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Ukraine Opens To Monsanto And Large-Scale Land-Grabs

photo of Øyvind Holmstad

Øyvind Holmstad
10th November 2014


By Pål Steigan. Original article here.

Ukraine’s black earth belt may probably have the most fertile soil on our planet. Ukraine has been called the» bread basket of Europe», and international agribusiness is drooling over the chance to get hold of it. The combination of an economic catastrophe and the corrupt regime in Kiev provides a golden opportunity for Monsanto, GMO to carry out large-scale land-grabs.

(Translated from the Norwegian by Tanja Barth)

EU Porosjenko

The scramble for natural resources – Among other things, the conflict in Ukraine concerns natural resources. These include uranium and other minerals, and especially Ukraine’s fertile soil. The country has been the world’s third largest exporter of corn and the fifth largest exporter of wheat. The Ukrainian «black soil» forms a thick layer and is rich in nutrients. It is difficult to find land that can be more easily farmed. Global cooperations are looking to control it. This struggle is nothing new. More than 1.6 million hectares (nearly as much as the area of the state of New Jersey) have already been sold to foreign agro-business. The largest contracts have been handed to companies based in Luxemburg, Cyprus (perhaps as a cover for Russian or Ukrainian oligarchs) and in France. China signed an agreement to buy more than 3 million hectares (30 000 square kilometers) in 2013 (equivalent to the size of Belgium, comprising 5 % of all of the fertile soil in Ukraine), but at present there are doubts whether this deal will be finalized. (Please read Land concentration, land grabbing and people’s struggles in Europe.)

The oligarchs see the agricultural sector as yet another source of profits, and they are the people that have taken control of most of the resources. The richest man in Ukraine, Rinat Achmetov, owns a large section of land. The same goes for Oleg Bachmatjuk, one of the world’s largest producers of eggs. His company is registered in Cyprus. Some of the largest foreign land owners are US NCH Capital (400,000 ha) and Russian Ukrainian Agrarian Investments (260,000 ha). (Please read Land concentration, land grabbing and people’s struggles in Europe.)

Drastic reforms facilitating foreign agro-business taking control – With the US’s preferred crew installed in Kiev, the road now is open for international agro-business. So far, laws and regulations have been an obstacle for companies like Monsanto, but under heavy pressure from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and Washington’s «advisers», the extreme right-wing regime in Kiev will soon have changed all this. A case in point is the Ukrainian law that didn’t allow the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but in the association agreement with the EU there now is a section stating that both parties should «cooperate in extending the application of biotechnology». This section will be used to implement GMOs.

According to Michael Cox, research director at the investment bank Piper Jaffray: «Ukraine, and in the wider perspective Eastern Europe, are among the most promising growing markets for producers of agricultural machinery like John Deere and seed producers like Monsanto and DuPont

For several years now, the World Bank has insisted that Ukraine must facilitate international investment in the agricultural sector. In 2013, Ukraine was selected to be one of ten countries to be especially closely followed in their Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture project. The deregulation of the seed and fertilizer markets are central for this agenda. New loans from the World Bank and the IMF are linked to requirements that Ukraine implement reforms to facilitate the acquisition of land by foreign owners, and that they reduce taxes on such investments and reduce the frequency of inspections. (!) In May of 2014, the World Bank granted a loan of 1.5 billion dollars which is partly intended for the implementation of wide-ranging reforms in the agricultural sector. Regarding these reforms, the bank itself states that

«…some of the social effects will be difficult to quantify. In the short term, the adjustments…can have negative social consequences for income and employment and create a shock that can affect the poor».

In Kiev, the international agro-business and financial capitalists now are dealing with a government that is not overly concerned with the negative social impact resulting from its policies. In May 2014, Jim Yong Kim from the World Bank praised Yatsenyuk’s government as

«…dedicated to conducting wide-ranging reforms in cooperation with the World Bank».

On May 27th 2014, the New York Times revealed the truth about the IMF credit:

“Western interests insist on changes and big multi-national companies have expressed their interest in the Ukrainian agricultural sector.”

