amor mundi

Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, July 21, 2016

They Are Coming

Watching the RNC is like reading the Book of Mazarbul: "We cannot get out. The shadow moves in the dark. We cannot get out. They are coming."

Say You Wanna Fauxvolution

Any radicalism that blinds you to differences that make a difference is reactionary in substance.

Every Futurism Is A Retro-Futurism

Trump and Culture War

Star Dreck

The ongoing transformation of Star Trek from speculation to action is unconscionable vandalism.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sums It Up, The Sequel

Leni did it better.

My Cat Is Apparently Pining for Vilsack As HRC's Veep Pick

Oh, wait, that was just a hairball she was coughing up. I'm still hoping Hoping HOPING that Clinton will pick Warren, Castro, Perez, Booker... but I'm grimly steeling myself for Kaine or Vilsack. I would so prefer a vice-presidential choice that gives us a ticket that looks more like the future of American politics rather than the past (and, yes, grandmothers in charge is part of what a good future looks like if you ask me), but dreary dull old straight white guys are presumably regarded as the "safe picks" even when dreary dull old straight white guys are where all the Republicans are. Hope I live to see Kamala Harris/Julian Castro (or their like) in 2024 after eight years of HRC.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sums It Up

The Trump Phenomenon Is Not Mysterious -- And Ridiculing Racism Is Not "Smug"

Many political pundits on corporate media outlets and commentators in social media fora regularly tut tut those of us who point out what a ridiculous, outrageous, unqualified candidate Trump is. They warn us not to be too "smug" now, airily reminding us that he prevailed after all over more than a dozen candidates and millions and millions of dollars of advertising.

But none of this makes Donald Trump some kind of uncanny unstoppable force of nature. Remember when people marveled that Karl Rove was some kind of sooper-genius phenomenon... just because he was so brazen in his willingness to lie and cheat? Donald Trump and Karl Rove are utter mediocrities, they are ethically failed human beings. It was and remains only the ongoing failure of our organizations to weed them out when they fail to meet the standards of sustainable public organizations and resources, or even to prosecute them when they break rules and laws that renders them apparent "phenomena."

The GOP is now nothing but the party of scared racist bullies. The scared racist bullies of the GOP liked the biggest racist bully. And that was clearly Donald Trump. Few point out this bald truth and hence few are capable of getting at the "mystery" of the Trump phenomenon, or the failure of conventional wisdom the about the experience, expenditure, most convincing checking off of the plutocratic talking points (more defense spending, lower taxes on the rich, punitive austerity for "them," white-racist patriarchal Christianist family values over all), or the person whose "turn" it is to win the GOP nomination to win this time around.

Permit me to be "smug" for a moment. Racism is stupid and insane and evil. And its public voice is dying into impotent marginality -- which is not to deny the horror and heartbreak of its legacy and lingering force. None of the mediocre, bland bigots of the GOP's so-called "deep bench" of unpopular untalented unaccomplished uncharismatic Governors and hate radio celebrities could critique the racism that empowered Trump without alienating the base they would need to succeed within the GOP themselves. But we are not so constrained. To pretend these incompetents with their serially failed market fundamentalist pieties, their death-dealing fragile masculinist worship of guns and wars, their utterly rancid racist sexist heterosexist cissexist bigotry are anything but killer clowns is to deny obvious facts and disdain basic decency. If you think THAT is smug, then kill yourself because you're already dead. (Or, you know, read a book and wake up, or whatever. So smug!)

But you know what? America is not the GOP. America is the diversifying, secularizing, planetizing coalition that already elected Obama President twice in a row and has only grown since, and grows more and more and more by the day. Trump's appeals to disgusting bigotry may be dark magic for the aging white gun-nuts of the GOP (and the old white straight guys who still throng news media), but it is weird and ugly and out of touch in the America that has always been a nation of immigrants barrelling toward majority minority multiculture. Trump can try to divide this quarrelsome lot, Trump can try to make us scared, but there are rich vein of go along get along convivial pragmatism in this country and there are plenty who want calm competence at the helm when they are truly scared -- that is to say, it is unclear to me that Trump's line will even work if he manages to get us to frame this election in his preferred terms.

