather. We will not despair. We will not accept…
“I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, “Where is that?” If I offer a clue by referring to “Bikini”, they say, “You mean the swimsuit.”
Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 – the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.
Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter.
Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called “Bravo”. The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.
On my return journey, I stopped at Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine called Women’s Health. On the cover was a smiling woman in a bikini swimsuit, and the headline: “You, too, can have a bikini body.” A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I had interviewed women who had very different “bikini bodies”; each had suffered thyroid cancer and other life-threatening cancers.
Unlike the smiling woman in the magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a rapacious superpower that is today more dangerous than ever.
I relate this experience as a warning and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us. The founder of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the habits and opinions” of democratic societies. He called it an “invisible government”.
How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.
In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in the centre of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged himself to make “the world free from nuclear weapons”. People cheered and some cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was all fake. He was lying. The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion…”
Hey folks, I’m fundraising to go to our most critical climate conference ever, COP21, with a troupe of visionary Australian artists called THE CLIMATE ANGELS. My purposes is to make a documentary about climate change, and take part in onsite creative projects that will engage the media. I believe that strong voices and imagery will incite the world to read about the science… COP21 is happening in Paris (my home-town for 16 years) from Nov 30 to Dec 11 2015. 12 days only, to save the planet… Please help.
Australia used to be a leader in the fight against climate change, but in a short time, and a change of government, we became the most negligent country in the world of global warming. COP21 delegates fear strong opposition from our current leader who believes, or says he does, that coal is good for humanity. We want to assure the world that Australians are not all mad. We know that if our Galilee Basin is emptied of all its coal, and that is burned, goodbye to life on earth…
After 16 years of living there, I’m going to back to Paris with some of Australia’s best climate activists, and we are a loud and very creative team. We need your help to fund our events, and my film.
We need so little to get going…
$5K may seem like a small amount, but I have spent my life becoming technically independent, and I teach others to be the same. I have form as an award-winning film-maker since 1984 – see vogania.com – and for the last 5 years, I’ve been an independent journalist here at thing2thing.com where I’ve assembled a comprehensive archive about Wikileaks, and demonstrated at various moments that one person really can make a difference.
Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans is running for pre-selection as an Australian Greens Senate candidate. For you Greens members out there, 60% of whom apparently don’t vote at the pre-selection stage, TODAY IS THE DEADLINE, so after you learn who this man is, off your asses immediately and get your approval in before 5pm (in that special envelope). You might also like to visit Arthur’s website and hear the man speak, with a moving introduction from John Kaye, who called upon Arthur to join the Greens.
So… I just had a read of Arthur’s mission statement, and he says:
“As a young surgeon, I worked hard to save lives. But as I saw cancer ravaged bodies and broken lives of my patients and their families, caused by tobacco, I realised that I had to get into tobacco use prevention. I joined anti-tobacco group, BUGA UP. I risked it all, got arrested, but it was worth it, because our anti-tobacco campaign paid off – now Australia has one of the best anti-tobacco laws and lowest tobacco-related cancer mortality rates in the world.”
I remember the early days of BUGA UP, and how this grassroots movement took Australia by storm, more than 30 years before social media was invented. This was one of the earliest examples of ‘Culture Jamming’ in the world, and it was a clear case of the people versus noxious advertising, particularly from Big Tobacco. I remember how we would laugh and give directions, each time they buggered up another one of those slick Marlborough Man billboards. We’ve always hated bull-shit in Australia, and regaled in seeing it painted over with the naked truth.
In an interview I did with Daniel Ellsberg in 2012 about whistle-blowing, he said that tobacco companies had known cigarettes were carcinogenic and addictive for half a century before that secret went up in smoke, thanks to the leaks of the late Merrell Williams. Merrell’s files also revealed that the nation’s third-largest tobacco company, Brown & Williamson, had been targeting kids!
Yes, corporations can be bloody disgusting, as we still see today, but the outcome of that ‘kick-against the-pricks’ was a settlement agreement in 1998, in which 46 US states would recover tobacco-related health costs estimated at $246 billion over 25 years from the country’s four largest tobacco companies.
BUGA UP were also victorious in their mission of civil disobedience. Their activities and reputation spread rapidly around Australia, thanks largely to our very own doctor, Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, who according to Simon Chapman’s historical record, “gave a vivid presentation on BUGA UP at the Fifth World Conference on Tobacco and Health in Winnipeg in 1983 where he received extensive international press coverage.”
