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Site Spotlight: LossLit

“Much of literature – from bardic lore to digital experiments in storytelling – is pervaded by a deep sense of loss, in some definition of the word. It is this sense, of what was, or what might have been, that continues to be one of the presiding motivations of human behaviour, and therefore of the stories we create in an attempt to understand and describe the unknowable world.

LossLit is an attempt by its co-creators, Kit Caless and Aki Schilz, to explore the various influences of loss in literature. Collating original fiction, poetry and essays by contributing writers as well as building a canon of important existing LossLit titles, the LossLit project will produce a body of work that will look at Loss from all angles, alongside its online micro-project, the #LossLit hashtag on Twitter. The hashtag can be used any time to tag tweet-length creative responses to Loss, and a Twitter writeclub is hosted every first Wednesday of the month between 9 and 11pm GMT. The writeclub is online and open to all, with updates and RTs on @LossLit.

Our hope is to encourage writers to interrogate Loss, and uncover creative inspiration in a subject that has such a profound impact on how we live today.”


ABV #56: “Post-Election Depression Special”

“We’re fucked. Now is the time for solidarity.” by Zoe Stavri.

“We could talk about this election until the whole country falls into the sea as it rightly deserves, but there are more pressing things to address.

I hate to go all Sorting Hat on you, but things are probably going to get very bad, and we need to pull together. What we’re going to need is a lot of fucking solidarity to get through the next five years.

The real politics isn’t in the murderers at Westminster, but it’s the little things close to home, the things we need to do to survive, the things we shouldn’t have to.

Check in regularly with vulnerable people: those of us who are disabled, those who are migrants, the young and the elderly, those who find the means of survival ripped away. Resist, loudly, the lies and the blame thrown towards those of us who find ourselves suddenly much more open to attack. Help those around you to survive as much as you can, and do not be afraid to ask for help yourself.”

“Mark Thomas Presents the People’s Manifesto” by Mark Thomas.


We need to know in whose interest our MPs are working, so we can see who has dibs on them. Therefore they must wear tabards with the names and logos of those they have financial links with whenever they speak, both inside and outside the House.

This doesn’t just apply to companies that employ them but all financial links. MPs can be given gifts, get free tickets for events or travel, even get assistance to run their offices, any of which could represent a conflict of interest. So each and every one of the ‘contributors’ should go on the tabards.

‘Ah,’ some will say, ‘but MPs already have to declare this in the Register of Members’ Interests.’ True. But how many folk can be bothered to look it up? Are people up and down the UK shouting from their living rooms, ‘Ee, love, come quick, and bring the Register of Members’ Interests – t’news is on and Oliver Letwin is talking on t’banking system.’ Wouldn’t it be easier to see Oliver Letwin (Con) standing on TV with Rothschild plastered on his chest next to KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers?

If MPs wore the tabards they would continually be declaring their interests. So when Lembit Opik (Lib Dem) next stands up to talk about comets and asteroids colliding with Earth, we can see the Daily Sport logo and the Caravan Club of Great Britain emblazoned on his tabard.

This policy is just the beginning. I believe that if MPs take money from companies they should be forced to sing that company’s jingle whenever they stand to speak in the Chamber. That way David Blunkett (Lab) would have to sing the Sun newspaper’s adverts every time he joined the debate.

‘Ah,’ some may say, ‘we should not be giving companies that kind of free advertising,’ but the key here is positive advertising. I would argue that companies have more to lose than gain by displaying their brand on MPs. Frankly, the sight of Ken Clarke covered in British American Tobacco logos is unlikely to influence anyone’s behaviour. I doubt that kids would gather in the playground saying, ‘Blood, d’you see Ken Clarke on that Newsnight?’ ‘Yeah. I’m gonna start smokin’ cos he was sick, man!’”

∞ A topical mixtape by Andrew Hickey.

Post-Election Depression Special by Andrewhickey on Mixcloud

Weekend Links, 26/05/15: “Self-care is not a pie filling”/”Self Care is Not About Smoothies”

“11.11.13. – Mending” by Angeliska.

