Two weeks ago it was the National Notification Network. This week it's the Wide-Area Broadcast System. Five of these towers emerged within the last month and today security technicians were testing their amplification power. I spend little time on the campus, but since I was there I snapped this photo.
"BEEEEP. This is a test of the Emergency Wide-Area Broadcast System!" the loudspeaker blared off and on. Throughout the entire campus you could hear infrequent beeps and glitches from the goofy looking machines. Students walking by got the shit scared out of them as the towers went off without warning.
No student body or faculty to my knowledge voted (or at the very least discussed) this new security apparatus. It's only been brought to our attention as something "the campus" is doing now. And of course our student newspaper cares more about poorly-written pickup lines than these issues. They could ask questions like, where is the Homeland Security money coming from (ahem), what the fuck are these machines doing here, why the fuck are you doing this without our consent, etc etc. But they won't. And look how easily it was to install an entirely new campus environment before our eyes.
I wonder if our school will buy one of these soon. Data-mining equipment like the kind provided by Narus and its sister corporations in the security industrial complex are the logical next-step in the "emergency preparedness" process. A campus environment, with all its sensitive digital information, is highly vulnerable to denial-of-service attacks and other breaches. So the argument goes, we need more black boxes! Just as "emergency preparedness" is a euphemism for police state, so "lawful interception" is a euphemism for domestic spying. Hundreds of high speed internet offices already set that up in the United States without anyone's consent or notification.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Two weeks ago it was the National Notification Network. This week it's the Wide-Area Broadcast System. Five of these towers emerged within the last month and today security technicians were testing their amplification power. I spend little time on the campus, but since I was there I snapped this photo.
There should be free parties in city parks every weekend.
I have anecdotal evidence supporting my thesis. The Decibel party in Seattle offered a free party in Volunteer Park as alternative to expensive parties downtown. Decibel was a 4-day party showcasing some of my favorite EDM artists - they spun minimal, dub, glitch, and all sorts of funky beats in between. (Look at the full list of all the artists.) Most of the artists played inside for a hefty fee (Carl Craig for $25 at the door), but a few of them played outside in parks absolutely for free.
Some local and West Coast Djs wanted to give Seattle a free show and that was excellent. Two from the Bay-Area (edIT and Boreta) played for free their West Coast "glitch" underground flavor. Here is a sample of their music:
I don't want to take the unitary urbanist thesis too far, but how can I resist? The status quo urbanism is a compartmentalized way to think about a city's surroundings, where "art" is detached from the rest of life. In that view, "art" is supposed to stay inside artist's lofts or inside museums. And increasingly, art is being pushed back into private spaces and out of public spaces. From this I suppose we can conclude that public art has negative aesthetic effect on some peoples' "indifference curves". These people, typically, we call "squares". Status quo urbanism is square urbanism.
It's unfortunate that square values have triumphed over unitary values in public discourse (in the City of Seattle and elsewhere). The Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle has seen an increase in art, dance, and "hip" scenes in recent years. But the squares are fighting back with socio-economic status and privilege as a way to limit everyone else's fun. In the unitary urbanist ideal, an urban environment is blended so much with work and play that you cannot tell where function ends and where play begins.
"A unitary urbanism — the synthesis we call for, incorporating arts and technologies — must be created in accordance with new values of life, values which we now need to distinguish and disseminate. . . . "
- Gil J Wolman “La plate-forme d’Alba” originally appeared in Potlatch: Information Bulletin of the Lettrist International #27 (Paris, 2 November 1956)
Monday, September 29, 2008
This is a t-shirt that was created by the Denver Police Protective Association, the Denver police union. The grinning pig on the shirt is wearing a hat with a crossed-out number "68," a reference to one of the Denver-based activist organizations - called Recreate 68 - which had planned demonstrations for an entire year and had several public battles over free speech and zoning issues. Glen Spagnulo from Recreate 68 said the following about the Denver security apparatus.
"The people of Denver were assured by the city that it would respect First Amendment rights during the DNC, and that that police officers were being trained to do so. The actions of police during the DNC, which involved numerous violations of people's right to freedom of speech and assembly, put the lie to those promises."
The "detective" who created these tasteless shirts, named Nick Rogers, said he hasn't received any complaints about the t-shirt, which were given to the police for free and thousands more are being sold to supporters who love to spread fascist propaganda. He said police often issue T-shirts to commemorate big events. Watch this video that shows Miami police shooting protesters in the face and then laughing maniacally and congratulating each other about it afterwards.
Why would you trust police to serve your neighborhoods, or prowl your schools, or invade your communities? What about testifying in court against minorities, leftists, or undesirables? Why would you trust them with a monopoly on assault weapons and state-legitimized use of force?
They haven't heard any complaints yet.
1331 Cherokee St.
Denver, CO 80204
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Two weeks ago I watched the opening of "Battle in Seattle" - the Hollywood film about the WTO protest - at the Neptune Theater in Seattle. I also fliered the movie-going audience with information about the PepperSpray film collective. We were at the film showing because some of the people in the collective participated in the WTO protest. It's how the film collective actually got started. Here is a pamphlet that anarchists have been passing around at the screenings too. I really liked the film and was inspired by it, but it's true that the filmmaker violence-bated the anarchists. Here is a quote from Crimethinc's Screenwreckers Guild:
"The Battle in Seattle website repeatedly belittles anarchists as a “small fringe group” who “managed to steal the show” while focusing only on anarchist participation in the black bloc. Actually, anarchists were involved in all different aspects of the WTO protests including lockdowns, making puppets and cooking for Food Not Bombs. The Direct Action Network, (the group who shaped the protests), was founded and operated based on the anarchist principles of horizontal and non-hierarchical organizing. The media’s attempts to pigeon hole anarchists as “violent” thugs was simply an effort to discredit the strength of anarchist organizing and the successes of direct action."
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Why believe in “optimism” rather than “pessimism”?
What if optimism is naively leading you to absurd conclusions? Or perhaps there’s a better way of doing something and if only you could stop what you are doing now and become pessimistic about it would you realize this. Realize what exactly? An instinctual urge to view negative possibilities as more realistic than positive ones? Wait, don't confuse “pessimism” with “resignationism”, like Schopenhauer did, and don't confuse “laughing” with “optimism”.
