Monthly Archive: December 2013

Dec 31 2013

Every Stroke You Make

Yes, quite literally the NSA will be watching every keystroke you make on you computer, cell phone, or i-pad. How you say? Quite simply collusion with the the telecommunications industry along with companies like Microsoft and through its special unit of hackers within the agency’s department for Tailored Access Operations (TAO). In an article in Der Spiegel, these specialists are described as as “master carpenters” who step in when the usual hacking and data-skimming methods fail. These hackers at ANT, which may stand for Advanced or Access Network Technology, step in with their special tools to get the job done.

These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives — from computing centers to individual computers, and from laptops to mobile phones. For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA’s specialists seem already to have gotten past them.

This, at least, is the impression gained from flipping through the 50-page document. The list reads like a mail-order catalog, one from which other NSA employees can order technologies from the ANT division for tapping their targets’ data. The catalog even lists the prices for these electronic break-in tools, with costs ranging from free to $250,000. [..]

Some of the equipment available is quite inexpensive. A rigged monitor cable that allows “TAO personnel to see what is displayed on the targeted monitor,” for example, is available for just $30. But an “active GSM base station” — a tool that makes it possible to mimic a mobile phone tower and thus monitor cell phones — costs a full $40,000. Computer bugging devices disguised as normal USB plugs, capable of sending and receiving data via radio undetected, are available in packs of 50 for over $1 million. [..]

The ANT division doesn’t just manufacture surveillance hardware. It also develops software for special tasks. The ANT developers have a clear preference for planting their malicious code in so-called BIOS, software located on a computer’s motherboard that is the first thing to load when a computer is turned on.

In another article at FDL‘s Dissenter, Peter Van Buren notes that private enterprise have also become the “tools of the national security state

Once the NSA identifies a “target” (whom we’ll refer here to as “You”), the NSA needs to know when You order a new laptop they want to intercept. That means the NSA has to spy on Your credit card, Your online activities and/or probe into the ordering systems of places like Amazon, Dell and the like. Perhaps there is a sort of “no fly” list distributed to manufacturers that requires notification to the NSA when someone like You on it buys something. Or all of the above.

The NSA then must know when and how Your laptop will be sent to you. That means they need to have been accessing the computer systems of Amazon, Dell and the like, and/or UPS, Fedex and other shippers. Or all of the above.

The NSA then has to have physical access to the warehouse of the shipping company. Or, the shipping company has to agree to mark your package, and deliver it instead to an NSA location. That all means the shipping companies are in on the NSA plot, or the NSA has to be hacking into the shipping companies’ data systems and substituting their address for Yours.

Once in NSA hands, Your package has to be opened, and Your laptop must be altered in some undetectable way. They can’t steam open a box like a letter in the old movies; someone has to open it physically and then get it all buttoned up again without a trace. Does the NSA have a way to unstick packing tape and reseal internal bags, or do they have a ready supply from Dell and Apple of packing materials?

Lastly, the NSA has to return the package into the shipping stream. That means the box, with say Amazon’s return address and Your home address, has to reenter say Fedex’s system from a third location without too many people knowing it happened. It would not do for the low-level UPS guy to pick up a ton of boxes everyday from a nondescript warehouse, all with third-party address labels. This strongly suggests cooperation by the shipping companies.

You then open Your new laptop on Christmas morning. Yeah, be sure to select a secure password. [..]

What we have here is an example of the depths into which You have fallen. The government has recruited private industry into its national security state, down to the level of the Fedex guy delivering packages to Your door in time for Christmas. For those of You who still foolishly insist that such spying is OK because they “have nothing to hide,” I sure as hell hope You are right, because whatever You do have now belongs to Them.

It is fairly certain that whether or not the NSA will be allowed to continues its bulk collection of data will be argued before the Supreme Court after two conflicting ruling from lower courts on the constitutionality of the program. Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director and director of its Center for Democracy; and Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first broke the story about Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks joined Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! to discuss the court rulings and how the NSA can literally watch every keystroke you make.



Transcript can gbe read here.



Transcript can be read here

Thank you, Edward Snowden.

Dec 31 2013

Glenn Ford

ave you checked out Black Agenda Report?

You really should.

