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“Is shopping a recipe for the city?” (Wade Graham, DREAM CITIES, 2016)

From a generally very interesting chapter on Idea 6, Malls, in Wade Graham’s Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World (a book on architecture and urban forms):

If the world is becoming a mall, has shopping become the driver of urban form? In most educated circles this suggestion elicits a [pg]196[/pg] collective shudder. Shopping is sub-serious, as Cicero insisted: All retail dealing may be described as dishonest and base.[1] Architecture, always zealous in defense of its claim to be a high art, wants nothing to do with it. Except, on rare occasions, to pay the bills. Louis Sullivan did a department store, Frank Lloyd Wright a boutique, Rudolf Schindler a store or two, and I. M. Pei’s first major project was a mall, but these are rarely mentioned along with their canonical masterpieces. And yet a case can be made that shopping, in the form of trade, gave birth to the city, that shopping has been and remains the lifeblood coursing through its heart, that the design of shopping is inseparable from the design of cities since time immemorial and is an indispensable guide to the urban future.

The largest neolithic settlement known, Çatalhöyük in Turkey, was founded in 7000 BCE, probably as a trading center.[2] The market at the center of Thebes has been dated to 1500 BCE. The Greek agora, or gathering place, the acknowledged birthplace of Western civilization and democratic society, was both a marketplace for shopping and a civic center for discussion, sociality, and politics. The Greek words for I shop and I speak in public are both derived from the same root; in modern Greek agora still means marketplace. The agora became the Roman forum, the medieval fair and market town, the Eastern bazaar and souk. Is shopping a recipe for the city? Consider the evidence. In the exchange of goods is gathering, and in gathering is society; meeting, trading information, gossiping, haggling, freedom of movement for women, and people-watching — the original theater is the theater of customers as participants in a perennial ritual and unpredictable drama. Done right, shopping can define space in ways that are fundamentally urban: the shopping space is a space apart, inside, separate from other distracting activities, and essentially pedestrian, but also connected to the outside. [pg]197[/pg] Shopping generates movement and density; it mixes and connects people, and disconnected or disparate parts of the city. If this is the case, then maximizing shopping equals maximizing urbanism. . . .

. . . [pg]236[/pg] We can only hope that shopping design’s evolution toward more inclusion and integration continues. Regardless, as long as it is profitable, it will continue to be a major contributor to the environments we inhabit, as it has been for centuries, if not more. Time will tell. In an essay on the firm’s influence, the L.A. architect and critic Craig Hodgetts asked whether Jerde’s artificial cosmos may, in time, attain the dignity of the truly cosmopolitan… with the scars and patina of age. Yet age and familiarity are not what make a place truly urban, but its integration into the fabric of the city around it. The question is then, will Jerde’s places become, as some previous forms of shopping architecture have, public places as much as private ones–places integral to urban vitality?

— Wade Graham, #6. Malls.
In Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World (2016).

See also:

  1. [1][Sordidi etiam putandi, qui mercantur a mercatoribus, quod statim vendant…. Cic., De officiis i. 150, here lightly paraphrased by the translator that Graham quotes. More literally: And again — they are to be reckoned sordid, who buy from merchants what they turn around and sell. In the passage, Cicero is listing off a series of working-class trades and lines of business that we (Roman noblemen) understand to be sordid (dirty) or illiberal (unfit for or unbecoming of a free gentleman) — among them toll-taking, money-lending, all hired work that is purchased for labor rather than for artistic or skillful quality, buying from merchants to resell, manufacturing in a workshop, and trades that minister to immediate enjoyment, like fishing and fish-selling, butchery, cooking, poultry-stuffing, cosmetics, dancing and performing in variety shows. –RG.]
  2. [2][This is contested; some confidently assert it was founded for trade, some assert just as confidently that all the evidence now points to it being founded as a religious center, etc. etc. –RG.]

“The Red Sea,” by Stephen Edgar

The Red Sea

Lulled in a nook of North West Bay,
The water swells against the sand,
Hardly more liquid than Venetian glass,
In which clear surface, just a little way
From shore, some four or five petite yachts pass
With languid ease, apparently unmanned,
Adrift along the day,

Imagining a breeze to fan
Their motion, though there’s none. Siobhan
Reaches a giant hand down from the sky
And nudges with insouciant élan
The nearest hull, her bended waist mast-high.
That hand is just as magically withdrawn.
So moves the catamaran.