There are pessimistic laughers too, my favorite kind.
Suggested reading:Nietzsche. The Birth of Tragedy, Attempt at a Self-Criticism. §6 (click here.)
Friday, September 26, 2008
Not that I advocate spectacular politics, but you can listen to the Republican-Democrat debates tonight on NPR's live audio stream, or you can watch it on CNN's live video stream.
NPR also has a nice section that is already attempting to 'fact check' the remarks of senators McCain and Obama. The story of tonight's debate can be summarized in the following way.
What they're doing:
And what we're doing:
"Comparing Mayor Greg Nickels to President Herbert Hoover, organizers have called their encampment, "Nickelsville." But Nickels is no Hoover. Seattle is as liberal in its provision for the homeless as any city we know."
The SeattleTimes wastes no time buttressing the liberal mission of the city. But according to the Nickelsville website, Seattle does not have the resources or beds necessary to shelter all of its homeless, thereby justifying the existence of a Nickelsville:
"During the One Night Count of January 2008, 8439 people were homeless in King County. 5808 had shelter through existing programs but 2631 were without, a 15% increase over last year. 34 homeless people have died outside this year alone."
A post on another website describes the somber mood during the eviction today.
"Several hundred homeless and allies were present to demand their right to safe temporary housing ... cops and journalists commiserated and joked with one another while homeless residents of Nickelsville worried about whether they would sleep in jail tonight or risk sleeping exposed and alone elsewhere in the city."
Beyond Good and Evil is a breath of fresh air against the platitudes of my social-academic life at the moment. After bonding with others on a real and meaningful level and living without hierarchies among us during the summer, to re-enter the university 'system' is harrowing for me.
Here the general population of students doesn't think with instinct or passion. They talk as though they are thinking 'reasonably', 'tolerably', 'politely', etc. It is a civilization for people civilized into a particular way of thought. It's also disenchanting. And it is apparent from most of my formal learning environments that the university would rather have you ask an 'academic' question rather than a 'sincere' one, and this is where the university has failed our sense of community and provided us with alienation, where it has deepened the proletarianization of student life.
But in reading Nietzsche, I find that sincerity. His critique of the 'philosophers' in particular is that all their work - which typically makes a formal point to categorize truths and falsehoods or more generally "binary opposites" - has been taken more seriously than it should. This probably sounds ridiculous because he has himself been elevated more recently to the status of 'philosopher'. I think his particular way of thinking really gets to the heart of our distinctions, and our reasons for having them - which go so far beyond analytic thought that it makes hardly any sense to talk about it in analytic terms.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Nickelsville is an unauthorized homeless encampment in Seattle that has recently tried to setup more permanent shelter structures due to an increase in the number of homeless. There is somewhere around 100 people living at the location right now. The City of Seattle has issued an eviction notice (.pdf) which will expire today at 5:00PM, even though the camp is on government-issued tribal lands.
As homeless and youth shelters close because of the recent crisis on wall street, (shelters in Tacoma, WA close and social workers relocate in Auburn, WA) we might expect more places like Nickelsville to pop up. We need to defend the poorest in our society, who only use land that is unused by property speculators and developers.
There are a billion poor people worldwide who live in these kinds of communities, which are technically illegal. Their only crime is that they don't own titles to the land. Using bulldozers, governments sweep out camps like this and break down peoples' shelters. Go to UN Habitat to see what that's all about.
Looking at our history - housing struggles and encampments like this in urban areas were defended successfully by concerned neighbors and the larger community around the sites when the government decided to evict them. This has happened in New York, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, London, and so on. Will we be able to say the same about Seattle?
This is a website somebody put together about the encampment -
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Here is an interesting online game you can play with your friends. It models the Market For Lemons scenario that I've been blogging about a lot in the past week.
The way my classmates and I played, 4 sellers were pitted against 6 buyers. The first 4 rounds we (the buyers, I was a buyer) had symmetric information, meaning we knew exactly what the quality of each product was and its price. Grade 1 had value equal to a price of $4.00, Grade 2 had $8.80 and Grade 3 had $13.60.
As shown in the screenshot - the last 4 rounds we (the buyers) had asymmetric information, meaning we had no idea what the quality of the products were; we only knew the price. In that case, just as George Akerlof described, no seller would put Grade 2 or 3 on the market because no buyer could be sure he or she wasn't losing money on the trade. Each buyer would be safest assuming that each product was Grade 1 in that case and then make purchases accordingly. This drives out Grade 2 and 3 products and the market is flooded with Grade 1s, or "lemons". CONCLUSION: there'd be no good products in this market without symmetric information.
At the end of the rounds I made more money from buying than the other capitalists, so, hey, yay for asymmetry! I still plan on keeping my "SHOPPING PRIORITIES" straight.
idea: next time we should model collusion by allowing buyers and sellers to communicate via IRC chat.
Amidst the tempers flaring now about the current state of the economy, and failing mortgage firms, I pulled up a video discussion about outrageous executive pay from 2002 on PBS's News Hour with Jim Lehrer.
George Akerlof (him again!) says in the video,
"The public thinks that this is an issue of left versus right. We should have either free markets or regulated markets."
I think Paul Solman makes a good point against the market enthusiasts who say, as does minarchist philosopher Robert Nozick, that the market chose to pay these CEOs exorbitant amounts of money because it values what they do. Solmon shows that while the firm the CEOs work for may be valued in the market, the CEOs themselves choose their own pay. They're only accountable to themselves. It's the firm as a whole that is valued by the market. Moreover, CEO pay has no easy correlation with stock performance or firm performance.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Thank you SubMedia for posting this video - and thank you GlassBead for rolling your tapes. Watch the video where the Society of Professional Journalists (website) dissect DNC/RNC videos put out by SubMedia and PepperSpray asking the audience, "Are they really journalists?"
After slight heckling from audience members, he turns to the panel of professional journalists and says,
"Show them your press pass."
What a joke. From my perspective a press pass is only supposed to send the signal that you take what you do seriously, and you are committed to your role as a journalist as opposed to any other role - organizer, medic, jail supporter, lawyer, police officer, delegate etc.
