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

Monday, November 29, 2010

More Jobs = Lower Deficits

By all means, tho', do return instead to your looting.

Dorothy Parker Helps Make Amor Mundi More Positive

Stevie Smith Helps Make Amor Mundi More Positive

Why Readers Should Not Be Pleased By the Renewed Militancy of My Blog These Days

Upgraded and adapted from my response to a comment in the Moot, from someone who often derided my qualified defenses of Democratic efforts over the last two years and sees in my current complaints (and it is not as if I didn't complain plenty before, it's just that I wasn't willing to declare pre-emptive surrender in an effort to engage in what amounts to political radicalism as a kind of online performance art unconnected to legislative reform) an apparent vindication of his own view that Democrats and Republicans are equivalent.

It seems to me that the two mistakes you are making [Reader], are:

[one] thinking that Obama being as bad as you say means he can't still be the "Most Progressive Evah" as you snicker (Obama is the most progressive president since FDR was always my claim, and it remains exactly as true as ever, in large part because the US Executive has never been particularly progressive, natch) and

[two] your insinuation (and do correct me if I am wrong in discerning this insinuation in your views) that we are in the same situation now as we would be were the Dems under Pelosi to have kept the House.

It's no doubt true that you'll probably enjoy the militancy of my blog better now than you did over the last two years, but where you seem to taste sweet vindication I myself experience heartbreak and hopelessness.

I would far prefer to be defending ugly scarcely effectual idiotically corrupt piecemeal reforms creating conditions which could be opportunistically pushed from the left into more progressive reforms still while you and your ilk whine that Republicans and Democrats are exactly the same because neither are socialists (even when those who come closest to embracing your views on equity, diversity, sustainability all caucus with the Democrats while Republicans are all fulminating anti-tax anti-government climate-change denialists in thrall to bigots and theocrats).

I am retreating back into education, agitating, organizing from the vantage of my radical green radical queer radical democrat radical socialist positions because there is so little hope for change under the present conditions of GOP obstructionism. Believe me, I would far prefer to focus on the inadequate and real, as before, over the ideal, as now. I never stopped being guided by the ideal even when the measure between the real and the ideal was vast -- so long as the direction and the push was in the direction of the ideal.

It's far easier to be right (however few manage even that) than to do right. I don't expect much right to be done for the next two years, at least not in the country in which I am a citizen and so have a say in what is done. I didn't expect much right to be done in the last two either, but you can be sure the next two will be incomparably worse. That actually matters to me more than the fact that dumb rich Democrats aren't as green or socialist as I am.

I hope Obama will manage to stave off at the Executive level the worst damage the Movement Republicans will try to inflict, while I hope my State California and others like it will press forward with more progressive initiatives that might have wholesome national ramifications. Otherwise, I hope the rest of the world will shrug off the neoliberal looters and austerity peddlers and will organize to fight catastrophic climate change without us. My hopes for these things are not high, but that is where they reside for now. Things are bad and getting worse. To be smug at a time like this seems to me particularly cheap and inappropriate.

America Is An Embarrassment. It's Good for Us to Be Embarrassed.

I agree that the latest Wikileaks dump exposes American weakness, embarrasses us profoundly, and diminishes our standing in the world.

Good.

America is a force more for evil than good in the world, engaging constantly in criminal activities, facilitating ruinously exploitative global trade policies, blocking good treaties and accords on environmental issues and social justice questions.

America isn't an honest broker, America shouldn't be policeman of the world, Americans are far too backward and mis-informed to be trusted with serious planetary tasks.

Far better for the world, and eventually for us as well, to be embarrassed, marginalized, made to see sense, and possibly, just possibly, nudged to get our own house in order.

Americans need to take a good hard look at the third-rate dysfunctional crap shack we have become. We need to look at ourselves through the eyes of the rest of the world for a change. We need to start paying the real price for our stupid wasteful bullying practices.

This is a browning, secularizing, planetizing nation running head-long into economic and ecologic and technoscientific catastrophes of our own making, run by rich greedy parochial-minded dinosaurs. We're an embarrassment of recklessness, they're an embarrassment of greed and it's right and proper that we and they be embarrassed. Maybe standing exposed to the world in their debasement the precarious majority will find exposed as well the gumption to resist the scoundrels in force for a change.

Choices

Obama's "tough choice" (= stupid choice) to freeze pay for Federal Workers is a pre-emptive surrender to Republican anti-governmental bullshit rhetoric, a capitulation to economically illiterate austerity rhetoric punishing mostly Democratic voters for no good purpose. Good times.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More Alien Occupation

About my proposal in my last post that we refigure unsustainable practices "less as matters of ill-considered exploitation and more as matters of ongoing foreign occupation" a reader comments in the Moot:
The downside though is that people who realize how much they depend on their oil will shrug and end up being in favor of foreign occupation in general. People are really attached to their lifestyles.

But of course I am not making the point (though it is also quite true, obviously) that what have come to pass for "civilized" lifeways depend on the devastation, usually facilitated by militaries, of overexploited regions of the world -- a point exacerbated, possibly beyond healing, by resource descent (peak oil, topsoil loss, air pollution, peak coal, species die-off, freshwater depletion/salination/toxification, antibiotics resistance, and so on).

It is a larger earth-alienation that I have in mind when I speak of extractive-petrochemical industrial model technodevelopment as a kind of foreign occupation. My point is a variation on the Arendtian warning that we earthlings court catastrophe if we begin acting instead as if we were "dwellers in the universe."

To the extent that "geo-engineering" discourse represents the consummation of military-industrial ideology -- the moment of the perfect false identification of the ongoing destruction of the living world as instead the way to preserve the living world -- I hope it becomes a little clearer why I have emphasized in my many critiques of "geo-engineering" the earth alienated vantage assumed by its "futurological" advocates, the re-imagination of themselves as aliens arriving on an alien planet, the re-imagination of environmentalism as the "techno-terraforming" of a Terra terrorized in fact by extractive-industrial technoscience.

Although, as you say, people declare themselves stubbornly attached to their wasteful lifestyles it has been remarkable for me to discover just how bendable how many people seem to be to the will of completely arbitrary and palpably unjust austerity measures demanded by corporate-militarist oligarchs eager to pile their pointless treasure ever higher at the people's utterly immiserating expense, for example. In other words, I call bullshit on the claim that people really can't be moved from their wasteful suicidal pointless and usually in any case miserable lifestyles -- I think they appear to be effortlessly moved without pretext or a peep of protest indeed. But come what may, even if stupid assholes declare themselves unwilling to change their ways we have reached the point when continued waste and destruction will detach them from their lives themselves, without which they cannot continue in their idiotic lifestyles in any fashion in any case, however attached they fancy themselves to be to them. If that is what we have come to (and I think it is not), then I am glad to see the whole lot of us go, and expect we soon shall.

Ending the Industrial Occupation of the Planet

Pondering the shared etymology of both nature and native in the Latin nasci- (to be born, that is to say, to make an appearance in the world), I find myself thinking were we to conceive extractive-petrochemical industrial-model practices less as matters of ill-considered exploitation and more as matters of ongoing foreign occupation it might change our estimation of the acceptable, appropriate, and even necessary resistances unsustainable civilization calls for.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Longing...

Has anybody had a look at Jack Smith's The Beautiful Book?

Oh, how I covet it.

Ad-pocalypse

Not only are television ads consuming more and more air-time, crowding out more and more real estate on the screen, becoming louder and screechier all the time, but there seems to me to be a quality of real hysteria and mania pervading the sales-pitches, ever more of which seem to be peddling dangerous drugs for amorphous afflictions or appealing to paranoid fears that your home is secretly invisibly suffused with germs or your body subtly sourly smelly. I can't help but think America knows in its shriveled coal-ember heart that it is guilty as sin and that the jig is up.

SPLC the Next Acorn?

The faux outrage peddlars are predictably hyperventilating about the Southern Poverty Law Center's recent yoking of the Family Research Council to other right-wing hate groups. FRC's anti-gay hate speech (among other things, rancid Islamophobia for one) clearly justifies and even necessitates the making of these sorts of connections in my view. Movement Republicanism mobilizes inchoate white racist and patriarchal hate and hysteria in the service of elite-incumbent interests. That right is well-funded and well-organized (or at any rate, it follows orders) and it is crucial that the left expose and grasp these connections the better to organize in earnest to fight them on their actually-existing terms.

But I must say that I am very nervous at the kind of qualified support and supercilious nit-picking SPLC's courageous stand is getting across too much of the left. Even more troubling, I have noticed smears and insinuations about "improper" financial conduct and fundraising and salaries are often sprinkled amongst the reporting and comments appearing in many published accounts online of this latest trumped up scandal concerning what is in fact an indispensable left-progressive community-based organization.

I can only assume that these insinuations represent the iceberg tip of gathering attacks in the ugly emotional and promotional depths of what passes for right-wing discourse, and that the organized right is preparing an onslaught comparable to the outrageous attacks that managed disastrously to bring down Acorn last year. The attacks on Acorn were, of course, an arrant outrageous fraud, and exposed and generally accepted as such in the aftermath. But despite this exposure and verdict Acorn was in fact taken down and has been taken from us all the same. Even now, somehow, Acorn remains a name freighted with false insinuations and glib associations of conspiracy and criminality by the liars and know-nothings of the right, all the while the left remains largely silent and unaccountably indifferent both to the travesty and to the real loss represented by the right's hatchet job on Acorn.