“I wished on 11:11, though, yes. I woke up early, and met with an old and dear friend. I attended to my neglected feet, and had my legs massaged and toes painted by a smiling stranger. I remember how crushing it felt last year, to go through these motions of self-care. I can recall so clearly sitting in the parking lot of a deserted shopping center in my cold car, a thin sliver of crescent moon high above, observing. I rested my head on the steering wheel, wondering if that horrible hollow feeling would ever go away. It felt like my chest was caving in under a great weight. Today, I sat in the parking lot of a different shopping center, feeling something totally different. Not riotous happiness, per se – more like a sense of being reasonably content (as well as unseasonably hot). I shopped for food for my animals, and food for myself. I bought a package of rainbow colored pens, thumbtacks and a red rosebush. Also some pansies, a cyclamen and later, a bouquet of nearly black roses. I romanced myself in mundane ways, and took care of business. I ate supper, and read movie reviews in the paper. In the evening, I sat on the porch in the gathering dusk and talked with the man who I once shared a life with, about this and that – hard things and easy things. Mosquitoes danced around our heads in thick halos. My heart did not hurt in a huge way.”

“Being Loud and Demanding” by Sally Parrott Ashbrook.

“Then searing pain gripped my eyes, and I could no longer see. I realized that I had gotten ounces of soap in my eyes, and there was no way for me to get it out on my own. “Help, help!” I called out. There were several people shopping within a few feet of me. Couldn’t they see what happened? Why weren’t they responding? Somehow, despite my pain, a voice in my head told me, Stop making such a big deal about this. You’re making a scene. It’s just a little soap in your eyes. Just deal with it. I thought in response, You don’t understand–I can’t see. So instead of piping down, I got louder, much louder. “Someone help me! Someone, please help me! Get someone to help me! I sprayed soap on my face!” I was gesturing to my eyes. I was in so much pain. For a moment, I thought of the scenarios when desperate people call for help and no one comes. There was no way to move without sight. It felt like forever, but it must have been seconds, until an employee and a shopper came to help. I managed to communicate that the soap was in my eyes. “Just walk over here,” they said. “I can’t see! I can’t see!” I cried out. Were my eyes open? How could they not know? I don’t know. They took my arms and guided me to a large sink in the center of the body care section, and I began flushing my eyes with water.”

“Self Care is Not About Smoothies / 1″ by Laura Holway.

“Sometimes the idea gets blended in with juice cleanses, methods of self improvement, and a big case of the ‘shoulds’ (I should go on a run instead of napping, I should really meditate more….) I don’t want my self care to be about control. I’d rather it be about figuring out how to listen to myself. This year I’ve been thinking a lot about the word ‘thrive’, which has given me the opportunity to frequently check-in with myself and ask: what do I need? This is a hard question to remember to even ask. Then, once you ask it, it sometimes feels daring to act on the response you hear without looking around to see who your answer might inconvenience. The thing I keep remembering is that I’m the only one who is in charge of putting ME first. It’s that whole ‘put the oxygen mask on yourself before the person you’re assisting’ metaphor thing.

My post-birthday travels gave me plenty of time for life reflection, which led to numerous impassioned scrawls in a notebook, “Self care is NOT about smoothies!” being one. I’ll start with some good old contradiction: I have a blender and occasionally make smoothies, and I’m not hating on you smoothie-loving folks. (In fact, google has assured me that for many people, self care is indeed about smoothies.) I think I just like a good acronym: you can say it ski-naas OR sky-naas (rhymes with ‘Linus’)– go ahead and pick. No, but really– I do think that self care is about so much more than smoothies, though smoothies get a lot more internet space. I’m thinking about things like boundary setting, figuring out how to connect to a supportive community, wearing clothes that make us feel like our best selves, and finding the resources we need when we’re sick or down or scared about a loved one. This is the kind of self care that I care about a lot and want to learn how to get better at, and this is what I hope to write about semi-frequently– if you can deal with the bad title for the series.”

“Self-care is not a pie filling: a PSA.” by Esmé Weijun Wang.

“I’ve been told several times over the last few months that I’m good at self-care. Hearing this always makes me laugh a little, because I’ve historically been awful at taking care of myself.

Here are some things that I’ve been good at in my adult life: working hard; being ambitious; working hard in order to go after said ambitions; creating goals; drinking too much in the process of attempting to calm down the ruckus in my head, some of which was greatly exacerbated by the frantic pursuit of my goals. Did I mention that I’m good at working hard?

I had to become excellent at self-care because I was forced to. I’d been living with chronic illness since I was a preteen, but this past year, I started again; I became sick in new ways, with new diagnoses, and with that epoch of beginning again, came the fine point that if I didn’t become exquisite at caring for myself, I would probably die.

I don’t believe that I’m being punished for my previous workaholism. I am not atoning for sins. My life is what it is, and that’s okay.

