Category Archives: gripes

Mutes

Increasingly David Speaks, but he still does not say anything.

That both Beckham and kate Moss remain mute icons of British glamour, automatons – impossibly beautiful, sublime skills etc., – is the culture industry standard now, where voice, or personality, is inimical to brand. The X-factor, dancing, talk show compare (not J.Ross) celebrity must not have intellect – must be a free slate upon which focus groups and under-assistant promotions reps mould media persona. No surprise that we are more and more interested in the personalities – known, lost or recently discovered – of the past (see Ursula Bogner for one of the better finds). Bring back the old Big Brother and the real Russel Brand, not the bland Hollywood Brand Brand he has so – now silently – become (has he been kidnapped by a wild Xenu-influenced offshoot of scientology or what?).

The TV show Pan-Am is the dying apotheosis of this tendency – fake emote on cue – the very criteria of successful robotics, but a robot made in the 1960s version of the future [as Fuggletronic says], not the dull dystopia of commercial time now.

(note for Kiwi).

#Facebook #Gmail adblockers and the new FB status ticker removal

Reposted all this here cos who knows how long the post will stay onb my FB page (if they even bother to set the algorithm to watch):

 

We should not cave into PREVENT

A very disturbing email this morning – latest in a series of ever longer shrill missives on data protection that come in, and add to our workload. Not that I do not take them seriously, but it is not welcome news in between dealing with crap from UKBA (today, a note from a prospective visiting student funded from China for two years who, after ten or twelve letters back and forth between us, is finally refused entry because Home Office only issues visas for 12 months to visiting students, so now she can’t come at all! – Chinese Govt more flexible, will amend their funding to a year, and of course more work for us to try and fix this, basically by inviting her for two lots of 12 months. Cretinization!).

The point is, UKBA and terror programmes like the racist PREVENT must be exposed and resisted. It is distressing that we are even discussing this in relation to the PREVENT agenda, or rather, it is distressing that our esteemed retentional data manager is forced to discuss this and not just spit back an angry ‘no’. Still, the inference is that written data is all that matters here (the alternative – rumours that we are a part of the moral collapse/broken society/criminal decline and so on, are not subject to this ‘policy’ and cannot be passed on unless written down – though I guess now I’ve written it down it is obviously possible – HA!).

Enjoy. Weep. Despair.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: {snip}
Date: Fri, Sep 2, 2011 at 8:33 AM
Subject: [HoDAcademic] Third party disclosures of personal data

Dear All -

Further to reports in the press of a new initiative within the government’s “PREVENT” strategy concerning the covert surveillance of Muslim students – on what appears to be potentially rather scant evidence (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/aug/29/university-inform-vulnerable-muslim-students) it seems timely to ask you to remind staff of the procedures for disclosures of personal data to third parties: http://www.gold.ac.uk/data-protection/data-third-parties/

The individuals within the College who are authorised to make disclosures of personal data to the police (or in fact anyone who wishes the disclosure to be made without data subject consent) are the Director of Student Services, the Data Protection Officer and the Registrar and Secretary. (The Director of HR is added to this list – in practice only for staff data – although of course there is currently a vacancy.) Disclosures to the vpolice are in the vast majority of cases not compulsory but at the discretion of the College, and the College must accept legal liability for any challenge to its decision from the data subject (should he or she discover later that the disclosure has been made). Recently police tactics of investigation have tended to become more intrusive and one hears of more instances of refusals by universities to cooperate than a few years ago. This is not confined to the anti-terrorism agenda but is more general. Approaches adopted by the policy are inconsistent and do not always go through the institution’s obvious channels for personal data disclosure.

The procedures for disclosure of personal data in the Goldsmiths Data Protection Policy strictly only apply where there is written (or otherwise recorded) information involved at some point in the process (as there often is). However it would be helpful if I could be kept informed of any approaches made by the police to obtain information from you or your staff under their current initiative, as this contributes to a general overview of the risk environment in terms of potential invasion of privacy. Over the next two weeks I shall however be away, {snip}

More on that UfSO #riotcleanup or #riotwhitewash spike

Sofia Himmelblau responds to her critics

AUGUST 12, 2011
by flashbank

Postscript – A Response to Comments
Dr. Sofia Himmelblau
(This was written as a response to various comments made regarding my previous post and has also been reposted there)

My previous post appears to have sparked a huge amount of controversy….

Keep reading Dr Himmelblau’s response here.

Yesterday’s spike in stats:

Title Views
#riotcleanup or #riotwhitewash? More stats 11,479
Home page More stats 900
About More stats 390
An actual first-hand account More stats 203
Inaugural Lecture More stats 172
Conference: On Violence More stats 142
A riot is the language of the unread More stats 118
Contact More stats 97
Second Lecture More stats 94
“This is criminality, pure and simple…” More stats 50

✪ 11 more notes on ‘the disturbances™ in London’

The first 11 notes were here.

12. It is too easy to complain that the ‘rioting’ youth are merely obsessed with trainers and plasma TV. To say this misses the point, but it is more difficult for journalists to parse the process by which circulation, valorization, exchange, value extraction, surplus labour, alienation, and the fetishism that disguises social relations as relations between things operates. The ‘reporter-campaigner’ press is no longer on the job.