So, what do we think - are Lambert, me and the Stimulator journalists? Do we fulfill a journalistic niche where corporate and mainstream media have failed us? Do we show original content and represent underrepresented viewpoints that add to public debate and help create a fuller, more diverse democracy? Etc. Etc.?
If you live in the Seattle-Tacoma area, we'd like to invite you to a community report-back from the RNC in St. Paul this summer. Meet us at Central Cinema on Sunday Oct. 5th 4-6 pm. Pepperspray Productions and Submedia will be showing a 30 minute documentary about the resistance at the DNC and RNC conventions.
ring on- the- Scene video cover age of prote sts and arres ts from Peppe rSpra y Produ ction s ( Seatt le) and Subme dia ( Vanco uver)
- Critical discussion with Reclaim the Media, the ACLU-WA, the National Lawyers Guild and of course PepperSpray and SubMedia.
3- $10 slidi ng scale donat ion
- Ariel Wetzel's photography from DNC/RNC on display
- Live music by STAXX BROTHERS (funk / soul / hip hop / reggae fusion)
- DJ set and video mix by FRANK LOPEZ aka STIMULATOR
- ART: creat
e banne rs, signs , and t- shirt s with other peopl e.
One of the most important economic articles of the past forty years is George Akerlof's discussion of the used-car market in the article The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism (.pdf), as mentioned previously.
The fact that this article is the seminal article in the New Institutional Economics genre blows my mind. Maybe it's because the ideas are now already so absorbed into the culture that its conclusions seem painstakingly simple. The article has been cited 4,605 times according to Google Scholar.
Because after all, Akerlof did not establish any iron laws or reach any definitive conclusions about used-car versus new-car markets. Rather, from the very beginning of the article, he showed that economists had left out a key element of consumer decision making in past theorizing - the difficulty of verifying product quality.
But it hadn't taken extraordinary insight on Akerlof's part to understand that the problem of verifying product quality existed - shit, I mean, any ordinary consumer had to deal with lemons all the time. Akerlof also did nothing to make the problem of ensuring product quality any simpler or easier for consumers to resolve in the future. No fancy maths, no complicated calculus. I think he even tried to make the variables look more exciting than they would otherwise be.
The article's contribution to economics was that it pointed out product-quality issues and the consequences for neoclassical theologians who never considered such a simple fucking problem as part of the picture. Akerlof made the argument that his economist peers should talk about this more, because including it would lead to a more accurate and realistic portrayal of capitalism in the classroom.
After it was given some thought for a while, and in light of subsequent writings by other economists, his point was accepted and he went on to become a famous economist who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001.
What I want to say is this. The lemon article is typical of the way economics advances. After something fairly obvious gets by unnoticed for a time, a friendly dissenter takes aim and recasts the old paradoxes (Zeno's, Gresham's, etc.) in new terms. Publishers then jibe around thinking about whether it is "interesting" or not, and then if it is, lots of subsequent academics think about the world as seen in the development of the new economic idea, and include this in their citations. If you make a strong effort to communicate the breadth of your conclusions and the advantages of your research program, you will be immortalized through citation. That is the critical element in achieving professional interest and recognition.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Digital Ethnography is a study, an anthropological discipline. Professor Wesch (blog) at Kansas State University has a team of students every year study the internet and its new trends. I tend to think academics are generally behind the major trends, not participating in them or generating them. But one of KSU's methodological principles is known as "participant observation", whereby the observer-academics take part themselves in the trends that shape online culture. Sometimes, as Prof. Wesch's very viral 2007 YouTube video demonstrated to the world, the academics can become an internet phenomenon themselves.
If you participate in internet culture at all, like if you read a blog or have a myspace, you'll enjoy watching this exciting hour-long lecture by Prof. Wesch, which I posted below. One of the students who participated in KSU's Digital Ethnography project during the first year, self-nicknamed "thepoasm" (also featured in the following video), I was following on YouTube and watching her weekly vlog posts. She has very insightful reflections on the nature of the internet and what it's like to participate in online culture. I recommend checking out her YouTube page.
"Over time, some institutions survive and others do not, while new ones are created. Institutional Darwinism suggests that only the fittest institutions survive."
- Jaya Sil, Organizing Ideas
I have further ideas following the short introduction to New Institutional Economics in the last post. The marketplace is supposed to be a place where valued products survive and sub par products fail. Adding to this, some say that good institutions are supposed survive and bad ones fail. I find this "meta" Darwinian view about institutions in the marketplace essentially invalid. Or at the very least unsophisticated.
Bad institutions are harder to change out than bad products. The rules of capitalism are firmly established, so a lot must be done to supplant its various institutions.
But this is exactly Jaya Sil's point. It is the New Institutional point: that Institutional Darwinism is just more residual from neo-classical thinking. According to the neo-classical analysis if an institution is clearly not the fittest, it would not survive the challenge from another institution poised to take it over. But why is that not true? Jaya Sil lists the 5 reasons given by the New Institutional paradigm.
1) the costs are too high to switch.
2) there is uncertainty over who gains from the switch.
3) there is lack of credibility regarding whether compensation for losses by redistributions from gainers to losers will occur.
4) there is a coordination failure.
5) there is a high sunk cost to the institutional switch.
But we should identify another one, because all five of these reasons so far assume that costs in some form or another are the only stumbling block to changing up the institutions, and therefore that analysis is still naive when it comes to Darwinian thinking. I would suggest
6) regulatory capture; if the failing institution is holding its power through governmental mandate, especially when the regulating institution itself has been "captured" by lobbyists for the institutions in question.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I am currently taking an economics course with a professor whose primary research areas are Fair Trade Coffee, economic organization in agrarian communities, and New Institutional Economics, or NIE. Here is a 2007 article (.pdf) about some of Matt Warning's work from Fresh Cup Magazine.
I thought I would survey some of the important theorists who are known for their work in the NIE perspective because I find it fascinating and I'd like to know more about it myself. The underlying focus of NIE is to show that "neoclassical" models which demonstrate institutions as either 'efficient' or 'inefficient' may not predict actual market preferences when we take into account other concepts that neoclassical models take for granted.
