bm241 Making Better Use of the United Nations

Lots of governments and supranational organizations like the UN have websites, yet few are really understandable or usable for the average person. At the 24C3 in Berlin this past weekend, I sat down with Julian from undemocracy.com . His work has helped create a place on the internet where anyone can search, link, and read about who said what at the United Nations, in order to better understand what our nations are doing on the international level.

We Discuss:

  • The problems with the regular UN website
  • Documents, votes, statements
  • Searchability, linkability
  • What was necessary to create undemocracy.com
  • connections with wikipedia
  • His UK parliamentary project, http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/
  • NExt steps
  • Appeal to the public

Flattr this!

Missile Tests Mean…

Ok the two-day festivus is over. And just as many people sit down to eat the roast beast (or vegetarian roast-beast), over in Russia they are testing new Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.  Yes, the ICBM, an acronym usually associated with the cold war and the 80’s.

Welcome to the new cold war.  In this version the US acts like Russia is their best friend and presidents look into each others souls and they drive around in pickup-trucks together.

Meanwhile behind the scenes, the US has military contractors who need to build missiles and fear in order to justify their existence and make a profit so you can trade shares in Boeing and help make the CEO’s very wealthy.   The Russian government, on the other hand, has taken control of all the big oil and gas companies and if it gets the arctic claim they will control 1/3 of the world’s hydro-carbon energy.  So Russia tests ICBM’s, launching them by land and from submarines like the year is 1981. The US tries to build missile defences in places like the Czech Republic, Poland, and Greenland, claiming that this is all necessary to protect the world from… Iran.

Then Russia protests and says — Hey, that missile shield seems to be pointed towards us! And the US responds, no no no, that missile shield that goes right up til your border is not a threat to you, you can still launch your ICBM’s at us, no problem. Plus we’re best friends remember?

That is my rendition of the high school play entitled, The Cold War Part Deux.

Flattr this!

The Year was 2000

I sit in south jersey next to a warm fire place.  I sometimes forget that it is a fake fireplace and the fire turns on with the flick of a switch.

On television I’m watching Public Broadcasting, and to my great surprise, the documentary film about Ralph Nader’s life is on.  “Unreasonable Man” is an amazing film to watch, because the man himself is amazing and every bit of his life is inspiring and the definition of courage.  I love that the title of this film is “An Unreasonable Man”.  I hope that one day I too can be an Unreasonable Man in this tradition.

I had never seen videos, photos, and audio from the  60’s and 70’s… as Ralph took on the giant corporations and disfunctional government and became a force to be reckoned with, a force that reports directly to and represents, regular people.

My work revolves around questions of quality of life, the quality of life that humans could live versus the quality of life they are being denied, everyday, everywhere.  Nader has worked his whole life effecting change in this very area.  He made change when people thought it impossible, and he fought battles even when people lost the will to support him.. when people decided to settle for less than justice.. less than true democracy.

Some of the images on the screen as I type these words, are of the super-rallies back in 2000.  I remember the one I attended so vividly; Madison Square Garden.  I remember the Garden filled to the brim and the music and the speeches and the long list of inspiring people who took the stage that night.  I found some old photos of those days in my closet here in New Jersey.  I even found the old Nader/LaDuke poster from the 2000 election.

As I so often say, it is films such as this one that should be shown in high schools throughout not only the US but the world.  Because when people want to understand what it means to be a citizen. Or what it means to care about your community and your neighbors… they can just look at the shining example of Ralph Nader… a true fighter and for this podcasting journalist, a hero.

Flattr this!

Older and As Critical As Ever

Today I am 28 years old. Before I get into the topic on my mind, big thanks to all those who took the time on facebook or here or in email.. to wish me well. Made me feel very special, I appreciate that. But nevermind me and age.

In discussions, both online and off, people often want to place one another in a little box – to summarize the person’s beliefs in one or two words. You’ve heard them all, they sometimes appear in blog comments “you leftists…. you neoconservatives… you christians.. you scientologists.. you commies” etc. These types of labels are an effort not to see someone as complex as they probably are or to simply write off whatever they have to say due to some predetermined belief system. Obviously I seek to advocate the idea that people are more complex, even if the tagline at the top of this blog uses some adjectives, I am both some of that and none of that.

This comes to mind as I listen to more and more analyses of the referendum in Venezuela a few weeks ago. For those not keeping score, president Chavez and his supporters in government put forward a proposal that would give him some greater powers and supposedly allow him to stay president long past the normal term limit. The proposal included several other measures, which the president has called necessary in order to carry out a socialist revolution. Actually I don’t even know if that is completely true as all I read lately are analyses and I’ve never seen with my own eyes, these documents.. but Ill accept that this is what they are essentially about as I have listened to a few Chavez speeches on the topic. The proposal was put to referendum, where citizens could vote if they were for or against it.

The verdict was NO. Citizens voted down this measure, and various media and leaders throughout the world have pointed to this as a great defeat or Chavez (who many of them hate with a passion) or as a victory for democracy in Venezuela.

Much like one of the correspondents on a recent edition of Uprising (the podcast), despite my frequent admiration or support of Chavez’s words and actions, in this case I’m with all those people who were against the measure. I’m a firm believer, with plenty of history in every part of the world to support the idea, that power corrupts. And while I do believe its necessary to stand up to bullies, whether they are in Moscow or in Washington DC (where Im headed in the morning), I also believe that no human should be given divine and unlimited powers. This proposal sounded like too much power and an invitation for corruption and injustice on a mass scale.

I listened attentively to Chavez’s reaction following the vote. I wondered if he would call the No voters terrorists, using that now cliché strategy. But he didn’t. He sucked it up and conceded defeat. Which is encouraging to me. He is certainly no Gandhi, and this may not be the last troubling measure he puts forward, but I’m glad to see he can admit when he has lost something, and I hope that everyone understands that whether you’re considered a “leftist” or a “conservative”, ideas and values are not that simple and cannot be summarized so easily.

Flattr this!

%d bloggers like this: