CJW: Welcome to another issue of nothing here. Lots to share, so let's get into it.
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m1k3y (MKY) - @eattrainrevolt
Lidia Zuin (LZ) - Journalist, MA in semiotics, and PhD in Arts. Sci-fi writer, futurology researcher and essayist. @lidiazuin
CJW: The US Military Has Long Stood in the Way of Climate Change Action - Michael Franczak at Jacobin
[...] the Department of Defense is the world’s largest institutional user of petroleum and its single largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases. The Pentagon produces more emissions than entire developed countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Portugal. For the last forty years, its entire military strategy was premised on protecting access to Persian Gulf oil — as in so many other cases, helping to create the enemy it now fights[, climate change].
In a nice little bit of serendipity, here's an essay on US military emissions, which I referred to last issue. This in particular is on US attempts to avoid military emissions being in any way curbed until now when they released a self-serving statement about future plans.
CJW: Imagine Other Futures - Chiara Di Leone at Noema
The social and economic aspects of the IPCC’s future scenarios are merely different flavors of extractive capitalism: They all include economic growth, obsolete measurements of “well-being” and undefinable concepts like “sustainability.” Worst of all, they frame climate change within the bounds of some imagined cost-benefit analysis, as if the writers are only going so far as to answer the question: “Until when can we extract and exploit both the planet and workers without threatening our way of life or profits?”
The main reason for this is the institutional nature of the process: The IPCC report must be approved, line by line, by 195 countries. It seems unlikely that some revolutionary socioeconomic configuration (which is indeed what is needed) will emerge when the most powerful nations on the planet need to reach a consensus on what kinds of politics will and should be prominent in the coming decades. As a result, these social and economic pathways end up reproducing a future that’s all too familiar.
On the ways the climate change story is being told and the nature of scientific predictions more broadly.
Mike Cannon-Brookes: Can a tech billionaire squash Australia's coal industry by buying it? - Alice Klein at New Scientist (via Sentiers)
Kenya to use solar panels to boost crops by 'harvesting the sun twice' - Geoffrey Kamadi at The Guardian (via Sentiers) - CJW: If you're not across agrivoltaics, this is a great intro/example.
Authoritarian Nationalism—and Western Militarism—Are Climate Problems - Kate Arnoff at The New Republic
The IPCC has a stark warning on carbon dioxide removal - Brian Khan at protocol.com
U.S.-Backed Companies Poised to Expand Mining in the Amazon - Katie Surma at undark.org
I’ve been sticking with Foreign Exchanges for all of my Ukraine coverage - they might have fumbled at first with doubts that war would break out, but now that it has, they’ve been doing great work. The below offers a timeline if you want a rundown of events as they've been happening.
And some other related things I've found worth sharing:
All of these people gather in packs on platforms and in the tunnels but it is never completely clear which train is coming and where it is going when it leaves. Many people have pets. Olga, 63, cradles an elderly hairless cat named Simon swaddled head to toe in blankets and scarves, his tiny wrinkled head peeking out like ET in the bike basket. I have never pet a hairless cat before so I rub him gently behind the ear and he leans into it and smiles just like my cat does. His skin is soft like an earlobe. I show Olga a picture of my cat and she coos.
I included this because there is so much talk about the war in macro (not to mention mis/disinformation, propaganda, and cringe), but pieces (and anecdotes) like the above serve to remind that there are real, regular people caught up in these conflicts.
It is worth thinking about who is allowed humanity, and whose humanity is erased. This is how we come to understand the narratives that shape so much of our thinking about the world—the way in which we are conditioned to feel a burst of human kinship with some people, and forget that other people even exist. It’s also one way we can begin to set different expectations—to demand, for instance, that the standards we are applying right now [to Ukraine] are applied the next time Israel attacks Gaza, or the next time that the United States intervenes in a sovereign country. It’s not that Ukrainians don’t deserve to be covered like this. It’s that everyone else deserves to be covered like Ukrainians.