The success of NIE in many ways is the discovery of the many exogenous institutions that neoclassical economics took for granted, and providing modeling tools which have developed to accommodate concepts hitherto unfriendly towards models. This has sparked research in lots of areas, and spawned a new generation of researchers with NIE tools at their disposal. The the addition and contemplation of effects like 'transaction costs' and 'informational economics' are probably NIE's greatest contributions.
Here are just a few names from various disciplines within economics that have been effected by the NIE perspective.
Economics of Information
George Akerlof, Michael Spence and Joseph Stiglitz won the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics "for their analyses of markets with asymmetric information". Akerlof is probably best known for his "Market For Lemons" (.pdf) article in which he showed that owners of better products are less likely to sell their products in 'used' markets because of asymmetric information problems. The market for "lemons" is supposed to not exist according to a neoclassical analysis. But with an institutional analysis (with institutions like warranties) the problem is allegedly solved. Stiglitz, former Chief Economist at the World Bank wrote a series of diatribes against the Bank and the IMF, but is known in academic circles for his research on screening and information asymmetry. The breadth of his work is far-reaching as his latest book (and blog) about the Iraq War testifies. Spence is most known for developing the "job market signaling"(jstor) model which discusses ways that agents (employees) can convey information to principals (employers).
Transaction Cost Economics (TEC)
The first time the notion of "transactions costs" came up was in Ronald Coase's book The Nature of the Firm (1937). There it was explained that a firm would decide to 'outsource' production or services, etc. when the cost of providing them within the firm were too high. These costs were identified primarily as transaction costs, and the concept has since migrated to lots of other places in economics. Oliver Williamson was actually the first economist to call what these academics do "Institutional Economics". A student of Coase, Williamson pioneered concepts like information impactedness and the incomplete contracts approach to microeconomics and corporate finance. Finally, the other big name here is Douglass North. He is just an amazing economist who among other things brought the department of economics at the University of Washington fame for economic historianism.
Social capital theory in economics came largely out of transaction costs economics. One way to measure it is by looking at the depth of contracts and strength of social networks. For example, if a contract specifies every possible breach one can think of, then the context in which the contract arose is probably low in social capital. If a contract specifies very few possible breaches, social capital may is probably high. The key point: the cost of low social capital is a transaction cost. Though he is not an economist, Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, is the leading pioneer of this perspective.
New Social Economics
An economist from the Chicago School is most known for pioneering this work. In 1992 Gary Becker won the Nobel Prize in economics for various applications using the NIE methodology, including ideas like the microeconomics of fertility, which dissected the decision to produce offspring into questions about old age security, altruism and manipulation. He also came up with the "rotten kid theorem", the "economics of discrimination", and was given the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2007 by George W. Bush. The work of Becker and many others spurred an interest in family economics, the economics of suicide, and other subjects formerly talked about only in psychology or sociology departments.
Critique of the Neoclassical Paradigm
The research of NIE has consistently over the years demonstrated that neoclassical models of economic behavior are insufficient. When we analyze decisions essentially in terms of price and marginal utility alone, without considering their institutional context, we yield results that are often nonsensical. In the market for lemons example, the neoclassical model suggested that nobody would buy or sell cars because of the problems it generated. But the institutional models add the context necessary to understand why markets are actually possible.
There are plenty of other theorists in this perspective not discussed here. Topics in the New Economic History include Robert Fogel's analysis of slavery as an institution. Topics in Political Economy are covered by Malcolm Rutherford.
For further reading:
International Society for New Institutional Economics -->
Ronald Coase Institute -->
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Earlier generations spent their time ducking and covering, as this video demostrated, in the event of a possible communist act of aggression. But in the Information Age we simply give up our privacy and rely on the government to keep us safe. As an email from my university's Director of Campus Security illuminates, we are encouraged more than ever to be cataloged and mapped by participating in what Foucault critiqued as the new Panopticon -- the participatory panopticon. Here is an excerpt from the campus-wide email:
We will conduct an emergency notification test using the 3n system on Friday, September 19th. Please register immediately to be included in the test.
Thank you for taking this important step in supporting emergency preparedness.
National Notification Network
What is this all about? What are they preparing us for? Essentially, all the students at this university are being encouraged to enter their private information into a database run by a security corporation known as National Notification Network, or "3n". This company is part of a new series of Homeland Security Complex spin-offs that make money off of our collective sense of paranoia. It's only natural to be be skeptical about this. According to the 3n website, their corporation is "the leading global provider of mass notification solutions to Global 2000 corporations, government agencies, healthcare systems, and educational institutions in more than 230 countries worldwide."
"One Call Reaches All"
That is 3n's corporate motto. The company promises to notify the American public at large or specific groups of people of "any changes to the Homeland Security terrorist threat warning level", relays "notices to specific floors, buildings, or entire campuses after major disasters" and has remote roll-calling features -- to use their example, "Press 1 if you are at home; Press 2 if you are at work."
The guardians can keep tabs on the masses more easily and more legally than before, though we are promised that the database is only used in times of national or local emergency. Considered alone the mass notification system may be benign. In the context of everything else it is not. Recount all the unchecked executive orders, all the boundary-crossing authorizations, the limits to civil liberties and increases in government surveillance and scaling capabilities, and it has a much more serious and frightening context.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Here is another interview on NPR's SoundFocus about the GI Coffeehouse project, this time with community organizer Molly Gibbs. The coffeehouse has a new name: "Coffee Strong" instead of, as it was in my video from July, the "O'Give Plunger".
Monday, September 15, 2008
Now more than ever, camera-wielding communists are a threat!
My co-conspirator, Lambert Rochfort, is featured on this episode of Media Minutes.
Media Minutes is the longest-running syndicated radio program of its kind focused on media policy and reform.
A video that I (edited?) for work.
"Technology is not ancillary," says Geoff Proehl of the UPS Theatre Arts Department, "I think its central [to teaching]".
The snippet was a very good leftover clip from an earlier interview with this professor of dramaturgy. He begun a few years back using wikis and online collaboration devices to keep the academic discipline going, guided by his belief that technology helps him see his work in a different way.
