Self-Taught Engineer Successfully Flies aboard Steam Rocket

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/09/2018 - 3:17am in

And now, before the serious stuff, something completely different, as Monty Python used to say. This is a short video I found on YouTube from the Inside Edition channel. It’s their report on the successful flight of a steam-powered rocket, built and crewed by ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes. Hughes is a limousine driver and a self-taught engineer. His reason for building the vehicle is, er, eccentric: he wanted to see if the Earth was flat.

The video was posted on 18th March 2018, and shows Hughes and his rocket taking off in the Mojave desert in the south-western US. It climbed to an altitude of 1,850 feet before finally returning to Earth, its descent slowed by two parachutes. Hughes had spent ten years building it, and the video shows stills of early versions of the rocket.

Hughes’ landing was rough, however. The video describes it as a crash. A rescue team got him out of the cockpit, but he complained that his back was broken. When the news crew caught him with him to talk, ironically just outside a courthouse where he’d been giving a ticket for speeding, Hughes’ claimed that he might have a compressed vertebra.

The video ends by reassuring its viewers that, yes, the Earth is indeed flat.

I’m actually saluting this bloke, because he’s obviously really clever and has done something I’d love to do myself: build a low power rocket that could hold a man or woman and send them up to a reasonable height. Way back in the 1990s I had a paper printed in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society arguing for the construction and flight of such vehicles as a new leisure industry. I based this on the use of hang-gliders, paragliding and microlight aircraft as hobby aviation. People fly them because they want to enjoy the experience of powered flight, not because they actually want to go from A to B. In the same way, I feel, human-carrying rockets could be built and flown to give ordinary people something of the experience of astronauts going into space aboard real rockets, like the Space Shuttle or the Russian Soyuz craft. But obviously without having to spend millions on a ticket to space.

Steam, or hot water rockets, have been around since the 19th century. The first modern hot water rocket was patented in Britain in 1824 by the American inventor, Jacob Perkins (1766-1849). The American Rocket Research Institute, based in California, and founded in 1943, established a special centre for the research and construction of hot water rockets, the Perkins Centre, named after him. The Institute runs a number of training programmes for students and aspiring rocket engineers. The rockets developed could carry payloads up to 5,000 feet.

After the War, the German rocket scientist, Eugen Sanger, and his wife Irene Sanger-Bredt, carried out research into hot water rockets to see whether they could work assisting heavily loaded aircraft into the air. The main US researcher in the area was Bob Truax.

The rocket engines developed by the RRI ranged from senior student college engineering projects with a thrust of 700 lbs per second to the Thunderbolt II constructed by Truax Engineering, which had a thrust of 16,000 lbs per second.
The photo below shows the STEAM-HI III hot water rocket being installed at the Perkins Safety Test Centre in 1963.

This photo shows Truax Engineering’s Thunderbolt rocket and its static test firing in 1973.

See ‘The Rocket Research Institute, 1943-1993: 50 Years of Rocket Safety, Engineering and Space Education Programs’, George S. James and Charles J. Piper, in Jung, Philippe, ed., History of Rocketry and Astronautics, AAS History Series, Vol. 22; IAA History Symposia, vol. 14 (American Astronautical Society: San Diego 1998), pp. 343-400.

And the Earth is very, very definitely round. As it has been known to be by educated European since the 9th century, and by the Greek astronomers long before that. All that stuff about how people in the Middle Ages believed the world was flat and that if you sailed far enough west you’d fall off was basically invented in the 19th century by Washington Irving. The Church Fathers knew and accepted that it was round. St. Augustine said so in one of his works, and argued that when the Bible spoke of the world as flat, it was an instance of God using the beliefs of the time to make His moral message intelligible to the people then alive.

I’ve no idea where the modern delusion that the world’s flat comes from. Well, actually, I do – it seems to have started a year ago in 2017 with the comments of a rapper on American radio. But before then I thought the idea was very definitely dead and buried. In Britain, the Flat Earth Society had dwindled to a single member. This was actually a physicist, who believed that the Earth was round. He used the Society to argue against dogmatism in science. And I thought he had packed finally packed it in, leaving the number of Flat Earthers in Britain at zero.

Now it seems that there are any number of eccentrics, who believe the world is really flat. They’re completely wrong about that, including Hughes.

But Hughes did something superb in building his own, human-carrying rocket

Is Space Too Expensive?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/09/2018 - 5:00pm in

NASA’s history has been plagued by politics and budget concerns. For space exploration to survive, we need to think outside of these Earthly constraints.

