Archive for category Sharing & Networking

Collaborative Consumption

Arnold Grenberg’s told me about this TED video by Rachel Botsman. It’s about ‘collaborative consumption.’ Zipcar is an example of collaborative consumption. This is from the intro to the collaborative consumption website:

Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting being reinvented through the latest technologies and peer-to-peer marketplaces in ways and on a scale never possible before.

Sharing, barter, swapping, writ large. Here’s the video.


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The Case for a Transition Party USA

By Charlie Keil

A national Transition Party USA would protect the apolitical Transition movement from nearby nuclear disasters, the perpetual wars required by the military-industrial-twoparty-complex that will bleed America dry very soon.

From a local transition and resilience perspective, politics as usual, or politics as we have known it, can only be an interesting distraction at best, or a discouraging and entangling alliance with existing power structures at worst. After attending a day of “transition training,” getting just a taste of the humor, joy and personal passions that can be nurtured when you are following common sense and having a good time building community resilience, I wouldn’t want to pull a single person away from this local process and into national politics. The solutions to the shocks of global peak oil, the shocks of global storming, the shocks of global economic steady declines and sudden collapses, the shocks of desperate populations crossing borders for survival, are going to be almost entirely local.

On the other hand, there may be many people this year and next, who are so alienated by totalitarian big government Republicans and so fed up with the wimpy big government Democrats, that they will want a better choice than the one between the lesser of two evils or the evil of two lessers. In particular, there may be many “teapartiers” who really love the Constitution, truly want to return to traditions, family values, family farms, local autonomy, states’ rights, and 9th Amendment rights to privacy, clean conscience, clear consciousness who will find themselves with no one they can vote for enthusiastically as their Representative in the House or Senate. The Transition Party USA, with citizen candidates advocating for the 7 themes and the 7 principles, could be very persuasive and exciting for the millions of Americans, the vast majority of Americans in fact, who have given up on the so-called “two party system” as corrupt, bought and paid for, unresponsive, irresponsible, a game they no longer want to play.

How could elected Transition Party USA Representatives in the House change anything? They could vote for the very few but very important things that Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich agree upon, i.e. bringing the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan as the beginning of a non-interventionist, non-state-building, anti-empire foreign policy. They could vote against anything and everything that expands the role of the Federal government at the expense of state and local governments. They could lead common sense, rational, science-respecting Democrats and Republicans to close poisonous and dangerous nuclear power plants one by one using appropriate criteria: demographic (too close to major cities), ecological (biggest threat to water supplies), geological (worst earthquake probabilities), past maintenance weaknesses, age of plant, etc. Even a small group of Representatives following “transition to sustainability” values and principles, rather than lobbyist financial incentives, could make a momentous difference in the House of Representatives by voting as if people and the planet mattered!

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I could stop right here. A case a for a “fourth party” (paleoconserving decentralist greens to balance the existing left-green “third party”) well made. But it is important to make two more points:

  1. There are at least ten federal income tax refusers on the right for every tax refuser on the left.
  2. When the economic collapse of 2008 happened I noticed an interesting alliance take shape that lost on key votes.

Read the rest of this entry »


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We’re in this together

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Freedom Box: Cyberspace for You and Me

While the internet has been very important in recent protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt, the internet is also vulnerable to central control, as when the Egyptian government all but shut down the internet within Egypt. We need an online world that’s genuinely free. Eben Moglen, a professor at Columbia Law School, has been advocating the need for a Freedom Box, a little server you could plug-in to a wall socket that would allow us to conduct online business outside the confines of Facebook, Google, and the rest. Here’s a New York Times story about Moglen and his idea. Here’s Moglen’s Freedom Box Foundation, and here’s the Kickstarter project that’s getting it funded. If you want to volunteer to work on the Freedom Box or follow the work, go to this wiki at



Peace Grooves

We are musical beings, born to groove. It’s music that a bunch of clever apes used to turn themselves into human beings. But we’ve been losing those skills over the last century of recorded and broadcast music. Everyone can make music; it’s not a special skill that’s only for those who have ‘talent.’

I wrote the following piece eight years ago, just after a big anti-war demonstration in Manhattan. There was lots of spontaneous music making in the streets, most of it by ordinary ‘no-talent’ (ha!) people who just wanted to have fun while expressing their political will. Here’s how it went down.

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It was Saturday, March 22,2003, the day of the big peace demonstration. I got off the PATH train in mid-town Manhattan at about 12:30. Five minutes later I was in Harold Square, home of Macy’s, checking out the demo. I’d agreed to hook up with Charlie between 1 and 1:30, so I had a few minutes to get a feel for the flow.

