Mindful Living Center

Talks and tools to live mindfully. Meditation and Yoga studio in Thornhill. more details at: http://meditation.meetup.com/304/

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Change begins with you and me

A sweltering summer comes to a close, nearly. Toronto is an interesting place, in the fact that as much insanity, inequality and strife that seems to slap the worlds majority in the back, its business as usual in Toronto’s diverse yet sheltered city. When I talk to friends about the impacts our way of life have on the soil, air, water, forests and all animal and plant species in between, they counter with rhetoric about how economic globalization is looking out for the world’s poor “One thing is clear: contrary to what leaders of western governments may say, globalization is failing the world’s poor. The argument that globalization is working for the poor does not deserve to be taken seriously, says Kevin Watkins of Oxfam.”(A Peoples World) The principles of this Globalization are anti-democratic by means of centralizing power in the hands of few, making small rural communities grow monocultures of cash crops for export causing droughts, deaths and dependency on transnational corporations genetically modified seeds. Because of our current stability in the Western world and poor understanding of the interconnection of the world, my friends act satisfied with their existence; they see themselves as happy free individuals. Although they also think any attempt for individual changes is hopeless. I am aware of my delusional happiness and I think highly of friends and strangers alike but as a people we are missing out on some key intrinsic connections with the natural world that supports us. We look at basic resources around us as God given. We use them with little care or awareness of their sacredness. Marketing stripes any inherent value out of nature’s creation and transferred it into a brand which is tied to some sort of nonsensical identity. I give my friend’s credit for the fact that they can use logic and often find some sort of linear error in my argument. But it kills any further development, openness or analysis on their part to continue and develop a solution. “It shows a lack of education to try to prove everything, because you have to have a starting point. You can’t prove the methodology of science; you can’t prove logic, because logic presupposes fundamental premises.”
People seem to think I am trying to insult their beliefs, way of life or desires. That is the furthest from the truth. I am looking for viable and sustainable solutions for humans as a whole as well as all other life forms who we share this wonderful planet with. The fact is Canadians consume, travel, eat, and waste far too much. If the world’s population lived like a typical Canadian did we would need two more worlds worth of resources. Where’s the logic in that.
Toronto is my home, I think I have learned through reading about ecology, spirituality and traveling that survival of any life form or community is strongest with a high diversity. That goes for all ecosystems and agriculture plans. That’s one reason why I love Toronto, but at the same time; especially in younger generations who have subcultures they buy into and not traditional philosophy and religious ideologies. Ethics, precepts, commandments are worthless unless you live by them or strive to. I’m a marketing student and I have problems with most multi-national companies because of their root goals, unregulated practices and centralized power. Then you look at native peoples such as the Kung people of the Kalahari desert, who have been living off natural resources in the same place for 11,000 years. For today’s economists that’s unthinkable. “Most native societies around the world have three common characteristics; they had an intimate, conscious relationship with their place; they were stable “sustainable” cultures, often lasting for thousands of years; and they had a rich ceremonial and ritual life. They saw these three as intimately connected.” –Dolores LaChapelle
If we could live the way we live, without destroying the planet at the pace we are and not turning a majority of the world’s population into poor voiceless individuals then I would be content. But that is not the case. Life is like a scale when all is in balance all life has enough to survive and can enjoy nature’s blessing and tread with a light ecological footprint. But when a portion of the population consumes more then necessary, then natures resources are not being equally shared, that’s why globalization works in our favor, because we extract endless natural resources tax free from third world countries so we can keep up with our over-consumption. We our to blame and must take responsibility if we want the future generations and current majority of the world’s population to have a chance at life. True self-realized happiness comes from a simple material existence and deep concern and energy put into helping others. “Whenever you are in doubt, apply the following test: recall the face of the poorest and weakest person you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use of them.” –Mahatma Gandhi
In the months to come I will look at steps that we can all take to deal with global issues in our daily activities, locally.