13. The insurrectionary youth seem to understand better than most what these goods are – theirs. They grasp the fetish character of commodities and the theft of property as time. In a radical way, the youth grasp, and break, the distinction between use value and exchange value. Fat cat neoliberals have thrived off expropriation, but now as the roosting pigeon heads homeward, with them having mortgaged the future to short-term gain, they seem perversely ignorant of causes. The sorry spectacle has them flapping about trying to fix the leaks where they see their interests and profits must be defended, as ever with a bolstered repressive apparatus, and having ransomed everyone else for their sorry survival.

14. In this context, jokes about ‘aggressive forms of late night shopping’ (ex cop on TV) are hypocritical ventriloquy of ruling class ideas, in that nearly every ‘older’ person I’ve heard talking about this first wishes the youth had a ‘cause’ (like they do!) but then wants to know where to buy one of these cheap hot plasmas, though without having to go to Tottenham for the pick up. Distorted and alienated interests are interests nonetheless – they are not the interests of Capital. Cut through this phantasmal comedy and it’s illusions of civic responsibility, morality and myths of political representation – contemporary Capital is nothing less than theft and plunder and should be hounded into the annals of history.

15. Lack of role models! The role models aren’t Kate Middleton and knowing what she wore, nor Beckham and his grooming products – the parade of privilege and property has them only as a window-dressing facade. The weapons trade, the mining industry, the micro-processing and conductor sweatshops, the off-shore processing zones, the anti-union, tax-free, labour intensive low-wage hell camps… These are the role models, also critiqued by the broken windows – the targets are tangential, but the sentiment is shared. Some are making the connections, and they are not just crusty old Marxists.

16. The youth hate the cops with good cause. Deaths in custody is a trigger, but stop and search, surly attitudes, bus dragnets, corruption, payola and more are not endearing plod to anyone. Defending prime property while letting lesser capital burn is an outrage, but expected given where we are just now in the volatile process of cyclical accumulation. The valorisation/conversion of expropriated surplus value through circulation within a stag-flationary recession that favours write-offs and fire-sales (primark, tkmaxx, budget airlines, and now many so-called ma-and-pa shops) means petit bourgeois traders suffer while big capital strives to recoup what minimal profit can be scarpered away before the fire sale season ends. The super rich survive, only slightly singed by scandals (dear Rupert), to then pounce to buy up the scorched earth as a bloody trophy upon which a new phase of accumulation is inaugurated. Class and location maps onto race and privilege to differentiate the cartography of valorised capital under this restructuring, so-called ‘crisis’ we are all in together. Some zones of manufacture and circulation entail very small margins with very large numbers – ahh, plastic goods – and if this mode of production, and a sharp end understanding of it, isn’t political, then what is?

17. The technique is refined in war. Invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and gleeful opportunism after the Arab spring (Cameron visits an arms fair) follows the model of army and camp followers. The cowboy corporations rush to provide security services, building contracts, democracy-capacity-building workshops…

18. We do not necessarily need commodity chain analysis or a critique of colonial history to understand that here and there, local and global are co-constituted in an embrace of death. Seems like only the politicians have a vested interest in saying this is not political – and they criminalise all youth, and all revolutionary zeal, with the same golden Bullingdon toilet brush (I am still reeling at Boris Johnson’s image of Britain as ‘a broken washing machine with black fluid leaking out the back’ – even disavowing this version he reveals his gutter mind).

19. The looting is not political because the youth pick up on a general discontent, it is not political because police tactics are repressive and biased and will be extended on the back of this, it is not political because parenting and family values have been lost back in some nostalgic fantasy of the good war, it is not political because the cuts to services mean there’s nothing else for the youth to do. It is political because all of the above make it an insurrection. Our very own intefada part one.

20. It is not a blind passages a l’acte, comrade Žižek. In his book on violence, Žižek says (after the deaths of Bouna Toure and Zyed Benna on October 27, 2005 and the thousands of cars set alight): ‘the fact that there was no programme behind the burning Paris suburbs is thus itself a fact to be interpreted’ (Žižek 2008:64). That this might be described as a ‘blind acting out’ seems itself ironic and myopic, even when SZ is correct to mock the sociological ‘search for deeper meaning or messages hidden in these outbursts’ (Žižek 2008:65), especially if these searches are undertaken from the comfort of the television viewing room. Žižek himself spends two further pages explaining that the youth wanted to be recognized as French, and yet locates this events in a particular and peculiar way. I expand the parameters of the quotation already used earlier:

“The Paris riots need to be situated in a series they form with another type of violence that the liberal majority perceives as a threat to our way of life: direct terrorist attacks and suicide bombings. In both instances, violence and counter-violence are caught up in a deadly vicious cycle, each generating the very forces it tries to combat. In both cases we are dealing with blind passages a l’acte, where violence is an implicit admission of impotence. The difference is that, in contrast to the Paris outbursts which were a zero-level protest, a violent outburst which wanted nothing, terrorist attacks are carried out on behalf of that absolute meaning provided by religion” (Žižek 2008:69).

We cannot be sure Žižek has understood Paris here, nor should we be detained by his assertion that religion is the absolute designation of terrorism, but the ascription of ‘nothing’ as the meaning of the Paris riots certainly suggests some problems with commentary.

21 Media reportage as the official line, paving the way for more cops, more repression, less commentary, less critique – we have long known the idea of the independent campaigning journalist reporter has been swallowed up by embedded, churnalistic, press release and sub-tabloid eaves-dropper automatons. Recycled heavy rotation police reports and edits (let me see more of Mayor Johnson being hounded out of Clapham by rightly angry shopkeepers). That this 24 hr news cycle stresses recycle of items is just yet another cut in the stagflationary moment.