People who actually do care about the indispensable work done by the SPLC for years need to get out ahead of this. The grounds of genuine left education, agitation, and organization are under attack by the right, and the Democratic left seems to me to be alarmingly complacent about what is taking place and what its consequences will likely be over the longer term.

While efforts to build new aggressively partisan-left think-tanks and media-savvy organizations like Media Matters and the Center for American Progress, say, are useful, it is crucial to ensure that these efforts not provide a pretext for withdrawal of still more support and attention from already neglected but indispensable long-standing reliably progressive organizations, especially those based in community activism that focus on white racism and precarious labor. And certainly it would be folly for the left to confuse the administration's Organizing for America of all things with a viable oppositional force working to organize the shared interests of working people, people of color, and women in this country!

Precarious workers confront the hopeless prospect of ever longer lives of enforced labor and further dismantlement of their already tattered safety nets and retirements, white racist violence and exploitation is on the rise, every woman's right to a safe legal abortion is being whittled away while heroic efforts to provide women with healthcare are under violent criminal attack. Things are very bad and they are getting worse.

My point isn't to condemn Organizing for American or its mission -- far from it! -- or to join in on the frankly suicidal stupidity of those keyboard commandos of the left who apparently fancy progressives benefit in some way from discounting and disabling the inadequate reforms of Democrats and thereby enabling the literal evil of Movement Republicanism.

My larger point in all this is just to insist that we need to support and strengthen our more radical, more community-based organizations to provide a substantial grounded ground-up counter to right-wing radicalism as well as an organized push from the left to the Democrats (the kind of substantial push that doesn't punish compromises as defeats but pushes on from compromises to next steps) with whom we are forced to ally pragmatically given actually-existing constraints and also given the actually-existing urgency of the moment, economically-ecologically-historically.

The Republican paralysis of governance in the face of unprecedented economic and ecologic and historic crises is going to be bad enough as it is, we must unite at least to preserve and defend our few reliable remaining sites for oppositional education, agitation, and organization in the face of catastrophe. We cannot afford to abandon Acorn and SPLC and organized labor given the truly dark times ahead, nor to abandon the Democrats, debased though they may be compared to our guiding ideals, in the face of the active evil to which Movement Republicanism is now entirely devoted.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Party All the Time

When I say we have reached the point that the GOP must be destroyed rather than reasoned with, clearly what must be destroyed is actually the Movement Republicanism originating in the inchoate reactionary repudiation of FDR's New Deal coalition, defined in its ideology on the one hand by the market fundamentalism of Hayek, Friedman, and Ayn Rand and on the other by the white racist christianism of god guns and gays and the Southern Strategy (a toxic ideological brew if ever there was one), born to the world in the activist ferment of Goldwater and the Birchers, substantiated in the fraternal twin administrations of frowny-faced Nixon and smiley-faced Reagan, and then consummated in the serial catastrophes of Gingrich's Contract on America, George W. Bush's killer clown administration, and the present Tea Bag hostage crisis.

There have been other strains in the GOP that presumably could re-assert themselves to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the destruction of this always-bonkers always-dangerous Movement Republicanism. Perhaps the GOP could fragment into a white racist neo-confederate rump, a Jesusfreak Taliban party, and a crusty Broder-esque Establishment fuddy-duddy party with whom timorous Democrats can deal, or perhaps the Greens and Rainbow Coalition Democrats could kick out the Conservadems and convince them to take over the GOP, and we could have something like a European style social democratic party versus an Eisenhower GOP. Who knows? Definitely we do know that radical movements do best when they manage to take control of one of the two major parties than they do as Third Parties on their own -- so one hopes sensible Greens, socialists, and punks aren't ready to lose yet another generation to quixotic narcissistic Third Party spoiler bids just because infiltrating major parties is too much work.

But that's all pie in the sky for now, though, because Movement Republicanism really is holding America hostage to its failed anti-governmental ideology, and looks well-poised to push America into utter wreckage. For the first time, I have come to think chances are better than even that it's too late for America, that ecologic and economic crises have a timetable that won't wait for our checks and balances to remediate the madness of our reactionaries and the decadent sloth of our anti-intellectual majorities.

Although there is no question that the intellectual and material resources at the disposal of Americans might provide the last best hope for an actually equitable, diverse, sustainable planet, should they be directed resolutely to the solution of planetary problems -- there is also no question that America is providing no leadership at all in this work, is incapable even of following the lead of others who are making the attempt, is actively standing in the way of this vital work in most respects, and shows absolutely no real sign of changing course or even being capable of overcoming the reactionary forces that render it incapable of changing course.

Given all that, it is no longer clear to me why it isn't finally a more reasonable expectation and probably also a better thing for the world to witness the definitive self-immolation of America so that we who know better and give a damn can try to put something equitable, diverse, consensual, sustainable, secular, democratic together in time apart from the deadly death-dealing hopelessly failed state the Republicans and their Conservadem allies have successfully done in at last.

GOP Holds America Hostage

Given the complete triumph of Movement Republicans' anti-government ideology over the GOP over the last thirty years, this means that Republicans in power devote themselves almost entirely to deregulation, looting, and corruption, and out of power devote themselves to blanket obstructionism of every effort of Democrats to govern otherwise, ensuring that even the most basic government functions (approving appointments, signing uncontroversial treaties, dispersing funds for conventional programs) can only take place when either Republicans are in charge or when Democrats defer entirely to Republicans.

Given the endlessly reiterated hostility of Republicans to functioning government, it is curious that anybody would expect any outcome other than a failed state to eventuate from their efforts. Democrats, who by temperament tend to want to engage in collaborative problem-solving and reconciliation, seem incapable of grasping that the GOP is no longer a partner in governance but a wrecking crew that must be destroyed if America is to survive as a going government, let alone become the more equitable diverse consensual sustainable secular social democracy Democrats actually desire.

Bold Lies and the Courage of Conviction

Of course, overwhelming majorities of Americans strongly prefer a government that maintains justice, ensures domestic tranquility, provides for defense, and promotes general welfare -- not one of which Republicans are the least bit interested in or capable of providing -- but the Republicans are well aware that ignorant, infantile Americans will simply reward the Party that provides the most compelling scapegoats and attack ads, reward even the obvious authors of their distress while punishing those who strive to solve our shared problems if the GOP is bold and relentless enough in its lies.

Certainly, there are few Democrats who can match with the courage of their convictions the commitment of Republicans to be brazen and bold in their schemes for ill-gotten gain through the gaming of governance. In this, Republicans are just replicating in the sphere of governance the brainless ruthless go-getter ethos of brazen fraud and self-promotion that suffuses the entire field of advertising, finance, and "self-esteem" psychology, the mean debased rank-conformist know-nothing suicidal-genocidal snake that has always been coiled in the cracked egg of America's "rugged individualist" ethos.

Few Democrats can match the hysterical commitment of Republicans -- who are either predators making that latest desperate dice throw that brings the grifter either ruin or riches, or are feudal fundamentalists in a hostile secular world forever fighting The Last War to the death.

This is largely because so many elected Democrats are insulated themselves by incredible wealth and privilege from the costs and risks of failed policy of their incomparably more precarious constituencies, or because conviction is finally a propositional matter and hence the ironic, nuanced, empathic, pragmatic, flexible qualities of temperament that make for the best liberal governance rarely lend themselves to effective liberal advocacy in mass-mediated venues catering to the short resentful attention spans of distressed but also pampered Americans.

Monday, November 22, 2010

California Deprogrammed from the Zombie Death Cult of the White Man's GOP

Is there still time for the rest of Jesusland? Probably not.

End the Wars or the Wars End Us

The only way the United States can afford to continue the murderous madness of our illegal illogical immoral war adventures abroad is to start killing millions of our vulnerable citizens here at home through forced austerity, the neglect of treatable illnesses, starvation, social instability. The crisis is not behind us, it is ahead of us. Not everyone who is reading these words will survive it. I hope the planet can look back with some warmth on the accomplishment of our tragically failed experiment, learns from our mistakes rather than repeating them, and manages to pick up the pieces in time to save humanity from proliferating arms and WMD, neoliberal precarization and overurbanization, climate change, global pandemics, and resource descent. I am not hopeful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You Will Have Noticed

...that I'm on a leetle bweak. Nothing to be concerned about. Reading, grading, otherwise occupied is all.

Final Project for My Peer-to-Peer Democratization Course at the San Francisco Art Institute

For your Final Project you will generate a kind of personal conceptual mapping of the subject matter of the whole course. In order to produce this map, you will need to draw on readings and notes over the course of the whole term. Many connections and problems will likely become clear to you for the first time in making this map. Before you make your choices you should spend some time dwelling over the whole list above, since what may at first seem obvious choices often give way to different questions and concerns once you give them more thought.