Conspiracy Book’s Debunking of Anti-Semitic Forgery ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’

A week or so ago I put up a post about The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups by Jon E. Lewis, and its chapter roundly debunking Holocaust denial. The book is a popular volume on conspiracy theories, describing and frequently debunking 100 such conspiratorial beliefs about the death of Princess Diana, the Men In Black, the assassination of J.F.K., and Martin Luther King, Area 51, Ronald Reagan, the Priory of Zion of Holy Blood, Holy Grail infamy and many more, including Holocaust denial.

Another infamous anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, that also gets thoroughly disproven, is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which the book gives in its full title, the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and deals with on pages 433 to 450. The Protocols are a notorious forgery, concocted by the tsar’s secret police, the Okhrana, to encourage Nicholas II to be even more anti-Semitic and persecute the Jews even worse than he already was. It is one of the leading sources of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and was read and influenced many Fascists. It was proven to be a forgery as long ago as the 1920, but even after this was revealed, some of those, who had read it continued to be maintain that it was symbolically true, even if it wasn’t factually. Unfortunately, the book continues to have a very wide circulation, particularly in the Middle East and in eastern Europe.

The history of this vile book is briefly described on pages 433-5. The chapter states that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was first published in 1897 as an appendix to the book, The Antichrist Is Near At Hand by the Russian writer, Sergei Nilus. It claims to be an instruction manual for a cabal of anonymous Jews planning to conquer and subdue the Christian world.

It states that the chief points of the Protocols are that the plot will remain invisible until it is so strong it cannot be overcome; government is to be increasingly centralized; press freedoms shall be restricted; gentile are to be distracted by games and amusements; and all non-Jewish religions will be swept away.

The book was immensely popular in Russia and the rest of the world. One enthusiast was the industrialist Henry Ford, of motor industry fame, who printed sections in his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. He believed it exactly described the world situation as it was in his time, and used them to try to influence the US senate to stop America joining the League of Nations.

The first person to show that the Protocols were a forgery was Lucien Wolf. In his The Jewish Bogey and the Forged Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion of 1920 showed that sections of the Protocols had been lifted with only very minor changes from a satire written by a French lawyer, Maurice Joly, Dialogue aux Enfers entre Montesquieu et Machiavelli (“Dialogue in Hell between Montesquieu and Machiavelli”). This was itself influenced by Eugene Sue’s 1843 conspiracy novel, The Mysteries of Paris. The Protocols was also based on the 1868 novel, Biarritz, by the German spy Hermann Goedsche, written under the pseudonym Sir John Retcliffe. This had a chapter describing how a fictitious group of rabbis met at midnight every century in a cemetery to plan the further progress of Jewish world domination.

Lewis suggests the Protocols were probably forged by Matvei Golovinski, one of the agents of the Okhrana. He hoped to justify the tsarist regime’s persecution of the Jews by whipping up a scare about revolutionaries in the pay of the Jews planning the downfall of the monarchy. As a result, pogroms were launched against the Jews in 1905-6. And the truth of the conspiracy described by the Protocols was seen by all too many people as confirmed by the Russian Revolution of 1917, some of whose leaders happened to be Jews.

After the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, Adolf Hitler made the Protocols compulsory reading in schools. Lewis goes to describe how, despite or because of their influence in causing the Holocaust, the Protocols continue to be held as ‘fact’. Egyptian television broadcast a series in 2000 that claimed there was a connection between the Protocols and the foundation of Israel. The Protocols could also been found in al-Qaeda training camps. They’re also popular with Hamas, and in America they’re distributed by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. That section of the chapter ends

In fact, wherever anti-Semites gather you’ll find well-thumbed copies of the Protocols. That any of these organisations or their adherents could not discover within at most thirty seconds’ worth of research that the Protocols are, as a Swiss court described them as long ago as 1935, “ridiculous nonsense”, forgeries and plagiarism, beggars belief.

The book gives each conspiracy a threat level, according to how apparently plausible they are. You won’t be surprised to find that the threat level of the Protocols is zero.

The chapter also lists for further reading the following:

Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, 1996.

Daniel Pipes, The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy, 1998.

Lucien Wolf, The Jewish Bogey and the Forged Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, 1920.