22. The ‘Lumpen R Us’. Well, not quite, but it does not hurt to have an aspiration. In his early text ‘A Report from Hunan’ Mao praises the ‘Movement of the Riff Raff’ (Mao Selected Works Vol 1 p29). The ‘riff raff’ are the ‘utterly destitute’ lumpen peasantry who we find in China as:

“completely dispossessed … People who have neither land nor money, are without any means of livelihood, and are forced to leave home and become mercenaries or hired labourers or wandering beggars” (Mao Vol. I P 32)

Mao then provides a detailed report on the achievements of these peasants as revolutionaries able to transform an uprising into Red self governance. Mao’s ‘Report from Hunan’ is a great example of engaged reportage and it provides a more balanced evaluation of lumpen elements. His amusingly titled section ‘“Its Terrible” or “Its Fine”’ is equally judicious. Mao is praising the ways the peasants had banded together to dominate the landed gentry in Hunan, how their organisation established the basic conditions for a defence of the gains, and the template for the pattern of protracted guerrilla war. His unconditional approval for the ‘Movement of the Riff Raff’ is unstinting in its praise for the violent suppression of counter-revolutionaries. He does not ever want to say they ‘go too far’ when they defend the revolution (Selected Works Vol. I).

Thus – build the revolution…

11 more points soon

The first 11 notes were here.

The best 11 you should know by heart – the point is to change it.

✪ 11 notes on ‘the disturbances™ in London’

1. Punitive and class biased courts and police which condemn and kill the public while bonus-fat-cat bankers, expense-account scheming piggy-pollies and eavesdropping shop-your-mother-for-a-story journalists get away with it.

2. Massive jumpity-jump in hyper-profits and wealth of the super-rich while we get cuts to services, community support and local facilities, which means DIY street entertainment as last resort.

3. Economic factors paramount, racism the default position to defend white supremacist social structure of privilege. BBC report at 10.

4. Police looking at major cuts after years of corrupt payola-granola, selling the drugs they confiscate, taking bribes and kickbacks, farming out actual work to subcontracted half-beats and leaning on the completely bogus yellow union Police Federation to present them as human. Fail.

5. Have you noticed that at every demo the MET has offered up a sacrificial vehicle left as bait in the path of the march – stupidity or provocation?

6. Senior management responsible for horrendous blunders of course promoted. Chief Terror Dick etc., others suspended on full pay later reinstated. We need a new ‘Independent Complaints ABOUT the Police Commission,’ not a ‘POLICE complaints commission’ stacked out with coppers on secondment.

7. WE Need a juridical review, no more, the abolishment of the courts, replace with people’s tribunals, recallable delegates. Meetings to set up this Mondays.

8. End incarcerations, detention, bogus unequal persecutions, secret trials, detentions, control orders, exploding prison numbers, explode the prisons minister. Also, put bars on the windows of the banks and keep the criminal suits in there. Charge entrance fees for viewing rights, with peanuts available to throw at them to watch ‘em feed. Cuties.

9. Useless political non-opposition (are they on holiday?). Need a new type of Communist Party. Abolish the others sects/wafers – enough with faffing over whatever happened in the Krondstadt (and yes, I do know, but so what).

10. Sick of media denouncing people for shopping for trainers, its perverse not comic to focus on this without critique, and totally misses the serious point about commodity culture behind it all. Be organized people, be safe, cover up, don’t burn down homes, do walk tall.

11. ‘Everything under heaven is in chaos. The situation is promising.’ – we should try to get the quote right Z – 天下大亂,形勢大好 gives us ‘big good’, there is a difference between excellent and promising, so the future tense probably matters and promising is better.

____

second 11 here.

Belle D’Opium

Some might think this bad taste. I think its a hoot, and bad taste. A commercial sell-out I’d missed – Nitin Sawhney, Romain Gavras (who also did the MIA vid I am writing about) Mélanie Thierry working together on a Yves Saint Laurent advert with dodgy choreography by Akram Khan. My thanks to Dr Royona Mitra for pointing me at this in her excellent thesis on Akram’s performances. Finding the vein was my addition though – Thierry/voiceover says in the film ‘I am your addiction’ – even as getting this screen shot was a bit time consuming. Everyone should all know you can’t mainline opium of course, duffer trickster exoticists. The whole film is here: http://belledopium.com/en_CA/artistes.html#/film/

Chalk and Cheese

The University is the last uneasy comfortable place that is not yet in 100% total denial of the white supremacist neo-imperialist war-mongering social privilege and violence that is, frankly, the condition of the whole of Western capital, the ruling class State, and its many comprador clients, including, of course, the University itself (approx 2% of 100 makes the total pretty thin). The circular sentence and bad math does not mean anything is ok. Everywhere else there is also denial, but perhaps the ongoing complicity of the critic is the most jarring. That said, I don’t think giving up the possibility of teaching jar-heads a critique of everything is the best next move. A ruthless critique of everything that exists, said Marx, in his famous Letter to the Rube. Where else will those one day a year adventurers (two days this year already, stop and admire) get their fill or fillip and citation to carry to the afterparty?

