Thomas for US President.

Europe launches her own presidential candidate for the US Election in 2008

The Europe 2008 Exploratory Committee is sending representatives in July 2007 to canvass the US for a suitable native-born American presidential candidate. The candidate will pledge to run for president in 2008 on a platform of European issues such as

· Enhanced international cooperation through bodies like the UN and EU
· To leave the case of Iran for Europe to deal with
· Withdrawing all US troops from Iraq, replacing them with UN forces and European intellectuals
· Quick implementation of the Kyoto protocol with a further pledge to cut greenhouse emissions by 50% in 2050
· Recommit Federal Government to the rule of law
· Recommit the US to the International Criminal Court treaty and 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
· The immediate closure of the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay
· A universal national single-payer health care system
· Cutting federal funding for faith-based initiatives and charitable choice programs
· Banning religiously-based curricula in government-funded public schools
· Slashing all tariffs on European-make vehicles
· Limiting bans on indoor smoking
· Increasing federal funding of stem cell research, abolishing all restrictions
· An ambitious federal programme of subsidies for soccer and cricket schools across the nation

The delegation will be headed by PNEC Chairman Thomas Altheimer and Senior Press Officer Simon Robertsen, acting as exemplary Europeans.

Altheimer says this to the press:
“We have a huge task in front of us but I am confident that Europe eventually will win the hearts and minds of the great American people. The character and the abilities of our presidential candidate will obviously not be of capital importance, as he or she will be assisted at all times by a team of capable European advisers. The only requirements are to be able to appear likeable to the general public and to dress in style—except for the latter, not unlike the current incumbent.”

Simon Robertsen adds:
“Ours is a message of common-sense, secularism, good taste—and maybe also of slight decadence. Foremost it is a message of hope. Unlike the nationalist Europe of the past, modern-day Europe has, through painful experience, matured to offer the world thoughtful, visionary, multilateral leadership—moving the world towards an all inclusive future where every individual is given a voice. I believe we will see a new cosmopolitan world order arise from this campaign.”

Tel: +44 (0)7946 733 092
Tel: +44 (0)7812 796 740
Fax: +44 (0)8701 349 567
See for further information and documentation

New York Parades

I have more than I can write, to write, to transcribe from notes, to reconstruct. To meditate on the relation of the road to writing, and to vehicles for writing, and how the vehicular mode of writing keeps the narratives of the next next next chugging along.

But right now – in New York. I am stuck here at JFK. Our plane was hit by lightning and sustained some sort of damage that makes it unroadworthy or whatever the aeronautical equivalent of a flat tire might be. So, by the facility of airport wi fi provision…

Working backwards. Today I watched the Pride parade. Big bikes hurtling down 5th avenue. Men and women in leathers. Leather men. New York parades are very parade like – the dykes on bikes have band-leader like co-ordinators – a cross between the person who waves the flag at the end of the grand prix and the one with the little paddles that waves in planes at the airport (only rainbow-striped).

The day before Christina took me to the ‘last ever’ Coney Island Mermaid Parade. If anything, this was more colourful and more raunchy than the Pride parade. Apparently they are selling off all the rides at Coney Island so as to develop the site for condominiums. Christina wanted me to bid for the Cyclone (wooden roller coaster – would be great to have that in Kennington Park). The picture above is from that parade.

Friday evening I spoke at Revolution Books. They say its provided a model for future discussions of the type, so I am happy with how it went. How did it go? – they sat me in one of those big comfy drawing room chairs with 19th Century style wings, surrounded by audience on a further curiously diverse array of seating, and the bookshelves providing suggestive diversions for what was an unstructured talk (that I will write up soon) but which generated a further two hours of discussion even after I’d finished my 1.5 hr ramble through my issues. I signed books afterwards, which usually makes me feel very strange, but which was handled really well by the organisers at Rev Books, and Ray Lotta who masterminded it all. The write up will extend from the Plassey and the Black Hole, via the ‘mutiny’ also known as the first all India war against the British East India Company, through to issues of organisation and theory debates today, and all that stuff about chapattis I mention in Bad Marxism. Seemed to go well. I’ll posta link when its written up.

The days before were spent in High Falls, upstate New York (Camp Taussig). A meeting of about 14 keen people started with a discussion of road travels (from Daniella) that suggested the opening for this post above, but now that I come to try to write it up I realise there is far too much that went on for me to append it all here while sitting so angular in an airport lounge chair. Mick’s talk was great – slight ref here – and debates with Al Lingus, Todd Ochoa (there will be cowboy boots for all after the revolution, and is ‘journalist’ an insult for you as it is for me?), Lenyo, Daniella (the road to lyrical erudition really started us off well), Kostas (the bread story on friday morning was great), Bina, Christina (shout out to Quigley), Dora and more. There is much much much to say on this, but… the sterility of the airport lounge and waning batTery power means my current predicament is not all that conducive to talking about riverside feasts and late night campfire philosophizing… and video activism amidst the fireflies….