But I do want to tell you — you of the fledgling business, you who have been working at the self-employment thing for a year or so, you of the empire that lords upon all empires — that if you feel as though you might need a dose of self-care in your life, you’re probably onto something. Should you be so fortunate as to consider yourself healthy, I’m telling you now that self-care isn’t something that you do when the proverbial brakes are shot. You do it because you’re worth caring for. You do it because you are a living being who needs to be fed. You are busy, but you’re not a machine.”

“A Thing Of A Thing That Is Just A Thing: Self-Care With Hannah Black” with Hannah Black and Sara Black McCulloch at The Hairpin.

“It’s just that can self-care be about surviving in a way? And can it lead to a truth like, “Sometimes you overextend yourself because you only value yourself if others value you.”

HB: Yeah, maybe I’ve been unclear. When I’m talking about caring for each other I mean also caring for yourself. I mean “each other” as against some vague idea of a ruling class that is against us, a kind of pedagogical or political or aesthetic stance, because maybe not everyone who reads this or reads my work has that position—of being against those in a position of power and dominance—but I would like us to all at least grasp the enormity of that situation. So YES, of course you should also care for yourself and what survives in you. I think self-care is about survival, and that survival is both this agency-free necessity, like, also your boss wants you to take of yourself—that’s the deal of wage labour or whatever, but I also am willing to go out on a limb and say that it’s important that individuals survive and that identities survive. And if I’m valorizing loving others that’s not in opposition to loving yourself. I sometimes feel like, when people say, “if you don’t love yourself no one else will love you” that it’s punitive, and my response is like “oh shit, no one will love me??”

Some people have loved me when I didn’t love myself all that much, or I didn’t have the feeling of loving myself, and I am grateful to them and they changed me, and I loved myself more in the image of their love for me, and I hope I did the same for them, or continue to do so. I should use the present tense, it’s an ongoing thing. But it’s the same as we were saying about self-hate, “self-love” is just a vague name for some capacity to live or something. To get up in the morning, to remember to breathe and eat, to feel ok, etc.

SBM: As a way to confront the ruin?

HB: Yes! And to recognise that we are living in ruin and that means maybe we are also living in hope—in hope of improvement rather than anticipation of a totally new disaster, because the disaster is already here.”

“On Audre Lorde’s Legacy and the “Self” of Self-Care, Part 1 of 3″ and “On Audre Lorde’s Legacy and the “Self” of Self-Care, Part 2 of 3″ by lowendtheory.

“Mundane murderousness, slow death (which may in many cases not be slow at all), has taken institutional form in part as a consequence of the consolidation of health care as a for-profit industry that defines health as the capacity to work. “Health,” in this context, is measured by the health of racial capitalism. Such a definition means that being healthy is understood as having the capacity to optimize your ability to be exploited. No medical leave, then, for the English prof who’s battling cancer. No capacity, then, to decide for herself what her health needs are and to act on that decision—the social infrastructure of neoliberalism has already coded giving its workers that much freedom, that kind of autonomy, as an unaffordable extravagance.

Care as extravagance. Historically speaking, it is here, in the Reagan era, that the “self” of self-care emerged. Donald Vickery and James Fries’s bestseller Take Care of Yourself: A Consumer’s Guide to Medical Care was published in 1981, and formed part of a larger explosion of “self-help” publications that encouraged a readership increasingly clobbered by a neoliberal assault—against liveable wages, workers rights, social services, and the welfare state writ large—to take it upon themselves to manage the consequences of that clobbering. And I would argue that the “self” of self-care came into being precisely as an effect of that management, as well as of the clobbering that both preceded and accompanied it. It euphemizes as a goodwill gesture (the benevolent “take care of yourself!”) an imperative that, if elaborated, looks much more like a relation of coercion and discipline (“take care of yourself or your job will go to someone who does”; “take care of yourself lest you fall ill and get saddled with medical debt”; “take care of yourself because you have no right to expect that society will”; “take care of yourself…or else”). The self of self-care, all of this is to say, has a history that should serve as a caution toward attempts to make self-care an unqualified good. It is a self that is specifically calibrated as a defensive reaction to the combination of austerity politics with reinvigorated forms of gendered racism that cut across the entire social formation.”

““Big Pharma” & Privilege: Or Why I Wish Allies Would Stop Using This Phrase” by Camilla Laurentine.

“That ignores the fact that the entire medical system is an industry, meaning it’s meant to make money. It is broken. The entire thing is broken.