I am waiting to hear more of the anti-war movement. The raids on Libya continue unabated. The French are arming the Rebels, from whom we hear less and less. Britain’s Apache attack helicopters raid the city. Saudi Police snipers are UK-trained with a ‘it will save lives’ rationale. A vast war apparatus at home services the military effort – a cultural industry itself – worse than Mother Courage in Brecht’s old play, selling her kids to service the troops – ‘war will find a way’, and for 30 years the battle for the Holy Roman Empire rages. The present war effort for Empire stalls in Afghanistan, and Iraq is a twisted failed and abandoned building site. Yet more and more money is ploughed into the profit making venture of arms sales and the reckless escalations are bantered palab katakata style by William Hague in the Parliament, while the so-called opposition leadership of Millibrand can only gurn and insult. The burning issue (ouch!) that will only be glossed as an inconvenience to parents when the teachers defend their pensions is as far from an adequate politics that can win as chalk is to cheese-sticks.

Frat

Having watched a couple of snuff films, two wanna be frat boys send a message to the East – look out, we’re a team. High Five!

Uncle Bill would have shopped in Kalkadoon


http://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/queen-to-abdicate-at-christmas/

Press Repress

A senior United Nations representative on torture, Juan Mendez, issued a rare reprimand to the US government on Monday for failing to allow him to meet in private Bradley Manning, the American soldier held in a military prison accused of being the WikiLeaks source. It is the kind of censure that the UN normally reserves for authoritarian regimes around the world. Guardian 11.4.2011

About time we heard something on this, as the UN continues to follow its usual daft tandem policy of total war and humanitarian bleating, and on the day that the BBC is reminding us that David-Desert Rat-Cameron took a degree at Oxford and, oh, now he wants to come across all mr-man-with-an-issue in a caring social mobility tone. Crikey, Mr numbnuts, you imagine yourself as some sort of advocate (patronizing git) and the dark lord of cuts. Plus it turns out you can’t even count, and so any chance the ‘story’ you told us could do nothing more than make you seem foolish is confirmed. What I want to propose is a direct exchange, a prisoner swap so to speak. Dave C, as a more than prominent figure, you get a ticker tape parade to welcome you to New York, but then you have to take Bradley Manning’s place in the stalag and serve out your time in solitary. You deserve it, lizard loser.

.

postscript 4am: I was nearly asleep when I wrote the above stub, hence the lack of reference which I should document, but also the strange lizard references and general rantiness, which I should remove but will leave as symtom of exhaustion. Hmmm, still nearly asleep – please forgive my improper grammar. For the record, Cameron was on the news having been to Oxford to butter up to those who gave him his degree, but along the way he made the stunning observation that Oxford is a bastion of white supremacy. Well, that’s not the phrase <em>he</em> used, but he has direct personal experience of it. Trouble is he got the numbers wrong with a mad exaggeration and error born of some probable trauma in his elite hi-jinx Bilgewater Club life with Boris. As media-worthy event it becomes another instance of a stir-up-trouble foot-in-mouth-as-policy strategy on the part of Government. They can’t be this clever eh, an attack on the poshest University means the rest of the University sector has to defend Oxford, and the consequent radicalization of Oxbridge students draws the wrong type of well-dressed radical into the student campaign (if this is the thinking, good grief – but all radicals will be welcomed, just some will need re-education camp). Along the way Cameron’s number fiasco undermines legitimate analysis of racism by making it sound like some twisted version of grade inflation. Doesn’t matter if its just 1 or 27, the evidence is plain to see – disproportionate enrollment is white supremacy no matter how you look at it. And its hypocrisy, because other organizations are demonized, funding withdrawn, and closed down for far less serious versions of being ‘not fit for purpose’.

The prisoner swap thing – we give you Cameron, you give us Manning – well, of course we need to be in a strong position to do a deal like that, which we are not, yet. And if the UN needs to sometimes be seen to criticize the US, well and good – though note how rare that is. It is no surprise that different parts of the colonial machine can be dysfunctional and snipe at each other, and yet both parts are still deadly. Stop bombing Libya and free Bradley Manning!

Scanning the jobs section for the possibility of an admin-idioten free life, the following research post seemed like the honey pot of honey pots – a cultural history of the secret handshake??

Dodgy Dodgy Dodgy: ‘many thousands of young men have been introduced to Freemasonry through these two Lodges [Oxford and Cambridge], and they provided the inspiration for the Universities Scheme’. As blokey as Wee Willie Willets and his heinous kind.

Recent Correspondence

Pop Quiz: my inclination is not to bother with a reply, even though I see this as an endorsement (received yesterday):

Dear Professor Hutnyk,
Your letter in a recent edition of the Guardian, praising (“magnificent”) the disgraceful “student” riot, criminal damage and attempted murder of a police officer, drew my attention to your web site, and I wonder how you can justify your position and cost to the tax payer? So far I have been unable to find any useful activities amongst any of the 290 “academics” who signed that letter, no teachers of science, engineering, medicine or any other useful discipline, just the usual damaging nonsense of Marxist Critical Theory, Trade Union activism, Feminism and Lesbian studies, Anti racism and other Commie bullshit which has degenerated our benighted country this last 40 or so years.
I hope that your letter and the list of signatories will be used in the not too distant future to cull you and your colleagues with £millions saved in public expenditure.
Yours etc
Dr Stuart H Russell
Grantham
Lincs