The assignment is quite straightforward:

[one] Choose forty-four Keywords from the list below:

1. abundance
2. acceleration
3. access
4. accountability
5. agency
6. amateur
7. analog
8. artificial intelligence
9. auteur
10. author
11. authoritarianism
12. authority
13. basic income guarantee
14. biopiracy
15. blog
16. blogipelago
17. blogosphere
18. broadcast
19. "California Ideology"
20. canon
21. citizen
22. citizen journalism
23. code
24. collaboration
25. commons
26. commonsense
27. commonwealth
28. consensus
29. consensus science
30. consent
31. control
32. copyright
33. creative commons
34. credentialization
35. critique
36. crowdsourcing
37. crypto-anarchy
38. culture
39. culture industry
40. cybernetics
41. cybernetic totalism
42. cyberspace
43. cyborg
44. democracy
45. democratization
46. digirati
47. digital
48. digital divide
49. dissensus
50. diversity
51. elite
52. enclosure
53. end-to-end principle (e2e)
54. enframing
55. enhancement
56. eugenics
57. excludability
58. externality
59. fair use
60. filtering
61. finitude
62. flash mob
63. free software
64. The Future
65. futurity
66. futurology
67. genomic enclosure
68. gift economy
69. information
70. industrial model
71. liberal subjectivity
72. linking
73. mapping
74. mass culture
75. mass mediation
76. media
77. micro-payments
78. monster
79. Moore's Law
80. negative liberty
81. Neoliberalism
82. Net Neutrality
83. Netroots
84. network
85. node
86. objectivity
87. open source
88. participation
89. panopticon
90. peer
91. peer to peer (p2p)
92. planetarity
93. popular
94. post-humanist
95. precarity
96. precarization
97. privacy
98. private property
99. professional
100. propaganda
101. prostheses
102. prosumerism
103. public
104. publication
105. public good
106. public relations
107. reductionism
108. relational
109. representative
110. retro-futurism
111. revolution
112. rivalrousness
113. robotics
114. secrecy
115. security
116. sharing
117. Singularity
118. social
119. social aesthetics
120. social networks
121. socialization
122. sousveillance
123. spectacle
124. spontaneous order
125. stakeholder
126. surveillance
127. technocracy
128. technology
129. technoscience
130. techno-utopianism
131. "Tragedy of the Commons"
132. transparency
133. viral

[two] Organize your chosen Keywords into three separate, conceptually connected, sets. You can use any criteria that seems useful to you to organize these sets. The only rule is that no resulting set can contain fewer than eight Keywords.

[three] Each of the three sets should be given a unique title or heading and an introductory paragraph (no longer than a single page) that elaborates the criteria governing your choices as to what would be included in that set.

[four] Once you have organized your three sets in this way, briefly define each one of the Keywords you have included in each set in your own words. Ideally, your definitions should be as clear and as concise as possible. These definitions should be a matter of a sentence (or at most two), NOT a paragraph or more. They really are just definitions, not essays or lengthy explanations. It should be clear from your definitions why each of the Keywords in each of the three sets are conceptually connected to each other, but it is also crucial that no terms within any set are treated by you as synonymous, and that your definitions distinguish Keywords from one another clearly (even if the resulting distinctions are sometimes matters of nuance).

[five] Once you have defined all these Keywords, provide a short quotation (feel free to edit and prune to keep your chosen citations properly pithy) from one of the texts we have read this term to accompany each one of your definitions. The quotation you choose can be a definition you found helpful in crafting your own definition, it can be an example or illustration you found especially clarifying, it can a matter of contextualization, framing, or history that you found illuminating, it can even be something you disagreed with so strongly it helped you understand better what you really think yourself.

Obviously, there are endless ways of organizing these sets, defining their Keywords, distinguishing them from one another, and connecting them up to the texts we have read. What matters here is that you follow the rules of the exercise, not that you arrive at some single "right answer" you may fancy I have in mind.

Everyone's map will likely be quite dramatically different from everyone else's. That is a feature, not a bug.

Many students might also find it useful to introduce additional elements to their final projects -- illustration, cartography, collage, AV supplements, sculpture, games, and so on. None of these are required but students are welcome to make this final project their own, to introduce additional formal and experimental dimensions that help you come to terms with the course material as a whole in your own way once the basic requirements are satisfied.

I hope this final project is both illuminating and also enjoyable for you all, as I know it can be. Use this exercise to come to terms with our sustained encounter this term as an unrepeatable intellectual community, use it to help connect the course's preoccupations with your concerns outside the classroom, with your artistic practice, with your ongoing reconciliation of your history with your hopes. You'll discover, as in so much else, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Class War Dum De Dum

"Fiscal conservatism" just means the same thing all the other "conservatisms" mean by now in the US, whether neo- social- Christian, whatever: screw the vulnerable and the average folks and lard the already rich and powerful with more and more and more filthy lucre, in a hail of bullets if necessary. Stop pretending to expect them to be something else, stop exposing the inevitable livid skull-head behind the threadbare curtain. Just stand for something else and fight them already.

TSA Travesty

Since I made a joke about it before, I suppose I should point out that I do in fact have a problem with hysterical security theater forcing people into the extraordinary situation of either submitting to sexual assault or to dangerous full-body scans the health risks of which are not disclosed to those exposed to them. Should be obvious, but obviously is not.

Don't Let's START

Looks like the GOP is going to obstruct ratification of the noncontroversial START treaty. You know, for kids! So, apparently we get to watch them annihilate our foreign policy first, the domestic government shutdown comes later. It's unutterably terrible, imbecilic, destructive, and so on and so forth, as usual, but I can't help but think the sooner the world grasps the truth that an America at the mercy of Republicans simply cannot be counted on to perform as any kind of partner -- let alone leader -- in solving planetary problems the better. America needs to be marginalized, exposed to the real costs of our recklessness, forced to re-assess our backwardness, our know-nothingness, our surreal inequities, and our rampant wastefulness. For the sake of the planet and, frankly, for our own sakes, America needs to pay a real and steep price for indulging Movement Republicans for so long.

They Might Be Giants - Don't Let's Start from They Might Be Giants on Vimeo.

What About "Unauthorized Liquids" Produced BY the Security Patdowns?

I for one welcome our new junk fondling overlords.

The GOP Has Already Seceded from the United States

Forget Rick Perry's repeated gloating threats that Texas might secede from the Union, forget Sharron Angle's scarcely veiled insurrectionist threats about "Second Amendment Remedies" -- the GOP has already seceded in the substance. Their retreat into a monolithically obstructionist stance in the Senate and the House, their retreat into Fox Noise and Hate Radio monologues devoid of facts or criticism or conversation, their retreat from any constructive engagement with the President or the millions upon millions of their fellow citizens with whom they disagree is a functional secession from the Union, and one that is sustained as much by the consensual hallucination of those on whom they have declared war that there is nothing actually happening as the GOP destroys the country's economy, sustainability, rule of law, and standing in the world as it is sustained by their own, frankly nonsensical as well as catastrophic, acts of war.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Starting to Feel Better

Wow. I'm starting to feel better for the first time since the mid-terms. Maybe there really is something to this blogging thing, at least as a therapeutic practice. Thanks especially to those who are willing to conversationally spar with me even when I am in a bad mood and acting out -- obviously Eric here at home, and also Martin and others I've barked at in the Moot.

IOKIYAAR... Obviously. Now What?

It's rather sad the way folks in the left blogipelago seem to think they have accomplished something when they demonstrate Republicans have once again said one thing and then done another (McCain's endless re-drawing of the line in the sand which, when crossed, will magically make him stop being an old antigay bigot crank, for instance), or once again declared some principle sacrosanct and then immediately danced around it in practice (blowing epic spending holes in budgets despite their pious fiscal responsibility, re-branding earmarks something else while railing against earmarks and so on).

Republicans always lie, they always flip-flop, they are always hypocrites: this is expected of them and it is never news to demonstrate that they are doing what is expected of them. Exposing their hypocrisy and spin has exactly zero impact on their conduct. Only Democrats, who are known to care comparatively more about real policy outcomes and coherence between campaign promises and actual governance are held to such standards.

It doesn't matter how many times you expose a family values politician chewing some hooker's foot or taking a pastor's son's prick up his bum, it doesn't matter how many times you expose a swinging dick bombs and bullets bully as not giving two shits for veterans, it doesn't matter that anti-abortion zealots spirit their privileged daughters lickety-split to the clinic while denying everyday folks that privilege.

People (especially our hacktacular punditocraps) have come to grasp about Republicans that what they say is never much of anything but their signaling of their moment to moment tactical assessments of the present state of political affairs with an eye to consolidating the long-term position of the incumbent-elite interests who pay them for their services in this regard.

So, naturally enough, pundits read the Republican tea leaves, and then subject Democratic claims to substantial scrutiny. Republican and Democratic claims belong to two different genres, it is actually proper to assess them according to the criteria appropriate to the genre in question.