I am not saying that the pharmaceutical companies in America aren’t corrupt. I have a disease 1 in 100,000 people get. There is no approved treatment. There is no cure. I will never in my lifetime see either of these things, because it’s a rare disease that won’t make money for the pharmaceutical company if they spent tons developing it. Trust me, I have a very vested interest health and medical reform.

But I depend on medication to live and function in a relatively normal manner (most days). I take a diuretic to keep my brain from being crushed by my cerebral spinal fluid. I take a beta blocker to keep my heart from going into tachycardia just because I sat up or, Gods help me, stood up instead of laying flat on my back constantly, but also to make sure that my aorta doesn’t get any bigger than it already is by keeping my blood pressure down. If it does, I run the risk of it dissecting from my heart. I take an old school antidepressant to try to prevent a constant headache instead of just wanting to die from horrific head pain and various other symptoms any time a storm comes through.

And so, even if you aren’t about to spout off how I’m not taking care of myself in the way you feel I should be when you say Big Pharma, you are 1 in probably 60 people I encounter in a given month not using this term to lay some shame on me not working hard enough to not be sick.”

“‘Wellness Guru’ Belle Gibson lied about having brain cancer, profited from lying about bogus cancer cures” by Xeni Jardin.

“Belle Gibson deserves professional help.

But here’s what the rest of us deserve: an end to the “cancer hero” mythos that allows people like Gibson and others before her to exploit ignorance about evidence-based cancer treatments. An end to the exploitation and profiteering of bogus “cures.”

From cannabis oil to vitamin C megadosing to juice fasts, there’s far more bullshit info out there about how to part with your money and line the pockets of fraudsters like Gibson (and Mercola, and Oz, and Burzynski, all sonofabitches and murderers in my opinion) than there is free and science-based info about how cancer works, how treatment works, and how to get affordable and effective care.

So yeah. Fuck Belle Gibson.

But fuck the culture of magical thinking and hero idolization that built her myth into a profitable business, ignoring decades of real science, and placing vulnerable people with cancer at real risk of death.

Fuck everyone who enabled her, and profited along with her, knowing she was lying. Fuck everyone who forwarded her dumb bullshit lying articles around to people like me who actually did have cancer.”

∞ “Popping Pills and Practice” by Deborah Castellano.

“I see my doctor regularly. She is v. tight fisted with all the “fun” meds and I don’t think I could get a Vicodin out of her if it meant she could retire on a island of her own. But at the same time, she treats my conditions very aggressively.

Even with good coping mechanisms, good medication and a good support structure, I still have days where I’m anxious and can’t sleep and occasionally have days where I am depressed for no reason, sometimes my fibromyalgia causes me so much fatigue and pain still that I can’t get out of bed. Despite these aspects, I still feel the normal human range of emotions and generally only feel sad or stressed when I’m “supposed to”. I’ve worked since I was fourteen, I pay my taxes, I write, I ran a con, I go out and have fun doing all the things early thirty-somethings like to do, I have loving relationships and I own a car and a condo. My medication makes it so that instead of being too depressed to be motivated or paralyzed with inexplicable fear and anxiousness or too bedridden with pain and fatigue on the regular, I can lead a fairly “normal” life.

Which is why at this point I get confused about why shame needs to be implemented for taking advantage of first world medical care in order to lead functional lives. Are there people who abuse prescriptions? Um, yeah. They’re addicts like the people who are alcoholics and have other drug abuse problems. Is that the majority of people who take meds? No. There’s this idea that bugs the shit out of me that there are all these people who take medication they don’t really need and this medication *magically* takes away all of their problems and they don’t need to deal with them. Last I knew, you needed to take like a fistful of Xanax or are shooting H to get that effect. Which… see: addict.”

“The Opiate Naughty Step” by Sue Marsh.

“Today, the 28th April, 2014, with little fanfare and not even one triumphal march through the streets of Worthing, I was quietly removed from the opiate naughty step.

After 31 years, 8 GPs and a host of farcical tales so infinite, I could never recount them, I now have a repeat prescription for the tiny amount of opiates that don’t even nearly get me through a week.

A nice lady phoned me from the surgery a few weeks ago and explained that my “usage was stable” (?!!?) my needs regular and unchanging (oh if only!!) and (this is a subscript, she didn’t actually say these words but if you imagine they weren’t implied you’ve never been on the naughty step) “I haven’t murdered anyone at knifepoint for an extra dose or three”

This meant, that just like everyone else, my prescriptions could now be issue automatically and repeatedly without the usual accompanying junkie-hop.

From now on, they would be sitting there waiting for me, accessible and benevolently provided. This is almost too much newness for me to deal with in one big step.