And through the Lilliputian fleet
She, Beatrice and Gabrielle
Wade in the shallows, knee-deep, spaceman-slow,
To fashion their maneuvers and compete
Among the stationed hours to and fro,
While watching through the viscid slide and swell
Of water their white feet,

Made curiously whiter by
That cool light-bending element.
Doubled by shadows on the sand they glimpse
Pipefish and darting fingerlings they try
Impossibly to grab, translucent shrimps
Among the laceweed, seahorses intent
To flee the peopled sky.

Hard to conceive that they should be
Precisely who they are and here,
Lost in the idle luxury of play.
And hard to credit that the selfsame sea
That joins them in their idleness today,
Careless of latitude and hemisphere,
Blind with ubiquity,

Churns elsewhere with a white uproar,
Or wipes the Slave Coast clean of trees,
Or sucks among the scum and floating drums
Of some forgotten outpost founded for
The advent of an age that never comes,
Or bobs the remnants of atrocities
Limply against the shore.

What luck they have. And what good sense
To leave the water with their toys
When called, before their fortunes are deranged.
And still the day hangs in its late suspense
For hours without them, virtually unchanged,
Until the bay’s impregnable turquoise
Relaxes its defense

And sunset’s dye begins to spread
In flood across it to the sand
They stood on, as though, hoping to disown
The blood of all the innocents he’d shed,
Macbeth incarnate or his grisly clone
Had stooped on some far shore to rinse his hand,
Making the green one red.

— Stephen Edgar
From Poetry (January 2008)

iCOP

What the Fusion Center hath wrought: sure, why not bring the U.S. Postal Service in on the domestic surveillance game?

The Postal Service is running a ‘covert operations program’ that monitors Americans’ social media posts

Jana Winter, Contributor / April 21, 2021

The law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service has been quietly running a program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, including those about planned protests, according to a document obtained by Yahoo News.

The details of the surveillance effort, known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, have not previously been made public. The work involves having analysts trawl through social media sites to look for what the document describes as “inflammatory” postings and then sharing that information across government agencies.

Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021, says the March 16 government bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers. Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.

A number of groups were expected to gather in cities around the globe on March 20 as part of a World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, to protest everything from lockdown measures to 5G. Parler users have commented about their intent to use the rallies to engage in violence. Image 3 on the right is a screenshot from Parler indicating two users discussing the event as an opportunity to engage in a fight and to do serious damage, says the bulletin.

No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats, it adds.

. . . The government’s monitoring of Americans’ social media is the subject of ongoing debate inside and outside government, particularly in recent months, following a rise in domestic unrest. While posts on platforms such as Facebook and Parler have allowed law enforcement to track down and arrest rioters who assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6, such data collection has also sparked concerns about the government surveilling peaceful protesters or those engaged in protected First Amendment activities.

— The Postal Service is running a ‘covert operations program’ that monitors Americans’ social media posts
Jana Winter, Yahoo! News (April 21, 2021) (Wayback Link)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a federal law enforcement agency in possession of good appropriations, must be in want of expansive surveillance programs, and there’s no mission they won’t creep beyond. But this is, in a word, bananas, and it should not be placidly accepted.

Meanwhile, in another Federal Bureau, the FISA court notes that the FBI has repeatedly, knowingly, systematically abused warrantless surveillance systems to violate the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Over and over again for years. And yet…

Federal court approved FBI’s continued use of warrantless surveillance power despite repeated violations of privacy rules

By Ellen Nakashima / April 26, 2021 at 4:22 p.m. CDT

A secretive federal court approved the FBI’s use of a powerful warrantless surveillance authority in November despite finding that the bureau had repeatedly violated rules meant to protect Americans’ privacy.

Between mid-2019 and early 2020, FBI personnel conducted queries of data troves containing Americans’ emails and other communications, seeking information without proper justification, according to a redacted ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court made public Monday.

But James E. Boasberg, the court’s presiding judge, said the violations occurred before the FBI improved its querying system and training program, and that the coronavirus pandemic has limited the government’s ability to monitor compliance.

While the Court is concerned about the apparent widespread violations … it lacks sufficient information at this time to assess the adequacy of FBI system changes and training, he said.

Therefore, he wrote, “the Court is willing to again conclude that the … [FBI’s] procedures meet statutory and Fourth Amendment requirements.”

The findings mark at least the third set of FBI rule breaches in the past several years, often involving large numbers of Americans’ communications.

— Federal court approved FBI’s continued use of warrantless surveillance power despite repeated violations of privacy rules<br/>Ellen Nakashima, the Washington Post (April 26, 2021)

(Via Mad Dogs & Englishmen ep. 309 and Jesse Walker’s Twitter.)

