Wednesday 25 September 2019

codex

On this day in 1789, the US Congress approved twelve articles of amendments to the Constitution addressing guarantees of personal liberties and rights. Articles three through twelve became the Bill of Rights, ratified by member states. The second article was eventually ratified in 1992 as the Twenty-Seventh Amendment.
The Congressional Apportionment Amendment (originally titled Article the First) is still pending and proffers a mathematical formula for setting the number of representatives in the lower house by population, one per every thirty thousand citizens. Congress had generally followed this convention by statue up until 1911 when the number of districts (though not their boundaries) were set at 435, with six additional non-voting members, American Samoa at-large, the District of Columbia at-large, Guam at-large, Puerto Rico at-large, the US Virgin Islands at-large, and the Northern Mariana Islands at-large, who mostly caucus with the Democratic party. A seat for the Cherokee Nation has also been established but has never been filled. The Philippines and Cuba also sent resident commissioners to Congress—also with no voting rights but well before the present scheme was established in the early 1970s, the exclusion based on the fact that these colonies accorded no citizenship rights and therefore retained the right secede from the Union, unlike the incorporated lands

Wednesday 16 August 2017

algorithmic engagement

We’ve previously explored numerous times how fraught social media is with manipulative and inscrutable sets of instructions that determine what content one is presented—or confronted with—that has led to people bemoaning the changes in myriad ways. We ought not be so obsessed with what’s hot off the presses but missives can grow stale and many times pledges and opinion do not age well—and it’s a psychological distressing struggle that a billion denizens charge towards daily and mostly fail by the hour.  People rate what comes across as an asynchronous jumble from a nuisance when they’d just care to experience events chronologically without some strange dream sequences or unbidden flashbacks to something more sinister when something from weeks and months past is unearthed.
Considering the geopolitical climate of the present, however, it seems that the war for our attention is going far beyond the vaguely menacing to the patently terrorising insofar as the figurative war is being translated into very real ones in the name of optimising revenue and we lose on both fronts. Online engagement is perhaps its own apotheosis in reality, but sensationalism distorts our perception of threats and given that our experience across all demographics is necessarily either dogmatic and doctrinaire or impressionable because of the limits of what we can know and can take part in have suddenly been made rather unlimited and the propagandists were the first on the scene.

Tuesday 6 June 2017

the great game or rules of engagement

Just for those who might have harboured a kernel of doubt about Russia’s meddling in Western elections, Jason Kottke directs our attention to a 1997 publication by Duma-advisor and noted fascist and eschatologist Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin, which is essentially an Orwellian play-by-play script for the destabilisation and subterfuge that we are experiencing presently.
The geopolitical book sets forth that the struggle for world dominance for Russia did not end with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and that the country remains the venue for the new anti-American revolution, with a Eurasian Empire united against a common enemy. Across different theatres of influence, sophisticated instructions are given to ensure absolute and enduring Russian victory—including the suggestion that Germany should be the dominant power over western and central Europe, the United Kingdom ought to be cut off from the continent, Ukraine should be annexed. For the Middle East, Dugin advocates supports that the Iranians, Kurds and the Armenians ought to be supported—especially insofar as they could create chaos in Turkey. China poses a serious threat to Russia and should be dismantled and encouraged to focus it’s only expansion towards Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia. Moreover, Russia should cede the disputed Kuril Islands to Japan to as a way to weaken their allegiance with the Americans. For the USA, Dugin prescribes that special forces be used to provoke instability with racial and social strife, blackmail and undermine internal political processes. With Brexit, Dear Leader, proxy wars, Crimea and fake news, it’s chilling how many chapters have already become headlines and scary to speculate how much further this manual might be carried out.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

fly the friendly skies

The Big Think features a thorough study of all the vectors of de-accommodation, security-theatre, toxic corporate culture and industry de-regulation that has bought the experience of air-travel to new lows and something to be avoided at all costs.
Of course the class that counts does not deign to subject itself to being treated like a battery hen and instead foregoes these indecencies with private jets. Beyond illustrating how business cannot become a surrogate for public institutions (flight is a mass-transit enterprise after all and airlines are either nationalised charters or benefit from government subsidies) the gaping chasm between the middle, working class and the outrageously rich is also bringing the incivility and brutality that happens in impoverished neighbourhoods and to people of colour constantly into stark focus. Those of us lulled with a sense of security and privilege are often spared these assaults and insults but it becomes something we must be prepared to stare down.