There is no mystery about the Trump phenomenon, only the exhibition of a destiny: the patriarchal white-supremacy that has long animated the American narrative is dying in America, even as it is still killing as it is dying away. It is time, and long overdue, for new stories. Here's hoping we can sweep aside the wreckage and find a field of flowers blooming here -- the work of building and maintaining sustainable equity-in-diversity in a nation and in a planet wounded and traumatized almost beyond healing is formidable enough and beautiful enough to enlist all our effort. 

"Now, Now, Both Parties Indulge In Fear-Mongering"

Nonsense, I will have none of this false equivalence! The fearfulness of folks being actively threatened by the GOP -- queers like me, POC, women, undocumented workers (and many of my students or members of their families are among them) -- is NOT "fear-mongering."

RNC Gut Check

The Republican Convention has so far been an utterly demoralizing spectacle of broken people threatening to break other people.

Monday, July 18, 2016

HRC and Hamilton

Saturday, July 16, 2016

So Principled

Being too principled to compromise in the resistance and reform struggles to implement principles is just another way of being unprincipled.


AR's Potemkinization-via-staring-into-your-phone will be great for making climate refugee camps more fun.

The Kinsey Sicks Appreciation Week: "Gentle, Loving People"

Wonderful over twenty years ago, wonderful now...

Thursday, July 14, 2016


When the coherence of your thought requires reductionism or the integrity of your action refuses compromise it really is nothing to be bragging about.

To The Footure!

Fool plus tourism is futurism.

The Kinsey Sicks Appreciation Week Soldiers On: "Anchor Baby"

Feeling Kaine Mutinous

The future is the Obama coalition, and I would really like a veep choice embracing that reality. "Safe pick," ugh.

What Futurist Could Have Predicted?

It would appear that reactionary robot cultist Peter Thiel is slated to speak at Trump's convention, in case you still wondered whether "the singularity" was anything but a toilet drain.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Kinsey Sicks Appreciation Week Continues On: "Crappy"


Monday, July 11, 2016


The Kinsey Sicks Appreciation Week: "Don't Be Happy, Worry"

Hamilton As Liberal Comfort Food and Guilty Pleasure

I was not at all surprised to discover that Lin Manuel Miranda is a West Wing superfan, and that he left the stage for his final performance to the strains of The West Wing theme. I will admit that the musical "Hamilton" exists for me in something like the same place where I put The West Wing, Herman Wouk's WWII novels/miniserialization, Richard Rorty's political thinking, Rachel Maddow, and Glee Season 1 in my brain: liberal comfort food/guilty pleasures.

If it seems scandalous to declare "Hamilton" a guilty pleasure in this moment of rapturous universal affirmation, let me preface this by insisting on the word "pleasure" there: I bought and memorized the soundtrack the day it became available, I'm a Broadway musical queen as you know, and I think it brilliant and invigorating and moving and memorable, okay? I'll just say that the "educational" plot involves no small amount of retroactive liberal romanticization and occasional mawkish sentimentality when it comes to it and that quite a lot of the music is pretty conventional once you get past the more famous hip-hop set pieces ("The Wiz" and "Assassins" already happened, you know) -- many of which are truly great, but Miranda is not Sondheim (yet), you know what I'm saying?

Look, I love The West Wing -- I have the whole run of the show on DVD in the collector's briefcase edition with the Seal, I watch the whole run every couple of years and watch a season or two's worth at least once a year, I am lapping up "The West Wing Weekly" podcast with fanboy joyjoy, there are episodes of the show that still make me cry and make me laugh out loud and inspire me after the bazillionth viewing... but the show is also a Big Block of Sexist Cheese with stinky blue sexist veins I must fast forward through in an incandescent rage every time, there are moments in which the smug patriarchal assumptions are so flabbergastingly bad I truly find myself thinking the show literally unwatchably bad even though I love it and will watch it and draw spiritual fuel from it anyway.

