Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Kenneth Eng & The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism

In this pathbreaking book sociologists Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin examine, for the first time in depth, racial stereotyping and discrimination daily faced by Asian Americans long viewed by whites as the “model minority.” Drawing on more than 40 field interviews across the country, they examine the everyday lives of Asian Americans in numerous different national origin groups. Their data contrast sharply with white-honed, especially media, depictions of racially untroubled Asian American success. Many hypocritical whites make sure that Asian Americans know their racially inferior “place” in U.S. society so that Asian people live lives constantly oppressed and stressed by white racism. The authors explore numerous instances of white-imposed discrimination faced by Asian Americans in a variety of settings, from elementary schools to college settings, to employment, to restaurants and other public accommodations. The responses of Asian Americans to the U.S. racial hierarchy and its rationalizing racist framing are traced—with some Asian Americans choosing to conform aggressively to whiteness and others choosing to resist actively the imposition of the U.S. brand of anti-Asian oppression. This book destroys any naïve notion that Asian Americans are universally “favored” by whites and have an easy time adapting to life in this still racist society.

See an interview with Rosalind S. Chou at Rosalind S. Chou Interview
  • • In this pathbreaking book sociologists Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin examine, for the first time in depth, racial stereotyping and discrimination faced by Asian Americans.
  • Their data contrast sharply with white-honed, especially media, depictions of racially untroubled Asian American success.
  • Long viewed by whites as the “model minority,” many hypocritical whites make sure that Asian Americans know their racially inferior “place” in U.S. society and live lives constantly oppressed and stressed by white racism.
  • The authors explore numerous instances of white-imposed discrimination faced by Asian Americans in a variety of settings, from elementary schools to college settings, to employment, to restaurants and other public accommodations.
  • The responses of Asian Americans to the U.S. racial hierarchy and its rationalizing racist framing are traced—with some Asian Americans choosing to conform aggressively to whiteness and others choosing to resist actively this anti-Asian oppression.
  • This book destroys any naïve notion that Asian Americans are universally “favored” by whites and have an easy time adapting to life in this still racist society.
Rosalind S. Chou spent six years working at a nonprofit camp for at-risk girls before moving to Texas in 2005 for graduate studies in sociology at Texas A&M University and to play rugby for the Austin Valkyries.
Joe R. Feagin is Professor of sociology at Texas A&M University. He is author of 52 books, including Black in Blue: African-American Police Officers and Racism (Taylor and Francis 2007); and, most recently, Two-Faced Racism: White in the Backstage and Frontstage (Routledge 2007).
“The authors show how the ‘model minority’ is a myth, too inaccurate to be useful. They reveal how it reflects invidious assumptions and is abused for political purposes. Anyone who cares about Asian Americans—indeed, who is interested in the dynamics of diversity—should be interested in this detailed critique. Very highly recommended.”
—Frank H. Wu, author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White

“Through a compelling analysis of white racism experienced by Asian Americans in their everyday lives, Chou and Feagin offer a powerful examination of the psychological and emotional burdens imposed by racism in contemporary society.”
—Leland T. Saito, University of Southern California

“Most Americans believe Asian Americans are content, do not suffer from discrimination, and are all in the path to whiteness. Bravo to the authors for bringing to the fore the racial oppression endured by Asian Americans!”
—Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Duke University

“This book captures how individual Asian Americans encounter racial hostility and discrimination in a variety of social and institutional spaces, and the distinct ways they strategically respond to such treatment. Some respondents resign themselves to situations while others challenge and actively resist stereotyping, inequitable treatment, and harassment. But as Chou and Feagin convincingly argue, all are both blessed and cursed with the ‘double consciousness’ shaped by a pervasive ‘white racial frame.’”
—Michael Omi, University of California–Berkeley

“As an often invisible and silent minority, Asian Americans can at last find voice in this brilliant book that recognizes the reality of their experience. The courage, nobility, and honesty of the authors will assist all involved in the struggle for equity and inclusion.”
—Edna B. Chun, Broward Community College


Preface and Acknowledgments

1 The Reality of Asian American Oppression

2 Everyday Racism: Anti-Asian Discrimination in Public Places

3 Everday Racism: Anti-Asian Discrimination in Schools and Workplaces

4 The Many Costs of Anti-Asian Discrimination

5 Struggle and Conformity: The White Racial Frame

6 Acts of Resistance

7 Reprise and Conclusions


I started looking even more closely into this issue after doing some research on science fiction, and coming across the controversial case of Kenneth Eng. I understand that at the time he achieved notoriety, Eng was among the youngest persons to have ever had a science fiction novel published. Naturally I cannot endorse the views he espouses in the following interview, but I am more objectively able to view this series of events in terms of some pretty selective filtering, and perhaps even obliviousness, by the Australian news media (in fact I can't recall any Australian media outlet reporting this story). Eng was also known to have not only remarked that he understood why the [Korean American] perpetrator of the Virginia Tech Massacre committed such a violent act, but that he would have liked to have switched places with him if given the opportunity. I understand that Eng was subsequently committed to a secure mental health facility for a period after threatening a neighbour, and at least as far as I know, he hasn't written anything else since.
But all this background information only leaves me wondering if Science Fiction Studies has, or letalone could even consider, studying Eng's novel more closely? How would it be classified and critically evaluated with respect to the existing paradigms in sci fi? I've seen references to David L Eng's Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America in relation to various literary works, but have yet to find anyone who looks at Kenneth Eng through anything other than the liberal lens of the popular news media; i.e. as nothing more than a case of individual pathology or a cynical attempt to generate publicity.

Disco Marxism

I'm conscious of not wanting to appear as if my post on the Continental philosophy blogosphere was merely shadowboxing with any of the substantive issues such a mode of reasoning might potentially raise. Therefore I think it incumbent on me to also map out the two of the basic options it makes available. I wonder only if each eventually coalesces with my typology of the noosphere. Simon Critchley has made a case that one should ideally set out to avoid espousing what he describes as "Disco Marxism", as briefly explained in the following clip:

Critchley has elaborated on this position in the edited collection, Radical Democracy. From my initial inspection of the contents, there is some potential compatibility with the expressed preference on this blog for utilising the critical concept of the public sphere (as discussed in one chapter by Laclau). But I'm yet to discover any convergence with the emphasis in social theory on cosmopolitan public spheres as necessary in the negotiation of global cultural identities. It is not clear to me that general references to "difference" are up to the job. In this respect, Pheng Cheah's work on cosmopolitics could mark a more convincing intervention of a Continental perspective, in light of the fact that he has also considered Chinese cosmopolitanism, and finds the Habermasian vision wanting on account of its [alleged] Eurocentric view that solidarity can be evoked by entwining national and global public spheres. A long time ago I posted an audio of Gerard Delanty talking about cosmopolitanism, and I know he has done subsequent work on Europe and Asia: Beyond East and West, so I suspect he is mindful of critiques of Habermas, and notwithstanding their differences, one thing that connects them is a willingness to include empirical work, thereby moderating the tendencies that can be found in the noosphere, and by association, Disco Marxism.
However, the latter point requires some qualification, as the 2 authors which dominate the Continental blogosphere, Deleuze and Zizek, can in some sense be put to work against the presumptions of Disco Marxism. I've just referenced an article by Wark, and I do not endorse his own use of Debord and Deleuze as any great advance over the forms of cultural studies he critiques in the piece. I do, however, suggest the piece is useful in setting out the basic telling conceptual differences between Disco Marxism, lack and abundance, which I imagine would be accepted as a conventional characterisation by the Continental blogosphere.
Be this as it may, it does not dissuade me from wanting to further pursue the mapping of this blogosphere as discussed in my earlier post. Therefore I remain interested in its conditions of emergence and dissemination, and stand by my noting of the characteristic lack of empirical robustness. It can still be said that the Continental philosophy/cultural studies blogosphere functions as depicted in The Matrix, with an Agent Smith running amok through the network, converting everyone into a clone of Zizek and Deleuze.

I had no idea what Wark was talking about in his piece when he complains about the imperative to always be "resisting something", so I sought solace instead in this vivid illustration of Herbert Marcuse's vision (think Eros and Civilization particularly):

How Kevin Bacon cured cancer

This interesting program, which was clearly intended to popularise science, screened on the ABC last night. Disappointingly though, sociology was conspicuous only by its absence (and the same could be said of the graph theory of Leonard Euler). Network science was heralded as "the science of the 21st century", and Duncan J Watts provided a major focus for the program. Now I just happen to also own a copy of Watts' book, Six Degrees: the Science of a Connected Age, in which an intellectual debt to sociology is frankly acknowledged. Simmel is specifically mentioned on account of his theory of triads as the fundamental unit of group structure (p58), and this long sociological pedigree extends right through to today, as evidenced by the Journal of Mathematical Sociology and actor network theory.
Elsewhere on this blog I have referred to actor network theory in critical terms, which by extension makes me less sanguine than the makers of this documentary that network science is going to necessarily have a positive democratising effect by reminding us all that every problem is essentially a "small world" problem because of our interconnections. Indeed, the program counteracts its own intentions in these respects by demonstrating the increasing penetration of network science into the Westpoint Military Academy. Its proselytisers at Westpoint even credit it with helping them to capture Saddam Hussein.
Another point of interest for me was how it is particular hubs, or nodal points if preferred, that are instrumental in how a network distributes its flow of information. By extension, referencing my earlier post, one could use BlogPulse as a bibliometric tool to determine the major hubs in the Continental philosophy blogosphere, by tracking conversations to see who most consistently captures the attention space in the first instance.
But I should finish by returning to my point that the program was not reflexive enough to situate its complicity in maintaining the hegemony of science as a public discourse. Watts mentions Asimov's Foundation series in his book, Asimov's novels positively reference sociology, and another scientist mentions Asimov again [without mentioning sociology] in the film, reminding us that we are living in a world where science, and even science fiction, are afforded more public legitimacy than sociology. Although that thought is quite depressing, it is still worth watching the program as evidence of the phenomenon of homophily, where that which is similar tends to cluster in a network. I regard homophily as a heuristic relative of the term I like to bandy about, seriality.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Oscar-nominated documentary about the war in Iraq is available for free

The Oscar-nominated documentary “No End in Sight,” which chronicles the early months of the American occupation of Iraq, will be available on YouTube starting Monday and continuing through the presidential election on Nov. 4. Charles Ferguson, the director of the film, which won the Documentary Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, said in a statement that he had underwritten its screening on YouTube because “I wanted to make the film, and the facts about the occupation of Iraq, accessible to a larger group of people.” He added, “My hope is that this will contribute to the process of making better foreign policy decisions moving forward in Iraq and elsewhere.”

The New York Times

M is for Military Keynesianism
Chalmers Johnson on American Hegemony

Massive US military budget passed

Last days of the American Republic?

The encirclement of Russia

Obama, McCain and the Empire


Friday, 24 October 2008

The Continental Philosophy Blogosphere: Noosphere or Public Sphere?

I'm deep in the throes of editing a paper for an academic economics journal, so my thoughts here will have to be impressionistic and require future unpacking. But I'm in a playful mood and need to unwind for a moment. Suffice to say, I'm struck of late by the serial effect of so much of what passes for critical analysis in the blogosphere: take the latest Continental philosopher who refers to "capital", and then apply said reading method to the film, dubstep album etc of your choice. In my earlier "Crash" post I touched on a few characteristics of the kind of "interpretive community" that may have generated these tendencies, and I've wondered ever since if they could bear closer examination in terms of a sociology of knowledge, or the perspective I'm more familiar with, social epistemology.

The questions asked would need to be reflexive ones about why these people blog, which should ideally help to elucidate any commonalities between them. It would also have to be determined why this reading method has proliferated to the point where it seems to be the preferred option when it comes to sociocultural theory in the blogosphere. A cynic might argue that it has to do with Donald Campbell's infamous "fish scale model of omniscience", where those who conduct the least amount of empirical research are particularly suited to the mobile conditions of a network society. When such individuals have tenureship, one can expect to find them disproportionately represented at international conferences. When there is no tenureship, cyberspace substitutes as the preferred space for generating network connectivity. Crosscutting both situations, however, is the tendency for depth of knowledge to explode in direct proportion to interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary mobility.

What typologies could potentially be used to draw the relevant distinctions? As I see it, there are essentially 3 choices. Surprisingly, in a moment of rare lucidity, Slavoj Zizek has managed to sketch 2 of these, which could serve as heuristic devices when investigating the blogosphere of Continental philosophy. In his words:

If I understand this point of a one-mind-entity correctly, then it's a version of cyberspace I didn't mention. I first of all mentioned the deconstructionist version of cyberspace which is this post-Cartesian one: Each of us can play with his/her identities and so forth. This is the feminist, deconstructionist, Foucaultian version. But as you probably know there is another, let's call it the New Age school of cyberspace-ideology. It is this neo-Jungian idea that we live in an age of mechanistic, false individualism and that we are now on the threshold of a new mutation...
...the Noosphere...
Slavoj Zizek: Yes, that's precisely the idea. We all share one collective mind.
The first alternative is clear enough, but I'm wondering if the second has any explanatory power when it comes to understanding the curious phenomenon in which capitalism is portrayed as increasingly emancipated from human agency, and that it is this inherent tendency that might explain its current dysfunction? I suspect the answer would be "yes", insofar as the Continental response, for all of its rhetorical appeal to complexity, merely complements the widespread disenchantment with human subjectivity as the driver of change on the contemporay scene. We are typically presented with portrayals of the "alien" nature of capital, which affords the Continental commentariat the luxury of just in effect sitting back and anticipating how the disaster will play itself out. Only at that point may the rising crescendo of voices proclaim the emergence of a "new mutation"; in Deleuzian terms, for example, something like "a non facialised individual", and/or a realisation of the promise of "the multitude" (Hardt & Negri). If these preliminary speculations are amenable to further analysis, then their provenance might also be traced back even further.
For example, here is how the social epistemologist Steve Fuller interprets the opportunism of the Continental movement [sic]:

Intellectual pathologies of our times I: Continental philosophy

Generally speaking, today’s stereotype of the intellectual is the continental philosopher – a quasi-literary, somewhat deep figure of French or German origin. The origin of this image is normally traced the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, who regarded himself as a ‘universal intellectual’, very much on the model of an Enlightenment figure like Voltaire. However, this image came under serious reconstruction after the disappointments of the student revolts in the 1960s. At this point Michel Foucault emerges as a downsized and more academicised version of the Sartrean intellectual. Here we shall explore how continental philosophy provides intellectual rationalisation for political impotence that has spread to cover a wide range of movements, including feminism.
The third alternative is one which I am more familiar and sympathetic with. What needs to be determined here is the extent to which the blogosphere can be modelled on a public sphere. Unlike the Continentals, it is a perspective less preoccupied with the complexities of "the virtual", than the development of new concepts and their practical, collective applications, such as "information war". A key figure here is Frank Webster, who is one of the most renowned, sociologically influenced, critics of the idea of "the information society". A further advantage of his work is that it spares one from the option of having to endure the crude polemicism that oftentimes features in exchanges between the Continental blogosphere and its opponents. Like Fuller then, Webster has developed a detailed system of thought which offers the promise of constructive criticism when engaging with the mediation of ICTs by capitalist interests.
I did once come across a superb Adorno quote from Minima Moralia that speaks to the sense of how the historical moment can give the tenured Continental philosopher an innate sense that they are a fraud (which I'll have to track down again). It's particularly frightening when this sense of powerlessness is compensated for by the overzealous marking of students' work. The image which came to my mind was of some of the younger dons, who are more likely to perceive students as future competition, thereby increasing a feeling of insecurity, as resembling Jack Torrance in The Shining; except in the philosopher's case the university substitutes for the Overlook Hotel. In each scenario, the place where they toil merely teases out the innate destructive capacities by giving them a space for their free reign. Word counts and body counts hence become indistinguishable as writing transmutes into a form of serial violence repeated ad infinitum (Mark Seltzer style)........
But rather than end on such a pessimistic note, I can at least report that my preliminary research on the noosphere has yielded an interesting science fiction find: the anime, intriguingly titled, in light of my last remarks, Serial Experiments Lain. I hope I can track it down some time.

Oh yes, and I can't forget about some other pertinent observations concerning the death of libertarianism at this point in our economic history. It would follow that seasteading is merely a retreat into degenerate utopia once the signs of market failure have become too obvious to ignore (and in the case of the seasteaders, too obvious to deal with).

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The Market Meltdown: The Bailout, the Economics of Inequality and the Election

The Market Meltdown: The Bailout, the Economics of Inequality and the Election
with Barbara Ehrenreich, Dean Baker, Jared Bernstein and Chuck Collins

A discussion of economic inequality, market instability and the 2008 presidential race.

View this engaging discussion with four progressive economic thinkers. Why is our economy in the current crisis? What was the role of the housing bubble? Is the bailout proposed by the Bush Administration going to address the problem? What should we do?

Barbara Ehrenreich, IPS senior scholar and New York Times Bestselling Author. Barbara’s current book is This Land is Your Land: Reports from a Divided Nation.

Dean Baker, Co-Director, Center for Economic Policy Research. Dean has been actively promoting progressive responses to the Wall Street bailout. Author of The Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use Government to Get Richer and Stay Richer.

Jared Bernstein, Director, Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute; Jared’s latest book is Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed? (And Other Unsolved Economic Mysteries).

Moderator: Chuck Collins, senior scholar at IPS and coordinating of the Working Group on Extreme Inequality ( Author of The Moral Measure of the Economy.

The Working Group on Extreme Inequality

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Bling: A Planet Rock

BLING is a 90’ documentary film which focuses on the complex relationship between “blood” diamonds, conflict, the influence of Hip-Hop music and culture, and community development. Produced by VH1 Rock Docs, Article 19 Films and the United Nations Development Programme, the film features the participation of Hip-Hop artists from the US and Sierra Leone.

During the filming in Sierra Leone in July 2006, hip-hop artists Pall Wall and Raekown from the Wu-Tang Clan and reggaeton idol Tego Calderon visited diamond mines, refugee and amputee camps, as well as met with children who were victims of the war. The artists also met with top government officials, as well as local hip-hop artists. From the conversations with representatives of UNDP, UNAIDS, the EU and NGOs they learned about the history of the blood diamonds trade and its role in wars across Africa. The artists were introduced to all the new initiatives such as the Kimberley Process, D4D and the Diamonds Development Initiative (DDI - launched by Partnership Africa Canada, Global Witness and De Beers), the goal of which is to stabilize and regulate the clean diamond trade and enforce its role in development.

The experiences of the artists/unconscious consumers exposed a vulnerable side of hip-hop, which is rarely seen. The trip also affected the artists profoundly.

BLING has a unique style and tone, which aims to catch the attention of young viewers, encourage them to become responsible consumers and show that hip-hop has the potential to be a coalescing force of our generation.

UNDP Bling: A Planet Rock

US state plays role of defending global financial system; it had to act in the crisis
Leo Panitch

After President Bush signed the controversial bailout bill into law, Paul Jay, Senior Editor of The Real News Network, talked with Leo Panitch, the Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and a Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, to get his analysis of the situation.

'Free markets' depend on state intervention Pt1/4

PANITCH: When you're defending a Wall Street institution, you're not just defending that one institution; you're defending all of the people who expect that their money will get paid back from those Wall Street institutions, which is a much, much wider and larger part of the globe. It's partly to do with the pension funds that workers have that, you know, need to be met by those institutions; it has to do with all the world's capital that's invested through those banks. So you're not just, you know, dealing with you're going to save that bank. In fact, for the most part they've let the shareholders go under. You know, in that sense, the shareholder's taking a hit for every one of these corporations. They've all taken a hit. But who's been saved are the people who have assets in these banks. And that's what's been saved. That's a much larger group than these particular Wall Street banks. In that sense the United States, in playing that role, is playing the role of guaranteeing to capital that they will be able to get assets out of New York and, more broadly, out of London.

JAY: So you think they didn't really have a choice.