Emphasis mine. Fairly brief and well worth the read. On the racism inherent in much coverage of the war. There's a similar strain of racism being revealed in the response to Ukrainian refugees versus refugees from other parts of the world, but I haven't come across a good article about that. Maybe next time.
Here Buddy Matt has summed up some of my thoughts (more eloquently than I might have) about the public/social media response to Russia invading Ukraine.
There is, of course, the ambient sense that if you’re not talking about all of this, there’s something wrong with you. But there’s equally a sensation that comes from the other side — if you are talking about this, are you really saying anything? Or just contributing to the information smokescreen? The libs are doing cringe Marvel takes again! But it feels like cringe all the way down. I hate the posturing as much as I hate the cynicism. I hate the noise. All the noise, the constant noise, seems like petty squabbling whilst the world burns.
And a related thought coming from Nathan Jurgenson in the Real Life Mag newsletter - not on Ukraine, but on the value (and possible lack thereof) in posting:
Despite this, the obligation to remain informed, to belong to the collective flow seems irresistible, as if it were irresponsible to be ignorant, though I don't know from what standpoint I could judge myself to be truly understanding anything. From within the grip of sad passions, I want to make some show of potency, assert a capacity to act: I want to write something, post something, share something that strikes me as useful or efficacious. The platforms are there for me. After all who knows what chain of circumstances my gestures might enact? But there is no guarantee that my reactivity isn't just redistributing the sense of urgent uselessness I'm afflicted with, imposing my sad passions on who knows who.
MKY: So, Just Making Sure That We Agree: It's OK To Seize Oligarchs' Stuff Now - Sam Thielman at Forever Wars
“We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets,” Biden told the oligarchs popularly considered to be propping up Russian strongman Vladimir Putin during his State of the Union on Tuesday evening. “We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.” I agree with President Biden: No war but the class war.
That little slip of the tongue—“ill-begotten”—is maybe my favorite part of his speech. It suggests that the fortunes of oligarchs are conceived in sin, and that may be the truest thing about wealth any president has ever said. Fortunes of billions of dollars are evil. Even in the rare case that they are not built on human suffering, they cannot be maintained except by evil means.
from gangsters of capitalism to pirates of socialism. also:
CJW: Why targeting ethnic minority journalists is central to China’s crackdown on the press - Erica Hellerstein at Coda
Many people I interviewed pointed out that the former party secretary in Tibet subsequently became the Chinese party secretary of Xinjiang. In Tibet, he expanded policing and cultural assimilation, and developed a widespread surveillance system. Experts say he continued to implement those same policies in Xinjiang. While the repression and government justification for it is distinct in each respective region, some see Tibet as a testing ground for the campaign later deployed in Xinjiang.
A piece on Chinese control/repression of the media and its transnational program of intimidation etc deployed in an effort to quell dissent and the dissemination of information the CCP would rather keep under wraps. Draws connections between the decades of Chinese occupation of Tibet and the media silencing happening there with the situation in Xinjiang.
DCH: Saudi-Russia Collusion Is Driving Up Gas Prices — and Worsening Ukraine Crisis - Ken Klippenstein at The Intercept
“Putin and MBS have much in common, including murdering their critics at home and abroad, intervening in their neighbors by force and trying to get oil prices as high as possible,” Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former CIA analyst with expertise in the Middle East, said in an email to The Intercept. “Putin will do MBS a great service if he invades Ukraine and sends oil prices through the roof.”
In fact, both nations reduced oil production in the lead up to the invasion in an effort to increase economic tensions abroad. And it worked to keep oil-dependent European nations nervous about aggressive sanctions.
DCH: ‘I’ll Stand on the Side of Russia’: Pro-Putin Sentiment Spreads Online - Stuart A. Thompson and Davey Alba at NYTimes
In all, pro-Russian narratives on English-language social media, cable TV, and print and online outlets soared 2,580 percent in the past week compared to the first week of February, according to an analysis by the media insights company Zignal Labs. Those mentions cropped up 5,740 times in the past week, up from 214 in the first week of February, Zignal said.