The racism in "The Winds of War" miniseries makes me feel much the same thing -- and yet I have been re-watching that miniseries over and over and over since it first aired. Part of my personal "Stay Wouk" thing is no doubt due to the fact that in high school I had an intense and terrible identification with the Byron Natalie love story in Winds (first miniseries, but then the novel in which it is spelled out that Byron loves Natalie because she is brilliant but also fucked up and he combines lazyness, intellectualism, and horniness in a bundle that, incredibly enough, Wouk defines as Byron's "virility"!), through which I created of course all sorts of romantic idealizations and analogues that seemed to me applicable -- assuming I am Natalie, of course -- and even plausible as a resource for my future self as an adventurer in love, and given that my other preferred resources were more or less Spock and the witty quarreling couples in Noel Coward comedies this probably wasn't my worst intuition. But another part of it my guilty pleasure is from the highly problematic but I will admit still bracing fueling of an earnest streak of progressive patriotism involving public service in a country uniquely invested with the power and resources to do unprecedented good or evil in the world and the responsibilities this imposes on its citizens of good sense and good will. This is a patriotism that is neither reducible to nor extricable from the virtue of the vicious, the patriotism that is a smug celebration of incumbency by its beneficiaries, but it is also patriotism as the heartbreakingly compromised, infinitely demanding, catastrophically error-prone work of struggle for sustainable equity-in-diversity in the face of all that waste, fear, parochialism, inequity, and inertial incumbency.

Infuriating though he is, Richard Rorty, another deep and formative influence for me, is much the same. I owe so many of my turns of thought and expression to his sardonic and sensible seeming essays! He provided a bridge between Wilde and Arendt for me in a strange sort of way, but for the purposes of this odd little post he was speaking very much the same language Herman Wouk's and Aaron Sorkin's public-spirited actors with all their earnestness and thoughtfulness and awfulness. I never wanted to be them, I always felt I would be excluded from being them even if I wanted to be, but I did want to be something like my own version of them.

If these are all works I have rarely mentioned here on the blog, that is because I tend to talk about my true guilty pleasures (Xanadu, Entertainment Weekly's Big Brother episode re-caps) or my true comfort food (Star Trek, Judith Butler, Gary Indiana), rather than works like these that straddle those categories and trigger my uncomfortable and ambivalent and worried patriotic streak.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Clinton's Reiterations of Long-Held Published Progressive Positions Are Credited to Sanders

Vox today:
On Saturday morning, Hillary Clinton released a new health care policy proposal that emphasized several major progressive priorities, including a public option and increased funding for community health centers. In the proposal, Clinton pledged:
  • To give Americans in every state a "public option" health insurance plan
  • To let Americans as young as 55 years old opt in to Medicare
  • And to double funding for primary care services at community health centers
Now, these aren’t really new ideas for Clinton. She said at a campaign event in May that she supported "the public option, so that people can buy into Medicare at a certain age." And she’s long supported community health centers. But the fact that she’s formally backing these progressive priorities at this moment -- rather than pivoting to more centrist ideas as the general election contest approaches -- is a testament to the influence of Bernie Sanders’s campaign.
It is absurd on its face to attribute positions Clinton has long held to Sanders and not to Clinton herself. Come to think of it, it is absurd on its face to describe old policies as new, though I'll be generous and pretend what is meant is that these re-iterations, in the current context of platform negotiations, are "news."

This sort of absurdity is itself nothing new, however, in the ongoing narrative comparing and framing the relative progressivity of the Democratic candidates for the nomination this election: crediting the progressivity of the platform's healthcare reform language to Sanders but not the party's actual nominee Clinton, whatever her published positions have been from the first, seems to me just the latest false and facile variation on this theme during these negotiations, playing out as well in reporting about the platform language concerning affordable college education, raising the minimum wage, demands for police reforms, liberalizing drug laws, among many other things. The platform's absolute repudiation of capital punishment is one of the few exceptions in which Sanders' view prevailed over Clinton's -- and that outcome thrilled this Clinton supporter. (That and post office banking -- but I give the credit there more to Warren, who I fervently hope but do not expect in the least to be HRC's Veep choice.) Like the denial of enthusiasm and a mandate for the candidate who won more states, more delegates, and millions more votes in landslide majorities, Clinton supporters are used to hearing that the victories of the first woman to win a major party's nomination and likely to win the presidency aren't like the "victories" of the men who have come before her or who compete with her and lose even now.

