Saturday, 31 March 2018


The North Dakota sun came up late.
They were already in the beet fields and had taken up their hoes with the handles cut off so they could not be leaned upon to rest; had already eaten cold beans and slices of week-old bread from the meal pie pans nailed to the table to be hosed off between shifts of eaters; had already filled themselves on rusty water from the two-handled milk cans on the wagon at the end of the field; had already peed and taken a dump and scratched and spat and splashed cold water in their faces to drip down their necks.

Had done all of these after sleeping the short night on feed sacks in sleeping sheds near the barn; after they had come into a new day, then the sun came up.

The Mexicans always outworked him. They spread out at the south end of the sugar-beet fields and began to work, and the Mexicans always outworked him. At first he tried to understand how that could be. It was all so simple. They were to walk down the rows of beets and remove every other beet. The farmers- he always thought of them as farmers- planted more seeds than they needed, to ensure proper germination, and the seeds all came up and had to be thinned to allow the beets to grow properly.

So they worked down the rows, cutting left and right, taking a beet, leaving a beet, and it did not seem possible that one person could do it that much faster than another, but always the Mexican men and women, and even children, outworked him. Even when he worked hard, hacked back and forth without looking, worked in a frenzy until his hands bled on the handle, he could not keep up. Their white shirts always drifted ahead of him, farther and farther out like white birds flying low, until they were so far ahead they were spots and then nothing.

Rows of beets a mile long. Left and right for a mile and then turn and start back, halfway up to meet the Mexicans coming back.

Eleven dollars an acre. Four rows to the acre, a half acre a day, all day the hoes cutting, left and right, the rows never ending, and even trying to catch up with the Mexicans was not enough to stop the awful boredom of the beets.
The sun was hot when it came up late. There was no early morning coolness, no relief. An early heat came with the first edge of the sun and by the time the sun was full up, he was cooking and looking for some relief.

Monday, 19 March 2018

"Guerilla Open Access Manifesto" by Aaron Swartz 

"We won this fight because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story. Everyone took it as their job to save this crucial freedom. They threw themselves into it. They did whatever they could think of to do. They didn’t stop to ask anyone for permission. … The senators were right: The Internet really is out of control. But if we forget that, if we let Hollywood rewrite the story so it was just big company Google who stopped the bill, if we let them persuade us we didn’t actually make a difference, if we start seeing it as someone else’s responsibility to do this work and it’s our job just to go home and pop some popcorn and curl up on the couch to watch Transformers, well, then next time they might just win. Let’s not let that happen." - Arron Swartz (2012, Freedom to Connect)

Guerilla Open Access Manifesto

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for
themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries
in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of
private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the
sciences? You'll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought
valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure
their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But
even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future.
Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their
colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them?
Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to
children in the Global South? It's outrageous and unacceptable.

"I agree," many say, "but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they
make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it's perfectly legal —
there's nothing we can do to stop them." But there is something we can, something that's
already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been
given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world
is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for
yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords
with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been
sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by
the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It's called stealing or
piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a
ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn't immoral — it's a moral imperative. Only
those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate
require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they
have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who
can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the
grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with
the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need
to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific
journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open

With enough of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message opposing the
privatization of knowledge — we'll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

Aaron Swartz

July 2008, Eremo, Italy

Aaron Swartz would pay with his life for his commitment to open access and opposition to Intellectual property.

On Monday, federal prosecutors filed to dismiss charges against open-Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who hung himself on Friday in New York. Swartz was 26 years old. Federal authorities had charged him with illegal access to millions of academic articles through services at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and he was facing decades in prison. MIT's president sent an email to the school on Sunday, saying he has launched an analysis of the school's role in the incident. The death of Swartz has also sparked calls for action on the issues of free access to information that he championed. In Washington, FSRN's Alice Ollstein reports.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Beet Fields

At my local library I stumbled upon a surprising story in the quick reads section. Called The Beet Fields its largely about a migrant labourer working a series off seasonal jobs, getting his start in picking Beets. He's a young run away who doesn't really know much about how things work, though he quickly learns. Through out the story he befriends other outcasts and is exploited by the members of ordinary and respectable society. The farmers who hire migrant workers and the local Sheriff, typically the hero's in rural American tales are the villains.

Its possibly the most class conscious story I've read in a long time, it demonstrates the effects of capitalism on labour and how people from very different backgrounds can build concrete links and practice solidarity just by being human beings. All without one word of jargon in its 100+ pages. Its strength is in its devotion to its framing, its all from the boys perspective, his conclusion come across as common sense and a result of his kind nature.

So I'll be transcribing it.

The Beet Fields

By Gary Paulsen

This one’s for Gito

Definitions, field (fi:ld), n. a wide or open expanse

Shee gave me of the Tree, and I did eate.

John Milton, Paradise Lost

1955. The boy’s life truly began when he was sixteen years old, sleeping in the grubby apartment, in his small room, on the couch that folded out into a bed. He was only half awake, fighting sleep: half dreaming, half knowing. His mother was there beside him.

She had come to his bed many times drunk, to sleep, as she had slept with him when he was a small boy during the war, when his father was away in the army. She was the mother and he was the boy and they lived alone. All his life she had fallen asleep near him, two, three nights a week, and he would either slide to the side away from her or ease out onto the floor and pull a blanket down to sleep there while she passed out, mumbling drunkenly about his father. Always about the father.

But tonight, even half dreaming, he knew something was different, wrong, about her need for him, and he rolled and pushed and stood away in lonely horror while she lay their moaning, half conscious, the drunk smell of her filling his shabby room, dark except for the light from a streetlamp a block away. And he ran…

Friday, 2 March 2018

To the Youth of America - Berkman

Tyranny must be opposed at the start. Autocracy, once secured in the saddle, is difficult to dislodge. If you believe that America is entering the war "to make democracy safe," then be a man and volunteer.

But if you know anything at all, then you should know that the cry of democracy is a lie and a snare for the unthinking. You should know that a republic is not synonymous with democracy, and that America has never been a real democracy, but that it is the vilest plutocracy on the face of the globe.

If you can see, hear, feel, and think, you should know that King Dollar rules the United States, and that the workers are robbed and exploited in this country to the heart's content of the masters.

If you are not deaf, dumb, and blind, then you know that the American bourgeois democracy and capitalistic civilization are the worst enemies of labor and progress, and that instead of protecting them, you should help to fight to destroy them.

If you know this, you must also know that the workers of America have no enemy in the toilers of other countries. Indeed, the workers of Germany suffer as much from their exploiters and rulers as do the masses of America.

You should know that the interests of Labor are identical in all countries. Their cause is international.

Then why should they slaughter each other?

The workers of Germany have been misled by their rulers into donning the uniform and turning murders. So have the workers of France, of Italy, and England been misled. But why should *you*, men of America, allow yourselves to be misled into murder or into being murdered?

If your blood must be shed, let it be in defense of your own interests, in the war of the workers against their despoilers, in the cause of real liberty and independence.

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