The relentlessly repeated exposure of the "hypocrisy" or "deception" or "double standard" captured by the phrase "it's okay if you're a Republican" has no force precisely because it really is "okay" to engage in such hypocrisy, deception, standards if one is a Republican. What the left blogipelago doesn't seem to grasp is that this is just endlessly to recognize what it IS to be a Republican, and that this isn't a recognition with much in the way of subversive, reformist, educational, agitational, organization force when all is said and done.

Republicans lie, then Democrats expose the lie and then roll their eyes at the awful preposterousness of it, and then the Republicans get what they wanted (which is why they lied) and then the Democrats sigh histrionically at the way of the world and prepare for the next round.

The reason that IOKIYAAR, is that it is, for now, okay to BE a Republican, it is okay to be committed to governance as a tool to consolidate short term parochial advantage to incumbent-elites from moment to moment. Only when it is no longer okay to be devoted to such destructive reactionary visions of governance will it not be okay for Republicans to do these things they always do over and over again however much they are exposed as doing what we expect them to do in this way.

Democrats need to make and then keep making a clear, coherent, positive case for why governance needs to be in the hands of those who are accountable to actual consequences in the service of justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, and general welfare: And the simple fact is that Democrats are generally scared to death or apparently altogether incapable of making such cases... Or, once the point has been made here or there, they get bored or nervous at the thought that it might be part of their proper work repeatedly to drive home the points that some indispensable public goods can only be accomplished by good government, that hostility to democratic government is hostility to everyday people, that taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilization, that warranted consensus science should facilitate the arrival at policy outcomes once majorities are reconciled to the value of desired outcomes.

Once Democrats make the case and attract majorities to affirm the case for their sense of good government it won't matter if occasionally their best efforts or experiments fail (as they will), precisely because failure is "okay if you're a Democrat" in part because everybody will already know that that's part of the price one pays once one has decided to BE a Democratic devoted to good, responsible, accountable, efficient, equitable, improvisatory democratic governance.

We must stop exposing all the ways in which hypocrisy, incompetence, deception, corruption, class warfare for the rich, and so on are "IOKIYAAR" and expecting anything to follow from this exposure but an endless ineffectual belaboring of the obvious.

We must make it not okay to BE a Republican, by educating and celebrating and selling what it is to BE a Democrat instead. When Republicans bemoan amidst the inevitable mistakes and set-backs in our push from the left toward an ever more secular ever more sustainable ever more equitable ever more diverse democracy that "IOKIYAAD" -- and it will be, because it will have become better than just "okay" to BE a Democrat -- then, and only then, will it no longer be the case that "IOKIYAAR."

"I Come From Cyberspace, the New Home of Mind"

The "immaterial internet," this presumably digital spiritual mental realm, is in fact driven by burning coal and accessed via artifacts made of toxic materials by vulnerable mortal human mammals subject to existing national and international laws, dependent for their survival and flourishing on a fragile biosphere and convivial relations with the demanding diversity of their historical peers. We're no angels, and the stuff of the cyberspatial sprawl is not spirit but... stuff.

Seize the State? Or, Let's Put on a Show! You Decide

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot:
[Y]ou could argue that public transportation would improve if everyone used it. Perhaps, but somebody has to start. It's like libre software. If you believe in p2p and creative commons as against proprietary products and corporate monopolies, you should be using Linux. But as long as very few people do, the software won't rival Photoshop and MS Office, giving people less incentive to switch. So, despite all the complaints, people stick with Windows out of convenience.

I think we need to destroy the legal and regulatory and funding regimes that encourage proprietary formations over p2p-formations, car culture over public transportation.

Screw spontaneist fantasies of the little people getting together and having a freesoftware party or green consumers buying feelgood hybrids because the tee vee tells them its the latest "thing" for a season -- all the while the state firehoses money and might to the incumbent-elite bad guys.

Fuck fantasies of a very special episode of Glee helping yuppies feel warm and fuzzy about insulating their attics with recycled denim (tho' you really should), when what is wanted is to seize the state and direct its might and money instead to the institution and maintenance of dense walkable neighborhoods connected by urban and transcontinental public mass transit and car-sharing programs.

Stop subsidizing ruinous petrochemical consumption to the short-term parochial benefit of incumbent-elites. Tax families with more than one car back to the stone age before they knock us all back to the Stone Age for real. Prioritize rapid rail over highways in state budgets. Re-orient Detroit into a wind-turbine industrial city. Turn urban roads into pedestrian malls. Stop sucking car culture cock as a nation before we're all fucked (and not in a good way).

And fuck this geek-leet pining for people to give up their windoze and jump on the linux bandwagon. Politics isn't a goddamn rave, temporary autonomous zones can't scale to accommodate the political realm. Howzabout: Dramatically widen fair use provisions, dramatically shrink the copyright term, give substantial public grants to knowledge-creation that is offered up to the public domain to render efforts sensibly worthwhile, make tenure a tradeoff contingent on non-commodification of university research.

By the way, a sensibly steeply progressive tax on income, including investment income, as well as property, could wholesomely re-capture the wealth all these sociopathic silicon-valley bazillionaires commandeered from the efforts of legions and generations of unpaid nerd enthusiasts which they then pretended they had created ab initio as if they were Ayn Randian wet-dream fountainhead archetypes rather than clueless narcissists just deluded and ruthless enough to confuse their own CEO-celebrity PR with reality.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. And as sure as I'm sitting here it's only by reference to seizing control of the state and directing it to world-historical ends that one becomes a real political actor -- not through one's acts of consumption or kindness or beauty. This is not to denigrate everyday living or everyday miracles of kindness or beauty, but to grasp that p2p-democratization and sustainable polyculture are outcomes playing out in a different agentic-historical register than these.

The Inconvenience of a World Worth Living In

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot:
[T]he US has a population density that makes GOOD public transportation economically impractical. Yes, there are buses here in Lexington (pop: 270,000), but the buses suck. Yes, I *could* take the bus, but I'd be turning a 15 min trip into an hour and half, each way. Maybe I don't have an excuse, but some people have shit to do. They need to get home to their kids and so on. I understand why they drive.

Oh, nobody's denying the short-term convenience of cars. The question is whether it's worth longer term cataclysm or whether you still get to say you are a smart or good person if knowing what you know you prefer the short-term over the longer-term.

I suspect the good people of Lexington could organize and agitate to get better bus service if they got off their asses and decided to give a shit about destroying the world their kids have to live in, if, as you say, they have kids and such.

But, yes, of course, people have shit to do. Not me. I have used for decades and continue still to use public transportation even where it was and is crappy and turns 15 minute commutes into hour-long commutes because I am a special magical being who doesn't have shit to do.

Or maybe I just brought a book or graded papers or organized my day and learned soon enough to enjoy or otherwise make use of the "burden" of that unspeakable inconvenience and discovered soon enough that it wasn't one. Again, tho', I'm a special magical being utterly unlike normal folks with their urgently demanding indispensably lightning-paced fantastically satisfying lives, as has been amply established already.

More Stoopid-Fone

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot:

I think the health hazards of hand-helds are being deliberately downplayed by those who profit from them in the usual way. I also worry about the pace at which hand-helds find their surreally toxic wasteful way to landfill. I also think communication via tiny hand-held screens and keyboards turns people into imbeciles.

Books are a technology. To prefer durable demanding books to the superficial, imbecilizing, fragile (you'll see!) iFraud twitterverse is not to be a technophobe, but to prefer better artifacts and techniques to crappy ones.

I don't doubt that hand-helds facilitate some novel and desirable practices (human beings are crafty and creative beings after all), but to the extent that they become our epochal mediator, they mostly facilitate cultural suck in my view.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Q & A

Tom Philpott at Grist asks: "Is my smartphone making me dumb?"

Yes, it is.

PS: I've never had, needed, or missed having a cellphone or "smartphone" (or an automobile for that matter), and you'll all likely discover, possibly only when they all fail, that neither did you. Unfortunately, you'll have come perilously and pointlessly close to destroying the world in the process of learning this quite fantastically obvious lesson, but it's not like anybody ever promised me a rose garden.

Insanity! Let's Do It!

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on The Bush Tax Cuts for Millionaires, November 12, 2010

It is absolutely insane that in these tough economic times some people want to continue George W. Bush's tax give aways to millionaires. Working families are losing their jobs, their benefits and their homes. They are the ones who need help.

We need to focus on creating jobs by giving tax breaks only to middle class families and investing in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and green technologies. Millionaires and Wall Street already had their party, which tanked our economy and left Main Street stuck paying the bill.

Speaker Pelosi is exactly right that there should not be a so-called compromise on this issue. Working families will fight by her side to prevent another give away to millionaires. The election is over and now it's time for politicians to show courage and stand and fight on these issues for working families. Let the millionaires fend for themselves for a change.

We need to expose the rank hypocrisy of those calling for these millionaire tax cuts -- which would add hundreds of billions to the deficit. These are the same elected officials who say we can't afford to maintain benefits for the jobless -- and should cut Social Security and Medicare for working families and seniors in the name of so-called deficit reduction.

But does it matter what is obviously true? Does it matter what is obviously right? Republicans are barking and spinning in the dark, gathering up the soiled stained dollars unto themselves to spend amid the smoking ruins, and America is swaying inanely to a new zombie beat. Why refudiate the stupid? Come, come, let us bring on the festival of self-annihilation!