That Clinton would be pivoting to the center by now after securing the nomination and hence it must be Sanders' presence restraining her certainly reflects long-held and hitherto warranted "conventional wisdom" in pundit circles, but it is worth noting that throughout the campaign Clinton's forceful appeal to Democratic base voters and the Obama coalition suggests that she re-assessed that conventional wisdom in the aftermath of her experience in the 2008 campaign and observing political and demographic changes over the course of the Obama presidency. I daresay it is no surprise that since I don't agree Sanders has moved Clinton substantially to the left because she already moved there herself since 2008 in her published positions neither do I think Clinton needed Sanders to stay to the left where she placed herself from the beginning for reasons that still make electoral sense (and -- dare I even suggest such a thing? -- may reflect her actual convictions in light of her assessment of what is politically possible after the successes of the Obama administration). Rather than insist that Clinton has been moved or kept to the left by Sanders, I would say that the Democratic party has moved to the left better to reflect the needs and aspirations of the majority of Americans and that all the major candidates (I'm including Martin O'Malley) for the presidency this first cycle after the Obama administration reflected that shift from the beginning. That this should have been a cause for celebration among progressives after the long dark night of the Reagan epoch should go without saying. Unfortunately, all too often it has indeed gone without being said.

That the public discourse so long devoted to documenting Clintonian "shiftiness" would dramatize her shifts, whether they are happening or not, or the Sanders or Base forces restraining her imminent or desired shifts, whether they have evidence for them or not, is I suppose no great surprise. The third false commonplace in the article (not included in the already long quote above, follow the link for the whole piece) is the subsequent declaration that Sanders is still to Clinton's left, whatever her "accommodations" of him in re-iterating long-held positions of hers, suggesting once again that the measure of a candidate's authentic "leftness" is how unqualified their slogans are rather than the substance of policies proposed in a diverse society or efforts to mobilize sufficient coalitions to implement actual reforms. Much of the contentiousness of the primary arose from the same absurdity as current declarations about Clinton's so-called "shifts," namely the pretense that Clinton's published campaign positions are significantly to the right of Sanders' in the first place any more than her voting record was.

In her many decades in the public spotlight Hillary Clinton's politics have reflected the demanding contentiousness of problem solving and reform struggle among diverse enormously powerful national and international stakeholders (as an activist First Lady, as a New York senator, as Secretary of State) while Bernie Sanders retreated to a more-than-usually liberal homogeneous white postage stage of a state, Vermont, where he could indulge with few consequences in symbolic stands, protest votes, and scolding. Time and time again progresssivity has been linked via Sanders supporters and presumably neutral pundits to hostility to the kind of pragmatism without which progressive reform is rarely achieved in this unwieldy insulated continent-scaled mess of a republic. Even if I share more often than not a desire to arrive at the ideal outcomes with which Sanders has identified himself, I have never agreed either with those who regard Clinton's pragmatism or her compromises (even the terrible ones) as evidence of her cartoonish hostility to those ideal outcomes nor with those who seem certain that repeated harangues about the desirability of those ideal outcomes somehow brings them closer to realization in a world shared with numerous, powerful, influential stakeholders who simply don't agree or have a vested interest in resisting them.

Now, I was broadly sympathetic at first to the notion that it is fine to let Sanders supporters take credit for progressive platform victories -- whatever the actual merits of such declarations -- in the interest of party unity in the face of the opportunity occasioned by the Trump candidacy to gain more control at all layers of governance and hence to loosen or even end demoralizing gridlock and solve our shared problems. Pragmatists and diplomatists fudge this sort of thing all the time in the interest of getting results. But it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of Bernie supporters quickly shifted their support to Hillary Clinton prior to these gestures or would have done anyway in the face of GOP ugliness and disarray. Further, it really seems that those who have not already made this shift are mostly not satisfied in any case and hence little likely to do so, and that these are in any case a mostly a noisy minority who are marginal to progressive partisan politics -- Naderites, redditors, Greens, anarcho-whatevs.

