<![CDATA[Convergence State Update - Home]]>Thu, 03 Dec 2015 02:23:24 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Obama's Cop21 Climate Speech Signals Coming Authoritarian Rule Over Unfolding Climate Disaster]]>Wed, 02 Dec 2015 19:04:12 GMThttp://www.convergence-state.com/home/obamas-cop21-climate-speech-signals-coming-authoritarian-rule-over-unfolding-climate-disaster
On November 30th, President Obama announced to the gathered COP21 attendees and the world that "We have come to Paris to show our resolve."  The double meaning became quickly apparent as he went on to say that "We stand united in solidarity not only to deliver justice to the terrorist network responsible for [the Paris] attacks but to protect our people and uphold the enduring values that keep us strong and keep us free. And we salute the people of Paris for insisting this crucial conference go on -- an act of defiance that proves nothing will deter us from building the future we want for our children.  What greater rejection of those who would tear down our world than marshaling our best efforts to save it?"  (transcript of full speech here)

Obama was making it clear that by "resolve," first and foremost he was speaking to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.  Like the speech on climate change that would follow, it was a call to preserve the kind of world order that he represents.  "Our world," he called it, but while Westerners, liberals, Americans, and mainstream environmentalists may be quick to count themselves in that number, that easily made assumption must be weighed against reality.  

Outside the climate summit, only a handful of the hundreds of thousands of anticipated climate marchers had turned out.  Those few that took to the streets were doing so in spite of emergency laws put in place by the French government, which banned the large scale gathering that had been planned by Big Green groups months in advance.  The protesters who stuck around long enough were eventually treated to the usual barrage of tear gas and black clad, club wielding state enforcers. Authoritarian pre-crime detentions in which no crime had actually been committed also played into the strategy of Parisian officials. 

While it can and has been argued that the thwarted mass assemblage under the umbrage of corporate friendly NGO's would have done nothing of substance in the face of deeply rooted technological, economic, and cultural realities that shackle us toward hastening climate disaster, it must none the less be said that what the French government did is antithetical to basic freedom.  The suspension of foundational rights, the right to peacefully assemble and the right to free speech, could not have been lost on former constitutional lawyer Obama. 

It is for this reason that Obama's characterization of the continuation of the climate summit in the face of violence as an "act of defiance" must be seen for the Orwellian appropriation of reality that it is.  The only act of defiance that occurred were those few people who protested in spite of the French imposition of rights restrictions, but Obama would take hold of that spirit, however limited it may have been, and make it the property of his elite audience.  This then raises the obvious question, who exactly was Obama referring to when he said, "What greater rejection of those who would tear down our world than marshaling our best efforts to save it?"  Was Obama speaking of the terrorists who were unable to prevent the climate summit from occurring (but who managed to have the French government reactively undermine its own supposedly core Western principles), or was the president speaking of the activist rabble who, out of an elite preserving security-state decision, was unable to show up at their doorstep and interrupt their party?  In either case, the "best efforts" that were "marshaled" was Obama's recognition of the world's cream of the crop, and was an expression of flattery likely meant to entice world leaders to see themselves as potential members of his club against a backdrop of disempowered people who had been dissuaded from coming out.

If, then, by saving "our" world Obama is in fact tacitly supporting the dissolution of widely understood basic rights enshrined in the very Western civilization he is ostensibly looking to preserve,  his call to action is not directed at the majority of people, but fittingly, it is aimed at those high level statesmen in attendance whose views fall in line with elite US interests.  His stated goal to "protect our people and uphold the enduring values that keep us strong and keep us free," could just as easily refer to the enduring values that keep the elite classes,  his people, strong and free, and by free, this would mean free to do as they please without repercussions, in spite of their growing fears of system destabilization and the resulting desire to fortify themselves and weather mass social discontent. His words were a kind of reassurance to those present.  The values he cited, which allow for the actual state of affairs of deep hierarchical divisions with clear insiders and outsiders, can be found both in capitalism and Machiavellian statecraft, which form the actual  foundations of modern international affairs, rather than the widely believed myth of representational democracy.  Whether or not this was the intended  subtext sent to the elite interests listening in, it is certainly embodies the reality of what his administration represents,  and is a clear indicator of what is to come. 

This reality is one in which elite interests have helped ensure the likelihood that emissions targets at COP21, as weak as they may end up being, will likely not even be legally binding.  This is according to French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, speaking to the Financial Times.  To the disappointment of those world leaders at the event who were supportive of a legally binding treaty, the minister's words echo those of Secretary of State John Kerry, who also spoke to the Financial Times about the matter.  Kerry's views, revealed in the Times, related that the COP21 outcome "would contain measures that would drive a “significant amount of investment” towards a low-carbon global economy. But he stressed there were “not going to be legally binding reduction targets like Kyoto”, a reference to the 1997 Kyoto protocol, a UN climate treaty that had targets for cutting emissions that countries ratifying it were legally obliged to meet."

While the official narrative for avoiding a legally binding treaty is to ensure that it won't be torpedoed in China or the US republican controlled congress, the very notion that this international agreement, whose targets won't be enough to stave off catastrophic climate change any way, won't even be enforceable by law, makes the whole affair into a complete eleventh hour farce, unless of course you are member of the elite club presiding over this whole mess, where the opportunities to declare your good intentions to an increasingly restless public make for a good insurance policy. 

In his speech, Obama went on to slip in his trademark hope and change brand, declaring that "What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it." Clearly people with far more expertise in environmental issues as well as world affairs have been determined to see a turning point for decades, by challenging the systems of power and global destruction and putting forth transformative visions that have been repeatedly sidelined by elite interests.  But we are expected to swallow the notion that it is only when Obama makes a non legally binding speech in Paris that "we finally determined we would save our planet."  Who is this "we?"

The world is not "our world" in the way Obama's speech would have us believe.  "Our" refers to those few who in fact literally own the planet, a group populated by corporate executives, heads of state and ruling dynasties, and the eighty five individuals who literally own as much wealth as the poorest half of the rest of the 7 billion plus inhabitants of the globe.  When Obama says "our planet," the commander of America's global empire is not opening the doors of inclusivity which in fact remained shut and closely guarded by Paris security.  He's staking a hegemonic claim, or perhaps more accurately, reinforcing it. 

Seen in this light, perhaps the most meaningful thing that could have been achieved at the global summit would have been the refusal of the hundreds of thousands of people planning on marching to be deterred by the wishes of the authorities.  This, of course, was unlikely to have happened, because the event itself was steered by groups friendly to US interests, like Avaaz, who stated on their website that  "The police have just informed us that the tragic attacks in Paris have made the march there impossible. Now it's even more important for people everywhere to march on the weekend of November 29th on behalf of those who can't, and show that we are more determined than ever to meet the challenges facing humanity with hope, not fear."  Their word choice is clearly channeling Obama, another subtle signal of an alignment of interests.  In contrast to what Avaaz was suggesting, however, what made the march impossible was nothing more than the lack of will and leadership within the so-called climate movement itself to make it happen.  It was a signal to the owners of the planet that by and large, under the direction of NGO middle management, the owned would in fact remain compliant. 

In response to the emergency laws in Paris, Naomi Klein tweeted on November 29th,"Obedience in the face of this failure would be tantamount to acquiescence," but she fell short of directly calling for mass civil disobedience.  Over a week before that tweet, she had already indicated her capitulation in an op-ed in the Guardian:

"The next thing to understand is that even in these rare moments, frontline voices do not have enough of a platform in the official climate meetings, in which the microphone is dominated by governments and large, well-funded green groups. The voices of ordinary people are primarily heard in grassroots gatherings parallel to the summit, as well as in marches and protests, which in turn attract media coverage. Now the French government has decided to take away the loudest of these megaphones, claiming that securing marches would compromise its ability to secure the official summit zone where politicians will meet."

Given the dire, life destroying straights are facing, there would be nothing particularly radical about calling for mass civil disobedience to those unconstitutional decrees.  It's a fairly standard tactic from the playbook of Gandhi and King, who are cited ad nauseum by activist leaders attempting to coral their flock into a nonviolent strategy for change.   But instead of confronting the illegitimacy of the power structure, she chose to consent to its mandates and maintain her safe distance, affiliating herself with the marginalized voices of those without a megaphone, though it would be hard to take such a position seriously given her enormous following, her best selling books, and perhaps most glaringly, the megaphone and media attention the Guardian had just given her to write her own piece of acquiescence.

As the author of the "Shock Doctrine" Klein is well aware of governments using disaster to consolidate power.  She even spoke about it to the Nation on the streets of Paris.  But because she would not use her position to do anything more than advance her street cred and take advantage of the Paris scene as a kind of product placement opportunity for her "shock doctrine" analysis, she did little more than advance her own brand.  She can neither be considered an activist, nor even a neutral reporter on the events on the ground.  The conciliatory language she chose, though sprinkled with mild critique, helped shape the compliant activist landscape.  She didn't simply report on the cowed activist reality; she helped create it.  She didn't simply recount the governmental overreach; she helped reinforce it. 

350.org was also quick to speak out of both sides of its mouth and ultimately maintain its position of subservience to the death machine.  From its website: "While 350 as an organization does not agree with all the actions of the protesters at Republique, we will continue to stand against any attempts by authorities to use these incidents to unnecessarily clamp down on civil liberties."  The green group's statement went on to praise the words of Klein, and then announced that "Non-violent demonstrations such as these are at the heart of any progress on democracy and climate. People power is the only solution to the state of climate emergency. Together, we will continue to explore how nonviolent civil disobedience, creative action, and mass mobilization best fit together to achieve our goals."  What should be noted is that while the language here attempts to appeal to the activist community, it once again falls short of calling for mass civil disobedience to authoritarian laws at what is seen to be the most important climate summit to date.  Instead, such language reaffirms 350's leadership position in reducing such forms of dissent by relegating these tactics to some bureaucratic limbo, where they will "continue to be explored," rather than be decisively enacted. 

Someone in the position of Klein, Avaaz, or Bill McKibben, if they were true leaders in an authentic movement, would not have hesitated to lead mass civil disobedience that would have undoubtedly attracted the kind of media attention to which the media saturated Klein lamented the climate movement had been denied access.  Furthermore, even in the absence of such leadership, an authentic, decentralized activist movement would have widely recognized the connection between Western imperialism, radical terror groups created and used as pawns by these imperial interests to both justify war and implement security state crack downs, and the wake of human and environmental devastation left behind as a result such an exploitative system.  Empowered people would have mobilized themselves, and it appears that a handful of such people, deemed radicals, did do just that.  But this was an exception to the overall behavior of the movement.  The lack of a general uprising involving the multi hundred thousand planned attendees at COP21 in response to this reality points to several important and unfortunate possibilities:

1) The climate marchers generally believed that the demonstrations were important, and that by participating they could be effective in shaping policies that could avert climate catastrophe, yet they were unwilling to defy a government that wanted to silence them in their efforts to save themselves and the planet. 

