By Chris Arkenberg
I haven’t posted much here in a while and, honestly, I don’t know if I have an audience anymore. You gotta feed the beast or it’ll just go gorge elsewhere at the unlimited trough of spankulation that is the Internet. It’s easier to tweet, and now there’s Ello which hasn’t yet found its center of gravity or true genus locii to root down a thriving community. But it’s refreshing to post more than 140 char without the expectation of serious long-form journeys. And I don’t use Facebook so Ello at least offers some potential to have an intellectual cohort that won’t rat-hole into that heady blend of extremism and uncritical non-thinking that seems to be coded directly into the DNA of Disgracebook. So consider this post my sort of Fakebook personal rant…
But then, I’m not sure I have a lot to say these days. Partly, I do so much of this sort of thing at work where the audience is internal. The content is fairly narrow but still insightful. Not the broad random walks through techno-behaviorology that I’m inclined to pursue here. Partly, on another axis, the Twitters and the constant streams of the technoverse and geopolity have got me a bit swirly, like the inertia of information is too great to adequately slow down and process into some sort of theory. The fascination with the stream is at the expense of any fascination with the particulars of life, like it’s all moving too fast and I’m being entrained to be little more than a relay node in the network. Click, retweet, copy-past, post. A servant to the memes, like apes collared to silicon just to grind out more 1’s and 0’s.
So much of the stream seams meaningless – fleeting glimpses, spikes of outrage, stories about things and events that will be wiped from the collective memory within a week. And maybe that’s the point, to bring all the mundane details to light, to share the bits with each other, to fully become the eyes of the world, in witness of it all. But then, if I really think about it, it’s appalling how many resources, how much energy, how much labor born on the backs of the impoverished, how much of this all goes to keeping the platters spinning and the switches switching and the rare earth’s rare-earthing, across global data centers sucking down megawatts to make sure we archive every random bleating of the global mind. To a post-psychedelic techno-futurist like myself, it’s a bit confusing to feel at odds with the marvel of it all.
I can’t remember the source but this phrase about digital transformation really stuck with me: that it’s emulsifying entire industries. Which underlines that there’s very real import to the network spankulation, that we have some obligation to roll the dung ball of modernity around and around beneath the Sun, to check it for deformations that might drive truly dangerous emulsifications. We can snicker at the death of old industries but what about the demise of comfort or wellness or nutrition or the oft-anticipated end of the state… Are we really ready for this degree of transformation? So I’m left with a crutch of faith that the stream is, on balance, a positive tool to keep us all engaged with the Great Work of unfolding the possible with some integrity, without destroying more than we create. That the relentless bleating of sheep is what keeps the shepherds attentive and considerate, and that the global mind helps us better evolve the animal within towards something more tenable than base self-preservation, something much holier than religion, something much more wise than science.
It’s a lot to put on a stream, I know, but maybe having a degree of faith is what keeps us swimming, lest we give in to the rushing depths and fall like stones, inert and silent.
By Stephen Gutwillig
It may be an off-year election, but it’s a big one for drug policy reform. In seven weeks, voters across the country will have a chance to accelerate the unprecedented momentum to legalize marijuana and end the wider drug war. In fact, there are more drug policy reform questions on the ballot this November than ever in American history. Voter initiatives — primarily reforming or repealing marijuana laws — appear on the ballots in seven states, at least 17 municipalities and one U.S. territory. To help you keep score at home, here’s an overview, starting with the highest-profile measures.
Oregon: Passage of Measure 91  will make the Beaver State the third to legalize marijuana for adults outright. Like the historic laws adopted in Colorado and neighboring Washington two short years ago, this initiative would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older and create a statewide system to regulate production and sales. And similar to Colorado’s law, Measure 91 would allow adults to cultivate small amounts of marijuana under controlled circumstances. In this entirely vote-by-mail election, the initiative has already been endorsed by the Pacific Northwest’s largest daily paper  and would likely boost efforts across its southern border to end marijuana prohibition in California two years from now.
Alaska: The other statewide marijuana legalization initiative, Measure 2 , is closely modeled on Colorado’s Amendment 64 and tracks many of the elements in Oregon’s prospective law. Alaska was something of a marijuana reform pioneer as possession and cultivation of small amounts for personal use in a private residence has been protected under the Alaska Constitution since the 1970s. Alongside Oregon in 1998, Alaska was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana. With a deep-rooted respect for personal freedom, Alaska would become the first red state to legalize marijuana for adult use, no doubt raising eyebrows across the political spectrum.
Florida: Amendment 2  is the only statewide medical marijuana initiative on the ballot this year, and it’s one to watch. Victory would make Florida, with its huge population and bell weather status in American politics, the very first southern state to adopt a medical marijuana law. With 23 other medical marijuana states and super-majority support  nationally, passage of Amendment 2 would effectively settle any lingering questions on public acceptance of marijuana as medicine. It’s going to be a challenge, though, since Florida law requires 60% to pass a voter initiative. While polls indicate enormous support , casino mogul Sheldon Adelson contributed a few million dollars  to stop it as Amendment 2 is associated with Charlie Crist’s comeback gubernatorial campaign. Adelson’s intervention has created the first well-funded opposition to a statewide marijuana reform campaign ever.