The book provides extracts from the main documents behind or about the various conspiracies, so that readers can make up their own minds. This includes the Protocols, extracts from which are reproduced on pages 436-50. Lewis obviously trusts his readers to follow his entirely correct judgement of the Protocols, and similarly realise that they are a forgery. This is also useful, because opponents of anti-Semitism, racism and Fascism can read them without having to give money to Nazis, anti-Semites and Islamists.

I wondered if they’re shouldn’t be a proper, scholarly edition of the Protocols, written by orthodox historians and opponents of anti-Semitism, aimed not just at debunking the Protocols, but also for decent people interested in its noxious influence on Nazism and other anti-Semitic ideologies. The Bavarian government did something like this a little while ago to Mein Kampf after it came out of copyright. The government had used its ownership of the book’s copyright to prevent its publication in Germany. When this expired, they decided that the best way to combat its adoption once again by neo-Nazis would be to prepare a properly annotated version by mainstream historian of the Third Reich.

The problem with suppressed literature is that it acquires a glamour simply by being forbidden. I doubt very many people in Britain have even heard of the Protocols, but they are published and read by Nazis, and briefly appeared on the shelves of one bookshop in the north of England during the conspiracy craze of the 1990s because they were cited by one of the UFO conspiracy theorists, Bill English, in his book, Behold a Pale Horse. In this situation, it is very good that apart from general books on Fascism and Nazism, there are works specifically dedicated to exposing and debunking this vile, murderous hoax.

Al-Jazeera on the First Test Flight of India’s Space Shuttle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/09/2018 - 7:43pm in

In this short clip, just over two minutes long, from Al-Jazeera, posted two years ago in 2016, Tariq Bezley reports on the first test flight by the Indian Space Agency of their space shuttle. The shuttle was launched into space on top of a rocket fired from India’s launch facility north of Chenai. The craft separated from the rocket at an altitude of 70 km and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, which heated it up to 2,000 degrees.

A female scientist speaking for the Observer Research Foundation, Rajeswari P Rajagopalan talks on the video about how it was necessary to test the shuttle’s heat shield.

Besley states that so far only the US, USSR, Japan and Europe have launched reusable shuttles. He states that NASA’s Space Shuttle flew 135 missions in 30 years before it was finally decommissioned. It has been replaced by the US air forces X-37B test vehicle. This unmanned vehicle was on its third mission, and had been up there for a year. However, the secrecy surrounding its missions have provoked speculation that it is a spy satellite, or is being tested to deliver weapons from space.

He then goes on to discuss the Dreamchaser, the spaceplane being developed by the private Sierra Nevada firm to service the International Space Station. Its first flight is planned for 2019. India’s space shuttle is in a much earlier stage of development, and it’s estimated that it’ll be 10 or 15 years before it is ready to fly.

Besley also discusses how India successfully put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2014, becoming the first Asian nation to do so.

Rajagopan states that China has flourishing military space programme, which is a direct challenge to India, and India has to respond if it is not to be left lagging behind.

Further tests will be carried out on the Indian spacecraft, including on the supersonic scramjet engine which the Indians hope will one day power the spaceplane. The Indians say that their Mars mission cost a tenth of that of other missions to the Red Planet. Besley concludes that if their space shuttle can achieve the same savings, space travel will become much more affordable for all.

A number of countries have developed plans for different spaceplanes. The Russians had their own version of the Space Shuttle, Buran, which looked exactly like the American. It has been mothballed since the Fall of the USSR and has never flown. The French designed a small spaceplane, Hermes, which was to go on top of their Ariane rocket in the 1990s. This was very much like the American Dynosoar spaceplane proposed in the 1950s, but never actually built. The Germans also designed a spaceplane, Sanger, named after one of their leading rocket scientists. This would consist of two craft, a larger plane acting as a first stage, which would piggy-back a second plane into orbit.
And then there was the British HOTOL project of the 1980s which also used airbreathing ramjet engines to take the plane into space. This was never completed because of problems with those same engines. The technology has since been perfected, and a new British spaceplane, Skylon, has been developed. It has been forecast that it will come into service sometime in the next few years, possibly flying from spaceport launch sites in Cornwall or Scotland.

The video shows how sophisticated India’s space programme is, and I’ve no doubt that their entry into space will lower launch costs significantly. While the American shuttle was an amazing piece of engineering, it was massively expensive. It only became competitive as a launch vehicle against Ariane and the other rockets because it was heavily subsidized by the American government.

