Friday, December 24, 2010

normalizing catastrophe

Normalizing Catastrophe: Cancun as Laboratory of the Future  
by Eddie Yuen

Sixty-five million years ago, an asteroid crashed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and rendered extinct 70% of all life on Earth. In December of 2010 in Cancun, a mere geological stone's throw from the Chicxulub crater that ended the reign of the dinosaurs, a conclave of political and corporate leaders presided over a conference that failed to slow down the next great extinction event on this planet.

But for this geographic coincidence it's unlikely that this conference will be remembered as anything more than another tedious and predictable step towards a future of managed climate chaos and accelerated global enclosures. Cancun is most significant, though, not as the scene of a crime but as a laboratory of climate apartheid. Whatever fearsome predation the Yucatan of the late Cretaceous may have harbored, the Cancun of the early Anthropocene is the model of a naturalized social order even redder in tooth and claw. Even to use the language of "climate talks" is like speaking of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. As linguist Noam Chomsky said years ago, the mere utterance of this phrase validates the discourse that there is such a process.

This particular conference, rightfully overshadowed by the Wikileaks saga, was both anti-climactic and anti-climatic, in the words of Laura Carlson, director of the American Policy Program in Mexico City. The Indigenous Environmental Network summed it up nicely: "The Cancun Agreements are not the result of an informed and open consensus process, but the consequence of an ongoing US diplomatic offensive of backroom deals, arm-twisting and bribery that targeted nations in opposition to the Copenhagen Accord during the months leading up to the COP-16 talks".

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

the long night

The Long Night
by Iain Boal
Winter Solstice 2010

4.30 AM, BERKELEY---Later today, in the hours between total lunar eclipse and the longest night, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be discussing an Order (drafted by its chairman and Obama appointee) which spells the end of the internet as a common carrier, and will allow "paid prioritization" by big capitalist firms. We have lived through the opening military-socialist phase of the planetary telecommmunications system, whose infrastructure required public subvention and state action far beyond the ability of private capitals - cold war computing and informatics, Pentagon ballistics and telemetry, DoD funded materials science, rocketry and satellite R & D, eminent domain and state seizures as necessary, etc. Now Big Telecom is poised and the electromagnetic enclosures are beginning in earnest; the camel's nose is the (de)regulation of the internet in its etherial mode, the so-called "mobile services". 

The opinion of the mass of commoners counts for nought, and the silent compliance of public servants and officials is at this stage a given, as when in 1800 the seizure of the commons could be completed, no longer in "letters of blood and fire", but with the stroke of the pen in Parliament by means of private members' Bills of Enclosure. In 2010 it takes a comedian-turned-US senator, aghast at the idea of Comcast customers being blocked from Netflix, to describe the prospects: 

"Internet service giants like Comcast and Verizon want to offer premium and privileged access to the Internet for corporations who can afford to pay for it...For many Americans - particularly those who live in rural areas - the future of the Internet lies in mobile services. But the draft Order would effectively permit Internet providers to block lawful content, applications, and devices on mobile Internet connections. Mobile networks like AT&T and Verizon Wireless would be able to shut off your access to content or applications for any reason. For instance, Verizon could prevent you from accessing Google Maps on your phone, forcing you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it costs money to use and isn't nearly as good. Or a mobile provider with a political agenda could prevent you from downloading an app that connects you with the Obama campaign (or, for that matter, a Tea Party group in your area).

Monday, December 20, 2010

holmes on paglen

Visiting the Planetarium
Images of the Black World

by Brian Holmes

Clouds, fields, forests, country roads, empty skies: the video image shows you a landscape seen at random, or for purposes utterly unknown. Its shifting perspectives appear through the visual overlay of a targeting system, controlled by a distant operator. This is a drone’s eye view. The signal was captured from a satellite transmission, maybe intended for Creech Air Base, Nevada. We see a date and a local time, but the position remains blank—it could be in Kosovo or elsewhere in southern Europe. There’s something hesitant, furtive or even lost about the way the drone is scanning through the territory. Suddenly a large wall clock flashes up on the screen. Its face is emblazoned with a dragon-winged creature, threatening and strange, but typical of the emblems used by Air Force reconnaissance teams. Is it supposed to mark a significant moment, a planned operation, a hit? More likely it’s the cypher of some airman’s utter boredom, alone in a cubicle, glued to a monitor, staring at meaningless foreign landscapes whose very banality has become part of the secret.
The video was given to Trevor Paglen by one of his collaborators—people who are intensely curious about what goes on in the restricted zones of the Pentagon’s “black world.” It was then edited and folded into a larger body of work, to be shown in galleries and museums. Thus it has the status of a clue, an index, rather than a document strictly speaking. It points to a set of pressing questions that involve the uses of vision, the potentials of art and the bases of sovereignty. These questions coalesce around a major paradox: the existence of a secret world that is increasingly palpable, increasingly present. Why has the invisible become so banal, why does it crop up everywhere? Paglen does not answer individually. Instead, he seems intent on exploring — and, to whatever degree possible, on reversing — the social conditions of perception that allow multibillion-dollar weapons systems and vast clandestine intelligence networks to “hide” in the broad daylight of a democracy that is also an empire.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