The newspaper revealed that reforms in the agricultural sector is a prerequisite for the 17 billion dollar credit, and that the IMF aimed at

«…increasing the investor confidence in Ukraine by removing bureaucracy and inefficiency».

J.P. Sottile, in his article Corporate Interests Behind Ukraine Putsch has described how the American multi-national corporations, in particular, have participated in the support for and encouragement of the coup in Kiev in February 2014. The article specifically mentions the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council. The executive council of this body looks like a list of Who’s Who in American agro-business, oil- and weapons industry: John Deere, Monsanto, Chevron, Westinghouse, Chevron, DuPont and Cargill.

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Posted in Anti-P2P, P2P Ecology, Peer Property | No Comments »

Book of the Day: The Black Box Society

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hartsellml
5th November 2014


* Book: Frank Pascuale. The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information.

URL = http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674368279

 

Description

‘Every day, corporations are connecting the dots about our personal behavior—silently scrutinizing clues left behind by our work habits and Internet use. The data compiled and portraits created are incredibly detailed, to the point of being invasive. But who connects the dots about what firms are doing with this information? The Black Box Society argues that we all need to be able to do so—and to set limits on how big data affects our lives.

Hidden algorithms can make (or ruin) reputations, decide the destiny of entrepreneurs, or even devastate an entire economy. Shrouded in secrecy and complexity, decisions at major Silicon Valley and Wall Street firms were long assumed to be neutral and technical. But leaks, whistleblowers, and legal disputes have shed new light on automated judgment. Self-serving and reckless behavior is surprisingly common, and easy to hide in code protected by legal and real secrecy. Even after billions of dollars of fines have been levied, underfunded regulators may have only scratched the surface of this troubling behavior.

Frank Pasquale exposes how powerful interests abuse secrecy for profit and explains ways to rein them in. Demanding transparency is only the first step. An intelligible society would assure that key decisions of its most important firms are fair, nondiscriminatory, and open to criticism. Silicon Valley and Wall Street need to accept as much accountability as they impose on others.”

 

More Information

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Posted in Anti-P2P, Featured Book, P2P Action Items | No Comments »

Can we turn Netarchical Platforms into worker-owned businesses?

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Stacco Troncoso
18th October 2014


facebook
In answer to the question posed in the title, I don’t think we can do much to reclaim our rights as producers of content and use value in netarchical platforms. However, we can work to raise awareness on the subject and help the shift toward real P2P platforms. This is already happening right now, with Diaspora enjoying a revival in the wake of Ello’s failed promise to deliver a true alternative to Facebook. The following article was written by John Robb and originally published in Home Free America.


“We don’t get ownership because we don’t expect ownership… We’ve been conditioned to give away our work and our patronage for free while the schmucks on Wall Street walk away with buckets of money.”

Do you contribute to Facebook, Yelp, Reddit, or sites like that?

Most of us do contribute to some sites like this and our contributions, more or less depending on our contribution, are the reason these companies are valuable.

Our contributions are the reason people come to these sites day after day, so why don’t we get a bit of ownership for our contributions?

Lots of ownership goes to the employees.  But, nobody goes to these sites for the high quality software, elegant design, or robust hosting.  Further, all of the tech they are using is the result of innovation by other people.

Most of the ownership goes to the financing.  Yet, these sites don’t cost much to run.  A pittance actually.  The cloud makes them very cheap to operate.  In fact, the amount is so small, nearly all of the money needed to launch these sites could be raised by the customers using these sites.

We don’t get ownership because we don’t expect ownership.

We’ve been conditioned to give away our work and our patronage for free while the schmucks on Wall Street walk away with buckets of money.

There is a small glimmer of hope things might finally be changing (it’s something I tried to do back in 2010-12 and got my ass handed to me for trying to do it).