PANITCH: They had to act. There's no question. And in any case, you know, any understanding of the nature of a capitalist state would lead you to know that they would act. It's the illusion that the state somehow stands apart from capitalism, is not part of capitalism; it stands outside of it. It's all this misunderstanding when we speak of states versus markets. These markets are full of power, asymmetric power, very unequal power, and those power is founded on the backing that states give them. The free markets that we know have been made by very active state intervention, and people enter into market activities knowing that states will back up property in those markets. So it's an illusion to think that states are something other than capitalism. When you understand American capitalism, you understand the state is part of it. Federal Reserve and Wall Street, right, need to be seen as part of a whole—sure, in which the Federal Reserve is not acting as a competitor inside the market; it's acting as an overseer of it; more or less regulation in different periods, it's true, but it's an overseer of it.

The cash-out society Pt2/4

JAY: The entire society's sitting around, waiting to cash out, in theory. Most people don't get a chance, but this cash-out mentality—. I heard this term the other day, which I thought was great: a liquidity event. Everyone's waiting for the liquidity event.

PANITCH: For the liquidity event. That's lovely. Exactly. And everybody had confidence in this growth of this asset bubble that has been going on since the early '80s, with constant crises in it, you know, with constant moments of crises. Then the American state would come in and it would throw an enormous liquidity at the crisis, a helicopter would drop it in, and then the thing would take off again. Well, what happened this time was that it really began to unravel in a serious way, and in such a way that because it hit in the mortgage market and in, above all—it's not surprisingly—that portion of the mortgage market that was trying to integrate African-American communities, and Chicano communities, etcetera—.

JAY: Well, this is one of the points you make in your recent article is that they needed and got sections of not just the middle section of the working class but even a poorer section of the working class to buy into the cash-out mentality: get into a house with cheap money, sell it for a fortune later on, and everyone will live happily ever after.

PANITCH: Well, in order to be fair, in order to sustain your income, re-mortgage your house, which a fair number of people did. And a lot of these subprime mortgages were not only got into—and although it was that, it was also re-mortgage your house. Part of that was, if I re-mortgage my house, I can maybe add a room and then sell it for a hell of a lot more money, and part of it was that people consume through that. So, you know, at root this has to do with the fact that American trade unionism was defeated 30 years ago, that the Great Society programs which were [inaudible] the 1960s—.

The financial crisis at the local level Pt3/4

JAY: So what can be done?

PANITCH: So, well, a very radical move is needed here. One needs to go back to remember that the Great Depression really began with municipalities defaulting on their debt, and closing down relief, etcetera. The only thing that can be done is for the federal state to guarantee the bonds at state and local levels, and to guarantee that it will back up a default in any of those. And that would overcome this problem. This is a very radical step.

JAY: Why? Why is it so radical?

PANITCH: Well, because it means that the federal state is taking on a responsibility for spending that would be done by local aldermen and councilors, many of whom they would see as irresponsible, unconstrained, etcetera, etcetera, in the usual balance-the-budget kind of way. And this has a lot to do with what has really been the populist essence to the neoliberal era, to the Reaganite movement, to the free market ideology. It's never been about getting the state out in the sense of backing up capital; it's been about cutting taxes. That's been oriented, of course, substantively towards the rich, towards capitalists, towards the wealthy, and so on. Very true. But it's had this great appeal to people who come to define politics, democracy, their vote in terms of "Will I pay $100 less a year in taxes or a maximum $1,000 less in taxes?"—the ordinary working person. So if you look at the presidential debates, the vice presidential debates, the Canadian election debate, so much of it was bound up with "I will not increase your taxes." And the irrationality of this is staggering, in the sense of if, you know, municipalities are going to go bankrupt, are people really saying that they will not pay $100 more in taxes? And the mentality of it is irrational. But the notion is democracy's about "I use my vote to pay as little as possible," when they, you know, will pay $100 more to Rogers at the bat of an eye without even fighting it, or a cable company.

JAY: Or Time Warner or Comcast.

PANITCH: Or Time Warner. Yes, exactly.

JAY: But isn't there a point that if the federal state, the American state, is going to defend Treasury bonds, perhaps even if under critical circumstances defend even some state or municipal bonds, at what point does that backing up by the state meaningful if they don't raise taxes?


JAY: 'Cause you can't just print money and say, "We're now backing up the bond."

PANITCH: Well, let's remember that during the Second World War you had enormous deficits, the highest in history, and nobody was calling the States' bonds at that moment, because of the enormous deficit, when it came to a major project like that. Moreover, when you have a major recession or a depression, where do capitalists or anybody have to put their money that's safe? In public debt. Right? You know, back in the 1930s, everybody was screaming that Roosevelt was a socialist, all the capitalists, for his union reforms and welfare reforms. They were lending money to the state. They were lending money to all the agencies he'd created to build all the infrastructure, etcetera, etcetera. And that's going to happen again if states are prepared to take this on. That's not to say that there shouldn't be a massive redistribution of wealth through the tax system. Bernie Saunders, the American congressman, in the face of the bailout, was saying you could raise $300 billion by imposing a surtax, a 10 or 20 percent surtax, on all incomes above $500,000, and I totally agree with him, but it doesn't go far enough. They've done away with the estate tax, as they call it in the United States, the wealth tax. We ought to have a wealth tax. I mean, after the enormous inequalities that have grown in wealth over the last 30 years, there ought to be a very major wealth tax.

It's time to make banking a public utility Pt4/4

JAY: And maybe just to get some context, especially for some of the younger people in our audience, there were cities burning in the 1960s. You had the Civil Rights Movement. You had workers demonstrating for their rights and for higher wages. The entire society in North America was at a state of intense conflict.

PANITCH: Yes, and you were sending off young black men, conscripting them and sending them off to the Vietnam War. There was the Black Power movement. And the response more under Lyndon Johnson than under Kennedy was to create the war on poverty, or what was known as the Great Society programs, which involved increasing public expenditure at the same time as you were prosecuting the war in Vietnam at great expense. And that was part of the period of inflationary pressures that public deficits were causing, that workers wage demands were causing, 'cause when workers had full employment, they, you know, felt they could make high wage demands in order to buy everything that they were being told to buy that the good life was all about. And the response in the 1970s—and it was a product of the fact that the United States dollar was the world currency, and on here was the rest of the world holding dollars, and they didn't want their dollars to be devalued by inflation, were demanding of the United States that they cut back on their public expenditure. And they did, and they cut back on it.

JAY: You're talking about the Volcker shock treatment.

PANITCH: They cut back on it even before that, even under Jimmy Carter in 1976-77. And they cut back on public expenditure, but they still had to try to integrate the masses in the cities. They still had the problem of how do you house people. And one of the things they did was to try to integrate them through getting them into the financial system as borrowers. A act which a lot of radicals were pushing—and they didn't mean it in a way that would end up in this crisis that we're now in—was that banks ought to be required to lend to poor people, that they had to lend to those portions of their communities they'd never lent to. Right? And the banks all objected. "What do you mean? We can't lend to poor people. We're not going to be sure we're going to get paid back." They said, "Okay. We'll allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage housing corporations, to create this secondary market in mortgages. They'll buy them off you."

