Building the Overmind, one pizza at a time

This little simulation is as distressing as it is amusing.

Which, I realize I’m delinquent in commenting on the three-card monte in which Bush & Pointdexter play “now you see it, now you don’t” with Total Information Awareness, but weariness forfends. Don’t worry however. Soon enough John of Wetmachine will make such a blog post about the all-compassing info-maw as to shake the Moloch/Overmind/Military-Industrial-Prison-WarInfotainment Complex to its very foundation!

Globalization in convenient movie format

Well I saw Syriana last night and I must say I liked it an awful lot. It’s about the global implications of addiction to oil, and includes a world-weary CIA operative right out of Graham Green taking “joy rides” in Teheran and Beirut, rich sheiks of Araby, power lawyer-lobbyists of the Georgetown set, and an idealistic dreamer in the body of a handsome hedge fund trader. As an added topical bonus there’s even a scene featuring a Texas oliman indulging in gunplay on a ranch stuffed with imported “exotics.” One almost expected a drunk Vice President to make a cameo! This is that film done by what’s his face, Gaghan, who also wrote the screenplay for Traffic, another film about addiction and globalization.

I remember when I was a young man back there in seminary school in the department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue (1978) and chanced into some Milton Friedmanites of the most doctinaire kind (is there any other?). Well they would go on and on spouting their religious beliefs concerning “free” trade and so forth, under the delusion that they were talking about empirical things and not metaphysics. (This type is given a royal send-up in Syriana, in the character portrayed by Tim Blake Nelson, last seen with George Clooney in Oh Brother Where Art Thou?, in which he played one of the dimwitted Foggy Mountain Boys in a fake beard and clownish hayseed atire.) And they would prattle on about how, left unfettered, capital would magically find its way to its most efficient use (kinda like how Lassie found her way home all the way across Scotland without a map in the 1943 classic). The point being that American capital, among others, needed to be free to find its best use in Peruvian jungles or Saudi deserts or Indonesian forrests. Capital knows best.

Well, I would say, that’s fine. But If we send our capital there, unfettered, then presumably the capital of the poor peoples of those regions should be free to come here. Absolutely! they replied. Only ha-ha those people do not have capital. That’s their problem! Poor capital formation!

You miss my point, I rejoined. Their capital is human capital. It resides in their noggins and perforce their bodies.

Ah, I love the smell of capitalism in the morning! It smells like a vast technologically-based unfathomable dark conspiracy! But enough for now, I need to go earn my paycheck.

Register here to claim your phony “freedom”

The registered traveler program, in which people surrender a bit of themselves into the maw of the Overmind in exchange for some bogus promise of “security” is so obviously bad that I’m not going to belabor it here. Here’s an artilcle that pricks the surface of why this program is stupid and dangerous — and asks the question, how long will it remain “voluntary”?

One of the things that’s always puzzled me about the Transportaion Security Agency is why people — good guys and bad guys alike, evidently– consider mass transportation the default target for attack. If bad guys started blowing up shopping malls would we then have to create a Shopping Security Agency and have our retninas scanned before being allowed to shop?

Like John Gilmore, I think that the TSA has a lot more to do with conditioning people to surrender privacy and freedom of movement to The Authorities than it does with increasing our safety. I distrust, emphatically distrust, the TSA and all its ilk, but I’m willing to admit that there may be some benefit derived from it to counterbalance the incipient totalitarianism it presages and prepares the way for, like John the Baptist making smooth the way for the One Who Was to Come. But as for the Registered Traveler program in particular, I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.

Tinfoil hats — who you calling “fringe”?

MIT puts science to good use:

Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government’s invasive abilities. We speculate that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

By the way, this is why I have a problem with scientists: always pointing out problems, never solutions. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep asking. Here is the proper form of address when formulating a question for scientists.

Waiting for the Operatic Hammer to Fall

Last week Dear Wife Betty & I were out in San Francisco where we took in, as they say, Dr. Atomic at the San Francisco Opera. It’s about the Manhattan Project on the eve of the test detonation of the first bomb in 1945; in particular it’s about the moral ambiguity of the bombmaking enterprise, layered on top of deep uncertainty about whether the thing would actually explode (and perhaps ignite the atmosphere and destroy the earth).