I look forward to the development of India’s spaceplane and that country joining the US and Russia in launching manned space missions. Perhaps if more countries develop reusable spacecraft, humanity will at last enter a real age of crewed space exploration and colonization.

On the Terrorism of Money in Emerging Capitalist Economies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/09/2018 - 11:00am in


Blog, finance, Space

In 2011, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde praised Brazil for finding the ‘enviable sweet spot’ between sustained growth and reduced external vulnerability, allowing it to become ‘one of the world’s leading emerging markets’. This statement reflected the enthusiasm of the international financial community at the time: Brazil and other emerging capitalist economies (ECEs) had weathered the 2008 global financial crisis relatively well, the post-crisis economic recovery had been swift, growth prospects looked much better than in advanced capitalist countries, and primary commodities and asset prices were booming. ECE’s sovereign credit ratings and funding conditions improved, and large volumes of money-capital flows poured in.

But things quickly changed. A combination of factors, including the end of the commodity boom, the worsening of the Euro crisis, the US Fed ‘taper tantrum’, and a looming crisis in China, led to a deterioration in global economic conditions and rapidly changing global risk aversion from 2013 onwards. ECEs were badly hit, and the tragically familiar sequence of ‘manias, panics, and crashes’ returned. Money-capital inflows sharply slowed down or reversed, in a context of sovereign credit downgrades, falling currencies, and financial distress. The international financial community drastically revised down its evaluation of the growth prospects in ECEs: the boom in money-capital flows had led to ‘plenty of disappointment’. State authorities implemented violent bouts of austerity, in desperate attempts to restore international investor confidence, often dramatically worsening domestic socio-political crises (for instance in Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Ukraine).

This raises the following question: despite extensive – and to a large extent, successful – policy efforts which aimed at building large foreign reserve accumulation as a ‘war chest’ against financial instability, developing deep, liquid and sophisticated financial markets, enforcing tight banking supervision and regulation, why do ECEs still remain so highly financially vulnerable to changing global conditions and global patterns of volatile money-capital flows? In other words, why does the ‘terrorism of money’, that is, the abstract and impersonal power of capitalist discipline under the form of money over national state policy-making, take such an acute form in ECEs? In a recent article published in Geoforum, I argue that answering those questions requires examining the concrete and distinct geographies of expression of the ‘terrorism of money’, as well as the relations of space and power that characterise the integration of ECEs in the global financial and monetary system.

Drawing upon a Marxist political economy approach, enriched by key insights from critical economic geography and Post-Keynesian/Minskian economics, I show that despite growing integration into the financial world market, ECEs have retained a subordinate positionality in what I call the relational geographies of money-power and which are constituted by two overlapping sets of geographies: the geographies of the global monetary system, and the geographies of the global financial system. Let me briefly explain what those are.

1. The geographies of the global monetary system

The current global monetary system is made of a currency hierarchy (or currency pyramid), with different ‘liquidity premiums’ which depend on their ‘degree of convertibility’. This degree relates to currencies’ ability to perform internationally the functions of money, such as unit of account, means of payment, and store of value (which are ultimately related to questions of trust in the ability of states to back the value of their national moneys). The currencies of advanced capitalist states are at the top of the hierarchy, with the US dollar in leading (though contested) position. While the currencies of ECEs, (such as the Brazilian real, the South Africa rand, the Turkish lira, the Indonesian rupiah, etc.), have become widely traded on international currency markets, this has not challenged their subordinate position in the currency pyramid, due to their poor ability to perform the functions previously mentioned. There is therefore a built-in structural asymmetry in the global monetary system which penalises ECEs and translates into a poorer capability to attract money-capital flows. This is most blatant in crisis contexts: ‘drying up’ of liquidity and ‘flight to quality’ during crises amount to capital flight from developing countries (and currency collapse) and a rush to ‘safe’ assets denominated in advanced capitalist countries’ currencies. Re-establishing ‘market confidence’ in ECEs through violent crisis-driven bouts of state-enforced austerity is then crucial to maintain the viability of domestic financial systems and sustain the exploitation of labour by locally-operating capitals.

2. The geographies of the global financial system

I then discuss how ECEs are also disadvantaged by the extremely hierarchical ‘locational’ geographies of the global financial system and its institutions. Due to their capacity to centralise and concentrate the money-power of capital in space and place, world financial centres such as London, New York, Frankfurt, and Tokyo accumulate a vast social power, dominate this hierarchy, and exert control functions over the global financial system as a whole. While financial centres in ECEs such as São Paulo, Johannesburg, Shanghai, Mexico City, Istanbul have become increasingly globally integrated over the past twenty years or so, receiving growing volumes of money-capital flows, and becoming important regional sites of financial innovation, this has not challenged the dominance of the aforementioned world financial centres, which remain disproportionately located in advanced capitalist countries and largely control the global orchestration of money-capital flows.