This is on the back of years of pro-Putin sentiment from Tucker Carlson and Trump and others in the GOP. The traditional Reaganist faction is ever dwindling despite some time in the spotlight right now due to the invasion. Worth noting there’s a third emergent faction that’s cherry picking tenets of both. I’m sure they’ll be proper lunatics when they have their time in the sun.
How China built a one-of-a-kind cyber-espionage behemoth to last - Patrick Howell O'Neill MIT Technology Review
Fake social media users with AI-generated photos are spreading lies for Russia - Annie Rauwerda at inputmag.com
Let’s Recall What Exactly Paul Manafort and Rudy Giuliani Were Doing in Ukraine - Ilya Marritz at ProPublica
We Should Seize the Yachts of Russian Oligarchs. And Western Ones Too - Edward Ongweso Jr VICE
College kid’s Twitter bot that stalks Musk’s jet now tracking Russian oligarchs - Tim De Chant at Ars Technica (DCH: Sure would be terrible if something bad happened to all those oligarchs…)
LZ: How to talk to science deniers - Massimo Pigliucci at Skeptical Inquirer
Interesting research about how sceptics should approach science deniers. Rather than ignoring them or trying to prove with scientific evidence, there’s other ways to actually change their minds for good.
On His Way to Theoretically Colonize Mars, Elon Musk Is Actually Colonizing South Texas - Abe Asher at Jacobin - CJW: We've shared ESGHound's coverage of SpaceX's shitty environmental practices in South Texas, and this piece is on the effect it's having on the town and people. DCH: Fuck Musk
Are Microbes the Future of Recycling? It’s Complicated. - Ula Chrobak undark.org
Mysterious Medical Organizations Are Calling for an End to COVID Vaccines - Anna Merlan at VICE (DCH: Mysterious is another word for “fake”)
LZ: Drug dealer busted after picture of his hand holding cocaine showed fingerprints - Sam Courtney-Guy at Metro
Really looking forward to Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future. Joke aside, this is very interesting and frightful if you consider that tech-savvy stalkers have been doing this kind of stuff for a long time.
CJW: In Argentina, cheap government-issued netbooks sparked a musical renaissance - Juan José Relmucao at Rest of world (via APH)
A bit of a feel-good story (and we fucking need those, don't we) about the creative boom that happened in Argentina when the government provided free netbooks to every school student.
MJW: I can’t help but think about the creative potential lost before the scheme was implemented. I hope that it continues into the future.
DCH: Trapped in Silicon Valley’s Hidden Caste System - Sonia Paul at Wired
When they do find their way to the US, Dalits tend to keep their backgrounds private to avoid inviting trouble. “It is very, very dangerous, revealing the identity even to any person,” says Siddhant, who asked to use a pseudonym. In 2020, such fears may have seemed justified when a California state agency filed a lawsuit against the San Jose–based tech giant Cisco, alleging caste discrimination against a Dalit employee. In the weeks that followed, more Dalit tech workers came forward. A South Asian civil rights group called Equality Labs received more than 250 unsolicited complaints against colleagues at Google, Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook, among other places. The individuals claimed that other Indians had made casteist slurs, engaged in discriminatory hiring and firing, sexually harassed them, and aggressively hunted for evidence of a closeted Dalit’s caste.
I’ve seen this play out inside of large tech consultancies too. Not surprised at all to see the same playing out in Silicon Valley. So much for “meritocracy”, right?