Luke madonia

Peak Oil Preview: North Korea & Cuba ByL Dale Jianjun Wen

Peak oil preview: North Korea & CubaArticle By Dale Jiajun Wen - May 31 2006

After the collapse of their oil supplies North Korea experienced a series of famines, but Cuba made the transition to sustainable agriculture. What made the difference?
That peak oil is coming is no longer a question. It’s only a matter of when. The global food system we are familiar with depends crucially on cheap energy and long-distance transportation—food consumed in the United States travels an average of 1,400 miles. Does peak oil mean inevitable starvation? Two countries providea preview. Their divergent stories, one of famine, one of sufficiency, stand as a warning and a model. North Korea and Cuba experienced the peak-oilscenario prematurely and abruptly due to the collapse of the former Soviet bloc and the intensified trade embargo against Cuba. The quite different outcomes are partly due to luck: the Cuban climate allows people to survive on food rations that would be fatal in North Korea’s harsh winters. But the more fundamental reason is policy. North Korea tried to carry on business as usual as long as possible, while Cuba implemented a proactive policy to move toward sustainable agriculture and self-sufficiency. The 1990s famine in North Korea is one of the least-understood disasters in recent years. It is generally attributed to the failure of Kim Il Jung’s regime. The argument is simple: if the government controls everything, it must be responsible for crop failure. But this ideological blame game hides a more fundamental problem: the failure of industrial chemical farming. With the coming of peak oil, many other countries may experience similar disasters. North Korea developed its agriculture on the Green Revolution model, with its dependence on technology,imported machines, petroleum, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. There were signs of soil compaction and degradation, but the industrial farming model provided enough food for the population. Then came the sudden collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989. Supplies of oil, farming equipment, fertilizers, and pesticides dropped significantly, and this greatly contributed to the famine that followed. As a November 1998 report from the joint UN Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program observed: The highly mechanized DPR North Korean agriculture faces a serious constraint as about four-fifths of motorized farm machinery and equipment is out of use due to obsolescence and lack of spare parts and fuel. … In fact, because of non-availability of trucks, harvested paddy has been seen left on the fields in piles for long periods. North Korea failed to change in response to the crisis. Devotion to the status quo precipitated the foodshortages that continue to this day. Cuba faced similar problems. In some respects, the challenge was even bigger in Cuba. Before 1989, North Korea was self-sufficient in grain production, while Cuba imported an estimated 57 percent of its food1, because its agriculture, especially the state farm sector, was geared towards production of sugar for export. After the Soviet collapse and the tightening of the U.S.embargo, Cuba lost 85 percent of its trade, and its fossil fuel-based agricultural inputs were reduced by more than 50 percent. At the height of the resulting food crisis, the daily ration was one banana and two slices of bread per person in some places. Cuba responded with a national effort to restructure agriculture. Cuban agriculture now consists of a diverse combination of organic farming, permaculture, urban gardens, animal power, and biological fertilizing and pest control. On a national level, Cuba now has probably the most ecological and socially sensitive agriculture in the world. In 1999, the Swedish Parliament awardedthe Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” to Cuba for these advances. Even before the 1990 crisis, primarily in response to the negative effects of intensive chemical use as well as the 1970s energy crisis, Cuban scientists began to develop biopesticides and biofertilizers to substitute for chemical inputs. They designed a two-phase program based on early experiments with biological agents. The first stage developed small-scale, localized productiontechnologies; the second stage was aimed at developing semi-industrial and industrial technologies. This groundwork allowed Cuba to roll out substitutes for agricultural chemicals rapidly in the wake of the 1990 crisis. Since 1991, 280 centers have been established toproduce biological agents using techniques and supplies specific to each locality.2 Though some alternative technologies were initially developed solely to replace chemical inputs, they are now part of a more holistic agroecology. Scientists and farmers recognized the imbalances in high-input monoculture, and are transforming the whole system. In contrast to the one-size-fits-all solution of the Green Revolution, agroecology tailors farming to local conditions. It designs complex agroecosystems that use mutually beneficial crops and locally adapted seeds, take advantage of topography and soil