2) The climate marchers generally didn't  believe that what they were doing would have any real effect, and were willing to not show up because it really didn't matter any way.  In this case, their engagement in climate action is primarily a feel good social exercise, a hollow activity lacking in any real conviction, existing simply because they don't know what else to do.

3) The climate marchers are generally uninformed about the seriousness of the situation and don't believe that climate change is an immediate threat.  Not showing up is not a big deal because there will be other marches and plenty of time to address the climate issue in a way that conforms to official decorum.

The unsurprising response of the well orchestrated, no-show climate march in Paris represents the flip side of Obama's authoritarian circle of power.  That flip side is the highly conditioned, fearful, obedient, and unquestioning mindset which had the opportunity, the motive, and to some extent, the moral cover to send an uncompromising message to the very establishment that is producing the conditions that are unraveling the living earth system.  Instead it took a pass.

It has been suggested by academics, military planners,  and political figures that climate change will escalate global conflict and lead to increased instability and terrorism.   That idea was even alluded to in Obama's COP21 speech, in which the themes of economic growth and the war on terror were predictably brought up.  In light of the possibilities of climate disruption, Obama said "That future is not one of strong economies, nor is it one where fragile states can find their footing."

It is from within the framework of this understanding that the unfolding of the Parisian government's decision to ban protests and the resulting, much diluted COP21 march should be viewed.  It fleshes out why the rise of an increasingly authoritarian police state is an almost forgone conclusion in the face of climate change.  While there is nothing to suggest that the Paris terrorist attacks themselves were motivated by climate disruption, they were in fact a product of Western imperialism, a fact which continues to be substantiated by investigative journalists, academics, independent researchers, and ex-government officials.  In other words, the same forces that are responsible for climate change bear a significant responsibility in the creation of ISIS and thus the terrorist attacks, as well as the police response to those attacks and their response to the following COP21 climate march.

Now let's take a cue from the establishment and imagine for a moment that the terrorist attacks had  stemmed to some extent from climate disruption.  This thought experiment is inspired by a dubious argument put forth by Bernie Sanders and Prince Phillip about the particular origins of the war in Syria, but it's general theme bears real possibilities for the future.   Imagine, then, a person displaced by extreme drought who finds solace in newfound extremist religious ideologies.  Perhaps this individual has family members who were killed in US imperial wars, and now he cannot find work because the crops have failed for several years in a row, food prices have risen dramatically, and the economy is in a slump.  In time this person is able to find an outlet for his rage and a degree of stability and even self respect while receiving training through a foreign financed terror network that eventually brings him to a major city center with the intention to cause mass harm.  So his ideologies are steeped in radical and violent religion, but, unknown to the nation and people affected by his actions, the multi-year drought helped push him over the edge.  Would the response by the authorities in Paris and the climate activists have been any different?

The reason that the implications of this scenario are important to consider is as follows.  Those who are most negatively effected by this hypothetical attack, or the very real and recent Paris attack, are average people, the very people told to go home at COP21, who at least on the surface would have preferred to have been there in spite of supposed security risks.  The people that are most likely to benefit from these real and imagined attacks are by contrast the ones sitting inside the conference, along with their industry supporters.  When you cut past the fear and preconceptions of a "correct" (officially sanctioned) way of handling the aftermath of a terrorist attack and examine what is actually taking place,  a disturbing picture emerges.  The creators and beneficiaries of disaster are using armed enforcers to tell the victims of that disaster that they aren't allowed to have a voice in protecting themselves, because of a supposed threat from the fruits of that very elite driven disaster.  And the people, for the most part,  agreed to this arrangement.  To put this another way, the demonstration that actually occurred at COP21 was a demonstration of the weakness of the people at large, and the predatory nature of those who preside over them. 

There is no one with any sort of international clout who can witness this, see the plight of the people, and take corrective action.  This simply is the state of play, and it is a clear indication to the ruling class that even in the current state of an existential crisis, the people will fall in line, and their community organizing leaders, some of whom even understand the role of the state in crisis capitalism, will help ensure that.  In time, after more Orwellian speeches, failed meetings, false solutions, and worsening global conditions, the elites recognize this compliance will not be everlasting.  There will be real confrontations.  Obama and the enduring forces of the establishment know this, and so they craft language that keep the people at ease for as long as possible while subtly signaling where their true alliances lie.  The security force in Paris, like all government security forces,  showed itself to be far more militant, organized, unified, willing to break the law, and effective in achieving stated goals than the activists, and thus indicated that the engines of fascism are far more adept at organizing  a campaign of civil disobedience than any corporate climate march. 

<![CDATA[Baxter as the Death Machine's Bud Beer PR Bot]]>Fri, 29 May 2015 00:19:20 GMThttp://www.convergence-state.com/home/baxter-as-the-death-machines-bud-beer-pr-botPicture
A few years ago, renowned roboticist Rodney Brooks, founder of iRobot and maker of the Roomba robot, the self piloting vacuum cleaner bot, and the Pakbot, used for explosive ordinance disposal in the Iraq war, founded Rethink Robotics.  In 2012 this former head of the MIT robotics department introduced the robot Baxter through Rethink Robotics.  Baxter can be taught to complete simple tasks by having its arms guided into pre-determined positions for basic pick and sort type tasks.  The friendly looking red automaton can also pick up routines like pouring a liquid into a container simply by observing a specified task.  In an Inc magazine article that came out the same year Brooks' creation was unveiled, it was acknowledged that Baxter has the potential to eventually displace tens of millions of workers from repetitive jobs.  Brooks reasons that with the cost savings created by streamlining production and lowering overhead, the displaced workers would find employment in an ever more productive economy.  They wouldn't be downsized, they'd be "promoted."  But this suggestion just doesn't add up. Robots and algorithms are threatening to take jobs from a broad spectrum of professions, from research lawyers, medical technicians, agricultural machine operators, to waitstaff and truck drivers.  The increasing capabilities of technology led Oxford researchers to suggest that 47% of jobs in the modern economy will be threatened by automation.  Most factory workers and cashiers aren't going to find themselves in some new managerial position or fulfilling their creative muse with a successful career as an artist or a cutting edge designer, as those in the business of pushing automated technologies are known to suggest.  A recent, highly watchable video on automation points out that even these so-called creative jobs may be threatened by new technology.

All of which brings us to a commercial for Bud Light, which features a brief cameo of Rethink's charming machine in the role of a server, pouring an ice cold brew for some anonymous customer who's "up for whatever."  It seems like the kind of fun little thirty second spot that might bring a smile to the face of the proponents of a tech driven world view.  Lacking any introduction, the slick insertion of the cutting edge bot holds a kind of appeal to those in the know.  It's a great way to start a buzz around the possibility of a robotic waitstaff and turn the presence of the little cyborg which is threatening human livelihoods (what happened to the bartender?) into a fun filled experience on the scene. 

What should not be overlooked is the disturbing picture this commercial encapsulates.  This is both an ad for Baxter and for Bud Light, although Baxter's presentation is certainly more subtle.   From the perspective of Baxter's beer brew debut, the commercial is clearly about creating a little subliminal cultural legitimacy for a machine that might still be viewed as a geek gadget in a society that has yet to fully come to terms with the prospect of increasing numbers of robots in the workplace.  See, Baxter's just that friendly guy down at the bar, serving you up a cold one.  If you want to do well, you've got to make a good first impression, and it looks like Baxter just showed up at the party. 

But Baxter isn't a person.  Baxter is a product, and this television ad is a kind of product placement within a commercial. 
And the gathered crowd of revelers which represents the target audience for the commercial, does not represent upper crust cultural innovators, tech savants,  or high powered corporate moguls.   This is the class of people which the majority of us in the West find ourselves in, and whose economic prospects are about to be rocked by automation, should it even be possible to maintain the current technological trajectory under the pall of climate disruption and profound economic and political corruption. 

Those technological optimists who paint a picture of displaced workers using their creative skills to engender prosperity and taking advantage of their new found free time for intellectual pursuits when the robots take over our jobs, just got their hand shown by the current cultural creators and taste makers over at Bud Light's marketing and ad department.  In the view of the corporate machine, Americans, Westerners, and people in general, are not here to pursue their own elevated agendas.  That  notion is as much a corporate talking point used to sell warehouse bots as anything the alcohol and entertainment industries have cooked up to promote their products. Instead, in their bottom line focused eyes, we are here primarily to serve the interests and vision of the powerful.  In the case of the American populace, the commercial asks, "Are you up for whatever?" and then promptly declares "Don't answer.  Grab a Bud Light and show it."  In other words, don't even take the two seconds needed to affirmatively answer our question, which invites you to passively accept whatever comes your way over an icy bottle.  Just grab that beer and demonstrate to the world the wild, unique, and novelty-seeking perspective you wish you had by agreeing to our proposition to embrace our limited and perfectly bland, alcohol mediated definition of adventure.

In language that completely infantalizes the viewer, the commercial goes on to tell us to "...laugh, spin, dance... jump!"  In the absence of free thinking and emotionally mature adults, exploration and experience are handed down through an interaction with commercial culture and mass produced consumer goods, whether they be alcohol, high tech gadgets, or the predictable cultural spectacle itself.   Advertisers make subtle use of language not simply to sell us something, but to craft us for their own purposes, like a batch of finely tuned, factory churned beer.  The profit driven desire to maintain the populace as a pool of mindless consumers is thus evident in the commercial's presentation.  Ultimately, these consumers are the people who will have to cope with the technological displacement that Baxter portends, a future which puts to lie the artifice of equating Baxter with celebratory gatherings.  In reality, it is an insecure and largely unskilled population held captive by the delusions and fantasies of an intoxicating mass culture, intentionally kept ignorant of the consequences of its actions and inaction, that will walk this difficult road. 

