Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The List: Murder Capitals of the World

(Interesting as it may be, notice how this article confines itself to liberal "solutions", so little is made of significant generative factors such as institutionalised racism and the need to redistribute wealth on a more equitable basis).

Reliable global crime statistics are hard to come by, but here are five cities that stand in a class all their own when it comes to brutal, homicidal violence.

Caracas, Venezuela
Population: 3.2 million

Murder rate: 130 per 100,000 residents (official)
What’s happening: The capital of Chávez country, Caracas has become far more dangerous in recent years than any South American city, even beating out the once notorious Bogotá. What’s worse, the city’s official homicide statistics likely fall short of the mark because they omit prison-related murders as well as deaths that the state never gets around to properly “categorizing.” The numbers also don’t count those who died while “resisting arrest,” suggesting that Caracas’s cops—already known for their brutality against student protesters—might be cooking the books. Many have pointed the finger at El Presidente, whose government has failed to tackle the country’s rising rates of violent crime. In fact, since Chávez took over in 1998, Venezuela’s official homicide rate has climbed 67 percent—mostly due to increased drug and gang violence. Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, who recently resigned as interior minister, claimed in July that homicide has dropped 27 percent since January—but experts say he’s just playing with numbers. As for Caracas, some speculate that its murder rate is closer to 160 per 100,000.

Cape Town, South Africa
Population: 3.5 million
Murder rate: 62 per 100,000 inhabitants
What’s happening: A European bastion in the heart of turbulent South Africa, picturesque Cape Town nonetheless has the country’s highest murder rate. The city’s homicides usually take place in suburban townships rather than in the more upscale urban areas where tourists visit. According to the South African Police Service, most of the Cape Town area’s violent crimes happen between people who know one another, including a horrific case last year in which four males doused a female friend in gasoline and lit her on fire. Occurring just outside city limits, the incident apparently happened after the assailants had taken hard drugs, the use of which has risen along with Cape Town’s violent crime rate. The whopping 12.7 percent rise in the city’s murder rate from 2006 to 2007 certainly has local politicians worried, especially as South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World Cup. The government has hired more police officers to prepare for the tournament, which could help cut crime in soccer-fan hot spots. But until better efforts are made to police Cape Town’s poverty-stricken townships, it’s unlikely that the murder rate—an average of 5.9 per day—will see any major drop.

New Orleans, United States
Population: 220,614 to 312,000 (2007); estimates vary due to displacement of people after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Murder rate: Estimates range from 67 (New Orleans Police Department) to 95 (Federal Bureau of Investigation) per 100,000
What’s happening: With its grinding poverty, an inadequate school system, a prevalence of public housing, and a high incarceration rate, the Big Easy has long been plagued with a high rate of violent crime. Katrina didn’t help. Since the hurricane struck in 2005, drug dealers have been fighting over a smaller group of users, leading to many killings. On just one four-block stretch of Josephine Street, in the city center, four people were murdered in 2007 and 15 people shot, including a double homicide on Christmas day. A precise murder rate is hard to pinpoint because the population is swelling quickly, approaching its pre-Katrina numbers. Whether you use New Orleans’s own figures or the FBI’s, however, the city remains the most deadly in the United States, easily surpassing Detroit and Baltimore with 46 and 45 murders per 100,000 people, respectively.

Moscow, Russia
Population: 10.4 million

Murder rate: 9.6 per 100,000 (estimate)
What’s happening: Moscow’s murder rate is nothing compared with that of Caracas or Cape Town, but the city still ranks way above other major European capitals. London, Paris, Rome, and Madrid, for instance, all had rates below 2 murders per 100,000 in 2006. The Russian capital’s homicide rate is down 15 percent this year from last, but the recent surge in hate crimes—including the deadly beating of a Tajik carpenter by a gang of youths on Valentine’s Day—suggests that the lull might be temporary. Sixty ethnically motivated killings have already happened this year, part of a sixfold increase in hate crimes committed in the city during 2007. Several of the murders have been attributed to ultranationalist skinhead groups like the “Spas,” who killed 11 people in a 2006 bombing of a multiethnic market in northern Moscow. The Russian government has finally stepped up to combat the problem, assisting migrant groups and cracking down on street gangs. Still, the continued rise in extremist attacks is worrisome. And along with migrants, journalists and other high-profile people in Moscow might also want to be a little wary in Russia—62 contract murders took place in the country in 2005, according to official statistics.

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Population: 254,200 (2000 census)
Murder rate: 54 per 100,000 (2004 official figure)
What’s happening: The capital of island country Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby might seem like a surprising addition to this list. But its high violent crime rates, along with high levels of police corruption and gang activity, helped earn the city the dubious title of “worst city” in a 2004 Economist Intelligence Unit survey. With gangs called “raskols” controlling the city centers and unemployment rates hovering around 80 percent, it’s easy to see how Port Moresby beat out the 130 other survey contenders. Port Moresby’s police don’t seem to be helping the crime situation—last November, five officers were charged with offenses ranging from murder to rape. And in August, the city’s police barracks were put on a three-month curfew due to a recent slew of bank heists reportedly planned inside the stations by officers and their co-conspirators. Rising tensions between Chinese migrants and native Papua New Guineans are also cause for alarm, as are reports of increased activity of organized Chinese crime syndicates.