art and resistance

Adorno, Brecht and Debord: 
Three Models for Resisting the Capitalist Art System

by Gene Ray

This essay outlines three modes or models of radical cultural practice. Each begins with a critical appropriation of the traditions of art and aims at resisting the social power that passes through art, as an institutionalized field of production and activity. Each of the three modes establishes a set of productive strategies. Together, they are the three historically demonstrated and available models for resisting the political neutralization of art and for challenging the power of the capitalist art system. For convenience, I link each model with a name or names closely associated with it. They are, first, Adorno’s dissonant modernism epitomized by Kafka and Beckett. Second, Brecht’s “functional transformation” or “re-functioning” of institutions through estrangement and dialectical realism. And third, Debord’s Situationist détournement of art, aiming to rupture and decolonize naturalized everyday life. Each model works on a different level of social reality. Each produces different kinds of effects at different points or moments of the social process, and is affected differently in turn by the global conjuncture of struggle. Typically, the advocates of one model treat the others dismissively; there is, we know, a long history of rancorous debate regarding their relative merits. I doubt the rancor is still needed or helpful today. Each of the models is still capable of generating radically critical and resistant effects. While these effects are different in kind, they can all contribute something to a culture opposed to capital. None of the three models should be discarded, so long as their strategies can still be realized. Here I briefly outline each, before discussing their relative strengths, advantages and limitations.
Some general remarks. We are evidently stuck in a global social process dominated by the logic of capital accumulation. Art, obviously, isn’t going to deliver us from that. The passage beyond capitalist relations is a matter of struggle, however that’s conceived. Art remains a dominated field of activity, and thinking about its possible contributions to radical social transformation has to begin by situating art within the global social process that dominates it. Very briefly: art is a field that is organized and saturated by capitalist power. There very clearly is a capitalist art system, with its rules, conventions and institutions, relations and tendencies, enjoyments and enforcements, and so on. Seen dialectically, what happens within this system does have its utopian and critical moments. As long as such moments are not utterly excluded, we have to acknowledge art’s relative autonomy and oppositional use-value. Art is not utterly reducible to exchange value and affirmative social functions. But it is also clear enough that the administered art system channels the activity of art as a whole in ways that are affirmative and stabilizing. This has been well-marked and elaborated: art in sum contributes to the reproduction of the given global process. The question is what specific works or practices may be able to do within and against it. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

against austerity

The resistance to immiseration in Europe is heating up and beginning to spread. In France, open-ended strikes are continuing, with students now joining in. Friends and comrades from Contrainfo (Athens) share this report on an occupation of the Acropolis by precarious cultural workers.

‘Beneath the Acropolis we go on strike…’

by Contrainfo
15 October 2010

Approximately 100 ministry contractual employees barricaded themselves inside the Acropolis site overnight on Wednesday, 13 October, demanding two years of back pay and permanent contracts. They padlocked the entrance gates and refused to allow in tourists. Guardians of the Acropolis site (Athens, Greece) work in behalf of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism either as civil servants (with permanent contracts) or as contractual employees (with temporal contracts). More than 400 contract-workers of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism have been working unpaid for up to 22 months. These are workers who have up to 20 years of service. The Greek government shows them the door of unemployment. Most of them will be laid off after years of flexible and underpaid work.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

brumaria on the general strike

Spain: The General Strike of September 29th

by Brumaria

On September 29th, a General Strike (Huelga general) against the Ley de Reforma Laboral — driven by Zapatero’s government and passed by the parliament — was organized by the practical entirety of labor unions and leftist organizations and parties, with unequal results.

It is necessary to search for the antecedents to said events in the profound economic crisis that Spain has suffered from during the last three years; this crisis (latent and prior to the global crisis of September 2008 involving the financial markets) is inscribed in the following parameters and events:

- Enormous growth of public works and construction of homes during the last 15 years (currently in Spain there are 3 million empty homes)
- Unstoppable increase in the number of unemployed (4 million to date)
- Economic recession, drop in consumption, and zero growth the last two years
- Exponential increase of public debt based on the search for financial resources with which to pay social loans to the unemployed

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

spectacle and austerity

Across France on Saturday (2 October), huge demos protested misery measures. But how huge, and who decides if such protests matter?

No secret: the business of capitalist news media is to market assertion, not to expose the truth about what happens. Circulating along with all the other transmitted garbage, truth rushes past, like slips of the tongue - but above all as truth about the concentration of social power congealed in every media report.