For the last 30 years, I have had to

A) Writhe miserably for a minimum of 72 hours.
B) Call for an appointment that morning or put a request through to speak to the duty doctor. (“The duty doctor is often very busy you know, he’s there for emergencies, blah blah”)
C) Then, I’d have to explain all over again, every time, to even the most well meaning that, yes, I do still have very severe crohn’s, no there haven’t been any miracle cures, and no, the missing two-thirds of my bowel haven’t grown back.
D) Collect 4 x weekly prescriptions to take to the pharmacy that could be kept there for each Monday morning.
E) Collect said prescriptions weekly, first thing on a Monday morning in-between trying to get two sleepy and often uncooperative pre-teen boys ready for and delivered to school.

For most of those 3 decades, this has been the bane of my life. Way worse than the actual symptoms themselves.”

“It’s Personal: Some Reflections on Nonfiction Writing and Chronic Illness” by Anna Hamilton.

“I am a terrible writer on my worst pain days, especially when the writing in question is done for my day job as part of a disability employment policy consortium. Ask me, on a high-pain day, to write an office-appropriate email that will be sent to more than one person, and it will take roughly five minutes before I figure out that I actually have to type the email on the keyboard and can’t just write it by glaring at my computer screen. After that, the best anyone can hope for is a string of words that, when read aloud, sound like they’ve been to hell and back via Google Translate. Actual creative writing on those high-pain days? Forget it.

Having a body that doesn’t quite keep up with one’s mind is extremely weird in general; my opinion is that having such a body/brain mismatch is one of the worst parts of chronic pain that doesn’t involve nondisabled folks’ doofy, “well-meaning” commentary about what you should be doing/eating/thinking to manage your illness. Most of the time, my brain is raring to go—neurons firing, ideas for essays or commentary pieces bouncing around, wanting to race through whichever two books I’m reading at the moment, the whole bit—my body, on the other hand, is not.

Another bugaboo is the insistence that the reading public tends to have on reading memoirs and/or personal essays that fill the “grief porn” hole a little too neatly, particularly when it comes to disability or other non-average life experiences. Addiction memoirs are usually a shining example of this tendency; there’s no slaking the public’s thirst for details that are so gritty, so creepy, so disgusting—and so inspiring at the same time, because goodness forbid that the people reading the book be unable to learn something from the writer who is so unlike them.”

Site Spotlight: CivicPatterns

“ is a collection of patterns and tools that help Civic Technology projects succeed.

Making civic technology is not about technology, it’s about finding new patterns of interacting with government and with each other. CivicPatterns collects lessons that we’ve learned about what we can do to enagage citizens using the web, to help governments and other institutions to open up, and to provide great services that people can use every day.”


Weekend Links, 28/02/15: Delegates + “globe-straddling demi-gods of data”

“A different cluetrain” by Charlie Stross.

“4. The iron law of bureaucracy states that for all organizations, most of their activity will be devoted to the perpetuation of the organization, not to the pursuit of its ostensible objective. (This emerges organically from the needs of the organization’s employees.)

5. Governments are organizations.

6. We observe the increasing militarization of police forces and the priviliging of intelligence agencies all around the world. And in the media, a permanent drumbeat of fear, doubt and paranoia directed at “terrorists” (a paper tiger threat that kills fewer than 0.1% of the number who die in road traffic accidents).

7. Money can buy you cooperation from people in government, even when it’s not supposed to.

8. The internet disintermediates supply chains.

9. Political legitimacy in a democracy is a finite resource, so supplies are constrained.

10. The purpose of democracy is to provide a formal mechanism for transfer of power without violence, when the faction in power has lost legitimacy.

11. Our mechanisms for democratic power transfer date to the 18th century. They are inherently slower to respond to change than the internet and our contemporary news media.

12. A side-effect of (7) is the financialization of government services (2).

13. Security services are obeying the iron law of bureaucracy (4) when they metastasize, citing terrorism (6) as a justification for their expansion. 14. The expansion of the security state is seen as desirable by the government not because of the terrorist threat (which is largely manufactured) but because of (11): the legitimacy of government (9) is becoming increasingly hard to assert in the context of (2), (12) is broadly unpopular with the electorate, but (3) means that the interests of the public (labour) are ignored by states increasingly dominated by capital (because of (1)) unless there’s a threat of civil disorder. So states are tooling up for large-scale civil unrest.”

“The Euro crisis seen through 3 historical models” by Andreas Kluth.

