Operation DarkNet

"Pedophiles connecting to a concealed child pornography site got an unwelcome surprise last week, courtesy of the hacktivist group Anonymous. Lolita City, a child pornography site run on over a concealed “darknet,” has been taken down by Anonymous members, and account details of 1,589 users from the site’s database were posted as evidence.

The takedown is part of Anonymous’ Operation Darknet, an anti-child-pornography effort aimed at thwarting child pornographers operating on on the Tor network. Anonymous’ attack was focused on a hosting service called Freedom Hosting, which the group claims was the largest host of child pornography on Tor’s anonymized network. 'By taking down Freedom Hosting, we are eliminating 40+ child pornography websites,” Anonymous claimed in its statement. “Among these is Lolita City, one of the largest child pornography websites to date, containing more than 100GB of child pornography'."


The Life Of The Buddha

"If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism." -Albert Einstein
The following documentary (50mins) covers the life of Siddhartha Gautama, a young prince from India who went out to find the reason for Dukkha [suffering] of human life. He later found the reason of Dukkha and teached a way to live life. He was later known as the Buddha, the founder of "Buddhism".

[ see also the short doc The Buddha (20mins) ]


Bernard Stiegler on Man & Technics

Bernard Stiegler (b.1952) is a French philosopher currently at Goldsmiths, University of London and the Université de Technologie de Compiègne. He is best known for his major work Technics and Time. Between 1978 and 1983 Stiegler was incarcerated for armed robbery.

Below are clips from the film The Ister:

See also:

The Theater of Individuation: Phase-shift and Resolution in Simondon and Heidegger
by Bernard Stiegler

We know very well that where Heidegger says that time is the veritable principle of individuation, Simondon responds that there is no principle of individuation, but the process of individuation.

Read More: Here


The Rhythm of Data

Data representation is becoming more and more interesting. In this simple but brilliant video, Alexander Chen shows how he transformed a time-based representation of the NYC subway system map into a model for a string instrument. Each intersection entails plucking, and the length of the plucked string is inversely proportional to the note’s height. Chen's own description of the project is below:
Conductor turns the New York subway system into an interactive string instrument. Using the MTA's actual subway schedule, the piece begins in realtime by spawning trains which departed in the last minute, then continues accelerating through a 24 hour loop. The visuals are based on Massimo Vignelli's 1972 diagram. More details at: chenalexander.com
Conductor (2011) by Alexander Chen. Video capture.


Manuel DeLanda on Aristotle and Deleuze's Realism

From the European Graduate School:
In this lecture, Manuel De Landa discusses metaphysics, universality, particularity, generality, singularity, realism, mathematics, and social science in relationship to Leonhard Euler, Kurt Gödel, Henri Poincaré and Michel Foucault focusing on a priori truths, virtual capacities, affects, differential calculus, necessity and contingency. Public open lecture for the students and faculty of the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland Europe. 2011.


Žižek on Ironic Distantiations

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and critical theorist working in the traditions of Hegelianism, Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. He has made contributions to political theory, film theory, and theoretical psychoanalysis.

Thank You #OWS!

“It is a sign of our times, conspicuous to the coarsest observer, that many intelligent and religious persons withdraw themselves from the common labors and competitions of the market and the caucus, and betake themselves to a certain solitary and critical way of living, from which no solid fruit has yet appeared to justify their separation. They hold themselves aloof: they feel the disproportion between their faculties and the work offered them, and they prefer to ramble in the country and perish of ennui, to the degradation of such charities and such ambitions as the city can propose to them. They are striking work, and crying out for somewhat worthy to do! . . . 
Society, to be sure, does not like this very well; it saith, Whoso goes to walk alone, accuses the whole world; he declareth all to be unfit to be his companions; it is very uncivil, nay, insulting; Society will retaliate.”
- R.W Emerson, from "The Transcendentalist, a Lecture Read at the Masonic Temple, Boston, January, 1842."


Process, Contact and Simultaneity: Riffing Off Shaviro

In a recent post responding to Graham Harman’s Cosmos and History article on Thomas Metzinger Steven Shaviro provides a sympathetic reading of Harman’s critique of Metzinger’s more reductionist tendencies as well as certain conclusions Metzinger draws about the essence (or lack thereof) of the human self.