Suicide? That's Hilarious!

OED declares Palin's "refudiate" Word of the Year.

-- a skewed tip o' the hat to Strangers With Candy for the title of this unutterably depressing post.

In the Long Run We Are All Dead

Another post upgraded and adapted from the Moot:
Churchill once said "America always does the right thing, after exhausting all the alternatives." So it may just be a case of waiting for the moment of exhaustion. Not a happy thought.

I do think America's Constituted institutions, though flawed, contain countervailing resources out of which repairs and progressive reform would indeed eventually assert themselves to the good.

But the long run of theory, as Keynes crucially reminded us, is one we may not live to see -- and no theory worth anything is indifferent to the terms in which the actually living actually live.

Climate change and resource descent have a time-table our institutional checks and balances are very probably not equal to. I don't think the planet can afford America going crazy and throwing a tantrum right now, but that's what is happening. Arms proliferation and mass-mediation (of which panoptic surveillance is a part) exacerbate the ways in which the instabilities and violences born of climate change and resource descent play out beyond healing.

Had America seen sense and shifted the ship of state decisively in the direction of secular sustainable social democracy with Obama, and decisively marginalized our white-racist theocratic bullying impulses (that clammy ill-smelling Tea Bag was always there, from the very beginning of our story) we might have deployed our shored up authority and immense resources in the service of social justice and sustainability on a planetary scale.

But that's a receding Mouseketeer dream, probably not in the cards anymore.

What is needed is good sense, and though there wasn't enough of it in the class of 2006-2008 it did seem the US might have turned the tide toward sense. But we have failed. It's not true that you really get infinitely many chances to screw up. People really do die. Civilizations really do fall. My inner Mouseketeer suspects we may have arrived at such a point, I suppose.

At such a point, the only viable check on America is for the rest of the world to marginalize us into comparative irrelevance and get to work on real planetary problems without us as we feast idiotically on one another in the aftermath.

As an American, I can't say that prospect is particularly cheering, so it's something of a hopeless hope... A hope for a planet that survives the technoscientific forces we unleashed, and for an educated critical convivial consensual commonwealth that tames those forces in the service of equity-in-diversity. The US simply may not be capable of partnership in that planetary project after all. What a terrible desolating waste it is.

The post-WW2 eyeblink Empire of the US that fancied itself the planet's hard-cock, policeman of the world, can be reduced instead to the Germania of an EU/UK Commonwealth/South American Global Rome, we can be the unruly embarrassing backwater whose miserable unwashed uneducated masses grimly provide the dispensable cannon fodder for civilization's ongoing skirmishes. China can play Parthia, the eternal specter of antagonism, but too preoccupied with its own internal social struggles and ecological crises ever really to do much more than bark. Maybe a sustainable equitable diverse planetary polity can emerge out of that dynamic in the long run.

If it does, you can be sure that it's a long run in which we will all be dead... after lives spent in hopeless heartbreaking struggles for sustainability and sense and social justice waged in the face of a suicidal uncomprehending unbending gale-force idiot wind.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mr Boehner, Where Are the Jobs?

Obama is to blame for what Republicans destroy, Democrats will be punished for what Republicans do. Somebody, quick, eat a bug or something.

Earmarks

Boehner and Cantor are in charge of the House. If earmarks are passed it's because Boehner and Cantor passed legislation with earmarks in them. If Republicans really disapprove of earmarks they can refuse to pass legislation with earmarks onto the President's desk for his signature, nobody is stopping them. They have nobody to blame but themselves. They are not doing what they are saying, and therefore are not meaning what they are saying. It doesn't make sense that they would blame the President for signing legislation with earmarks when they passed the legislation first themselves. But, then, it doesn't matter that it doesn't make sense. Republicans don't have to make sense. Obama is to blame for what Republicans destroy, Democrats will be punished for what Republicans do.

This Week's White Guys of "The Future" Report

It's time once more to visit the Very Serious techno-"progressive" futurologists at the stealth Robot Cult outfit IEET, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

There are no surprises yet again this Saturday, I'm sorry to say. Of all the faces of featured authors to be seen on IEET's website this week there are only two that are not the faces of a white guy. And yet, only a minority of people in the world are white guys. Only a minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared are white guys. Only a minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are white guys. Only a minority of people in the world who are well informed and have important things to say about matters of technoscience are white guys.

The relentless non-representativeness I have been documenting week after week after week for months now over at IEET, supposedly the most "academic," "moderate," "respectable" of the membership organizations in the futurological Robot Cult archipelago, has long seemed to me to represent just one of the more obvious symptoms of the profound marginality of what I call superlative sub(cult)ural futurology.

For more of my critique of the glaring conceptual and political problems with these White Guys of "The Future" I recommend interested readers begin with my Condensed Critique of Transhumanism.

Where Oh Where Is My Inner Mouseketeer?

Upgraded and adapted from an exchange in the Moot with Friend of Blog "Jollyspaniard":
The economic situation is a lot grimmer than it was in '94 yet the Tea Party couldn't match what Gingrich did back then.

Crunch the numbers -- the GOP did better in the Senate than they did in the House -- it's just that the math they confronted demanded that they do much much better in the Senate than in the House to gain a majority there. The "narrative" of winning the House and losing the Senate doesn't tell enough of the story to justify your confidence. Take a look at the Senate math for Democrats in 2012 and you may feel different about the optimistic parity implied in the won one lost one story we are consoling ourselves with. Given the stubborn presence of conservadems in the Democratic caucus standing in the way of passing any legislation remotely progressive enough to answer the demands of the majorities who elected them (enabled by historically unprecedented irresponsible GOP obstructionism that is rewarded rather than punished by suicidally ignorant/indifferent American voters) this rosy story is revealed as all the more fanciful, I'm afraid.
I think people are making too much of this. In the end a bunch of blue dogs which weren't voting for progressive causes got replaced with with republicans who won't vote for progressive causes.

The majority sets the agenda in the House, like it or not. Pelosi prevailed over the Blue Dogs in her caucus reasonably well (and even so single payer was truly always off the table -- think about what that means...). There is a serious question how Democrats could regain a House majority and end the frivolous witch-hunts and Fox-friendly bloviating that will suffuse the House the next couple of years of GOP dominance without electing Democrats to conservative districts who don't annoy us just as badly as the Blue Dogs did. The Constitution baked preferential empowerment of the rural over the urban into the cake. We can't wish that structural problem away, nor dis-invent the coast to coast 24-hr hate-radio megaphone educating and agitating non-urban America into infantile receptivity to wingnut rhetoric.
However with the hard right the far right seems to have lost it's enthusiasm for blowing the whistle on the culture war (things like abortion and gay marriage) which may have helped them pick up a lot of independents.

"Independents" are mostly idiots. The principled progressive protesters of DNC timidity among them are there, but few and far between. These days many "Independents" are just Republicans ashamed to call themselves that because they are sensible enough to be embarrassed by some one facet or other of the current extreme white-racist Randroid-greedhead bombs-and-bigots christianist-theocratic GOP profile while cheerfully signing on to others or comfortably embracing "moderate" variations on the whole crap sandwich in any case, and who, in consequence, would never identify as Democrats however disastrous the Republicans get.

Where you see the Right discarding its culture war dog whistle, I see it also picking up a megaphone. The secular multicultural left won the culture wars but in refusing to act like winners they relinquish all the advantages and strengths that victory properly affords, while the losers deploy the rage and despair of the losers into the self-sacrificing discipline of an army forever fighting the last war. It didn't have to be that way, but it is that way. You do know, surely, that the Tea Partiers are just the same stupid bullying greedy hateful Republicans as ever (silent "majority," moral "majority," Nascar dads, "value" voters, blah blah blah blah). They re-package the reactionary goods every four years or so and everybody falls for the bullshit over and over again.
This could mean that the republican party may effectively be abandoning these issues in the future although it's definitely too soon to tell. If so is that really a defeat? There's also a lot of tea partiers (remember the Rand Paulians?) who want to _cut_ military spending.

Republicans "hate" Big Brother right up until they gain control over it, at which point they start dismantling civil liberties and playing out their authoritarian fantasies. They rail against "tax and spend" until they get a hand in the game and then they start with the borrowing and looting and spending like there's no tomorrow (maybe this time, they're right about that "no tomorrow" thingie). The tea party is the same bombs and bullets loving crowd of white racist pricks as always. Corporate-militarism IS American capitalism -- anti-war libertopians are a contradiction in terms, however earnest or even self-deluded their pitch to the contrary. Recall my Dispatches from Libertopia? Same as it ever was. These are, recall, the "idea guys" who peddle wage slavery as the utopia of nonviolence. Caveat emptor.

We need to stop pretending the wingnut base that keeps falling for this stuff will "come to its senses" and realize "it's being had" and voting against its best interests. Maybe the right wing base keeps falling for these facile scams because they are getting just what they want -- namely, endless occasion to vent their spleen, to rail irrationally at those who are figured as "different" rather than on the criminal rich who steal their prospects from them, to indulge their infantile panic in the face of contingency and mortality rather than turn to secular progressives who would collaborate in the solution of our actually shared problems.