conditions, and maintain rather than deplete the soil.3 Agroecology takes a systemic approach, blurringtraditional distinctions between disciplines and using knowledge from environmental science, economics, agronomy, ethics, sociology, and anthopology. It emphasizes learning by doing, with training programs allocating 50 percent of their time to hands-on work.The wide use of participatory methods greatly helps to disseminate, generate, and extend agroecological knowledge. In short, the agricultural research and education process has become more organic as well.4 Important institutional changes have eased the transition. Big state farms have been reorganized into much smaller farmer collectives to take advantage of the new labor-intensive, localized methods. The change from farm-laborer to skilled farmer is not an overnight process—many newly established collectives lag behind established co-ops in terms of sustainable management, but programs are in place to help them catch up. Cuba’s research and education system played a pivotal role in the greening of the country. The focus on human development has practically eradicated illiteracy. Cuban workers have the highest percentage of post-secondary education in Latin America. Thishighly educated population prepared Cuba well for the transition to the more knowledge-intensive model ofsustainable agriculture. In the 1970s and 1980s, most agricultural education was based on Green Revolution technology. The 1990 crisis rendered many agro-professionals powerless without chemical inputs, machinery, and petroleum. In response, agricultural universities initiated courses in agroecological training. A national center was created to support new research and the educational needs of the agricultural community. Now, courses, meetings,workshops, field days, talks, and experiential exchanges are organized for farmers. As some traditional methods of organic farming have survived among small farmers or in co-ops, farmer-to-farmer communication is widely utilized to facilitate mutual learning. The coming of peak oil will shake the very foundation of the global food system. The hardship Cuba and North Korea experienced in the 1990s may very well be the future we all face, both already ailingrural sectors in many Third-World countries, and highly subsidized agriculture in the North. Cuban agriculture shows that there is an alternative—increasing output and growing better food while reducing chemical inputs is possible with proper restructuring of agriculture and food systems. It is unlikely that we will have an abrupt peak-oil scenario where half the fossil-fuel agricultural inputs disappear overnight; more likely we will have gradually yet steadily rising oil prices, makingconventional chemical inputs increasingly unaffordable. This is the advantage we have over Cuba and NorthKorea — while virtually nobody predicted the sudden collapse of the Soviet bloc, we know peak oil is coming and have time to prepare. We have disadvantages as well: peak oil will be a global crisis, probably made worse by global warming, so there will not likely be any international aid to bail people out in the face of a major food crisis—either we deal with the problem now, or nature will deal with us. Not only politicians, but also ordinary people need to consider the question: should we try to shore up the system and carry on business as usual for as long as possible, or should we take preemptive measures to avoid disaster? This choice may determine whether weend up with a more sustainable agriculture like Cuba, or with disastrous famine like North Korea.
Dale Wen is a visiting scholar with the International Forum on Globalization. A native of China, she specializes in China andglobalization issues. FOOTNOTES: Peter Rosset, “Alternative Agriculture Works: The Case of Cuba,” Monthly Review 50:3, July/August 1998. Nilda Pérez & Luis L. Vázquez, “Ecological Pest Management,” in Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming FoodProduction in Cuba, Fernando Funes, et al., eds. Food First Books: Oakland, 2002. Miguel A. Altieri, “The Principles and Strategies of Agroecology in Cuba,” in ibid. Luis Garcia, “Agroecological Education and Training,” in ibid.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Peaceful Beginnings: An interpretation with Gandhian Principles

Through interpreting the fundamental principles of Socialism theory, and Communism theory (Marxism/Lenism, Stalinism, Maoism) I will attempt to reveal underlying characteristics, and tendencies of these social/economic/political models. Then I will review historic results of these models to further develop a broad understanding of their true nature. Beginning with Socialist theory, based on Marxist thought, socialism is developed from a Capitalist state. Marx envisioned the final developmental stage being communism. The premise of Socialism works on collectivity, through community ownership and equal distribution of wealth. Socialist states develop with a social ideology that sees humans as being inherently social for well-being and developmental purposes. Unlike Capitalism, the Socialist economic model is accredited to maximize benefits for the states citizens. A