California: On the heels of reforming its harshest-in-the-nation Three Strikes law in 2012, Californians are now poised to refine six low-level, nonviolent offenses, including simple drug possession, from felonies to misdemeanors. Proposition 47 would then dedicate the savings — likely more than $1 billion a year — to schools, victim services, and mental health treatment. With retroactive sentencing and expungement provisions, the impact of Prop 47 in California on wasteful corrections spending and individual lives would be profound and surely resonate across the country.
District of Columbia: Earlier this year, the D.C. Council adopted the nation’s most far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law . In November, voters in the nation’s capital will decide whether to go even further. Initiative 71  makes it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana. While District law prevents the ballot initiative from addressing the sale of marijuana, the D.C. Council is considering a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana within the District. D.C. has the highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the U.S. with enormous racial disparities as police target African Americans for 91 percent of these arrests. Initiative 71 will be the first marijuana reform campaign fought primarily on the issue of the drug war’s ongoing toxic impact on black communities.
Other races: Voters in municipal elections from the Northeast to Micronesia will weigh in November 4th on a range of marijuana focused issues.
Public opinion has shifted dramatically over the last decade in favor of reforming marijuana laws and dismantling the egregious excesses of the drug war. And elected officials have begun to take notice. The U.S. House has voted five times in recent months to let states set their own marijuana policies while Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker have introduced similar bi-partisan legislation in the U.S. Senate in addition to a cluster of other long-overdue criminal justice reforms. When the dust settles on November 5th, the momentum for change in this country will only have accelerated.
By Oliver Hall
Source: Dangerous Minds
Frankie’s having a terrible day. His wife and infant son are starving. He’s run out of money and food. Now he’s going to be evicted. He’s got a gun. Let’s hear it for Frankie…
If this sounds familiar, it’s because the story of the 1984 Troma movie Combat Shock bears a striking resemblance to that of Suicide’s harrowing song “Frankie Teardrop.” The movie concerns the struggle of a young man named Frankie to feed his wife and child in blighted Staten Island, and if you’ve heard the song, I don’t have to tell you that it ends pretty badly for Frankie, his family, you, me, and the entire human race.
Frankie isn’t a factory worker in this version of the story, but an unemployed Vietnam vet whose days and nights are continually interrupted by flashbacks of ‘Nam and the torture he suffered at the hands of the VC. These, in turn, lead to flashbacks within flashbacks where, for purposes of exposition, Frankie relives arguments with his father, now estranged because a) Frankie has refused to carry on the family legacy of race hate and b) Dad disapproves of Mrs. Frankie. Suffering through the exposition of any movie is itself a form of torture.
However, these gestures toward the conventions of plot are mercifully few and brief, and Combat Shock soon makes with the laffs and gasps you crave from late-night horror fare. Much of the pleasure of watching Combat Shock comes from the genre detail writer, director, producer and editor Buddy Giovinazzo adds to extend Suicide’s story to feature length. For instance, because of Frankie’s exposure to Agent Orange, and because this is a Troma movie, the child looks like a cross between the Eraserhead baby and Edvard Munch’s screamer.
Until the awful climax, the movie takes its time presenting a loser’s-eye view of urban anomie. If you’ve ever lived in a place that had a TV set, you already know all these characters: Frankie’s slow descent into madness involves demoralizing encounters with small-time hoods (Frankie’s creditors), child prostitutes, junkie thieves and social workers (one of whom is missing a Ronco Veg-O-Matic). There are also one or two thrilling surprises, even for the very jaded.
And in case you somehow feel cheated of your full share of human misery after watching Combat Shock, here’s a kind of sequel to “Frankie Teardrop,” Alan Vega’s 12-minute bum-out “Viet Vet.”
By Patrick Martin
The report that a healthcare worker in Dallas, Texas, one of those who treated Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan before his death, has herself contracted the disease, is a significant and troubling event. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, admitted in a television interview Sunday, “It’s deeply concerning that this infection occurred.”
While Frieden claimed that current protocols for treating Ebola patients were effective in preventing the spread of the disease, arguing that there must have been “a breach of protocol,” no actual explanation has been given for how the healthcare worker became infected. She was not one of the 48 primary contacts with Duncan who were being monitored for possible exposure, but worked in a more peripheral role. Her infection was only detected when she contracted a fever and reported it herself.
There are a growing number of such cases, including doctors and nurses in the affected regions of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, who were well aware of the procedures, and an NBC News photographer, whose infection has caused the quarantining of the entire reporting team, led by Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the network’s chief medical correspondent. These cases suggest that despite the repeated assurances from health officials, there is much that is not known about how the disease is transmitted.