JAY: When the Republicans now critique this, they leave out the extent to which there was social unrest that had to be dealt with.

PANITCH: Well, they leave out the fact that this was actually a poor option relative to the Great Society programs, that it was happening because they were cutting back on welfare, on the Great Society programs, on food stamps, on public expenditure in the cities, etcetera. So in a sense they drove people into, "Okay, you want to deal, you want to be able to buy in our society, get it from the banks." And Clinton made it worse: having bought into neoliberalism as all part of the third way, I mean, partly he said, "I'm being driven into this because of some"—and he used a word we can't use on television, blank-blank-blank 28-year-old bond trader. Right? But once he did, he cut back on welfare. He did away with the American welfare system, Clinton, right? And what he then did was he radicalized this community reinvestment act, radicalized it in the sense of push people further into trying to get mortgages through this. Right? And this created it even more. And then Bush came in and let every shyster in the mortgage system into this as a competitor, completely unregulated; removed the reserve requirements on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who—you know, banks have a 10 percent reserve requirement that they have to loan as cash—they only have to have 2.5 percent rather than 10; and you got this mountain of debt. It isn't the poor people's fault; it's the product of not being willing to have public expenditure. It's a scandal that the United States doesn't have a massive program of public housing.

JAY: So they could have had two strategies here. One is state investment in cheap public housing direct. Get people to borrow money, get into debt, to somehow buy their own housing.

PANITCH: Exactly. And they pushed it through the private sector; they pushed it through private finance. And of course it was the biggest portion—.

JAY: And they were making money on both sides here: they make money on the interest on the debt, and they make money through the asset inflation in the real estate market.

PANITCH: Yeah, until it all blows up in their faces. So, you know, in terms of what is to be done, we need to look at it historically. Sure, there needs to be regulation; sure, the Bush administration should not have allowed every shyster in the mortgage industry in.

JAY: I can't resist doing a Sarah Palin, her doggone, do you want to look back again [inaudible]. Go on.

PANITCH: Yeah. Well, we do. I mean, we need to learn the lessons from mistakes of the past. And we need to go back to public expenditure. Now, I think it is true that, you know, this is a capitalist system, and that will itself create contradictions. So down the road you have to be able to think ambitiously about being prepared for what's going to happen if you're doing redistributed taxation in order to raise that money. If you're pushing out the private sector through public expenditure, what's going to happen in the long run? And I think you have to build support during that process of public expenditure for actually taking the banking system into public hands, making that a public utility. You can't do that right now apart from a bailout. But I think there's enough anger around that you could be building towards it, not just as a bailout, but as this will become a way of redistributing what is produced in our society in a more rationable, more equitable way, will have a banking system that serves a different function.

Monday, 20 October 2008

ZomCon - "A Better Life Through Containment"
Thanks to Zomcon we can all be productive members of society. Even after we die

The ZomCon Corporation (Zombie-Containment) is a privately owned defense company contracted to provide security for the US Government. ZomCon's mission is one of "reclamation" - the cleaning up & cordoning off of territories, fencing off entire towns and communities from roaming zombies, and re-establishing community infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, police/fire services, and stores. ZomCon's Reclaimed/ Protected Suburbs are widely perceived to be the safest places to live and raise a family.

ZomCon has built many "Showcase Suburbs" over the years, complete with the latest in security- surveillance cameras, panic buttons, rogue zombie alarms, public emergency information speakers, and regular armed patrols! In the age of zombies, can you afford to not live in a ZomCon Community?

OTTO; or, Up with Dead People

''Once upon a time, in the not too distant future, there unlived a zombie named Otto. It was a time not much different from today when zombies had become, if not commonplace, then certainly unextraordinary. Zombies had evolved over time and become somewhat more refined. They had developed a limited ability to speak, and more importantly, to reason. Some say it was primarily owing to the fact that the practice of embalming had fallen out of favour. Others say it was simply a natural process of evolution. Each new wave of zombies was beaten down and killed by the living who found them to be an irritating and irksome reminder of their own inescapable mortality, not to mention an echo of their own somnambulistic conformist behaviour. But the few zombies who survived annihilation managed to pass on their intelligence they had acquired to subsequent generations, perhaps through some strange telepathy only shared by the dead. Or perhaps by a clandestine guerrilla activity, born out of resistance against the violent and increasing hostilities of the living".

Saturday, 18 October 2008

"Library. We're open but we are in the middle of a FEMA and FBI practice drill"

"The video and article Antioch Confidential examines the closed control and destabilization of Antioch College by Antioch University. Antioch Confidential documents the damage to educational processes when 'control' is mistaken for 'leadership', and 'command' is confused with "vision." The events taking place at Antioch College are a case study of recent trends in higher education today. The article and video are available for free use by librarians, teachers, educational workers and citizens concerned with the seizure of shared resources for private interests".

"The collapse of the social distance between private space and public knowledge can be seen in the video Antioch Confidential, a companion to this article. Among other things, the video demonstrates a surrealistic mix of control and openness as Antioch College Library staff keep the Library 'open' during a Homeland Security training exercise run by a 'private' military contractor in June, 2007".


Trying to save Antioch College
AKA: What happens when your college "takes too many blows to the head"

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Jumpcut: "Asia Extreme"


Current issue No. 50, spring 2008

Horror's new terrain by Chuck Kleinhans Introduction to horror film section.

Art of branding: Tartan "Asia Extreme" films by Chi-Yun Shin Taking the Tartan "Asia Extreme" label as a fascinating site to explore how the West consumes East Asian cinema, this essay examines the marketing and promotional practices of the most high-profile label amongst the East Asian film providers in the West.
Sentimentality and the cinema of the extreme by Jinhee Choi This essay examines the sentimental "mode" that is shared between sentimentality and brutality manifest in the recent trend of melodrama and extreme cinema.