Call for papers: On the impact of nanoscale science and technology on disability,

I'm in a big hurry today, so just time to cross post this request from Gregor Wolbring. If I'd had the opportunity, I would've edited some of the garbled coding in his text, but even without this improvement, the references are still clear and hence usable. Moreover, the issues raised are extremely important, so definitely worth drilling down through the layers to get to the good stuff.
For a special issue of the International Journal on Disability, Community & Rehabilitation (IJDCR) (http://www.ijdcr.ca/copyright.shtml)

Guest Editor: Gregor Wolbring, Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies Program, Dept of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary. <gwolbrin@ucalgary.ca>

Nanoscale science and technology, while still in its infancy, describes a rapidly growing sphere of enquiry, with many and varied implications for the disability field. To establish a ‘benchmark’ of the current state of knowledge and conceptual understanding, the Editors of IJDCR decided a special issue should be devoted to the topic. Background information and potential topics are presented below.

We invite potential contributors, regardless of fields of study (discipline), to submit 250-word Abstracts that articulate the conceptual arguments and knowledge base to be covered in a critical analysis on some aspect of the impact of nanoscale science and technology on disability, community and/or rehabilitation. Please submit abstracts to the Guest Editor via e-mail by 30 October, 2008.

From selected abstracts, we will request full articles of 3000-5000 words (excluding figures and tables) of original research and scholarship on a range of topics. Note that an invitation to submit an article does not guarantee its publication. Every submitted article will be subject to blind peer review and recommendations arising.

Nanotechnology in all its meanings allows for, among other things, the manipulation of materials on an atomic or molecular scale and enables a new paradigm of science and technology that sees different technologies converging at the nanoscale namely:
nanoscience and nanotechnology,
biotechnology and biomedicine, including genetic engineering,
information technology, including advanced computing and communications,
cognitive science (neuro-engineering),
synthetic biology;
hence, the designation "NBICS" (nano-bio-info-cogno-synbio).

Many lists of anticipated nanoproducts exist ADDIN REFMGR.CITE Institute of Nanotechnology20052326Research Applications And Markets In Nanotechnology In Europe 2005Report2326Research Applications And Markets In Nanotechnology In Europe 2005Institute of Nanotechnology2005ResearchNanotechnologyEurope reprint>Not in Filehttp://www.researchandmarkets.com/reportinfo.asp?report_id=302091&t=t&cat_id=424Kostoff20062330The seminal literature of nanotechnology researchJournal2330The seminal literature of nanotechnology researchKostoff,RonaldMurday,JamesLau,CliffordTolles,William2006/5LiteratureNanotechnologyResearchNot in File121Journal of Nanoparticle Research <>name=" target=_blank ISSN_ISBN>http://www.wtec.org/ConvergingTechnologies/Report/NBIC_report.pdf33;(M.Roco 2003). Many believe that advances in NBICS hold the key for extreme life extension to the level of immortality and the achievement of morphological ADDIN REFMGR.CITE Anders Sandberg2001159 Morphological Freedom -- Why We not just Want it, but Need itGeneric159 Morphological Freedom -- Why We not just Want it, but Need itAnders Sandberg2001Not in Filehttp://www.nada.kth.se/~asa/Texts/MorphologicalFreedom.htm33; (Anders Sandberg 2001) and genomic freedom ADDIN REFMGR.CITE Wolbring20031877SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AND THE TRIPLE D (DISEASE, DISABILITY, DEFECT)Book Chapter1877SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AND THE TRIPLE D (DISEASE, DISABILITY, DEFECT)Wolbring,G2003ScienceTechnologyDiseaseDISABILITIESNanotechnologyBiotechnology Cognitive ScienceNot in File232243Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive ScienceMihail C.Roco National,William Sims BainbridgeDordrechtKluwer Academic1-4020-1254-3http://www.wtec.org/ConvergingTechnologies/http://www.bioethicsanddisability.org/nbic.html3;(Wolbring 2003). NBICS-medicine is envisioned by some to have the answer to global problems of disease and ill medical and social health. Others argue for the pursuit of ‘morphological freedom’ ADDIN REFMGR.CITE Anders Sandberg2001159 Morphological Freedom -- Why We not just Want it, but Need itGeneric159 Morphological Freedom -- Why We not just Want it, but Need itAnders Sandberg2001Not in File
33> t;
(Anders Sandberg 2001)--allowing the human body to move beyond typical functioning of the species. Disabled people are often highlighted as the beneficiaries of NBICS-medicine products. NBICS applications and the selling of NBICS health products focuses mostly on offering disabled people medical solutions (prevention or cure/normative adaptation) and might move towards transhumanist solutions (augmentation, enhancement of the human body) but rarely offers social solutions (adaptation of the environment, acceptance, societal cures of equal rights and respect). Many NBICS applications/products for disabled people are envisioned and are under development ADDIN REFMGR.CITE Wolbring20051706HTA Initiative #23 The triangle of enhancement medicine, disabled people, and the concept of health: a new challenge for HTA, health research, and health policyReport1706HTA Initiative #23 The triangle of enhancement medicine, disabled people, and the concept of health: a new challenge for HTA, health research, and health policyWolbring,G2005MedicineHealthResearchNot in FileAlberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Health Technology Assessment Unit, Edmonton, Alberta CanadaISBN 1-894927-36-2 (Print); ISBN 1-894927-37-0 (On-Line); ISSN: 1706-7855 http://www.ihe.ca/documents/hta/HTA-FR23.pdf24;(Wolbring 2005).

We chose this topic for an issue of IJDCR because of how the discourses around these new and emerging nanoscale science and technologies are emerging and their potential impact on people with disabilities, the communities linked to them and/or practitioners as well as others. Consumers and researchers linked to the disability discourse are involved will shape the positive or negative consequences for everyone involved.

Nanotechnology and NBICS have an impact on disabled people in at least four main ways.