So, if I were in fact to reply to comrade Russell I’d have to agree with him on one point, even though on all the rest I’d like to make some minor qualifications of the critique. Basically, on each item there is something more to add: for example, I reject the idea that I am an advocate of Marxist Critical Theory, that is, unless it comes with a commitment to praxis and change through mass mobilization and a sustained and informed Party organization committed to justice, equality and ending exploitation. Anyone who reads carefully knows I am not a huge fan of Trade Union Activism unless it comes with a critique of TU tops and yellow Unionism (Marx said the call should not just be for higher wages but to abolish the wage system). Also, its clear to me – read Nina Power – that Feminism comes in a great many varieties, so you would need to specify whether this is socialist-feminism or some other version. Similarly, I am often a critic of mere ‘anti-racism’, which I think must be extended and pushed to be anti-imperiasm and actual redress (its not enough to shout ‘Nazis Out’ at a middle class rally in town while in the suburbs racists thrive and overseas bombs fall). I also have it on good authority that I am a disgraceful lesbian. But Stuart H does have me on the Communist Bullshit thing – guilty as charged: Marx himself was never done with his ‘economic shit’, he kept piling it on, showing how the economics of empire and nation were a threat to the working class, as is the British State (where to start? Sending troops to fight elitist, racist wars? The Royal Wedding? The Queen’s mining industry investments? I dunno). But all in all, its a fair cop Stu, even if I really can’t see how a note from the former National Press Officer of the BNP has much to do with what I say on my blog or the huge amount of teaching I do for the taxpayers of this fair and pleasant colonial empire. It is nice to be appreciated.

The original letter signed by so many should of course also be read carefully – no-one praised the attempted murder of a police officer, which anyway is a pretty wild escalation of rhetoric. On the police and violence – and there have been a lot of truncheons out – I myself have been calling for an arranged Student v Police Snowball Fight on Whitehall. Proceeds to your favourite charitable alibi (The Secret Policeman’s Ball or Red Wedge or similar). All in good cheer. Over and Out.

Standard Evenings offer some smiles

So, after Humanities Unpluged (great event in Berlin) I made it back to London. I get to Paddington and my Oyster Card is in the red (it often is) but this time I know it should have 4 quid on it. I go to the counter and get the past-usage checked and earn a credit for a false charge of 6 quid on the way through on thursday. Then to top up my oyster and flip open my wallet. The London Underground ticket staffer sees my Goldsmiths card and says ‘Oh, I want to do an MA there now – The lecturers seem good’. She never thought about Goldsmiths before this week’s press, so I figure a case has been made.

No to witch hunts, no to the Widdicombe/Clegg/Cameron dalliance, no to clamp downs on debate. Yes to the exchange of angry words about the state of higher education, who funds it, why and how. Enough of thinking everyone should be polite, that the University is a place of agreement, that there is a ‘Goldsmiths view’ that anyone can state as if they were appointed mouthpiece of all.

For a University that is a place of rampant intelligence that does more than cramming, and monitoring, and other despicable acts of vandalism (Aaron and Sally, I do mean this as a little dig at you – time to up your game). Well done all the comrades (thanks Nina for the scan).

AND – as my conversation with the London Underground staffer continued – let us inscribe Defend the tube staff from the cuts on our banners as well. The closure of ticket offices will be an automation disaster and the little bit of human contact described above (malfunctioning Oyster) would not happen in a Paddington without ticketing staff. Machines do not want to do degrees at radical colleges they read about in the Evening Standard. We are in it for people like that staffer. Not for Oyster machines and automated frakking toasters – by the time the machine replacements get sentient and decide they do want to get degrees, the arts and humanities will be defunded out of all recognition, rebranded as Greystone Industries, by your command.

And at the same time, this pantomime terror emerges – thanks Jo:

As police face continued criticism for failing to control the march, the Observer has learned that defence firms are working closely with UK armed forces and contemplating a “militarisation” strategy to counter the threat of civil disorder.

The trade group representing the military and security industry says firms are in negotiation with senior officers over possible orders for armoured vehicles, body scanners and better surveillance equipment.

The move coincides with government-backed attempts to introduce the use of unmanned spy drones throughout UK airspace, facilitating an expansion of covert surveillance that could provide intelligence on future demonstrations.

Derek Marshall, of the trade body Aerospace, Defence and Security (ADS), said that such drones could eventually replace police helicopters.

He added that military manufacturers had discussed police procurement policies with the government, as forces look to counter an identified threat of civil disobedience from political extremists.

Meanwhile police sources say they have detected an increase in the criminal intentions of political extremists and are monitoring “extreme leftwing activity” in light of last week’s student protest.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/nov/13/nus-campaign-oust-lib-dems

Dragnets of London

Dragnets of London (for Raul).

John Hutnyk

I was on my way home on the number 436 to Lewisham recently when a woman did something I thought was both impressive and unusual – she spoke out against the delay caused by the 20 police who had boarded our bus. She scolded them for wasting her time and for picking on certain passengers that, she said, should be left in peace to get on with their travel.

We have become accustomed to these all-too frequent Metropolitan Police (MET) dragnet style interruptions. Such hold-ups are now quite common in my part of London, a predominantly black suburb, where ticket checks are used as a cover for an immigration shakedown – itself justified as part of anti-terror vigilance. I watched the police officers explain to the woman, in escalating aggressive tones, that her demand to know why the bus was being delayed was misplaced because officers were ‘assaulted every day by people without tickets’. This seems a strange and disproportionate response to a legitimate query from a member of the public. Travelling in a uniformed strength-in-numbers group of (more than) 20, some of whom were armed, suggests an excess enthusiasm of the transport police for ‘ticket inspection’.