He Can Only Be Classified As A Cad

*I’ve Been Reading: Steven Levy, A 25-Year-Old Bet Comes Due: Has Tech Destroyed Society? in WIRED (01.05.2021)

Shared Article from Wired

A 25-Year-Old Bet Comes Due: Has Tech Destroyed Society?

In 1995, a WIRED cofounder challenged a Luddite-loving doomsayer to a prescient wager on tech and civilization’s fate. Now their judge weighs i…

wired.com


From the article, and by far the best pay-off of reading through the whole thing (emphasis added):

  • Kirkpatrick Sale: I cannot accept that I lost . . . . The clear trajectory of disasters shows that the world is much closer to my prediction. So clearly it cannot be said that Kevin won.

  • Kevin Kelly: This was a gentleman’s bet, and he can only be classified as a cad.

If you want to read the original interview from 1995, that’s also online.

Shared Article from Wired

Interview with the Luddite

Kirkpatrick Sale is a leader of the Neo-Luddites. Wired's Kevin Kelly wrote the book on neo-biological technology. Food fight, anyone?

wired.com


In a lot of ways I am actually quite fond of Kirkpatrick Sale, as an intellectual figure. But Kevin Kelly is clearly right here and Sale is clearly acting the cad. The last year has been really rough for a whole lot of people, to be sure. But there is absolutely no way that a serious answer to the question, Has tech destroyed society? — if destroyed actually means anything remotely like the specific standards for endurance or failure that Sale and Kelly agreed on in 1995 — other than a flat No, it clearly hasn’t. Hyper-industrial civilization is still a going concern in 2021.[1] There is no forthright, literal, and intellectually serious assessment for the first concrete criterion they agreed to — (1) Has there been multinational global currency collapse that brought standards of living in 2020 below those of 1930?[2] — except for No, that didn’t happen. (At all.)

And despite Bill Patrick’s really kind of silly efforts to fudge his way into something like a diplomatic split decision between Sale and Kelly, there’s also no forthright, literal, and intellectually serious assessment of the second concrete criterion they agreed to — (2) Have there been social friction and warfare both between the rich and the poor and within nations, to such a massive scale that industrial civilization has crumbled or is even anywhere near crumbling from civil and military strife?[3] — except for No, that didn’t really happen either. (There’s still a lot of global poverty and inequality, and there have been lots of social and political conflict. Those are really bad, but global poverty and inequality are flatly better not worse since 1995, and absolutely nothing that’s happened in the period between 1995 and 2020, even at its very worst, comes anywhere near the sort of thing that would involve destruction or peril to industrial civilization in even one country, let alone in the world as a whole.)[4]

And, again, despite Patrick’s silly attempt at a diplomatic splitting of the decision, there’s also no forthright, literal, and intellectually assessment of the third criterion they agreed to — (3) Have there been accumulating environmental problems, such that Australia, for example, becomes unlivable because of the ozone hole there, and Africa, from the Sahara to South Africa, becomes unlivable because of new diseases that have been uncovered through deforestation, to such a scale that industrial civilization has crumbled or is even anywhere near crumbling in the next several years? — except for No, that didn’t really happen either, at least not yet. (There’s lots of environmental stuff that’s bad, quite possibly getting worse, but nothing environmental in the period between 1995 and 2020 has made continents unlivable or destroyed industrial civilization, or is even remotely likely to within the next decade.[5]

None of this, of course, is to say that there’s nothing to worry about, or that real suffering, or the economic, sociopolitical and environmental dangers and crises that so many of us face[6] are anything less than real, grave, and urgently calling for thought and action. Hell, it’s not even to say anything about whether it’s certain or not whether global industrial civilization survives to 2050, or 2100, or into the gleaming Star Trek future.[7] The bet was about what the world would be like now in 2020 — that was still 25 years in the future when they made the bet, and the bet they agreed to was about how people would be living (or not) in 2020 — not about how anxious or afraid they (we) might be in 2020 about how the world might turn out another 30 or 50 or 80 years further into the world of tomorrow.