There are at least two ways through which world financial centres exercise huge power on the wider geographies of the global financial system. First, powerful actors of the global financial system, such as global investment banks, organise their scale of operations and diversification into other geographical markets, from those world financial centres. I show in the article that this has a considerable impact on patterns of money-capital flows, particularly in cases of financial distress. Second, world financial centres exercise huge power on the wider geographies of the global financial system because they are the leading sites of production of financial instruments and knowledges. As such, they have tremendous power in shaping the global circuits of money-capital and in ‘categorising’ the uneven geographies of global finance. Importantly, this categorisation is permeated by a set of power-laden imaginaries and representations: Western- and capital-centric views of history and modernity, stagist/linear conceptions of development, imperial/neo-colonial imaginaries, racism, and specific norms of masculinity. This is reflected in processes of risk valuation, which is partly why ECEs are represented as a cluster of asset classes with relatively high risk/reward ratios, which tend to be favoured by ‘risk-loving’ investors.

More concretely, the subordinate positionality of ECEs in the relational geographies of money-power manifests itself as a systematic volatility of exchange rates and a tendency to high real interest rates, enhanced scrutiny of national policy-making by international investors, rapidly shifting financial reputation and high pro-cyclicality of money-capital inflows, the build-up of specific forms of external vulnerability, brutal money-capital flight during financial distress, and heavy dependence on monetary policy in advanced capitalist countries. As a result, the management of monetary and financial affairs (in relation to labour) is significantly more difficult for the capitalist state in ECEs than it is in advanced capitalist economies.

Let me conclude by highlighting some of the political-strategic implications. It is clear that the subordinate positionality of ECEs in the relational geographies of money-power, and the associated severity of the terrorism of money on national-policy making, impose serious (objective) constraints on political-economic alternatives: the present configuration allows the money-power of capital to prevent, punish or sabotage any emancipatory project of social transformation, at considerable social costs. Accordingly, the struggle for ‘labour-centred development’ in ECEs, that is, for forms of development led by and for workers, peasants and the poor, must also be a struggle for the re-configuration of the relational geographies of money-power, and against the imperialist practices that underpin them. This points to the need for transnational forms of solidarity that can bridge those geographies, involving workers in both countries that receive large amounts of money-capital flows and in those that are the source of those flows.

The post On the Terrorism of Money in Emerging Capitalist Economies appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Shakespeare, Richard II and the Political Economy of Territory

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/08/2018 - 6:00am in



Shakespeare has long been seen as a writer with something to say about the economic. Karl Marx famously uses Timon of Athens to discuss the “power of money” in his 1844 Manuscripts and Capital Volume I. There are crucial economic questions in The Merchant of Venice, not only in the character of the money-lender Shylock, but also the failure of the overseas trading which means that Antonio cannot repay the debt. There are many more readings of Shakespeare’s plays through an economic lens. If the North American school of new historicism owed much to Michel Foucault, the British cultural materialists drew more explicitly on the work of Marx and some of his commentators, notably Raymond Williams. Others have seen the wider shifts of economic systems at work in his history plays – journalist and broadcaster Paul Mason for example wrote a piece in 2014 entitled ‘What Shakespeare taught me about Marxism’.

My forthcoming book, Shakespearean Territories, develops my long-standing interest in the question of territory. I use a number of Shakespeare’s plays to open up different aspects of the word, concept and practice. While territory is obviously a political and geographical issue, I try to show its multi-faceted nature. I do this in a number of ways. In the first couple of chapters I read three of the major tragedies – King Lear, Hamlet and Macbeth – to show how their domestic and dynastic drama is set in a wider world. Lear’s division of his kingdom between his daughters and their husbands begins the play, but the repercussions of this distribution ripple through its subsequent action. Denmark and Scotland are surrounded by powerful neighbours, and I read each play through its ‘geopolitical’ setting. With Hamlet, this is the relation with Norway, and the threat posed to the kingdom by the machinations of young Fortinbras, and the situation in relation to Poland and England. It is the initial war with Norway and traitors at home in which Macbeth proves his military worth, though when he becomes tyrant it is an eventual invasion from England which overthrows him.

