amor mundi

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

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!

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Grading mid-terms. I have a terrible head ache. Trying not to be punitive.

Friday, June 17, 2016

"Laugh At The Kings Or They'll Make You Cry"

Everybody says don't.
Everybody says don't get out of line.
When they say that, then lady that's a sign,
Nine times out of ten,
Lady, you are doing just fine.

Yeah, it's Barbra and Sondheim and HRC and I lurve it. I'm a fifty-year-old showtune faggot liberal teaching at Berkeley and a San Francisco art school. This is supposed to surprise you?

Thursday, June 16, 2016


This is the positive ad fountaining across the Battleground states to get HRC's negatives up while her campaign simultaneously dumps video montages of crazy slash bigoted Trump quotes (like the one I posted a few minutes ago) all over social media. Millions more people are only just starting to pay serious attention to the campaign and HRC is defining her opponent early -- as Obama did in 2012 -- and building her counter-narrative while Trump flounders under the weight of organizing and fundraising issues. Anything can happen, that is what makes the Trump candidacy so horrifying, but be clear that Democrats are organizing to take advantage of the Trump moment to seize back the reins of government across its branches and from top to bottom. Increasing and improving healthcare, comprehensive immigration reform, green investment and jobs, gun safety regulation, lowering education costs and debt, strengthening financial regulation, securing abortion access, a shift from punishment to harm reduction and to community policing will all rise or fall, potentially saving and improving millions upon millions of lives, will depend, like it or not, on whether or not Democrats succeed in this venture.


Tolstoy-Gandhi correspondence, Gene Sharp, "militant" atheism today in What Is Compelling? seminar. A bit of a grab bag, honestly. I don't really think I ever quite fastened on to teaching this week at all.

Four More Months of This?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Teaching Today

Screening and discussing Cronenberg's 9/11-film (well, the closest he comes to making a 9/11-film, and one of the few works in the genre that is palatable or useful in the least) "A History of Violence" ... it's going to be tough in the Orlando aftermath which still has me feeling enormously sandpapery and jangly and I fear may be triggering for some students at the moment. Nervousness about the material kept me up last night, feeling terribly raw and worried I'll admit.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

An election campaign is a job interview not a celebrity crush.

Please make a note of it.

Back To Teaching

Administering a mid-term exam today at Cal, which is always a bit strange. I am more or less a glorified baby-sitter in a room suffused with weird tension. Strictly speaking the class is past the mid-way point already, summer intensives barrel forward in a racket like streetcars on cobbles.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Pluralism, Politics, and Belief; Or, Of Walking And Chewing Gum At The Same Time (A Twitter Essaylet)

Good Guy With Gun

The "Good Guy With A Gun" is just a techno-ruggedization of the usual paranoid aggressive American individualism of white-racist cishet masculinity.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Donald Trump Is A Sexist Pig

Fill every colosseum in the US with supporters and you have...

...a tiny micro-minority too small to win elections in a nation of two hundred fifty million eligible voters.

It takes few people to disrupt a process but many people to win an election.


Of course I see the benefit of "use by" dates -- but "enjoy by" dates I find both anxiety provoking and terribly presumptuous.

Thursday, June 09, 2016


Figurative language and the early explicitly sophistical/rhetorical Nietzsche today. Got some sleep last night thank heavens but I'm still rather tired and definitely ready for this week of my intensive to be behind me, even if today's topics are among the ones that fire me up the most really.

President Obama Endorses Hillary Clinton

Beautifully produced, hits every note just so. Man, the mobilization of the Obamas and Bidens as we shift to the general is utterly game-changing (forgive the use of that tired metaphor).

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Hillaray Shante

Another Teaching Day

Was up past five this morning waiting for CA delegate allocation numbers for my peace of mind, now leaving the house for three hours of lecture on propositional analysis and informal fallacies in my summer intensive today feeling utterly deranged. This should go very well.

Feminists Making History

Tuesday, June 07, 2016


Back To Teaching

Debate teams in rhetoric today -- should be hot fun in the summertime. California is voting today -- Eric and I voted by mail weeks ago and the AP called the nomination for HRC last night so everything feels oddly pro forma.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Platform Fun!