Verfremdungseffekt; "A change in an individual's attitudes, associations, or beliefs is effected not through a straightforward presentation of ideas but through a fundamental restructuring of perception and understanding"
- Dramaturgy Northwest (website)
The goal of iTech is to support the academic use of technology.
The US State Department reported that there were over 22,000 deaths caused by terrorism last year. Over half of those killed or injured were Muslims.
Everyday, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. One child every five seconds.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Nigerian Rebels Declare 'Oil War'. Al Jazeera: September 14, 2008.
The nameless and faceless Movement For Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a militant indigenist group, has declared war on Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, and Eni. Nigeria is the world's eighth largest oil exporter, where indigenous peoples are fed up with the wealthy elite foreigners expropriating their wealth. They have announced that the fight is for "total control" of the oil region against the multinational oil companies who are complicit in abuses against the Nigerian people.
The Fourth World: Struggles For Traditional Lands and Ways of Life. Ward Churchill. Left Turn: June 16th, 2007.
In response to an originally Maoist formulation of the first, second, and third worlds hypothesis, Churchill proposes the "Fourth World" to include the indigenous people, which are often transformed into "Settler States", wherein a foreign population takes over a new land after it denounces the colonial power - but then continues to abuse the native population. "All but inevitably," Churchill writes, "this would lead to the contours of the resulting societies conforming closely to bioregional realities, a circumstance that would go far towards shaping the nature of their economies and facilitating a high degree of interactivity among/between societies through the medium of satisfying reciprocal needs."
HUD is a Sewer. Diffon Read & Co. Inc. And the Aristocracy of Stock Profits. Catherine Austin Fitts.
Written in memoir-form by a former US HUD assistant secretary during the First Bush Administration, Austin Fitts chronicles the vast and extensive exposure to corruption she experienced while working for just one year. She recalls, I asked why we should spend money to lose more money in a way that would harm communities. After a long silence during which 30 staff members intently studied their feet, one brave soul explained to me that the mortgage bank was owned and run by a major Republican donor.
MEDUSA Phase 1 Report. The United States Navy: 2004.
The device – dubbed Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio (MEDUSA) – exploits the microwave audio effect, in which short microwave pulses rapidly heat tissue, causing a shockwave inside the skull that can be detected by the ears. A series of pulses can be transmitted to produce recognizable sounds. The device is aimed for military or crowd-control applications, but may have other uses... such as mind control!!!
Postmodern Writer Is Found Dead at Home. Timothy Williams. New York Times: September 14, 2008.
Writer and professor at Pomona college, David Foster Wallace, was compared to Borges, Pynchon and Don DeLillo. His opus, “Infinite Jest,” was the most widely known in a series of writings that gained him a reputation for the postmodern sensibility. "A lot of contemporary literature uses irony as a self-protective gesture, but he never did that," a colleague at Pomona said about him. "He was brilliantly funny. People stayed with these long, complicated novels because they made them laugh," another said. He hung himself in Claremont, CA and was discovered by his wife.
Against the Logic of Submission. Wolfi Landstreicher. Venomous Butterfly Publications: 2005.
ALoS is a collection of anarchist essays written between 1996 and 2005 in the publication Willful Disobedience. The author's name is the nom de plume of an Oregon-based anarchist whose ideas are mainly influenced by insurrectionary anarchism, Max Strirner's egoism, surrealism, the Internationale Situationiste and non-primitivist critiques of civilization.
Reports from inside Bolivia right now are tumultuous given the circumstances.
As the BBC and various other US/UK media outlets have reported, separatists in Bolivia have taken over their government buildings and gas pipelines in support of autonomous control of the gas field regions. The majority of analyses tend to focus on isolated incidents, like the take-over of several airports near Santa Cruz, and firefights in the countryside. The larger picture is that separatists are seeking to recast the question of power in regional terms and in the rhetoric of a struggle against centralism and dictatorship, while the indigenous indios are trying to maintain socialist unity and prevent what they see as a fascist takeover.
At the heart of this issue is racism towards native indios on the one hand, and the controversial oil revenue redistribution scheme organized by the socialist government on behalf of the broader electorate on the other.
Jorge Martin, a Cuban writer for In Defense of Marxism who supports Evo Morales, writes that "armed thugs", or prefects, from the Union Juvenil Cruceñista (UJC) have taken over the buildings and infrastructures as part of a "right wing offensive" to take control of the oil-rich regions of the country. The UJC is an armed and paid youth cadre, the paramilitary arm of rich Eastern Bolivian landowners in the Santa Cruz Civic Committee. In the past they have attempted an assassination of President Evo Morales.
The indigenous Bolivians, mostly peasants, are generally opposed to the UJC and have begun mounting a counter-offensive to the take-over. Morales's political party, MAS, tried to discourage the indigenous from protesting, and the military from cracking down on the UJC. They said "We should not fall for provocations", "what the prefects want is for people to die so they can have their martyrs".
Pro-separatist governor of Pando, Leopoldo Fernandez, described a recent massacre of peasants to Reuters not as an "ambush", but rather as a clash between "rival groups", suggesting that the attack was not asymmetric. He added "The government has a great ability to distort things, and its arguments are always the same, accuse without reason."
United States Involvement
The United States Federal Government also has a great ability to distort things. The U.S. was chastised this week by Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales for spurring the separatist movement. Bolivia is a major recipient of USAID money, says the U.S. Center of Economic and Policy Research, with millions of dollars sent to "groups" there. The U.S. also funds "groups" in Bolivia through the National Endowment for Democracy and related organizations. The U.S. Embassy in Bolivia has gone so far as to encourage Peace Corp volunteers to "keep tabs" on Cubans, Venezuelans and Bolivians, essentially asking the Peace Corp to violate Bolivian espionage laws.
“USAID is not supposed to be a clandestine organization," said Mark Weisbrot, the co-CEPR director, in the report, "but nevertheless the U.S. government refuses to divulge which groups in Bolivia are supported with U.S. tax dollars”,
...“By providing clandestine aid to groups that are almost certainly in the opposition, it gives the impression that the U.S. is contributing to efforts to destabilize the Bolivian government.”
Airports, offices, telecommunications companies, radio stations, post offices, tax offices, trade offices, and oil companies in several cities are now occupied by the UJC, who have forced the leftist media to leave and workers to cease operations.