And being here has meant missing Imogen very much, and Roh too. Both are fondley remembered at 113 and Broadway.

Lal Salaam, NYC 24 June 2007.

Camp Taussig

I promise there will be more reports here and on Trinketization about our visit to Camp Taussig, where we have much discussed over and under, inside and outside (by the river, by the campfire) the anthro predicament, the writing premedicament, the global indictment… and despite my well rehearsed reservations, there is something to be said for gatherings that challenge and provoke a revaluation/change of temperament… So, more to come, but for the moment this little bit will have to serve as a holding report on a talk Mick gave here in High Falls (I am writing by the river now) and just this gap in time will be all there is to evoke the deep method-anti-method thought that has churned out Indigo lives here. Hate to have to say it, yet there are reasons to think anthro can still be redeemed (if it changes completely). Yet even this only if everyone takes the time to work through politics/ghosts/writing/voodoo/imperialism/beauty/institutions/… and much more besides.

Short coins

Some years ago, I wrote a piece about the coins Job Charnok used to buy the three villages that eventually became the city of Kolkata. These were pieces of silver earned from the slave trade, making an interesting if brutal link between the great British adventure of exploitation in India and across the Atlantic. Coins are of course the potent symbol of capitalism. And I guess of stereotypes about Calcutta too – that scene with the coin tricks in the Swayze film City of Joy. THere is much more to say (so dig out my chapter on Calcutta coinages in Bell and Haddour’s book “City Visions” 2000), but this little item caught my eye today as I was perusing the northern press (as one does):

“Mysterious shortage of coins grips Calcutta

This is from The Scotsman 16 June 2007

A MYSTERIOUS coin shortage gripping Calcutta has shop-keepers begging for change from beggars and buying coins at prices above their face value.

No one knows exactly why there is no change in the eastern Indian city, but the situation has spurred the Reserve Bank of India to emergency measures, distributing millions of coins to try to satisfy the demand.

Since the coin shortage became acute in early June, the bank has distributed five mill-ion rupees ($121,950) worth of coins, including a million on Thursday alone, said Nilanjan Saha, the bank’s treasurer in the city. But the emergency supplies have failed to stem the demand.

“There is no reason for it ,” said Saha. “But I have heard reports that some unscrupulous traders are melting coins because the face value of the coins is lower than the metal value.”

apple is apple

There was a chap in Calcutta back in the late 1980s who insisted that all religions were ‘the same’. He’d often say over and over: ‘apple is apple – one apple one god’. It seemed profound at the time, and I wished I’d remembered that today when I was giving a talk at Columbia University Ethnomusicology department (I’m not 100% sure that is the official name of the dept -thanks Tylor for organising – do see their mag Current Musicology). The issue at stake was whether comrade Aki Nawaz saw himself as some sort of representative of Muslim youth. I think not, even if Aki has been known to say stuff like ‘Islam is a more serious kind of punk’, its not always necessary to mark everything out in terms of the mainstream gut-reaction oppositions of the day, even so Fun^da^mental can speak as often from a ‘Muslim perspective’ as from any other. I see no problem with that given the amount of time, say, the Police are not asked if they are speaking from the perspective of the forces or order, I mean as Christians. I mean, isn’t that what keeps Sting going, despite all the Buddhist claptrap he is want to spout for sales purposes? (I know I know, that is hardly fair – ah well – but their reforming and playing here just means they are deserving some degree of lampooning. That old story of Burroughs, when introduced to the band, telling his friends to get rid of any gear they might be holding, still deserves a wry smile).

Speaking at Columbia was fun, in a well-kitted out room (projector, sound, stereo system all working flawlessly). Suffice to say the discussion was engaging, and had much to do with relative degrees of irony in politics (the talk was about hip hop and politics in the UK – surprise). Discussion helped along by Charity Scribner and David Graeber (soon joining Goldsmiths), an interesting PhD candidate called Tim, Stephanie the super-assistant, and of course the wonderful Sherilyn. We then repaired to 20-10 (??) for drinks, baseball, the worlds largest pizza slices, and disturbingly potent free drinks from the barman also called Tim (who seemed to like playing Steve Miller songs much more than is reasonable).