What worries me is that these false narrative concessions presumably mobilized to court disgruntled Berners (who are mostly already on board or never will be) may actually contribute to injurious misdiagnoses of the diversity of and, perhaps paradoxically, sources of unity in the existing political terrain, and hence abet reactionary outcomes to no good purpose: and by "false narratives" here I mean those rationalizing white-supremacy as economic precarity, for example, or feeding false equivalence frames or silly serially-disastrous "amplify the contradictions" notions of Democratic and Republican party politics at a time when Democrats are moving left to embrace the progressive promise of the Obama coalition and Republicans represent the most dangerous organized force in the world (not because they are more "evil" than other regressive movements, but because their position within the actually-existing American party duopoly gives them plausible access to unequaled and unprecedented military, corporate, practical, institutional, normative resources to implement world-historical harms and crimes). I must say, that it is a source of flabbergasting amazement to me how many informed and intelligent people seem to attribute to insufficiently pure attestations of ideology what is palpably the result of Republican obstructionism enabled by low-turnout elections, gerrymandering, organized disenfranchisement, anti-democratic legal and procedural gambits, mass-mediated mis-information campaigns, and for-profit hate talk. Meanwhile, the ongoing and far-worse looming reality of catastrophic climate change renders the danger represented by the current incarnation of the GOP nothing less than an existential threat to the living world. 

You know, it is because Clinton's policies seemed to me forceful and substantive and realizable given sufficient down-ticket success, and also because her campaign seemed to recognize the reality and promise and leftward trajectory of the Obama coalition and the diversifying, secularizing, planetizing REAL real America that I supported her from the beginning. Well, there are also issues of performance, temperament, intelligence, competence, and connections to key constituencies and organizations in which she has seemed to me better than any available alternative, and certainly better hands down than the woolly, inflexible, censorious, disgruntled, isolated and isolating Senator from Vermont. I can't say that I like or trust Hillary Clinton as much as I do President Obama (for whom I have plenty of criticisms even while judging him, as history also will do, as the most effective progressive President since FDR or LBJ -- as much an indictment of our country as it is praise of those figures), but I do have reason to hope that she will be a competent commander-in-chief and protect and extend Obama's progressive accomplishment to the good. Of course, having a woman fill the role of President or Prime Minister is no guarantee of progressive outcomes, but I will not deny that I think the occupation of the White House by a woman (even better were there two on the ticket) would be a powerfully positive transfiguration of political power in this culture, and that what seems to me wholesome in this possibility is only amplified by the fact that Hillary Clinton does not seem to me to be conventionally charismatic but is a bit plodding, awkward, careful, care-takengly grandmotherly, conventionally faithful in her public persona. Given the deep problems of the unitary executive in an epoch of industrial-militarism and mass-mediated celebrity unforeseen by the framers of the Constitution I think any changes in our sense of the Presidency provide welcome occasions for intervention and re-inflection of its powers.   

The relentless denial and distortion of what seem to me key realities throughout the primary campaign have been demoralizing and infuriating, especially to the extent that so many of my usual interlocutors and allies seemed to be indulging in much of the worst denialism and distortion, identifying radicalism with anti-pragmatism and purity cabaret, losing themselves in performative contradictions like critiquing the executive through candidate fandom or pretending to reject party politics through doomed and silly efforts to hijack or game party processes. Needless to say, the relentless backdrop of mass-mediated Trump/GOP racism and idiocy together with years of socially mediated documentation of racist policing and gun madness has only amplified beyond bearing the depression and rage occasioned by all this comic-book nonsense and wasted political energy of the primary season.

I suspect that the unqualified canalization of political discourse playing out on twitter, in which I have been too eager a participant myself, only exacerbates the worst of these distortions. I am hoping my twitter feed will stumble back into comparative good sense after the conventions are done and the general election commences, otherwise I mean to purge most of the fauxvolutionaries and just read partisan progressives and real radicals who teach me stuff and productively disagree with my parochialism, almost entirely progressive people of color and queer feminists and environmental justice activists/academics (the best of whom, again, seem to be progressive people of color and queer feminists). While fauxvolutionaries often agree with me on ideal outcomes, at least to the extent that these can be reduced to tweetable slogans of which I have contributed plenty myself, I am exhausted and demoralized almost as much when they agree with me as when they disagree at this point. By way of conclusion, I now realize and lament that it turns out this paragraph has continued the recent rather self-indulgent trend in which comments on apparently any topic seem always to veer me back to this questioning of blogging and microblogging practices as part of what I have long thought of as my own very minor effort to do the work of some kind of public intellectual in this moment and in my position. I could say that this is the last time this will happen, but I fear I would be lying.

I Just Make Dumb Jokes Now

Did twitter make my brain fall out? Or do I just need a vacation?

