I am impressed by the way the Obama team is organizing its priorities: based on voting questions formulated by the population. It's not rocket science to set a website like this, but it shows an authentic wish of grasping what the population wants.
Example, the question voted at the top of the "Health Care" section:
"In all other 1st world countries, there's a minimal level of universal healthcare for all citizens. What will your adminstration do to provide truly universal, affordable healthcare for all US citizens, regardless of employment status?"
Victor, San Diego
Finally, a digg-like attempt at governing, congratulations to the Obama-team.
EU has set earlier a similar service, the Your voice in Europe, but its inferiority is obvious because the list of priorities is assembled in a non-transparent way: there's a consultation forum but "consultation" is a fuzzy word, it doesn't really give a clear picture on what's the goal, or even if a goal can be established. The EU's minimum standards of consultation should be upgraded by adding the requirement that a permanent, dynamic, openly-voted by any EU citizen, openly accessible list of priorities be maintained.
The existence of this list would help directly every citizen to unambiguously (media independent) evaluate how far is EU from its declared priorities, or how effective it is in following them.
Travelling the silk route (2008) by Move D and Namlook. If this is not a work of genius, I don't know what is. You don't need marijuana or some other stronger drug to get high, it can happen spontaneously, all you need is just to listen to it (the Travelling...) and probably you'll feel what I felt: I started listening (while reading the PDF 1.7 specification) and, at some point, I got somehow suspended, not unconscious, but lifted off, transported so much so that I only found myself filling again the chair in front of my computer some time later, at the end of it (with some knowledge about a PDF document's structure too). Nice flight, nice landing. Wish u were there.
This was not a first with Namlook, you can check, for example, the trips in Air II, (1994).
My problem with rewarding the artists today is that you can't pay them directly through their own website without some proprietary shit getting in the way and getting supported too, like the Adobe flash or Apple itunes. Why the hell not use Ogg + VLC instead? (here's an example. I expect a button which says donate or pay and should bring me to a direct money account of the artist I want to pay. I loathe the way commercial companies insinuate themselves between people; fuck-off, will ya?
free software is based on a philosophy of inclusion, cooperation, sharing, and openness, while the market is synonymous with self–interest, secretiveness, competition, and the exclusion of those who do not, or cannot, pay. The challenge of reconciling these two contradictory opposites is what constitutes the “software dialectic.”
So the question is, how does one reconcile these two contradictory opposites, commodification and Ubuntuism, so as to make free software economically viable while preserving the ideals of free software? This is the software dialectic.
I think this is a fake challenge, why should be free software economically viable? Free software is an intellectual activity, equivalent with watching an interesting movie and discussing it. Some talk poetry to their neighbors, some others talk poetry to the machine; some talk a language that humans understand, some talk a language (also designed by humans) that the machine (used by humans) understands.
Why ask for economic sustainability of free software? It's like asking for economic sustainability of education or of toilets. Since when did "economy" became a law of nature? This "economical request" is an exaggeration coming from parasites: people who don't dig the potatoes they're eating but have the insolence to request money for their talking. That implies that some of us are made for "creativity" and some of us are made for potato digging, it is a master/slave attitude, especially when that "creativity" is solving only the economical problems of the "creative" ones. The burden of proof stays with those who pretend money for speech, not for those who see speech as a cheap gesture (the common evidence).
Today's economy is not a wrapper around the physics of society. If it were, the economists would have been able to prevent the crises, or prevent the societies from feeling them, but they are not able. So the economists should take the backstage and learn how to make a science out of their activity. The market is a construction of words (the words of those with large enough capital), not a physical entity, and certainly not a mystical power.
Now, even using this mercantile vocabulary, how do the following prices make their companies economically sustainable? Adobe CS4 $1800, Windows Vista $320 , Office 2007 Pro $500.
Here's how: there are two main categories of payers for these licenses,
1. clueless (or corrupt) suits in your government
2. you yourself, by paying the price of ad design even when you're buying a toothpaste; that is you, the ignorant of what's happening to you until it's too late: you don't understand anything about the machine that sits on your desk, the same way you forgot that milk comes from cows; most probably a Mac user.
Today, your government is sponsoring Adobe and Microsoft through the licensing mechanism (by "generously" installing on the public offices' desks Microsoft+Adobe, rather than Ubuntu), but it should, instead, sponsor the GNU, Debian and FreeBSD projects. These projects form the infrastructure of practical democracy, they embody the free speech in its most accurate form. Your government/public administration should use them starting yesterday, these projects are offering fully-functional alternative solutions to the onerous pieces of bloatware mentioned above. You can test this statement easily, get Ubuntu on a live CD and play with it without making any modifications to your machine and see how's it going, and, while at it, write a letter in OpenOffice to your public administration representative, asking him/her to end immediately the funding of Adobe and Microsoft. Then we can talk again about economic sustainability.