healthy and stable socialist economy is one that nationally provides for the people equally and fairly. When it comes to large industries (oil, water, energy, military) These industries are run by the government in the people’s best interest, ensuring that the industry is based on long-term strategies and follows sustainable practices. Once again because of the governmental centralization, more often than not there is a disconnect of priorities and the interests of all peoples may in turn not be adequately looked after. Conflicts often stem from the fact that socialist rule is geared toward a classless state that is in the interest of the working class (proletariat) in early Socialist reform, the wealthy minority become threatened by a working class political model and often create allies with foreign partners to hopes to remove Socialist rule through assassination or coup attempts. Socialist reform works towards converging all resources into one pool that is then equally divided to the citizens, this naturally creates conflicts and the nature of this reform creates forceful violent means. Although Socialist thought contends Capitalism and democracy are contradictory and can’t co-exist, Lenin envisions Socialism as using centralized democracy, and accepts industrial means of production. Industrialism is the building bocks of Capitalism; the only minor theoretical difference is the purposes of industrials goals between Socialism and Capitalism. This difference is vital to sustaining socialist priorities but another concern is raised when a centralized democracy is the means of socialist political order. This non consensus (localized) based but internally majority rule. This political structure makes it difficult for foreign interests and corporate interests to subvert it. But it lacks the localized forum and arena of political debate. It often overlooks key social problems because of the lack of citizen involvement. Now to review the historical manifestation of Socialist Theory to enrich the critical understanding of inherent characteristics, tendencies and the level of success with this form of social, political, economic organization. East Germanys transformation into a Socialist state, first took shape in 1948 when large industries and agriculture was shifted away from private ownership and enterprises to centralized state controlled. One of the leading priorities in these reforms had to do with debt caused by the war and to the Soviet Union. Other the next five years of reforms it became clear that these government initiatives proved ineffective and production was at an all time low. Some of the short falls seems to stem from the initial intent behind these reforms. They were political in purpose with a high level hostility directed towards the Industrial- Capitalist West. After failed attempts at centralized governmental controls which included conflicts with landowners, entrepreneurs and farmers alike, in the 1960’s new reforms were implemented strategy’s that were more oriented toward decentralization and specialization development of industries. Unfortunately no improvements became of these initiatives and production and quality of life further decreased. To imply these failing were a direct fault of the political model would be blindly jumping to conclusion. Before looking at Communist principles, we will look at some underlying tendencies and characteristics of a socialist formula. Although Socialist priorities are stated as being in the interest of the working community members, there lacks the vital self-rule component. When power is centralized, decision making becomes obscured and priorities are disproportionately represented. Another reoccurring trait of Socialist states is the use of propaganda, to support sovereignty and feed the population with hate mongering anti-Capitalist propaganda. Socialist leaders use the common man approach to gain populist support form the proletariat population, they also obscure information and control national news/media sources through adjusting information to their parties needs. Although socialism is geared towards social and community needs(health care, education, resource ownership) there is a disconnect in the theory and the fact that citizens have little say in the political forum because of the internalized. Communism is the final stage of development that Marx envisions, a classless state where human freedom and equality would come from direct democracy. He saw that occurring through public uprising. Which sounds dangerious since you’ve just developed a military government with strict regulation on trade and some human freedoms, then Marx proposed that a public uprising will resolve and transform into a communism state. Later Lenin expanded and developed an internal political model called democratic centralism, which would prevent external or extremist interests from gaining majority consensus. To unite the people Marx devised the concept of class consciousness, which would be exemplified in the political circle’s ideologies and further push citizens to reach this state of being. Marx also consistently saw change occurring within the population, in opposed to external sources and methods