The ad's entreaty for us to "make a single weekend last a lifetime" is not about the pursuit of the dynamic, uplifted, educated, or prolific life that a techno utopian might have us believe we will be engaging in.  That sort of outlook, which fosters learning for the sake of learning, must be developed through the kind of curiosity nurturing and critically engaged environment that this society has abandoned.  Learning for the sake of learning is scoffed at as risky and lacking economic viability.  Creative pursuits are largely regarded as the activities of the dreamer and the derelict, ungrounded in anything of practical significance.  Instead, this immortalizing of the weekend's tech filled carousing is the pathological, and widely heeded command  for us to remain forever as children, and thus the predictable and stagnant purchasers of product, subservient to the whims of the corporate state. "Whatever" is the word of the apathetic and inarticulate.  It is also the word of the helplessly indignant.   Cultivated into a state of escapist notions, addictions, and emotionally stunted, physical dependency, the populations of the modern world will be caught absolutely unprepared for the social, economic, and environmental destabilization this increasingly autonomous system is fostering. 

<![CDATA[US Government Quietly Decides to Keep Spying on You]]>Tue, 09 Dec 2014 23:40:44 GMThttp://www.convergence-state.com/home/us-government-quietly-decides-to-keep-spying-on-you NSA SpyingEFF's logo for their case against the government seeking to stop the spying operation run by the NSA.
On December 5, 2014, without fanfare, and under the request of the Obama administration, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) extended the law permitting the bulk collection of telephone metadata by the NSA on US citizens.  This decision was the latest in a series of such Obama-led, 90 day extensions, in spite of the president's rhetoric for NSA surveillance reform.  The proposed reform, which had been backed by the administration, came in the form of a bill called the USA Freedom Act, which died in the Senate this past November.  The bill may be resurrected next year, but it is unlikely it will have any significant impact on the surveillance state we now inhabit. 

Back in mid November, the US Senate failed to reach the number of votes needed to bring the USA Freedom Act to cloture, and move it to the floor for a vote.  If passed, the act in theory would have put  limitations on the bulk phone metadata
collection performed by the NSA (in general, metadata includes information like phone number/ email address, time of call/email, duration of call, phone number/email of individual receiving the call).  The law would have instead mandated that data be retained solely by the telecom companies that facilitate such information, with the NSA only able to access it with specific FISC approval.  Though the bill had been viewed as being a step in the right direction by privacy groups like the ACLU, it's language was seen as problematic by NSA whistle blowers Bill Binney and Thomas Drake, who along with other civil liberties advocates like Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers, opposed it's passage.  In their opposition, they pointed out that the bill would have extended the Patriot Act for another two and a half years, and given corporations total immunity for complying with government requests for data, no matter how egregious the requests might be.  They also pointed to apparent loopholes in the bill, which use legal language to create a kind of backdoor that completely negates apparent surveillance reform.

Going even further than Ellsberg and company, who in spite of opposition to the bill put forth their own suggestions for legislative reform, Glenn Greenwald questioned the ability for the US government to have any effect on reigning in the rogue NSA.   Stating that the US government is "designed at its core to prevent real reform, he went on to say

"This Congress is not going to enact anything resembling fundamental limits on the NSA’s powers of mass surveillance. Even if it somehow did, this White House would never sign it. Even if all that miraculously happened, the fact that the U.S. intelligence community and National Security State operates with no limits and no oversight means they’d easily co-opt the entire reform process. That’s what happened after the eavesdropping scandals of the mid-1970s led to the establishment of congressional intelligence committees and a special FISA “oversight” court—the committees were instantly captured by putting in charge supreme servants of the intelligence community like Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chambliss, and Congressmen Mike Rogers and “Dutch” Ruppersberger, while the court quickly became a rubber stamp with subservient judges who operate in total secrecy.
Author Peter Van Buren expressed similar skepticism at the Huffington Post when he said, "First we all just have to trust that what the NSA has been and would have continued to do in secret if Snowden had slept in will just stop. There's a whopper of a maybe, especially given that these changes come only after the whole evil mess hit the news " 

The question of the efficacy of oversight really needs to be grappled with.  Obama has suggested that the conversation around NSA surveillance is a needed one, yet he has maintained a desire to criminally prosecute whistle blower Edward Snowden, who was the eighth person charged under the espionage act by the current administration.  How can Obama proclaim a desire for genuine reform when he is criminally pursuing the catalyzing source of this reform?  And all of this reform, involving oversight and new regulations, will still be handled primarily in secret.  Can we trust a government to be faithful to the laws it implements when it has been shown to hide its own illegal actions from scrutiny?  Or when it refuses to prosecute its director of National Intelligence, who, while under oath, publicly perjured himself before congress in the following exchange?

Senator Ron Wyden: Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

Clapper: No, sir. Not wittingly.
We are in uncharted territory.  Using cutting edge technology, the US government is now enabled to insert itself into nearly every aspect of our lives and collect unprecedented amounts of data about our activities.  This level of intrusion is something only recently made possible, and with the relentless acceleration of technological capacity, the capabilities of collecting and sifting through data will only increase. There is no way for the general public to verify that new regulations are being followed or that new secret programs or secret interpretations of existing law are not being used to skirt so-called reform.  With a continuing record of lies, obfuscation, abuse, and outright murder that is destabilizing lives from Ferguson to Afghanistan, it is time to recognize that the US government is not working in our interests.  By effectively suspending the US Constitution with continued spying and other abusive and illegal measures, like the Patriot Act and the 2012 NDAA, we have entered into a state of creeping, tech-driven totalitarianism.  The exploitations of the war-making corporate state has created a deeply felt instability, where the dispossessed lash out with justifiable anger.  The current and anticipated reaction of the populace to increasingly unlivable conditions, in the eyes of the pathological power structure, has not inspired genuine reform, but rather turned ordinary human beings into an enemy to be monitored and contained. 
<![CDATA[Climate Change and the Promise of Violence in Pathocratic America]]>Tue, 18 Nov 2014 23:00:44 GMThttp://www.convergence-state.com/home/climate-change-and-the-promise-of-violence-in-pathocratic-america

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a disaster which many reference as climate change intensifies, there was a rash of white vigilante violence visited on black residents.   A number of blacks, like
Donnell Herrington were "shot with impunity," by white perpetrators, left to bleed on the street.  As a result of systemic racism, the undeserved black community of New Orleans had already been abandoned to squalid, post storm conditions, where dead bodies were literally left to rot in the street, while wealthy whites hired private contractors like Black Water to protect their gated communities.  In segments of racist America, this brief glimpse of an already broken system did not paint a picture of historical injustice that runs up into the present moment.  Rather, the hurricane merely served to reinforce hateful preconceptions of black neighborhoods. 

That line of thought is far from extraordinary in the United States, and it is unfolding in yet another, more recent story.  The National Guard has been put on notice to restore order for the anticipated handing down of a grand jury decision to not prosecute police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed black teen, Michael Brown.  Blacks have long decried the ongoing police harassment, heavy handed tactics, and outright murder that they endure under a racist police system that profiles people of color and incarcerates disproportionate numbers of blacks relative to the actual rates of criminality.  These cries are largely ignored, and brushed aside by the white adherents of a so-called "post racial" society, who, by claiming to not see color, fail to recognize and properly address the violence, prejudice, and criminal treatment that people of color contend with on a daily basis.  

Shortly after Michael Brown was murdered by officer  Darren Wilson,
police further provoked residents by allowing a police dog to urinate on a makeshift memorial, which was then run over by police cruisers.  Such raw disregard for the humanity of community members was emblematic of a pattern of police abuse that saw outraged protesters in the streets.   Protesters were met by a heavy handed police response, leading to the assaults and arrests of demonstrators as well as a member of the Washington Post and the Huffington Post, lending further credence to the notion that the rights of individuals were being trampled.  Donned in military surplus gear that had been garnered through taxpayer funded government handouts, the police attacked protesters and members of the press, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at Al Jazeera English reporters.  One police officer resigned after pointing a rifle at protesters and threatening to kill them, telling protesters to "go fuck yourself." (see video below).  Another officer was fired for stating on social media that protesters should be "put down like rabid dogs." 

Police violence is not limited of course to minorities and activists, but it is typically those who are viewed as relatively powerless, who are then targeted for their brutality.  Studies have shown that police are 2-4 times more likely to commit acts of domestic violence than the national average.  Their victims have no where to turn, since their armed abusers literally work for the corrupt system known to shield its members from punishment.  As the National Center for Women & Policing points out, women victimized by officers are uniquely vulnerable in that the officer
  • has a gun,
  • knows the location of battered women's shelters, and
  • knows how to manipulate the system to avoid penalty and/or shift blame to the victim
In early November in Ferguson, a police officer was arrested for raping a female inmate.  This kind of systemic violence has been a part of the fabric of American society since the decimation of indigenous people, to the enslavement of Africans, up through today's modern wars and epidemics of violence toward women.  Abuse is normalized, hidden, justified, even celebrated.  The trauma of living in such a sick arrangement only feeds itself, escalating tension rather than healing deep wounds.  Adding fuel to the fire in the anticipated war zone in Ferguson, the KKK has been calling officer Wilson a hero and has been attempting to raise funds to support him.  The white supremacist organization also announced that they will use lethal violence against protesters in any upcoming unrest. 

Bubbling below the glittering American facade is a nation on the brink.  Social tensions are palpable.  Gun sales have skyrocketed in response to perceptions of government overreach.  The country is deeply in debt and rushing headlong with the rest of the world into economic disruption and climate chaos, and yet its leaders remain committed to maintaining their imperial mission and the farcical global war on terror.  Americans are increasingly poor and desperate, while government officials unapologetically preside over the disintegration of deeply enshrined rights.
How, then, will a violent and traumatized American society cope with the collapse of civilization, a scary proposition which is getting even mainstream play in reports like the one funded by NASA, which predicts mass social breakdown in the not so distant future?  It is a question, which given just a few moments of consideration, conjures seemingly obvious and horrific scenarios, and yet faced with this potential, most Americans dismiss the possibility, chalking it up to unrealistic negativity, before moving on to the next distraction. 
It is as if much of the overworked, ill informed, zombie and pop culture obsessed nation has decided at some subconscious level to simply die off and take the planet with it.  