We might be concerned that such policing will soon again result in further deaths like that which was visited upon Brazilian commuter Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station in 2005 (shot seven times in the head by officers, no-one charged). There have been other unexamined incidents of deaths in police custody and the UK has an appalling record in terms of prosecution of official crime (see the 1999 film Injustice directed by Ken Fero and Tariq Mehmood). Another tragedy is primed to happen especially where commanders readily deploy disproportionate aggression if challenged by an impatient commuter. She was young, white, articulate, and had the sense to back down when the Officer in charge raised his voice and muscled up to her. No need to guess that any other appellant might not have got off the bus so freely. We other passengers, a few anyway, applauded her courage, but somewhat meekly. It does seem that a new anxiety pervades the streetscapes of the metropolis – a consequence of dubious foreign wars and suspect geo-politics, conjoined with institutional racism and a creeping resignation. Not many complain, but at least in this instance, someone did.

I was glad to have met her. We exchanged a few words:

Me: ‘That was great, well done.’

Her: ‘How can they do this, its intolerable.’

Me: ‘What is your name?’

Her: ‘Scheherazade’

This response is hilarious and smart – she identifies herself, sensibly choosing an alias, as the fabled storyteller who tames a despot with patient narrative over many many nights. Speaking truth to power, in coded repetition, Scheherazade offers a moral discourse through fantasy tales, Sinbad the Sailor and so on. Eventually the despotic ruler relents his power. The trouble is, I never saw Scheherazade again. But I remember her lesson – you do have to speak up.

Several months after the above incident, the MET have assigned dedicated public relations personnel to their inspection teams. Whenever I have seen the dragnet I have made a point of following that woman’s earlier tactic, and each time experienced the full force of MET customer relations, extending to a total bureaucratic run-around when trying to get a complaint about this heard. This is documented below in brief conversations where, while asking the most obvious questions, I find something very provocative – the ways speaking out can be channelled and contained are also to be examined.

In this first exchange, the ‘team’ were wrapping their operation up when I came by, so there was a sense of mild irritation with my questions, a kind of ‘shows over, on your way sir’ tone – which of course I took as an invitation to linger.

Me: [polite, ironic] ‘What’s all this then?’

Cop A: ‘We are looking for people without tickets, you’d be surprised how many we can arrest in a day.’

Me: [politely] ‘Hmmm, why do you need so many police, isn’t this over policing?’

Cop A: ‘Most people around here welcome this.’

Me: [politely] ‘No, no, no, we all think its outrageous. You don’t need to do this, you should go catch some real crooks, you know, corporate types, politicians, the Speaker of the House of Representatives….’ [the controversy over MP’s expenses was current news]

Later, to a different officer:

Me: ‘Why do you need so many police to check tickets on one bus?’

Cop A: ‘This is a message to people, we are being noticed. You noticed.’

Me: ‘Even when just one ticket inspector gets on the bus we notice.’

Stand around a bit, watch the slow process of a lad get a caution for riding his bicycle on the footpath:

Cop B: ‘Why are you riding on the footpath, its against the law.’

Bike-boy: ‘Its getting dark and my light is broken.’

… [some meaningless blather, bike-boy rides off]

Cop C to Cop B: ‘They’ll make up anything round here.’

I asked another cop who was in charge:

Me: [formal] ‘Who is the ranking officer?’

Cop D: ‘Why, do you need something?’

Me: ‘I want to make a complaint?’

Cop D: ‘Why?’

Me: ‘I think this is over policing.’

Cop D: ‘People think this is the free bus.’ (the 436 aka the free bus).

Next to him, a female cop:

Cop E: ‘You could talk to the sergeant.’

Me: ‘Him there?’

Cop E: ‘Yes, but he is busy now.’

[time passes]

Me: ‘He’s not that busy now?’

Cope E: ‘Just tap him on the shoulder.’

Me: ‘Surely that’s more your style than mine.’

I meet the ranking officer:

Me: [polite formal] ‘This is over policing, how do I make a complaint?’

Cop F: ‘Where do you live?’

Me: [taken aback] ‘Why do you want to know?’

Cop F: ‘You can complain to the duty officer at your local station.’

Me: [insistent] ‘Don’t you think this is over policing?’

Cop F: ‘Most people don’t think so.’

Me: ‘I disagree. Most people here probably don’t think this is a good thing.’

Cop F: ‘You are entitled to disagree.’

Me: [exasperated] ‘Not for long it seems.’ [gesturing to the 25 uniformed cops hovering around the bus]

And so yet another micro moment of the creeping fascism of contemporary Englan’ passes at 6.05PM on a monday night on Lewisham Way.

Another day, another routine: Stopping to quiz yet another bus dragnet gang with a colleague, this time we are referred immediately to the public relations London Transport operative ‘Daniel’. This sort of discussion, reproduced below, has become a perverse kind of sport. I know it does little, and now I know the cops see public complaints as a kind of sport as well. Nevertheless, as they say in the Homeland – ‘If you see something, say something’.

A conversation between ‘Police Liaison Operative Daniel’ and two unidentified subjects of the realm, designated as ‘US’:

US: ‘[polite] Why are you stopping this bus here today?’

Daniel: ‘We are arresting people without tickets, booking them for crimes.’

US: ‘Is it an arrestable crime to go without a ticket?’

Daniel: ‘Most people without tickets commit other crimes.’

US: ‘So this is a kind of entrapment? You could just hand out fines.’