  1. [1]You might think that itmight not be a going concern for much longer. If you think that, I reckon you’re wrong, but I’d be glad to hear what sort of evidence and reasoning you have in mind, and about how long you think it will be until things do fall apart. But Sale and Kelly didn’t bet on whether or not technological civilization would be existing precariously or in decadence or long-term unsustainable in 2020. They bet on whether or not it would still exist and function. If all the present uncertainty leads you to doubt that, I’d call your attention to about 7.8 billion people who aren’t living in nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers, with technics that aren’t limited to wood and stone and skin and bones, who might be able to offer evidence.
  2. [2]Sale, 1995: The dollar would be worthless, the yen would be worthless, the mark would be worthless—the dislocation we saw in the Depression of 1930, magnified many times over.
  3. [3]Sale, 1995 (emphasis added): A second would be the distention within various societies of the rich and the poor, in which the poor, who comprise, let’s say, a fifth of society, are no longer content to be bought off with alcohol and television and drugs, and rises up in rebellion. And at the same time, there would be the same kind of distention within nations, in which the poor nations are no longer content to take the crumbs from our table, and rise up in either a military or some other form against the richer societies.
  4. [4]There’s lots of global inequality, and there’s lots of resentment and conflict because of it. And there’s lots of violent social and international conflict which is really bad. Maybe some of it has gotten worse in the last decade or the last year alone. But there was more extreme poverty and more global inequality in 1995 than there is in 2020, there’s far less political violence and far less violence tout court in most industrialized countries than there was in 1995 or 1969, and absolutely nothing that’s happened economically, socially, politically or militarily since 1995 has come anywhere near the levels predicted or the levels that you’d need to say that industrial civilization was seriously imperiled, let alone that it had crumbled. Global poverty and global inequality have gone down, not up: see for example Our World In Data on Global Economic Inequality. Political violence is lower: see for example the New York Times on political bombings in New York City and the U.S. as a whole in 1969-1970, two years in which global industrial civilization did not collapse. Violence in general is lower: see for example Pew Research on the immense decline in violent crime rates in the U.S. from the 1990s to the 2020s. Of course there are places that have had things much worse — violent crime and (I’d argue) political violence have risen dramatically in Venezuela (Our World In Data) since 1995, there’s a war in Yemen that has created one of the worst social and humanitarian crises in the world, and so on. Those things are terrible, but it is irrelevant, if not simply mendacious, to put forward an awful decade in one or two or a dozen countries as evidence that global industrial civilization has collapsed, or is on the brink of collapse. The claim that intense subcultural-partisan polarization, or idiotic Right-wing political theater, political shit-shows, sorry displays, protests spiraling into out of control or dangerous riots, or menacing, possibly dangerous domestic terrorism, Republican presidential administrations, contested elections, or anything else that has happened in the United States of America in 2020, even comes close to swaying the issue towards Sale’s prediction about the already-imminent fate of global industrial civilization in 2020 is a really absurd, Daffy Duck tap-dance of melodramatic hyperbole, desperate goal-moving and brazen obfuscation of the issue.
  5. [5]Of course, you ought to be worried about environmental problems, — for example, the one you’re probably thinking of right now, i.e. global climate change. And if you’re worried about global climate change, you might want to say that it is already having terrible effects that are hurting people and degrading the livability of many parts of the world. And you’d be right. But there is no way other than either the wildest sort of melodramatic hyperbole, or the most ridiculously brazen moving of the goalposts, to claim that Australia or Africa from the Sahara to South Africa is unlivable, either for the reasons Sale mention in 1995, or for any other revised environmental reason that you might want to substitute now. If you want to try to insist that Africa is unlivable, then I would point out that over 1.3 billion Africans live there now, and the same goes for Australia and the over 25 million Australians who find it, literally, livable, and there is no forecast even tangentially connected to reality that would suggest that either is on the brink of falling off by an order of magnitude. The most alarmist, activist-produced Existential Risk assessments on climate change now forecast that on a path of unchecked emissions, *low-probability, high-impact warming could be catastrophic by 2050. Catastrophic warming in this case is assessed as 3°C global warming, and claimed to be a severe but unlikely tail risk for outcomes 30 years in the future, if nothing is done to avert them, and it is roughly the level of warming that would be likely to lead to the destruction of current large coastal cities, to cause shocks to global food production, etc. Mainstream climate scientists’ assessments, like the IPCC Assessment Report (see for example the summary table in 1, p. 22), make forecasts to the effect that unrestrained, open-all-the-smokestacks emissions would mean that it is (highly) Unlikely for warming to stay below 3°C by 2100, whereas intermediate or stringently reduced levels of emissions are more unlikely than likely, or (highly) unlikely, to produce global warming above 2°C by the end of 2100. Again, that’d be bad, but it’s hyperbolic to equate it to the likely collapse of industrial civilization. And in any case, only a cad would renege on a bet about the effects of environmental crises in 2020 CE by picking up the goalposts, running three to eight decades down the field, and calling down judgment on how clear it has become that we need to worry about things getting really bad in 2050-2100 CE.
  6. [6]And that some people face in a much more severe form than the rest of us.
  7. [7]I have my own views, and I think the chances of survival and flourishing are a lot better than the chances against, but that’s a whole other bet, maybe an interesting one to make now, but different from the bet they made in 1995.
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