Impact of NBICS on disabled people ADDIN REFMGR.CITE Wolbring20062426Scoping paper on Nanotechnology and disabled peopleElectronic Citation2426Scoping paper on Nanotechnology and disabled peopleWolbring,G2006NanotechnologyNot in FileCenter for Nanotechnology in Society Arizona Stat e University http://cns.asu.edu/cns-library/documents/wolbring-scoping%20CD%20final%20edit.doc <> name="System">Center for Nanotechnology in Society Arizona State University34(Wolbring 2006)
NBICS may develop tools to adapt the environment in which disabled people live and to give disabled people tools that would allow them to deal with environmental challenges. This side of S&T would make the life of disabled people more liveable without changing the identity and biological reality of the disabled person
NBICS may develop tools that would diagnose the part of disabled people’s biological reality seen by others as deficient, defect, impaired and ‘disabled’ thus allowing for preventative measures
NBICS may develop tools that would eliminate that portion of disabled people’s biological reality seen by others as deficient, defect, impaired and ‘disabled’.
NBICS may be a target for - and an influence upon - the discourses, concepts, trends and areas of action that impact disabled persons.

The discourse around the term human security
The religious discourse
The politics of biodiversity
The politics of inequity
The politics of the ethics discourse.
The politics of law:
The politics of raising the acceptance level for a given technology
The politics of setting goals and priorities
The politics of language
The politics of self perception and identity (Body politics)
The politics of red herrings
The politics of interpreting International treaties
The politics of governance
The Politics of evaluation, measuring, analysis, and outcome tools

Self identity security
Ability security
Cultural identity/diversity
Morphological freedom and morphological judgement ADDIN REFMGR.CITE Anders Sandberg2001159 Morphological Freedom -- Why We not just Want it, but Need itGeneric159 Morphological Freedom -- Why We not just Want it, but Need itAnders Sandberg2001Not in Filehttp://www.nada.kth.se/~asa/Texts/MorphologicalFreedom.htm <> mID>33(Anders Sandberg 2001)
Freedom of choice and tyranny of choice
Duty to fix oneself
Duty to know
Parental responsibility
Societal responsibility

Change in the concepts of health, disease and ‘disability’/’impairment’
The appearance of enhancement medicine and the acceptance of beyond species-typical functioning
Moving from curative to enhancement medicine; decrease in curative medicine and the appearance of the transhumanist/enhancement burden of disease
Moving from human rights to sentient rights
Moving from morphological freedom to morphological judgement
The appearance of the techno poor disabled and impaired
Moving from freedom of choice to tyranny of choice judgement

Areas of Action:

Nanotechnology/NBIC for development
Nanotechnology/NBIC and the UN Millennium Development Goals
Nanotechnology/NBIC and global medical and social health
Nanotechnology/NBIC and accessibility
Nanotechnology/NBIC and law
Nanotechnology/NBIC and water and sanitation
Nanotechnology/NBIC and disaster management
Nanotechnology/NBIC and weapons/war
Nanotechnology/NBIC and ethics/philosophy
Nanotechnology/NBIC and social science/anthropology
Nanotechnology/NBIC and community
Nanotechnology/NBIC and networking

All of the above discourses, concepts, trends and areas of actions impact on disabled people[1] and others.
Potential contributors to this Special Issue might consider areas from the above table or one of the following topics:
What are the potential positive and negative impacts of envisioned nanoscale science and technology products and research and development on:
disabled people,
the community around them
practitioners, consumers and researchers linked to the disability discourse
community rehabilitation and the rehabilitation field in general
inclusive education and the education of disabled people in general
employability of disabled people
citizenship of disabled people
body image of disabled people
medical and social health policies and their impact on disabled people
health care for disabled people
the elderly
disabled people in low income countries
laws related to disabled people such as the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities
the concept of personhood
concept of health and health care
the measure of disability adjusted life years and other measurements used to guide health care dollar allocation
quality of life assessment
What are the potential positive and negative impacts of the new social philosophy of transhumanism that is seen as being enabled by nanoscale science and technology products and research and development?
What impacts of potential nanoscale science and technology products and research and development onto disabled people will impact other marginalized groups?
For more information about the International Journal of Disability, Community & Rehabilitation (IJDCR) please go to http://www.ijdcr.ca/.

Anders Sandberg. Morphological Freedom -- Why We not just Want it, but Need it. 2001. <http://www.nada.kth.se/~asa/Texts/MorphologicalFreedom.htm>
Institute of Nanotechnology (2005). Research Applications And Markets In Nanotechnology In Europe 2005 <http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reportinfo.asp?report_id=302091&t=t&cat_id=4>
Kostoff, Ronald et al. "The seminal literature of nanotechnology research." Journal of Nanoparticle Research (2006): 1-21. <http://www.springerlink.com/openurl.asp?genre=article&id=doi:10.1007/s11051-005-9034-9>
M.Roco, W. Bainbridge eds. Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science. 2003. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht Hardbound. <http://www.wtec.org/ConvergingTechnologies/Report/NBIC_report.pdf>
Wolbring, G. "SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AND THE TRIPLE D (DISEASE, DISABILITY, DEFECT)." Ed. William Sims Bainbridge Mihail C.Roco National. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 2003. 232-43<http://www.wtec.org/ConvergingTechnologies/> <http://www.bioethicsanddisability.org/nbic.html>
Wolbring, G (2005). HTA Initiative #23 The triangle of enhancement medicine, disabled people, and the concept of health: a new challenge for HTA, health research, and health policy Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Health Technology Assessment Unit, Edmonton, Alberta Canada <http://www.ihe.ca/documents/hta/HTA-FR23.pdf>
Wolbring, G (2006). Scoping paper on Nanotechnology and disabled people. Center for Nanotechnology in Society Arizona State University [On-line]. <http://cns.asu.edu/cns-library/documents/wolbring-scoping%20CD%20final%20edit.doc>