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Re-Framing The Second Amendment For Gun Safety and Representative Policing

I have articulated this position over and over on Amor Mundi, and for years now at this point, but the heartbreaking nauseating unendurable spectacle of gun violence continues on and on and so I'll offer up my usual chestnuts once again: (one) I still think Democrats should re-frame and defend the Constitution's Second Amendment guarantee of armed but "well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State" as every citizen's right to accountable and representative police. (two) I still think commonsense gun safety regulations should include proposals to disarm police on the street -- the default of effective police departments in many comparatively democratic industrialized settings. (three) I will remind readers once again that anybody (which is well-night everybody, mind you) who agrees that private citizens should not possess thermonuclear devices already concedes the necessary premise to justify nearly all the gun safety regulation and military weapons bans the most fervent gun control advocates demand. (four) The terms of this debate must change to reflect both factual and political realities, because the frames through which we debate these issues now seem conspicuously to frustrate mobilization of a workable consensus on these issues.

"Smug!" *shrug*

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Commonsense Gun Safety Regulations Should Include Proposals To Disarm Police.

And the suffusion of public space with private guns no doubt exacerbates the crisis of the ongoing militarization of the police.

Worst Star Trek Franchise?

We lived through it, the prequel series "West Wing Mirror Universe: The Federation Strangled in its Cradle, the George W. Bush Administration.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

"Fireworks" Is Not The Word I Would Use To Describe It

Spending the long weekend grading final papers and late assignments here at the end of my UCB summer intensive...


Polanyi sounded the warning, Mirowski summed it up, and the Pet Shop Boys put it to a beat you can dance to.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

The Moralizing Force of Playing Telephone on Twitter

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Last Teaching Day

Ah, my summer intensive is done! A week of grading ahead, but I'm taking tomorrow off and getting ready for a little vacation time before I start prep for my three courses come Fall.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Alvin Toffler, 1928 – 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Last Week of My Intensive

Time flies when you're feeling stunned. Not quite sure why, but I feel I've really been burning the candle at both ends for over a month and I'm ending this enterprise on an exhausted and even slightly exasperated note. A good group of kids this time around, tho, I hope to see many of them again in the Fall when I'm teaching at a more civilized pace.

How Very Queer

As I said yesterday, I've been posting variations of that elegiac grumble about Pride for years and years by now... very surprised to see it was the occasion for comments this time around when it almost never has done before.


Really thinking I should return to more longform blogging if I can drag myself out of that aphoristic gravity-well. Microblogging via twitter really is catnip but I worry about my blood-pressure, I truly do, and I'm not entirely sure I am capable of forming complete thoughts outside the classroom anymore.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Parade Passes By

I re-post variations of the following bit of grousing more or less every year on Pride Weekend. Last year it was published in the afterglow of the Supreme Court decision to mandate marriage equality in all fifty states and in the aftermath of the massacre in Charleston. And this year the devastating mass shooting in Orlando is casting its shadow over the festivities, systematic white-supremacist police brutality and terrorist violence stratifying once again any easy legibility of meaningful pride celebration for lgbtq folks of color and all queer allies and fellow-citizens in our vital cities, our fraught refuges, our diverse havens...

As regular readers of Amor Mundi know, my partner and I have been together for over fourteen years now. But we aren't gay married because we disapprove of marriage as a vestige of human trafficking and as an irrational acquiescence to damaging Hallmark card fantasies of romantic completion. And yet we both fought for marriage equality and are cheered by its successes because our exclusion from the institution damages the lives of queer folks who feel differently than we do and because that exclusion long remained an injustice enabled other worse exclusions and injustices, and also simply because it seems more forceful politically to oppose norms from which you are not already excluded and the refusal of which costs you something.

Appalled by the deathly demoralizing anti-democratizing energies of corporate-militarism as I am, I grasped nonetheless the indispensability of ending Bill Clinton's gargoyle "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and the ban of queer folks from serving openly in the military for reasons similar to those that make marriage equality victories good -- but, again, I cannot say the jingoist cadences inevitably framing the victory felt particularly enlivening to me personally here in the belly of the beast of the imperialist abroad police-state enabling at home endless War on Terror. Ending employment discrimination against queer folks seems to me a more substantial goal that will help many truly precarious people in this country while imposing a constraint on many truly pernicious people in this country -- and hence I cannot say that I am surprised to find it the assimilationist goal that still most stubbornly resists accomplishment, year after year after year. I don't like kids enough to wallow in gay adoption victories, and while I am all for Families We Choose, I wonder why the Chosen Families we celebrate must always be so drearily conventional.