Thursday 23 February 2017

broadsheet, broadside

Although not yet incorporated into the paper’s print editions and the take-away message is about letting the sunshine in, the new motto of the venerable and respected Washington Post “Democracy dies in the Darkness” is a pretty chilling and goth, emo by-line for the age we’re living in. Journalists and experts deserve our support and not our disdain, since liberty does wither and die without those willing to report and to challenge.

Sunday 12 February 2017

sessio plebis

Significantly, the Friday before the US Presidents’ Day holiday weekend (read more about that contentious and politically-loaded apostrophe here) organisers all across the country and beyond are calling for a general strike, during which no work is accomplished (though judging from the way that Dear Leader regards his bureaucratic workforce, it shouldn’t matter one way or the other) and that economic activity is driven to a stand-still. This is primarily an organic movement and we’ll see how it’s pulled off and how it’s received, but there are five common demands: disclose and divest, women’s reproductive rights and health globally, respect for the environment and accords already party to, the preservation of universal health care, and freedom of movement for all. One has to choose one’s battles carefully and we don’t all have the means to be insufferably galling or petulantly dashing off to the next catastrophe and have the audacity to call that victory, but we can all walk that picket-line in our own ways.

Saturday 11 February 2017

never remember or known unknowns

After citing a terror attack that did not occur in Bowling Green in order to justify the travel and immigration ban, the regime has persisted with the argument and narrative that die Lรผgenpresse is selectively under-reporting major incidents of terrorism.
Bob Canada’s Blogworld gives us some of the gruesome and chilling statistics from insurgencies that were heretofore subject to a self-imposed media blackout, like the siege on Fort Knox by arch-villain Aurus Goldfinger the horrendous attack on Metropolis by Kryptonian terrorists and fugitives from justice Zod, Ursa and Non. What do you think? There’s a lot of trivial matters—like crowd-size and turn-out, but there’s far more at stake with people’s lives and livelihoods. Credibility is important and none of the characterisations that come out of the regime’s spokes-liars ought to be given a pass.

amicus curiรฆ

Quoting Nixon’s national security adviser Henry Kissinger, the nominee to the US Supreme Court’s 1988 Columbia University yearbook entry was, “The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.”
Though the seriousness of this tag-line is up for speculation and probably understood to be satirical by legal-eagles of the time, no one is yet bothering to scour the earnestness of the claim that the justice in the wings is calling Dear Leader’s disdain for the judiciary demoralising. I wonder, if like the vice-president’s attestation that Russia was behind the hacking attack or that climate change was a reality or that sorry-not-sorry chiding given for turning the office of the president into the Home-Shopping Network, this is an insincere lunge for independent and critical though that’s merely meant to make these abnormal times seem more palatable.

Saturday 28 January 2017

#iamwithtacostand

The sound-bite has been replaced by the hashtag, but far from limiting discourse or dissent this platform allows those words to be fed back to the speaker almost instantly.
Re-tweeting is not the same as rehashing, disinterring old arguments, as momentum can nuance the message and make it carry something more than the fading echoes down the corridors of the internet. That’s the recoil of fake-news, but these headlines write themselves and far more outrageous and incredulous than an army of trolls might muster up. The American people and the citizens of this planet want to see Dear Leader’s tax return supposedly in those manila folders, want to feel confident that his decisions aren’t driven by business entanglements, is not deranged, is capable of compassion to those different than him, and none of want that wall as a monument to his ego and insecurities that’ll be an eternity breaking up rocks in a prison yard. It’s the only been the first full week—I’m still with taco stand.

Friday 27 January 2017

don’t let it rest on the president’s desk

Dear Leader has disabled the comment line of the White House’s switchboard due to overwhelming call volumes. Do not fret, however, as this patch, Boing Boing informs, re-routes your calls at random to the switchboard of one of his hotels or resorts, so you can still leave customer feedback and urge him divest himself of his business interests, and remind him that until or unless he does so, there’s no distinction between public and private enterprise.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

minitrue

While the year might have been vituperated with “post-truth,” the rubric and culture that are a reflection of the term is not one of propaganda machines and the memory-holes of Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Ministry of Truth (Minitrue in Newspeak) or even the counter-factual insistence that two plus two equals five.
If anything the rhetoric spurns authority figures and the establishment—insofar as the appeal to our vanities and fears allow—and would not suffer even a benign dictator for long out of fear that he would become an expert, dispensing a bit of knowledge and experience in addition to the justice, which was the only thing bidden or expected. It’s not that we proles are lorded over by the fictions of an eternal struggle and those interested in perpetuating it—rather, it’s us that creates the demand for disinformation and hand back a manufactured crisis for the charismatic to champion. What do you think? We didn’t liberate ourselves from them it seems—if they ever were in control—and have ceded what agency we did have to oppressors of our own making, which is a perfectly paradoxical case against facts and edification.