"In most of the cases," Jorge Martin wrote, "police and army units that were protecting these buildings were overrun by the violent gangs of fascists, because they were under strict orders not to shoot and not to use violence to protect them." But since then martial law, Estado de Excepción, was declared and 26 people have been killed in clashes.
The Morales government's semi-pacifist posturing here is reminiscent of former Bolivian president Carlos Mesa, who valued the idea of "social peace" by trying (and ultimately failing) to maintain a centrist politics between the indigenous left and the autonomist right. The goals of Evo Morales, however, involve the deepening of the revolutionary process of indigenous empowerment, a process that creates conflict when it hits the wall of the entrenched resistance of privileged classes.
The autonomist movement has not succeeded through referendums in the past five years, even though autonomy statutes for a free Santa Cruz appear to be victorious according to the numbers. The government alleges that the referendums were held illegally. Far from a movement toward genuine autonomy, one that would involve "participatory democracy" and "government from below", writes Tom Lewis from CounterPunch, "the Bolivian autonomy movement is tied to the entrenched interests of international capital and the dominant sectors of national capital, in particular, the hydrocarbon industry and agribusiness."
The autonomists challenged Morales to another referendum just last month in which had voters decide whether Morales and various governors should step down or not. Fortunately for Morales, the numbers show he won while some of the autonomist governors lost. During the referendum, the UJC blocked pro-MAS voters and Morales himself from getting to the ballot boxes, saying that the government should respect their autonomy statues. The intimidation and the dangers involved with the referendums are a major problem for democracy and social cohesion.
Fears of Military Coup
Rumor has it that the Bolivian military is plotting a coup against the Morales government to restore order. After a different coup plot was reportedly uncovered in Venezuela against Hugo Chavez this week, both Chavez and Evo Morales have decided to expel their U.S. ambassadors and bring their own ambassadors home. "We don't want people here who conspire against democracy," Morales said. The Eastern Bolivian oligarchs are accused of conspiring with the U.S. and the Bolivian military is accused of "coup-mongering".
From the Bolivian military's perspective, the institution of the military has been humiliated by all of this, and over-run by civilians. After Chavez expelled the US ambassador, he then added a warning to the Bolivian military, saying: "Any movement by the oligarchy, the yanquis, or the army to overthrow the Bolivian government or kill Evo Morales, would give us carte blanche to intervene and support any armed movement to restore the people in power". But Bolivia's military command said emphatically it would not allow any foreign intervention on their soil.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said this week that Bolivia has displayed an "inability to communicate effectively and internationally in order to build international support". The charges leveled against the US government and its ambassadors, he said, are false.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Join forces with the Republican National Committee and together defeat al Qaeda!
Years later (doubtfully) Americans will look back on this era and shrug their shoulders, maybe even laugh. Fuck, I am laughing right now. This propaganda is so hard to believe, personally, given that anti-Republican protesters are actually being charged with "conspiracy to riot in the furtherance of terrorism" under the Minnesota version of the Patriot Act.
"Definitely the gloves have come off," a Bush aid said, referring to the recent wave of raids against suspected terrorists in Pakistan, without asking permission from Pakistan. Under the Bush dictum that America will wage war on "the terrorists and countries that harbor them", I suppose this means Washington is now at war with Pakistan. It's all part of President Bush's "11th hour effort" to hammer al Qaeda, the protesters, and sneak in crafty bits of legislation and other surprises to be unveiled at a later time.
For future reference, click here.
Rule Changes Would Give FBI Agents Extensive New Powers. Carrie Johnson. Washington Post: September 12, 2008.
The Post unveils new rules that are designed to "improve" information gathering between bureaucracies and help detect terrorist threats. But of course, the changes wouldn't be complete without extending the powers to simple, everyday criminal procedures and investigations. It would allow, for example, "agents to interview people in the United States about foreign intelligence cases without warrants or prior approval of their supervisors" and it rewrites the 1976 guidelines which were established after Nixon-era abuses to "restrict the FBI's authority to intervene in times of civil disorder and to infiltrate opposition group." FBI agents monitoring large-scale demonstrations that they believe could turn dangerous also would have new powers.
Anti-war veterans plan coffeehouse near Fort Lewis. Brent Champaco. Tacoma News Tribune: September 12, 2008.
This TNT article is so late, considering that the Seattle PI already reported on the coffeehouse over a month ago. It's sad that one has to read the Seattle newspapers to find out what's actually happening in Tacoma. Tully's Coffee company donated barista equipment to the coffeehouse project, not reported in the TNT story. People are talking about how "seditious" the project is in the comment section.
Turning Point in the Gang Crisis. Tom Hayden. The Nation Magazine: September 12, 2008.
Los Angeles city officials and police chiefs who loathe the idea of gang "peace processes" are now having to put up with paid peace workers and negotiators, many of whom are veterans of early 1990s gang wars. After the Crip and Blood truce of 1992, city and state officials fell through on their economic aid promises to inner city neighborhoods. A few years later the gangs were warring again. Today the LAPD continually harrasses the LA Hispanic population in particular (if you recall May Day 2007). Hayden and allies of the community are considered "thug huggers" by the police chief.A Campaign Without Ideas. Eugene Robinson. Truthdig.com: September 11th, 2008.
Cleared: Jury Decides That Threat of Global Warming Justifies Breaking the Law. Michael McCarthy. The Independent: September 11, 2008.
A pro-Obama analysis of the Palin-McCain campaign strategy, which is not about "ideas", says Robinson, but rather about victimization from Democrats and the news media. While not in support of Obama like Robinson is, I also find the accusation that "left media" is victimizes the campaign striking, given that I was struck by a police baton outside of their convention and that this was paid for by a Republican insurance policy that covered up to $10 million in legal fees to be accumulated from policing the protests.
Greenpeace activists cleared of charges for causing more than £35,000 to a coal-fired plant. "The not-guilty verdict, delivered after two days and greeted with cheers in the courtroom, raises the stakes for the most pressing issue on Britain's green agenda and could encourage further direct action." During the eight-day trial, the world's leading climate scientist, Professor James Hansen of Nasa, flew to Britain to ask the Prime Minister personally to "take a leadership role" in scrapping the idea of a coal-fired future for Britain. Go team!