of change. In the Preamble to the Provisional Rules of the First International in 1864, “That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.” In theory this could happen if self-rule was a functioning throughout the population. How can a state be classless when and manifesting communist characteristics when a separate political class hasn’t been dissolved? Not to say that the direct democratic approach or democratic centralism is completely faulty, but for complete classlessness in a physical, financial and mental manifestation no body of individuals can hold and retain more power or authority over others. In Marist manifesto, he states, “socialism would give way to communism, a classless society in which full collective ownership has been attained and the state no longer plays a role.” This has never happened in history, and most attemptd to transofrm into a full blown communist state is stopped short because of the emerging centralized state Capitalism model that through the process of eliminating all classes forms a new more powerful ruling class. Communist Cuba will be subjected to review, looking at it’s alignment with communist principles, reoccurring tendencies and quality of life of Cuba’s citizens. Fidel Castro became president in 1959 and still is to this day, his group of radicals overthrow the Batista regime with the support of the labor class and students. Although Fidel overthrow an oppressive regime that rigged elections and used violence to control dissidents, over 500 officers of the Batista were executed. This rash use of violence is a sign of total disregard for human rights and freedoms. In the early days of power Fidel, focused on reforming land ownership policies, nationalizing utilities(energy, water) and eliminated the gambling industry. Over the next ten years Castro developed closer ties with the Soviet Union and other Communists, which created increased tension and aggression between Cuba and the U.S who put in place a trade embargo and began initiating coups to overthrow Castro’s government. Cuba further developed based on a the Soviet Union Communist model. The Communist Party of Cuba says they follow centralized democratic principles “decision-making and popular participation occurs within mass organizations, institutionalized by the state” This tesetment is widely refuted, in that the ruling Communist power does not allow other parties in the poltical forum. Polticial dissidents and special interast groups at investigated and approached by the authorities. During the 70’s Cuba supported Soviet military operations in Angola, Ethiopia, Yemen and others and became dependent of there relationship with the Soviet Union who bought up sugar, oil products. The Soviet Union also agreed to subsidize Cuba’s national health and education system for military support and allegiance against the U.S. This allegiance was manifested in propaganda against the U.S and continued support of Soviet interests. When the Soviet Union dissolved and was replaced by common wealth independent states in 1991, Cuba’s partner in trade and financial support was lost. This severely effected production, in that, Cuba’s main trading partner could not assure a stable and constant export market for sugar and oil. The Soviet collapse also had negative repercussions on political confidence and national health coverage. The purpose here is not to out-right decided if this mode of political thought can or can’t work, more so , the concern lies in what we as a people and our natural environment lose from being part of a system. This system(Social-Communism) is based on an industrial framework, where maximizing production, through altering inputs to enhance outputs is the ever-growing goal, but in a sense it cannot be achieved. Industrial goals are goals of compounding growth and increased production. The Industrial system is not reflected in nature, thus it will destroy nature which in turn will destroy homo-sapiens. Another fundamental problem with is historically evident, is the fact that most nation-states that prevailed in building up such a large and complex system did so through exploiting cheap natural resources and cheap labor from other nations. If one looks at India Industrial failing any historian would justly point to the British, who controlled Indian Capital and redirected toward their own Industrial needs and interests. Not only capital but slave labor was a vital component that thrusted Britain’s massive Industrial sectors forward. With all this reveled how can one completely believe in Marxist theories that are based on a ground plan that exploit citizens, nature and other peoples. All Socialist/Communist empires overwhelmingly use propaganda as a means to (mis)inform, create hatred, and/or gain allegiance/alliances. Propaganda is based on non-truth, manipulated or obscured information that benefits one’s interests. Another device is censorship, because of there direct control of media outlets and industry they use this control often to deal with controversies or manage dissident thinkers. Over 100,000,000 people have died in the last 90 years of Socialist rule, more than any other forms of control, even more than fascism.