Monday 26 December 2016

mmxvi: annus horribilis, annus mirabilis

december: Pioneering US astronaut John Glenn passed away, as did America’s TV Dad, Alan Thicke. Doctor Henry Heimlich also left us, as did Zsa Zsa Gabor. Over a billion user accounts are compromised by a once pioneering search engine. Carnage and destruction continue in Aleppo as Syria, all the global powers’ proxy-war, is poised to fall to the entrenched government.  A truck ploughed through a crowded Christmas Market in Berlin.  Sadly, singer George Michael passed away as well as icon Carrie Fisher with her mother, Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds, joining her the next day.

november: Donald J Trump defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton as the forty-fifth presumptive to the office of President of the United States of America. We had to say farewell to America’s TV Mom, Florence Henderson. Janet Reno died, and we had to say good-bye to Andrew Sachs, who played Manuel on Fawlty Towers. Retro funk and soul performer Sharon Jones passed away as did Leon Russell though not of precisely the same genre. Poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen left us. Fidel Castro expired aged ninety, on Black Friday and cause of death was declared as America’s return to greatness.

october: It was announced that Bob Dylan will be awarded the Nobel prize for literature. Hopefully prematurely, obituaries for the Great Barrier Reef circulated, the cause of its demise being coral-bleaching.  A craze of dressing as scary clowns and frightening people has spread globally.

september: Meaningful global climate accords held in Paris are put into force, although later in the month carbon dioxide levels surpass anything experienced in the course of human events. NASA launches a probe to study and return with samples from an asteroid with a high potential to impact the Earth—in the twenty-third century, possibly either nudging it closer or pushing it further out of bounds.

august: Gene Wilder left us. Brazil hosted the Olympic Games. The actor that portrayed R2-D2 Kenny Baker sadly departed, as did host and political discussion moderator John McLaughlin. Costa Rica powered itself with renewable energy for one hundred days and hopes to wean itself off of fossil fuels completely.

july: A wholly solar-powered aircraft becomes the first to circumnavigate the globe. We had to say good-bye to Elie Wiesel. During Bastille Day celebrations, an atrocious terror attack occurred on promenade of Nice, setting off a summer of terror across Europe. An abortive coup d’รฉtat rocked Turkey and a political purge followed, exacerbating an already tense situation. The African Union’s fifty-four member nations issue a single passport that allows holders to travel visa-free within the bloc.

june: After two decades of construction, the Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Alps in opened. The UK voted to leave the European Union. The promising actor Anton Yelchin who played the new Chekov was struck down far too early. Boxer Muhammad Ali departed.

may: Presidential elections in Austria are too close to call, and the contenders a member of the Green party and a far-right candidate will hold a run-off later in the year. Nationalism is on the rise throughout the world. Super Tuesday’s delegates are awarded to Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.

april: The pop megastar Prince passed on. Der Sรผddeutsche Zeitung along with a consortium of other news outlets publish millions of leaked documents implicating many heads of state and prominent figures in the Panama Papers scandal. For the first time in history, capital punishment is outlawed by more than half the countries in the world.

march: Coordinated bomb attacks take over a hundred lives in Lahore and Brussels, and ISIS claims responsibility. Sadly, comedian and show-master Garry Shandling passed away. World-renowned architect Zaha Hadid also left us. Myanmar sworn in its first democratically elected president in half a century.

february: For the first time since the Great Schism of 1054, the leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches met and committed to an Ecumenical Declaration. Writers Umberto Eco and Harper Lee passed away on the same day. Heretofore theoretical gravitational waves were observed for the first time.  A huge swath of Canadian temperate rain-forest will be protected forever and called Spirit Bear. Bolivia and Peru also reached a deal to protect Lake Titicaca.

january: Davie Bowie tragically passed away, as did musicians Glenn Frey and Natalie Cole. There’s an outbreak of the Zika virus, causing panic in the sub-tropics and prompting many couples to postpone having children, due to the risk of birth-defects. Brutal and powerful Mexican drug-trafficker Joaquรญn Guzmรกn is re-captured after his escape from a high-security detention facility. The International Atomic Energy Agency declared that Iran has complied and dismantled its nuclear weapons programme and instructed the UN to lift sanctions. 