Audio podcasting now by Julia Lesage An overview of spoken word podcasting and a guide to some interesting podcasts, mostly free

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Capitalism Hits the Fan
A Marxian View

Richard Wolff, a professor of economics at UMass Amherst, talks on the current "financial" crisis and capitialism in general. A form of socialism is presented as a possible alternative. This talk was presented by the Asociation for Economic and Social Analysis and the journal Rethinking Marxism

Monday, 13 October 2008

Preserving virtual worlds

I tried watching Paprika last night, and found it to be a fascinating film. Certainly I recognised the "dream hacking" theme as somewhat comparable to Ghost in the Shell, and the gastropod wreaking havoc at the end reminded me of Akira. But I had a problem sitting still because I was so taken by the vivid colours and the theme of digital interoperability between [me] the viewer and the reflexive digital themes of the film itself, that I was getting up off the sofa every few minutes to photograph the action. I've put up some of my efforts here, and the beauty of Gimp 2 is that there are all manner of effects you can render. "Softglow" is my personal favourite, as it really helps remove distortion from a television image, as can also be seen in the bottom image taken from the latest Grand Theft Auto. Having said that though, I think a bit of graininess is a virtue in the second image, as it connects to the media theme of Paprika, which I've amplified through use of one of Gimp's distorting "lens" effects.
Part of the reason I felt motivated to do this was I think it reconnects to themes of information storage and retrieval, as well as the Matt Hanson type stuff ,that has previously featured on this blog. Who is going to document, store, and then make accessible for future researchers, the vast tracts of virtual geography, especially once their original storage medium becomes out of date? It is a basic problem that explains why information managers generally prefer to speak of "digital persistence" rather than "digital preservation" per se. Hence I was interested to read a report some time ago about the initiative taken by the University of Texas:
The project will establish a repository that, Prof Winget hopes, game makers will come to use as an archive for games.
She also hopes that the project gets game makers thinking about the steps they need to take during game creation to preserve materials.
"We want to raise the consciousness in the industry about how important these records are," said Prof Winget. "I do not think they save anything or it's saved in such a way that they would not be able to recognise the significance of what they are holding."

I'll be endeavouring to trace some of the connections between ludology and the burgeoning interest in neogeography in my future research. On the basis of my initial inspection, it appears that a few enticing trails to follow are signposted with reference to these topics at the Digital Urban blog.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Serial Consign: the White House as "information parsing machine"

During the course of my research on data visualisation I've come across the interesting Serial Consign blog. At this stage I'm yet to assess their willingness to break a few eggs to make an omelette i.e. be more critical than, say, blgblog, when pinpointing which underlying logics could be driving some of these design innovations. This would be the surest means of avoiding a more predictable surrender to avant garde formalism.
In any case, although this piece does not specifically reference Luhmann's systems theory, its subject strikes me as a remarkable realisation in effect of his modelling of the political process (and something I would like to unpack further time permitting). Along with the incredible graphics, one of which I've reproduced here, there is this killer quote:
"This image develops the proposition that the White House could act as an "information parsing machine" and consolidate a steady stream of web-powered polling and demographics and filter these flows of realtime data into content for projection onto the various interior surfaces of the White House. The labRAD scheme serves up this "informatized interior" alongside a flexible plan for managing labour and space based off public opinion. While my inner pragmatist is not entirely convinced by some aspects of this proposal, I respect the fact it approaches redesigning the White House as an exercise in systems management rather than simply delivering a spectacular edifice. Beyond this, there are a diverse range of representational strategies at play within this work that manage to appeal to information visualization purists one moment and read like a graphic novel the next.
You can check out the full proposal via the following
PDF which is archived on the labRAD site."

Thursday, 9 October 2008

"...and a few members were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted no."
What's the Second Act?

Rep. Brad Sherman of California

"Today, Congress approved the $700 billion Wall Street Bailout Bill. Under the Bill, hundreds of billions of dollars will be used to buy toxic assets currently in safes in London, Shanghai, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Bailed out Wall Street firms will use their bail out money to pay million dollars a month salaries, and to even increase them to two million dollars a month. (For details, see paper at

"Our economy will not do well in the months to come, and dropping $700 billion on Wall Street is not going to make things much better. But now Wall Street will use the same fear mongering tactics which were used to pass the Bill, in order to justify the bill.

"In order to pass the Bill, Wall Street declared that unless they received $700 billion in unmarked bills, the Dow would drop by 4,000 points and blood would flow in the streets. The passage of the Bill will have little positive economic effect, and the fall and winter will be bad times for our economy. But in the coming weeks, Wall Street will justify the Bill by saying that we averted those very same calamities they had predicted during their successful effort to create panic, and pass the Bill".

Sherman Statement on Bailout Passage - October 3, 2008

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Statement on Bailout Amendment -- 10/02/2008

Why No Outrage?

"The American people are famously slow to anger, but they are outdoing themselves in long suffering today. In the wake of the 'greatest failure of ratings and risk management ever,' to quote the considered judgment of the mortgage-research department of UBS, Wall Street wears a political bullseye. Yet the politicians take no pot shots.

"Barack Obama, the silver-tongued herald of change, forgettably told a crowd in Madison, Wis., some months back, that he will 'listen to Main Street, not just to Wall Street.' John McCain, the angrier of the two presumptive presidential contenders, has staked out a principled position against greed and obscene profits but has gone no further to call the errant bankers and brokers to account.

"The most blistering attack on the ancient target of American populism was served up last October by the then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, William Poole. 'We are going to take it out of the hides of Wall Street,' muttered Mr. Poole into an open microphone, apparently much to his own chagrin.

"If by 'we,' Mr. Poole meant his employer, he was off the mark, for the Fed has burnished Wall Street's hide more than skinned it. The shareholders of Bear Stearns were ruined, it's true, but Wall Street called the loss a bargain in view of the risks that an insolvent Bear would have presented to the derivatives-laced financial system. To facilitate the rescue of that system, the Fed has sacrificed the quality of its own balance sheet. In June 2007, Treasury securities constituted 92% of the Fed's earning assets. Nowadays, they amount to just 54%. In their place are, among other things, loans to the nation's banks and brokerage firms, the very institutions whose share prices have been in a tailspin. Such lending has risen from no part of the Fed's assets on the eve of the crisis to 22% today. Once upon a time, economists taught that a currency draws its strength from the balance sheet of the central bank that issues it. I expect that this doctrine, which went out with the gold standard, will have its day again.

"Wall Street is off the political agenda in 2008 for reasons we may only guess about. Possibly, in this time of widespread public participation in the stock market, 'Wall Street' is really 'Main Street.' Or maybe Wall Street, its old self, owns both major political parties and their candidates. Or, possibly, the $4.50 gasoline price has absorbed every available erg of populist anger, or -- yet another possibility -- today's financial failures are too complex to stick in everyman's craw."

Through history, outrageous financial behavior has been met with outrage. But today Wall Street's damaging recklessness has been met with near-silence, from a too-tolerant populace, argues James Grant

2008 Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader discusses the passage of the bailout bill. Waterbury, Connecticut - October 4, 2008

"The First Brigade of the Third Infantry Division, three to four thousand soldiers, has been deployed in the United States as of October 1. Their stated mission is the form of crowd control they practiced in Iraq, subduing 'unruly individuals,' and the management of a national emergency. I am in Seattle and heard from the brother of one of the soldiers that they are engaged in exercises now. Amy Goodman reported that an Army spokesperson confirmed that they will have access to lethal and non lethal crowd control technologies and tanks.

"George Bush struck down Posse Comitatus, thus making it legal for military to patrol the U.S. He has also legally established that in the 'War on Terror,' the U.S. is at war around the globe and thus the whole world is a battlefield. Thus the U.S. is also a battlefield.