“In a nutshell, the Holy Roman Empire after the Thirty Years War agreed to leave the question of sovereignty and integration ambiguous. Thus its laws were signed by “Kaiser und Reich”, emperor and empire, where empire meant the princes. In much the same way, the German and EU flags today fly side by side on top of parliament.

The struggle between closer union or looser union was thus resolved in favor of a looser union, rather as Britain imagines the ideal EU today. As Hamilton’s America had slavery, the Empire had the Catholic-Protestant conflict, but it defused this through loosening of the union (“subsidiarity” in the language of today’s EU). The Holy Roman Empire would never again fight about religion. (Arguably, the Catholic/Orthodox-Protestant split continues in the EU and euro zone to this day.)

Even the process and style of bureaucracy was similar: Germans today have the phrase “etwas auf die lange Bank schieben” (to shove something onto the long bench) to mean endless delays in Brussels or elsewhere. The phrase originated at the imperial diet in Regensburg, where delegates literally shoved their paperwork onto a long bench which still exists in the city hall today. (Several German Eurocrats have remarked to me that Germans, with their millennium of experience with federalism, tolerate the processes of Brussels more readily than the French or British do, with their history of centralism.)”

“The ‘new’ Imperialism” by Zoltan Zigedy, via John Steppling.

“But the US variant of classical imperialism predates the Cold War instantiation embraced by the Truman administration. As Appleman Williams notes, post-World War I leaders like Hoover, Coolidge, Hughes, and Stimson endorsed an international ‘community of interest,’ achieved by encouraging the penetration of US business worldwide. In Appleman Williams’s words, “These men were not imperialist in the traditional sense… They sought instead the ‘internationalization of business’… Through the use of economic power they wanted to establish a common bond… Their deployment of America’s material strength is unquestioned.”[4]

It is important to note that their choice of a more benign imperialism was not based upon moral considerations, but self-interest. Moreover, it necessarily preferred stability when possible, even if stability came through the exercise of military might. President Coolidge acknowledged this in a Memorial Day address in 1928: “Our investments and trade relations are such that it is almost impossible to conceive of any conflict anywhere on earth which would not affect us injuriously.”[5] As a late-comer to the imperial scramble, US elites chose the non-colonial option, avoiding the enormous costs in coercion, counter-insurgency, and paternalistic occupation associated with colonialism–and equally avoiding conflicts that might rock existing and expanding business relations.

In the post-World War II era, the Marshall Plan and The Point Four program were early examples of neo-colonial Trojan Horses, programs aimed at cementing exploitative capitalist relations while posturing as generosity and assistance. They, and other programs, were successful efforts to weave consent, seduction, and extortion into a robust foreign policy securing the goals of imperialism without the moral revulsion of colonial repression and the cost of vast colonies.

In the wake of World War II, US imperialism reaped generous harvests from the ‘new’ imperialism. Commerce Department figures show total earnings on US investments abroad nearly doubling from 1946 through 1950. As of 1950, 69% of US direct investments abroad were in extractive industries, much of that in oil production (direct investment income from petroleum grew by 350% in the five-year period).[6] Clearly the US had recognized its enormous thirst for oil to both fuel economic growth and power the military machine necessary to protect and enforce the ‘internationalization of business.’

One estimate of the rate of return on US direct investments from 1946 to and including 1950 claims that Middle Eastern investments (mainly oil) garnered twice the rate of return of investments in Marshall Plan participant countries which, in turn, produced a rate of return nearly twice that of investments made in countries that did not participate in the US plan.[7] Undoubtedly, US elites were pleased with the rewards of the new imperial gambit.”

“Vertical and Horizontal Solidarity” by mtraven.

“Unfortunately the very idea of class solidarity in America, especially in Silicon Valley, has an odor of ridiculous obsolescence. It՚s a boring and trite view of the world, compared to the technological sublime. SV culture, for all its cachet and raw intelligence, runs on the basically same toxic individualism that rules in the rest of the US and prevents any real political left from forming. It՚s just brought to a more intense level here, where everyone thinks they are or should be an entrepreneur.

The class struggle is not much in evidence here; everyone՚s just trying to get rich by making their company awesome. Companies use obvious tactics to make it seem like everyone at the company is best buddies, teammates, all working hard and happily together towards the same goal. And to some extent this works! It always amazes me that companies, despite their petty politics and obvious social pathologies, actually get shit done. Whatever their flaws, they seem to solve the general problem of goal-directed cooperation.