These are ignorant, scared, hateful people, responding to appeals to their stupidity, fear, and hatefulness. Stop imagining they aren't getting what they want, stop deluding yourself they are capable of partnership when they show no objective signs of openness to this capacity. They need to be educated, marginalized where they can't be educated, and defeated where they can't be marginalized. This is a battle, not a quilting bee. I don't think Democrats have courage of conviction equal to the demands of this moment, and I think the Democrats are all we have on offer for the job at hand come what may.
I'm not sure that represents a defeat or setback for progressive values either.

Voters voted on the basis of palpably false beliefs -- that their taxes were raised when they were lowered, that the congress was unusually unproductive legislatively when it was the most productive in generations, that the deficit grew when it shrank, that the bailouts were a disaster when they outperformed expectations. Voters voted for candidates who ran against things voters claim to want, to punish those who tried to do more of what they wanted, often rewarding those who were directly responsible for them not getting the things they were dissatisfied about.

When facts fail to have force, yes, it is a defeat.

Americans elected plainly unqualified Republicans who are on record advocating the most extreme anti-abortion positions, climate-change denialism, theocratic triumphalism, anti-governmentalism imaginable.

The Senate math for 2012 is incredibly grim for Dems. I expect a second Obama term with Republican majorities in both houses -- and that means six long years we don't have the luxury to waste anymore, all without any serious address of real economic ecologic problems on terms equal to their stakes.
I'm hoping that over the next two years these people embarrass themselves

The problem is that the substance of what you must mean by "embarrassing themselves" are things they copiously said and did in the campaigns in which they prevailed. I think, on the contrary, that they'll do things like dismantle Medicare and then blame "Obamacare" and then Democrats endlessly excoriated on Fox and on hate radio and then across the compliant punditocrap archipelago and in Administration press releases defensively taking up their frames will be punished instead for prediactable outcomes we fought and lost. They'll block stimulus spending and defund States and the resulting explosion of unemployment will be blamed on "socialism." They'll bully us into more ruinous military conflicts (Korea, Iran, Pakistan, who knows?) and in the moral fiscal existential blood-letting deride every sensible critic as a traitor and appeaser. They have dismantled the ritual and institutional artifice through which competing factual and causal assertions between the parties are adjudicated.

There's nothing left but spin, always backed by bile and mobilized in the ultimate service of incumbent-elite interests. And those who seek to solve problems or reconcile differences through consensus and deliberation are structurally disadvantaged in such brutal and blind-eyed contexts.
progressives in the USA get riled up like they're starting to do in Europe

I no longer expect more than a negligible number of Americans to protest in any substantial way (or for the corporate media to allow progressive protest to make any kind of substantial impression) -- Americans are rank conformists who fancy ourselves "individualists," anti-intellectual consumers who fancy ourselves "go-getters," Americans have been insulated from the consequences of our reckless and criminal actions (genocidal, militarist, exploitative, unsustainable) for so long we are spoiled rotten even in the midst of our palpable pointless ruin.

The generation born after the collapse of this house of cards, finding itself in a world of people with long memories of our know-nothing belligerent exploitation and preoccupied with coping with climate collapse may find a rising people here amidst the shambles capable of planetary partnership in the solution of shared planetary problems, but those will be Americans who manage to survive what I begin strongly to suspect is in store for us all.
the right might be leaving itself room to maneuver for a U turn on the issue in the future

If your cautious optimism depends on a "u turn" from the right, I feel absolutely confident in declaring your optimism a fantasy. Only a GOP marginalized into utter non-viability by, for example, mid-term losses rather than gains in 2010 yielded by their illiteracy and criminality on stimulus spending, financial deregulation, infrastructure investment, healthcare reform, multilateral foreign policy, their climate-change denialism, their anti-choice rhetoric, their christianist theocracy, and so on might u-turn simply to survive intact -- but of course, they gained power, they gained authority precisely through the embrace of this criminality and madness instead of paying a price for it. I suspect we will all pay for this surreal rewarding of criminality and irrationality in the midst of real crisis for the rest of our lives.

For me the only hope is for the organized Left to clarify their case for sustainable equitable diverse social democracy, to educate Americans via this clarity, to redirect American racial hostility to hatred of the criminal rich and redirect greedy American delusions of lottery-celebrity to devotion to welfare entitlements, to bolster Democratic resolve and prevail over Republicans to the economic-ecologic benefit of majorities. The Right is filled with villains and imbeciles, but the fault in my view for our current distress is in the abdication of the Left. That's where the u-turn must happen -- tick tock.

I happen to think 2006 (Dems regaining the majority) 2008 (Obama) happened just in the nick of time, and that 2010 is a reversal in the trajectory and pace of already hopelessly inadequate reform we actually couldn't afford.

I hope "jollyspaniard" does not feel personally disrespected by this glum response, I do not mean to seem hostile to their vantage when obviously we share so much in the way of observations and aspirations. As you see, I am not cheerful right about now and my inner Mouseketeer has not yet asserted itself in the usual way to show me a way out of the mess we're in. I suspect I shouldn't be blogging at all feeling the way I do these days.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

MC 900 Ft Jesus Helps Keep Amor Mundi More Positive

One Term President?

I can't see a single possible Presidential candidate in the Republican field who looks electable, and that has made me think Obama is a lock for two terms -- which should mean, if nothing else, a slow rectification of the Supreme Court's reactionary skew and the veto of the worst of the worst the Republicans have on their murderous minds.

But the mid-terms have really given me pause.

Although some of the really high profile crazies went down, with the consequence that Democrats kept control this time around of a Senate they weren't really in control of even with a superficial "super-majority" (filled with enough conservadems that with monolithic GOP obstructionism an atrocity like Ben Nelson came to represent the "Center" around which legislation was negotiated), the fact remains that the Republican field was extraordinarily weak, unaccomplished, ill-qualified, extreme, and made incredible gains in spite of all this.

I begin to wonder if literally nothing matters but the state of the economy, and it seems to me Republicans are hell bent on ensuring that nothing happens to improve the economy.

Facts certainly don't matter. Obama lowers taxes and then voters completely incoherently blame him for raising their taxes anyway. Republicans want to privatize Social Security and secede from Medicare -- and Americans completely incoherently blame "Obamacare" for their distress about the availability of health care.

Many on the left seem to feel they are making more than enough of a political "contribution" simply by complaining in public places that Obama is making too many compromises and then smugly sit out elections enabling incomparable scoundrels and loons to rule their lives -- the cobbled together Obama coalition seems no kind of reliable support.

Democrats themselves seem incapable of explaining either what they are doing or what they believe in, and the resulting vacuum is filled with Republican frames and deceptions mis-educating another generation into senselessness.

The only secure chance for 2012 (not only for the White House, the Senate math is truly grim) seems to be for people's material prospects to have improved, or at any rate to seem to be palpably improving, in which case Americans will likely gurgle contentedly at the status quo and go back to enjoying Obama's presidency at the level of style again.

American public discourse and institutions are simply failing, the county is in conspicuous decline, climate change and resource descent will be pressuring everyday lifestyles even under the rosiest scenarios in unprecedented ways, I am truly worried about my students' prospects.

Monday, November 08, 2010

"Listening to the American People" "Sending A Message" "Getting It"

The American people disagree about everything. This is what you hear if you actually listen to the American people:
)!^$&?#@<*%!~);[#@(>&!@#$#*!

If "the American people" sent Democrats, or Republicans, or the President, or somebody else "a message" in the mid-terms, it is this:
"Hi. We can't tell our asses from a hole in the ground."

As it happens, we already knew that. But thanks, American people, for sharing.

As for "getting it," I find it interesting that presumably the President doesn't get "it," and Nancy Pelosi doesn't get "it," but apparently Republicans who deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change, who think deregulating for-profit enterprise will lead to better behavior, who think tax cuts unto infinity will cause spontaneous libertopian paradises to spring up from the ground, who think there is no separation between church and state, and who believe that Obama is a socialist do get "it."

Maybe "it" is The Stupid?

Maybe it would be better if we didn't "get it"? Otherwise, we're all very likely to get it in the end.

The next two years look to be very, very bad, indeed.

What Supernatural Solution to the World's Problems Would You Choose

Eric and I just got haircuts and had lunch, and, perhaps somewhat in the spirit of the "what's your favorite over-simplified monocausal explanation for our sucky world" post from earlier this morning, we tried to decide what supernatural ability we would endow all humans with that would go furthest toward overcoming the world's suckitude. We came to lightning-fast agreement. We both thought making every human an empath would ameliorate a multitude of sins -- making it harder to deceive one another, making us experience ourselves the suffering we caused. Gag, we're such liberals!

Random Observation About Massive Wealth and Celebrity

Upgraded and Adapted from the Moot:

I happen to believe that there is no such thing as a life-long winning streak, and that only a negligible portion of those who have more actually keep more because they deserve it more than most who have less.

