Friday, 28 November 2008

"Employer of the year, grandmaster of fear / My blood flows satanical, mechanical, masonical and chemical / habitual ritual "

"I deal in the market, every man, woman and child is a target / A closet full of faceless, nameless pay more for less empitness /I’ll make you scrounge, in my executive lounge / you pay less tax, but I’ll gain more back"

Corporate Cannibal ~ Grace Jones

"Writing in 1930, Keynes was most interested in the process of deflation and in countering the dangerous advice of conventional finance. Orthodoxy put the pound back on gold at a punishingly high rate in 1925, torturing British industry and pushing up unemployment in the name of sound money. Central banks, Keynes feared, were being too timid about bringing down interest rates. Against orthodoxy’s austerity nostrums, Keynes celebrated booms in a manner that would do a Texas populist proud. Shakespeare, said Keynes, died rich, and his days were 'the palmy days of profit — one of the greatest "bull" movements ever known until modern days in the United States…. [B]y far the greater proportion of the world’s greatest writers and artists have flourished in the atmosphere of buoyancy, exhilaration and the freedom from economic cares felt by the governing class, which is engendered by profit inflations' (CW VI, p. 137). The Shakespeares of the era of junk finance have yet to be discovered, unless Bret Easton Ellis qualifies."

Wall Street (1997) by Doug Henwood

Monday, 24 November 2008

Life After Lehman Brothers

"What I miss most...paying bums to blow each other. It never got old."

Operation W.A.N.T. (We Are Not Toys)

"Last month, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) waged a guerilla-advertising war against what they call an illegal one in Iraq. Early on October 11, a seven-member brigade from its LA chapter formed Operation W.A.N.T. (We Are Not Toys) and set a dramatic stage for early-morning customers at a local gas station.

"In black t-shirts and ski masks, the group arranged 4,200 miniature toy soldiers on the pavement accompanying signs that read, "The Price of Gas: 4171 US Soldiers." (On its website, IVAW is quick to point out that since the action, that number has grown to 4,193.)"


10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military


New York Times Special Edition Video News Release - Nov. 12, 2008 from H Schweppes on Vimeo.

B-roll of fake New York Times Distribution, November 12, 2008 from H Schweppes on Vimeo.

The New York Times

One Nation Under Debt


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Pasolini's "Canterbury Tales"

It must be something like 20 years ago that I originally took in Pasolini's Canterbury Tales at the Empire Cinema in Surry Hills. I walked out of the film absolutely stunned and reinvigorated at the possibilities of pure cinema. A few years after that I took in Salo as part of Sydney's Mardi Gras, which also made an indelible impression. So many memories; I wasn't sure I'd ever see this again, particularly the sequence in this clip that totally blew me away. Before you ask ahuthnance, no, it is not the commercial that would have screened had John Howard defeated Kevin Rudd in the election, but in a way it's not unrelated. As a dedicated communist, Pasolini was fascinated by feudalism, and his work should be seen as consonant with that of later critical theorists warning of a "back to the future" scenario, in which we find ourselves living in a new [sic] Middle Ages. For example:
The Middle Ages ended when the rise of capitalism on a national scale led to powerful states with sovereignty over particular territories and populations. Now that capitalism is operating globally, those states are eroding and a new medievalism is emerging, marked by multiple and overlapping sovereignties and identities -- particularly in the developing world, where states were never strong in the first place.
Having digested these thoughts, watch the clip, then immediately rewatch it just to be sure of what you have witnessed....

Mike Davis: "Against the Grain"

Perilous Light

How is visuality — understood here as the mutual constitution of the visual and the social (W. J. T. Mitchell) — implicated in the mediated construction of instances of distant suffering in various parts of the world, and what are the effects of such implications? After a brief history of the visual representation of humanitarian crises by Euro-American civil society institutions, the presentation turns to a consideration of the perils and prospects of humanitarian visuality. In particular, I turn to an inescapable aporia of this visual economy, the simultaneous production and negation of the otherness of vulnerable subjects. Finally, the presentation discusses certain strategies for a critical visuality, notably a defence of the image’s interpretive ambiguity as well as practices of phenomenological reintensification and structuralist expansion of the image.A public lecture by Fuyuki Kurasawa