False Futurism - Paris Marx at Real Life Mag
The Ukraine War Is Testing the Myth of Elon Musk - Marina Koren The Atlantic
The SEC is investigating Elon Musk and his brother for insider trading - Anna Kramer at Protocol
The secret police: Local and federal cops built a shadowy surveillance machine in Minnesota after George Floyd’s murder - Sam Richards & Tate Ryan-Mosley at MIT Technology Review
CJW: Soviet Nostalgia Now Has Its Own Soundtrack - Dean Van Nguyen at Jacobin
This is music that’s soothing on the ear, combating the tired cliche that the old Eastern Bloc was endlessly grim, gray, and monotonous. Themes of space exploration and the technological achievement of man further its beauty. Many tracks capture the loneliness and enchantment of outer space, with the grand synth lines representing its infinite nature, the beeps and blips sounding like analogue communications coming through as you gaze at the Earth from orbit.
The past couple of decades has witnessed a movement in Russia to resurrect a sense of a great history. For Vladimir Putin and the kind of nationalism he feeds, this is a nostalgia that’s linked to the memory of being a global power. But for the young people scavenging for various aspects of Soviet culture, it comes from a desire to experience what they, or their parents, remember with warmth.
Considering, well everything, some people might take issue with me sharing this, but I found it interesting for a couple of reasons. First, just the fact that the same wave of retro nostalgia is alive and well in the former Eastern Bloc, and second, the fact that so many people who lived under Soviet rule see that the communal aspect of life then was better than the hollow offerings of our current capitalist regime (yes, yes, the USSR was fucked for any number of reasons - that doesn't mean our Now isn't just as fucked in its own distinct ways).
[...] historian Kristen R. Ghodsee [said] in an interview with Jacobin in December:
It’s many different monuments, symbols, movies, and all sorts of cultural artifacts of this era that recapture a sense of optimism and a futuristic, utopian outlook that gets us out of the morass of what people call late-stage capitalism. There is a reason why people are gravitating to symbols of the socialist past. It’s not just kitsch or irony. It’s about trying to go back and capture some of the utopian spirit of these earlier generations, because we need it really badly right now.
LZ: The Turn of the Dial: Seeking God in the Fringes - Susan Ishmael at Parabola
Lingua Ignota posted a few curious photos on her Instagram, which made me try to figure out the source. Turns out I found this interesting article. I just love oddities.
The Story Behind UCL's Rejection of Stonewall - Cheese Grater Magazine
How Heeding Disabled People Can Help Everyone Survive Crises - by and via Damien Williams at Slate
True Lies - Viktoria Binschtok at Real Life Mag (DCH: great read on conspiracism)
Who Is St. Javelin and Why Is She a Symbol of the War in Ukraine? - Matthew Gault VICE (DCH: St. Javelin, The Ghost of Kyiv, The Ukrainian Reaper, The Sunflower Seed Witch… the amount of mythmaking springing up is staggering)
Broken Homes of the Drug War - David Helps at Protean Magazine
DOJ: White supremacists hoped to ignite “race war” by attacking power grids - Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica
41 million Americans are QAnon believers, survey finds. - Tiffany Hsu, The New York Times
LZ: Tips for baking with arthritis and other hand-related chronic pain - Annabelle Nicholson at King Arthur Baking
Yep, this is pretty specific, but I myself love baking and have been diagnosed a few times with fibromyalgia. In my case, it’s not so bad to the point I’m unable to bake or even draw, but thought this could be useful for some readers.
CDC estimates 140 million Americans have had COVID, about double case reports - Beth Mole at Ars Technica
DCH: Revealed: Credit Suisse leak unmasks criminals, fraudsters and corrupt politicians theguardian.com
This month, Credit Suisse became the first major Swiss bank in the country’s history to face criminal charges – which it denies – relating to allegation it helped launder money from the cocaine trade on behalf of the Bulgarian mafia.
Tons of laundered and hidden Russian oligarch money. Sadly CS donors gave over $100,000 to the Biden campaign. And it looks like that’s paying off for them already.
DCH: The elaborate con that tricked dozens into working for a fake design agency by Leo Sands, bbc.com
Days were often long. Jordan Carter from Suffolk, who was 26 at the time, was credited with being one of the hardest working members of Chris's sales team. In five months, he pitched Madbird to 10,000 possible business clients, hoping to win deals to redesign websites or build apps. By January 2021, his work ethic had earned him the title Employee of the Month.