Daniel: ‘We are keeping the buses safe.’

US: ‘They are not unsafe because people don’t have tickets. Why are these officers armed? Are those guys immigration officers?’

Daniel: ‘Look, we could be out catching terrorists in the ethnic suburbs.’

US: [incredulous] ‘Sorry, which suburbs, how could you tell? Do they teach you about profiling?’

Daniel: ‘Oh, I know the profile very well thank you. Is there anything more I can help you with?’

US: [exasperated] ‘How can we make a complaint about over policing?’

Daniel: ‘You can complain to me.’

US: ‘sigh’

There is no question that the border and border policing has moved from the airport and ferry terminal to the centre of the city and the micro-moments of everyday life. The border is right there on the street, caught between mild-mannered individuals and institutional authority, uniforms on the bus, exclusions and deportations before your eyes. A million minute forms of repression that amount to a generalized war economy. Always under suspicion, ready to have you tickets checked, your bags examined (announcements remind you to never leave them unattended), security fear becomes everyday and the power of the authorities to detain anyone that ‘looks the part’ becomes routine. A border has been crossed, a border has been crossed… we run willingly into battle.

Save Goldsmiths Nursery

Reposted from:

Closure makes no sense

Below are the reasons for closure put forward by Goldsmiths’ Senior Management Team.  As we have challenged each one, they have simply produced another, showing the irrationality of their decision.  We demand that the nursery provision at Goldsmiths continues to run until the time when a bigger, better and fully sustainable nursery can be built.

1/ The nursery must be subsidised by 70K per annum – WRONG
A working party set up by SMT identified 50K of savings, reducing this to 20K per year.  The nursery management staff were excluded from taking part in the working party, and no domain experts took part.  The only external member was a visitor from Greenwich college, who advised Goldsmiths to keep the nursery open and supported the working party’s findings.  It is clear that an expert consultant working in the nursery could identify other savings, perhaps reducing the subsidy to zero.

2/ There was not space in the nursery for the working party’s recommendations – WRONG
The working party’s recommendations included extending provision by three community places.  Measurements conducted by Estates clearly show that there is space for these extra places in the room under consideration.  SMT however misinterpreted these figures by including other rooms.  This misinterpretation was wilful, as the error was pointed out by a working party member prior to the announcement of closure, but disregarded.  Further, the figures were never sent to OFSTED for consideration as was promised.

3/ The nursery only supports a tiny fraction of parents through 23 places; users are a ‘privileged few’ – WRONG
The nursery actually supports around 30 children, due to the flexible part time provision.  Of these several children have two parents who are staff/students at goldsmiths.  The exact figures are unknown by SMT who have not investigated the number of student and staff parents at Goldsmiths.  However the nursery is estimated to support 15-20% of all student and staff parents with children at nursery age.  This could be improved but is a highly significant and highly valued provision.

4/ The subsidy could be better spent elsewhere – WRONG
Parents need on-site provision so that they can breast feed, arrive at work and lectures in a timely manner and reach their child quickly in emergencies.  Students in general do not need money for childcare — of the current users 75% have their nursery fees paid for by the state.  It is impossible to imagine what kind of provision the college could provide apart from an on-site nursery — a creche would be next to useless for staff and most students, who need more than an hour or two here and there. A campus nursery is also best placed to meet the needs of students and staff as it is able to cater for sessional use. By contrast private nurseries charge (often at full cost) for holiday periods and occasional daily use.

5/ Building a new, larger nursery is untenable – WRONG
Recent investigations by SMT have found that a new, much larger nursery could be built and supported by economy of scale.  This makes it clear that the earlier attempt at a build in 2006 was naive, as SMT have themselves admitted.  The chosen site was unsuitable, a result of not consulting properly with anyone with experience in either construction or of nursery provision.

6/ The nursery has been subject to long, detailed review – WRONG
The construction attempt in 2006 was hopelessly naive.  This was followed by an outsourcing attempt that was doomed to failure, giving providers only a couple of months to find places for 30 children — showing complete lack of knowledge of the market, where quality care is already oversubscribed.  The later working party was greatly lacking in domain expertise, but nonetheless came up with highly constructive recommendations which were disregarded by SMT without proper investigation.  Domain experts in Goldsmiths, including John Wadsworth with extensive experience as nursery teacher and OFSTED nursery inspector, have not been consulted throughout the process, and see no justification for closing the nursery.

7/ The unions and users will not consider any alternative until the nursery is closed – WRONG
No alternative has yet been proposed and so cannot be considered.  The parent users have however been open to suggestions, including a business plan for cost neutrality put forward by nursery management staff.

8/ The impact on equality has been assessed – WRONG
The equality assessment produced by SMT is profoundly lacking, not considering the full impact on current users, and not considering the impact on staff or future users at all.  Building a new, larger nursery, subsidised by College would benefit equal opportunities, but closing down current provision and providing no continuity with the new project goes against all equality of opportunity.  It exposes SMT’s review process since 2006 and raises the question of real motive.

9/ The nursery must close due to lack of DDA compliance – WRONG
This was an early claim by SMT, but if it were true, much of the University would have to close tomorrow.  This is an issue for the college as a whole, but is not by any stretch a reason for closure of the nursery.  The current nursery building is not ideal, although OFSTED found no issue with it in their highly positive reporting of the nursery.