So, because what defines humanity prevails over if you prefer pork or more pork, the question of Mr. Chege should be reframed: how can we correct the market so that the free software ideals get preserved? Better yet, how should we redefine the market so that humans can survive it too?
The intellectuals (the authentic ones, not those who talk for money) should have noticed already that a public administration, by giving preference to proprietary software when free software is available to accomplish its public interest tasks, is, in fact, serving the self-interest of a smaller group of individuals (the "shareholders"): this practice is eroding the democracy and begs the question on the legitimacy of such a system/government, in other words, it supports corruption or incompetence or both. This applies to UN and EU too. How long do we have to pay incompetent people to "manage" these institutions' software infrastructures?
Is your government economically sustainable?
Is your local economist economically viable?
Some questions only reveal the conceptual framework they belong to, the vocabulary they've been conceived with, the built-in limits of the answers-field.
I'll quote a part of my comment below
Anyway, using free software is not just economically sustainable, but obviously more sustainable than any other alternative, while making it is not obviously sustainable. Exactly like (good) education, or wikipedia. They should be supported through taxes if we expect coherent results with a positive impact on society.
Why is the free software obviously sustainable? Because if you're a programmer then you can maintain/modify it yourself, and, if you're not a programmer, then:
1. you're paying only for support, if you can't figure it out from other people's experience written on the web (with proprietary software you pay also for using it);
2. people who are getting the support can learn something from that, this knowledge becomes common knowledge in the long run (with proprietary software, the knowledge gets lost completely along with the initial investment)
So the bottom line is: asking for the sustainability of free software is identical to asking for the sustainability of your own language.
A German guy was saying, some months ago, that this financial crisis, if it deepens, might push the population into rethinking the legitimacy of the current system. I think he was late in noticing that, it's been quite some time since I got convinced that the current capitalist system fell far below legitimacy, if it ever was legitimate by any means; it seems to be designed to only encourage violence, predator instinct, stupidity and irresponsibility. And if I got convinced, surely I'm not the only one.
I read somewhere else that this crisis has caught the political left unprepared, with no alternative model. But the political left in question is a fake left, it is a political move to soften things on the way to social and human degeneration. The only left I can trust is what is called today the radical left but I will only trust it from the outside, I will just pay attention to it. This reluctance of being part of it comes from my experience of living in a socialist country, Romania: most people claimed to be socialist, lived in a socialist principled society, but most of their actions did not qualify as socialist. The only government I can trust is the one whose detailed daily movements I can check whenever I want to, I don't care how one would name it.
There is an alternative model to the current historical mistake, and that model can only emerge from a certain kind of education: that kind of education which allows one to qualify for human rights. It has to be understood by all of us that human rights are not a natural given that any predator with a human resemblance can benefit from. An authentic human (humanist) has to spend some time with criticizing the concepts of human and human rights, until it becomes clear why humans should benefit from human rights, and which ones are those rights. There should be an exam at the end of the formal part of this education, an exam at the end of which one qualifies for human rights or not. One can take this exam as many times as one wishes, but before passing it, no one should benefit, in principle, from human rights.
This is only the recognition that a human is the result of experience and thinking, which have to be checked. Until one qualifies for human rights, one should only qualify automatically for animal rights.
If, say, Bertrand Russell or Aldous Huxley had a definite idea of what human rights might be, that authentic experience got lost with their death, some trace being left through their writings, but the authentic understanding of human rights has to be renewed for and by each newly born human.
The only viable alternative model to the tragedy today is a model built by people qualified through this kind of education, people who earned their human rights.
So, beside sciences, one new subject should be part of any school program: humanism. Graduating humanism meaning that one understands what rights a human being should benefit from and why. It should encompass and replace philosophy, sociology, psychology, ecology, religion and any other subject that might prove its special relevance to the definition and criticism of humanity and human rights. Replacing, yes, because the aim of all these matters should not be to get you, for example, a psychologist job, but to help you understand humanity, ultimately your own life. Graduating humanism, however, only means you became a human covered by human rights, but should be completed with sciences for one to be able to act wisely in the natural context.
Fragmented knowledge is to be avoided in schools: if one builds a particular skill and is happy to apply it without concern about its possible consequences is doomed to produce and live a tragedy. One should get access, in schools, to what has been settled and agreed upon by the human culture, and should get the tools to scrutinize these agreements and settlements, to continuously question their validity.