Aihwa Ong

Ong’s anthropological and ethnographic approach to neo-liberalism and citizenship is presented in part as a critique of authors such as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, who contend, inter alia, that a uniform global labour regime is emerging. Rather, Ong argues in favour of more localized and situated analyses of labour regimes, focusing on the various manifestations of ‘translocal publics’, for example, where specific interests intersect and are given particular formulations (p. 62). As an alternative to examining ‘identities’, which are often simplified interpretations of national groups or ethnic communities possessing considerable diversity, Neoliberalism as Exception emphasizes that the concept of translocal publics describes ‘the new kinds of borderless ethnic identifications enabled by technologies and forums of opinion making’ (p. 63). Ong’s work examines a wide range of regional events and assemblages, from the Chinese diaspora after the 1997 Asian financial crisis (chapter 2), to foreign domestic workers in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong (chapter 9).
Neo-liberalism as exception is also a critique of juridical-legal interpretations of the connections between citizenship and government. Ong argues that this method is evident in Giorgio Agamben’s focus on the bifurcation of the population into two halves: zones of citizenship, consisting of political beings, and zones of bare life, consisting of those without citizenship protections (p. 22). Instead, Ong contends that a ‘temporal conceptualization of the politics of exception’ is a more appropriate means for recognizing the validity of other ethical regimes - such as the various world religions - that also ‘operate along the continuum of inclusion and exclusion, though without mapping onto the same division between citizens and bare life’ (p. 197). In contrast to Agamben, Ong argues that new modes of analysis are necessary for examining the ways in which those without territorialized citizenship might make claims, whether through local communities, NGOs or corporations (p. 24). While most of the book’s content consists of essays already published elsewhere, Ong also presents new contributions, and has reworked and reorganized the existing material to provide an ethnographic perspective critical to an understanding of the global economy and socio-political systems. By placing each article in a particular context that reveals new insights into neo-liberal transformations of citizenship and sovereignty, Ong brings theoretical potency and empirical energy to a growing field of scholarship.

Eliot Che's review, "Rethinking Neoliberalism", Originally published in: International Affairs 83(4), 2007.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Obama's Third Way?

Below is an article by John Cassidy in which he critically examines the new behavioral economics theory of 'nudge' as propounded by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein. It seems that Barack Obama, who was a fellow teacher with Sunstein at the University of Chicago Law School, is a keen believer in its potential as a 'Third Way' of policy-making. Such a weak centrist position, which aims to preserve/encourage 'freedom of choice', would employ little in the way of govt. regulation in tackling the inequities of the market, rather it would merely aim to encourage people to seek alternative action. Not surprisingly, this agency-oriented model, which Thaler and Sunstein describe as a form of 'libertarian paternalism', has also captured the imagination of the British Conservative Party. As Cassidy maintains, this structural deficient approach seems hardly sufficient in addressing some of the fundamental problems facing, for example, the American health care system and the financial crisis. More, he concludes, will be needed than simply attempting to "'nudge' the country in a different direction."

Slum Tourism/Poorism

Having at last read, on NHuthnance's recommendation, Houellebecq's 'Platform', I thought it was rather fitting when, quite by chance, I happened upon an article about the growing popularity of, and controversy surrounding, so-called 'Slum Tourism'.
It seems that despite the tour operator's claims regarding the (limited) benefits such tours offer the poor, it, again, ultimately proves that capitalism will commodify anything, not least the very victims of its own structural inequalities...

Friday, 21 November 2008

CEOs: they just don't get it, do they?

Something is wrong with the U.S Automotive Industry. It seems that either the carmakers need to change the way they make cars in USA or the car companies may need to change the CEOs or the management, as the CEO's flew to Washington D.C. to seek 25 billion bailout in private jets.

Perhaps the Harvard economist Martin Feldstein is right when he called for the Big Three automakers to enter bankruptcy to rewrite excessive union contracts. One Lawmaker has said to the CEOs that flying jet to the bailout hearing is like going to "soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo."

Rep. Brad Sherman has asked CEOs whether they would fly back commercial. The company representatives pointed out to safety, travel policies as reasons for flying jets.

Oh come on!

"There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses," Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York,

told the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors at a hearing of

the House Financial Services Committee.

He added, "couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something

to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it."

Man hunting killer robots

The Pentagon's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program recently sent out a call for contractors to design a pack of robots whose main purpose would be to track down what the SBIR ominously referred to as "noncooperative human subject[s]."