Transcript

Transcript

Transcript

Dec 31 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dean Baker: The corruption of the economics profession

The public needs expert guidance on economic issues, but moneyed interests have gotten in the way

It is remarkable that the public has been convinced that the earth revolves around the sun. This is remarkable because we can all look up in the sky and see the sun revolving around the earth.

Most of us are willing to believe the direct opposite of what we can see with our own eyes because we accept the analysis of the solar system developed by astronomers through many centuries of careful observation. The overwhelming majority of people will never go through the measurements and reproduce the calculations. Rather, our belief that the earth revolves around the sun depends on our confidence in the competence and integrity of astronomers. If they all tell us that the earth in fact orbits the sun, we are prepared to accept this view.

Unfortunately the economics profession cannot claim to have a similar stature. This is both good and bad. It is good because it doesn’t deserve that stature. Economists too often work as hired guns for those with money and power. It is bad because the public needs expertise in economics, just as it needs expertise in medicine and other areas.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: 2014: Seize the Moment

The Congress has just ended one of the worst and least productive sessions in the history of our country. At a time when the problems facing us are monumental, Congress is dysfunctional and more and more people (especially the young) are, understandably, giving up on the political process. The people are hurting. They look to Washington for help. Nothing is happening.

In my view, the main cause of congressional dysfunction is an extreme right-wing Republican party whose main goal is to protect the wealthy and powerful. There is no tax break for the rich or large corporations that they don’t like. There is no program which protects working families — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, affordable housing, etc. — that they don’t want to cut.

But the Democrats (with whom I caucus as an Independent) are most certainly not without fault. In the Senate, they have tolerated Republican obstructionism for much too long and allowed major legislation to fail for lack of 60 votes. They have failed to bring forth a strong and consistent agenda which addresses the economic crises facing the vast majority of our struggling population, and have not rallied the people in support of that agenda.

Chris Hedges: Overthrow the Speculators

Speculators at megabanks or investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are not, in a strict sense, capitalists. They do not make money from the means of production. Rather, they ignore or rewrite the law-ostensibly put in place to protect the vulnerable from the powerful-to steal from everyone, including their shareholders. They are parasites. They feed off the carcass of industrial capitalism. They produce nothing. They make nothing. They just manipulate money. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged.

We can wrest back control of our economy, and finally our political system, from corporate speculators only by building local movements that decentralize economic power through the creation of hundreds of publicly owned state, county and city banks.

The establishment of city, regional and state banks, such as the state public bank in North Dakota, permits localities to invest money in community projects rather than hand it to speculators. It keeps property and sales taxes, along with payrolls for public employees and pension funds, from lining the pockets of speculators such as Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. Money, instead of engorging the bank accounts of the few, is leveraged to fund schools, restore infrastructure, sustain systems of mass transit and develop energy self-reliance.

Jeff Jarvis: The primary NSA issue isn’t privacy, it’s authority

At heart, the NSA debate is about what the government is allowed to do with what it knows and who is overseeing it

I celebrate Judge Richard J Leon’s opinion that the government’s mass collection of communications metadata is “almost Orwellian”, and I decry Judge William H Pauley III’s decision that the NSA’s collection is both effective and legally perfectly peachy.

But I worry that the judges, as well as many commentators and Edward Snowden himself, may be debating on the wrong plane. I see some danger in arguing the case as a matter of privacy because I fear that could have serious impact on our concept of knowledge, of what is allowed to be known and thus of freedom of speech. Instead, I think this is an argument about authority – not so much what government (or anyone else) is allowed to know but what government, holding unique powers, is allowed to do with what it knows. [..]

In the search for a legally protected right to privacy in the United States, begun with Brandeis and Warren in 1890, the Fourth Amendment has been interpreted as affording privacy protection as have the First Amendment (freedom of belief) and the Fifth (freedom against self-incrimination). In each case, though, the right is not so much for something – privacy – as against something – namely, government abuse.

Paul Buchheit: The Shocking Redistribution of Wealth in the Past Five Years

Anyone reviewing the data is likely to conclude that there must be some mistake. It doesn’t seem possible that one out of twenty American families could each have made a million dollars since Obama became President, while the average American family’s net worth has barely recovered. But the evidence comes from numerous reputable sources.