People filled Broadway from side-to-side for block after block. Here and there I heard drums and bells and a horn player or two, but no organized music. Shortly after the Sparticists passed (they’re still around?) I noticed a trombonist standing on the sidewalk. Just as I was about to invite him to come with Charlie and me he headed out into the crowd. I let him go his way as I went mine.

I arrived at 36th and 6th – our meeting point a block away from the demo route – at about 1. Charlie arrived about five minutes later, with two German house guests. We were to meet with other musicians and then join the demo, providing some street music for the occasion. None of the other musicians had arrived by 1:45, so we waded into the crowd searching for the drummers we could hear so well – one of our musicians arrived about ten minutes later and managed to find us in the demo. We made our way to the drummers and starting riffing along with them, Charlie on cornet and me on trumpet. I could see one guy playing bass drum, another on snare, a djembe player or two, and various people playing bells, a small cooking pot, plastic paint cans. Then I heard some wild horn playing off to the left. I looked and saw the one-armed cornetist I’d seen playing in Union Square in the days after 9/11. Charlie and I made our way toward him and joined up. Then I noticed two trumpeters and a trombonist a few yards behind us.

So there we were, a half dozen horns, perhaps a dozen percussion, all within a 20-yard radius. We’d come to the demo in ones, twos and threes, managed to home-in on one another’s sounds, and stayed in floating proximity for the two or three mile walk down Broadway to Washington Square. Sometimes we were closer, within a 5 or 6-yard radius, and sometimes we sprawled over 50 yards. The music was like that too, sometimes close, sometimes sprawled.

When the march slowed to a stop, one of the djembe players would urge the percussionists to form a circle. The horn players executed punctuating riffs as one person after another moved into the circle’s center to dance their steps. These young women clearly had taken African dance classes. When the demo started to move, the dancers dispersed into the crowd, the circle dissolved, and we starting moving forward.

Sometimes the music made magic. The drummers would lock on a rhythm, then a horn player – we took turns doing this – would set a riff, with the four or five others joining in on harmony parts or unison with the lead. At the same time the crowd would chant “peace now” between the riffs while raising their hands in the air, in synch. All of a sudden – it only took two or three seconds for this to happen – a thirty-yard swath of people became one. Horn players traded off on solos, the others kept the riffs flowing, percussionists were locked, and the crowd embraced us all. You walked with spring and purpose. Even as the crowd chanted “peace” I was feeling “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in my mind and in my step.

The tribe was rising.

Things got jammed up as we got to Waverly Place – the street that runs just north of Washington Square, the demo’s end. One of the cornet players looked off to the side. I followed his gaze and saw the trombonist I’d passed when I’d first reconnoitered the demo in Harold Square. His horn was pointed to the sky, slide pumping away, as he worked his way toward us. He settled into “All You Need Is Love” and the other horns joined him in sweet, crude, rough harmony. I was hearing John Lenon in my mind’s ear, along with the sardonic horn riffs answering the treacly refrain.

Leaving us wanting more, that’s how it ended.


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Walk Like an Egyptian: Protest the Fat Cats

Writing in The Nation, Johann Hari spells out this fantasy:

Imagine a parallel universe where the Great Crash of 2008 was followed by a Tea Party of a very different kind. Enraged citizens gather in every city, week after week—to demand the government finally regulate the behavior of corporations and the superrich, and force them to start paying taxes. The protesters shut down the shops and offices of the companies that have most aggressively ripped off the country. The swelling movement is made up of everyone from teenagers to pensioners. They surround branches of the banks that caused this crash and force them to close, with banners saying, You Caused This Crisis. Now YOU Pay.

And he goes on to point out that it has happened:

This may sound like a fantasy—but it has all happened. The name of this parallel universe is Britain. As recently as this past fall, people here were asking the same questions liberal Americans have been glumly contemplating: Why is everyone being so passive? Why are we letting ourselves be ripped off? Why are people staying in their homes watching their flat-screens while our politicians strip away services so they can fatten the superrich even more?

And so a dozen British citizens decided to start protesting against Vodaphone, which had managed to to gull the government into forgiving £5 billion in taxes:

That first protest grabbed a little media attention—and then the next day, in a different city, three other Vodafone stores were shut down in the northern city of Leeds, by unconnected protests. UK Uncut realized this could be replicated across the country. So the group set up a Twitter account and a website, where members announced there would be a national day of protest the following Saturday. They urged anybody who wanted to organize a protest to e-mail them so it could be added to a Google map. Britain’s most prominent tweeters, such as actor Stephen Fry, joined in.

Could this happen in the USofA?

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