Before having to trek back uptown to retrieve a key to Charity’s flat because I had mixed up the originals I had cut this morning (for a dollar), I found this charming mark (see picture) someone had written in the concrete near the corner of Christopher St and 7th. Awwwww. How idealistic and romantic is that? No initials, no slogan – though this pavement mark was alongside a wallposter which read: ‘Slow down and smell the Garbage – NY easy’. Says a lot I think, in these humid summer days. I can hear Frank singing something about the city having been named twice or something.

On to High Falls.

Tickets Please

Diary entry: Yesterday on a bus trip through New Cross I witnessed police officers explain, in escalating tones, that the demand to know why the bus was being delayed was misplaced because officers were ‘assaulted every day by people without tickets’. This seems perverse and twisted. Travelling in a uniformed strength-in-numbers group of twenty, some of whom were armed, suggests that the excess enthusiasm of the transport police for ‘ticket inspection’ will soon again result in further deaths like that which was visited upon Brazilian tube traveller Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell in 2005. Such a repeat scenario seems especially likely 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 ‘pig nation’ flunky in charge raised his voice and muscled up to her. No need to guess that any other appellant might have not got off the bus so freely. We applauded her courage, but somewhat meekly.

Context: On the 11th of May 2007, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) cleared 11 officers of any ‘wrong doing’ in the shooting of Brazilian tube passenger Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell in 2005. The IPCC left four senior officers, including shoot-to-kill Commander Cressida Dick, to await a separate report into issues of ‘health and safety’. Menezes was gunned down on Commander’s orders in the wake of the fear and paranoia the possessed the capitol after the tube bombings of July 7, 2005. An unarmed man slaughtered on his daily commute.

Let me try to address the ‘health and safety’ issues directly. Are we living in a healthy place when the police – indeed armed gangs – aggressively patrol our everyday lives (to serve and protect??). I think of the other nodes of travel which have become over-determined sites in the ‘war on terror’. Of course airports have long been strategic, and the vision of tanks lined up outside Heathrow is always not far off (they were stationed there on high alert in February 2003).

Such is the danger to the health and safety of tube travellers, and other denizens of the city, that by the middle of 2006 the ‘Kratos’ shoot-to-kill policy that targets suspected terrorists had been called upon 250 times, with close use in seven instances (and this is according to Scotland Yard Chief Ian Blair, then also under fire in relation to the bungled Forest Gate raid BBC 3 October 2006).

The ancient figure of Kratos was son of a Titan and said to be the personification of force – that itself is revealing, as an outdated old mythological name is resurrected at a meeting of the political police and MI5 in 2003 (“Panorama” 8 March 2006) to stand in for yet more unregulated police powers (M15 and Kratos are ‘secret’), to be recklessly deployed on public transport. We are the enemy. On the tube, on the buses. And not safe on bikes (see picture, then this).

What shall we do about the explosion of fear and hyperbole that turns the police and their controllers, commanders and apologists into a paranoid armed band of killers?

I do not know her name, but on the bus in New Cross yesterday we were shown the way.

More on Jean Charles de Menezes via search.

For a social science of science fiction

‘What is the connection between science and fiction?’ asks Maurice Blanchot (in Nouvelle Review Française vol 7 no 3 1959 pp91-100, reprinted recently in Arena 25/26 2006). There is considerable material, good science and bad, to justify a long disquisition on the role of technological development among the stars (but breath easy, we’ll not enter that deep space vacuum today). In a future work (ha!) the science of Warp Drive, teleportation, dilythium processing and other tek-babble can be examined. What I am interested in today is where there might also be, as Blanchot points out, discussion of sciences other than physics. In the Trek series film Resurrection, the Federation is undertaking ‘ethnographic studies’ of apparently pre-warp culture, observing from behind an electronic hide-like screen. Due to a malfunction of the kiddy-point-of-view android character Data (I hate Data), the Federation’s voyeuristic documentary invasion and, as is later shown, its complicity with opportunistic exploitation, is exposed. The Prime Directive is once again in danger of violation.

But the violation of the pre-warp is not just a violation of the so-called pre-historical. There are other conceptions damaged along the way (path, trek, track). I’m thinking history and psychoanalysis have to be part of the array. There are many questions for the surviving philosophico-psych-anthrop-planning-film genre crit-political economy crew…

What has the militarization of space done to the imagination of planetary futures if not a foreshortening of possibility? We are presented with a uniform(ed) and hierarchical horizon of anxiety – spaces of fear; a star map of commerce. The key tropes of the Battlestar and the trade vessel (Ripley’s Corporation in the Alien series) might often be subject of critique in sci fi film, but the way we can think – of the possible and the impossible in space – is thereby transduced exponentially downwards.