How does the robot pack decide which human is cooperative and which is not? Welcome to the wonderful, dystopian world of defense pork.

The call immediately raised red flags, as well as philosophical and moral chills, from one end of humankind to the other. Not surprisingly, it was quickly removed from the public Web site before its cyborg spark evolved into a full-fledged paranoia over machine armies and murderous artificial intelligence, the likes of which were previously known only in seminal science-fiction exercises as old-school as Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and Philip K. Dick's stories, "Minority Report" and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and as new-school as the Star Wars, Terminator and Matrix franchises.

According to the SBIR offer, the "Multi-Robot Pursuit System" would need "a software and sensor package to enable a team of robots to search for and detect human presence in an indoor environment." The robots would be led by a human commander using "semiautonomous map-based control." For good measure, the offer added that there "has also been significant research in the game-theory community involving pursuit/evasion scenarios." According to the offer, the robots should weight a little over 200 pounds apiece, and there should be three to five of them assigned to their human overlord.

Read the full story here:

Friday, 14 November 2008

New Scientist: The future of science fiction

Science fiction is all about the future, but what does the future hold for science fiction?

These days, science can be stranger than science fiction, and mainstream literature is increasingly futuristic and speculative. So are the genre's days numbered? We asked six leading writers for their thoughts on the future of science fiction, including Margaret Atwood, William Gibson and Kim Stanley Robinson.

Plus, we review the latest sci-fi novels, highlight the writers to watch and reveal the results our poll of your all-time favourite sci-fi films and books.

The future of sci-fi

Is science fiction dying, asks Marcus Chown

What does the future hold for the genre of science fiction? We asked six leading writers:

Margaret Atwood

Stephen Baxter

William Gibson

Ursula K Le Guin

Kim Stanley Robinson

Nick Sagan

Book reviews

Anathem by Neal StephensonMovie Camera - including an exclusive video interview with Stephenson

The Last Theorem by Arthur C Clarke and Frederik Pohl

City at the End of Time by Greg Bear

Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

Incandescence by Greg Egan

Plus: The best of the restMovie Camera - including an exclusive video interview with Brian Greene

Who are the hot new writers to watch out for?

Your favourite sci-fi

Read the results of our readers' poll

See all the votes in the film poll

See all the votes in the book poll

Find out New Scientist's favourite sci-fi:

New Scientist staffers' favourite (and most hated) sci-fi filmsMovie Camera

New Scientist staffers' favourite (and most-difficult-to-understand) sci-fi books

The editorial and accompanying articles are also definitely not to be missed.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

"Star Wars in Iraq": Zeus energy weapon

Incredibly this weapon uses the same name as the "Zeus Cannon" featured in the movie Final Fantasy (I keep coming back to that earlier William Gibson quote about the difficulty of writing science fiction because it is now colonising reality). For some, this might be a story to put in the Kode9 files. I was interested in not only the possible applications in theaters of war, but also as part of an Urban Pacification Program (as per the Weyland Yutani corporation in Alien, albeit not particularly "biological" in its focus).
This dystopic reading is certainly necessary, although it is equally striking how its antidote can be found in unexpected places. For example, reading last night about the making and cultural legacy of Night of the Living Dead, I discovered that the black lead actor, Duane Jones, had insisted that his character be killed, as he thought this would meet the expectations of black audiences. This was confirmed shortly thereafter when Martin Luther King was assassinated. But here I was reading this on the night that Obama was confirmed as the 44th president! I felt his speech was long on agency, and short on structural references, as might be expected given the strength of his liberal convictions and the highest voter turnout in decades. Indeed, it was this characteristic that I found made for a stark comparison with the Republican side, who more closely resembled the kind of machinic pathologies in Michael Powell's version of The Tales of Hoffmann, which had originally inspired Romero to make his film (right down to its scenes of graphic dismemberment). Hence I see Powell's film as a morality tale warning of the appearance on the historical stage of a new era of machine politics, which drives the development of weapons such as Zeus: John McCain as Spalanzani, with Sarah Palin his automaton, Olympia. Of course, the electorate are allegorically represented by Hoffmann. The beauty of the representation of violence in this context though, as described by Romero himself, is that "the most important thing about horror and sci fi is to not restore order...We don't want things the way they are or we wouldn't be trying to shock you into an alternative place." Hence the violence is really about being held accountable for one's actions. By extension, Night is not a conservative representation of the failure of revolution, with the repressed past rising up to eat the future before a progressive alternative has time to take hold; it is clearly not that.
However, some clarification is seemingly required in regard to where the traditional reading may be more suitably applied. If not to Romero's film, then where? For example, is it possible that the dystopic machine politics of the Republican party are not alone? Perhaps also in proximity to the "silent majority" reading of revolution (albeit unintentionally in many instances) would be the tendencies of the Continental philosophy blogosphere (already critiqued on this blog), at least to the extent it equates to an almost zombie like paralysis of will? Therefore I am eagerly awaiting Derridata's deconstruction of Badiou's reading of "capital"...

