Author Archive | Jin_TheNinja

Anarchism and Steampunk

Aerial HouseExploring the radical roots of a popular science fiction genre. Via Airships, Anarchists, & Anachronisms:

Steampunk began as a radical satirical form of fiction, but today it encompasses much more. What precisely is steampunk? As the editors of Steampunk Magazine explain, steampunk is “a vibrant culture of DIY crafters, writers, artists, and other creative types, each with their own slightly different answer to that question.” By its diverse nature, steampunk resists definition. Furthermore, in the ever evolving nature of steampunk, “as each new iteration of the idea be­comes more ambitious, the mutations are delightfully limitless and unpredictable.”

This definition seems in line with Rachel A. Bowser and Brian Croxall’s statement that, “Steampunk is more about instability than any other single characteristic. It resists fixedness by unsettling the categories from which it cribs.” Yet, the authors do provide a definition for those looking for the quintessential steampunk. They write:

That being said, one common element arguably shared by all steampunk texts, objects, or performances is the one on which this journal is predicated: the invocation of Victorianism.

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150 Million Americans are in Poverty

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West discuss their new book on Democracy Now!:

The latest census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty — or could be classified as low income. We’re joined by Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who continue their efforts to spark a national dialog on the poverty crisis with the new book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.

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Quebec Students Protest Against Austerity

QuebecKaren Seidman and Kevin Dougherty write on the Montreal Gazette:

Attempts to have any kind of normalcy on the campus of the Universite de Montreal in the wake of an ongoing student strike completely unravelled on Wednesday after the administration was forced to retreat on its efforts to provide classes in striking departments for students who don’t support the boycott.

Tensions were high not just at U de M, but on many Quebec campuses, where there were clashes as students resisted hardline tactics to try to force them back to class during the tenth week of their protest over tuition increases of $1,625 over five years.

Injunctions taken by university administrations backfired as students found increasingly violent and disruptive ways to ensure campus activities could not resume, such as broken windows, vandalized art work and fire alarms going off during exams at U de M.

And, as many different groups involved in the dispute called on each other to condemn the growing use of violence and vandalism, it became clear that efforts at mediation could provoke militancy…

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The New (Conservative) Liberalism

JackassCharles Davis, on liberalism in America, and how it fails to provide systemic solutions to the problems faced in an increasingly conservative world. Via Al Jazeera:

Once upon a time — say, three years ago — your average Democrat appeared to care about issues of war and peace. When the man dropping the bombs spoke with an affected Texas twang, the moral and fiscal costs of empire were the subject of numerous protests and earnest panel discussions, the issue not just a banal matter of policy upon which reasonable people could disagree, but a matter of the nation’s very soul.

Then the guy in the White House changed.

Now, if the Democratic rank and file haven’t necessarily learned to love the bomb – though many certainly have — they have at least learned to stop worrying about it. Barack Obama may have dramatically expanded the war in Afghanistan, launched twice as many drone strikes in Pakistan as his predecessor and dropped women-and-children killing cluster bombs in Yemen, but peruse a liberal magazine or blog and you’re more likely to find a strongly worded denunciation of Rush Limbaugh than the president.

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Russian Corruption ‘Out of Control’

Via Al Jazeera:

Valery Morozov, a successful Russian businessman has been granted political asylum in Britain after exposing an alleged corruption scandal involving officials and police in Russia. Hoping to build a hotel in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he says he paid about $10.5m in bribes to keep the contract from a competitor with close ties to the government, contributing to an estimated $300bn in bribes paid by Russians every year, according to the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International.

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‘Fair Trade’ iPhones?

iPhonesFair Trade labels, are an increasingly a common sight on food stuffs like coffee, bananas, sugar, tea and chocolate. While the labeling system is an imperfect mediator to global disparity and injustice, it does help traditional farmers moderate their standard of living. However, given the complex and multiple processes involved in the production of new technologies like phones, mp3 players, and laptops — is ‘fair trade’ technology even possible? Reports Ryan Huang on ZDNet Asia:

There may be a market for more ethically sourced and produced electronics driven by the increased public scrutiny and awareness over labor issues and related concerns over the sector, say industry observers. However, some express reservations over the feasibility of implementing a fair trade model in the industry.

The electronics manufacturing industry came under the spotlight following a series of suicides involving Foxconn workers in a Chinese factory, which manufactures devices for major brands such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Samsung.

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Is Democracy An Illusion?

Karl MarxJohn Stoehr writes on Al Jazeera:

In the US, the dominant political discourse consists of ideas put forth by the ruling class.

Karl Marx never visited the United States, but he nevertheless understood the country, because he understood capitalism. As you know, there’s no American ideology that’s mightier than capitalism. Equality, justice and the rule of law are nice and all, but money talks.

In their 1846 book The German Ideology, Marx and co-author Frederick Engels took a look at human history and made a plain but controversial observation. In any given historical period, the ideas that people generally think are the best and most important ideas are usually the ideas of the people in charge. If you have a lot of money and own a lot of property, then you have the power to propagandise your worldview and you have incentive to avoid appearing as if you’re propagandising your worldview.

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Secret City: Illegal Architecture of Taiwan

TaipeiMany cities in Asia proper, have captured the imaginations of authors, specifically science fiction writers, due in large part due to their disjointed, chaotic, and multi-layered nature. These cities have a tendency to map their histories, migration patterns, linguistic groups and associated economic levels onto the very architecture and design of the city. In Taipei much of the building is done illegally, in ‘secret’ places all around the city, particularly by rural migrants, artists and experimental architects. This has resulted in some very dynamic and cyber-punk worthy designs that further colour the fabric of Taipei. Via Web Urbanist:

Beyond the ‘official city’ of Taipei, where modernization and beautification efforts are glossing over the city’s natural and historical origins, there’s Instant City. Using Taipei’s conventional modern architecture as a platform and energy source, this network of illegal architecture attaches itself ‘like a parasite’ to create unsanctioned urban farms, night markets and other social gathering places.

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Colonialism and The American Diet

Jill Richardson writes on Alternet:

It is hardly news that the United States faces epidemic health problems linked to poor diets. Nearly two out of every five Americans are obese. But according to a press release from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, “The West is now exporting diabetes and heart disease to developing countries, along with the processed foods that line the shelves of global supermarkets. By 2030, more than 5 million people will die each year before the age of 60 from non-communicable diseases linked to diets.”

De Schutter, whose work usually focuses on ending hunger, just published a new report saying, “The right to food cannot be reduced to a right not to starve. It is an inclusive right to an adequate diet providing all the nutritional elements an individual requires to live a healthy and active life, and the means to access them.” In other words, the right to a healthful diet must be included in the human right to food.

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