[1] The term ‘disabled people’, as used here, reflects the way in which environmental factors impact on the ability of individuals with sensory, motor, cognitive or other variations to participate in society, consistent with its usage by Disabled Peoples’ International.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Last Manoeuvres in the Dark

Fabien Giraud et Raphaël Siboni "Last Manoeuvres in the Dark", Palais de Tokyo, juin 2008

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Virtual

In social science, for example sociology, attempts are made to interpret actual events. The stories constructed by sociologists and anthropologists are argued to be more than mere abstractions, and more than statistical predictions - they are held to convey something that is really taking place 'beneath' the surface of events. Thus, for example, an uprising may be interpreted and argued to be a manifestation of class tensions around economic entitlements. Understanding global economic relations as intangible but powerful 'virtual' relations frames our attitudes and actions towards national economic instability and the popular experience of change in the job market. 'The virtual' becomes a template for understanding and reacting to events in everyday life whenever societies face a situation in which distant events (a corporate merger) have local impacts on a related but quite a different register (prices for a service).

Table 2.1 The virtual and the concrete
Real (existing)
Possible (not existing)
virtual (ideally real)
abstract (possible ideal)
concrete present (actually real)
probable (actual possibility)

The real qualities of the virtual, such as a memory of an event, distinguish the virtual from the unreal, or even surreal, qualities of the abstract. But the strength of Table 2.1 is that it allows us to both distinguish the virtual from - and relate it to - worlds of material existence, the mathematical worlds of probability and possible occurrences, and the abstract world of pure idealizations. These relationships are mediated by human agency, the flow of time and concurrence of place - something that is captured in the everyday language of surprise at transformations, the calculation of risk and the invoking of spirits. A risk or myth, an event or dream draws on all aspects of the real and possible. Contemporary cognitive science and neurology shows Proust to be incomplete: in any dream one could find not only the virtual but the concrete present of neurochemistry, hormones and the electrical exchanges of brain cells. A caution against reducing to one element or another is therefore in order. None the less, the table has an analytical and heuristic value: we can learn by considering social action in terms of each of the four aspects of the tetrology and in terms of their exchanges with each other. Walter Henry in a trenchant analysis points out that all communication involves the concrete (voice, inked letters), the virtual (coded meaning), the abstract (ideas), and the probable (author's intention) (Henry, 2001). These categories are woven together in everyday cognition and interaction. Thus it is not a matter of drawing on one single category - we rarely find pure examples of the virtual - but an assemblage of the terms. This explains how in imprecise everyday speech it is often difficult to demarcate where a naming of materiality, such as a useful product, stops and a projection of probability, shaded with abstract belief and glossed over with virtualities such as a brand name begins.
There is thus an axis of realization between the possible and real, and an axis of actualization between the ideal and actual that are characterized by very different relations. Above all the performative relations of actualization challenge us to rethink identity relations characteristic of the process of realization (Rob Shields: The Virtual pp32-33).


Déjà vu exemplifies the sensation that the present has already been experienced in a dream. The actual-real present is lived in a surreal, dreamlike state as virtual, or ideal-real.

Ritual actualizes latent possibilities, conjures the past with a view to altering the present.

Symbols represent and thus make present abstractions by giving them a form.

Myth formulates the past as an idealization, purifying it of factuality in favour of moral and ethical ends.

Chance is the abstract idea of the play of probability.

Predictions formulate the abstract ideals into calculations of the actually possible.

Risk is our pragmatic approach to probability - we take risks on the chance that a computable probability will not actually occur.

Fate describes a present or an outcome as a future prescribed as an actuality.


Miracles are said to occur when the non-existing ideals suddenly materialize.

Abstraction conceptualizes the concrete present as a pure (non-existing) idealization.

Premonitions are visions of probabilities in the felt form of emotional sensations. They are real idealizations of actual possibilities.

Foretelling the future casts a calculated, possible outcome as something that has already been conceived, imagined and possibly represented.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

New York via Pakistan International

Pakistan International Airlines from 1979

Monday, 22 September 2008

Market turnaround

Exactly. Doesn't this prove the failure of neoliberalism? After people's equity was traded away on the stockmarket as though it were a private casino, the system fell over. And so the government stepped in with a generous rescue package, which was gratefully received by the financial sector. Evidently the economy is not some giant self-regulating system afterall. What will the self-styled "anarcho capitalists" have to say about this?

The banality of evil: of seasteading, Battlefield Earth, and other foolishness

Ahuthnance, we were riffing last night about how the mixture of unintentional side splitting hilarity mixed with the banality of evil, can make for a lethal cocktail. Few things can match seasteading in this regard, and it has to be said that one of its most offensive features is the dishonesty about its underlying motivations. Why don't they at least have the integrity to just come out and admit what they really are?: a sad example of "white flight" syndrome, who are opposed to any form of progressive taxation. Their existence merely confirms William Gibson's assessment that writing science fiction has become increasingly difficult because we are reaching a point where it has "colonised reality". No doubt the seasteaders would merely see this as an early confirmation of the "singularity" they are looking forward to. But I see it instead as testimony to the speed of the appropriation of critical impulses by a logic of commodification even more powerful than imagined in Marx's day. This suggests that Patri Friedman et al are less the brave pioneers they imagine themselves to be, than they are the contemporary equivalent of those who choose to move "offworld" in Blade Runner, having abandoned a crumbling terrestial public infrastructure (hey, until they can get to outer space, I guess they figured they'll have to make do with the oceans).
In Evolution and Ethics T.H. Huxley advocated "not the survival of the fittest, but the fitting of as many as possible to survive" (for some bringing to mind an ideal closer to Christian eschatology, say Noah's Ark). If we compare this to Friedman's dubious endeavors it is evident how low the morality of expectations has sunk in his case. What kind of society could ever have emerged and then being sustained if the governing prospective ideal was merely packing up and going somewhere else when the going got too tough? There is obviously nothing heroic or innovative about such a perverted, thin conception of citizenship, no matter how dressed up in futuristic garb it is. Seasteading abandons the imperative to learn to coexist with others who are different to you, some of whom you may even despise. It substitutes a serial logic familiar from dystopias such as The Possibility of an Island, or indeed, George Ritzer's thesis of the McDonaldisation of society. Seasteading is a "fast food" type dystopia, offering junk "solutions" for social ills.