Some conservatives continue to claim that President Obama is unfriendly to business, but the facts show that the richest Americans and the biggest businesses have been the main – perhaps only – beneficiaries of the massive wealth gain over the past five years. [..]

President Obama recently proclaimed that inequality “drives everything I do in this office.” Indeed it may, but in the wrong direction.

William Cohen: As NSA Spy Debate Heats Up in 2014 Don’t Believe the Security Hype

A new year of media noise begins, and with it an avalanche of propaganda. With the public growing wary of privacy intrusions, the NSA debate is heating up and the message from power centers will focus on the effectiveness of the spy program in stopping terror attacks, the effective controls in place to prevent abuse, and the danger to the public posed by traitorous leakers of secret operations. These claims are all false.

Yet these are the claims endorsed in the December 27 ruling upholding the legality of the NSA spy program by U.S. federal judge William Pauley III in ACLU v. Clapper. Judge Pauley’s ruling is full of deference to government and its need for secrecy. However, a December 16 ruling by federal judge Richard Leon in Klayman v. Obama exposes that the claims made by the government are wrong. Judge Leon characterizes the NSA spy program as Orwellian and violating fundamental constitutional safeguards. [..]

With a conflict between federal judges, the legality of the NSA spy program will likely be resolved by the Supreme Court in 2014, after the appeals courts in Pauley and Leon’s districts have their say. It is an open question how the Court will rule. Consider that Judge Leon was appointed by Bush 43, and Judge Pauley by Clinton. Politics and ideology are not at all predictable when it comes to views on the NSA spy program.

The Court is a powerful and conservative institution. Yet the Court is swayed by public sentiment. The best way for people to influence the law is to raise their voices against the clear violations by the national security state and the bogus arguments now being used to defend itself from further scrutiny.

Dec 31 2013

On This Day In History December 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. The last day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, it is widely known as New Year’s Eve.

On this day in 1759, Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness.

Guiness is a popular Irish dry stout. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide.

A distinctive feature is the burnt flavour which is derived from the use of roasted unmalted barley (though this is a relatively modern development since it did not become a part of the grist until well into the 20th century). For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed product to give a sharp lactic flavour (which was a characteristic of the original Porter).

Although the palate of Guinness still features a characteristic “tang”, the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The thick creamy head is the result of the beer being mixed with nitrogen when being poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001[1], is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually.

The company had its headquarters in London from 1932 onwards. It merged with Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997 and then figured in the development of the multi-national alcohol conglomerate Diageo.

Arthur Guinness started brewing ales from 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery, Dublin. On 31 December he signed (up to) a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum for the unused brewery. Ten years later on 19 May 1769 Guinness exported his ale for the first time, when six and a half barrels were shipped to England.

Guinness is sometimes believed to have invented stout,[citation needed] however the first known use of the word stout in relation to beer appears in a letter in the Egerton Manuscript dated 1677, almost 50 years before Arthur Guinness was born.

Arthur Guinness started selling the dark beer porter in 1778. The first Guinness beers to use the term were Single Stout and Double Stout in the 1840s.

The breweries pioneered several quality control efforts. The brewery hired the statistician William Sealy Gosset in 1899, who achieved lasting fame under the pseudonym “Student” for techniques developed for Guinness, particularly Student’s t-distribution and the even more commonly known Student’s t-test.

Guinness brewed their last porter in 1974.

Guinness has also been referred to as “the black stuff” and as a “Pint of Plain” – referred to in the famous refrain of Flann O’Brien’s poem “The Workman’s Friend”: “A pint of plain is your only man.”

Dec 31 2013

Awakening

Quicksilver Messenger Service

43 years ago, in 1970, shortly after Kent State…

You poisoned my sweet water.

You cut down my green trees.

The food you fed my children

Was the cause of their disease.

My world is slowly fallin’ down

And the airs not good to breathe.

And those of us who care enough,

We have to do something…….

(Chorus)

Oh…….oh What you gonna do about me?

Oh…….oh What you gonna do about me?

Your newspapers,

They just put you on

They never tell you

The whole story

They just put your

Young ideas down

I was wonderin’ could this be the end

Of your pride and glory?

(Chorus)

I work in your factory

I study in your schools

I fill your penitentiaries

And your military too!

