What happens when a market-based agricultural juggernaut invades a 9,000-year-old system of commons-based maize production in Mexico? What are the on-the-ground consequences? How have the farmers using traditional agriculture responded? Journalist Peter Canby offers a stunning account of this saga in his well-reported piece in The Nation, “Retreat to Subsistence.” Highly recommended reading.
The koan for our times might be: How can there be a devastating financial crash that produces no serious financial reform? Like all koans, this one is instructive because it forces us to contemplate the deeper reality that lies beneath superficial appearances.
We’ve known all along that Facebook was more of a commercial machine committed to corporate advertisers than a benign platform that respects individual users. The problem was, most of our friends and acquaintances are already on Facebook. The site has lots of cool features, and there was no serious alternative to migrate to.
Last week’s enactment of historic health care legislation eclipsed another momentous victory for the commons: the reclamation of the federal student loan program which had been captured and milked for decades by voracious private lenders.
The noxious gusher of oil flowing from one mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico is an unprecedented environmental disaster, no doubt about it. But will we learn the right lessons from it?
Four years ago, the international press sent up red flares when the President of Boliva, Evo Morales, announced that he would reclaim his country’s natural resources for the benefit of Bolivians. As I wrote at the time, most press coverage took the “skeptical and fearful perspective of foreign investors, who consider themselves the rightful beneficiaries of Bolivia’s natural wealth. ‘Dammit!’ goes the subtext.
Here’s a surprise: the enclosure of the village common — as it occurred in medieval times — is still occurring, in a literal sense. As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia, a mining company working in tandem with the Australian government has taken possession of the village common of Camberwell, Australia. (Thanks to Leo Burke for alerting me to this story!)
Can abstract ideas be patented? Sometime soon, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a major decision regarding the constitutional scope of patents. The decision could have major implications for the legality of free software.
A federal court ruling this week opens up the door to a chilling possibility — that cable and telephone companies might be able to interfere with transmissions of Internet traffic to suit their own business purposes. Paying partners could get "fast lane" service while the rest of us are shunted into "slow lanes." Objectionable transmissions could be interfered with or blocked.
The weekend news showed exultant customers hoisting their newly purchased iPads over the heads in stunning images of triumph, transcendence and rapture. You gotta hand it to Steve Jobs. He knows how to stage a PR coup.
Too bad that the iPad is hardly a paragon of "freedom." It is actually a "tethered appliance," as tech guru Jonathan Zittrain puts it — a closed, proprietary system that enables Apple to control what we may do with the iPad and which new applications may run on it.