My hope is due to three things:

  1. Desire to do the right thing.  We don’t see enough of this in Silicon Valley anymore, despite the fact that all great innovations start with getting the “why” right.  Reddit’s CEO, Yishan Wong (formerly of Facebook) is doing the right thing.  He’s planning to make Reddit’s users into owners, depending on their contribution to the site.
  2. There’s a way to create a form of liquid ownership that doesn’t require Wall Street.  This new method is based on the bitcoin blockchain.  That technology makes it possible to issue ownership to contributors in a decentralized and trusted way.
  3. The combination of blockchain stock, Yishan’s example, and the experience of participants will set in motion a wave of change in Silicon Valley.  The message is:  if you want to build an online company, you better find a way to make your customers/contributors owners.

PS:  This is potentially a sea change in financing/ownership.  There’s much more to this.  Wall Street’s banksters should be worried.

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Posted in Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire, Networks, Politics | No Comments »

Spanish lawmakers to kill CC licensing

photo of Guy James

Guy James
17th October 2014


image by argazkiak.org

image by argazkiak.org

As usual, Spanish politicians react with fear and repression when confronted with the effects of new ways of sharing information: they are preparing a new law (to go with the ones restricting crowdfunding and services like AirBnB and Uber) to tax those who wish to share information freely. The pattern appears to be: existing industry feels threatened, lobbies government, government passes legislation to hamper innovations. The individual merits of each new service can be argued but anyone who knows the way the conservative government in Madrid generally thinks and reacts, we can be pretty sure they do not understand the milieu in which they are attempting to act.



“…all Spanish newspapers are haemorrhaging readers, consistently report revenue losses to the tune of millions of euros a year and many are already technically bankrupt.”
“…The idea that law will compensate for these losses is laughable. What isn’t so funny is the chilling effect on the free dissemination of information it will have.”

Read more…

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Posted in Anti-P2P, Copyright/IP | 2 Comments »

Video of the Day: Bruce Sterling on Design Fiction

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Stacco Troncoso
12th October 2014


Bruce Sterling and his iBook

“[…This] is gonna kinda hurt: In the startup world, you work hard and you move fast in order to make other people rich.”

Don’t miss this outrageously inspiring video, where Bruce Sterling proceeds to break the hearts of a few thousands wannabe venture capital baiters at last year’s NEXT Berlin conference for “digital forethinkers and tech experts”.

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Posted in Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire, Featured Content, Featured Video, Media, Politics, Technology, Videos | 2 Comments »

What is the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership?

photo of Øyvind Holmstad

Øyvind Holmstad
31st August 2014


“The Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership is a trade deal between the EU and the US – and is anything but harmless. The deal boosts corporate power and endangers people and the planet.”

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Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Videos | No Comments »

Algorithms have consequences: What happens to #Ferguson affects what happens to Ferguson

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Michel Bauwens
16th August 2014


Excerpted from Zeynep Tufekci:

“No Ferguson on Facebook last night. I scrolled. Refreshed.

This morning, though, my Facebook feed is also very heavily dominated by discussion of Ferguson. Many of those posts seem to have been written last night, but I didn’t see them then. Overnight, “edgerank” –or whatever Facebook’s filtering algorithm is called now?—?seems to have bubbled them up, probably as people engaged them more.
\
But I wonder: what if Ferguson had started to bubble, but there was no Twitter to catch on nationally? Would it ever make it through the algorithmic filtering on Facebook? Maybe, but with no transparency to the decisions, I cannot be sure.

Would Ferguson be buried in algorithmic censorship?

This isn’t about Facebook per se—maybe it will do a good job, maybe not—but the fact that algorithmic filtering, as a layer, controls what you see on the Internet. Net neutrality (or lack thereof) will be yet another layer determining this. This will come on top of existing inequalities in attention, coverage and control.

Twitter was also affected by algorithmic filtering. “Ferguson” did not trend in the US on Twitter but it did trend locally. [I’ve since learned from @gilgul that that it *briefly* trended but mostly trended at localities.] So, there were fewer chances for people not already following the news to see it on their “trending” bar. Why? Almost certainly because there was already national, simmering discussion for many days and Twitter’s trending algorithm (said to be based on a method called “term frequency inverse document frequency”) rewards spikes… So, as people in localities who had not been talking a lot about Ferguson started to mention it, it trended there though the national build-up in the last five days penalized Ferguson.
Algorithms have consequences.