In the face of such apathy, atmospheric CO2 is now at a level not seen in at least 800,000 years, if not several million.  The gas concentration is actually increasing at an accelerating rate, jumping 3 parts per million in 2013.  The rapidity of its increase will outpace our ability to adapt, and even conservative

scientists are saying we are now on track for the worst case scenario for planetary warming.  But  these projections ignore the possibility of catastrophic, runaway climate change fueled by the release of methane from the melting arctic sea bed.  This kind of rapid feedback loop could trigger a sudden climate shift with disastrous consequences.   Some scientists predict this scenario could be triggered by a 1.5  degree rise in global average temperatures, a mere .7 degrees beyond the .8 we've already witnessed, (see video left), while a few scientists, having considered the vast plumes of methane already coming out of the arctic, have even postulated that the runaway climate scenario is currently underway.If Katrina and Ferguson are indicators of what climate breakdown may look like an a social level, we will likely see pockets of both lawlessness and State crackdowns, where the boundaries between police and military become nearly indistinguishable, while in the later stages of decline, bands of disaffected violent males, often former police or military
If Katrina and Ferguson are indicators of what climate breakdown may look like an a social level, we will likely see pockets of both lawlessness and State crackdowns, where the boundaries between police and military become nearly indistinguishable, while in the later stages of decline, bands of disaffected violent males, often former police or military If Katrina and Ferguson are indicators of what climate breakdown may look like an a social level, we will likely see pockets of both lawlessness and State crackdowns, where the boundaries between police and military become nearly indistinguishable, while in the later stages of decline, bands of disaffected violent males, often former police or military If Katrina and Ferguson are indicators of what climate breakdown may look like at a social level, we will likely see pockets of both lawlessness and State crackdowns, where the boundaries between police and military become nearly indistinguishable, while in the later stages of decline, bands of disaffected violent males, often former police or military members themselves, ravage the countryside, and as is typical in war and the breakdown of societies, escalate violence toward the vulnerable. 

The exact shape of this
descent is impossible to predict, as we are now swimming in uncharted waters.
A rapid methane release could spell the end of human life on earth, as could the push toward a third world war.  The same sociopathic forces that are undermining planetary integrity are pushing the US to the brink of war with Russia, while  supporting the violent government overthrow in Russian partner states Syria and Iran.  The contours of a gradual, decadal decline, however, will be partly defined by ongoing external wars and hysterical, violent, and paranoid elements within society, further enraged by perceived personal failures as well as the failures of the  government and corporate elites to produce earth-saving technology, a stable economy,  and just governance. 

As the Republican Party has retrenched its efforts at "climate obstructionism" after the 2014 midterm elections, the reality of climate change will none the less bear down on even the most denialist portions of the electorate.  Yet given their penchant for ignoring science, the response for some will likely be fueled by the brand of religious extremism that blames gays, feminists, immigrants, abortionists, and intellectuals, to name a few, for natural disasters (see above video).  Climate change won't just be a time of shortages.  For some, it will be a time of retribution. 

Former Gilberton police chief Mark Kessler, and the scores of un-uniformed men who support him, are likely candidates for such climate fueled vigilantism.  Though his gun filled rant (video above), which implicitly indicates the desire to assassinate "libtards," is shocking in its candor, especially for a public official, it none the less represents just the tip of the iceberg of the thuggish mentality and autocratic tendencies seen within places of authority, as well as within segments of the population who blame liberals for the destruction of their nation.  Online hactivist group Anonymous sought to "unhood" KKK members in response to their calls for blood in Ferguson, and in so doing, exposed at least one Klansman who was a former police officer.  A statement coming from Anonymous suggests that killer cop Wilson himself may have ties to the KKK.
During the Occupy Protests which arose from widespread and unaddressed government and corporate corruption, investigative journalist Naomi Wolf revealed in a redacted FBI document a plot by Texas authorities to potentially assassinate the leadership of the movement with snipers.  Activists are increasingly being viewed as domestic terrorists by both authorities and nervous members of the public, while Americans have become aware of a vast surveillance network blanketing the country and much of the world.  The implications of tracking and quashing demonized social movements responding to the reality of climate change has been largely ignored.  What's also missing from the discussion is the way this violent system which is already felt by minorities, as well as women, will likely capitalize on social breakdown for intensified predation..

This is the pathological unfolding of mass trauma and Machiavellian dynamics in an increasingly unstable world.  To believe that such dire conditions are perpetuated by one individual or political party over another is to be duped by this system's propensity toward divide and conquer and sociopathic deceit.

At a cultural center in Jakarta in 2013, Senator John Kerry suggested that climate change should be viewed as a weapon of mass destruction.  In framing this symptom of deep human disconnect as a matter of national security, he indicated the likelihood of social unrest and climate refugees as the ability for people to feed themselves breaks down.  This sentiment was echoed in a 2014 report issued by the US department of defense, which stated that
The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability. These developments could undermine already-­‐fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently-­‐stable governments, as well as increasing competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources. These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism. Here in the U.S., state and local governments responding to the effects of extreme weather may seek increased DSCA. [Defense Support to Civil Authorities]

These analyses predictably smack of the very imperialistic and hyper-competitive paradigm in which the climate crises has emerged.  Viewing climate change through the lens of national security and protecting national economic and strategic interests ensures that climate change, when addressed at all, will be viewed as a technical challenge to be handled through market driven adaptability across the security and technology sectors.  The fundamental hierarchies of power within a society based in violent competition, relentless economic growth, Machiavellian deception, and imperial warfare, remains unchallenged. The result is a guarantee of increased violence, which is not merely being predicted by the US government, but in fact, orchestrated by it.  To put it another way, the minions of empire who speak of the reality of climate change are simply prognosticating the results of their own pathological worldview, one which they fully intend to continue, profit from, and even amplify in the years ahead.

Kerry's dire warning of climate change destabilization, rather than being a breath of fresh air in the land of climate denial, should be viewed then as a cynical attempt to manage public perception in the face of looming disaster.  We're supposed to believe that these honest bearers of climate realities are working in our best interest, sounding the alarm for an unsure world to hear.  But the world has known of these realities for years, and in some cases, decades, and the Obama administration has been anything but honest and forthright.  While in 2014 his administration tries to take the helm of climate leadership, and pry it from the jaws of so-called GOP "obstructionism," just a few years ago in 2011 at the UN climate talks in Durbin, the administration itself was being accused of "startling levels of obstructionism" coming from within the State Department, in its desire to delay the watered down process of climate reforms for another five to ten years.  For those who still believe the climate change situation is or was solvable, the window of opportunity that presented itself was discarded as readily by the Obama administration as a Pakistani wedding party targeted by his drone fire. 

In the realm of geopolitics, in a devastating piece by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hirsch, Secretary of State Kerry was revealed to be yet another mendacious figure in American empire, who in 2013 was manipulating evidence to make a case for war in Syria, much as the Bush administration had lied and cherry picked evidence in the lead up to the Iraq war.  Rather than being a separate issue from climate change, the state of liquid war spilling across borders is part of a larger phenomenon of destabilization occurring at the economic, social, and environmental levels.  The money spent on destroying lives and infrastructure abroad is the very definition of barbaric and unsustainable practices, and Kerry has a direct role in setting the tone for how monetary resources will be allocated.  The same drive for power found in this continual geostrategic positioning both fuels and is fueled by the increasing demands on the natural world to produce the raw materials for both warfare and consumer society. In an insane logical loop, the growing death machine necessitates itself, and taxpayer funded global conquest is at the heart of the planet devouring, ruthless progress of our technological worldview.   

Further, Kerry heads a State Department whose environmental impact assessment of the Keystone XL concluded that the pipeline's construction would have minimal effects on green house gases.  This assessment came under fire by environmental groups, who criticized the report for being produced by firms which have worked for TransCanada.  Even as Obama has been lauded for his acknowledgement of climate change, it was in 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma that he boasted that his administration had
" added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the earth.”  His tip of the hat to big industry indicated the record amount of domestic oil production occurring under his watch, and laid bare his true intentions, when he said
Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast.  And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done. 
This seems to contradict the popular wisdom that Obama would "block" the pipeline.  While well meaning people are fooled yet again by manipulative rhetoric, the reality is that these "blocks" are merely a pause in construction plans for the arrival of flawed environmental impact statements .  A short delay may look like environmental protection when spun by politicians or mainstream environmental groups, but it just more of the same song and dance.  Reports of Obama's most recent, so called "criticism" of the Keystone pipeline indicate the desperateness of people with no good options, still holding onto their hope for the pathological system to finally turn itself around.
Obama criticized the project during a trip to Asia late last week, saying it would not lower fuel prices for drivers, but would allow Canada to "pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else."
After Obama's Cushing speech, the president issued executive order 13604, which called for expediting the permitting process for pipelines, a time frame he would later call for halving.  The pipeline projects underway that have benefited from Obama's bureaucratic grease exceed the Keystone's own oil transport capacity projects, a reality which has been documented in a number of investigative pieces (here and here).   The president's so-called criticism, then, upon examination is really just a bland statement of fact, made to further placate his environmental base.  The Senate voting down the Keystone legislation in mid November was only a bump in the road for industry.  Currently Tar Sands oil, like that coming out Bakken, is merely shipped through a combination of alternate and expanding pipelines and railway.  The industry's ability to skirt environmental laws, and the Obama administration's willingness to speed the permitting process for non Keystone pipeline, has led one CEO to suggest that the XL pipeline is no longer needed for the record North American oil production underway.  Unless widespread radical actions are taken by the populace, a path which up till now has only been embraced by a handful of activists and indigenous groups, that oil will not be staying in the ground. 

Further, Obama's "all of the above" energy strategy, which includes heavy reliance on natural gas fracking for the production of the so called "bridge fuel," has been blasted by scientific findings that demonstrate it could actually intensify climate forcing.  Meanwhile, Obama has promised to send 1,500 troops to Iraq and has maintained domestically a policy of recruiting former military personnel into police forces.  His call to re-examine military style policing post Ferguson was in reality a PR stunt that will only further legitimize the use of military hardware in policing the climate destabilized "homeland."  The gilding of such destructive policies with a veneer of civility and reform will only deepen denial in the short term, and simultaneously intensify the potential for violent repression and backlash. 

The internet has been abuzz with Obama's sudden push for environmental reform and talk of his climate legacy in the last two years of his presidency.  But Obama already has a climate legacy, and while he may be celebrated for his recent "successes," the actual effects of the policies he has implemented will not be window dressed.  Ultimately, what must be understood is that civilization as we understand it is not sustainable, and yet the leaders of that civilization continue to push forward aggressive global stratagems and meaningless solutions obfuscated in rhetoric.  The Keystone Pipeline issue, though handled with typical imperial deceit, is in fact a red herring in pipeline production America.  For years, this de-contextualized issue has been sapping energy from any broad based movement to make more fundamental challenges to the system itself.  And such efforts have been rewarded with hollow statements and empty promises.