In the current coverage of resistance to austerity in Europe, what is striking is how relentlessly state and corporate news reports reduce massive, embodied contestation to mere contention - to assertion and counter-assertion about how many protesters were actually in the street.

The process is a form of castration: precisely the logic of spectacular representation Guy Debord raged against more than forty years ago. Maybe it won't be useless to recall how it works, and see how it is still operating today.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

the fightback

Three days ago (29 September), the first general strike in Spain in eight years coincided with a general call-out from the European Trade Union Confederation to protest Eurozone austerity programs. The strike, although limited in time, was evidently strong and effective, and union actions and protest demos took place in many European capitals  - including Brussels, where 100,000 workers took to the streets.

Friday, October 1, 2010

new false start

New START's Big Winners: US Nuke Complex, Pentagon, and Contractors

by Darwin Bond-Graham

(17 Sept 2010)
Passage of New START in a 14-4 vote out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is already being hailed by Democrats and arms control NGOs as a substantial victory. A floor vote for ratification is now apparently set to occur after the elections.

While ratification is by no means guaranteed, there are several clear winners already: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Aerojet General, Alliant Techsystems, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons laboratories, Y-12 nuclear labs, the Pentagon, and Bechtel Corporation.

While much noise has been made about the New START treaty's cut to the nuclear weapons stockpile, the actual required reduction in arms may be as low as 8%, or 162 warheads out of a total of thousands. Furthermore, keep in mind too that this only affects deployed strategic warheads, not "tactical" weapons, and not weapons in the "reserve" stockpile.

So why the big deal? Why are both sides fighting like mad over a treaty that really requires virtually no change to the status quo US-Russia relationship and US nuclear stockpile?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

the sinking of guam

The Military Occupation of Guam and the Struggle Against Bases in Okinawa

by Melvin Won Pat-Borja

During a congressional hearing on the Guam military buildup in early April, US Representative Hank Johnson said that he feared the Military Relocation on Guam would cause our tiny island to capsize and sink. The comment, though not meant to be taken literally, caused an uproar among Chamorus everywhere. People were so outraged at his perceived ignorance that they continually bashed him in the media and all over the internet. The sad truth however is that Guam WILL sink. It will sink under the weight of tons of toxic waste dumped by the military each year, sink under the pressure of contaminated drinking water, sink under the weight of overpopulated schools, massive amounts of traffic, inadequate health care, and extreme over population. If this military expansion goes as planned, the people of Guam will surely sink to the bottom of the Marianas Trench and become nothing more than a footnote in America’s colonial history.

Our story began centuries ago when we first sailed from the coast of south east asia and made this beautiful chain of islands our home, but for the sake of time, THIS story will begin when the DEIS (draft environmental impact statement) for Guam and the military buildup was released in November of last year. The document laid the blueprint for the transfer of 8,000 marines and their 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam. It was an 11,000 page document that held our future in the margins of the paper it was printed on and the public was only given 90 days to comment on it. The plans suggested that Guam was the best alternative to right the wrongs that America’s armed forces had imposed on the people of Okinawa. The Department of Defense had chosen Guam because South Korea, the Philippines, California, and Hawaii all said “no.”

But the sad reality is that Guam was never offered that same courtesy. We are an unincorporated territory of the United States, leaving us victim to whatever decision America makes, whether it is beneficial for us or not. Guam is America’s dirty little secret, the step child that no one ever talks about. We are affectionately referred to as the place “where America’s day begins,” but no one likes to admit that America starts each day with injustice. We have traditionally been loyal servants, patriots, and second class citizens, enlisting more soldiers per capita than anywhere else in the world. It makes me wonder if America could even have a military without people like us. We are as American as apple pie and baseball when there is war on the horizon or when strategic positioning in the Pacific is needed, but we are not American when it is time to vote in congress or the senate or when it is time to elect a new president.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

defending the 'aina

The Occupation of Hawai'i and the Struggle for Withdrawal of Foreign Military Bases

by Kyle Kajihiro

Aloha kakou. Warm greetings from Hawai’i.

For more than a century, the U.S. has treated the Pacific ocean as an “American Lake” and Pacific islands as stepping-stones to extend the march of “manifest destiny” westward to the Asian prize.

The peoples of the Pacific were merely an afterthought. Henry Kissinger’s remark about nuclear tests in the Marshall islands exemplified this attitude: “There are only 90,000 people out there. Who gives a damn?”

The independent Kingdom of Hawai’i was one of the first overseas casualties of the American empire. In 1893 Hawai’i was invaded and occupied by U.S. troops in order to establish a forward military base in the Pacific. As Stephen Kinzer noted, the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom was the prototype for the recurring tactic of “regime change”, all the way up to and including the invasion of Iraq.