Civil Libertarian Chuck Samuelson, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, talks about the history and causes of Republican and Democrat convention "federalization". The UPTAKE is an independent media laboratory, and one of the places where myself and others had used for creating our own content.
This evening I was explaining to Randy Rowland, founder of PepperSpray Productions, what being a part of the resistance in Denver and St. Paul was like this summer.
Working with so many underground media activists in both cities this summer was an amazing experience. The spaces (about 4 or 5 of them in each city) sprang up spontaneously as the alternative media crews rose to the occasion. Denver was shocked to see independent media work so well like this.
Here is an anecdote:
Senior students at the Colorado Film School felt that they needed to capture this "indymedia scene" while it was still hot. One day at the Denver Open Media space they filmed Flux, the Stimulator, me, and Joan Sekel's team editing and talking about our videos. I have no idea what the students are doing with all that footage, but hopefully something useful, and something we can eventually see.
But the students came back the next day and decided they were going to make a short film reenacting what had just taken place the day before. They told us to continue our work and added, "feel free to look up here every once in a while", just to show that we were paying attention to whatever it was they were doing. This part shocked me.
As they acted out the scene, it was obvious that they took the script straight from our mouths and began acting it out right in front of us using their own actors! They told us that this was "a short film about indymedia", and that we would be included in it as "extras". Can you believe that? Indymedia as "extras" in a fictionalized film based on true events about Indymedia.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Real Change, the Seattle weekly that got its fame for being the first newspaper to hire the homeless to sell their issues, recently wrote about Lambert Rochfort and I getting arrested at the RNC. I suppose my claim to fame is not that I was arrested at the RNC, but that I was arrested with Amy Goodman at the RNC.
Submitted by Acumensch at 11.9.08
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The 2006 State of the World's Cities report revealed, for the first time, that slum dwellers are just as likely to suffer from hunger and malnutrition as are the rural poor.
"Women living in slums are more exposed to HIV and Aids than any other segment of the population and that child mortality is consistently high even in countries with robust campaigns and programmes to protect child health," said Anna Tibaijuka of the UN-Habitat at its 21st governing council session.
She also said slum formation was growing at the same rate of urban growth.
Probably one of the grittiest issues is unlawful eviction, not because dirty water and infant mortality are less important issues but because eviction is a contributing factor for many other problems. Last year millions of those living in urban slums were evicted forcefully from their homes, thereby furthering urban poverty.
The Advisory Group on Forced Evictions (AGFE) was created by UN-Habitat in 2004 to prevent unlawful eviction especially in urban areas.
But even though many governments are signatories to international covenants related to housing rights, the widespread practice of forced eviction works against sustainable urban development.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
A film of mine was jury voted to the top 10, winning me a ticket to Denver's Cinemocracy film festival last month. The festival was supposed to be online user voted, but anyone who knows anything knows it was a setup.
At any rate, I was more than happy to show my film at Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheater. A reporter from the Denver Post gave me a good review (see "10 Films that Define Democracy") and said the following about my video,
Joseph L[a] Sac's formally impressive "Democracy Is a Spectacle" would make a fine, if very brief, double bill with the winner for best international submission, Charlie Timms' "Everyday Democracy."
If L[a] Sac's film seems mildly grim in its theorizing about democracy and manipulation, it's because Situationist Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle" provides the narration.
I know I sound very bitter about "winning" this film festival, but the festival really wasn't run very democratically in the first place. Although the context of the festival was based entirely around principles of democracy and fairness, the fact that it wasn't either of those ruined it for me.
Nearly all of the other films projected the idea that democracy is about voting and keeping yourself at the feet of the ruling class, and the viewers were mostly looking forward to campy and boring humor to be entertained by. I enjoyed myself in spite of that bullshit. Before the show started I was asked by PBS, CNN for Kids, etc. to explain what "The Spectacle" means. I met eager actresses and young film students who seemed to think all the directors were "famous"; I told them I was only interested in making militant films and they laughed. (I was only telling the truth!) Plus I drank free beer and schmoozed with backstage VIPs as we watched the DNC live on television.
OPEC Agrees to Cut Oil Output. Al Jazeera: September 10th, 2008.
With record crude oil prices, OPEC and particularly Saudi Arabia have come under pressure by the United States to increase oil production. But instead OPEC is going to decrease production, raising prices even higher. This is so fucking excellent, thank you OPEC, because right now both Obama and McCain are calling for "offshore drilling" in the U.S. to make up for increases in the price of foreign oil. OPEC of course does not want oil prices to fall by too much, since their customers would then start looking for oil substitutes like solar or wind (like they started to in the 1970s.) So, actually, fuck OPEC.
New Orleans: The City that Won't Be Ignored. Naomi Klein, The Nation Magazine: September 3rd, 2008.
Klein's analysis of the new interest taken by McCain in the Hurricane Gustav situation, but sparing no lenience for Obama or the Democratic Party. The Hurricane should have been a time when we are opposed to offshore drilling, because look at the spill and waste! The increase in offshore drilling brought a decrease in gasoline prices, and both parties supported this as part of an "energy security" plan. "Obama created a political vacuum" by not mentioning New Orleans, which the Republicans have managed to fill using it as a backdrop to their campaign. The morning after Gustav made landfall, Bush called for more drilling, which is now one of the most important campaign issues. Palin's claim to national fame was telling cable shows that "we need to drill, drill, drill." Naomi Klein notes that "Gustav was one of those rare moments when political arguments are made by reality, not rhetoric."
What You Should Know About Psychiatry and Psychiatric Drugs. various authors.
Before you pop that Paxil or Prozac pill on your doctor's orders, there are some ideas you should be exposed to first. Increasing your serotonin, as these drugs are designed to do, leads to lots of adverse reactions, says Anne Blake Tracy in Panacea or Pandora? Mental illness and the way our society views it is entirely wrong, says Thomas Szasz in The Myth of Mental Illness. A Dose of Sanity by Sydney Walker tours of the big bigness side of the SSRI drug industry, and They Say You're Crazy by Paula Caplan critiques the way the elitist psychiatric profession views mental illness. This compilation of books on the topic is well worth looking at.