One of the million or so scarcely-stealthed fundraising e-mails I receive on a daily basis from the Democratic Party asked for feedback about the Party platform. I know nobody will read it, but like most busy-body leftists I can't resist things like this, especially as I am strenuously avoiding preparing for teaching this week. Here's what I wrote, off the top of my head. I daresay most of this is just boilerplate Dem wish-list, tho' the Bernie phenomenon seems to be premised on the false and frankly idiotic fantasy that their little fauxvolutionary band of disorganized purity-cabaret performers are the only ones who ever had any ideals of this kind. [Dag, AP called it for Clinton while I was writing the next sentence, so read it with that in mind I guess.--d] Here's hoping come tomorrow -- first at five my time when New Jersey is called and takes HRC's count including those pesky superdelegates over the finishing line, and then later that evening when, win or lose, the New Mexico and California result takes her pledged delegate count into the majority (the number that matters if you are pretending superdelegates don't count or shouldn't count... or are they the only ones that should count now? I can't keep up with the latest BS as in Bernie Sanders BS as in bullshit on superdelegates -- anyway, come tomorrow as I say, I do hope that sort of deceptive destructive demoralizing hagiographizing/demonizing nonsense will begin to be behind us and those who are serious about achieving progressive goals such as I am about to recount will remember that the work to accomplish them requires a Democratic Congress, Democratic State governments, and lots of movement education, agitation, and organization on the ground to shift the terms of the possible and the important within which party politics operate and push an Executive from their left while at once supporting the Executive as they solve problems and offer up their best compromises in real time in the direction before the horizon of We The People.
Green economic stimulus/increase employment: mass FDR-style tree planting and soil restoration projects, federal high-speed rail or even maglev trains connecting twenty-five major cities by 2025, bury exposed wire to harden/weatherize vulnerable power grid, replace water infrastructure (especially given lead issues), provide public EU-level high speed connectivity via local not-for-profit co-ops, subsidize residential/small business rooftop solar and solar parking canopies in every state, limit food deserts and encourage sustainable agriculture and lower long-term health costs by building local/organic farmer's markets-cum-community centers in neighborhoods.
End the Hyde Amendment. End Unconstitutional restrictions and harassment of women's healthcare providers, waiting periods, unscientific moralizing interference with qualified diagnoses and recommendations, misleading and humiliating compulsory sermons, invasions of privacy and public threats. Never re-instate the global gag order. Provide safe, free, anonymous women's health, counseling and abortion services in every county, in every state, in every territory, in or of the United States.
Save our postal service and end predatory lending and finance while encouraging responsible savings by allowing post offices to function as community-based savings-and-loans and provide other needed financial services on a highest-standard non-profit basis.
Prohibit for-profit policing/prisons, de-militarize police forces, end broken windows and racial profiling, mandate independent investigation and prosecutors in all cases of harm involving police, mandate community representation and oversight in police governance, train all police (anyone involved in policing at any level) in violence de-escalation and bias sensitivity, legalize recreational cannabis, shift from drug and sex-work prohibition to harm reduction/voluntary rehabilitation/protection of the vulnerable model, increase funding for mental health, rehabilitation, training programs and shift from zero-tolerance judgments to end school-to-prison pipeline and misuse of prisons as warehouses for traumatized and distressed citizens due our treatment and care, ban all military-style and assault weapons, make gun manufacturers and sellers liable for gun harms at least demonstration of negligence, include demonstration of competent use and knowledge of safety regulation in periodic licensing of gun possession for hunters and hobbyists, end inherently cruel and unusual, prohibitively costly, discriminatory, error-prone but irreversible capital punishment, increase funding to protect and facilitate independence of women and children and vulnerable who are sexually assaulted, bullied, or subject to hate crimes.
Strengthen the general welfare in order to form a more perfect union and ensure domestic tranquility by increasing social security benefits, ensuring long-term unemployment benefits, federally mandating paid family/health leave, allowing medicare buy-in as a public option, lowering prescription drug costs through public bargaining with companies over prices, federally mandate a living wage pegged to inflation (allowing for local cost-of-living variances), vastly increase public grants for artistic work and scientific/technical research that is made available for immediate free public use, mandate equal pay for equal work, raise teacher salaries and shrink classroom sizes in every zip code, forgive current paralyzing college loan debt and provide for debt-free college in the future through free community college and public service after graduation (in public education, ecological restoration, support for first responders, community service, foreign aid work).
Stop breaking up families and communities including immigrants, stop the regular harassment, arbitrary raids, and mass-detention of immigrants. Broaden the available pathways for people to enter the country legally in order to work and study, or to reunite with family members who are already here. Provide an accessible path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Increase legal immigration channels, taking special care to protect children and refugees from social, political, and ecological danger. Provide services to welcome the contributions and facilitate the successful integration of immigrants into our society.
Automatically register citizens to vote when they get or renew their drivers' license or their passport. Provide an option for postage-free vote-by-mail in every jurisdiction. Renew the Voting Rights Act and apply pre-clearance provisions to all states equally. Create a federal election day holiday. Provide an automatic one-dollar tax break or tax credit to every citizen who votes in the preceding year's election, the same one dollar that now goes optionally to the Presidential election campaign. End Citizen's United. Strengthen restrictions against and increase waiting periods for public servants to work as lobbyists. Within the Democratic Party itself: Eliminate exclusionary caucuses, close participation in primaries to non-Democrats but allow for same-day registration for membership in the Democratic Party, eliminate "superdelegates" but retain as separate from pledged delegate counts the necessary mechanism by which current Democratic politicians, leaders, activists can provide unity for a nationally viable nominee on the occasion of an emergency related to health, criminal conduct, or extraordinary misconduct disqualifying the elected nominee in the aftermath of voting in the primary contest.
Build and maintain a permanent international science station on the Moon and a series of international Mars exploration missions with the aim of establishing a permanent international science station on Mars as well.
Create new millionaire, multi-millionaire, and billionaire tax brackets, raise and progressivize the taxable cap for social security, introduce taxes on global financial transactions, raise but progressivize property taxes, create a federal system of state-based public renewable/sustainable infrastructure investment banks.