"He also led change to the 1807 Insurrection Act to give him far broader powers in the event of a loosely defined "insurrection" or many other "conditions" he has the power to identify. The Constitution allows the suspension of habeas corpus -- habeas corpus prevents us from being seized by the state and held without trial -- in the event of an 'insurrection.' With his own army force now, his power to call a group of protesters or angry voters "insurgents" staging an 'insurrection' is strengthened".

"Thousands of Troops Are Deployed on U.S. Streets Ready to Carry Out 'Crowd Control'"
By Naomi Wolf, AlterNet. Posted October 8, 2008.

"A little-noticed story surfaced a couple of weeks ago in the Army Times newspaper about the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team. 'Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months,' reported Army Times staff writer Gina Cavallaro, 'the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.' Disturbingly, she writes that 'they may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control' as well.

"The force will be called the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive Consequence Management Response Force. Its acronym, CCMRF, is pronounced 'sea-smurf.' These 'sea-smurfs,' Cavallaro reports, have 'spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle,' in a combat zone, and now will spend their 20-month 'dwell time'—time troops are required to spend to 'reset and regenerate after a deployment'—armed and ready to hit the U.S. streets.

"The Army Times piece includes a correction stating that the forces would not use nonlethal weaponry domestically. I called Air Force Lt. Col. Jamie Goodpaster, a public-affairs officer for Northern Command. She told me that the overall mission was humanitarian, to save lives and help communities recover from catastrophic events. Nevertheless, the military forces would have weapons on-site, 'containerized,' she said—that is, stored in containers—including both lethal and so-called nonlethal weapons. They would have mostly wheeled vehicles, but would also, she said, have access to tanks. She said that any decision to use weapons would be made at a higher level, perhaps at the secretary-of-defense level.

"The Army Times piece includes a correction stating that the forces would not use nonlethal weaponry domestically. I called Air Force Lt. Col. Jamie Goodpaster, a public-affairs officer for Northern Command. She told me that the overall mission was humanitarian, to save lives and help communities recover from catastrophic events. Nevertheless, the military forces would have weapons on-site, 'containerized,' she said—that is, stored in containers—including both lethal and so-called nonlethal weapons. They would have mostly wheeled vehicles, but would also, she said, have access to tanks. She said that any decision to use weapons would be made at a higher level, perhaps at the secretary-of-defense level.

"Talk of trouble on U.S. streets is omnipresent now, with the juxtaposition of Wall Street and Main Street. The financial crisis we face remains obscure to most people; titans of business and government officials assure us that the financial system is 'on the brink,' that a massive bailout is necessary, immediately, to prevent a disaster. Conservative and progressive members of Congress, at the insistence of constituents, blocked the initial plan. If the economy does collapse, if people can’t go down to the bank to withdraw their savings, or get cash from an ATM, there may be serious 'civil unrest,' and the 'sea-smurfs' may be called upon sooner than we imagine to assist with "crowd control'".

“Invasion of the Sea-Smurfs”
Amy Goodman, Oct 2, 2008

The Dark Bailout

"So, 'fed up with scrutiny from investors and regulators', in the last decade, big public companies have turned to private equity firms, among them the famously politically connected Carlyle. In 2005, Legendary Pictures was formed by a consortium of private equity firms, created to enter into an arrangement with Time Warner's Warner Bros. to make features. The first feature of this innovative private finance arrangement, Batman Begins, told the story - among other details of crime fighting and kaboom - of the virtuous taking of the public company, Wayne Enterprises, private. The film served as the heroic autobiography of the film's finance.

(Even the "democracy" of the stock exchange is too much democracy for capital.)"

"Going Private"
Le Colonel Chabert

"It is hardly surprising that [Frank] Miller's model of realism came to the fore in comics at the time when Reaganomics and Thatcherism were presenting themselves as the only solutions to America and Britain's ills. Reagan and Thatcher claimed to have 'delivered us from the 'fatal abstractions' inspired by the 'ideologies of the past'' (Badiou, 2005, 7). They had awoken us from the supposedly flawed, dangerously deluded dreams of collectivity and re-acquainted us with the 'essential truth' that individual human beings can only be motivated by their own animal interests.

"These propositions belong to an implicit ideological framework we can call Capitalist Realism. On the basis of a series of assumptions—human beings are irredeemably self-interested, (social) Justice can never be achieved—Capitalist Realism projects a vision of what is 'Possible'.

"For Alain Badiou, the rise to dominance of this restricted sense of possibility must be regarded as a period of 'Restoration'. As Badiou explained in an interview with Cabinet magazine, 'in France, "Restoration" refers to the period of the return of the King, in 1815, after the Revolution and Napoleon. We are in such a period. Today we see liberal capitalism and its political system, parlimentarianism, as the only natural and acceptable solutions' (Badiou, Cox, Whalen, 2001/02). According to Badiou, the ideological defence for these political configurations takes the form of a lowering of expectations.

"We live in a contradiction: a brutal state of affairs, profoundly inegalitarian—where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone—is presented to us as ideal. To justify their conservatism, the partisans of the established order cannot really call it ideal or wonderful. So instead, they have decided to say that all the rest is horrible. Sure, they say, we may not live in a condition of perfect Goodness. But we're lucky that we don't live in a condition of Evil. Our democracy is not perfect. But it's better than the bloody dictatorships. Capitalism is unjust. But it's not criminal like Stalinism. We let millions of Africans die of AIDS, but we don't make racist nationalist declarations like Milosevic. We kill Iraqis with our airplanes, but we don't cut their throats with machetes like they do in Rwanda, etc." (ibid)

"Capitalism and liberal democracy are 'ideal' precisely in the sense that they are 'the best that one can expect', that is to say, the least worst. This chimes with Miller's rendition of the hero in The Dark Knight Returns and Year One: Batman may be authoritarian, violent and sadistic, but in a world of endemic corruption, he is the least worst option. (Indeed, such traits may turn out to be necessary in conditions of ubiquitous venality.) Just as Badiou suggests, in Miller's Gotham it is no longer possible to assume the existence of Good. Good has no positive presence—what Good there has to be defined by reference to a self-evident Evil which it is not. Good, that is to say, is the absence of an Evil whose existence is self-evident.

"The fascination of the latest cinema version of Batman, Batman Begins (directed by Christopher Nolan) consists in its mitigated return to the question of Good. The film still belongs to the .Restoration. to the degree that it is unable to imagine a possible beyond capitalism: as we shall see, it is a specific mode of capitalism—post-Fordist finance capital—that is demonised in Batman Begins, not capitalism per se. Yet the film leaves open the possibilitity of agency which Capitalist Realism forecloses".