And I feel the future trembling

As the word is passed around

If you stand up for what you do believe

Be prepared to be shot down

(Chorus)

And I feel like a stranger

In the land where I was born

And I live like an outlaw

An’ I’m always on the run……..

And I’m always getting busted

And I got to take a stand……..

I believe the revolution

Must be mighty close at hand……..

(Chorus)

I smoke marijuana

But I cant get behind your wars

And most of what I do believe

Is against most of your laws

I’m a fugitive from injustice

But I’m goin’ to be free

Cause your rules and regulations

They don’t do the thing for me

(Chorus)

And I feel like a stranger

In the land where I was born

And I live just like an outlaw

An’ I’m always on the run

And though you may be stronger now, my time will come around.

You keep adding to my numbers, and you shoot my people down.

Dec 30 2013

Computer Meltdown

Don’t even ask.

Have some movie instead.

Dec 30 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Fiscal Fever Breaks

In 2012 President Obama, ever hopeful that reason would prevail, predicted that his re-election would finally break the G.O.P.’s “fever.” It didn’t.

But the intransigence of the right wasn’t the only disease troubling America’s body politic in 2012. We were also suffering from fiscal fever: the insistence by virtually the entire political and media establishment that budget deficits were our most important and urgent economic problem, even though the federal government could borrow at incredibly low interest rates. Instead of talking about mass unemployment and soaring inequality, Washington was almost exclusively focused on the alleged need to slash spending (which would worsen the jobs crisis) and hack away at the social safety net (which would worsen inequality).

So the good news is that this fever, unlike the fever of the Tea Party, has finally broken. [..]

Still, does any of this matter? You could argue that it doesn’t – that fiscal scolds may have lost control of the conversation, but that we’re still doing terrible things like cutting off benefits to the long-term unemployed. But while policy remains terrible, we’re finally starting to talk about real issues like inequality, not a fake fiscal crisis. And that has to be a move in the right direction.

New York Times Editorial Board: The Slow Demise of Capital Punishment

More states are coming to recognize that the death penalty is arbitrary, racially biased and prone to catastrophic error. Even those that have not abolished capital punishment are no longer carrying it out in practice. [,,]

As it becomes less frequent, the death penalty also becomes more limited to an extremely small slice of the country, and therefore all the more arbitrary in its application. All 80 death sentences in 2013 came from only about 2 percent of counties in the entire country, and all 39 executions – more than half occurred in Texas and Florida – took place in about 1 percent of all counties, according to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center. Eighty-five percent of all counties have not had a single execution in more than 45 years.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Was This the Social Contract’s Comeback Year?

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, a president and a party who had just won an election with progressive rhetoric were quickly pivoting toward a “Grand Bargain” which would cut Social Security and Medicare. Leaders in both parties were obsessed with deficits, and there was “bipartisan” consensus that these “entitlements” needed to be cut. The only questions left to debate were when they would be cut, and by how much. To resist these moves was to be dismissed as “unserious” and “extreme” — in Washington, in newsprint, and on the airwaves.

Today the forces of corporate consensus are on the defensive. It’s considered politically reckless to get too far out front on the subject of benefit cuts. Some of the think tanks who advocated Austerity Lite one year ago are focused now on inequality. And, as the leaders of Third Way learned recently, the same rhetoric which earned nods of approval all across Washington this time last year can get you slapped down today.

Social Security is a vital program, but the implications of this shifting debate run even deeper, to the future of the social contract itself.

Andy Fitzgerald: Why won’t the west call out Saudi Arabia for persecution of democratic activists?

A Saudi activist was sentenced to four years and 300 lashes. He is the fourth to be imprisoned from one organization this year

At the memorial for Nelson Mandela, President Barack Obama eulogized the fallen leader:

   Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement – a movement that at its start held little prospect of success. Like [Martin Luther] King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed.

Listening in the crowd sat Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s second deputy prime minister. Apparently the words were lost on the government His Royal Highness was representing (though it’s questionable he even relayed the message), because within the next week, a Saudi judge sentenced democratic activist Omar al-Saeed to 4 years in prison and 300 lashes. His crime: calling for a constitutional monarchy (a government that would likely outlaw such cruel and unusual punishment). [..]