This is the two faced incarnation of empire.  Even when the "embattled champions" of climate in Washington are spotlighted in the media, their words must be checked against a larger backdrop of behind-th-scenes wrangling and building climate chaos.  The sugar coating of our problems and the diversion of attention from radical critiques of civilization has proven to be a death sentence.   Kerry, Obama, and military planners understand the likelihood of global violence in the face of mass privation which the very system they represent is already creating.  Similarly, given the growing certainty of scientists and the increasingly observable phenomenon of extreme weather, it seems quite likely that Republicans may secretly believe in the reality of human induced climate change, a notion I have recently come to intuit, and which has been somewhat substantiated in an article of Business Week. 

Not all Republicans are as wedded to climate-change denial as their public statements suggest, according to retired military officials and Republican Hill staff. “If you talk with them privately, without any media around, the vast majority of congressional Republicans know perfectly well that climate change is real,” Titley says. “But they won’t say so publicly because they don’t want to end up like Bob Inglis.”
Radical transformative steps to address climate change have never been in the cards, outside of unproven market driven technologies, a metastasizing security and militarized surveillance state, and top down, last ditch efforts like geo-engineering.  Whether you are a Democrat who warns of impending disaster and argues for climate change reform, but makes only token gestures and acts in the interest of large corporations, or a Republican who then denies the same climate change he secretly believes in so as to advance his political career, the results are the same.  It is a deception steeped in the structural violence of a system built on death and exploitation for profit.  In its guarantee to make the world less secure, it  is a strategy that  will be a short term boon to the same national security apparatus and multinational corporations benefiting from the bipartisan wars abroad.
Senator Lindsey Graham was right when he said, in regard to section 1021 of the NDAA, which authorizes the indefinite military detention of US citizens on US soil without trial, that "The world is the battlefield, including the homeland."  Climate change, like the war on terror, is a man made disaster, producing conflict without borders in space and time.  The war on terror morphs into a war on life itself.   Under such circumstances, social violence is seen as a tragic and yet unavoidable consequence of modernity, and the brutality of police and military 
personnel is barely addressed, passed off as some fluke of occasional bad apples, but exists in reality as the very modus operandi of a culture of dominance and abuse.  Out of a sense of elite self preservation, especially in times of social fragility, those  elements of society given the legal authority to maim, kill, and arrest are courted by the liars in power, and must simultaneously be feared and respected by society at large.  The ubiquity of "supporting the troops" is a victory for the bipartisan perpetrators of the military industrial climate catastrophe.  The low IQ's and pathological traits which, according to former police captain Ray Lewis (see video above), are selected for among the candidates of low level police enforcers, will help to ensure their ability to unquestioningly follow the orders of the pathocracy, patrolling the prison we inhabit even as the walls fall in.

Within the speeches of high placed government officials who regard climate change as a threat, therefore, there is no true break from the momentum of this industrial death machine, just clever turns of phrase while global leaders march in lockstep to the self reinforcing and suicidal mandates of permanent war and infinite economic growth.  By appearing to be the reasonable voices of empire as a counter to outright climate denialism (a presented belief which itself may be yet another charade), such actors are in fact ensuring our demise.  A false dichotomy has been presented to us, keeping average Americans misdirected with empty solutions and meaningless political carnivals,  as many struggle with the violence of abusive authorities and individuals from within a system that already denies them basic needs.  In such a context,  the false political rhetoric of climate change on both sides of the aisle is itself an act of violence against us all, contained in both its contempt for the truth and the current and coming violence that it invites, yet seeks to hide.
<![CDATA[Positive Transformation and Collapse: Art, Materiality, and Spirit]]>Fri, 07 Mar 2014 23:49:46 GMThttp://www.convergence-state.com/home/positive-transformation-and-collapse-art-materiality-and-spiritPicture
There is this notion, commonly repeated, that we should not be too focused on the negative aspects of life, and that when conversations stray towards the subject of imminent calamity, whether it be economic, environmental, or a combination of the two, there is a kind of resistance to the idea that we are headed for irreparable disaster.  There lies a gulf between those who see the immanent breakdown of the modern world, and those who, for a variety of reasons, see nothing of major concern.  But even across this line of separation exists a common perspective that points to an even greater malaise.  This unseen problem stems not so much from a lack of clarity in perceiving what lies ahead, either from the perspective of so called doomers or those who maintain a degree of optimism in the face of systems destabilization, but rather from how we define "we" and how "we" look at the world around us as it exists today.
painting: Fluidity by Luke Orsborne click to enlarge

In just the last few years the US government has, either through direct military or proxy involvement, already exported post apocalyptic living conditions to Iraq, Syria, and Libya. A large cross section of the world is currently living in an end of the world state, fueled in part by a legacy of Western imperialism, disruptive technologies, and neoliberalism. Life's breakdown is not an abstraction for babies born with birth defects in Iraq from the the US mlitary's use of depleted uranium.  It's not an unthinkable possibility for the parents of Vietnamese children born under the the lingering effects of Monsanto's Agent Orange, or the families who subsist in Pakistan under daily fear of crop failure and Obama's drone war.  It's not a ridiculous suggestion for the scores of farmers committing suicide in India from a combination of parching land, debt, and biotechnology that didn't live up to its promises.  Nor is catastrophic disaster an unknown to the families of those 250,000+ Somalis who died between 2010-2012 under a record drought, or the millions whose lives were upended in the Philippines under the changing climate's super typhoon Haiyan.  Even in a developed nation like Australia, ranchers are having their livelihoods decimated from lack of rain.  It's important for those of us who simply cannot allow ourselves to contemplate a collapse scenario or those of us who are trying to stave it off to understand that there are people all over the planet right now whose world, in a very real sense, has already collapsed.  

I've witnessed people brush off the "bad news" as if it's a kind of distasteful experience served up like a rotting piece of meat at a favorite restaurant.  Such a reaction represents the creation of a kind of intellectual caste system, where even thoughts of those whose lives have been destroyed by our way of doing things cannot be tolerated.  To be an untouchable within such a system means that sustained contemplation of your destitution and the vile conditions you must endure, represents the threat of contamination to the true and upright livelihoods and leisure time of the privileged.  To "us," those people who live under our tax funded bombs or who starve in IMF debt chains and a worsening climate, exist primarily as unfortunate statistics that occasionally ruin cocktail conversation or Facebook timelines.  This is the "we" that cannot look at the writing on the wall, when it comes to impending disaster.  This is the "we" that cannot accept the possibility that toxic, violent, and volatile living conditions that powerful nations export might come from some monstrous and shared cultural behaviors, which in the end threaten even the supposed stability of our own way of life.  In reality, "our" way of life is not threatened by such destabilization because destabilization is the modus operandi through which this lifestyle is maintained.  It just needs time to catch up.

When I think about the way people actively push aside the plight of others, I'm reminded of a kind of belief system that has gained currency within new-age and Christian prosperity doctrine circles: that faith plays a primary role in our material success, and  by extension, our material success within well-to-do nations is of primary concern.  Those who follow the so-called Law of Attraction suggest that our beliefs and feelings define our reality, and in order to change the external world, we must change our internal experience to reflect the way we would feel if the conditions we hoped for already existed.  The goals are generally geared toward obtaining financial success, romantic relationships, and personal well-being.  The method to achieve these ends is to live as though these conditions were already true.  The middle class businessman who has fallen on hard times need simply "feel" himself to be a successful entrepreneur, and as "like attracts like" the success he is projecting will manifest.  If it does not, he has simply not believed hard enough.  In the case of adherents to Christian Prosperity doctrine, God wants us all to be successful.  We just need to place our faith in Him to receive the financial rewards.  The amassed wealth of book selling televangelists serves as proof of concept.

For some, the way in which belief is thought to effect reality is staggering. I spoke to one individual who concluded, for example, that dogs have the lifespan that they do because we expect them to.  For him, the deaths of indigenous cultures around the world occurred because of some flaw in their understanding of reality.  In such a view, all limitations are merely imposed by our preconceptions.  One may scoff at the obviously delusional character of such a belief system, but it is in reality a remix of a modern commercial culture in which large segments of the world participate.   Consider the way the monetary system and stock performance, and thus the "health" of economies and the nations that they depend upon, are tied to faith.   Consider the way "bad news" cannot be long tolerated, by individuals or markets, and is addressed not with solutions, but feel-good rhetoric and advertisement driven shopping experiences, which establish a sense of stability, success, and well-being that in turn reinforce the larger system.  

But adherents to the Law of Attraction are not entirely wrong.  The way we think and feel about things does play a role in shaping the world.  To overstate that role, however, is to fall into a realm of denial, delusion, and a dangerous and narcissistic disempowerment.  To understand the effects of our belief systems in the world, without exaggerating their importance, helps us walk a line between paralyzing despair and utopian fantasies.  With our senses thus anchored and clarified, it become possible to explore and experience the Great Mystery not purely in terms of a material cage or a paradise of endless possibility, but as something none the less larger than ourselves and profound in its secrets and multiplicity.  In this regard, we can stop avoiding the "unpleasant" realities that interfere with our good vibes and our earning potential to uncover a deep and compassionate connection to the living beings of the world and the very real suffering that takes place in this sphere.  To value consciousness then, is to value dream, imagination, the living planet that fosters such possibilities, and the unknown out of which it all emerges. 

I believe this is a nexus for real human and spiritual development, for valuable artistic expression, and for truly positive transformation. Suffering is not something to be ignored or masked, nor is it something to be abjectly endured.  It is an energy and a condition existing both at an individual and a structural level, and it is something that we must work with and transmute to the best of our ability. Such a transformative process unlocks potentials that can only be realized as we both break the mold of our destructive social condition to open up to new realities, and yet stay connected to that which is unfolding around us.   When as individuals we recognize the doom that already has existed, currently exists, and is spreading, and find a way to act in unflinching accordance with our own principles or a sense of connection to a higher law for the betterment of others, then the small "we" becomes fused to the larger.   It is through that connection that we can expand.

The real we is the we that includes those of us who outwardly benefit from this predatory system, as well those who have been swept under it, those for whom "we" cannot even pause.  In the most real sense, we are all connected, though this relationship is clearly not an equitable one.   Not contemplating imminent doom from behind the curtains of Western instigated covert military operations and the walls of sweatshop produced conveniences, is a luxury for those of us who still haven’t internalized what modern culture is actually about. Catastrophic climate change, and the conflicts over increasing water and food shortages it will create, is just another symptom of a pathological root, which has been denied for too long.