What lifestyle does the techno-military power of the Federation defend? Up until the Voyager series it was unrivalled commodity abundance on demand, and perpetual travel. Subsequently the replication of ‘Earl Grey Tea Hot’ remains possible, but the boldly-go model of tourism in space is somewhat downgraded into a desperate flight for home. There was a time when the future was a promise of all things improved – new machines and new solutions. Cylons are superior humans, Data is a better robot (but why do Cylons feel pain, why do they want births? Data is the android with a electric sheep’s dreaming). Today the future becomes a worse version of war – an Iraq for all; an avian virus for all; universal ecological catastrophe. The future of solution is replaced by the future of war.

A film like Serenity is typical as a cowboy movie in the same way in which Star Wars was – good versus evil; justice versus tyranny; resistance versus brutality. Of course there is the rogue survivalist turned moral crusader for the worthy resistance; and hide outs; bounties; chase sequences, the earthy wisdom of the old hand; the strong leader and his loyal if rough hewn sidekick; the romantic interest, (though in Serenity this takes on a Buddhist aspect which is hard to reconcile, since the Buddhist herself, not anyone else really, is hardly serene); shootouts; last minute escapes; guns; shooting; last ditch stands; survival… There is something missing in this desperation – and we know its an accommodationist trick – we are limiting the future to put up witht eh present. This is more than a distraction, to be combated with ideology critique (I know its a western in space, but I believe we will prevail – ‘we will fight them till we can’t’ – says Kara Thrace).

Klingons, Borg, Cardassians or even Afrofuturists; the threat to humanity in science fiction serves as a generalized fear that we, secretly, deserve. From the first interracial screen kiss on US TV, between Lt. Uhura and Ctn. Kirk (they were on a planet of psychotropic drugs – Martin Luther King visited the set), there has been a subtext worrying of racial mixture. Fear of a black planet has been the miscegenist anxiety against which ultra-conservative uniformity strives to defend (uniforms = purity). And where are the sociologists in all this – the people (unemployed future urban slum multitude beloved of Zizek) are a curiously hybrid undifferentiated mass of difference. The ground level multicultural scenario in sci fi is more often than not a predictably benign diversity. Bladerunner, Fifth Element, Serenity, and even Star Trek, invoke a world without cultural discrimination – at least insofar as this concerns the ‘federation’, the home worlds, planet prime, ‘us’ etc. The edge of space remains the space of difference and threat – Aliens, Cardassians, Bajoran resistance – all manner of threatening others, and the pre-warp underdeveloped hinterlands… suitable for mining…. So the prime directive permits some to fuck over or fuck with others, but the fear and threat kicks in whenever those others get close enough, or sassy enough – or humanoid enough – to threaten Prime itself.

As far as we seem able to imagine it, the answer to the question of the persistence of imperialism in the future will be a resounding, and depressing, yes. Inevitable exploitation by dominant group; technological inequality; refusal to redistribute wealth; expropriation of labour – the future is going to come true. And our imagination does seem to have faltered, if we take recent sci fi cinema and television as indicative of where we might now want to eventually be. Storm troopers on the march, hostile forces – meteors, rifts in time, dark lords – and any number of alien take-overs or rogue machines leave us wondering if there might ever be that promised utopia, where all Jedi commune in the force by the campfire (those annoying little Ewoks), where machines and humans productively engage (and procreate, not replicate) and where the doomed planet of gas and oil/food/water wars is a paradise regulated by intelligent planning…

But both BSG and ST.Voyager are sustained by denial of utopia. Home, or Earth, is the never attained goal for which all is endured (they will get there at the end of the series no doubt, but it will end in tears). What is endured along the never-ending way entails a systematic discipline, order, rule and regulation, so as to preserve the crew against threat (to Voyager, to the viper pilots, to the fleet, but with a certain attrition). It would be possible to ‘read off’ any number of episodes to glean parable-like lessons for life under global imperialism.

Yet for all its dystopia, the narratives of sci fi as fear surely promotes a subtext of refusal, revolt and revolution against the prevailing order. The only trouble is that any (too easy) one-to-one reading off of role models, means we have the limited vision of the borg or the cylons as blueprint for a revolutionary future. And this is not imaginary enough – we want more, better, dynamic hybrids surely.

Why do all commanders seem so keen to collect earlier vessels and sextants?

[Of all the products of sci fi here, its trek trinkets that leave me cold, though I’ve long been a fan of Ensign Ro Laren, Bajoran conscript – see the second pic, the first one is Lt Uhura of course). Also see Jean Luc’s blog here. And of course Fred Jameson’s book Archaeologies of the Future – Verso 2006 – is the sourcebook, and could have been written as the Encyclopaedia Galactica, praise the Lords of Kobol].