The U.S. military occupation of Hawai’i enabled America to defeat the Spanish Empire in 1898, acquire its colonies, and emerge as a global power. During WWII, U.S. military bases in Hawai’i were crucial to America’s victory over the Japanese empire and its rise to global, nuclear armed superpower status.

After the war, America established the Pacific Command in Hawai’i, the oldest and largest of the unified commands. It has an area of responsibility that encompasses most of the world’s surface and a majority of its population. 

Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa, the true name of what is commonly called Pearl Harbor, was once a marvel of aquacultural and agricultural engineering. It was the food basket for O’ahu. But the U.S. military wanted to turn it into a naval base. Today, what was once a life-giving treasure has become a toxic superfund site with more than 740 contaminated sites identified thus far.

Pearl Harbor also serves another function as the iconic war monument. It is a factory to valorize and reproduce the myth of America’s redemption through militarization and war. Hawai’i and America are still held hostage to this myth.

The military presence in Hawai’i can be imagined as the head of a monstrous he’e or octopus, with tentacles that grab at our brothers and sisters in the Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, Korea, Kwajalein. Hawai’i is simultaneously a victim of American empire and an accomplice in the building of that empire.

America’s bid for “full spectrum dominance” extends from the bottom of the sea to the heavens above, from space to cyberspace. Sensor grids on the sea floor off Kaua’i and radar, antenna and optical tracking stations on the peaks of our sacred mountains are the eyes and ears of the he’e. Supercomputers and fiber optics are its brains and nervous system. To stop a he’e, you must neutralize its head.

According to the 2009 Base Structure Report, the U.S. military operates a total of 139 installations and facilities in Hawaii, with a total area of 239,000 acres. In addition the Hawaii National Guard has 13 installations occupying 858,000 acres. The main islands are completely surrounded by military defensive sea areas, and the entire archipelago is surrounded by 2.1 million square miles of temporary operating area.

The process of militarization destroys Native Hawaiian culture and sacred sites and imperils native ecosystems. It has poisoned our environment and threatened our health with a toxic cocktail of depleted uranium, lead, dioxins, radioactive cobalt 60, chemical weapons, and a host of other substances. It creates economic dependency that verges on addiction and distorts our sense of cultural identity and social priorities.

After 9/11, Hawai’i experienced the largest military expansion since WWII. Despite protests and devastating environmental and cultural impacts, the Army seized 25,000 acres of land and stationed 328 Strykers in Hawai’i. Missile defense programs and congressional earmarks fuel a military-industrial gold rush, cutting off access to some of our best beaches at the missile range on Kaua’i. Even economic stimulus funds have been hijacked to boost construction of military housing and other facilities.

Despite overwhelming odds, people continue to resist. In 1976, the first of several waves of activists landed on Kaho’olawe island to protest the Navy bombing of that sacred place. This movement eventually ended the bombing and forced the clean up and return of the island.

In Makua decades of protest, lawsuits and the assertion of traditional Kanaka Maoli cultural practices have halted Army live fire training for the last five years. There is fierce community opposition to the Army’s plans to resume training in Makua.

In 2003, the community defeated a proposed Marine jungle warfare training facility in Waikane valley. The marines have now begun a process of cleaning up unexploded ordnance.

On Hawai’i island, activists have called for the end of live fire training in Pohakuloa, the clean up of depleted uranium and the cancellation of the lease of state land to the military.

In 2002, the DMZ-Hawai’i/Aloha ‘Aina network was organized to unite the various local struggles against the bases in Hawai’i. Our four demands are: 1. Stop military expansion, 2. Cleanup and return military occupied lands. 3. Develop sustainable economic alternatives and 4. Pay just compensation for the damages caused by the military in Hawai’i.

The arms of the he’e can grow back when they are cut off, as we are seeing with the return of U.S. troops and “lily pad” installations in the Philippines and the relocation of bases from Ecuador to Colombia. We need a different paradigm of peace and security based on meeting human needs and environmental sustainability, not the imposition of order through the threat of overwhelming violence.

We are inspired and encouraged by the emergence of a global network against foreign military bases. In Hawai’i we have organized actions to support Vieques, Okinawa, Guam, Korea and the Marshall Islands.

I’d like to make a special appeal and challenge to our comrades in peace and justice movements to please pay attention to and support the justice struggles on our small islands. The Pentagon wants to rule the planet from a network of strategic island military hubs. To end the present wars and prevent future wars, we must dismantle the architecture of this empire of bases, and the solidarity of people in the heart of the empire to push for the withdrawal of these bases is more important than ever.

In contrast to the imperial vision of the American Lake, peoples of the Pacific have a different vision of peace and security for our region. The Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement popularized the concept of Ka Moana Nui, the great ocean that connects the Asia Pacific through solidarity rather than hegemony. To borrow a Hawaiian concept, let us “haku”, that is braid our struggles into an unbreakable cord much stronger than its individual strands to restrain the powerful forces that make wars and rule through nuclear and military terror.