Arthur says he joined the Greens because he doesn’t want Mr. Abbott to get re-elected. Cute, but he certainly has the form to convince when he adds:
“I joined because I care about people. I have always cared about people…”
I believe Arthur. Today, he continues his preventive medicine efforts, working as a doctor in occupational medicine. As a scientist and medical researcher, he is engaged in fighting Big Pharma fraud, with a simple dictum in mind:
MEDICINE FOR HEALING, NOT HUGE PROFITS
But there’s more. Arthur also has form as a seasoned politician. He informs us about a long history already, as a member of the Australian parliament:
I was 9 years a NSW Democrat MLC. “I was the only Democrat there, so every issue was my issue, and every electorate was my electorate. I gained tremendous political experience, including in cross-benching, and worked really well with The Greens.”
Finally, the good doctor asks for our trust to steer Australia back on to a humane course, towards a healthy and more equitable future:
“I’m asking you to vote for me because there is still much more to be done – and that’s why I got into politics in the first place. We need to continue to promote fairness and equality. I was NSW President of Doctor’s Reform Society and I am a great supporter of Medicare. I believe that we have to have a…
HEALTH CARE SYSTEM BASED ON HOW SICK YOU ARE, NOT HOW WEALTHY YOU ARE
We need to fight for community where we take care of those less able than ourselves. I would like to be part of that work in Senate. I am asking you to vote for me in the preselection. Remember, you have to get the vote received by 5pm on this Friday 24th July. So please do it in the special envelope ASAP!
Pro-Palestinian activists shut down Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems, on the anniversary of Israel’s ‘Protective Edge’ assault on GAZA.
Melbourne activists shut down Elbit Systems' drone factory
NOTE: This action is currently ongoing at 235 Ingles St Port Melbourne.
At 8am members of the Melbourne Palestine Action Coalition (MPAC) shut down the headquarters of Israeli arms manufacturer, ELBIT SYSTEMS, at 235 Ingles St Port Melbourne to mark the first anniversary of the 2014 Israeli ‘Protective Edge’ assault on Gaza. The group have blockaded access to the building and currently have two people locked on to the entrance gate, who state that they are prepared to remain there as long as possible. This is the second time the pro-Palestinian group has disrupted Elbit Systems, the first time being in August 2014 when they occupied the building’s roof and blockaded the entrance to Elbit during the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza. (see more photos of the previous action)
MPAC spokesperson Kat Moore explains:
“This blockade is part of an International campaign to shut down Elbit Systems and coincides with events in London later today, to mark the anniversary of the deadly assault on GAZA last year. We are here today to demand the Australian Government end military trade deals with Israel and cancel all domestic contracts with Elbit Systems. We, like many other groups around the world, call on the UN and all governments to take immediate steps to implement a comprehensive and legally binding military embargo on Israel.”
Braving the cold and the cold-hearted, Melbourne activists lock on to a shut factory gate at Elbit Systems
Elbit Systems is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of unmanned aerial drones used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in their ongoing siege and frequent military offensives in Gaza. MPAC are also targeting the arms manufacturer over domestic contracts with the Australian military and federal police. The group claim the Australian government have awarded 185 procurement contracts to Elbit Systems since 2007 totalling $704,728,650* of Australian tax payer dollars, during a period which saw the most egregious crimes against the Palestinian people in the near 50-year illegal Israeli occupation of their lives and territories, including;
“Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world, one of the most vigorous funders being the Australian Government. By importing and exporting arms to Israel and facilitating the development of Israeli military technology, governments are effectively sending a clear message of approval for Israel’s military aggression, including its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity”
In the final report from the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, issued on June 22, 2015, the UN state “serious violations of international humanitarian law” that “may amount to war crimes” and that “impunity prevails across the board” regarding the actions of Israeli forces in Gaza.
UN Representative for the report, Ms. McGowan Davis, hopes the report will persuade governments to address “the crying need” for changes in policies regarding the use of weapons with a wide-area effect in densely populated areas. The commission said that “the scale of the devastation was unprecedented” in Gaza, where it counted 2,251 Palestinian deaths and 18,000 homes destroyed.
MPAC spokesperson Sam Castro stated:
“This is just the beginning of a global campaign to stop the war profiteering of private corporations off the people of Palestine and others around the world. Israel’s military technology is marketed as “field-tested” and exported across the world. Military trade and joint military-related research relations with Israel embolden Israeli impunity in committing grave violations of international law and facilitate the entrenchment of Israel’s system of occupation, colonisation and systematic denial of Palestinian rights.