Doing so always seems to require a communal myth of the company, and everyone has to take part in building up this myth and everyone has to occasionally make a public display to the effect that they are bought into it. This is just as true at both excellent and crappy companies, I suspect. My current company actually does do pretty well in both mythmaking and living up to its myth. Today they chose (by coincidence I՚m sure) to give a presentation on stock options. Can՚t complain about that; stock options actually do work, they do help align labor with the interests of the organization.

So companies build what I՚m going to call vertical solidarity, that is, solidarity and loyalty within a company, between its various ranks and groupings, and to the company itself. Let՚s distinguish that from horizontal solidarity, which is solidarity to your class, profession, or community.

Both of these have their necessary uses. Companies require vertical solidarity to operate; and society requires horizontal solidarity to keep from degenerating into a hellscape. But both forms of solidarity seem to be decaying over the last few decades or so.”

“When Google met the Pentagon….” by Nafeez Ahmed.

“Beyond that, the story explores how at every stage of Google’s evolution, it was assisted by networks closely aligned with the Pentagon and the US military intelligence community – and further that senior Google executives are members/delegates of the Pentagon’s Highlands Forum, a shadow network that convenes private defense contractors, investors, energy executives, IT experts, among others, sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, to help coordinate the Pentagon’s strategies on “information operations.”

All this is not a result of some grand conspiracy, in which Google’s investors, for instance, are all ‘spooks.’ This isn’t the case – rather than being the result of a grand plan, much of this appears more to be the result of Brin being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a Silicon Valley nexus which was being heavily courted by a range of Pentagon agencies in search of the next step in IT. From inception, Google was surrounded and supported by people closely aligned with the Pentagon and the Pentagon’s values, and connected through social networks with powerful actors in the US intelligence community. The Pentagon Highlands Forum played a key role in this process in terms of bringing people together that otherwise would not be connected, so that their expertise, funds, ideas and their own networks could be harnessed to be fed into the formation of information operations across the US military intelligence community.

Among the Forum’s many credits are its role in virtually writing the information warfare doctrines that led to the Pentagon’s adoption of mass surveillance at home and abroad, the definitions of irregular warfare and network centric warfare, and the conceptualisation of the war on terror as ‘The Long War’. Another important credit is that it is run, according to a DoD Inspector General report, by The Rendon Group (TRG) – the same firm contracted by the Pentagon to manufacture propaganda to justify the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. TRG played a lead role in drumming up false information on Saddam’s WMD. Apart from running the Highlands Forum process, TRG’s chief executive John Rendon is a longstanding member of the Forum. TRG also has access to the most secretive intelligence across the intelligence community, including NSA surveillance data for instance.

The story is starting to get noticed, though so far the mainstream media has remained studiously silent about what is in reality a huge story – clear and unimpeachable documentary evidence and testimony that Google’s Sergey Brin did receive a modest amount of seed-funding from the CIA and NSA, through their MDDS initiative, and that Brin had regular briefings with representatives of the US intelligence community from 96-98.”

“The Myth of Magical Futures” by Kate Losse.

“Investors and board members in addition to founders influence everything from how much equity goes to individual employees, to perks and play budgets (which often are not evenly distributed across the company), to the construction of departments, their relative importance, and the resources accordingly allocated to them. And not coincidentally the privileged departments, on this model, tend to be those occupied by people who look most like the founder and investors (at Facebook this was product engineering, which dominated other forms of engineering, which dominated non-engineering departments, which tended to have the largest degree of race and gender diversity).

But when Thiel is arguing for more women founders he isn’t just deflecting responsibility from himself and his fellow investors. He is also doing something else that I want to unpack: he is re-inscribing a form of hierarchical thinking that is part of the reason tech is such a mess regarding diversity. That is, when Thiel points to “more women founders” as a solution, he is asking women to become founders in order to possess a status that would allow Thiel to acknowledge women in tech at all. That is, all of the women who are currently working in tech, up and down the employee stack, many at companies that Thiel may be invested in, do not seem in Thiel’s formulation to really exist to him. They do not have a seat at the table. They are not acknowledged as agents of change, or as subjects of discrimination (for example, in the AMA, Thiel cited the Bay Area “housing crisis” as a worse problem than sexism in tech, not knowing that the housing crisis disproportionately affects women and people of color because of the wage discrimination marginalized people face at work).