Fortunately though, there is another wrinkle in this story, so seasteading need not be construed as further evidence of an intractable crisis faced by governments to finance public works through progressive taxation. As argued by Christopher May in The Information Society: A Sceptic's View, and contra Ian Angell's The New Barbarian Manifesto: How to Survive the Information Age, intellectual property laws can still perform a regulatory function, so some moderation of capital flight remains feasible. I'm not arguing that we should settle long term for nothing more ambitious than managed affluence when it comes to defining any given society's ideal of "public good", but it seems to me that May's argument cannot be easily dismissed: at stake is adjudication of the exchanges between sovereign states.

Before changing tack in this post, I can only hope that Patri Friedman does not return to this blog with more of his "disorganised swearing": hyperaphoristic concentrations mixed with generation of antinomian energy (i.e. profanity). I could almost picture him willing himself forward in his "blitz" style attack, prior to committing intellectual suicide by failing to respond to any of the specific critiques in my original post (mind you, his blog reveals this to be his usual practice).
More important background reading can be found in the thorough expose of the fraudulent legacy of the Nobel Prize winning Chicago School of Economics, on the FAQ on Liberalism website (which can be found on Acheron's sidebar).
I am also aided here by Borsook's investigation of the milieu which has shaped Friedman's [entirely] conventional thinking on these matters:

Cyberselfish By Paulina Borsook
Paulina Borsook has been stirring up a ruckus in Silicon Valley since her days as a regular contributor to Wired magazine. She will ruffle feathers again with this spirited, funny, gimlet-eyed look at the worldview of the digerati -- one she terms "violently lacking in compassion, ravingly anti-government, and tremendously opposed to regulation".
In Cyberselfish Borsook journeys through and rants about high tech culture, profiling the worlds of ravers, gilders, cypherpunks, anarchocapitalists, and other Silicon Valley life forms; and exploring the theory and practice of what she dubs "technolibertarianism" in all its manifestations. Whether she is attending Bionomics conferences or hanging out with Wired staffers, reading personal ads or evaluating high-tech's sorry philanthropic record, Borsook is full of original observations, mordant wit, and furious passion that readers wake up to the social and political consequences of having computer geeks run the world. Cyberselfish is sure to raise the hackles of high techies and to clarify what makes the rest of us so nervous about the brave new cyberworld.
More details
Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech
By Paulina Borsook
Published by PublicAffairs, 2000
ISBN 1586480383, 9781586480387
276 pages
Ok, now is the time to change tack a bit. I see this stuff as still related to the psychopathologies of Friedman and his fellow seasteaders. It's the old sociological chestnut about the consequences of reflexive anomie, which I've mentioned previously on this blog in terms of "opportunity costs" etc. Derridata passed along a clip of actor Will Smith lost somewhere in the stratosphere of dianetics. It is the most shocking display I've seen since the Tom Cruise incidents we are all familiar with. This compelled me to dig back into the archive to find the Hollywood star vanity project, also Scientology inspired, Battlefield Earth. Although certain social critics (i.e. Robert Putnam and fellow communitarians) may at times be prone to cynical exaggeration, the thesis of the decline of social capital consequent upon the intensification of individual experience is understandable in light of the cabinets of horror I am posting about here.
I've concluded that when a self is thrown back on its own resources, it can easily fall prey to opportunistic substitutes for a responsible social philosophy. Indeed, these substitutes characteristically masquerade as the new "emancipated" form of individual "authenticity". Adorno's warnings appear all too prescient in this context. He remained highly critical of the “jargon of authenticity” as an ideology which desocietalized human subjectivity through its emphasis on self-control. By such means “a bad empirical reality” is transformed into “transcendence” as the impotence and isolation from a societal perspective are used to secure the self as the only “unloseable possession” (Adorno 1973: 116).

By extension, one can easily imagine not only the beleagured Scientologist, but also the augmented transhumanist seasteader, as resembling Travolta's stupendously bad attempt at characterisation in the following clip, cackling evilly as he dispenses some rough justice to "the norms" barred admittance to paradise (except maybe as a service/slave class):

And then there is further evidence of an attempt to transform a bad empirical reality. Another way of saying the same thing is that it resembles the conversion of sour grapes into sweet lemons (as per Jon Elster's book). For what else is a Hollywood "star" if not the metaphorical embodiment of the kind of transcendence Adorno describes?:

Besides talking pure nonsense to a bewildered Smiley for several minutes, Smith used a very strange phrase about halfway through the clip. He talked about "feeling like you're at effect," which means...well, frankly, this Hubbard jargon means anything you want it to mean, so what the hell.

"I've been giving him the benefit of the doubt," Bunker says about Smith. "But how do you absorb 'being at effect' without taking courses? I suppose it's possible he picked it up from his equally certain, equally high-strung pal Tom Cruise. But it's not an ordinary buzzword out here in the wog [non-Scientology] world." To Bunker, the clip is evidence that Smith has been taking Scientology courses for some time, and has absorbed the Hubbard way of thinking.

What we found even creepier comes later in the clip, when Smith starts talking about creating matter with his mind. Smiley's expression is priceless as Smith talks about the power of his brain: "I can create whatever I want to create if I can put my head on it right, study it, learn the patterns..."

