BBC - Future - Science & Environment - Cities: How crowded life is changing us
Now that the technology exists for individuals to communicate instantly with companies, government departments, to broadcast to millions or to specific groups over the internet, the city has gained an entirely new dimension. This “virtual city” of communities formed online, using social networks like Twitter or Facebook, is incredibly powerful and not necessarily limited to the geographical contours of the real city. Like-minded individuals can find each other easily, gathering in online forums or through hashtags and comment streams in the same way as special interest clubs and cafe movements coalesce in the real city. Virtual applications make it easier to sift through a crowd – the Grindr app, for example, allows gay people to find other users of the app in a public setting. Online clubs – like the shopping network Groupon – are attempting to personalise trade exchanges and perhaps develop a proxy for the relationship people might have with a neighbourhood store.
Those petitioning for social or political change can hold governments and companies accountable in a manner never possible before. Instead of ploughing through books of corporate ledgers in libraries, vast amounts of data are now published online and can be searched and filtered in minutes with algorithms, allowing journalists and other groups to discover corruption, tax evasion or other information of public interest. Such information can be self-published in seconds, where it is available for billions to see. In a few seconds, I can compare hospital cancer survival rates in my area or nationally, I can look up how much profit popular stores shift to offshore accounts to avoid taxation, or read hundreds of reviews of a product I’m thinking of buying.
#ACCELERATE MANIFESTO for an Accelerationist Politics | Critical Legal Thinking
We believe that any post-capitalism will require post-capitalist planning. The faith placed in the idea that, after a revolution, the people will spontaneously constitute a novel socioeconomic system that isn’t simply a return to capitalism is naïve at best, and ignorant at worst. To further this, we must develop both a cognitive map of the existing system and a speculative image of the future economic system.
To do so, the left must take advantage of every technological and scientific advance made possible by capitalist society. We declare that quantification is not an evil to be eliminated, but a tool to be used in the most effective manner possible. Economic modelling is — simply put — a necessity for making intelligible a complex world. The 2008 financial crisis reveals the risks of blindly accepting mathematical models on faith, yet this is a problem of illegitimate authority not of mathematics itself. The tools to be found in social network analysis, agent-based modelling, big data analytics, and non-equilibrium economic models, are necessary cognitive mediators for understanding complex systems like the modern economy. The accelerationist left must become literate in these technical fields.
Although Obama arguably saved Wall Street and General Motors, the eastern corporate establishment, as it was once called, has consistently depreciated its debt to the Presidency and overestimated its control over the gop. Two of the major business sectors with huge debts to the current White House—the big investment and retail banks and Silicon Valley—either sat out the election, nursing their pique over Obama’s scolding campaign rhetoric, or, like the monster egos at Goldman Sachs, knifed their saviour and supported Romney. Inured since Reagan to routine thunder and lightning from the Republican hinterlands, the globalized American ruling class has failed to grasp the Weimarian nature of the Tea Party politics. The destruction of $19 trillion of personal wealth in the United States since 2008 coupled with the fears of economic stagnation and minority ascendency have crazed the base of the Republican Party.  Something indeed has run amok when the merely wealthy stop obeying orders from the very rich or when the privileged 20 per cent mutinies against any concession by the peak 0.1 per cent. Tea Party Republicanism is not the future, not the majority, not even the conservative past. It’s the gangrene of imperial decline.New Left Review - Mike Davis: The Last White Election?
While the Obama campaign was looting the fundraising base of local Democrats, Gillespie was convincing major national donors like Las Vegas’s Sheldon Adelson and Dallas mega-developer Bob Perry to join with the Kochs and invest heavily in obscure campaigns by Tea Party candidates in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. According to the New York Times, when state election laws got in the way of outside money, the Republican Governors Association accepted the contribution and immediately donated a like amount to the candidate.  The splendid result was the preservation of Republican power in the capitals of Midwestern states that, apart from Indiana, gave decisive majorities to Obama.New Left Review - Mike Davis: The Last White Election?
New Left Review - Mike Davis: The Last White Election?
To this argument might be appended the hypothesis that every move by Democrats toward centrist accommodation only encourages the Republicans—and thus the movable ‘centre’—to shift further to the right. Social conservatism and its discontents with the 21st century are obviously still brick and mortar to Republicanism. But what actually drives the party rightward and constitutes the rational core of its apparent nihilism is the determination to preserve all of the upward redistribution of wealth and power achieved over three decades since the Reagan revolution. Thomas Edsall, who argues cogently in his new book that zero-sum conflicts over state resources are inevitable concomitants of economic stagnation, makes a strong case for the rational-actor logic of Republican intransigence:
Republican leaders see the window closing on the opportunity to dismantle the liberal state. The prospect looms that the gop will be forced to accommodate changing demographics, as proponents of big government gain traction and as an ever-growing cohort of Americans become dependent on social-welfare initiatives. These stresses create an incentive for the conservative movement to pull hard right and to pursue increasingly high-risk strategies. 
This hard pull to the right is unlikely to cease. In the first place, the Tea Party wing is taking over the major Republican think-tanks with invaluable help from the ubiquitous Koch brothers. Last March, for example, the Kochs ousted Cato Institute executive Ed Crane, who immediately charged that Charles Koch was conspiring to ‘transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda’. This was followed by Armey’s failed coup at FreedomWorks, and then, in what Tea Party supporters deemed a ‘master stroke’, the surprise resignation of South Carolina’s Jim DeMint from the Senate in order to take charge of the Heritage Foundation, the premier centre of conservative policy-making. As one of the Cato directors told Business Week: ‘DeMint’s hiring is recognition by Heritage that the energy is not with the Republican establishment.’ The choice ‘shows they are moving more toward the Tea Party than the mainstream’.  Secondly, the Party’s base is adamantly opposed to bipartisan cooperation or a more centrist national leadership. On the contrary, Pew pollsters found that:
‘The ideological shift from the 111th to the 112th Congress’, write Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson, ‘was extraordinary—indeed, larger than in any previous shift from one House to the next, including the change that occurred in 1994.’ Using a new methodology developed by Stanford political scientist Adam Bonita to rank the ideologies of House members and other politicians, they were stunned by the temperature of extremism they found in the Republican class of 2010: 77 per cent of the newly arriving Republicans ‘are to the right of the typical Republican in the previous Congress—and many are to the right of almost all continuing Republicans.’ They argue, like Anthony DiMaggio in his book on the Tea Party, that this great Red shift was less the result of grassroots rebellion than of shrewd investments by anti-tax ‘plutocrats’ who essentially went out and bought themselves a new ‘ground game’.New Left Review - Mike Davis: The Last White Election?
Fears that the White House is coming to regard the Party in the same way that a vampire regards its lunch only increased with the surprise announcement after the 2012 election that the Obama campaign would not disband its ground operation, but instead transform it into a mass-membership non-profit called Organizing for Action, with the mission of supporting the President’s priorities. Although no Democrat accused the President of ‘Peronism’, the announcement caused widespread consternation at the Democratic National Committee: several members of the dnc ‘expressed fear’ that ‘the new outside group’ could ‘hurt the national party’s fundraising and drain its resources.’dnc’, The Hill, 22 January 2013. ‘, FGCOLOR, ‘#E3E3E3’, BGCOLOR, ‘#000000’)” title=”“>  Unlike the dnc, Organizing for Action will be able to operate in the same tax-free, unlimited-contribution environment as the Rove Crossroads pacs, but with the advantage of the most sophisticated mobilization technology in electoral history. If successful, it will rewire the power relations between the White House and local Democrats, and minimize the President’s dependence upon trade unions, equal-rights groups, and progressives to carry campaign messages door-to-door. What is heralded as an innovative strategy to get around the roadblock of the Republican House majority may simply provide the President with more road width (Avenida 9 de Julio, perhaps?) to bypass his own party.New Left Review - Mike Davis: The Last White Election?
Redistricting is a power of great awe and, thanks to a friendly Supreme Court, the gop governors and legislatures had scope for creative cartography. In the second of a stunning trilogy of biased partisan landmarks, a majority of the Supremes in 2004 found in the case of Vieth v Jubelirer that a Republican legislature and governor in Pennsylvania had not violated the Constitution by an egregious gerrymander of the state’s 19 congressional districts which, according to one of the petitioners, ‘guaranteed itself [the Republican Party] a majority of the congressional seats for the rest of the decade—even if it did not win a majority of votes’. Thanks to state-of-the-art computer modelling and an inherent bias in electoral geography (Democratic voters are more concentrated than the gop’s), the Republicans’ new maps were masterpieces, giving the national party—according to a Brookings study—‘a structural advantage estimated at 5 percentage points’. (This estimate has been challenged by another analysis that claims the Democrats actually require more than a 7 per cent margin in the popular vote to take back the House.) ‘What the House success demonstrates’, wrote the National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru, ‘is that Republicans can do well when they choose the voters rather than vice versa.’New Left Review - Mike Davis: The Last White Election?