Yet the sense of territory that emerges from these three plays is a quite a traditional one. Territories are bordered and divided, protected and threatened, governed or disordered. In the subsequent chapters of the book I try to broaden this understanding of territory to include other aspects. Some of these aspects will be familiar to readers of my previous work in Terror and Territory and The Birth of Territory. I use a number of plays to discuss technical aspects of territory – from land-surveying to cartography, military strategies and measurement. I provide a reading of Henry V, particularly its opening scenes on the Salic law and questions of inheritance, to examine legal aspects of territory, which also come through in some other plays, including Edward III. Going beyond my previous theorisation of territory, I discuss its colonial aspects in relation to the obvious The Tempest, but also a number of Shakespeare’s plays set in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Pericles, Antony and Cleopatra, and Othello. I also explore the corporeal aspects of territory through a reading of the political bodies in Coriolanus.

In many of these plays there are questions that relate to the economic and, especially, the politics of land. Territory and land have a complicated relation. Some uses of the word ‘territories’ in Shakespeare almost seem to mean lands, the area controlled by a King or other ruler, who can lose them in war or chose to banish someone from them. Most of the uses of the word are possessive – “your territories”, “my territories”, “our territories”, and so on. There are certainly some ways in which the territory of a kingdom is similar to the lands of a lord. Yet this relation cannot simply be understood that way, with territory like lands at a larger scale. There are questions of jurisdiction, taxation, possession and bordering which complicate a merely economic model for territory. My suggestion in previous work on territory was that while it had an essential economic component, this was not sufficient to grasp its complexity.

In this book I try to deepen this analysis, and I do this in a number of chapters. In King Lear, for example, the main plot of Lear and his daughters is paralleled by the relation of the Duke of Gloucester to his two sons. One son is legitimate, the other illegitimate. The illegitimate son, Edmund, plots a way to gain an inheritance, persuading his father that the other son, Edgar, intends to kill him. The Duke declares “I’ll work the means/To make thee capable”, that is to allow Edmund to inherit his lands in place of his brother.

However, the most sustained reading in Shakespearean Territories on the economic comes in the discussion of Richard II. Richard is a vain and weak king, who breaks up a duel between two feuding nobleman by exiling them both. One of these men is his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke. While Bolingbroke is in exile, his father, John of Gaunt dies. Instead of Gaunt’s lands passing to Bolingbroke by inheritance, Richard expropriates them, in part to fund his wars in Ireland. Aggrieved by this, Bolingbroke returns from exile early and eventually overthrows Richard, seizing his crown and becoming King Henry IV. There are many aspects of this play, but I focus on the economic questions revolving around land. Richard finds ways to exploit the lands of his kingdom, and the ones he seizes from others, for economic gain. There is a whole host of language about these issues. Richard says that he is “enforced to farm our royal realm”, that is leasing it out or otherwise generating revenue from it, perhaps involving selling of favours as well.

In his famous dying speech about “this sceptred isle”, Gaunt condemns the king, praising the wonders of England and decrying what it has become. There is a proto-nationalism in this speech, which I also discuss, but in the economic register I am most interested in his suggestion that Richard is acting as “Landlord of England… not king”. There is much else in the play to enrich this criticism, from Richard’s raiding of both the nobles and the commons for money, and questionable legal and taxation procedures. When Bolingbroke returns from exile, he initially claims he is only after his father’s title as Duke of Lancaster, and the lands of his inheritance, but he ends up with Richard’s crown and kingdom too.

Richard II therefore raises a host of questions about the political economies of land and the political geographies of banishment. Kings can expel people from their territories, and exercise majesty within them, but they do not own the territory as a simple possession of land. The kingdom is something with which they can do entirely as they please. The rights of landowners within a kingdom must equally be respected. The king’s relation to his territory is therefore not simply that of a landowner to his land, at a greater scale. Possession of land allows the derivation of economic yield in revenue or rent; while sovereignty is an over-arching power which nonetheless comes with limitations.