That is, according to Thiel’s “women founders” logic, he can only imagine women as agents/subjects if they are the founder of a company. And this, in the end, is exactly why and how tech is such a diversity disaster: because there are so many ways powerful people in the industry have of ignoring that marginalized people are working at their companies and are experiencing multiple forms of discrimination right now. This is why many powerful people in tech can only conceive moves to “change” the industry in terms of magical futures like “more women founders” or “getting young girls to code”. The women working in the industry right now are being written off in favor of these magical futures, and as long as this is the case, the now of tech (whether the now is today or twenty years from today) will be unchanged.”

“Continuous Monuments and Imaginable Alternatives” by Tobias Revell.

“Now, 80 years later, renderings of smart cities bear huge resemblance to the visions of Le Corbusier. Their images are eerily devoid of human beings. Rigid and measurable structures are almost always presented from a gods-eye-view. They worship the cult of Big Data – a kind of Cthulu Mythos4 [4] The Cthulu ‘Mythos’ refers to the sprawling collection of stories by HP Lovecraft and successors about a race of god-like sea monsters worshipped by human cults. The mythos itself has its own cultish following. of the 2010s. While the machine was the savior of the age of Le Corbusier, Data would be its equivalent of today. Similarly as in the example of the German forestry project, the IT companies backing the smart city projects base their success on the ability to abstract, process and read data about our lives. They are so successful in fact, that much like with the German forestry scientists, Fordists, Taylorists, centralized nation states and master-planners that went before them, they seek to impress this supremely efficient abstraction back upon the world.

Much like Superstudio saw in the late 1960s, designers and architects now often find themselves in a position working – often not by choice – as indentured servants to the globe-straddling demi-gods of data. The consumer market is bloated and heaving with products and projects promising streams of data that will turn your sleeplessly hellish, austerity-riddled corpse-life into the stuff of Silicon Valley dreams. Cups that can measure nutritional content, armbands that tell if you are too fat, apps that can tell you if you have had the perfect amount of sleep. Not to mention, as I have been careful to avoid, the ceaseless and oppressive surveillance brought in to prop up the modern state under the auspices of anti-terror measures. And, at the top of our new Continuous Monument is of course the Smart City masterplan.”

“The Other Avian Flu” by Gordon White.

“One of the great joys of not having to get changed out of my house clothing for several days is that it promotes a tendency to wallow. So let’s see what’s been in the news this week!

1. Even Bibi’s own spies admit that he was completely full of steaming shit with his ‘Iran has the bomb’ antics. Where did you hear that before? Oh yes, right fucking here.
2. What about when I said that HSBC was the bank of record for the shadow state? (Sidebar: Did you know it had its origins in the opium trade?) Nailed it.
3. The Pacific Pivot? China is playing some kind of real-life Starcraft.
4. The CIA created the term ‘conspiracy theorist’ to stifle debate. Which is why I don’t use it and further evidence why anyone who refuses to look at parapolitics is a straight-up moron with zero experience of how power works.

You know the pathetic wasters I mean: the kind who thinks their boss is incompetent because she didn’t give him the promotion, or the kind who thinks ‘the government can’t do anything right’ because their bin men were late by a day to collect their garbage. (Been invaded recently? No? So I guess they can do one thing right, hey?) Or ‘the government can’t keep secrets’ as every file relating to Britain’s (at least) two decades of being run pretty much exclusively by paedophiles gets lost or suffers water damage. Impotent, socially-awkward, basement-dwelling failures, the lot of them. Yes, I feel strongly about this but I am also using the opportunity of being 100% correct with Bibi and Iran to gloat gloat gloat. I am pretty high right now. Nick and I recently discussed this on his podcast and it’s one of the failures of staying in Bob Wilson’s shallow end of the pool. There is in fact a lot of things we can know.”

“A Dent in the Universe” by Venkatesh Rao.

“These areas of behavior require you to navigate freedom, but not necessarily with imagination.

You can unimaginatively eat the same food you grew up eating your whole life. You can take up running because most people around you take up running. You can save cash, buy a house or invest in an index fund because that’s what your neighbors are doing. You can follow the same career track as the majority of your college graduating class. As you gain power and authority, the pattern continues: you can unimaginatively set up the same kinds of organizations your ancestors did and and perpetuate the same patterns of governance you yourself endured.

And if you’re like most people, that is what you actually do. The structure of society does not enforce imitation and conformity. The human fear of self-actualization necessitates structures that enable imitation and conformity. There would be riots demanding such structures if they didn’t exist.

No government in history has ever had to deal with the problem of too many of its citizens wanting to live so imaginatively that institutions based on conformity and imitation become unsustainable. If anything, the problem has always been the reverse one: getting enough of the population to act with enough imagination to keep the institutions alive.”