I’m not quite sure that without the neutral side of the Internet—the livestreams whose “packets” were fast as commercial, corporate and moneyed speech that travels on our networks, Twitter feeds which are not determined by an opaque corporate algorithms but my own choices,—we’d be having this conversation.

So, I hope that in the coming days, there will be a lot written about race in America, about militarization of police departments, lack of living wage jobs in large geographic swaths of the country.

But keep in mind, Ferguson is also a net neutrality issue. It’s also an algorithmic filtering issue. How the internet is run, governed and filtered is a human rights issue.

And despite a lot of dismal developments, this fight is far from over, and its enemy is cynicism and dismissal of this reality.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

What happens to #Ferguson affects what happens to Ferguson.

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Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Media, Open Standards, P2P Rights, P2P Technology | No Comments »

Improve Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde’s prison conditions immediately

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Stacco Troncoso
27th July 2014


Improve Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde's prison conditions immediately

Peter Sunde

Our friend Nadia EL-Imam, from Edgeryders has alerted us to this important campaign. Please read the article below and  add your signature to the petition.


Improve Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde’s prison conditions immediately

I am suffering tremendously – socially, physically, as well as psychologically – by the shortcomings of [the prison,] Västervik.” ~ Peter Sunde, aka Brokep

Peter is most famous as Brokep, co-founder and spokesperson of the Pirate Bay. But his impact extends far beyond file-sharing. He also worked tirelessly to support creators through the payment system/social site, Flattr, and is bringing encrypted messaging to the masses through the app, Hemlis.

But now he is suffering in the restrictive conditions of Västervik prison, poorly suited to a non-violent offender accused only of “crimes” related to copyright infringement and fighting for a free and open internet. 

Peter requested a transfer to a lower security class prison, specifically Tygelsjö, that would be more appropriate for his situation and would also allow him to be closer to his family, hopefully making his imprisonment more bearable. But weeks later, the Swedish authorities have not made any move to accommodate his request.

Peter has also requested access to food that he can actually eat. Prisons are required by law to provide a diet that respects prisoners’ beliefs, however the prison diet at Västervik is so severely lacking in vegetarian and vegan meals that Peter has lost at least 7 kilos (~15 pounds) in just a few weeks. Healthy vegetables and plant-based meals are a very simple request, but there has been no effort to accommodate his dietary needs. Peter is clearly suffering serious physical and psychological stress because of the lack of nutrition available to him.

This is no way for the prison authorities to treat any person in their care. The excessive restrictions are especially shameful for a non-violent offender like Peter Sunde. The Swedish Ministry of Justice, which oversees the Prison and Probation services, must act immediately to lift the disgraceful conditions he is being kept in and to relieve his suffering by:

  1. Transferring him to a lower class prison and
  2. Providing sufficient nutrition for a plant-based diet.


More information, descriptions of prison conditions, and Peter’s request for transfer:
https://www.aftonbladet.se/debatt/article19207648.ab (Swedish)
http://torrentfreak.com/losing-weight-pirate-bay-founder-requests-security-downgrade-140703/

And more on Peter’s other projects:
Hemlis – https://heml.is/

Flattr – https://flattr.com/

Photo Credit: Simon Klose

Click here to sign the petition

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Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Campaigns, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Events, Open Calls, Politics, Sharing | No Comments »

Save the Teatro Valle Commons in Rome!

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
14th July 2014


The three-year occupation of Teatro Valle in Rome is now legendary:  a spontaneous response to the failures of conventional government in supporting a venerated public theater, and the conversion of the theater into a commons by countless ordinary citizens.  Now the mayor of Rome is threatening to end the occupation, evict the commoners and privatize the management of the facility.

It’s time for the international community of commoners to take a public stand against this very real threat. The mayor has summoned Italian law scholar Ugo Mattei to meet with him on Monday to negotiate a resolution. In advance of that meeting, Mattei and Salvatore Settis, President of the Advisory Board of the Louvre Museum in Paris, have prepared an international petition calling on the mayor to back away from his proposal and to allow this historic experiment in commoning to continue.