I went to listen to and film the ROHINGYAN Appeal tonight in Sydney. They’ve been stripped of citizenship, driven off the land and killed by the hundreds of thousands since 1942. They are starved, reproduction is curbed and they are not allowed to own a phone.
An estimated 8000 have been cast adrift at sea. 200 have died already and many are in acute need of medical attention. Under international pressure, Myanmar has just carried out its first rescue mission, taking about 200 back to the wide-spread persecution they fled. These people are referred to as ‘Bengalis’, and are part of a Muslim Rohingya minority of 1.3 million who have been living in Burma for many generations, but who are not recognised as citizens.
A Rohingya refugee at Langsa in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photograph: Antonio Zambardino/Guardian
Both Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed in the last week to take a number of the refugees for up to one year, in the hope that they can be re-settled elsewhere with the help of international agencies. Australia however, has shut its doors and ears on the humanitarian emergency, with a simple:
“Nope, nope, nope”
from its Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
It’s tricky… Tony won his election campaign on an arguably cruel policy of pushing back asylum-seeker boats, whatever the circumstances, and despite Australia’s international obligations as a signatory to the Refugee Convention. His government have since been referring to boat people as “illegals”, and maintaining a high level of secrecy, regarding the “Operational Matter” of getting rid of them. It is therefore unsurprising that in a recent poll, 38% of Australians said no to rescuing the dying Rohingyans.
Over one in three Australians say no.
It has been suggested that this wave of first-world apathy, which is not unique to Australia, has influenced our neighbours. But Indonesia, which has mercifully relented, is not even a signatory to the convention. Abbott’s ‘no brainer’ position is that these people should have joined a queue, and it is of little interest to the right-wing leader that there was no queue for Rohingyans.
Protestors took to the streets in cities around Australia, calling Abbott’s message to the thousands still stranded at sea, for what it is:
“Go die somewhere else.”
Are we so different Australia, from the regimes that create this level of apartheid, or is it just a question of degree, our awareness of it, and time?
An evening of learning, proposed by Federal Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, to keep us safe online. And what an excellent job Dan Bryant did of making both the why and the how clear in his workshop. Dan is a ‘conscientious objector’ systems engineer from the private sector, who joined the Greens to help refugees and keep the internet a fair playing field.
CRYPTOPARTY LIKE IT'S 1984 systems engineer and tutor - DAN BRYANT
The ‘Cryptoparty Like It’s 1984′ event is in 4 parts, and I’ve documented that into 3 films; the fourth being an interaction with the audience (whom I did not film for the entirety of the evening). The first is a preamble from Greens MP Jamie Parker and Senator Scott Ludlam; the second a cyber-security work-shop; and the third a Q&A with Ludlam and NSW Greens Candidate for Newtown, Jenny Leong.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussies… whether or not you like knights and dames, methinks it’s time to castle. With both major parties bull-dozing their way into our private lives, with the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015, on *someone’s* behalf, the sensible reaction is to don the Invisibility Cloak. Go Dark! This trove of Australian metadata will likely become a target for penetration and theft world-wide; so best not to allow one’s own data-set to become vulnerable. Hell knows they haven’t thought it through about how to compensate us, if we all get robbed.
CRYPTOPARTY LIKE IT'S 1984 - Dan explains how TOR works
It’s been suggested that the invasion of everyone’s private correspondence, without a warrant, is in the interest of ‘national security’ and fighting crime. It’s been pointed out that metadata retention provides ‘evidence’ to sue you, for downloading ‘Game of Thrones’. Big Pharma might also be on your back one day, post-TPP, for buying your medication at a cheaper price online.
What I fear is that global surveillance provides a means for a global elite, to learn the ‘Deepest Secret Fear’ of any opponent; and to thwart their every move in advance. Metadata essentially monitors networks of communications, not just individuals; so this power extends over groups of all kinds, be it political parties, unions, journalists or activists defending their water supplies and farmlands.
The Greens are the only large political party opposing this ‘accident waiting to happen’ / totalitarian-corporate take-over. Senator Ludlam has decided to spread the word, far and wide, on how to really protect Australia. Every technique you learn in this workshop is entirely legal, and safe for use. If you can get yourself a decent VPN (virtual private network), it may even speed up your internet connection.
LADIES & GENTLEMEN, welcome to ‘Politics in the Pub’, where people can have a good old yarn about things we’re not supposed to know. It was a pleasure to serve in the interests of putting this one together. Scott, Sam, Jacob, you had the audience on the edge of their seats.