This text is Kyle Kajihiro's talk for the Workshop "Challenging Asia-Pacific Militarism" at the International Conference For a Nuclear Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World, held at the Riverside Church, NYC, 30 April-1 May 2010. Kyle is Hawai'i Area Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee, and a member of the DMZ-Hawai’i/Aloha ‘Aina network and the International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases.

wars of denial

Ryuta Nakajima, PH What?, 2002.

Ry Nakajima paints history as instrumentalized projection - a social process of coding and recoding, construction, forgetting and exclusion. Here, he projects a fragment from an iconic image of the Japanese attack on the US fleet in Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (aka, Pearl Harbor) through  an optic of critical reflection. Immersing the stratagems and strikes of imperialist adversaries are the wars of denial: in the official mythologies of nation-states, of victors and vanquished alike, real histories of conquest and occupation are actively disappeared.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

atomkraft? nein danke

On Saturday a large and spirited demonstration marched through Berlin’s governmental quarter, filling the air with drumming, whistles and catcalls. The largest anti-nuke demo seen in Germany since the years of Chernobyl was organized with impressive rapidity in response to Merkel’s backdoor deal with the nuclear power industry. At the front of the demo were farmers and tractors from the Wendland, where the Gorleben nuclear waste storage site remains a perennial flashpoint for resistance. Otherwise, it looked and felt like an inter-generational sampling of the middle classes – confirmation of the mainstream character of opposition to nuclear power in Germany.

Organizers claim 100,000 people took to the streets in protest. Police under-counters countered with 40,000. Even splitting the difference at 70,000, this was a mobilization too large to be ignored. And with all the grassroots and activist networks involved, as well as parties (Greens, SPD, die.Linke), it’s not likely to be a one-off. The networks are already focused on Gorleben: there is a buzz that this year they may actually be able to stop the Castor train with massive blockades.

Merkel’s governing CDU-FDP coalition had been signaling for weeks that it would seek to roll back the scheduled phase-out of German nuclear power plants enacted by Schröder’s SPD-Green government with strong public support in 2002. Nuclear power company CEOs went into a closed-door meeting with Merkel’s economic minister and party leaders late Sunday morning, on 5 September. When they came out in the wee hours before dawn on the following Monday, the deal was done: Germany’s 17 nuke plants would extend operations for an average of 12 years beyond the currently scheduled shut-down dates, the extensions subsidized with massive state hand-outs. The scandal is in the form as well as the content: Merkel’s initiative, undertaken without any mandate and initially opposed by her own environmental minister, is the literal negation of democracy.

to gorleben

After Chernobyl, nuclear power lost whatever legitimacy it had managed to attain by relentless spin and obfuscation. Aside from safety problems in the plants themselves, the radioactive waste produced is a problem that has never been solved or honestly confronted. Moreover, the nuclear power industry is practically the condition of the nuclear weapons complex with which it merges on many levels. So long as nuclear power persists, nuclear weapons remain possible; only by shutting down the nuclear power complex will the abolition of nuclear weapons be realized dependably. In this light, IAEA and NPT are the administrative-diplomatic instruments of the dominant states, with the US at their head: crucial parts of an enforcement regime by which the global social process is reproduced. The re-branding of nuclear power as the great clean hope for managing climate change without relinquishing the logic of accumulation and infinite growth doesn't change the underlying reality. Anyone who doesn’t want to talk about imperialism had better keep silent about nuclear energy.

The radioactive waste produced by Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants is stored in Gorleben, in the Wendland region of Lower Saxony. The waste first goes for reprocessing to the La Hague facility in France. From there it is shipped back to Germany by train on the notorious annual “Castor” transport, always in November. Two interim depots close to the Elbe River hold the toxic material while construction continues on a “permanent” depot in the underground salt dome there.

Resistance to the Castor trains has been broad and determined. Direct action tactics have included locking sit-down blockades on the tracks. In 2004, the police failed to clear the tracks near Harlingen, and a protester was killed when the Castor train severed his leg. This is enforcement by state terror, against which pulses the re-gathered courage and resilience of those who won't be cowed.

For more, see Ausgestrahlt and Castor Nix.

on the german green resurgence

In the week after Merkel’s deal with the nuke industry was made public, polls registered a sharp spike in support for the Green Party. Nationally, they are suddenly polling 22 percent, and in Berlin are approaching 30 percent. Whether this represents a durable shift in the parliamentary landscape remains to be seen.

In any case, it is a good time to remember the instructive trajectory and shabby fall of the German Greens over the last decade. Formed in the aftermath of 1968 and the repression of the student movement, the Greens advanced four clear principles: ecology, social justice, non-violence and grassroots democracy. Initially at least, the Greens’ stylistic affronts to the conservative German political class were accompanied by an alternative vision that included some substantively radical challenges to the status quo.