For me, celebrity is more or less the same. While it is easily possible that one can attract the momentary attention of masses of people, I personally believe that every single person who manages to stay in the public eye for long sustained periods of time is psychologically disturbed and most likely a straight-up sociopath.

I have believed this for most of my life. I suppose that this is one of those things that puts me rather at odds with our CEO-and-celebrity worshiping culture, but, well, you knew that already. I'm wondering, just how odd am I in this attitude? Readers?

What Is Your Monocausal Explanation for Where We Find Ourselves?

Of course monocausal explanations for complex and dynamic political-historical states of affairs are always wrong. But it occurs to me that if I were forced (Death Is Not An Option, as it were) to shoe-horn the blame for the mid-term catastrophe, or this moment's larger distress, into a single word, I would choose:

"filibuster."

What single word would you pick?

"Bailouts"? "Foreclosures"? "Economy"?

Or you Vision Thing guys, what would it be? "Corporations"? "Petroleum"? "Patriarchy"? "Mammals"?

Or, heck, you Republican lurkers, what would you pick? "Socialist"? "Teh Gay"? "Negro"? (Naw, that'd be too honest.)

No need for the futurologists in the house to chime in, we already know your answer: "Robots." Ding-ding-ding!

C'mon, kids! Let's all join in, it'll be fun. What's your best monocausal simplistification of the soup we're in?

Actually, They Can't Win

Either Republicans in their current form are defeated and marginalized, or, in power and on their usual know-nothing bloody-minded greedhead rampage, they will destroy the country and lead to its marginalization in the world to the ultimate benefit of the world in any case -- possibly soon enough to be of benefit to the more sensible among us.

If Progressives prevail (which requires not only that Democrats govern the country but also that Progressives shape the Democratic caucus) and manage to transform the country bit by bit into a sustainable social democracy in the nick of time, everybody wins. And the winners actually would include hateful, idiotic Republicans themselves, who would find themselves living in a civilization incomparably better in every respect than anything they could ever imagine, create, or maintain. But if Democrats can't stop the Republicans from destroying the country and exacerbating planetary crises, you can be sure the world will stop them.

Republicans can only lose, and so the question is whether Americans will stop them or the world will stop an America that has failed to stop them. I suppose the Republicans could "prevail" long enough actually to destroy the world altogether in an apocalyptic militarist convulsion or sudden climate collapse, but I don't count that as a "win," understandably enough, and in any case don't consider that such a likely outcome.

Violent empires predictably die as they should, irresponsible economies predictably collapse as they should, waste and pollution by profligate societies predictably devastates them as it should, celebration of the superficial and disregard of the factual exposes decadent societies to mortal dangers that eventually destroy them as it should.

I don't know if I draw much comfort from the fact that in the long run they can't win, since, as Keynes pointed out, the span of time in which humans aspire and struggle and meaningfully live our lives tends to be shorter than the longest of the long-terms we can fathom (in which, come what may, we are all dead). But, nonetheless, it is true.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

all yor babies r blong 2 us

Stupidity

It is fairly stunning to watch the luminaries of the GOP on the tee vee for the Sunday shows in the aftermath of their great resurgence to power.

It's not just that I disagree with their assessment of events and disapprove of their ideals, I just find it literally painful to witness their dim-wittedness. The used-car salesman pitches, the irrepressible gloating upturn of the lip, the unbelievably lame analogies. These Republicans are all just, frankly, slow moving vehicles, brutal beings. The dying light of the world is so much worse when one attends the actual lip smacking mastication of the imbeciles feasting on the light.

Since Nixon there have been few (but there have been a few) Republicans who weren't just scoundrels, but at least some of them were brighter than a bag of hair. Sometimes they had a real intellectual flair in their opportunistic mobilization of the worst impulses of their fellows, the hatefulness of racism, the lazy greed of the something for nothing crowd, the fearful belligerence of the warmongers and so on.

But it's been a while since the GOP has provided progressives with worthy opponents, and their victories are demoralizing not just because they are demonstrably wrongheaded and yield objectively ruinous outcomes but because they result from what seems an ever-widening ever-deepening suffusion of the republic with idiocy.

I mean, Michelle Bachmann is clearly completely out to lunch, and is now joined by a whole lamentable Tea Party desk set of braying loons. These are the ones so ridiculous they outpace every parody. One suspects civilization in its minimal construal is something like an organized effort to protect majorities from precisely this sort of deranged person, and the less one says the better about a civilization that directs its spotlight preferentially to such creatures, that offers them the reins to the sledge in an ice storm. I mean, what can one say? One is oneself imbecilized in exposing imbecility beyond a certain point.

But then the grisly eminences grises of the Party leadership, the endless extruded white guys mouldering like piles of mashed potatoes under the studio lights on the Sunday shows today, folks like Cantor, McConnell, Boehner, and so on are also so, so very painfully dim. The way they wear their guile on their sleeves, the way they stumble and slur their lines.

Even Cheney, who is regularly figured as some kind of robed satanic Mad Scientist or Pope-Emperor, and whose evil, sure, is beyond doubt, had and has awfully clumsy moves when it comes to it, from his high-profile secret meetings to his disposals of incriminating evidence in serial office fires. Like so many gloominaries of the GOP he certainly was a brazen bully, but it's not like he ever exhibited anything in the way of thoughtfulness or style (let alone even a remedial dress sense).

And, saints and ministers preserve us, these self-appointed "intellectuals" of the GOP, not one of whom have risen above the wit and wisdom of the truly flabbergastingly execrable Ayn Rand! Saucer-eyed shrivel-dicked simpletons like Paul Ryan and now Rand Paul (actually named for La Rand), earnest Eddie Haskels and dullards every one, mistaking unearned privileges for ruggedly individual accomplishments, mistaking the stubborn shoehorning of complexities into inapt inadequate categories for genius insights, mistaking unimaginative parochialism for priestly elect knowledge.

Hell, these days people refer to Karl Rove of all people as some GOP sooper-"brain" when his whole schtick has always simply been his willingness to lie and cheat without any care for his reputation for anything but ruthlessness. You know, while Machiavelli did indeed grant a place for ruthlessness in politics there actually was more to the Machiavellian program -- even if it is outsourced to Mayberry -- than just a pack of lies backed by a bulldozer.

John Stuart Mill famously quipped that "[a]lthough it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative." But I think we have arrived at a moment in the history of Republicanism in which Mill's chestnut no longer speaks to the spirit of organized American conservatism. At this point, self-identified conservatives really are all stupid people, every one. The Republican party is now a formation that selects for stupidity. Those who are insufficiently stupid are jettisoned, pilloried for the least exhibition of tendencies to reflection or sensitivity or concerns for consistency at the expense of any fleeting expedient opportunity, come what may.

I am happy to grant that plenty of unintelligent people are only too happy to identify as progressives -- especially progressivism in its least demanding most complacent new agey broad brushstrokes race to the middle wherever that happens to be guises -- and that there are plenty of temperamentally conservative people among the Democrats as well.

But there is nothing left of Republicanism but the stupid. Palin is the empty face of the stupid stomping over the earth, but so too are these mainstream muckety-mucks flapping their jaws for the Networks today. It is impossible to be a Republican now, in this moment, and not be stupid -- and also very likely a scoundrel, too.

We confront real shared problems the stupid is unequal to. We are in real trouble.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

This Week's White Guys of "The Future" Report

It's time once more to visit the Very Serious techno-"progressive" futurologists at the stealth Robot Cult outfit IEET, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

There are no surprises again this Saturday, I'm afraid. Of all the faces of featured authors to be seen on IEET's website this week there is, like last week, only one that is not the face of a white guy. And this is following two weeks with literally nothing but futurological White Guys on display.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: The so-called "transhumanists" have seen The Future... and it is a White Penis.

And yet, only a minority of people in the world are white guys. Only a minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared are white guys. Only a minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are white guys. Only a minority of people in the world who are well informed and have important things to say about matters of technoscience are white guys.

The relentless non-representativeness I have been documenting week after week after week for months now over at IEET, supposedly the most "academic," "moderate," "respectable" of the membership organizations in the futurological Robot Cult archipelago, has long seemed to me to represent just one of the more obvious symptoms of the profound marginality of what I call superlative sub(cult)ural futurology.

For more of my critique of the glaring conceptual and political problems with these White Guys of "The Future" I recommend interested readers begin with my Condensed Critique of Transhumanism.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Balance Is Unbalanced When It Demands Indifference to Differences That Make A Difference

This aphorism is dedicated to Jon Stewart, David Broder, and the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Perry Wants Texas to Secede From Social Security



So, Texans, did you know you were re-electing a feudalist? Oh, I guess you did.

MSNBC Surreally Overreacts to Boring Weekly Thurber Segment on Countdown

TPM:
MSNBC has suspended prime-time host Keith Olbermann indefinitely without pay… Olbermann contributed to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates this fall, including one on the same day he appeared on Olbermann's "Countdown" program. Olbermann is MSNBC's highest-rated personality and the linchpin of its move to a prime time show of liberal viewpoints. He was one of the network's anchors for election day coverage this week.