Supporters of democracy should not be afraid to name, shame, and directly confront tyranny wherever it is seen. Whether it is in Russia or China, or perpetrated under the guise of “national security” by the United States or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Those that deem oppression a strategic necessity or its elimination an impossibility almost always end up on the “wrong side of history”.

David Dennis: Politico’s 2014 ‘journalists to watch’ list doesn’t have a single person of color

American media is still struggling to find diverse voices. Part of the problem goes back to unpaid internships

A few months ago, I wrote a commentary for the Guardian about how unpaid internships create an unfair funnel system to media outlets. They create a homogenous voice that excludes those who don’t have the money or privilege to work for free. This, to me, is the biggest challenge facing the media. Cities like New Orleans, Chicago’s South Side or Gary, Indiana are underrepresented or misrepresented in the media because there aren’t enough journalists who come from those or similar areas to tell the stories.

The proof of the “blacking out” of the media has shown its face again in a Politico list of US journalists to watch in 2014. The list doesn’t have a single person of color on it. Politico’s list spans almost every major publication or media outlet in the country from ESPN to CNN and beyond. The Politico article mentions these reporters’ great work in the areas of politics, sports, and more, but where is the diversity? Do we honestly not have any journalists of color in the upper tier?

John Nichols: Holiday in Austerity Land: 1.3 Million Americans Lose Jobless Benefits

When it was initially discussed as a rude repercussion of a bungled budget deal, the prospect that 1.3 million Americans would lose long-term unemployment benefits just days after Christmas was bad enough.

Now, that the day has come, however, it stands as a stark reminder of the extent to which the United States has regressed from the days when Franklin Delano Roosevelt greeted the Holiday Season with a celebration of the fact that: “Today neighborliness no longer can be confined to one’s little neighborhood. Life has become too complex for that. In our country neighborliness has gradually spread its boundaries-from town, to county, to State and now at last to the whole Nation.”

Imagine a country that, during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, abandons those hit hardest by economic turbulence, and you have a sense of what the United States has become under the cruel hand not just of House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan – who refused to agree to any budget deal that included an extension of benefits – and those members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, who compromised with the failed Republican vice presidential candidate’s austerity agenda.

Dec 30 2013

On This Day In History December 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 30 is the 364th day of the year (365th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There is one day remaining until the end of the year.

Today history was made in in Parson’s Kansas where the last roll of Kodachrome was processed at Dwayne’s Photo Shop, the only Kodak certified processor of Kodachrome film in the world as of 2010. The final roll of 36-frame Kodachrome to be manufactured was tracked by National Geographic; it was shot by photographer Steve McCurry.

For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas By A. G. Sulzberger

PARSONS, Kan. – An unlikely pilgrimage is under way to Dwayne’s Photo, a small family business that has through luck and persistence become the last processor in the world of Kodachrome, the first successful color film and still the most beloved.

That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down here to be sold for scrap.

One of the toughest decisions was how to deal with the dozens of requests from amateurs and professionals alike to provide the last roll to be processed.

In the end, it was determined that a roll belonging to Dwayne Steinle, the owner, would be last. It took three tries to find a camera that worked. And over the course of the week he fired off shots of his house, his family and downtown Parsons. The last frame is already planned for Thursday, a picture of all the employees standing in front of Dwayne’s wearing shirts with the epitaph: “The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired. Kodachrome: 1935-2010.”

A Color-Saturated Sun Sets on Kodachrome

I have fond memories of my 35mm Yashika and Canon cameras.

Dec 29 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: The Media Landscape After the Culture War by Annieli

Every war seems permanent as does every revolution until it ends which requires much in the way of interpreting rather than explaining the victory to the vanquished, even in mediated spaces that can digitally define cultural landscapes. How possible is it to consider Walter Benjamin’s  (http://www.digplanet.com/wiki/Theses_on_the_Philosophy_of_History) point on the failure of historical materialism “To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was.’ It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger”? More specifically how do we treat cultural danger as presented in the (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme) meme of “Culture War” and how can we incorporate Marxist analysis to remediate or reconcile the memories that emerge in momentary crisis that obscure the critically real history embodied and assess their actual danger or risk.