My knowledge of Metzinger’s work is anemic, but if what Harman and Shaviro say about Metzinger’s arguments against the existence of “self” is accurate I would tend to agree that a description of the layered, embedded and processual nature of human cognition and self-consciousness contributes more to explaining what the self actually is (e.g., a distributed network of embodied and effectual activity) than explaining it away.

What interested me most about Shaviro’s post, however, was his lucid revisiting of his long-standing arguments against the “withdrawal” of objects in favor of a more Whiteheadian processual and eventual metaphysical vision. It is a fun day for me when someone as versed and insightful as Steven Shaviro re-ignites a bit of flame under the old ‘process vs. object’ debate.

To be clear, I think the debate almost always approaches a true non-debate from the standpoint of narratives and frameworks flexible enough to accommodate both process and object-hood, or interrelatedness and irreducibility, without dogmatically adhering to either side of such fantasized dichotomies. Entities simultaneously have a unique efficacy and irreducible substantially while being eternally vulnerable and open to the flow of atoms, energy, matter and information. And to privilege either of these facts is to make an undeniably human distinction based almost entirely on temperament. Moving equilibriums, temporal assemblages, open systems, processual events or, to use a term from Ian Bogost, “unit operations” are everywhere apparent and apprehendable: not just within the empirical (and complexity) sciences but also in our immediate awareness where things impinge, extend and interpenetrate our direct experience and lived bodies.

Shaviro then goes on to provide what, in my view, amounts to a definitive rehashing of the most salient arguments against conflating ontological contact with epistemological opacity in accounting for causality generally and how objects interact specifically. Bottom-line in the case of humans: visceral, sensational experience is not identical to “knowledge”. Likewise, encounters between objects can be direct but partial when those encounters result in the meeting of affective forces despite the lack of totality in the mutually responsive and 'translative' nature of those contacts (especially in the case of objects without central nervous systems). Contact and experience need not be encompassing to be 'direct'.

Below are excerpts from Shaviro’s post which get right to the key points:
“[A]ll “things” are “really” processes. But for me, this doesn’t mean that things (or Harman’s objects) are thereby “undermined” by something else that is more essential than they are. For the fact that objects are “reifications” of processes doesn’t mean that they are illusory, or even that they aren’t basic. For the endurance of things, or their establishment of an “identity,” as a result of “reification” (which I think would better be called, in Whiteheadian parlance, social transmission and inheritance) is something that is perfectly real in and of itself. Endurance is an accomplishment, a singular and specific achievement in every case.

Moreover, this endurance is not something that happens (as Metzinger seems to claim, at least according to Harman) in our perceptual process, but actually in reality itself, in the very things which we are in process of perceiving…

We are always in direct contact with reality — since we are a part of this reality, rather than being separate from it (i.e. rather than being “withdrawn”). We are not caught in some Cartesian or Humean mental prison, familiar only with our own sense impressions (or familiar only with our own languages, in the 20th century version of this line of thought). The point, however, is that this contact cannot be reduced to, or captured as, “knowledge"… [O]ur contact with other entities is not restricted just to relations of knowledge. Harman is right to say that my concept of a tree, however full and nuanced, will never be equal to the tree itself. But this does not negate the fact that the tree has “touched” me, and I have “touched” it, non-cognitively and unconceptually

‘Phenomenal’ contact need not, and cannot, be reduced to “epistemic” contact. Contact among entities is ontological, not epistemological — and this other dimension, which Metzinger at least senses as a problem, is omitted entirely from Harman’s account, when he says that, because we do not actually know other entities, or even ourselves, therefore all entities must ‘withdrawn’ from one another — and even from themselves.” [underlines added]
I must emphasize here (in relation to Shaviro’s metaphor) that humans and other objects are never truly caught in a "prison" of translation, they are that prison. Affective entities are “prisons” (assemblages or apparatuses) situated in place, in the world, with 'doors' capable of being opened. As embodied matrices of capacity and relative depth, objects contact other objects or assemblages directly viz. all those inherent, onto-specific and characteristic sensitivities which define the limits of their constitutions. Yet, it is the relatively circumspect properties of specific sensitivities and capacity for response or adaptation which makes such contacts, exchanges, experiences or encounters partial. That is, interaction and causality are most often direct but partial.  [cf. my post Conjuring the Gap - re: what I call ontological intimacy]

There are more riches in Shaviro’s post than I can hope to plunder in this post so I suggest those curious go read the entire offering: here.