HuffPo
"I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay," MSNBC president Phil Griffin said in a statement…While NBC News policy does not prohibit employees from donating to political candidates, it requires them to obtain prior approval from NBC News executives before doing so…. In a statement earlier Friday, Olbermann defended his donation, saying, "I did not privately or publicly encourage anyone else to donate to these campaigns nor to any others in this election or any previous ones, nor have I previously donated to any political campaign at any level.

Needless to say, none of this makes any kind of sense in the midst of MSNBC's very recent splashy -- and surely expensive? -- "LEAN FORWARD" re-branding campaign, casting itself explicitly as the progressive alternative to Fox everybody already thinks of it as being, and it is especially senseless given that campaign donations are not even prohibited by network policy and we are living in a world in which Fox gleefully flings millions upon millions of dollars at Republican campaigns. And Atrios has already documented here the many substantial campaign donations made, unnoticed and without consequence, by Olbermann's, er, "colleague," MSNBC contributor (and also white racist, fascist gasbag, anti-gay bigot, and patriarchal prick) Pat Buchanan.

Of course, everything here becomes perfectly clear when you realize that Olbermann is not being fired, just pointlessly punished, and this is all just about Phil Griffin being a typical asshole scratching around the rooster pen and asserting his dumb dominance of MSNBC, which is, whatever else it is, a typical corporation in our crappy corporate world.

Enjoy:
Griffin's statement underscores that it was Olbermann's failure to obtain approval, and not the actual political donations, that prompted the suspension…. "Keith doesn't run the show," Griffin told New York Magazine recently…. In recent months, Griffin has taken several bold steps to declare his authority over the network and its sometimes unruly talent: he… banned Markos Moulitsas from the network, and reprimanded Ed Schultz for threatening to "torch" the network.

Marvelous. If you would like to provide MSNBC with helpful feedback in this moment of suicidal stupidity authored by an infantile greedhead, by all means contact them right here.

Who Disbanded the Vast Army of Republican Voter Fraud Activists Who Were Swarming and Screaming Across the Country?

Given the scope of the calamity they were preparing us for, given the scale of the battle they were clearly girding for, it's funny how they evaporated like a soap bubble leaving only crickets chirping across the electoral terrain. Why, it's almost as if "voter fraud" is just a phrase Republicans use to describe what happens when majorities actually vote for Democrats, when Republican voter deception, demoralization, and disenfranchisement schemes fail to bamboozle majorities either into not voting or not voting their own best interest.

MundiMuster! Join Team Pelosi

Sign this Petition to indicate your support of Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader in the House.

The House of Representatives under Pelosi's Leadership passed a sweeping suite of progressive legislation that died in the Senate. Conservative Democrats and Blue Dogs are already challenging Pelosi's leadership, crafting narratives that falsely blame her for Democratic mid-term losses (as if Democrats doing even less of what the people elected them to do, accomplishing even less of the necessary address of our country's actually real and deep problems, echoing even more of the Republican know-nothing agenda would have reversed the disaster -- as certainly it did not manage to do for those few Blue Dogs who tried that strategy in defiance of their leader and the will of the people), setting the scene for catastrophic capitulation in the face of the Republiconmen.

I am not asking you to endorse Pelosi's taking of impeachment off the table for a war criminal. I am not asking you to pretend Pelosi is Bernie Sanders. I am asking you to reward rather than punish a Leader who did so much of what we wanted her to do, who accomplished so much in the service of what was right, even if the dysfunctional Senate under the leadership of Harry Reid and beholden to the likes of Ben Nelson and Joe Liebermann, in the face of literally unprecedented flabbergastingly irresponsible Republican obstructionism (which infantile Americans rewarded them for), could not match Pelosi's efforts and accomplish the agenda we gave Democrats a mandate for.

I am asking you to signal in public, here and now, here at the beginning of a long and painful slog, that you know what has happened and what is happening and who is on our side and who is not and that you really are paying attention. This next two years is going to be grisly, and it is important to indicate to Democrats we have fight in us in these early likely-definitive skirmishes so that Democrats will fight for us rather than simply rolling over ion the face of the greedhead braindead wingnut noise brigade, as seems to be the natural inclination of so many Democrats if we don't light a fire under their asses.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"The Truth Is Rarely Pure and Never Simple." -- Oscar Wilde

The key insights of Keynes and of climate scientists are actually often counter-intuitive and usually difficult until you grow accustomed to thinking in their terms.

You simply cannot expect people to understand as it were intuitively policies driven by knowledgeable assumptions. It is absolutely necessary to educate people, to explain clearly and repeatedly, over and over and over again, why you are doing what you are doing: If your understanding of economics derives from analogies from your experience with a family budget or if your understanding of climate derives from analogies from your experience of local weather, then the assumptions and expectations and interpretations of fact that drive sound policy will simply make no sense to you, unless they are clearly and repeatedly explained.

It is a terrible thing that Republicans who know better -- not to mention the ones who, horrifyingly enough, don't -- have decided to exploit the difficulty of knowledgeable policy discourse, and actively and irresponsibly to push dangerous, destructive falsehoods based on comforting dis-analogies, all to the parochial and short-term benefit of moneyed and incumbent interests.

The eagerness of the GOP to exploit ignorance and resort to deception (rather like their eagerness to exploit arcane procedures to obstruct governance and game the system to disenfranchise the electorate) makes the Republicans who are not just outright idiots fairly obviously villains at this point. (Contra Jon Stewart.) But it must be said that it is the curious unwillingness of Democrats to communicate in clear terms, and repeatedly, the facts and assumptions that drive their policy decisions that creates the vacuum in which Republican lies make their easy play.

Hell, it is hard to find Democrats who will sensibly defend the very idea of indispensable good governance, of taxes as the price we pay for civilization, of the reliance of every individual on the general welfare of her peers, let alone explaining how governments, unlike households, actually can indeed spend their way into prosperity when that is the last resort, or how an atmosphere as apparently vast as heaven can nonetheless be so fragile that carbon released through everyday human activities can imperil all human life.

And it isn't enough to explain these things once, just as it isn't enough to understand them to your own satisfaction and then move on obliviously to the business of policy administration. Part of the responsibility of good governance in even so notionally representative a republic as our own must be not only to know what is right and do what is right but to explain and to sell what is right to the majorities who benefit from right being done.

If Democrats stand by their convictions and better communicate the knowledge on the basis of which they act then the lies of the right, however easy, however comforting, will no longer move sufficient majorities to act against their own best interests in the service of what is wrong. Sure, it's a problem that they always lie, but the solution is we must always try.

I Wonder If Any Blue Dogs Are Re-Thinking That "Painful" Vote?

Fewer than a third of the Democrats who voted against Health Care Reform were able to win re-election.

As Goes California...

I was born in Kentucky, which just idiotically elected Randroid Paul (although, strictly speaking, I was born in Louisville, which did not), but I moved to California and have stayed here, and I am proud to say my adopted state, after a decades long fever dream of libertopian catastrophe, may have wakened to sense. The Props were a mixed bag, but 23 was defeated and 25 passed, and that's something solid to build on, meanwhile the whole Democratic slate seems to have been elected, a staging of the same confrontation of market fundamentalism versus good government in evidence across the country, but here with the proper conclusion. Frankly, given the number of Tea Party candidates who were defeated precisely because of their fulminating fundamentalism (market and cultural), I think Americans more generally may be waking from the long Reagan epoch anti-governmental pieties (not that the results are being spun that way by our privileged punditocraps, and not that it is much consolation to wake from such a fever only to discover you're saddled with a Senatorial loon for six years). As I said last night, in dread of the disaster of paralysis, witch-hunts, and infantile spectacles in the face of ignored problems we are sure to face in our national politics under a divided government one of the "partners" in which is a brainless brutal bully, I hope a turn toward the work of my State, a State which has, after all, on its own, the eighth largest economy in the world and is the focus of mass-mediated attention and imagination, will be more edifying and more productive for a while...

It's the Economy, Etc.

Krugthulu:
Major Democratic losses were guaranteed by the failure to deliver a significant improvement in job markets. To have avoided these losses, Obama would have had to have a stronger economic program -- above all, a bigger stimulus. Could he have gotten one? If not, the White House was a poisoned chalice from the beginning. But the point is that he didn’t try. To the extent that Democrats do worse even than the economy explains, one can point to a number of factors. Given that the stimulus was inadequate —- which was obvious early on —- Obama could have tried to warn Americans of a long hard road ahead, and placed blame on Republicans; instead, the WH kept pretending that things were going swimmingly, never once acknowledging that the original plan wasn’t sufficient (they still haven’t).

This seems fair, especially the poisoned chalice bit (which I recall we all feared from the first), but it's also true that if doing our best and hoping for the best was the best we could do there was certainly no reason not to hammer the Republicans harder from the beginning as the villains in this narrative to mitigate somewhat this insanely mis-aimed punitive mid-term, especially given how clear it was and how quickly it was clear that the Republicans had no intention of responding to chirpy bipartisan noises in any kind of productive way anyway.

Jerry Brown's Rather Rambling, Off the Cuff, Utterly Charming and Even Moving Acceptance Speech