What is certain is that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a catastrophe for the people of that region. More than 8,000 people have been infected and more than 4,000 have died, with no signs that the epidemic has been curtailed. The heroic efforts of doctors, nurses and aid workers have been sabotaged by the collapse of the healthcare systems of these countries, among the poorest in the world. Only 20 percent of the affected population in West Africa has access to a treatment center.
It is almost impossible to overstate the dimensions of the disaster. Until this year, Ebola was a disease of remote rural areas that had killed only 1,500 people in 20 previous outbreaks over 40 years. Now the disease has reached urban centers like Monrovia, capital of Liberia, a city of one million, and individuals infected with the virus have travelled from the region only to fall ill in the United States, Spain and Brazil. There are well-founded fears that Ebola could become a global plague, particularly if it reaches more densely populated countries like Nigeria, or the impoverished billions of South and East Asia.
The impotent global response to the immense tragedy in West Africa is a serious warning. The Ebola crisis has proven to be a test of the ability of capitalism, as a world system, to deal with an acute and deadly threat. The profit system has failed. A society organized on the basis of production for private gain and divided into antagonistic nation-states, with a handful of imperialist powers dominating the rest, is incapable of the systematic, energetic and humane response that this crisis requires. It is no accident that the Ebola outbreak takes place in countries that are former colonies of imperialist powers. Guinea was a French colony, Sierra Leone a British colony, and Liberia a de facto US colony since its founding by freed American slaves. Despite their nominal independence, each country remains dominated by giant corporations and banks based in the imperialist countries, which extract vast profits from the mineral wealth and other natural resources. Guinea is the world’s largest bauxite exporter, Sierra Leone depends on diamond exports, Liberia has long been the fiefdom of Firestone Rubber (now Bridgestone).
These countries are unable to provide even rudimentary healthcare services to their populations, not because they lack resources, but because they are exploited and oppressed by a global economic system controlled by Wall Street and other financial and commodity markets. This economic system is so unequal that the 85 richest individuals on the planet control more wealth than the poorest three billion people, nearly half of humanity.
Economic development, particularly over the past 40 years, has created an interconnected and globalized world. Thousands of people travel every day between West Africa and other parts of the world. The revolution in transportation and communications means that what happens in West Africa today can affect Dallas, Boston, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro tomorrow. This makes the Ebola epidemic not a regional event, but a world event.
But the response to the Ebola crisis is carried out by national governments driven by competing national interests, and concerned, not with the danger of the virus to the world’s people, but with how it affects the interests of the ruling class in each nation. Thus there are calls in the United States and Europe for imposing an embargo on travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, although health experts warn that such an action would cause the economic collapse of these countries, vastly worsening the epidemic and making its global spread more rather than less likely.
Equally reactionary is the Obama administration’s decision to send 4,000 US troops to Liberia, ostensibly to build health treatment facilities. Why are heavily armed soldiers chosen for such a mission? They are not construction workers or healthcare providers. If healthcare workers and journalists have become infected, despite taking every precaution, then certainly soldiers could themselves fall victim to the disease, and bring the virus home with them. The real agenda of Washington is to secure a basis for its Africa Command (AFRICOM), up to now excluded from the continent by local opposition, thus advancing the interests of American imperialism against its rivals, particularly China.
The potential dangers of a disease like Ebola spreading from rural Africa to the world have long been understood by epidemiologists and other scientists. It has been the subject of specialized studies and best-selling books. The issue has even penetrated into popular culture through films from The Andromeda Strain to Outbreak and 28 Days. But the profit system has been incapable of generating a serious effort to forestall an entirely predictable crisis.
The detection of Ebola in the mid-1970s should have been the occasion for the launching of an intensive effort to study the virus, analyze how it is transmitted and develop antidotes and a vaccine. This did not take place, in large measure, as a report last month suggested, because the giant pharmaceutical companies that control medical research saw little profit in saving the lives of impoverished villagers in rural Africa (see “Profit motive big hurdle for Ebola drugs”).
What little research has been conducted on possible cures and vaccines was funded by the US Pentagon, for dubious reasons: at best, to protect US soldiers who might be deployed to the jungles of central Africa as an imperialist invasion force; at worst, to determine whether the virus could be weaponized for use against potential enemies.
What would a serious response to the Ebola crisis look like? It would entail a massive, internationally coordinated response which calls on vast resources on the scale necessary both to save as many as possible of those under immediate threat and to prevent the development of an outbreak on a global scale.
It would mean the mobilization of doctors, nurses, public health workers and scientists from America, Europe, Russia, China and the rest of the world to fight back against a deadly threat to the entire human race. And it would mean taking control of this response out of the hands of the national military establishments, particularly the Pentagon, and the giant pharmaceutical firms, one of the most corrupt and rapacious detachments of big business.
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Unsettling, Unnerving, and Unhousing Since 1981
Poet. Author. Activist.