Jeffrey Sachs Message to Wall Street

Jeffrey Sachs is the Director of the Earth Institute and Professor of Sustainable Development, Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and the founder and co-President of the Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty and hunger. From 2002 to 2006, he was Director of the United Nations Millennium Project's work on the Millennium Development Goals, eight internationally sanctioned objectives to reduce extreme poverty, hunger, and disease by the year 2015.

Sachs has been strongly criticized for past sympathies for privatization and neoliberal economic ideology, as well as his role in helping American business elites plunder the Russian economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sachs was an adviser to Eastern European governments in the implementation of so-called “economic shock therapy” during the transition from communism to a capitalist market system.

Since that time, and as a result of the overwhelming evidence that neo-liberal policies only advantage established economic powers, Sachs has increasingly advocated for more prudent regulatory practices and the building of an international system of aid and economic mutualism between wealthy nations and institutions and periphery populations in vulnerable geopolitical regions. Sachs now argues for what he calls in his most recent book, The Price of Civilization, a "mixed economy".

Sachs’ recent article in the Huffington Post is a surprisingly frank characterization of the #OccupyWallStreet movement, considering the fairly mainstream financial circles he operates within. Below are a few excerpts from the article, but I urge everyone to read the entire piece:
The protestors are not envious of wealth, but sick of corporate lies, cheating, and unethical behavior. They are sick of corporate lobbying that led to the reckless deregulation of financial markets; they are sick of Wall Street and the Wall Street Journal asking for trillions of dollars of near-zero-interest loans and bailout money for the banks, but then fighting against unemployment insurance and health coverage for those drowning in the wake of the financial crisis; they are sick of absurdly low tax rates for hedge-fund managers; they are sick of Rupert Murdoch and his henchman David Koch trying to peddle the Canada-to-Gulf Keystone oil pipeline as an honest and environmentally sound business deal, when in fact it would unleash one of the world's dirtiest and most destructive energy sources, Canada's oil sands, so that Koch can profit while the world suffers…

Here, then, Wall Street and Big Oil, is what it comes down to. The protesters are no longer giving you a free ride, in which you can set the regulations, set your mega-pay, hide your money in tax havens, enjoy sweet tax rates at the hands of ever-willing politicians, and await your bailouts as needed. The days of lawlessness and greed are coming to an end. Just as the Gilded Age turned into the Progressive Era, just as the Roaring Twenties and its excesses turned into the New Deal, be sure that the era of mega-greed is going to turn into an era of renewed accountability, lawfulness, modest compensation, honest taxation, and government by the people rather than by the banks.
Go read the entire article: here.
[ h/t Edward Berge ]

UPDATE OCT 21.2011:

Jeffrey Sachs at #OccupyWallStreet

Chris Hedges in Times Square, October 15, 2011

On October 15th Occupy TVNY met with Pullitzer prize-winning author and journalist Chris Hedges in Times Square, New York City where tens of thousands of people assembled on a global day of action. Chris shares his feelings on where the Occupy movement has come from and where it is heading.


Bennett, Bryant and Harman on Speculative Realism

Below Levi Bryant, Jane Bennett and Graham Harman delivered a series of interesting papers on ontology and speculative realism at The Center For The Humanities in New York on September 15th, 2011:
Speculative Realism
Levi R. Bryant, Jane Bennett, Graham Harman
Moderated by - Patricia Clough

How does the current “speculative turn” that has occurred in philosophy theorize the liveliness of objects? If speculative realism is staunchly non-anthropocentric, challenging Enlightenment notions of the subject, what are the ethical and political implications of such a stance? Join three preeminent speculative realist thinkers, Jane Bennett, Levi Bryant, and Graham Harman for an evening of conversation, theorization, and speculation drawn from their current writings. Patricia Clough will moderate the conversation. The related exhibition “And Another Thing” is on view in the gallery from September 14 to October 29, 2011.


Monopoly World

This image has been widely circulated. As it should. If you are not shocked by the implications of what this image illustrates you might just be dramatically under-informed about how economic systems work. Occupy what?

click to enlarge

An Outside Jobs

On the occasion of getting an email from a reader asking what my thoughts are on Steve Jobs death and the accompanying public lament I only have this to say:

Billionaires don't make the world better.


Olbermann reads collective statement of Occupy Wall Street


ARE our prisons becoming the mental asylums of the 21st century? Living under brutal conditions and without access to medications and therapy we lock away people instead of helping to heal them - and by extension ourselves and our societies more broadly.

The 7 minute video below is a stark look at our current "justice" systems:

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