But even if, as I say, I fully recognize the indispensability of demanding the availability of legibility on conventional institutional terms, lest illegibility marginalize so many of us in ways that literally ruin and end lives, I personally believe that a life more fully lived demands selves made of both prose and poetry, freedom requires both answerability before the eyes of power as well as the questionableness out of which different worlds are made (I recommend you read Fanon if that doesn't make sense to you).

Yes, all told, I am one of those grumps you hear about who think that celebrating Pride as assimilation to the institutional norms of reprosexual corporate-militarism is nothing to be Proud of. While Pride originated in the righteous impulse to defy the hurtful shame imposed on wanted queer lifeways by mean, fearful, ignorant majorities, I think there is plenty to be ashamed of in the complacency, conformism, and consumerism our new Prideful majority celebrates.

Especially now that I'm past fifty I find that I more or less want Pride to get off my lawn. It is like a crowd of vacant consumers and squalling kids hard to distinguish from a food court in a Tornado Alley suburban mall even with the interchangeable shirtless guys and sequins shorn of their magic by too much sunlight. I do know that there are plenty of older folks who draw a real measure of strength and support from Pride, and yet I do think Pride is something youthful at heart, and in a way that registers both the fabulousness and foibles that can characterize youth in dumb overgeneralized stereotypical ways I won't make many friends getting into in any depth. But the hazy ambivalent fondness I still feel for Pride, while feeling at once quite contented that Pride is no longer the thing for me, is something like the hazy ambivalent fondness I feel for my own time of youthful adventuring.

I marched with my friends in Queer Nation in the Pride Parade in Atlanta half a dozen times at least, in the early nineties, and that really felt like something. Perhaps it was because we didn't seem quite as respectable as the Pride tag insisted we should be aspiring to be, for one thing. I marched in San Francisco's Parade just once, the summer after I moved here, in 1996, and it already felt terribly belated and pro forma. I wasn't really part of any movement anymore, and that left me feeling like I was at a County Fair cruising a loud crowd for dick and funnel cakes. That's, gosh, twenty years ago now! Now I see on my tee vee that queers march behind banners designating the tech companies they work for. I must say I felt quite a lot of sympathy for the Occupride moment in 2012 -- but I heard about it on the news after the fact. There was some political alchemical spark there, some joyful noisy resistance, some futural opening onto elsewhere that felt truly queer. To connect with that kind of queer futurity, I might even drag my tired old unrepentant queer ass onto the street again one day...