Over time a split emerged, however, that would prove fatal. The Realos, oriented toward electoral campaigning and longing to participate in a governing coalition, eventually banished the Fundis, who held to the founding principles. Under Fischer, the Greens were transformed from a party of principle to one more instance of neo-liberal opportunism. They were soon rewarded with power and major portfolios. As Foreign Minister, Fischer’s first major test came with the crisis of Yugoslavia. He proved pliable, presiding over and defending with double-talk the first foreign deployment of German troops since World War II. And he never looked back – non-violence indeed.

The Fundis reorganized as the Ökologische Linke, or ÖkoLinX as it is also known, and renewed their commitment to radical change. The ÖL's five-point stance is critical and unequivocal: 1. Against capital and for solidarity and radical ecology; 2. Against patriarchy and for feminism; 3. Against racism and for internationalism; 4. Against militarism; and 5. Against the state and for grassroots democracy. Despite the guiding presence of the often brilliant Jutta Ditfurth, the ÖL was punished with marginalizing ostracism. It remains active, and is never missing from any important demo or protest action. But its fate speaks much about the compromises required by capitalist pseudo-democracy. Only the pressure from below of larger radical movements can dissolve the stasis.

Wherever the Green Party will go from here, it is not likely to be radical. Before Merkel’s nuke fiasco, Green politicians were busy cozying up to the CDU and dreaming publicly of a Conservative-Green coalition. "Now we are preparing ourselves to become the ruling party."(Renate Künast) Its current orientation and leadership is irredeemable; its corrupted realism does insult to the color green. Real change in the party would take a revolution from below. The real crises of objective processes call for nothing less.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

micro air vehicles

Recent prototype of the Harvard Microrobotic Fly, a three-centimeter wingspan flapping-wing robot. (Credit: Ben Finio, The Harvard Microrobotics Lab)

The following "article" appeared on TerraDaily, a digest of ecology-oriented reports and snippets. While what and who is behind the website begs investigation, the entity and intentions behind this report are clear enough. It is reposted here as a social fact; critical reflection follows on in the next post.

Tiny MAVs May Someday Explore And Detect Environmental Hazards

by Maria Callier
Air Force Office of Scientific Research

Arlington VA (AFNS) Sep 16, 2010
Air Force Office of Scientific Research-sponsored researcher, Dr. Robert Wood of Harvard University is leading the way in what could become the next phase of high-performance micro air vehicles for the Air Force.

His basic research is on track to evolve into robotic, insect-scale devices for monitoring and exploration of hazardous environments, such as collapsed structures, caves and chemical spills.

"We are developing a suite of capabilities which we hope will lead to MAVs that exceed the capabilities of existing small aircraft. The level of autonomy and mobility we seek has not been achieved before using robotic devices on the scale of insects," said Wood.

Wood and his research team are trying to understand how wing design can impact performance for an insect-size, flapping-wing vehicle. Their insights will also influence how such agile devices are built, powered and controlled.

"A big emphasis of our AFOSR program is the experimental side of the work," said Wood. "We have unique capabilities to create, flap and visualize wings at the scales and frequencies of actual insects."

The researchers are constructing wings and moving them at high frequencies recreating trajectories similar to those of an insect. They are also able to measure multiple force components, and they can observe fluid flow around the wings flapping at more than 100 times per second.

Performing experiments at such a small scale presents significant engineering challenges beyond the study of the structure-function relationships for the wings.

"Our answer to the engineering challenges for these experiments and vehicles is a unique fabrication technique we have developed for creating wings, actuators, thorax and airframe at the scale of actual insects and evaluating them in fluid conditions appropriate for their scale," he said.

They are also performing high-speed stereoscopic motion tracking, force measurements and flow visualization; the combination of which allows for a unique perspective on what is going on with these complex systems.

The original article on TerraDaily.

drones of disaster (2): eco-erotics perverted

"A million technocrats are diligently plotting death and some of them even know it." (Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow)

The playful imitation of nature relates to nature without dominating it: mimesis, sublated in the forms and impulses of art, performs the promise of nature’s liberation. This idea is what Benjamin and Adorno tried to rescue from Romantic aesthetics. Adorno retains mimesis as an irreducible moment of play within negative dialectics, or thinking rigorously oriented toward non-identity. Mimesis becomes a principle guiding rigorous imagination, that attentive immersion in non-conceptuals, singularities and particulars that releases the social truth of objects without bombing and gassing them.

If astonishment at nature inspired early science, its modernist form, struggling to liberate thought from superstition, aimed to repress all traces of play within its own methods. Under capital, mimesis returns as one more means of domination. The dragon-slayers went to work for the dragons, and dragonflies droned airborne from the labs of engineers.