It was arguably the most racially polarized presidential election in American history. The Republicans depicted Obama as the redistributionist ‘food-stamp president’ pandering to the half of the country who were ‘takers’, parasites or public employees sponging off the hard work of white entrepreneurs and the minority of minorities who emulate them. Obama, sounding like a World War Two Victory Bond ad, appealed to better angels and inclusive patriotism, but just as Romney’s handlers had hoped, his white vote dropped to 39 per cent (see Table 2). Compared to 2008, his vote amongst white men was down 9 points; white women, 4 per cent; and, most dramatically, white twenty-somethings by 10 per cent. He lost the white vote in such major states as California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Only in some of the New England states and Iowa did he win white majorities. Despite the unprecedented efforts of Benjamin Netanyahu and Sheldon Adelson to turn the election into a referendum on bombing Iran, he also retained the support of Jewish voters (about 2 per cent of the national electorate, but a crucial 5 per cent in Florida), although his tally was reduced to 69 per cent from the stunning 78 per cent of 2008.New Left Review - Mike Davis: The Last White Election?
Further ‘Southernization’ in both the geographical and ideological sense, however, is beginning to terrify many Old School Republicans. Although they created and nursed the monstrosity, they are now coming to dread the electoral implications of a party of aging but militant white people dominated by Misean ultras, extreme Christians, assault-rifle owners and diehard ConfederateNew Left Review - Mike Davis: The Last White Election?
Ask your average Beltway lefty elite what we should do about climate change. Nine times out of ten they’ll rattle off some nifty policy ideas for carefully adjusting political and economic incentives to subtly encourage greener behavior. They rarely have much to say about how the left might go about winning the broader argument. On this, and so many issues, they’re policy smart and politically naïve. When elections or debates go wrong, whelp, they get pissed off at voters too stupid to appreciate their good, nuanced policy proposals. Oh well, put “This American Life” back on.http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2013/01/should-the-left-fear-or-hate-its-wonks/
Has this social and technological imaginary altered much in 20 years?
“The political significance of CMC lies in its capacity to challenge the existing political hierarchy’s monopoly on powerful communications media, and perhaps thus revitalize citizen-based democracy. The way image-rich, sound-bite-based commercial media have co-opted political discourse among citizens is part of a political problem that communications technologies have posed for democracy for decades. The way the number of owners or telecommunication channels is narrowing to a tiny elite, while the reach and power of the media they own expand, is a converging threat to citizens. Which scenario seems more conducive to democracy, which to totalitarian rule: a world in which a few people control communications technology that can be used to manipulate the beliefs of billions, or a world in which every citizen can broadcast to every other citizen?”
From Howard Rheingold (1993) Virtual Communities: Homesteading on the electronic frontier.
At the end of the twentieth century, Chernobyl was understood widely as a preordained and prophetically fulfilled moment in Soviet history, this regardless of the original intent of the biblical writer or the later historical-critical interpretations of Revelation 8:10–11. In the context of postSoviet Ukraine and Belarus, the so-called Chernobyl prophecy was considered apocalyptic, especially among retired persons and youth (at least in the sense that the Soviet State came to an end in 1991, and the independent statehood of Belarus may also end). There were many who imagined the Chernobyl apocalypse as the end of the present generation of the children whose compromised immune systems and genetic abnormalities may render them unlikely to live out their otherwise natural lives.
In the aftermath of Chernobyl, popular calendars in Minsk and Kiev distinguished the years before and after Chernobyl. Digital clocks in Belarus continued to flash the current time, temperature, and radiation level. Citizens remembered their former life and anticipated future sufferings. The passing of time had not changed apocalyptic consciousness as much as it changed the meaning of the End for different segments of the population. In striking apocalyptic language, Russian journalist Alla Yaroshinskaya writes how Chernobyl has changed the course of personal histories, national history, and perhaps even sacred history:
…this ancient wonderland, this forest, these fields and meadows, our whole lives…from now on life on earth would not only be divided into epochs and eras, civilizations, religions and political systems, but also into “before” and “after” Chernobyl. The earth would never be the same as it had been before 26 April 1986 at twenty-four minutes past one…. (1965:16)