Saturday 26 November 2016

muckraker

Ahead of next year’s national elections in both France and Germany and just days after accepting Obama’s tacit challenge to the Chancellor to keep on rocking in the Free World and announcing her intent to run for a fourth term, the administration of Angela Merkel is crafting plans to make the acoustics better in the echo chamber of phoney news and scare-mongering.
Of course we can’t really alleviate the situation until or unless we can see ourselves individually as at fault as much all those anonymous demographic, test-audience pastiches of useful idiots or that muckraking and yellow-journalism (I tend bundle all these terms together and toss in carpet-baggers and robber-barons as well) have always been around—just with a higher bar to hurdle to curry interest beyond small groups—and it’s our responsibility to use the same platform to defuse or at least navigate the minefield of exaggeration and slander. One legislative reform—which might be long in coming or a dangerous dismantling of freedom of speech—the German government is open to would be regulating social media in the same way as it does the press, making forums responsible for the veracity of the material that they host. What do you think about that? Social media platforms are our course private entities whose most uncensored model has mostly been profitable for them up until more and not the guarantors of freedom of expression. In as such, they have not been charged with the same degree of integrity and responsibility as traditional journalism. What does independence from government interference mean when an organisation does not need to look after its own repute? Does it become an arm of the state media then and something with an off-switch? If the campaign strategists behind this populist furore in the US are already plotting their succession plans for European elections, perhaps a judicious nudge for democratic principles is in order.

Saturday 19 November 2016

inherit the wind or john henry was a steel-driving man

Though polls placing the United States between Latvia and Turkey when it came to tolerance for the concept of evolution and natural selection—simple scientific curiosity with or without decrying that it’s only a theory, were sampled well before the farce of democracy that was the US election, I am sure that the vice-president elect inserting his sanctimonious nose into the halls of academia and reaffirming his beliefs (unbidden by the scientific community) only goes to reinforce the incuriousness of his constituency, secure in having their foundations unrattled.
This does not bode well for the state of American education, nor for those institutions that drive progress, no matter how support might be spun to curry favour with certain parts of the industry. One’s rose-tinted convictions have little to do with mastery of the extant, rentier economy—that of branding, trademarks and profits gleaned off the friction of moving assets around, and these models are easily given over to machines that would indubitably conspire to out-perform humans. I wonder how it feels to encourage and reach out to those with the world view that is in danger of becoming redundant. I’m wagering that when manufacturing returns to America, it won’t be with the attendant jobs as expected but rather with more automation. Artificial intelligence will surely be innovative as well in ways we cannot imagine or possibly understand (and robots are not surrogates for gods and angels) but I do not think we could factor in at all unless scientifically literate.  Not only might business-driven science be more reckless with trying the untested, public health and environmental degradation globally will pass the tipping point and become unsalvageable as we’ve known it. It’s going to be a long, painful regime, with the swapping of titles, ร  la russe to skirt or trounce term limits. Even though entering his fifth term Trump will be in his nineties, he be as spry as ever, having regenerated and taken a donor body.

Monday 14 November 2016

hasp and clasp

In the wake of the Brexit referendum and the gathering gale that follows, Briton—and the idea is spreading virulently, have adopted wearing safety-pins as a subtle sign of solidarity against racism and as a way to perhaps signal to others that there are still kindred souls about, informs Kottke and the Everlasting Blรถrt. This small act—or the online equivalent of bracketing one’s handle with paper-clips—perhaps does not betray a surplus of Zivilcourage and resistance to existential threats require decisive action, especially on the part of those who’d never be directly party to such affronts in the institutional sense, but I think every little bit counts. What do you think? I’ll be wearing mine—also because it’s kind of punk.