10/ ‘It’s not about money’ (Warden Pat Loughrey, 18 June 2010)
What is it about?  If all the evidence points to an on-site nursery as the best childcare provision the College can offer, if the subsidy can be brought down towards zero, if interested parties and domain experts are willing to be involved in making current provision more viable and more available, if we agree that the nursery is crucial to promoting equal opportunities, if the Campaign to keep it open keeps growing in numbers and strength, what is it all about?

11/  The campaign to save the nursery is motivated by a small group of parents wanting to keep their privilege – WRONG
Some of the most active people in this campaign won’t have their children in Goldsmiths nursery next year any way -either for various personal reasons or because their children will be too old for nursery. The commitment of present parents to save the nursery comes from their experience of the service provided and their awareness of its importance for past and future generations of students and staff. Furthermore the campaign has full support from the Students Union, UCU and UNISON, who together represent the interests of all students and staff in the college and not only those with kids in the nursery.

12/ The current nursery users have found alternative provision – WRONG

Many parent nursery users are now faced with leaving their jobs, curtailing their studies, giving up studentships and postdocs and associated research council funding.  Some have found alternative nursery provision though making major life changes at short notice and risking unsettling their child’s development.  Student services promised parents a list of places in local nurseries some weeks ago but this has not been forthcoming — probably because the places do not exist.  Desperate parents have been promised phonecalls by student services only to find they have gone on holiday without fulfilling their promise.  Further, as far as we know, those on the Goldsmiths nursery waiting list who hoped to start their child at nursery in September have not been offered help.

See http://savegoldsmithsnursery.org/ for more.

Still More Dragnets

Stopping to quiz yet another bus dragnet gang with a colleague, this time we are  referred immediately to the public relations London Transport operative ‘Dan’. This sort of discussion, reproduced below, has become a perverse kind of sport. I know it does little, and now I know the cops see public complaints as a kind of sport as well. Nevertheless, as they say in the Homeland – ‘If you see something, say something’.

A conversation between ‘Police Liaison Operative Dan’ and two unidentified subjects of the realm, designated as ‘US’:

US: ‘Why are you stopping this bus here today?’

PLOD: ‘We are arresting people without tickets, booking them for crimes’

US: ‘Is it really an arrestable crime to go without a ticket?’

PLOD: ‘Most people without tickets commit other crimes’

US: ‘So this is a kind of entrapment? You could just hand out fines’

PLOD: ‘We are keeping the buses safe.’

US: ‘They are not unsafe because people don’t have tickets. Why are these officers armed? Are those guys immigration officers?’

PLOD: ‘Look, we could be out catching terrorists in the ethnic suburbs’

US: ‘Sorry, which suburbs, how could you tell? Do they teach you about profiling?’

PLOD: ‘Oh, I know the profile very well thank you. Is there anything more I can help you with?’

US: ‘How can we make a complaint about over policing and inappropriate profiling?’

PLOD: ‘You can complain to me, Sir’

US: ‘:)’

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/freedom-of-information/released-information/foi-archive-immigration/929-immigration-checksa8cf.html?view=Html

See also here, here and here.

Time Wasting = Money??

I went to a training session that was supposed to train me up on research grant account management this afternoon, advertised as compulsory for PIs (principal investigators). It was a crock.

The system is hysterically named ‘Aggresso’.

[there are little gnome-like accountants in a room somewhere laughing at the havoc they have wreaked].

I am furious.

1. that I did not get an email from anyone who was at the morning session warning not to go!

2. what they told us was sub-basic. How to log in, how to find an IP address (ask an IT specialist!!!)

3. all the problems of the old system are to be compounded with new dumbness.

4. its beta – even the instructor seems unsure of what he is doing (poor chap, nice tie, waste of space job).

5. I am probably going to be fired for what I wrote on the session feedback form. Ah well.

6. it had the merit of being shorter than advertised. I would have died if it took 3 hours.

And the sun is shining outside. I may have to return to my earlier career as a picture framer, butcher or newspaper boy.

pzzfftt*zt$ggh! I am going for lunch.

Borg USA

The winner of the design for the headquarters of “compelling all nations to adopt the bourgeois mode of production” is a thief. KieranTimberlake seems to have copied the idea for the building to house the London US Embassy directly from the lovable integrators of Star Trek fame – its a Borg Cube! Where is Captain Janeaway when we need her? (no, not that crazed Mentat. We are doomed). In all other respects the building is a great idea – yup, lets build a postmodern castle with a moat, just to emphasize how unlovable US bureaucracy can be.

Amazon Ironies

Gffzzzzttttzzgg!, I bought Harvey’s Marx Prompter online (I know, I should’ve ordered it from a real bookshop, but I was in a hurry) and now I get some sort of unanticipated refund, just as I was rereading the section on Credit. And my ‘dividend’? – 50 pence. Wow – you bet I have some ‘questions about their refund policy’ (basically, I’ve lent them 50 p for a week – it all adds to the nectar they leach out of us – see pic):

From Amazon:

We are writing to confirm that we have processed your refund in the amount of £0.50 for your Order 202-483690-478037.

This refund is for the following item(s):

Item: A Companion to Marx’s Capital
Quantity: 1
ASIN: 1844673596
Reason for refund: Pre-order price protection

The following is the breakdown of your refund for this item:

Item Refund: £0.50

Your refund is being credited as follows:

MasterCardDebit Credit Card [ending with 6055]: £0.50

These amounts will be returned to your payment instruments within 10 business days.

Have questions about our refund policy? Contact Amazon.co.uk

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