Power Dynamics, Donovan Bigelow: 2008.
This guy... is sort of ridiculous. But I'm posting his website here anyway. The Seattle area is teeming with ideas involving psycho-social development and psychotherapy. There is a large Freudian community here. And although still in its infancy, "philosophical counseling" is coming onto the alternative psychiatrist scene as a unique way of providing philosophical advice and instruction for the personal and philosophical problems arising out of false beliefs and 'faulty logic'. There is currently a crusade to get the activity going as a 'profession'. Donovan Bigelow provides a Nietzschean version of this method.Doctrine-Centered Versus Problem-Centered Economics, Post-Austic Economics Network, Peter Dorman of The Evergreen State College: 2006.
This is a pedagogical paper. Bruce Caldwell, an influential economist known for his anti-formalist (or anti-mathematical) teachings in economic methodology, is critiqued here by Evergreen professor Peter Dorman. The post-autistic position (Dorman's) is not that the "level of math" is the issue (referring to Caldwell's argument.) Dorman says that economics should be taught as a set of problems, rather than being taught as a set of doctrines by which to guide students through economic decision-making and problem-solving... Agreed, economic departments claim to be "positive" and therefore the profession not supposed to be about ideology, but they refuse to acknowledge that ideology is in everything they do. Just teach openly, don't preach to us.
A Brighter Shade of Green. Ross Robertson, Enlightenment Magazine: October, 2007.
Computers Seized From Berkeley Activist Space. Electronic Frontier Foundation: August 28th, 2008.
Bright Green Environmentalism, a new word (relatively) to describe a movement that is "less about the problems and limitations we need to overcome than the 'tools, models, and ideas' that already exist for overcoming them. It forgoes the bleakness of protest and dissent for the energizing confidence of constructive solutions." Although protesting does serve an important function however 'bleak' it may seem to Robertson, whose life is a short history of the environmental movement, the message of the paper is in his statement that bright green environmentalism goes beyond Another World is Possible and reminds us that the other world is actually here already, and we have the choice to live it or not. Earth Ship anyone?
The Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley, CA is one of the longest-standing anarchist infoshops in the country. But just before the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, their space was raided at the same time activist spaces were being raided all over Minneapolis and St. Paul. Computers that were used in the production of, for example, the Slingshot calendar system (a popular anarchist pocket calendar), an anarchist radio show and an anarchist newspaper, were seized and have not been returned. Wake up America! This is your war on the "homegrown terrorists", the war on free speech, the war on the Privacy Protection Act.
Towards Anarchism. Errico Malatesta, MAN!: 1930.
An early pamphlet written against the argument that anarchism is "a thing impossible" based on the false idea that anarchism would come about after an immediate revolution. Even at a time when capitalism seemed doomed to imminent collapse (this was the 1930s) anarchists made the claim that change you can believe in must come "little by little" rather than immediately - until the ideas grew in intensity and extension. But, Malatesta says, this does not stop the anarchist movement from opposing all forms of despotism right. fucking. now! So little by little, com padres, little by little.
Just posted yesterday, this is the second video in a series by one of the Pepperspray producers, Patricia Boiko. The first program examined the genocide in Rwanda, and how people heal from a horror like that.
This piece looks at the Abatwa people, better known in the US as the Pygmies. The Abatwa, who are the indigenous people of the region, have suffered unspeakably and unnoticed by all except themselves.
Traditional hunters, they were kicked off their ancestral lands when that area was made into an animal preserve. The unintended consequence of an environmental victory was great destruction to Abatwa culture, and the loss of many lives.
Later, during the period of the Rwandan genocide, they lost 30% of their population. Nobody noticed because the Abatwa were not important to anybody but themselves.
The Abatwa are an example of the phenomenon feared by Subcomandante Marcos and the indigenous communities of the Chiapas region of Mexico, that of being so marginalized as a people that you just don't matter any more.
Never Again Rwanda This short, also by Patricia Boiko, captures a little presentation in a community trying to heal from and prevent future genocide.
Monday, September 08, 2008
I am starting a new section of this blog, called A Day of Mournful Overcast, which will select articles which I have read and would like to pass on to others. The title is also the name of a pamphlet published in 1937 by the Iron Column Militia, an anti-authoritarian/anarchist militia who fought Franco's fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War. Among other things, the militia stood for defending the popular movement and opposed the state in its republican form, broke revolutionaries out of prisons, and resisted being turned into state military units. With that said here are some articles I found worth while.
A Day of Mournful Overcast, Iron Column: 1937.
An argument for the continuation of anarchist resistance against state power in its various forms and against the seemingly inevitable militarization of popular resistance.
How RFID Tags Could Be Used to Track Unsuspecting People, Scientific American: 2008.
Features the radio frequency identification methods and how they are being pioneered in the U.S. and China. By using the same technology to track consumer products in warehouses, government agents, criminals and marketing strategists will have a whole new set of tools to keep us controlled by.
Identification and Tracking of Persons Using RFID-tagged Items in Store Environments, US Patent Office: 2003.
Full text of the 2003 IBM patent that chillingly details RFID’s potential for surveillance in a world where networked RFID readers called “person tracking units” would be incorporated virtually everywhere people go—in “shopping malls, airports, train stations, bus stations, elevators, trains, airplanes, restrooms, sports arenas, libraries, theaters, [and] museums”—to closely monitor people’s movements.
The Audacity of Rhetoric, Slajov Zizek, In These Times: 2008
The academic rockstar at it again, this time analyzing Barack Obama's use of words and the power of politician's words to influence policy merely from their use.
Pacifism as the Servant of Imperialism, Leon Trotsky: 1917
Though not a Trotskyite myself, the essay does put pacifism in perspective, and could be no less apt today than it was in 1917: pacifism enables the state to perform cruel acts and destroy our freedom.
The Hidden Power of Scent, Scientific American: 2008.
The underestimated capability of humans to smell and discern scents, immune system status, and various genetic preferences unveiled through smell.
Cost of U.S. Wars, Pro Publica: 2008.
Congressional Research Service last week published a study (PDF) calculating the cost of every major U.S. war. Here are the graphical dimensions.