Over the skies of the walled border with Mexico no less than in the Afghan mountains and flooded valleys of Pakistan, we are seeing where this leads. The war machine has let slip its dreaming of bee-sized killer drones, and already some years have passed since we heard tell of strange dragonflies shadowing antiwar demonstrations. Knowing well how the Pentagon takes its dreams for reality, we can feel the chill in the warming air.

And as always, every leap in domination is sold to us as its opposite. In the aftermath of Hiroshima, the US state used the promise of the “peace atom” to mystify the terror of the “war atom.”

All these processes are legible in the short and glowing report that appeared on a remarkable website called TerraDaily (“news about planet earth”). It is re-posted in full above, minus the ads by Google. Are you worried about the biosphere? Have you been sensitized to the global threat? Be reassured, rare and gifted minds are at work at Harvard and Los Alamos. This little gadget, miracle of nano-science, epitomizes the good micro-robotics. This is “research on track to evolve into insect-scale devices for monitoring and exploration of hazardous environments, such as collapsed structures, caves and chemical spills.” Don’t be alarmed that the sponsor of this project and employer of the "journalist" is the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Science is humane, after all; it will rescue us from hazardous environments, whether or not it was instrumental in producing them in the first place.

Everything about this report betrays the perverting of eco-erotics, the channeling capture of the legitimate human longing to be reconciled with exploited and dominated nature. Militarized and capitalized, science forfeits its notion of truth as liberation; in its place is the correspondence between the means and end of domination. But the untruth of antagonism, which the given production produces at every level, remains the glaring truth about the global social process. In that process, nature is no less commodified and exploited than labor power, and with reverberations that are no less planetary. But even perverted, mimesis preserves a promise of reconciliation – freedom, sensual happiness and the liberation of inner and outer nature.

But only as a promise. Its realization is the real struggle from below.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

limits of terror

Limits of Terror:
On Culture Industry, Enforcement and Revolution

by Gene Ray

These reflections suggest that a break with the master logic of accumulation entails disarming the technocratic national security-surveillance state, and above all the US war machine that is the main enforcer of the global imperialist process. To put it more pointedly: without disarmament, the prospect of emancipating system change is nill. Possibilities for transformation would increase in pace with progressive disarmament, however, and indeed the latter would measure the former. If this is so, then struggles will be strategic only insofar as they articulate themselves with anti-militarist struggles and make their own the aim of dismantling state war machines. Disarmament implies confronting the neo-imperialist state and need not be naïvely pacifist, but obviously this confrontation cannot take the form of a suicidal war of annihilation. Total struggle, mirroring total war, is terminal: pursued without limit or reserve it becomes the terror it aims to fight. And yet effective struggles need to be grounded in everyday experience; they are robust and resilient insofar as they are lived fully and vividly, pulsing beyond a mere convenience emptied of risk. The tight-wires of practice are strung under tension across these aporias. In our world of normalized emergency, the desire to be liberated from fear and terror is the long, gently bowed balancing pole of sanity.
The traversing refusal of imposed fear and terror has clear aims to struggle for: the immediate cessation of all military occupations and interventions and the permanent closure of the global network of neo-imperialist military bases and spy stations that supports them; the global abolition of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, without exception; the radical reduction of military spending and the redirection of these funds to the urgent amelioration of social misery. Every real step toward these aims would already be radical change. And only by passing through them can struggles for autonomy, happiness and the liberation of nature have their chance to survive and grow fruitful. There is no liberation within the politics of fear: liberation as such begins and is coextensive with liberation from state terror.

This essay is forthcoming in a special issue of Brumaria on Revolution and Subjectivity, out in December (The other contributors are Alain Badiou, Alex Callinicos, Simon Critchley, Barbara Epstein, John Bellamy Foster, David Harvey, John Holloway, Domenico Losurdo,  Michael Löwy, Milos Petrovic, Antonio Negri, Alberto Toscano and Slavoj Žižek). The whole essay is posted here with images of the massive sit-in in Okinawa and other global struggles to close US military bases.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

drones of disaster (1)

From Sindh province, Pakistan, a report that the left bank of the flooding Indus River was deliberated breached, inundating a heavily-populated district and displacing millions - in order to protect the covert US terminator drone base on the right bank. So alleges writer, filmmaker and former UN Goodwill Ambassador Feryal Ali Gauhar on Democracy Now (13 September 2010). 

If this can be proved or supported with compelling evidence, the staggering cynicism it exposes would, one can only hope, irreparably discredit Obama's robotic "war on terror." Who knows about this allegation? Will corporate media "investigate" a military-social disaster within a "natural disaster" that has already disappeared behind the indifference of Northern spectators? Will those who know dare to speak, after Bradley Manning and Wikileaks? Will some independent filmmaker find support for such a perilous task? Sindh province, where enforcement holds sway, is after all a very dangerous place. And the danger is objective and specific: how to make enforcement accountable (and to whom?) precisely where it operates lethally with most minimal accountability? Make a fuss? Less complicated, to take the Pentagon's word for it, move on, put it out of mind. The obstacles to reaching and broadcasting the truth belong to the essence of state terror today.