Hey, that's just what Hubbard's other minions believe, that after a few more classes (each costing about the same as a luxury car), they'll get so powerful they can create things just by thinking about them!

Hey Will, we hope you keep studying all the way to OT VIII so you can start bending the universe to your will (so to speak). Then maybe you could think real hard about a film with you in it that doesn't suck, so that one magically appears!
more: Featured, Scientology

Clive Hamilton lecture: Reclaiming Morality from Conservative Dogma and Postmodern Indifference:
Significant as an example of a discourse attempting to galvanise wider debates beyond the walls of the academy. To be sure, it sacrifices the complexities and nuances of those authors identified as "postmodern" in some respects, but remains valuable chiefly for its indictment of the sociocultural legacy of neoliberal "freedom" [sic]

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


From subterranean to suburban....

Recently I've come across Dennis Cooper's blog, and found myself so overwhelmed on many levels that it's taken me a while to begin to formulate any kind of a response. While certainly I was impressed by Cooper's habit of amassing obscure material, such as Marc Almond's paean to Bataille's Solar Anus (not that I've even yet heard his other piece Martin, concerning the eponymous character of George A. Romero's film), along with rare interview footage of Bataille himself, doubts started to set in about the overarching motivation. Afterall, wasn't this just another avant garde formalism, with transgression somehow typifying the seeking by a narcissistic ego of increasingly rarefied thresholds of difference, to escape a "mass" [sic] ? In other words, a phenomenon that Raymond Williams, in The Politics of Modernism, noted as an urban narrative trope?: ..."extreme and precarious forms of consciousness...a paradoxical self-realisation in isolation."
After seeing Cooper's posted profiles of self-proclaimed young male "slaves", and the recurring theme in his fiction of such characters being sadistically eviscerated by serial killers and the like, I also wondered if Cooper was mapping similar territory to nutcases such as Peter Sotos in words, if not in deeds (say Randy Kraft). I'd say "no" after reading interviews to the effect explaining how much he imbues his young victims with character, so the reader really cares about their fate. The major problem has to do with how, despite his qualifications, Cooper remains open to recuperation by those less inclined to read, or even care about, the author's explanations. For once you emphasise how in principle you don't want your work to coalesce into a convention, you leave yourself open to misappropriation by in effect not standing behind your words. This dilemma may simply be a direct consequence of the all too familiar "death of the author" syndrome.
By extension, any attempt to pin down Cooper's characteristic themes as the epiphenomenon of sociological variables becomes inherently problematic. What I find intriguing then (in a suitably ambiguous kind of way) are attempts to portray his work as in some sense the byproduct, if not always a direct commentary, on the epidemiology of AIDS, wherein a queer identity relocates to non-spaces such as the Internet and the suburbs. For Cooper, the blandness of suburbia makes them "perfect hiding places from oppressively conformist narratives of selfhood...suburbs constitute a deterritorialization, an attempt to create a non-defining space free from mainstream, or indeed gay, hegemonic identities". In other words, it is the same tactic described by the emigres in Williams, who were fleeing the upheaval of another form of mass destruction, except here the setting is not an urban centre. Indeed, such a distinction may become meaningless when describing a city such as Los Angeles, given how it derives its distinctiveness as largely a suburban geography where "social structures are at their loosest and least defining" (obviously the more relevant distinction would remain Williams's typology of The Country and the City, as I am unaware of any queer claiming of small towns as the new frontier). The same relativisation might apply to the more traditional "urban" focus of Henning Bech's renowned study, When Men Meet. Notwithstanding any reservations about vulgar sociologism in relation to aesthetics, there may be some value in remembering that Cooper is an LA based writer, when it comes to evaluating his fiction (as even he acknowledges in the link in this post).
I raise these issues here then because they may be a different facet of the question of "other spaces" that have featured in previous posts on this blog, particularly in relation to thana and sex tourism. I can only hazard a guess at the reasons why Cooper does not feature in more "straight" online forums devoted to the likes of J.G. Ballard, who likewise adopts a suburban focus in his work, and whom Cooper has acknowledged in interviews. I particularly enjoyed Betsky's quote about suburbia's moral "boundlessness" [below], which appears applicable to Cooper and Ballard. But there may be more varied lines of flight hinted at in the former than the latter (i.e. not merely a conflation of sex and violence):
Betsky is at least aware that other gay writers have reckoned with and created visions of suburban environments. But his synopsis that “to queer authors like Dennis Cooper [the desire for underage boys] laid bare the rootlessness and moral boundlessness of suburbia in an extremely violent and spatial manner”29 is only partially correct. As we shall see, Cooper amply demonstrates the “boundlessness,” moral and otherwise, of suburbia, yet there is a misplaced negativity in Betsky’s assertion, which no doubt derives from the emphasis on the borderline paedophilia of Cooper’s novels. Betsky describes the emergence of a new kind of non-physical space, imposed on queers after the mass-destruction inflicted by AIDS: “the void,” an emptiness characterised by “that absence, that loss” (182). Through a collective experience of this absence, the void has become “the queerest space of all;” subsequently, queers have learnt how to “build an identity that would then be separate from real spaces of connection and community.”

From Subterranean to Suburban: The Landscapes of Gay Outlaw Writing

However provocative this strategy may appear, unanswered questions remain: at stake is the "when" and the "how" by which these identities could demonstrate any kind of recognisable political efficacy (including the kind that might extend to coalition building). If such networking took place, would it be restricted to cyber interaction, making this non/identity politics comparable to the "hyper realist" position of writers such as Mark Poster, or even (shock! horror!), the "virtual republic" of Ken Wark.......? (both previously critiqued on this blog)
If the answer is "yes", well here is a vision of "progressive" politics I find almost as disturbing as any of the graphic scenes of carnage depicted in either Cooper's "outlaw fiction" or on his blog......