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Further dumb thoughts of mine on Brexit adapted from an exchange in the Moot last night:
Britain was of course stupid to Leave (maybe maybe maybe Parliament or even the Scottish Parliament will find some workaround to put a stop to it still?) and Britain should be made to pay when they come crawling back, come what may. They were already half-assed members, enjoying benefits of EU membership but with all sorts of carve-outs insulating them from EU responsibilities and still whining and insulting and mucking things up all the while. One hopes there will be less toleration of that nonsense when Britain comes back like Oliver with its gruel bowl in hand begging for more.
You know, neoliberal and awful though the EU is, and yes of course it is, it is less so than Britain to my eyes -- consider the greater, not adequate but greater, progressivity of taxation and the more ample social supports in so many of its member states, for example. I know euro-bureaucratization is a drag and even tyrannical at worst, but to see that to the exclusion of seeing that implementation of environmental, health, education, labor, safety standards and civil liberties is actually a rare, precious, fragile emancipatory triumph is much more a blindness than an insight.
Brexit is also, of course, one more wake up call in a decade of wake-up calls to Europe that austerity threatens its stability and exacerbates dangerous right-wing political formations (in France, the Netherlands, Italy...) and one would hope they really do wake up this time and finally change course in consequence: especially since austerity hasn't delivered on its promises otherwise anyway. Yanis Varoufakis is someone who is advocating noisily right now for the left remaining in the EU as indispensable to any efforts to radically democratize European politics from within, a position with the broad contours of which I agree, whatever my specific disagreements and distaste for the digirati-broleftist Assange-to-Zizek tinge of his milieu (check out the DiEM25 Manifesto, you'll see what I mean, goodish and illish).
Were the EU to make some adjustments away from neoliberalism and toward democratization (more transparency and accountability in governance processes, more shared public investment in sustainable infrastructure and industry rather than mortgages and financial instruments) then the demands it would be in a position to make upon a rapidly marginalized radically under-performing Britain yearning for Bre-Entry would be all the more welcome. The nonsense of the whole notion of a monetary union without a fiscal union might be closer to a solution, for one thing. Reversing current crazy conspicuous wealth concentration even a little bit in Europe, coupled with an effective PR campaign shifting from gross xenophobic politics onto climate threat politics, say, would be worthy work for all the bright brittle eurocrats to earn their salaries with, if you ask me. Many prominent austerians are inflicted with "the anglo disease" and a temporary loss of Britain could be an occasion facilitating such a course correction. A fellow can dream. 
You ask: "Whose terms should be more demanding, the Brits' or the Eurocrats'?" I say Europeans should be more demanding of Europe, and Europe should be more demanding when Britain tries to crawl out of the hole they've dug. Till then, one hopes the left takes up this opportunity to push for our agenda (that agenda in a phrase? sustainable accountable equity-in-diversity) as the right most certainly will do. But I fear the usual inertial professionals (well-meaning and otherwise) looking to cash in while the usual passionate and righteous activists squander the moment in purity cabaret will either break our hearts or muddle through according to something like an historical coin toss.
I'm a dumb American, of course, so what do I know about Europe? It isn't modesty but honesty when I say the obvious -- I'm an interested but inept outside observer, anybody is better to ask about this stuff than me. In this moment I will say the US looks much better off: We went for inadequate but real stimulus not austerity in 2008 despite the GOP and have stuck to weak tea variations of the same. The Obama coalition outnumbers our dim dupe racists providing better chances for comparatively sane national outcomes. The American version of Brexit is old straight white bigots dying of old age in an ever more diverse and secular society. If HRC wins -- blah blah monster blah blah evil blah blah notwithstanding -- the Supreme Court may become reliably liberal till 2050, corrections to jerrymandering if Dems stay organized for the midterms may lead to Congressional representation in line with actual voting results, and then quite a lot can change quite quickly after years and years of too little changing too little (the first years of the Obama administration provide a narrow glimpse of the pragmatic possibilities): We can have more public investment, more progressive taxes, sustainability and harm-reduction policy-making can be prioritized and yield virtuous circles, all the while the country approaches majority-minority diversity and then this ridiculously lucky stupid criminal pack of infants get yet another shot at blowing our chance to do some good in the world.

Friday, June 24, 2016

On Repeat Today

D'Oh!ting Rights

Protest voting is for those who understand neither protest nor voting.

Not Impressed By

...fauxvolutionary geniuses who can't distinguish Trump from Clinton or "Leave" from "Remain" just because there is, yes, indeed, obviously much to criticize across the board.

Brexit Stage Right

You know, Britain was always a half-assed member of the EU and a force bolstering its austerians: So, when it comes crawling back in a few years let it be on a more demanding, more equitable EU's terms.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How Did Your Senators Just Vote On Gun Safety?

via Everytown for Gun Safety whip count. Let them know how you feel about their vote using the handy "Call Them Now" provided right there on the page.

Teaching Day

Fanon "Concerning Violence" today, with genuflections toward Black Skin, White Masks, but also reparations, redlining, highway infrastructure. Discussions of secularity and pluralism as against anarchism and fundamentalism in non-violence literature deferred from the end of last week will have to be woven into the mix at some point. Also, handing back mid-terms, and given the grade-fixation of so many Berkeley students, expect this will be the occasion of energetic renegotiations and possibly recriminations.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fall Just Got Frenetic

Looks like I'll be teaching a version of my Patriarchal Conviction in Greek and Roman Rhetoric course at UCB this Fall, just got a last minute offer from the Rhet Department. Since I'm already teaching a grad seminar on fetishism/figuration and an undergrad critical theory survey in the City it looks to be an exhausting/exhilarating term. I plan to complain about how tired I am -- but honestly what a great gift to be paid to teach such splendid topics to my students!