Through interpreting Capitalism, Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Imperialism and Democratic theory; I will attempt to reveal underlying characteristics and tendencies that these theories all contain and further delve into the real life manifestation of these theories. Colonialism is the act of gaining power and authority in foreign lands to increase One’s Colony, increase capital, resources and military means to further increase colonial dominance and reach. This may include restructuring the country culturally, politically and/or religiously. In 1492 the Americas were first discovered, initially large scale exploration and colonization wasn’t taking place, but from the minimal exploration and European settlements brought disease which killed of a large scale of the natives. Which allowed for increased development and control of land. The French and the British pursued similar agendas when Colonizing parts of Africa and Asia. Colonist thought sees colonization not only beneficial for the colonizer but for the colonize as well. There is no factual proof that countries such as India, Congo, Hawaii have been lifted above their prospective level of stability and quality of life than if they were left to control their own resources, political forum and development process. Although Colonialism is derived from Marxist thought, non-communist nations have used these tactics and similar modes of acquiring resources and political power, including Necolonization and Imperialism. The latter is the modern day form of colonization; which uses economic, financial and trade policies to control and restructure undeveloped countries. A clear example of these tactics include Belgium’s supposed decolonization of Congo, yet they still control over 70% of Congo’s natural resources. The mode of conduct is not between country relations, it stems from massive corporate institutions (whose shareholders are strictly large multi-national corporate entities) The dominate institutions in question include WTO (World Trade Organization) WB (World Bank) IMF (International Monetary Fund) among others. They hold massive global power both political and economically. Which is used to alter national and international trade, agricultural and patented laws. In doing this they open new markets, which in turn they work to control and adjust according to their financial needs and needs of their partners. They approach nations with opportunities to loan large sums of money for economic growths sake, and in turn control these countries politically and economically activities through economic restructuring agreements and the massive debt these countries accumulate due to there inability to pay of high foreign interests rate, which further increases their instability and willingness to accept the Neocolonizers demands. The end result of the Neoclonized country is increased poverty, increased environmental and ecological degradation. (Unlike Colonialization, which is a broad-based approach to improve one’s National geopolitical interests.)

Imperialism is similar to Neocolonialism, in that a countries agenda when developing relations with a foreign countries is to seek an internal partnership through either direct investment, market absorption (becoming a dominant if not an exclusive partner in trade and finance) through direct investment to gain control of national industries, trade policy influence and increased political involvement/controls. Another form of Imperialism may take shape by saturating a foreign market with exporting (i.e. Americana merchandise) products not designed to the tastes and needs of a foreign peoples. It was Lenin’s belief that Imperialism was the highest most most developed state of Capitalism. If this strategic orientation is properly executed the foreign country will most likely experience local culture degradation which will put pressure on local sectors (organic farming, weaving, woodwork, tailors, natural medicines etc) In times of heated political climate or aggressive global competition, world powers will use imperialistic tactics such as: military pressures, assassins of political leaders, and coups. In both dominate forms of political control, which hold implicit or explicit controls on media outlets, there is little mainstream coverage of underlying military intentions and true levels of success; facts are obscured, information involving government led assassination attempts are kept classified, and coups attempts are kept out of mainstream media sources. The engine which keeps imperialism expanding and functioning is the ever growing competition staged by both nations and multinational corporations that use all available tactics at their disposal.