Countless tribal societies have already experienced their doom, not because they weren't spiritually connected enough or because they did not deeply believe themselves to be the proper guardians of their lands, but instead thanks to the ruthless actions of the forbears of our modern life.  Their 200,000 year old world ended at the hands of a death machine whose karma we swim in today.  To brush off the genocide of indigenous people whose lands modernity stole, and to wash our hands of the whole affair even as a "coalition of the willing" killed over a million brown skinned people in Iraq in an illegal war, is to function as the bulwarks of a violent methodology that persists through an unbroken line into modern households across the globe.  To not daily work against this destructive business-as-usual is to consent to it.  We do not all equally possess the means to confront and work toward the transformation of this system, but none the less, the way we orient our moral compass is critical.  

Dealing with the reality of unfolding collapse is overwhelming, which is perhaps why personal empowerment fads and the engagement in escapist behaviors are so common.  What is clear, however, is the blind pursuit of personal gratification is both a form of avoidance, as well as form of perpetuation that acts as a kind of unconscious violence.  In the face of such intractable problems, the question remains, what is to be done?  

To sustain life, there are certain non-negotiables.  Everyone requires access to clean water, healthy food, and shelter.  In the sustenance of life in the long term, the provision of these necessities must be done in a manner that does not destroy the planet.  This requires, among other things, the widespread, decentralized understanding of methods to inexpensively and sustainably build and maintain homes and produce food.  Layered into these basic needs is also the understanding that people should have security within their daily lives, which is to say, freedom from abuse and the threat of violence at a familial as well as well as societal level.  Insecurity creates conditions for exploitation, war, and unsustainable practices.  The  modern system falls abysmally short of providing for the people of the world, and it has an economic incentive to do so.   Its methodologies ravage the living environment while intentionally destabilizing personal and collective security for profit, creating problems and then "fixing" them for financial gain.  The process inevitably concentrates wealth and power into a small number of hands.  A report from Oxfam stated that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion. Such a state of affairs brings about the conditions for deep destabilization and collapse on a personal, regional, and now a global level, as pressures build beyond the capacity of social, environmental, and  personal coping strategies to handle them.  In 2014, a spate of suicides within the international banking community has shown the lack of viability of this system even within its upper echelons.

While I find it rather likely "we" will endure social breakdown in our lifetime, this concern shares space with the understanding that the calamity is already here, and has been here for a very long time.  Nothing I do will change the fact that countless people will die of hunger and disease today.  Rather than wondering whether "our" situation will look like "theirs" is to ignore the view that together we are in the midst of a collapse which is beyond inevitable: it's taking place right now.

This understanding has the potential to generate needed urgency among those who have the resources to do some good, but urgency and compassion are not enough.  Nor is food aid and medical care.  From my perspective as an artist, what we need is a transformative dynamic that recognizes the certainty of death, the hardships of life, the destructive impacts of an entrenched and pathological system, and yet finds the inspiration and humanity to do what is in our power to fundamentally change the way we live.  From a raw and energetic sense, this might look like taking essence from the way sunlight moves through the foliage of familiar trees on your spring time walk, which then somehow finds its way into the inner luminescence of your sleeping vision.  On a more tangible level,  this might look like putting an end to selling arms to foreign governments, or halting the undermining of local economies with subsidized agricultural dumping and food aid that benefits multinationals rather than deriving from local markets.  The spread of inexpensive technologies like slow sand filters, earth bag and compressed earth brick built structures, and solar ovens, offer promise not only in the developing world, but to those in developed nations who are looking for cheap, low tech solutions to build a transformative exit strategy from a pathological system.  

The drive for change does not come from new age platitudes or market driven utopias, but rather from the understanding  that to ignore the situation is to both turn our backs on our fellow man and the living planet, and finally, to die a spiritual death.  On the level of mass culture's subconscious, this is already known.  You can see it in the fascination with vampires and the undead.  The collapse is unfolding, and this is the zombie apocalypse.  We are witnessing the casualty of the spirit.  The trajectory of such consciousness is reactive, unaware, and lost, and doomed to perpetuate itself until perpetuation is no longer possible.

In the realm of transformative art, paintings, music, film, and poetry need to communicate both the horrors and beauties of our mortal lives within the context of system wide pathology.  Such art should also be tied directly into the physicality of the re-creative process itself, not simply from an information sharing and culture shifting approach, but also through its ability to lend momentum and material support toward a new paradigm.  As a carrier of information, a bridge between internal and external, and locus of monetary, cultural, and symbolic value, art can serve as currency for transformation, a guidepost for those seeking that transformation, and a visible metric indicating the kind of transformation that is underway.

To see this is to recognize art's existence as a liminal creation that straddles the physical world and the world of imagination, spirit, and dream.  Within the self-conscious context of the collapse underway, art can act as both a path and a life preserver for those who are themselves at the brink of being consumed by the death machine, but who orient themselves to some extent, even if unconsciously, toward health and shared salvation.  Art serves a point within a larger constellation of cultural understanding, and can focus consciousness and tease out new understanding.  Within such a context, each creation of beauty and truth becomes both an act of and a sign of reflection, vitality, defiance, and survival.

In this valley of the shadow of death, the positive transformation that art potentiates is through the indication of human value in spite of a system that harnesses for material gain our degraded sense of self within a forgotten cosmos.  Such streams of reflection become tributaries to larger forces for action.  Cultural creators have an obligation to move beyond the mere fabrication of adornments for the walls of a militarily backed materialism, and broaden out toward dynamic practices that forge meaningful relationships, give us inspiration in times of doubt, and literally feed and shelter human beings through integrated processes that supplant the old paradigm. To embrace this process of creation even as we accept our own mortality and the mortality of everyone we love, establishes the potential to free up energies to unremittingly push back against individuals and systems that are bringing unimaginable and unnecessary suffering to this world.  Art gives us permission to both put dreams into action and set fire to those practices that are themselves engendering the ongoing embodiment of traumatic patterns.   

Understanding collective doom no more implies inaction than does a warrior's sense of possible annihilation inevitably prevent him from engaging on the battlefield.  In wealthy nations, the lack of response to what is happening is not the result of accepting the direness of the situation at hand, but is rather the latent manifestation of a culture that has conditioned us over our lifetimes to live in a state of pathological consumption, unrecognized ignorance, capitulation, denial, disempowerment, fragmented thinking, and depression, as we struggle to pay the bills.  

In the case of social transformation, a recognition of inevitable breakdown has the potential to trigger the passion of the proverbial "nothing left to lose," mindset. It can unleash compassion and give us the creative tools we need to overcome the often irrational compromises we make in the name of preserving our socially constructed behavioral prison. It allows us to reach out in ways we have not in the past, and gives us the wherewithal to re-evaluate our course of action when it appears ineffective.  But without honing awareness, such  raw energies can also be self destructive.  The challenge comes with working with the catastrophic potentials that course through life.  It is a dance with the the death that we will inevitably face, and yet in the midst of such difficulties, there is a place for meaning, direction, purpose, beauty, and fulfillment through shared alchemical wisdom.

As we approach our human made oblivion, art in its various forms, then, can help pull us back from the brink of premature material or psychic destruction.  Through the transformative pushes and pulls of these dynamics, we can begin to detect the emergence of a resilience of spirit which does not wish to hide from the truth, and is less likely to be broken by the overwhelming and devastating force of the modern man-made world.  As author Chris Hedges has put it, "I do not fight fascists because I think I can win.  I fight fascists because they are fascists."  Salvation may not look like the healthy planet that we wish for, even as we strive to protect that which we hold dear.   Rather, it may appear as the ability to look each other in the eye knowing that we reached into the wellspring of creation and confronted this monstrosity that is trying to destroy everything sacred.  Perhaps it is through this recognition, given form through refined and purposeful action, that we become vehicles for a sacredness that lies beyond the reach of both the modern death machine, and death itself.

<![CDATA[Obama, Climate Saboteur]]>Mon, 24 Feb 2014 00:32:36 GMThttp://www.convergence-state.com/home/obama-climate-sabateur
<![CDATA[Essay: Confronting Humanity's Planned Obsolescence]]>Sun, 16 Feb 2014 06:21:33 GMThttp://www.convergence-state.com/home/essay-confronting-humanitys-planned-obsolescence...or why machines and markets won't save us
Something more than a little disturbing is happening at your local Wal-Mart, and it's not a two for one special on extreme macaroni pizza Pringles potato chips.  The latest forms of high tech gadget culture spilling from the shelves are signaling the transition of society into something unprecedented, even frightening.  Drone warfare has become a hot political topic, and with Americans tackling the implications of these nation destabilizing technologies now flying here at home, products which embody elements of this new age of wireless war fighting are finding their way into the big box marketplace.  Is it possible that predictions from a 2005 sci-fi book entitled The Artilect War, authored by retired professor of mathematical physics and artificial intelligence Hugo De Garis, are emerging under "Roll Back" conditions beneath rows of fluorescent lighting? 

It was just a few years ago that Australian born, AI researcher and self-proclaimed brain builder de Garis gained notoriety for his science fictional musings which predicted a war over emerging technology so profound that it would literally wipe out billions of people.  Such speculations fit well alongside the wide eyed apocalyptic prophecies that saturate our jittery society.   What should give us pause, though, is that his projections bear a striking resonance with not only the intuitions of other modern day big thinkers, but also the trends of the rapidly advancing technological environment.  
What Professor de Garis envisions is a time when the field of artificial intelligence reaches a level of  sophistication that could produce a machine vastly exceeding human consciousness.  He dubbed this theoretical machine the artilect, short for artificial intellect.  The prospect of such a radical creation in the hands of a military superpower, de Garis believes, will  escalate into a war of advanced, twenty-first century weapons, killing much of the world's population.  While a weaponized thinking machine currently remains out of reach, we are witnessing the foundations of what might broadly be called, in de Garis's language, a kind of artilect war constellating across the cultural infocosm.