"Gothic Oedipus: subjectivity and Capitalism in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins" by Mark Fisher

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


Come the end of November, I intend to post audio of the Long Now Foundation debate between Drew Endy and Jim Thomas about synthetic biology. Until then, I've been following some other interesting stuff involving data visualisation. The Paul Otlet piece makes for a fascinating comparison with the perspective on information science demonstrated in IBM and the Holocaust, for here was a method of information storage and retrieval that the Nazis wanted to close down.
In 1883 Charles Cutter devised a classification scheme that led in part to the Library of Congress system and devised an apparatus of keyboard and wires that would fetch the desired book. H.G. Wells proposed a “world brain” of data and imagined that it would one day wake up. Teilhard de Chardin anticipated an “etherization of human consciousness” into a global noosphere.
The greatest unknown revolutionary was the Belgian Paul Otlet. In 1895 he set about freeing the information in books from their bindings. He built a universal decimal classification and then figured out how that organized data could be explored, via “links” and a “web.” In 1910 Otlet created a “rad iated library” called the Mundameum in Brussels that managed search queries in a massive way until the Nazis destroyed the service.

Next, it is clear that the Global Extinction Awareness System must be indebted to the data visualisation pioneered through Snow's "ghostmap". Afterall, this scenario involves attempts to control a global pandemic, and the clip utilises a comparable form of GIS.

It is 02019.

A multi petabyte-scale simulation of global processes, called the Global Extinction Awareness System (GEAS), has just determined that, without immediate action, humanity will survive only another 23 years before the deadly synergy of five catastrophic Superthreats does us in.

The Superthreats are:
1. Quarantine — declining health and pandemic disease, including the current Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ReDS) crisis
2. Ravenous — the imminent collapse of the global food system
3. Power Struggle — the increasingly desperate search for alternative energy solutions
4. Outlaw Planet — challenges to human security and civil rights in the midst of hypercomplex information systems
5. Generation Exile — skyrocketing numbers of refugees and migrants in the face of climate change, economic disruption, and war

Your role is to flex your foresight, creativity and collaborative skills to contribute to our collective survival.

The GEAS report is available in full here, and video briefings on each of the Superthreats can be found here.

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Chronophage and The Promise of Credit to Come

"The historic role of Capitalism itself is to destroy history, to sever every link with the past and to orientate all effort and imagination to that which is about to occur. Capital can only exist as such if it continually reproduces itself; its present reality is dependent upon its future fulfilment. This is the metaphysic of capital. The word credit, instead of referring to a past achievement, refers only in this metaphysic, to a future expectation".

John Berger
Pig Earth

“The capitalist system is, in its own narrow way, very future-oriented. The capital value set on an enterprise is nothing other than its anticipated future profits – the discounted present value of the return it is thought it will yield. Yet the representation of that potential return as a single, numeric entity flattens and simplifies that future. Capitalist ownership has always earmarked a future stream of revenue to the capitalist. In doing so it allowed the future to be colonized by, and mortgaged to, wealthy individuals and corporations. At various times industrial and national monopoly or regulation sought to render the process more predictable, and better at capturing the anticipated surplus. Today the world’s leading financial institutions combine privileged information with computing power, derivatives and mathematical formulae – ‘quantitative finance’ – to achieve the same end. Of course these institutions, taken individually, are from being infallible seers. The future always retains an irreducible element of uncertainty. But one or another financial cluster will gain the prize by getting the outcome more right than anyone else. This is today’s ‘great game’.

“Eventually capital can only deliver on expectations by crowding out the expenditures – and absorbing the reserves – which society needs to reproduce and protect itself. In the last couple of decades financialization has greatly boosted the ability of a few wealthy individuals, finance houses and corporations to make claims on the future. The fiscal system used to allow for a countervailing public claim on future revenue but taxation has steadily lost ground to financialization, and public interests have lost ground to private ones”.

Robin Blackburn
Age Shock: How Finance Is Failing Us

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Ralph Nader: Whistle-Blower. Advocate. Spoiler?

The Commonwealth Club of California
San Francisco, CA
Sep 30th, 2008

"Without ever having held political office, Nader has had a tremendous political impact by advocating for improved consumer safety through seat belts, air bags, product labeling, and helping 100 organizations become watchdogs over corporate, government and environmental corruption.

"Nader's role in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections fueled controversy, and he's set to challenge the two-party system again this fall as he runs for president for the fifth time"

-The Commonwealth Club of California

Vote Nader

Friday, 3 October 2008

IBM and the Holocaust

"The Ghost Map" & a few other interesting bits of scientific news (and speculation)

Iran is sinking as groundwater resources disappear (just like I saw was happening to Jakarta, Indonesia, on Foreign Correspondent a couple of weeks back... [more]
The papers of the charismatic and highly controversial founder of crime scene investigation in Britain offer some fascinating social and scientific vignettes ... [more]
UFO research has never achieved legitimacy because the very possibility of extraterrestrial visits pose too many metaphysical problems for the nation-state ... [more]
The media isn't really interested in genuine public-health interventions to address social and lifestyle causes of disease ... [more]
As the global food system reaches its natural limits, it's time to rethink genetic engineering ... [more]
Stars can migrate great distances, which has implications for the idea of galactic habitable zones ... [more]
Check out five projects that are expanding the boundaries of science through video games ... [more]
Would you rather date a human or a chimp, asks a book looking at what makes us uniquely human ... [more]
Peer-reviewed publications were once the best way to disseminate research information, but that was before the Internet ... [more]
Does the burgeoning area of neuroethics offer more than just a chance to repackage old theories to get new grant money? ... [more]
Introducing medical terms, concepts, and practices into areas of social or personal life can be inappropriate or downright wrong ... [more]

Data visualisation: GIS & ubiquitous mapping as key components of network culture

Derridata, we were talking recently about data visualisation tools in the context of information management, and it got me wondering about the kind of distributed forms of agency these managers might find themselves privvy to as we lose the sense of such environments as "containers". I had some of these thoughts during my prac, when I was in the basement going through the older stuff taken off the shelves, and I came across a very impressive study of arcologies, and wondered if libraries would ever take shape along these lines to minimise their environmental footprint? Or would the information managers be networking (i.e. distributed) in a range of environments, using these sophisticated tools to assist geographers, biologists etc? (the other articles listed in this piece are also definitely worth reading).

I suspect it will eventually be a combination of each, but I was particularly excited by the designs for the New Library of Alexandria, in addition to the world's first underwater museum in Egypt (be sure to check out the photos). I was also quite taken by this piece on the implications for livestock management, along with "virtual archaeology", and"genetic geography". This also caught my attention, as I couldn't help pondering some military implications of distributed agency, beyond the more theoretically familiar abstract cartography of Deleuzian style "war machines": With enhanced emergency medicine, many soldiers are coming home from war with grievous injuries instead of being killed. Innovation in arm and hand prostheses has been slow because the market for the devices is small and development costs are high. The Open Prosthetics Project (OPP) has applied the “open source” model—long used in developing “community-based” software—to the design of inexpensive prosthetic hands and arms that a small demand can still support. The designs are free for anyone to use.