The two models in question (Communism, Capitalism) through juxtaposing them truths and commonalities amongst them are illuminated. Both governing bodies use violent means to gain control (short term), ‘mis’educate, and gain support and alliances (long term). After power is established within a body of government there is an increase of the development of implicit and explicit forms of propaganda used on the population. Propaganda is used so explicitly one loses any reference point to objectively reach a conclusion. Because it is used to persuade an audience in believing specific ideas or initiatives in a biased fashion it raises serious ethical and moral concerns. The next level of violence which effects man both physically and mentally would be environmental degradation and decreased biodiversity through unsustainable development and resources extraction processes. The physical violence is so broad and far reaching that our current understanding on the severity of it’s impacts is miniscule. One way to understand the importance of biodiversity, for example in a mono-diverse and fragile ecosystem there is high-instability and all inhabitants (plant, animal and man) of the ecosystem have a higher susceptibility to disease, parasites and outbreaks. As in most instances of violence the poor, minority, aboriginals and voiceless (animals, plants) suffer. One recurring example would be Nuclear or biochemical power plants that pose dangers to communities are typically built in and around the proximity of poor communities. Which is a clear sign of misrepresentation, which is both evident in Capitalist and Socialist models. Through the use of pesticides and Herbicides, which negatively effect biodiversity and soil quality; the chemical use is indiscriminatingly used through processes that endanger field workers and poison the local water supply. Something important that most be noted, currently while Capitalism is progressively increasing competition, risk taking and the disparity between rich and poor classes, social-democratic models in South America are emerging into a more Nationalistic and protectionist state where national resources are being used exclusively for national interests, which predominantly are national education and health care. The main concerns are still embedded in propaganda devices and violent tendencies towards citizens and foreign communities alike.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Google Yields to China's censorship demands - Q & A with me at protest

Written by Amy Chung, News Editor
Wednesday, 22 February 2006
Google yields to China's censorship demandsSearch-engine behemoth Google Inc. was served with divorce papers from angry protesters, criticizing the company's recent deal with the Chinese government to censor the Internet. On Valentine's Day, demonstrators around the world protested their dismay with the launch of Google.cn, that would censor contentious topics that would undermine the Chinese government. "They [Google] designed a search engine for the Chinese government . . . the search engine is designed so that the Chinese government has complete control of all the information . . . if they [Chinese] search online for things like Falun Gong, Tibet or Tiannamen Square, it would not show up," says Luke Madoni, a member of Students for a Free Tibet at George Brown College. Madoni was shackled to a table with a gag over his mouth. He was handing out "fast-track" divorce papers for bystanders to sign, symbolizing their dismay with the Chinese censorship, especially since the company has had a reputation for being socially responsible. Madoni and over a dozen Tibetan protestors and supporters braved the cold outside Google's offices in downtown Toronto, chanting "Freedom of information in Tibet" and "Google, Google, don't be evil." Madoni further adds that Internet users in China are constantly monitored and dissidents can potentially be prosecuted. He explains that people are being jailed for searching information that pertains to democratic rights, Tibet issues, Chinese democracy and political parties. "When they search about these issues, they [Chinese] will get lots of misinformation [in the results]," says Madoni. Other search-engine giants like Yahoo and Microsoft (msn.com) have also been criticized for their collaboration with the Chinese government by the United States Congress. It was revealed that Yahoo released user information to the Chinese government that led to the eight-year prison sentence of writer Li Zhi in 2003 and Shi Tao, who was sentenced for 10 years. Yahoo's counsel stated they did not know people were going to be imprisoned and were obligated to comply with Chinese authorities. "They [companies] have not made any attempt to stand up to the demands made to them by China. That's where the grounds have to be for changing the situation," says Carole Channer, China country co-ordinator for Amnesty Canada. According to Channer, Yahoo has come up with a revised set of principles they are going to be operating by, but suggests for change to happen, web companies need to stand up to China. "China is going to impose whatever censorship they deem is necessary to protect its power and its policies and it's up to the companies to stand up to this. Companies have just caved in shamelessly to China's demands," says Channer. She says it would be difficult in the short-term to do this, but the Chinese are not as advanced as Western countries when it comes to information technology and this is to the advantage of companies. "These companies need to get together — China would need to make some concessions, but if these companies don't even try, then of course, China's going to dictate the terms to them," says Channer. Critics say Google's deal with China defeats their motto of "Don't be evil" but representatives from the company say, "‘Don't be evil' means don't be illegal," saying they have to abide by the country's policies and it is better to have Google there than to not have it at all. However, Madoni disagrees, as there would be repercussions in the future. "[This is] dangerous because you will have a huge population that will have a lot of misinformation." Google was recently subpoenaed by the United States government for refusing to comply with their demands for Google to hand over more than a million search records to help them with a federal law called the Child Online Protection Act. Google said this would undermine their users trust and compromise their business secrets. -For alternative search-engines, visit www.noluv4google.com.

Article from Now Magizine (pic of me right hand corner) Students For Free Tibet protest

Protestors say Google was Tibet's last source of free info until it signed a deal with China's rulers.