Below is a copy of the petition.  You can express your support by sending you name and affiliation to Ugo Mattei at matteiu /at/ uchastings.edu.

A number of human rights scholars around the world are keenly interested in Teatro Valle.  Noted human rights scholar Anna Grear alerted the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and Environment that “the attempted denial of popular ‘ownership’ of ‘place’ is fundamental to the cultural and material enclosures enacted by privatising and controlling agendas.”  She added that “closing down an important, even iconic, example of a fundamentally vernacular, community-based engagement with place (a vibrant, evocative commons) is entirely consistent with the deeper logic visible in moves such as the attempt to control the world seed supplies and breeds, to extend the corporatisation of the social spheres, to privatise urban space in ways that shut ordinary human beings out of them in central and important respects.”

For more on the backstory of Teatro Valle, here is a previous blog post on the occupation from February 2013.  Below is the petition now circulating.  Sign it!

The commons “Italian Style” must continue their experimentation! An International call to protect the Teatro Valle Foundation from Eviction.

Since June 14 2011, a community of artists and militants has transformed the Teatro Valle, the oldest and most prestigious in Rome, then at high risk of privatization, into the “Teatro Valle Occupato,” one of the most advanced experiments of merger between political struggle and performing arts in the current world. A trust-like legal entity, the “Fondazione Teatro Valle Bene Comune,” was created in the interest of future generations, with a membership of almost 6,000 people by a genuinely new process of cooperation between some well-known jurists and the Assembly of the occupants. While a notary has recognized the Foundation, the Prefect of Rome has denied its moral personality on the assumption that possession was not a sufficient title on the Valle premises.

Nevertheless, in three years the occupation, though formally never authorized, has succeeded in becoming a new institution of the commons, studied by scholars worldwide and the object of many publications. Because no authority in Rome has ever asked the occupants to leave and the municipality has paid the energy bill (roughly 90,000 Euros per year), it would be difficult to deny that the occupation was largely tolerated (even by the previous post-fascist major). Certainly the occupants have taken very good care of the ancient Theater, including paying for small renovations, and have  generated three years of exceptionally interesting shows, performances, meeting, educational programs that the population could attend on the basis of a donation system according to the possibilities of each one. The Valle experience has also inspired similar actions to protect theaters and public spaces through Italy; it is promoting a nation-wide experiment of codification of commons institutions involving some twenty of the leading academic lawyers in Italy; it has produced its own shows performed Europe-wide and has attracted to the Valle some of the best-known artists and intellectuals in Europe.

The European Cultural Foundation, among others has granted the prestigious Princess Margritt Award to the Teatro Valle and the ZKM of Karsrhue has devoted to that experience a stand in a recent major International exhibition on social movements worldwide.

After the European Elections last May, possibly as a consequence of an ill-conceived legalistic stance by the new Government, early negotiations to settle the dispute concerning the title to the Theater have been suddenly terminated as the Assessor of Rome responsible for culture in Rome has been removed and not replaced. As a reply to the Foundation request to resume negotiations, the new major of Rome, a member of the ruling Democratic Party and a well-known academic doctor, has released two days ago a statement asking the occupants to leave, threatening police intervention and proposing a public auction to privatize the management of the space.

This cannot happen! The city of Rome, as a cultural center of the world deserves a better solution to the Valle issue. We strongly plea the Italian political authorities to look for a method which facilitates rather than repressing institutional and cultural experiments to run the commons.

Ugo Mattei, Professor, The University of California, Hastings and Università di Torino.

Salvatore Settis, President of the Advisory Board of the Louvre Museum, Paris.

Please sign this international petition with affiliation.


Originally posted at bollier.org

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Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Campaigns, Cognitive Capitalism, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire, Original Content, P2P Foundation, Politics | No Comments »

The Former CIA Spy Who Discovered the Commons

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David Bollier
3rd July 2014


Robert David Steele

A few weeks ago, The Guardian ran a profile of Robert David Steele, a former CIA spy who discovered the commons more than two decades ago and never looked back. Steele, a former U.S. Marine and CIA case officer who spent 18 years in US intelligence, is now, improbably, a vigorous advocate of “open source everything” – the title of his latest book. He brings the zeal of a convert to the mission of promoting the commons and open-source alternatives of every stripe.