Speaking of Post-Partisan Basic Income Technofixer Scott Santens...

"In cyberspace no one can hear you scam."

I'd like to think that deadly daydream of the tech-talkers may be dying at last...

Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Present Trap: Why We Are Wrong To Treat Futurists As Scientists Or Analysts Even To Criticize Them

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Some Star Trek Suspicions

I can't be the only one who strongly suspects the Klingon Empire is a matriarchy run by scientists and social workers and that all the war stuff is a sandbox they provide mostly for dumb boys. I can't be the only one who strongly suspects Star Fleet is just a kindly meant outlet for sociopaths and a-types who simply can't get with enjoying life in a sustainable fair post-scarcity multiculture.

We Democrats Should Indeed Eliminate Our Current Superdelegate System

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Trump, The Chaos Candidate

I honestly thought that W. was the worst, most unqualified, most inept, most inappropriate, most catastrophic Presidential candidate the brainless bigoted greedhead GOP could unleash upon this country... and then John McCain gave Sarah Palin the Vice-Presidential nod, and now Republicans have awarded Donald Trump with their Party's nomination by an overwhelming majority of their ever more marginal minority of votes...

We All Have Our Little Dreams It Seems

Hey, I wish Elon Musk was just a Holodeck character too.

Call the Midwife Series Five on Blue Ray... me through my second week of summer intensives at Berkeley. Thinking next week it's time to drag out Guinness' Smiley again.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Revolution Ate My Homework

“How do you do it? It’s a good question. And the truth is, right now I’m a bit busy running for president to have figured that out, other than to tell you that it requires a mass-based political effort bringing millions of people together.” -- Sen. Bernie Sanders, in an interview with Rolling Stone, on how he would get his proposals through a GOP-controlled Congress.

Human, All Too

The A in AI actually stands for asshole.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Teaching Resumes

Four habits of argumentative writing, performative dimensions of textual argumentation, and the significance of the printed Declaration of Independence. Should be a light day, but I'm tired and feeling scattered so we'll see.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Oh, How I Hope I Live To See It!

After we bullshit over driverless cars for a decade instead of building trains I wonder what we'll bullshit over the next decade instead of building trains.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

She Will Win, She Is Winning, She Deserves To Win

Setting aside my usual emphases here about my preferred candidate's conspicuous qualifications, superior policy proposals, admirable temperament, impressive command of the issues, connections to the diverse constituencies of the real America and endorsements from and working ties with the actual organizations and leaders who must be mobilized to accomplish good government and progressive reform on the ground, I would like to point out, in response to the absurd damaging embarrassing desperate flailing charges of the dying Sanders campaign that Hillary Clinton's victory results from "rigging" the election against him, this handy summary of alternative measures for gauging his shellacking over this primary slog, via "Scan"s dKos diary earlier today:

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Never believe anybody who begs you to "believe me" as often as Donald Trump does.