One of many points along this dehumanizing constellation is Wal-Mart, renowned for low prices yet maligned for an anti-union stance and its widespread elimination of small businesses.  The mega corporation is also known for its sale of mass produced goods originating from places with lax worker protections: places like China, where de Garis and his collegue Ben Goertzel have taught, and where they have surmised that the coming artilect will arise, given the nation's large population, rapid industrialization,  and significant, centralized government investment into the development of AI.  But in the aisles of the American marketplace, China is making its mark alongside other nations of exploited labor pools, delivering goods Westerners can afford in uncertain times.  
Amidst the rows of toys and electronics, one finds numerous products that are acclimating kids to the changing world.  Beyond the Darth Vader kites and LEGO SWAT team sets, there are various smartphone enabled toys, guaranteed to satisfy a nation addicted to pixels.  Locked into a plastic AppBlaster gun, a smart phone suddenly generates an "augmented reality," where computerized  enemies are layered on screen over the real world.  This product presages the much anticipated Google Glass, slated for a 2014 release, which will superimpose a digital reality over daily life onto a screen worn like glasses.  Directions, store reviews, and computer apps will float within view, facilitating unending cyberspace connectivity. 
At an increasingly rapid pace, humankind is integrating with machines, a concept which, in it's ultimate form, is referred to by military research groups like DARPA as a brain machine interface.  Blue Tooths and augmented realities today are the cultural and technological stepping stones toward directly networking our minds.  To paraphrase a 2013 Android commercial, the technologies aren't an upgrade to your phone, they're an upgrade to you. Increasingly, people become products as the freedom of the market comes full circle, and humans will either "upgrade" or fall by the wayside. 
Corporations like Emotiv have in recent years pioneered headsets which monitor a wearer's brainwaves and allow the user to control computer applications by thought, bringing new potentials to gaming, communication, and market research.  While these products have not yet hit the shelves of big box stores, there are other signs of a technological revolution near at hand.

The Helo TC Assault, also found at Wal-Mart, is a smartphone piloted helicopter which can fire plastic missiles with a touch of the screen.  The toy drone is a simple version of more expensive consumer grade UAVs, which often include video cameras and come in quad rotor variations.  Meanwhile, the ubiquitous video game, Call of Duty Modern Warfare Three, involves a Predator drone "kill streak" bonus that wreaks havoc on virtual humans below.  It shouldn't be surprising, then, that modified Play Station controllers, familiar to young soldiers, are used by the military to control actual aerial war machines and kill real people.  And while teens and young adult males are being targeted with military industrial gaming, if you head over to the young children's department, you'll find that companies like Fisher-Price and VTech are marketing products that simulate laptops and smartphones for children as young as six months old.  PlaySkool even has an Elmo "mp3 player."

What de Garis saw in his book was the emergence of a machine so frighteningly advanced that so-called Terrans, desiring a world without an artilect, come into violent conflict with Cosmists, who yearn for the stars.  Yet even now we are witnessing an amalgam of disruptive high technologies and continuous warfare.  Additionally, while pop culture sells us unmanned aerial toys, tech gadgets for tots, and electronic living room war simulations, the content of these consumer products is being reinforced by their very methods of delivery.  The widespread supplanting of human beings and parallel forces of dehumanization are taking root across the retail chains.  Orders placed by large companies are handled automatically by inventory tracking computers rather than people.  The hallmarks of today's large scale customer service sector includes phone trees, canned music, outsourced telephone operators, and employees unfamiliar with their robot and sweatshop built products.  The machine driven reality is already operating outside the grasp of most of us, as we attempt to navigate on faith an unstable world of writhing market forces, gas price fluctuations, and technologies whose inner workings are beyond everyday comprehension.  

Workers struggling to survive are displaced not only by outsourced low wage labor and industrial robots, but automated checkout lines and next generation automatons.  In Harbin China,  a restaurant opened in 2012 which is overseen by humans but logistically run by robots, including a greeter, wait staff, and automatic chefs.  South Korea is deploying robotic prison guards, which "detect" changes in prisoner emotional states and report wirelessly to human guards. The Metro Group in Germany has opened the Future Store, which allows customers to utilize a Mobile Shopping Assistant phone app to scan their own merchandise and eventually wirelessly purchase the items, eliminating the need for cashiers altogether. 
One can see signs of this automation in the United States as well.  Aside from ATMs, online bill pay, Redbox, and self checkout stands, if you stop by Lowe's hardware, you might see sales associates toting smartphones that can scan items, and which could one day integrate with credit card swipers.  If the Future Store's innovations make good on efficiency and cost saving promises, American retail outlets will be primed for a transition.  In fact, back at Wal-mart, you might come across the signs that indicate that you can now skip the checkout line if your smart phone is loaded with the proper digital application.   
Meanwhile, companies like Staples, The Gap, Office Depot, Zappos, and Diapers.com run Kiva's robotic warehouse system, which organizes inventory, and delivers products to human pickers for shipping fulfillment. Efficiency under such a system has exploded, but real people are losing their jobs as a result.  And now in a move that seems bizarre even within the walls of our growing techno asylum, Amazon is even experimenting with drone delivery systems that will autonomously drop goods at your doorstep.
And while much of product handling is still performed by people, the October 2012 issue of Inc. magazine, which featured an innovative new robot named Baxter, foretells a time in which this may no longer be the case.  Baxter's developer is Rodney Brooks, former Director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, whose previous company iRobot created the highly successful, self-piloting Roomba vacuum cleaner, as well as the explosive ordinance disposal machine known as PackBot, which has been widely deployed in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
Created under his new company, Rethink Robotics, Baxter displays facial expressions that reflect its operating state.  Baxter's appearance ranges from "focused" on the task at hand to "dejected" when things aren't going well.   Unlike expensive, single purpose industrial robots seen at car manufacturing plants, the nimble machine is easily programmable to handle multiple production line tasks for only about $20,000 a unit.  Baxter clearly has the potential to displace millions of workers, and Brooks admits as much. 

While massive numbers of manufacturing jobs have been lost to low paying factories offshore, pushing laborers increasingly into the service sector, the cold, modern day profit machine is now threatening even these jobs.  One example is the so-called Momentum Machine, an up and coming device, which according to the company, can produce 360 high quality hamburgers an hour.   With such labor eliminating innovation, it can pay for itself within a year.  Additionally, both the US military and Google (which in 2013 purchased lead military robotics contractor Boston Dynamics) have been working on the production of driverless vehicles.  Touted as vast improvements to human safety, both on and off the battlefield, such creations also foretell the elimination of truck and delivery drivers, mail carriers, trash collectors, and agricultural vehicle operators, to name a few. 
The kind of largely unnoticed automation that is arriving on an increasingly dehumanized scene spurred Silicon Valley software developer Martin Ford to pen the book The Lights in the Tunnel, which addresses a technologically displaced humanity.   His book suggests that machines are not only poised to replace physical labor, but better compensated knowledge based jobs as well, like data analysts, law researchers, or doctors.   Evidenced by the 2011 Jeopordy! season, in which IBM's supercomputer Watson trounced Jeopordy! prodigies Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a series of matches, technology will likely one day possess such capabilities.  These trends have not gone unnoticed in academic circles.  In 2013, a study released from Oxford concluded that 47% of US jobs are threatened by automation.

The progress of computers has largely followed a trend known as Moore's Law, which observes that the number of semi-conductors on an integrated circuit doubles roughly every year and half to two years, meaning that speed and storage capacity has been increasing at an exponential rate.  Though some are now seeing a slowdown in the trend, the undeniable improvements on computer technology along a fairly regular path has led people like Hugo de Garis, well known futurist and award winning inventor Ray Kurzweil, and others to speculate that computers will possess human like intelligence some time mid twenty-first century.  The potential dislocation of much of humanity from gainful employment and the resulting economic disparity which worries Martin Ford, however, is already underway.  Even more troubling, it is a trend that is emerging alongside the erosion of Constitutional protections, mounting social tensions, pressures on global agriculture from climate change, and intensified electronic surveillance.    

Like many underlying developments in the world today, technological displacement hides in plain sight.  It is further testament to the power of technology that media conglomerates pedaling simplistic, incomplete, and fictional narratives are simultaneously creating this new reality as well as our distorted understanding of it.  While the fields of robotics and AI bring with them promises of advanced prosthetics and modern conveniences, the pace of life is speeding up, and with it, the pace of human and environmental exploitation.  Since the 2008 housing bubble collapse, no prosecutions of Wall Street executives for their fraudulent behavior has occurred. In 2009, head of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, Antonio Costa, indicated to the Guardian newspaper that laundered drug money was the only liquid capital available to keep some banks afloat.  During this period and up until the present, at least fifty percent of stock trades are now made at speeds beyond human comprehension by supercomputers maximizing profits on marginal changes in stock prices,  in a process known as algorithmic trading.  While a corrupted system of electronic financial speculation toys with food commodity prices and creates disruptions across the globe, emerging robotic warfare disconnects us further from the battlefield and from any sense of personal responsibility.  A stated aim of DARPA and the DOD's Project Alpha, reinforced by the Pentagon’s Directive 3000.09, indicates that lethal robots able to autonomously select and eliminate human targets are in fact being developed.  While humanity’s expendability in the face of a violent technocracy is becoming evident, advanced military machines are being deployed by entrenched interests to maintain control over coveted resources on an increasingly destabilized planet.
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The unmanned military convoys underway may be accompanied by remotely piloted, machine gun toting ground robots currently in production and slated to hit the battlefields of a never ending war on terror within just five years.  In the face of complexity, Westerners are lulled into realms of chemical addictions,  big box denialism, and Hollywood fantasies.  A high tech system resting on unsustainable resource depletion and pathological behavior is thus enabled, belying the dissociative notion that technology will save us. 
There exists a powerful parallel between the replacement of human workers by machines even as the biosphere and human life are being threatened by destructive technologies.  Dehumanization, both literally and figuratively, are the name of the game, in the elite's planet ravaging quest for increasing power and profit.   While in the twentieth century, so called advanced societies witnessed  gains in average lifespan, now we are confronted with deeper threats to the core of existence.  Our vulnerability is multifaceted: the environmental threats we bring upon ourselves with disruptive technologies, the increasingly dehumanized state of unending war cropping up in a domestic militarized police, and as author Chris Hedges points out, the utter expendability of average people in the eyes of the elite, who are now concentrating wealth with job eliminating technologies.  This is a world where the richest 85 people have as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion.  Mother Jones reported that in America, the top 10% controls 2/3 of US net worth.  The backlash of such disparities and destabilization will be managed through surveillance algorithms, spy drones, and metadata analysis. 

Professor Hugo de Garis believes that an artilect war is the most probable outcome in the coming years of advanced AI research.  Whether his particular vision is correct or not, the fact that he spent most of his career in university labs working to build such an artilect demonstrates perfectly the sociopatholgical nature of the society we inhabit.  He is no mad genius, but rather appears to me to be a man captured by a dark and narcissistic techno fanaticism, that rather than suggestive of breakthrough imagination, is more wed to an extension of an ongoing narrative.   The notion of some future god like artilect as a singular creature perfected through technological advance, is clearly the product of a Western male hierarchy driven by science and so-called rationality towards the obliteration of mother earth.  

