Archive for October 29th, 2010

An alternative to capitalism working its way into every corner of society – the story of the commons

| October 29, 2010 | Reply
An alternative to capitalism working its way into every corner of society – the story of the commons

Media Education Foundation recently released a new documentary titled “This Land is Our Land.” The video is critical of fair market fundamentalism, arguing that the idea of “the public commons” is fundamental to America’s past successes. “We forget what the commons is and why it matters.” Air, water, government research, community garden, public forests, public libraries, the G.I. Bill, material protected by only limited copyright and the public airwaves. Some states named themselves “commonwealths.” The idea of the commons has been with us forever. Even Babylon had nature preserves.

“This Land is Our Land,” narrated by David Bollier, offers dozens of examples of the importance of the commons. The idea of public property is critically important: “We have a moral personal connection with it.” Yet those who dare to honor this age-old idea of the commons now face blistering allegations that they are communists, or at least socialists.  Bollier runs a website titled “On the Commons.”   At that site you can read a well written article titled, “Why the Commons Matters Right Now.”

What is hard to miss is that recognizing the importance of the commons is often not convenient to corporate interests. Especially amazing is the section of the documentary discussing the fact that, according to a law from the mid-1800s, companies have, with out any payment reaped great profits from public lands. What we have today is the “enclosure of the commons,” the process by which the commons is clawed back from The People. A prime example is the fact that huge telecoms are currently working hard to gain control over the Internet, incrementally winning the battle over those who are fighting for net neutrality (And see this speech by Senator Al Franken).

Perhaps the most salient part of the documentary is the opening story about Jonas Salk, who refused to apply for a patent on his polio vaccine. When Edward Murrow asked him, “Who owns this patent?”, Salk replied, “No one. Could you patent the sun?.”

Those with possible interest in purchasing,”The Land is Our Land,” can view a low-res version of the entire documentary here.

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The Pundit’s Whine

| October 29, 2010 | 2 Replies
The Pundit’s Whine

I try to ignore Glenn Beck. I think he’s pathetic. All he can do is whine about things he quite often doesn’t understand. For instance, his latest peeve has to do with being bumped out of line by science fiction. Yeah, that’s right. Glenn Beck’s book Broke has been number 1 on Amazon for a while and it apparently got beat out finally by a science fiction anthology.

His complaint that this is from “the left” is telling. First off he’s trying to make it sound like some profound philosophical issue, that a science fiction collection outsold his book on Amazon. (He also noted that the Keith Richards autobiography bumped him as well and please note the twist he gives that.)

Why the Left? Is science fiction a left-wing thing? I know a lot of SF writers who style themselves right-wing, libertarian, conservative, etc. Some of them are very good, too, and I have read some of their work with pleasure. Unless they were writing from an overtly political stance, I found no reason to call them on their “rightishness” because they outsold another writer’s work that might have been a bit leftish. This is just a silly complaint and displays an obsession with partisan politics or just immaturity. This is, of course, Glenn Beck we’re talking about, who seems to find more reasons to evoke Nazi similes than any other pundit I know of and has occasionally shed tears over the abuse he sees our great country enduring from the left.

But this is ridiculous. Because isn’t this…I mean, Glenn, isn’t this just the free market making itself heard? Your book can’t stay number one because that would belie the whole principle of competition you claim to believe in. Everybody who works hard and honestly should have their shot at being number one for a little while and this anthology is a poster-child for hard work and perseverance because, well, it’s self-published! It doesn’t even have a major (or minor) publishing house behind it! It got there all on its own, man! This is the flower of the free market! David whupping Goliath’s ass! This should make you proud!

No, he berates it because it has to do with death or the culture of death, which he equates with left-wing politics somehow. And for good measure drags Keith Richards into the whole death equation.

[More . . . ]

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Steely Dan – Kid Charlemagne

| October 29, 2010 | 4 Replies
Steely Dan – Kid Charlemagne

When I’m finished with the difficult parts writing a long legal brief, when I’m the only one still at the office and all that remains is tidying things up and cite-checking, I am only then able to listen to music while working. At these my very late night sessions at the office, I often crave tight driving jazz/rock with excellent musicians. Steely Dan fits the bill, especially when I crank up my modest little office stereo. I’m referring to the music of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, of course. If you haven’t heard the two “new” CD’s of Steely Dan, (“Two Against Nature” and “Everything Must Go”), you’re in for a treat.

This tune, “Kid Charlemagne,” is from one of the group’s earlier works, but this is a terrific performance in a studio-like setting. And speaking of excellent musicians, check out the guitar playing:

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