Meanwhile, amid the distraction of Islamophobic episodes, 14 antiwar activists are going on trial in Nevada for holding a nonviolent protest vigil outside Creech Air Force base, the oldest in the rapidly expanding network of bases from which Predator and Reaper drones are flown by joystick...


AMY GOODMAN: Feryal Ali Gauhar, welcome to Democracy Now! It’s interesting to go from Kathy Kelly in Nevada, who’s talking about this protest at Creech, where one of the drone programs is based, to your experience of the flooded areas in Pakistan. Can you talk about the connection?

FERYAL ALI GAUHAR: Well, yes, there is a very real connection, although that’s not the only element that we’re concerned about. But it is well known, if not acknowledged by — particularly by the state, that the base for the drones, where they’re housed before they are automated, is in Pakistan. The current government has literally gone blue in the face denying that.

But I just happened to stumble across a contractor — and that’s not the Blackwater contractor — the contractor who built the base, who inadvertently, actually, spoke about it. But he was speaking about it in a different context, and that context was the fact that he was there at the time of the flooding — and, you know, this is the worst catastrophe to have hit any state since apparently biblical times. So, he actually mentioned to me that the River Indus, which is one of the largest rivers in the world, carrying now a volume of water which has not been known in contemporary history, was breached on the left bank deliberately in order to protect the base, which is on the right bank. And the breaching caused, consequentially, the inundation of an entire district, which resulted in the displacement of millions, not thousands, but millions, because we have 170 million people in the country, and this particular district is one of the most densely populated. So, yes, there is a connect between, you know, what is considered to be a natural disaster, but then the management of that disaster is not natural at all.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is a base that is used, run by US military, to run its drone attacks?

FERYAL ALI GAUHAR: Oh, absolutely. In fact, it is a base where non-US military personnel are not allowed. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

on nature & postcards from poseidon

Nature and the human: mythical poles of an actual dialectic, a process of metabolic exchange that is neither natural nor entirely social.

Adorno, stimulated by Benjamin as well as Marx, tried to work out the forms and variations of this dialectic under the paradoxical heading of "natural history." Today they bear down with bitter clarity.

Nature is the material rock bottom of mortal bodies in cycling flux: the ceaseless conversion of matter and energy that is both the astonishing beauty of bonding webs and the liquidating sublimity of death's heads.

History - the idea, produced in time, of freedom - promises escape from nature as blind fate: human reason begins as protest against imposed structural impotence.

But what reason rescues from domination by nature is rapidly converted into new domination over nature and people: freedom is taken hostage by power.

History, stuck in domination, renounces liberation: not yet historical, not nearly rational enough, the social process remains naturalized, the reproduction of mythical second nature.

As global social process, capital gives specific form to reason, science, technology, power, the state: the valorization-accumulation process produces and reproduces the order of exploitation, enforced by state terror and weapons of mass destruction -- a dynamic of domination that escapes rational control.

Moreover, the social form of mortal human bodies impacts the forms and tempos of metabolic flux: society changes nature.

Class domination of man by man and the rape and plunder of nature are a single global process, escaping reason on planetary scale: under the rule of accumulation, ecological degradation accumulates to the point of looming biospheric meltdown.

But this second nature is not natural: neither invariable nor inescapable, it is the mirage of fate spreading before a relentless and gripping social process that could be otherwise.

The abundance that reason and the power of production dangles in view but does not deliver is the actual possibility of reconciliation between humanity and nature, as well as between humanity and itself: the liberation of inner and outer nature.

However, emancipating transformation of the social process remains the only pathway to such liberation: a history that would break with capitalism's "ever changing production of the always-the-same."

In the unbroken persistence of domination, the promised progress in freedom and happiness remains blocked.

But now accumulation recoils, threatening the conditions of life as such: under capitalist modernity, leaping development overleaps itself, and becomes terminal.

The process is open - meaning: no outcome is pre-given or automatic.

But: time itself is a limiting constraint. We will not have forever to find the passage beyond capital, domination and terminal ruin.

A century ago, these theses were mere science fiction; now they are urgency itself.

Nature and history (or: the human), then, are inseparable non-identities: each conditions and mediates the other in actual process, just as each conceptually de-mythifies the other by continuous specific negation.

They are, as Susan Buck-Morss puts it, "mutual, non-identical mediators."  In constellation with other concrete dialectical couples (individual/society, subject/object, particular/universal), they form the tensional matrix of possible practice.

The radical embodiment of negative dialectics would be the revolutionary practice Adorno's thinking reached but did not become. We are still in that "would be."