By Alex Felipe
Gagging on Google
Web giant gets hit with boycott for bowing to Chinese censors
What do oral sex and the Dalai Lama have in common? Neither can be found on the new filtered Google in China and Tibet.
The pact between Google and China's rulers announced in late January means the company has finally succumbed to market pressures, joining Yahoo and Microsoft in limiting the flow of info for China's 100 million-plus Internet users.
Tibet activists the world over have responded by launching a boycott of everyone's favourite search engine. In Toronto recently, supporters of the Dalai Lama gathered at the windwhipped foot of the TD Tower, where Google has a local office, and called on the company to undo the agreement.
Tibet is now a "gagged state," Gompo Dorjee, head of Students for a Free Tibet, tells me, though I can hardly hear him over the shouts of "Don't be evil, don't be evil" as angry demonstrators mock the company's motto.
Indeed, anti-China types are having a field day with Google's high-minded code of conduct. "Being a different kind of company means... making sure that our core values inform our conduct in all aspects of our lives as Google employees," it states.
Core values or no core values, Tibet is now virtually isolated. "All radio stations have been jammed in Tibet," Dorjee says passionately. "The only source of information is published by the government. There are no independent newspapers in Tibet, not a single independent radio source. The Web was very much monitored, but sometimes we did get through accidentally. Now that is gone as well."
The technology required for such fig-leafing will be familiar to those who have checked parental controls on their Web browser or used a spam filter. Unfortunately, as the people of Tibet are finding out, this same technology when applied at the server end of the info flow can be used not only to bowdlerize any sensitive information, but also to completely disrupt connections via e-mail to the diaspora.
Prior to its recent capitulation, Google, unlike Yahoo and Microsoft, maintained an open if sporadic Web flow into China by keeping its servers outside the country. Under the new agreement, its new in-country servers provide a much more reliable flow – but only of censored material.
NOW left several requests for comment at Google's California head office, but no response was forthcoming at press time. However, a company statement puts its dilemma this way: "We aren't happy about what we had to do, and we hope that over time everyone in the world will come to enjoy full access to information. We are convinced that the Internet and its continued development through the efforts of companies like Google will effectively contribute to openness and prosperity in the world."
At present, all Net news about Tibet, Taiwan, the Falun Gong, the Tiananmen Square massacre, China's pro-democracy movement and even health info will be sanitized. And sending e-mail critical of corruption among local officials can get you serious time in a Chinese prison. Currently, there are 21 cyber-dissidents in Chinese jails, and and at least one of them was put there by info supplied by Yahoo.
Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang has confirmed his company' s cooperation in the case against Shi Tao, a Chinese reporter jailed for 10 years for criticizing corruption among local officials.
Says Yahoo media relations spokesperson Mary Osako, "All U.S. and international firms operating in China face the same dilemma of complying with laws that lack transparency, and that can have disturbing consequences inconsistent with our own beliefs. These issues are larger than one company or even one industry."
So what is left of the Internet after you've blocked pornography, freedom of expression, health care info and access to most Western media sites, including the BBC and CNN? Propaganda, actually.
A group called OpenNet Initiative illustrates the problem (http://www.opennetinitiative.net/) by showing dual results for searches, on one side of the page those obtained from the standard Google engine, and beside it those from Google.cn. I tried typing in "Falun Dafa" and discovered that while Google offers 1.98 million results in all languages, Google.cn whittles it down to 625. None of these appear to be in Chinese. A limited sampling of them suggests they're all denunciations of the group.
So is it time to start calling it the dis-internet? I hope not. So do Google and its fellow colluders Yahoo and Microsoft. But their Trojan horse argument – just get even a limited version of the Internet into the walled city and eventually its true potential will overflow – cuts both ways.
Just get a little totalitarianism into the Internet and suddenly your Web can be used to catch more flies. Repression, disconnection and moral sex for all.
While the freezing wind nearly rips the "Tibet will be free" placard from one of the demonstrator's hands, it's easy to feel helpless. But as Dorjee explains, Internet users need not be complicit in the policies of the offending search engines. Check the sidebar. Plenty of others would love your business.