The composer is John Adams, and the musical style is modern quasi-minimalist. The director is Peter Sellars, and the staging is Sellarian, with giant stylized props representing the bomb-test tower, the remote dry mountains, the physics laboratories; even Mr. & Mrs. Oppenheimer’s marriage bed. During most of the opera, the characters Edward Teller, Robert Oppenheimer, Robert Wilson and Leslie Grove sing about bomb designs and yields, war strategy, sin, physics and whether lightning from a desert storm will accidentally set off the bomb before they can set if off on purpose. In the second act two women sing poetic nonsense over a crib; Kitty Oppenheimer the while holding a highball glass in one hand and a grasping the neck of a mostly empty bottle of rye with the other. Throughout both acts there is a large chorus dressed in Army fatigues frantically moving about hither and thither as Oppenheimer, dressed like David Bryne in an oversized zoot suit, broods metaphysically, spouting Baudelaire and John Donne.

Also there were dancers who appeared at random times and did balletic stuff like you used to see on shows like Solid Gold in the days before MTV. (Betty said that they looked like the Maoist dancers you used to see on the Ed Sullivan show, only without the long ribbons on sticks).

Despite many misgivings, I liked Dr. Atomic a lot.

After all, how often does one get to see a full dress, high, arch, 80-piece orchestra, operatic treatment of the heart-numbing dread that is the essence of technoparanoia?

More impressions (and some spoilers) below the fold.

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Paging John Connor: Hurry up with your training, son

last year I gloated when the robots failed in the great Mojave off-road trials. Well, no gloating this time.

Ordinarily, yknow, as a bit of a technoparanoaic, I would feel a little uneasy about the prospect of indestructable autonomous hunter-killer machines each armed with more firepower than a Wermacht Panzer division, set loose to “police” the “evildoers.”

But seeing as this is all being done under the auspices of the United States Department of Defense, which never acts improperly or with suspect motives, and which never makes tactical, much less strategic, miscalculations, I can go to bed tonight knowing that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

By the way, I feel like watching a video. Has anybody seen my copy of T2?

Katrina: Mass murder or merely depraved indifference?

I have been working on a long essay about New Orleans and may be I’ll finish it up and post it some day. Although that seems like a rather paltry contribution to make to the effort of cleaning up the wreckage. Better that I spent my time doing something concrete, as Harold has been doing. So I’m going to see about helping with housing some of the evacuees who have been sent to Otis Military Reservation.

But even as the nation goes about the business of trying to heal this ghastly wound, we need to forthrightly investigate and find out what happened. There have been news reports that Bush was briefed by Max Mayfield, head of the Hurricane Warning Center, last Sunday night, August 28.

If that is true, and I see no reason to think that it isn’t, then we have for a president either a catastrophically incompetent human zero, or a sociopathic criminal willing to let die tens of thousands of his fellow citizens out of mere petulance. My money is on the latter.

For, after hearing what the National Hurricane Center had to say, anyone who was neither a zero nor a sociopath would have done all that he could have to urge people to leave, ensure that they had the means to leave, and prepare for immediate rescue operations the moment the storm had left the region. Bush did none of these things.

What I want to know is, did Bush refuse to send help to New Orleans in order to spite the Democrat governor (who refused to cede jurisdiction)? That is my reading of the tea leaves, and it nauseates and terrifies me. Bush’s Katrina ploy is looking more and more like a political action from the Saddam Hussein or Hafez Assad playbook.

The congress of the United States has no higher duty right now than to investigate this matter. I hope I’m wrong about Bush’s motives, but God help us all if I’m right.

The Ironies

For some time now I have been wanting to write that seminal piece explaining the essence of the philosophy of “technoskepticism” that motivated my desire to start up Wetmachine in the first place. My brilliant essay, in the line of the late Neil Postman’s Technopoloy and all of the grouchy, curmudgeonly works of the late, great Christopher Lasch (Culture of Narcissism, Revolt of the Elites, etc) would, in a playful yet dazzlingly serious manner, address the fundamental ironies of our time resultant from the fetishization of technology that has taken on the role of religion in “modern” societies that naively believe they’re past all that.

Perhaps I would address scary (but nevertheless ironic) phenomena like technology-boosted asymmetric warfare as carried out by midieaval fundamentalists — today’s blasts in London presumably the latest sad manifistation thereof. And perhaps I would digress to discuss internet pornography consumption among teenagers in the pro-capitalism Bible Belt of the USA, another region in which the “internal contradictions” of the fundamentalist-technopolist religion play out.

Alas I have no time to work on this essay today. Because I’m really behind the 8-ball at work, as a consequence of having dropped my Powerbook into a puddle of coffee some weeks ago. It’s still “in the shop” and I’ve been reduced to using the virus-infested, 4-year old Gateway(tm) that is our family computer. Let me tell you, this thing is slow. And, I don’t have all my favorite tools installed on it. And there’s nothing quite so frustrating as trying to write a powerful essay on the ironies of technology addiction on a crappy old Windoze machine, that much I’m sure of.

So perhaps some other time.