As The Guardian’s Nafeez Ahmed writes, Steele discovered the virtues of open source software in the early 1990s and quickly began proselytizing the “Open Source Intelligence” paradigm to US military and intelligence sources and to US allies in dozens of countries. Steele saw (and sees) open source knowledge as the key to discovering the truth, assuring social legitimacy and moving ahead intelligently:

“Sharing, not secrecy, is the means by which we realise such a lofty destiny as well as create infinite wealth. The wealth of networks, the wealth of knowledge, revolutionary wealth — all can create a nonzero win-win Earth that works for one hundred percent of humanity. This is the ‘utopia’ that Buckminster Fuller foresaw, now within our reach.”

Suffice it to say, the CIA and its intelligence peers were not persuaded by such views, notwithstanding its embrace in 2005 of its collaborative intelligence version of Wikipedia, Intellipedia. Open source everything is another matter, apparently, because of the democratic accountability it would require.

I don’t know Steele, but I’ve seen his videos and dipped into his writings, and he seems to bring a deep intelligence and big-picture perspective to analyzing our global and civilizational problems. His self-stated goal is to hasten “the transition from top-down secret command and control to a world of bottom-up, consensual, collective decision-making as a means to solve the major crises facing our world today.” That’s a description from his book, The Open-Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth and Trust.

Steele is a prolific reviewer of books for Amazon, which may explain why he pestered me several times, as a stranger out of the blue, to re-post on Amazon my positive blog post about historian Peter Linebaugh’s book on the commons and enclosures, Stop, Thief! I did. That’s the kind of energy and zeal that Steele brings to his mission of promoting commons-based solutions in all their variety.

In the words of The Guardian’s Ahmed, Steele provides “an interdisciplinary ‘whole systems’ approach [that] dramatically connects up the increasing corruption, inefficiency and unaccountability of the intelligence system and its political and financial masters with escalating inequalities and environmental crises.”

Ahmed called Steele’s book “a pragmatic roadmap to a new civilisational paradigm that simultaneously offers a trenchant, unrelenting critique of the prevailing global order. His interdisciplinary ‘whole systems’ approach dramatically connects up the increasing corruption, inefficiency and unaccountability of the intelligence system and its political and financial masters with escalating inequalities and environmental crises.”

Steele continues:

“We are at the end of a five-thousand-year-plus historical process during which human society grew in scale while it abandoned the early indigenous wisdom councils and communal decision-making. Power was centralised in the hands of increasingly specialised ‘elites’ and ‘experts’ who not only failed to achieve all they promised but used secrecy and the control of information to deceive the public into allowing them to retain power over community resources that they ultimately looted.”

Today’s capitalism, he tells Ahmed, is inherently predatory and destructive:

“Over the course of the last centuries, the commons was fenced, and everything from agriculture to water was commoditised without regard to the true cost in non-renewable resources. Human beings, who had spent centuries evolving away from slavery, were re-commoditised by the Industrial Era.

“For Steele, the open source revolution is inevitable, simply because the demise of the system presided over by the 1% cannot be stopped – and because the alternatives to reclaiming the commons are too dismal to contemplate. We have no choice but to step up.

“My motto, a play on the CIA motto that is disgraced every day, is ‘the truth at any cost lowers all other costs’”, he tells me [Ahmed]. “Others wiser than I have pointed out that nature bats last. We are at the end of an era in which lies can be used to steal from the public and the commons. We are at the beginning of an era in which truth in public service can restore us all to a state of grace.”

A remarkable story of a singular advocate. Here is a YouTube video of a recent presentation by Steele.


Originally published at bollier.org and featuring additional commentary by Steele.

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Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire, Media, Open Access, Open Content, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Collaboration, P2P Foundation, Politics | No Comments »