Waltz with Bashir

Monday, 15 September 2008

Joseph Stiglitz on GDP

"Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community value in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over eight hundred billion dollars a year, but that GNP — if we judge the United States of America by that — that GNP counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warheads, and armored cars for the police to fight riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

"Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans".

Robert F. Kennedy
March 18, 1968

Glasser Progress Foundation

Joseph Stiglitz

Beyond GDP

R.I.P Dirk Diggler
"...via a series of mergers and acquisitions, [Disney has] come into possession of property in his penis"

"For those who haven't seen Boogie Nights (01997), the movie chronicles, with documentary plausibility, the rags-to-riches story of a surburban LA busboy whose astonishing endowment in the trouser department leads him to become a 01970s porn icon. Our scenario picked up Diggler's tale where the movie leaves off in the mid-80s, with the protagonist battling alcoholism and impotence. In our hands, his career then weathers a fallow period, during which he sells the rights to the image and likeness of his famous 13-inch member to a dildo company. Years later, in the 01990s, thanks to Viagra he revives his flagging fortunes and re-enters the porn movie business. Things seem to be going swimmingly, until the early 2010s when the long-anticipated technology of teledildonics (virtual sex) comes of age, and his attempt to market the virtual experience of sex with the enviably well-hung Dirk Diggler runs aground. These entrepreneurial efforts are met with a lawsuit by Disney, the company which (in our *hypothetical scenario*) has, via a series of mergers and acquisitions, come into possession of property in his penis. The case drags on for years, eventually finding its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Diggler/Adams fights it with everything he's got. Ultimately, he loses the case, as the court's expansionist reading of the rights he signed away for dildoes in a moment of weakness are deemed also to cover the haptic experience of sex with the 'Diggler' character, as well as revenue from his post-contract comeback catalogue of pornographic performances. Eddie Adams, dispossessed of his very manhood by the ubiquitous corporate surveillance and lockdown of intellectual property, dies in 02025, beaten but unbowed. He is a hero of the embattled 'copyfight' movement in an America where market logic has come to infuse every social transaction".

In memoriam
by Stuart Candy
the sceptical futuryst: a blog about how we might feel tomorrow

Saturday, 13 September 2008

The Evolution of Military Science

Note the excellent historicisation in the first piece which has the makings of an explanation for why and when military science became more biological in its focus. The journal article which follows this thesis excerpt serves as proof positive of the recuperation of sociology in the same context. In that sense, sociology's fate mirrors that of my earlier posting on the Israeli military, who are most interested in Continental philosophers such as Deleuze, when it comes to formulating strategies suited to asymmetrical warfare.
It is important to note that the rise of one regime of the scientific way of warfare has not necessarily signified the disappearance of all the ideas and practices of previous regimes. Some elements of past regimes remain relevant and even complementary under a new regime, albeit sometimes in a modified form. For example, the practice of intensive drilling of recruits which was so central to Frederick the Great’s clockwork army has been pursued ever since to enhance discipline and reliability in the execution of orders, even if the robotic slavishness of the Prussian soldier has been generally abandoned in favour of a greater degree of autonomy and initiative of the individual in uniform. Similarly, if the drive for ever greater mobilisations and releases of energy is no longer the central focus of Western militaries, developments in the motorisation and destructive power of military force have not been cast away but rather integrated into the set of cybernetic technologies and principles which in the following era sought to bring more precise and targeted applications of this energy. And if we are to see a new era of warfare in which self-organising dynamics and decentralised tactics will be privileged, these will in all likelihood be complemented by self regulating processes of stabilisation and a degree of top-down oversight.
One way of understanding these developments is as a process of evolution in the forms of control adopted for the purpose of handling the uncertainty inherent in the practice of warfare. I have sought in this thesis to relate the socio-technical assemblages embodying these forms of control to their contemporary scientific worldviews.If successive worldviews shift the focus of scientific analysis and formulate distinct ontological claims, thereby rejecting or limiting some of the methods and assertions of previous worldviews, acquired means of control do not thereupon vanish but instead remain part of the ensemble of control assemblages liable to be deployed in the social field.

The Scientific Way of Warfare: Science and the Management of Techno-social Systems of Warfare
Armed Forces & Society, Vol. 35, No. 1, 3-15 (2008)
Sociology in Military Officer Education
David R. Segal
University of Maryland
Morten G. Ender
United States Military Academy,

This essay introduces a special issue of Armed Forces & Society examining sociology at military academies around the globe. Articles represent nine countries—Canada, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, the United States. We begin with a brief history of sociology and the military and growth of military sociology as a subfield, followed by the development of military academies in general and sociology at military academies more specifically. The essay concludes with six trends found across the nine nations and ten academies—the stigma of sociology; the cannibalization of sociology courses; co-optation of sociological concepts; charismatic leadership; radical social change; and revitalization.
Key Words: military academies • officer education • cross-national • military sociology

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Alternative History and 'Turning Point: Fall of Liberty'

At the moment, I'm keen to play the newish (its been out for several months now) game 'Turning Point: Fall of History,' which presents an alternative history in the form of a successful Nazi invasion of the USA in the 1950s. While some of the games' images look stunning, of equal interest will be the degree to which its themes, perhaps, accord with those raised in Gavriel D. Rosenfeld's excellent book, 'The World Hitler Never Made'. Rosenfeld offers a comparative cultural history of allohistorical treatments of the Nazi period found in a broad range of mediums extending from academic essays to popular cultural representations in television programmes, film, and novels. Through these, Rosenfeld examines to what degree the Nazi era, Hitler and the Holocaust have been 'normalized,' and what these various treatments suggest(ed) about different national identities, memory, and past and current politics. In this sense, I wonder what 'Turning Point' might point to (i.e, in a celebratory or self-critical manner) re America's actual participation in WW2 , how it views itself today, and its role in the post 9/11 world?