My reading also explores the agricultural language of cultivation and pestilence, the mystical relation of the king to the earth, as well as Gaunt’s patriotic appeal to the nation. Equally, following Ernst Kantorowicz’s famous account, it thinks about the play in relation to the medieval notion of the king’s two bodies – one mortal and physical and one divine, the eternal body politic. Richard II opens up historical, economic, and legal elements around the question of land and its relation to territory. Economic factors are therefore crucial in understanding the relation between politics and land, and from this the question of territory. Yet as the rest of the book tries to show, territory encompasses a wide range of elements. Shakespearean Territories is therefore intended to be a book about territory, in all its richness and complexity, with Shakespeare as a guide. But it is also a book about Shakespeare, using territory and geography as a way to re-examine many of his plays.

The post Shakespeare, Richard II and the Political Economy of Territory appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

There Are Hundreds of Billions of Galaxies. Where Are All the Aliens?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/06/2018 - 5:00pm in



The cosmos is quiet. TOO quiet. Why haven’t we found proof of extraterrestrial life?

Radio 4 Programme Tonight Wondering What Happened to Star Trek’s Optimistic Vision of the Future

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/06/2018 - 6:07pm in

This is one for the Trekkers. On Radio 4 tonight at 8.00 pm, 9th June 2018, Dr. Kevin Fong will be presenting a programme on the Archive hour discussing what happened to the optimistic vision of the future in Star Trek. The blurb for it on page 189 of the Radio Times runs

8.00 Archive on 4: Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future

The first episode of Star Trek aired in 1966. Space medic and broadcaster Kevin Fog asks what happened to the progressive and optimistic vision of the future that the iconic television series promised him.

SF Short Film: Robots of Brixton

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 7:19pm in

This is an interesting piece of what Beyoncé would call ‘Afrofuturism’ from the Dust channel on YouTube. Dust specialise in putting up short SF films, like the one above. This film, directed by Kibwe Tavares, imagines a kind of future Brixton, where all, or nearly all the people living there are robots. The film’s hero, a robot with Afro-Caribbean features, walks through the area, before relaxing with a robot friend, by toking what appears to be the robotic version of a bong.

A riot then breaks out, and robot riot police appear to crush it. This is intercut with scenes from the 1981 riots in Brixton, over which is dubbed a voice talking or reciting a piece about ending oppression. The film ends with shots of bodies on the ground, then and in this robotic present. And the quotation from Marx on a black screen: ‘History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, then as a farce’.

People of all races like and produce SF, and there are a number of very well respected Black SF writers, most notably Samuel R. Delaney, who’s been going since the 1960s and ’70s, and Olivia Butler, the author of Clay’s Ark and the Parable of the Sower. A few years ago a volume of SF by Black authors was published with the title Dark Matter, the title also referring to the all the invisible cosmic stuff that’s adding missing mass to the universe. Also in the 1990s over this side of the pond there appeared a book, written by a Black author, about an all-Black mission to save a space colony by turning them Black. This was to save them from a plague which affected only Whites. I can’t say I was impression by this piece, as it seemed to me to be as imperialistic as the White ideologies of civilising Blacks by giving them European civilisation. This seems to be less controversial, though still dealing with a sensitive subject. It is also part of the character of much SF since it first appeared in the 19th century as ‘the literature of warning’.

Franco-Russian SF Series about Manned Mission to Mars on BBC4 Next Thursday

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/05/2018 - 12:43am in

Next week’s Radio Times also says that a new SF series also begins on BBC4 next Thursday, 17th May. It’s a French-Russian co-production about a manned mission to the Red Planet, and the first two episodes are being shown at 9.00.. It’s called Missions, and the blurb for it in the magazine runs thus

1/10 Ulysses
Sci-Fi drama about the first manned mission to Mars, which faces a ciris just as they’re about to land, threatening to fracture an already mercurial crew.
2/10 Mars
A sub-team seeks salvage to save the stricken craft, but the trio’s discovery of a body means a surprisingly harsh reception on their return. French and Russian with subtitles.

The other piece about it on page 94 by David Crawford also gives the following information on it:

Two tech billionaires are locked in a race to send humans on a mission to Mars. Sound familiar? This French space series may be topical, but its low-budget, character driven treatment harks back to 1970s sci-fi.

The crew of the Ulysses, funded by Swiss billionaire William Meyer, are approaching the Red Planet after ten months in space. They’re a bit of a ragtag bunch for such a long and high-stakes mission, with an accompanying psychologist.

It’s a bit contrived, but when things start to go wrong and there’s an intriguing discovery, the claustrophobic setting and dysfunctional crew ratchet up the tension.

Both France and Russia are space-faring nations with a very long history of brilliant SF, so this could be very good, despite the low budget. Let’s hope so, at any rate.