Antipartisan Party People

When it comes to it, most Libertarians are just Republicans who lack the discipline demanded by partisan politics but who want to pretend to play at them anyway. And most Greens are just Democrats with similar deficiencies. That the Republican Party could not protect itself from being taken over by bigot grifter Donald Trump reveals that there are few people with the discipline demanded by partisan politics within the Party itself after the generational debasement of the Southern Strategy and the Bush foreign war adventures and domestic looting sprees. The Democrats were organizationally healthy enough to ward off a hijacking attempt by Bernie Sanders -- and contra the media horse-race narratives and True-Believer hyper-ventilation about rally crowds and states won over the actual votes and delegates that are all that matter, the primary contest was more or less over by March 15, and given the Democratic Party's proportional delegate allocation Clinton's victory over Sanders (by most measures incomparably greater than Obama's prior victory over Clinton in 2008) is far from a close thing, but precisely the shellacking everybody expected it to be and was right to expect it to be. The Libertarians and Greens or independent Democratic Socialists on their own are little likely to manage to be spoilers except here and there around the edges and will have no more impact on actual historical change than they ever do, even in the year of Trump.

If I may dispense with the historical resonances prompted by observations of this kind, Nader pissed me off in 2000 because his party equivalence thesis was a damned and damaging deception -- even if the Democratic Party wasn't and isn't exactly love's young dream from my perspective as a democratic eco-socialist feminist anti-racist anti-militarist vegetarian atheist queer aesthete academic than it was and is for him. Nader certainly didn't piss me off for "losing Gore the election" because, as it happens, Gore won the election and Republican appointees to the Supreme Court stole the election for the utterly catastrophic George W. Bush.

Now, when I denigrate would-be radical Third Party political efforts I do want to be quite clear that my point is not to extol political moderation or diminish radicalism or deride ethical conviction. Radicalism invigorates public life and is a motor of necessary progressive change. The simple fact is that there is more to politics than partisan politics, of course. And quite apart from that, there is also more to doing good and making progress than politics -- there is making art, there is offering up support in communities, there is living ethically. And confining the focus on politics, I always say the partisan politics of problem solving, compromise and reform is indispensable but inadequate to sustain progress and the movement politics of education, agitation and organization to transform our sense of the possible and the important is just as indispensable and just as inadequate.  Neither is adequate on their own, both are indispensable all the time.

You know, I truly respect people of conviction who don't have the stomach or the stamina for the fraught compromises and heartbreaking slowness and exhausting effort of partisan politics and decide to direct their energies elsewhere. In my own life I've moved in and out of movement politics -- my Queer Nation days and a few more recent moments of adjunct organizing are different from the times in my life that I've devoted myself to teaching and writing and the occasional editorial or candidate contribution. My convictions haven't diminished and I hope I never retreat from doing my measure of work to nudge us toward sustainable equity-in-diversity in whatever form -- but definitely I understand that sometimes partisan politics are quite demoralizing and feel too constrained and contaminated to bear. Even in such moments I must say that simply doing one's least part and voting for the best candidates or initiatives on offer doesn't take that much time or energy, after all, and figuring out who to vote for in this moment of utter Republican debasement isn't really that difficult.

What I find quite ridiculous, however, and even frankly contemptible, really, are those who seem to want to denigrate partisan politics while focusing on quixotic hijacking or sabotage efforts within... partisan politics. It is hard to imagine anything more frivolous than someone who wants to declare their radicalism, or even their revolutionary sentiments, who then directs all their attention into a party primary fight of all things. Every candidate is a politician, every politician has compromised, anybody who would seek the highest political offices has to have a touch of the sociopath in them, and nobody remotely plausibly electable (for the Democrats at any rate) will be as far to the left in office as are the radicals of their Base who grasp the real extent of injustice and real danger of climate catastrophe.