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

"You think of the Republican Party as a isn't. The Republican Party is a Mayan sect"

"I don't know who you are!" Gore Vidal versus David Dimbleby

No Country for Old Men

The Henry Rollins Show - The Corruption of Election 2008

Monday, 3 November 2008

Remnants of Nazi Germany's Concrete Empire

The following clips are of two surviving examples of Nazi Germany's enormous flakturms (flak towers) found in, respectively, Berlin and Vienna. While like most Nazi military structures flakturms embodied the Nazi pursuit of, both literal and metaphysical, borders and boundaries between themselves and their 'enemies', on a more practical level the towers, generally, fulfilled several important roles, including: the principle role of anti-aircraft towers; air raid shelters for up to 30,000 people; storage facilities; and defensive strongpoints. Indeed, the towers in Berlin proved to be impregnable even to the largest Soviet weapons, and provided significant assistance for German troops by using their heavy flak guns in a ground support role.

"Spreading the Wealth..."

Some interesting comments from historian David Kaiser's blog:
I talked a few weeks ago about one of Barack Obama’s few missteps during the campaign—his reference to poorer white voters in places like semi-rural Pennsylvania and Ohio who cling to religion and guns out of bitterness. I said then, and I still believe, that Obama has shown that he understands that that is only half the the problem, the other half being that Democrats have failed to do anything meaningful to make their lives better for so long. His remarkable infomercial made that point beautifully by looking at the real lives of four such American families (even though one family was black, their story was representative of a whole economic group.) Sarah Palin and John McCain have done their best to make what capital they could out of that quote, but they have not been very successful. Indeed, their campaign has made clear to a shocking extent that the Republicans have nothing to offer such people but bitterness and empty dreams.Essentially the Republican campaign has been telling poorer whites during the entire campaign that whatever their economic condition, they, not the Democrats, have the right values, and they are the true Americans who live in the American parts of America. That is the essential Republican appeal to what the Party calls its “base,” and many of its strategies have forgotten that it is impossible to win on one’s base alone. (In recent days commentators like William Bennett talk as if Tuesday’s election were a Republican primary: as long as McCain/Palin have the base behind them, they have nothing to worry about. Democrats and independents will however also be voting on Monday.) Meanwhile, the Republicans want to flatter the dreams of Thomas Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber, that with proper tax policies they can become rich. This aspect of their message was even more obvious in a speech I saw Arnold Schwarznegger give for McCain in Ohio two nights ago. Arnold explained that he had left Europe because of the regulations that stifled opportunity there and had come to the United States to make his fortune. Europe, he said, was now “wising up” and beginning to free its economies, but Obama wanted to go backwards, in the wrong direction. (That of course is silly: in practice every major right-wing party in Europe, like Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in Germany, is well to the left of our Democrats.) Vote Republican, he seemed to say, and your children can be like me—not, it seems to me, a very comforting notion based upon the laws of probability. With their constant attacks on the notions of “spreading the wealth around,” the Republicans seem to be embracing the notion of a society divided into an enormously wealth few and a declining mass, flatterring their supporters that with the right values, they can ascend to the top. This appeals to the traditional Calvinism of America, which saw material success as proof of the Lord’s blessing. Indeed, all we need to do to accept the idea of some mild redistribution of the wealth—which in the long run will help our economy more anyway—is to accept that chance plays at least as big a role as grace or ability in determining the extent of our economic success, and that there is no reason not to structure our tax system to acknowledge the role of chance and even it out a bit. In any event, economic justice means justice for the many, or it means nothing at all.