10,000 cold calls is such a crazy red flag that it does my head in. I feel terrible for all the people suckered by this bullshit. But the whole client services industry is built on lies anyway. It’s no wonder so many people got conned. Every agency sounds like this.
DCH: The Five-Day Workweek Is Dying by Derek Thompson, theatlantic
Add it up—three days in the office for tech and media workers; four days in-person for hospital staff—and the five-day workweek seems endangered. Bloom suggested that schools might respond to these changes by offering teachers Monday or Friday off, which could be the nail in the coffin of the old-fashioned workweek.
This is all a bit speculative, and I can already see how these changes will be celebrated by some (Summer Fridays forever!) and problematic for others (Wait, what do I do if my kid’s school cancels Friday classes forever?). But the big-picture prediction is plausible: If the five-day office week is a goner for knowledge workers, the consequences could touch every corner of the labor market.
It’s going to be an excruciatingly slow death and it absolutely won’t be distributed equitably for a long time but I’m genuinely hopeful that it will happen.
WATCH: NYPD Arrests Amazon Union Organizers at Staten Island Warehouse - Lauren Kaori Gurley at VICE (DCH: Christian Smalls is a god damned hero and this is absolute bullshit.
Microsoft Outlook Fail Screws Up Latest Starbucks Union-Busting Effort - Karl Bode at VICE
Uber’s Proposal for Portable Benefits Is a Poison Pill - Simon Archer at Jacobin (DCH: it’s the same issue state-side too but with disastrous and disheartening support from the Teamsters too)
Secretive Algorithm Will Now Determine Uber Driver Pay in Many Cities – Dara Kerr at The Markup
Despite Amazon’s Propaganda, Local Alabamans Overwhelmingly Support the Bessemer Union Drive - Luke Savage at Jacobin
Man sues Amazon for delivery van collision, blames ‘undue pressure’ on drivers - Samira Sadeque at The Guardian
Ukraine War Profiteering and the Shipping Cartel - mattstoller.substack.com
Antitrust Cops Put Handcuffs for CEOs on the Table - Matt Stoller, mattstoller.substack.com (DCH: Finally)
LZ: Carmilla, by Sheridan Le Fanu
I love a witch house band called Mircalla (or actually M‡яc△ll△), but I never read the book with the origin of this name. But now I sorted this out and finished this rather short and enchanting book. It’s older than Stoker’s Dracula, so some may say it’s the true origin of vampirism in literature, and additionally, it’s a great gothic novel. I like how the language is kind of feminine, delicate, even subtle, though the book was written by a man.
MJW: Scream (2021)
CJW and I watched this at an airbnb in the country, and halfway through the power went out. Eeeep! I’m not a fan of horror movies (I hate gore and being scared) but I always have time for a Scream movie because they are fun and the gore is light. Once again, the Screamers are meta as fuck, but the new cast doesn’t have the same stuff as the original gang, so luckily the old folks show up to go through it all again. The new heroine had zero charisma, is no Neve Campbell for sure, so I’m glad Sidney came back halfway through. If they are hoping to restart the franchise they might need a better MC.
MKY: this really felt like a case of ‘good being the enemy of great’, it being too busy requelling and being emphatically FOR WES to be like, fun and um, scary? But the meta-monologue bit explains why I liked Terminator: Dark Fate and the most recent Halloween back2back requels to the orig Halloweens. And such. The TV series vers of Scream were much much much better.
MKY: All of Us Are Dead (Netflix South Korea)
Yet another zombie show? Well, yeah. But I found this series especially gritty, using zombies to talk about bullying in school and other fun class and social issues. Giving us yet another interesting origin tale for a rage virus. Ultimately it all ends up being a spooky origin story for yet another Human Exclusion Zone. And I suspect we’ll see a few more of those coming soon… for some reason. If you liked the bleakness of Black Summer, you’ll be up for this too.