What is actually unfolding certainly emerges from this narrative, but it appears far more integrated into a truly transhuman reality.  By transhuman, I don't simply mean the merger of man and machine, but additionally, a phenomenon that goes beyond the individual human to take on a larger gestalt.  It is not an individual Terminator stalking us down the future's alleyways, but rather the stem cells of a holistic, technological beingness developing and taking root, finding rudimentary consciousness in Google and IBM algorithms, in socially conditioned redundancies, in the objectification of robotically discarded human beings, in the all seeing and interconnected electronic eyes that peer into our lives, in financially dictated foreclosures during housing overabundance, in the Wal-Martification of the landscape, in the blast patterns of drone fired missiles, in the machine mediated entertainment that feeds our consciousness, in the mass produced food and environmental chemicals that become our bodies, and in the ongoing stream of Wall Street stock tickers and interest rate directives that shuffle us into our daily routines and subroutines.  It is a ruthless machine logic, psychopathically resonant in its lack of empathy, and ready to dispense with life as it grinds forward on its own accelerating logic.  
To confront the "planned obsolescence" of humanity, then, is to confront an already emerging artilect war penetrating into the tissues of life like the prick of a biotech scientist's gene gun which forever alters the nature of whatever it  infects. 
<![CDATA[Anti TPP Activist Leaflet]]>Fri, 17 Jan 2014 04:30:01 GMThttp://www.convergence-state.com/home/anti-tpp-activist-leafletPicture
In the spirit of transformation and resistance to the corrupt forces that have risen to temporary dominance, I offer up my anti Trans Pacific Partnership leaflet.  I incorporated Dorothea Lange's iconic public domain image of an impoverished Depression era woman and her children because of its familiarity and its connection to a legacy of hard times brought about by the predatory system that we live in.  Please download and remix the leaflet as you like, adding in your website, contact info if you are an organizer, etc.
I included a link to the Public Citizen TPP information page at the bottom of the leaflet.  While I'm not affiliated with the organization, I found their website to be useful and professionally laid out, and included the link so that people who get the leaflet will have access to solid, well presented information. 

If you see this leaflet as being useful, please direct others to this post so that we can further the energies of transformation.  The file for download includes two images on one page, so if you print it at your locally owned copy center, they can cut a large quantity for you in house.   Also, copy centers will often give you a better rate if you bring your own paper.  I recommend something with a little color, and recycled of course.  Call ahead and you can  email them the file before you head over.  Happy leafleting!

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<![CDATA[America is the Lunatic Fringe]]>Fri, 10 Jan 2014 05:57:54 GMThttp://www.convergence-state.com/home/america-is-the-lunatic-fringePicture
It's common to hear words like "conspiracy theorist" or "nut job" thrown around these days in an attempt to marginalize those whose ideas lie outside the scope of accepted information.  Let's be honest, there are indeed a lot of beliefs out there that we should quickly  dismiss, unless we want to spend countless hours venturing down fundamentalist or pseudo scientific rabbit holes.  But by the same token, the interesting thing about using a word like "conspiracy theorist" to shut down debate is that implies that the accuser believes the accused to be crazy, while they perceive themselves to be firmly planted on the bedrocks of sanity and objective reality.   

But is the current Western culture, and its constituent members, truly sane?  And what indications might we look for that indicate otherwise?

Activist and author Derrick Jensen, among others, have suggested that the dominant culture is in fact insane, which is attributable, essentially, to the fact that civilization is destroying the life support systems that we depend upon. This seems a compelling enough argument.  Why would anyone in their right mind destroy the living planet and thus not only their livelihood, but the livelihoods of their children?  One answer to that question might be that the culture is collectively ignorant.  It just doesn't understand that it's technology is as harmful as it is.  But this is not an altogether convincing line of thought.  There certainly exists an element of this mindset, but mixed in are those who couldn't care less, and those who understand the conditions which we are creating, but also feel there is nothing we can do about it.  There are those who drive around in super duty pickups with pictures of Calvin pissing on the word "environmentalists," undoubtedly viewing the wolves they will be shooting from their snow mobiles as proxies for members of  the green movement.  And then there are those who will manipulate and coldly profit on inevitable planetary decline straight into the heart of oblivion.  Maybe we're not insane, but captives of a system of our collective traumas and eccentricities, actors in an ongoing survival drama gone awry.

Or maybe, as Jensen suggests, we have altogether lost it.

I think people with any compassion for human life would see the US sponsored killing sprees in foreign lands for the benefit of military contractors and access to fossil fuels as more than just a little over the top.  When we start to realize that this is done for essentially numbers housed in artificial constructs known as banks, in order to prop up an economy built on soul crushing jobs, questioning our collective mental stability starts to sound like the sane approach.

In the past, I've mused about the kinds of video games people are playing today, as a sort of window into our consciousness.  While the modern culture derides the "primitiveness" of animists and spirit world contacting nature worshipers, it has created its own parallel realms of magic and miracles.  It seems fitting that a technology and money driven culture, bereft of a sense of the sacred, would in the absence of dream work, shamanism, and vision quests, find refuge in pixelated realms of fictionalized exploration and self mastery.  Amid the ultra violent first person shooters and misogynist fantasy lands
are a special breed of horror games in which the breakdown of morality and sanity plays an important role.  Take a look at the above trailers to get a taste of the kind entertainment kids, and increasingly older men, are consuming. This kind of entertainment, along with spinning wheels of fortune and a host of un-reality shows, are woven into the fabric of our consciousness.

But what recently got me thinking about the sanity of America was an article that discussed the revelations of US intelligence operatives infiltrating virtual worlds on the world wide web out of fear that online jihadists could be creating computer animated avatars of Osama bin Laden, in order to recruit extremists.  The report suggested

“The Bin Ladin avatar could preach and issue new fatwas for hundreds of years to come, as the fidelity of his likeness would be entirely believable and animated in new ways to keep him current and fresh.”

Current and fresh?  Terrorism a la Starbucks.  In a nation where drone operators drive home after a day of bombing wedding parties to catch up on the latest Disney Pixar flick with the kids, the perceived threats we are lashing out at are increasingly showing themselves to be the undying products of our own warped minds.
And this was when I realized that we are officially through the looking glass. Security spooks are now haunting  virtual space, looking for digital re-animations of their own 1980′s Cold War creation, surrounded by 3d rendered penguins and dancing Star Wars creatures. The trajectory we have been following, while apparently parallel to a course of sanity and rationality in this so-called age of information,  diverged quite some time ago. As time passes along the X axis, the gulf is becoming increasingly apparent. If in our high tech delusion we are not wiped out in the short term from ecological or economic meltdown, we will soon be sucking down genetically modified drinks, whisked away to cubicles inside our self driving cars, immersed in a Google glass augmented reality of pop-up messages and floating emoticons, while unmanned heavy machinery extracts the earth’s last resources, and autonomous drones keep the desperate rest of the world scratching dirt outside of our grinning, DHS approved, commercial-break festooned eating contest.

Homo sapiens have been on the planet
for around 250,000 years, and while our  saga of violence and destruction are not new, the current planet destroying scale and pathological disregard for the life system is unique.  In spite of our assertions in the West that "this i just the way things are," the last few centuries can only be viewed as a thin crust of human existence.  Welcome to the lunatic fringe.

<![CDATA[Google, DARPA, and Military Industrial Fascism]]>Sun, 22 Dec 2013 21:54:21 GMThttp://www.convergence-state.com/home/google-darpa-and-military-industrial-fascism
As was recently reported in the New York Times, Google purchased Boston Dynamics, a leading lab in the field of robotics which has been a regular recipient of US military contracts, and has performed prime research and development for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  With funding from DARPA, Boston Dynamics produced humanoid robots PETMAN and ATLAS, as well as collection of imitation animals, including Big Dog, Cheetah, and WildCat, each with their own military applications.
The question as to where this kind of research could lead was hinted at when DARPA allocated seven million dollars of its 2013 budget to go toward Project Avatar, which could one day allow soldiers to control robotic Terminator-style avatars that stand in for them in combat.  The  2013 DARPA budget states, in regards to project Avatar:

"The Avatar program will develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively
partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier's surrogate. Once developed, Avatar will allow soldiers to remain out of harm's way while still leveraging their experience and strengths to complete important missions such as sentry/perimeter control, room clearing, combat casualty recovery, and, eventually, dismounted combat maneuver. Anticipated service users include the Army, Marines and Special Forces.

In the New York Times article, there was a vague and unconvincing attempt to distance Google from the role of military contractor, stating that "
Google executives said the company would honor existing military contracts, but that it did not plan to move toward becoming a military contractor on its own."  The "on its own" phrasing appears to leave some wiggle room for ongoing military contracting, perhaps implying it would remain primarily an internet company (while doing some "side work" for the Pentagon), or referring to the search giant's intention to work in a cooperative effort with other individuals or research firms for the US government. 

If Google continues its current development of high tech toys for the US military, there's no reason to believe that the general public
would be aware of it.  Recent SEC rule changes have allowed Google among other corporations to omit the majority of their subsidiaries from public records, and as a result, Google's publicly available list of subsidiaries shrank from over one hundred to just two, over the course of three years, according to the Wall Street Journal. Might some iteration of General Dynamics find itself rebranded and relocated overseas to avoid the scrutiny of those curious about Google's new found military connection? This legal cloak, coupled with a total lack of transparency within the US government, gives Google just the kind of cover it needs to go forward with creating technology for the US military, should it desire to do so. 

It is also interesting to note that Google has previously crossed paths with  DARPA and the US military.  Google's fleet of self driving cars was developed under the direction of Sebastian Thrun, winner of the DARPA driverless car Grand Challenge
competition, and second place winner of the DARPA Urban Challenge competition.  Additionally, in 2012 Regina Dugan left her role as director of DARPA to work in an executive position at Google.  And thanks to Edward Snowden, we learned that Google has been collaborating with the NSA under the PRISM program, giving the spy agency access to vast amounts  of data stored on their servers. The company actually received millions of dollars in government funds to implement the program. It should be mentioned that the NSA operates under the jurisdiction of the Pentagon, and thus is a military agency.

All of this hints at the overlapping and evolving high tech power structure, where Google's acquisition of Boston Dynamics points to a high stakes, behind-the-scenes merging of government and corporate power.  In order to stay competitive, national security players converge with military researchers and "civilian" tech giants, establishing an all pervasive security grid in which we all take part.  Semi and fully autonomous robots, artificial intelligence, ubiquitous surveillance, and drones all become the subjects of bleeding edge interest in the interconnected world of the elites.