Landscapes have that same problem of memory, as actual experience of an expansive and contemplative view of a world or as saved representations of concrete and abstract journeys through those same worlds. The first is individually ontological whereas the latter is a social ontology representing and reproducing an historical relationship to others in a cultural context. Both involve human labor at various scales but it is the crises of value and meaning assigned to those experiences that inform global discourses of war and environment on an unprecedented scale and scope. Today’s culture wars find themselves waging these combative discourses in a media landscape (http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/media-landscape_b37736) or Medienlandschaft.

The phrase culture war (https://www. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_war)represents a loan translation (calque) from the German Kulturkampf. The German word, Kulturkampf, was used to describe the clash between cultural and religious groups in the campaign from 1871 to 1878 under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of the German Empire against the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. In American usage the term culture war is used to claim that there is a conflict between those values considered traditionalist or conservative and those considered progressive or liberal. It originated in the 1920s when urban and rural American values came into clear conflict. This followed several decades of immigration to the cities by people considered alien to earlier immigrants. It was also a result of the cultural shifts and modernizing trends of the Roaring 20s, culminating in the presidential campaign of Al Smith. However, the "culture war" in United States of America was redefined by James Davison Hunter’s 1991 book Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. In this work, it is traced to the 1960s. The perceived focus of the American culture war and its definition have taken various forms since then.

 

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge–unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.” Walter Benjamin (1940)

  In such historical landscapes who are “cultural workers” and what does cultural work as contrasted with cultural objects look like, is it different of the same as all kinds of work and what kinds of value does it produce or more directly can individuals produce “particular kinds of independent and critical reflexivity modelled on the autonomy of the work of art” (Bennett 2011, and Bennett 2009) Societies exist in such landscapes and their collective experiences are often organized or reproduced as mass spectacles, either actual or mediated and consumed in a variety of ways, often driven by tragedy or circumstance.

A well-ordered society would like the bodies which compose it to have the perceptions, sensations and thoughts which correspond to them. Now this correspondence is perpetually disturbed. There are words and discourses which freely circulate, without master, and which divert bodies from their destinations, engaging them in movements in the neighbourhood of certain words: people, liberty, equality, etc. There are spectacles which disassociate the gaze from the hand and transform the worker into an aesthete.

 

What kinds of spectacles effect these transformations? Do they bear a family resemblance to the manufacturing of consent where spectacles include all forms of mediated politics and of course the intersecting claims of “entertainment” as with Limbaugh the entertainer (“Okay, so I am an entertainer, and I have 20 million listeners”) as a form of reactionary cultural work. It would be easy to say the following if we could identify the “concrete historical context” and since there are multiple mediations, how would a dialectical method of analysis explain rather than merely interpret such products of culture with multiple tropes of cultural war contesting for domination.

In short, mass-mediated products are determined by various factors-the systems of ownership, the process of cultural production, the level of struggle, the state of consciousness in society at a given time, and so on. A dialectical method of analysis would involve studying all these factors within a concrete historical context so as to explain the multiple mediations that infuse a product of culture

For example, while dystopian, there are multiple ideologies at work in the following example of spectacular speculation where doomsday prepping and its media representations are in reality a capitalist industry that exploits the potential danger of refugees coming from cities to attack rural preppers in a variety of romanticized post-apocalypse scenarios. These narratives have a burgeoning market appealing to a variety of religious and political secessionists all with disposable income or transferable construction skills for survival. They become amplified by the seasonal and media driven rise in firearms purchases. All of these actions represent desires for a kind of aesthetic autonomy, however driven by social underdevelopment.  

Ron Douglas, for example, has gathered enough supplies to keep his eight person family (two parents, six children) functioning off the grid for a year. His supplies can be broken into four categories: food, energy, shelter, and protection. He’s become such an expert that he is one of the founders of Red Shed Media Group, a business that organizes Prepper expos (40,000 attendees at $10 a person), has a hugely popular podcast radio program, and owns the rights to successful survivalist books.

Under the fold the concrete becomes either more wet or more abstract                      

Dec 29 2013

Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert: The Word – Channel Serfing

The Word – Channel Serfing

As the middle class declines, Bloomberg columnist Virginia Postrel suggests that television eliminates the need for higher wages.

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