What can we say… Russian invasion of Ukraine. I’m not particularly versed in geopolitics, but oftentimes I tend to learn things and address these topics through art and culture. So here is a band you must know.
This is a Russian electronic/hip hop duo and their lyrics are mostly provocative towards Russian politics. They used to go to all protests held in the country, being against war, against homophobia, you name it. Because they were so assertive in their way of addressing these problems, some of their gigs were cancelled (literally, cops went to clubs and shut it) and they needed to move away from Moscow and live in the woods (you can see an interesting interview here).
This video is one of their most controversial ones, but there’s also the song TRRST (Terrorist) in which they address the fact that they were put on Russia’s black list – meaning, they can be killed next time they “misbehave.” Well, now fans are spamming “she knows it” in Nastya’s Instagram account because their songs (mostly written by her) already gave a glimpse of what it means to be living in contemporary Russia and what Putin’s regime is capable of doing – and paying the price for doing so.
CJW: Hidetaka Miyazaki Sees Death as a Feature, Not a Bug - Simon Parkin at The New Yorker
It’s unusual for such a figure to be company director: the demands of running a business can easily smother creative endeavor. But Miyazaki sees himself as an outsider in the managerial class; he observes fellow-C.E.O.s like an anthropologist, joking that he sometimes uses them as inspiration for his monsters. He’s also a nurturing boss—his team routinely calls him for personal advice—and is acutely aware of the hazards of the empowered auteur. “The thing I prize is total openness from the staff; I try to be frank about my own mistakes,” he said. “Because of my influence over these games, people are often reluctant to give their honest opinion, even when it may matter most. So I try not to let pride get involved, and try to create trust.”
A fantastic profile on Hidetaka Miyazaki, the creator behind Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and the newly-released Elden Ring. I shared the above quote because I like that Miyazaki seems like a decent sort, and someone who hasn’t lost sight of the creative aspects of the industry even after great success and a promotion to management. You don’t need to search too far to find that it’s often the worst sort of people in charge of game studios and publishers.
LZ: Hexcast Playlist
A long time ago, I had a podcast called Hexcast that was broadcasted first in an online radio from Brazil and then from the UK. It was a time when witch house was a thing: this new kind of electronic music with spooky tones, lots of reverb, collage of movie quotes, and a cult adoration for horror movies and books. I only realised now that it’s been 8 years already! I’m old, old as balls!
CJW: Mark Lanegan (1964-2022)
You might know Mark Lanegan’s voice from The Screaming Trees, or from his long stint as a permanent guest singer in Queens of the Stone Age, but I got into Mark Lanegan’s music through his 2004 album Bubblegum, which features an incredible line-up of musicians and singers, and is simply a phenomenal album. His next was Blue Funeral, which is less eclectic but possibly an even stronger album - it feels intimate but with a rock n roll heart at its core, the tinge of blues sadness, and pulsing synth on some of the tracks just to keep you guessing.
He’s got many more albums - so much more that I’ll be able to discover and rediscover as the years go on - but these two have never been far from my ears since their release.
Rest well, Mark.
I’ve been studying digital painting for the past weeks and I love to discover new artists that do bring some spice to the scene. I’m not sure about the media this artist uses, also because digital art has grown very realistic with some textured brushes and new apps. Anyways, I just love how this person is channelling a chaotic version of Picasso with some bits of De Chirico and the angst of Guernica. Lovely work.
In the last issue, you probably saw our recommendation for a great article published at IEEE about Second Sight and their lack of support to people who got implants from them. Inspired by that and other stories, I wrote this essay talking a bit about the promises of being a cyborg and the difficulties that lie way beyond medicine and technology.
Latest episode of the K-files from your Buddies without Organs, with special guest Amy Ireland. It’s ostensibly a discussion about the CCRU post Who’s Pulling Your Strings?, but we talk a lot about hyperstition, the Ccru more generally, belief and unbelief, the numogram, and plenty more.