Thursday 10 November 2016

alt-right or barrel of deplorables


Here’s a brief biographical look of some of the freshly be(k)nighted members of European Alt-Right, coming soon to an election near you—you know, so you can avoid awkward encounters at parties. Thankfully, most have a day-job to fall back on—since idle hands... With the exception of the do-over election in Austria, this dossier only introduces those without some tenuous claim to authority.

Frauke Petry, chemist and chairwoman for Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, founded 4 July 2015.





Lutz Bachmann, advertising executive from Dresden and founder of the PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) October 2014.



Marine Le Pen, attorney and French politician and president of Front National, October 1972.





Albert Rรถsti, political consultant and national chairman of the Swiss People’s Party, founded September 1971.





Geert Wilders, Dutch founder and leader of the Party for Freedom, February 2006.











Matteo Salvini, Italian journalist and leader of separatist movement Lega Nord, founded in January 1991.








Norbert Hofer, contested president of Austria and member of the Freedom Party (FPร–), founded April 1956.

oh, inverted world

With everything seeming so unreal and draining—including the stages of disbelief that we or they as the cognizetti had to confront as assumptions collapsed—I was hoping to awake from this bad dream and find ourselves in a place where all the progress towards social justice as imperfect as it is and as far as we have to go was not refudiated and undone by the victory of chauvinism and exceptionalism.
America’s relevance that so many are clutching after is diminished both domestically and abroad, and as tragic as it is to valid the insecurities of groups whose support comes at the disenfran- chisement of others—no protection for the minority, the greater threats come in the form of contagion in this nativism, emboldening tyrants and charismatics globally, and in laxer attitudes—verging towards ignorance—regarding climate change and responsible stewardship for the environment. Not that we’re custodians of the Earth, but rather having the passion and curiosity to make the pursuits of the sciences accountable and transform our world safely. It’s bad enough that those holding power are loath indulge that sometimes uncomfortable and inconvenient self-critique that one’s presumptions may be wrong and sustain the intellectual and emotional wherewithal to wonder why others might see the same things differently, but it’s not just as if we’ve given some mustachioed caricature of a villain enough rope to hang himself but also an arsenal of nuclear weapons and a surveillance system without parallel at his disposal. With such toys, why aspire to anything higher?

Tuesday 8 November 2016

revue, redux

Via the always marvelous Everlasting Blรถrt, we are given to a bit of nostalgia with a retrospective look at this quite interminable campaign season through the lens of some of the best political cartoons and memes that documented the entire bizarre and self-mocking careening career of the 2016 election.
Of course we are not nostalgic over wanting to relive or particularly revisit any part of it—rather I think it’s coming to terms with the fact that this ideological war does not end once the votes are counted, even if there are no disputed precincts and there’s no ties. Neither party could claim a victory, much less a mandate, and I fear the division will only continue and no reconciliation is forthcoming. What do you think? What sort of coda is going to be pinned on what already seems like the longest, most contested election in history?

Friday 4 November 2016

franchisement

There’s a rather austere neo-classic sculpture now kept in the US Capitol (finally being put on display rather than being hidden in the building’s crypt as it was for the first few decades after it was presented to Congress) that features the busts of three pioneers that helped secure the right to vote for women—anachronistically not until 1921. The likenesses suffragettes Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott appear as an ensemble evoking the colossal monument at Mount Rushmore but there’s obviously an unfinished rough bit. Although the artist’s original intent is unknown (possibly signifying that the job of achieving universal suffrage was not done), legend holds that this space is reserved for the first female president.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

pro-bono or controlling-share

Rather than yielding to investor demands that the social media giant sell out to the highest bidder and thus loose its independent voice (Yahoo! was once offered the Facebook and where are they now?), I thought that a government, like the tech-haven Iceland, ought to swoop in and operate Twitter for the public good, sort of like an NPR of socials.
Despite the ability of Twitter to turn a profit, those charged with maximising returns are sensing the opportunity for a windfall—however that’s reckoned in business terms. There is another avenue to explore, as Boing Boing informs, that may be for the good of all stakeholders in allowing the users to take it over (in the sense of financial stewardship) and run it as a cooperative venture. As the proposal points out, and not being a follower of the sports ball really, I would have never appreciated the genius of this model, there’s a parallel to be found in the premier status that the small town of Green Bay in the state of Wisconsin has retained over all these years and the last of its kind. The Packers (named for Acme tinned meat company) are owned by their fans and have never been the playthings of billionaire investors. What do you think? Greed tempers censorship as much as any other ideology.