A nationally viable party in the wealthy insulated continent-scaled multiculture of the United States will never be a revolutionary organization. Even in the terrible days of DLC capitulation and GOP ascendance, and certainly ever more so as the Party has moved left in the aftermath of ruinous neoconservative war crimes and neoliberal privatization schemes, in the storm churn of Occupy and BlackLivesMatter and queer feminism and climate change activism -- the Democratic Party is a vast, diverse, dynamic, storied, and indispensable collective instrument for transmitting progressive history, addressing shared present problems, and pushing in the direction of sustainable equity-in-diversity. But partisan politics in the United States are not revolutionary, they are reformist. The landscape in which they operate is continent-scaled, resource rich, intersectional in its oppressions, multilateral in its powers. It is not to not concede any measure of righteousness to incumbent elites or reactionary communities that I recognize as viable parties must do their actually real power and actually shared existence in this country demands political compromises I nonetheless morally disapprove. Generations of radical activism and expression might alter culture in ways that bring present radicalisms into a prevalence a nationally viable party might well accommodate (this has repeatedly happened historically), but there are no short cuts for arriving at such accomplishments. People who pretend voting in a party primary are engaging in some kind of Revolutionary activity are mocking revolutionary politics no less than tech-talkers who declare bitcoin revolutionary or marketers who declare a soft drink is revolutionary are mocking revolutionary politics.

More extreme political factions -- the ones that agree with me about ideal social and environmental justice outcomes very much included -- are unable to build or maintain nationally viable parties. This is evident in our Libertarians and Greens, to return to the post's opening salvo. Nor will marginal radical or revolutionary factions be able to hijack a nationally viable party, as independent kinda-sorta-socialist Bernie Sanders has tried and failed to hijack the Democratic Party... Nor, I must add, even if doing so is adding insult to injury, would marginal factions be able to maintain control over a nationally viable party were they to manage a hijacking in a moment of crisis. Such a party hijacking either announces the dissolution and supersession of that party or more pragmatic and mainstream-legible authorities regain control and mobilize a working coalition within and through the party soon enough, as I would say Donald Trump will find to his cost if I thought Donald Trump actually cared one way or another about such a thing.

I daresay our present party duopoly is quite terrible in its way, especially given recent geographical and ideological sorting and consequent polarization, and I might say some sort of Parliamentary system would be more accountable and more efficacious if this were some genial thought experiment. Saying so looks to me just about as relevant as the Founders warning against factions rather than better checking their predictable pathologies in the Constitutional system. It seems to me that in pretty much every practically conceivable instance (for me, you no doubt are smarter and more imaginative than I am), the politics through which one would create and maintain a nationally viable party to accomplish some more radical policy outcome than is presently entertained within the confines of one of our present parties are incomparably more difficult and slow than would be the effort to bring one of those parties around to the effort through education, agitation, and organization. Nationally viable parties are coalitions and they are susceptible to change from within by clear-sighted long-dedicated well-organized forces within them, especially when these changes afford the party electoral advantages in a nation that is also changing. Running a protest candidate, by the way, can be a form of such activism -- but do be sure your protest candidate knows that using a campaign to do issue education is not going to look like a campaign that is trying to win an election. So long as it remains a better bet to work through than outside of parties when what one wants is specific legislative accomplishments, then third parties are going to remain at utterly marginal spoilers at the edges or highly personal settings for indulging in narcissistic purity cabaret.

That state of affairs doesn't exactly thrill me, but the simple truth is that there are far worse problems that demand our attention and that progressive change from movements on the ground and representatives in office is the struggle at hand. If you're not up for partisan politics -- just vote for the best available candidates by your lights and then do such good as is otherwise available to you. But don't expect those of us who know better to indulge the pretense that purity cabaret or hijack fantasies or this-time-it's-happening protest candidates amount either to real radicalism or real reformism. Such efforts are useless and confused and the proper province of pampered narcissists and mis-educated dupes.

A Pattern Emerges

The awfulness of so many people on twitter reminds me somewhat of the awfulness of so many people generally.

One Down Five To Go

My first week of teaching this summer's intensive is already over. This is the twenty-first year in a row I've taught in the Rhetoric Department at UCB, and somehow each year I manage to forget how, well, very intensive these intensives are. I slept in this morning, watched a diverting frothy BBC spy melodrama on blu-ray, and more or less spaced out all day recovering from the level of energy I expended in this first week already. It's a good class and a good group this year, I think -- their alertness and eagerness would be a terrible thing to disappoint or squander and it is wonderful, really, still feeling myself incited to reach them with everything I've got to communicate what I care about so much. But I'll tell you, the minute I sink into a seat on the bus on my way home from class it's like I scatter into shards. If nothing else, all this seems a lovely diversion from the last idiotic pyrotechnics of this demoralizing primary election.

Friday, May 27, 2016

We already know Trump will piss all over California if we let him.

In Fresno, Donald Trump says environmentalists are to blame for California's drought and he will solve it by "opening up the water." -- James Cook, BBC

Thursday, May 26, 2016