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

"Anderson's pop praise ['Language is a Virus']...just so happens 2 be a paean to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Dianetics & the Church of Scientology"

Tonight, after finishing my nightshift, I had that experience again of remembering something that I wanted to post on William Burroughs' literary legacy, a trigger that conjured aural memories of a recorded lecture from the mid-1990s given by Douglas Kahn at the University of Technology, Sydney on Burroughs' viral tropes. The first time I wanted to bundle some thoughts together on Burroughs was the invocation of that meme examplifying meme, "language is a virus", which I stumbled upon in an article on Pontypool, the forthcoming film by Canadian film and television director Bruce McDonald.

"Pontypool, based on a novel called Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess, has been in development for 10 years. In this hallucinatory, horrific and hilarious book, a flesh-eating virus has transformed the population of Southern Ontario into cannibalistic zombies. The virus, called AMPS (Acquired Metastructural Pediculosis) is spread via the English language. Words themselves are weapons, communication a contagion. Imagine William Burroughs as re-written by Joss Whedon. Burgess, whom I've known for about 12 years, calls the novel 'autobiography'".

And then time got a hold of things, the way time does, and I forgot about what I remembered about viruses and language, and that Laurie Anderson's famous meme machine song "just so happens to be a paean to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Dianetics and the Church of Scientology". WTF? SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!!

Now, the second time this came back me to me was when I was reading an email from the progenitor of this blog, NHuthnance. The email reproduced parts of the criticism section from the Wikipedia entry for Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash, in particular Walter Benn Michaels' succint criticism of Stephenson's collapse of interpretive depth that results from treating language as a code capable of viral embodiment and reproduction like software:

"The body that is infected by a virus does not become infected because it understands the virus any more than the body that does not become infected misunderstands the virus. So a world in which everything - from bitmaps to blood - can be understood as a 'form of speech' is also a world in which nothing actually is understood (emphasis in the original), a world in which what a speech act does is disconnected from what it means".

Reading that passage reminded me of Douglas Kahn's geneaological investigation of Burrough's viral tropes, especially their largely unknown Scientological origins in the Dianetic demon:

"...over thirty years ago Burroughs had developed viral tropes of genetic mutation, genetic algorithms, binary code as genetic information of the human organism, computers and viruses, i.e., concerns of present-day artists, many of whom have Laurie Anderson's contagious ditty running through their heads: 'language is a virus, oooooo'. Although the old man of the Beats seems to grow younger against an increasingly pervasive backdrop of viral tropes and technological rhetoric, it is best to temper thoughts of prophecy when listening to Anderson's pop praise song because it just so happens to be a paean to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Dianetics and the Church of Scientology.

"Burroughs' notion of the virus had developed through his engagement with a series of organismic theories, the first one being the General Semantics of Count Alfred Korzybski, the second the orgone theories of Wilhelm Reich, and the third the Dianetics of Hubbard. The first two theories were an important source for the uncanny bodies familiar to Burroughs' readers, bodies capable of amoeba-like osmotic ingestion of other bodies as though their entire surface had become orifice, bodies with the gelatinous consistency of protoplasm, entire bodies, in other words, that mimicked cells. Culminating with Naked Lunch, these goo bodies were the culture in which Burroughs' first variety of virus grew, what I call the usurper virus, one that overtakes completely through the pathologising of Burroughs' self-described gay erotics of becoming one and the same, through the monomaniacal drives of junk and sex, through an association with the global metaphors of cancer, or through incorporative operations of metaphoricity itself. Dianetics, on the other hand, influenced the virus' first major mutation in his writings immediately following Naked Lunch, creating a new virus that shifted from its formerly crass amoeboid behaviour to a differentiated and technically sophisticated entity and, most importantly, to something that functioned so similarly to language that it became language.

"This capacity for and of language was a product of the combined effect of Hubbard's engrams and the Dianetic demon, namely, of inscription and voice. Furthermore, it was fused at every point with communications technologies which recorded absolutely everything into the core of cells, took over the internal broadcasts prefiguring the voice, and rendered people inveterate senders or receivers. On an evolving historical backdrop of twentieth century psychotechnologies (in the non-Cartesian framework of organismic theories, psychophysiological), the movement from Burroughs' usurper virus to its mutation is repeated in the transformation of Korzybski's psychogalvanic tests, used to assert the existence of psychosomatic responses, to Scientology's E-meter, something akin to a lie detector used to 'clear' the 'aberee' of engrams. In the same manner Reich's atmospheric orgone energy became intermixed in the post-war period with both the mutative background radiation of above-ground atomic testing and the mind-control transmissions of telecommunications."

"Cellular Phones:Corporeal Communications Technologies in William S. Burroughs and L. Ron Hubbard"
Douglas Kahn

The meme mutates on, and zombies will have been afoot, again...except they aren't so much zombies as...conversationalists.

Friday, 5 September 2008

and all my brothers and sisters from all the countries that have oil, if you could all please send me some oil for my jet I would truly appreciate it.

"For the second year in a row, Sean 'Diddy' Combs finished third on [Forbes.com's Hip-Hop Cash King list]. The ageless Dapper Don of rap banked a cool $35 million from his revenue streams, including his clothing line Sean John, record label Bad Boy, premium vodka Ciroc and two reality-TV shows. Last year Diddy collaborated with fellow list-toppers Jay-Z and 50 Cent to release 'I Get Money (The Forbes 1, 2, 3 Remix)' in honor of their success."

Hip-Hop's Cash Kings 2008

Bubblelog Aftermath - Pink Skull