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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Today's Republicans Just Can't Turn That Frown Upside Down

What BooMan said.

So long as they keep their numbers just high enough via big money and voter disenfranchisement schemes to obstruct problem solving in the Senate they'll spoil everything a la California anyway, tho'.

Teaching Day (Tatsumi's Good-Bye)

Reading Yoshihiro Tatsumi's dark short-story comic anthology Good-Bye today, re-reading it for discussion I am struck by its fitness for Freudian reading, especially "Click Click Click" (in which a stereotypical heel fetishist is also a barber cutting boy's heads for charity -- hilarious! -- recall that in the classic fetish the trauma of the discovery of the lack of the penis in the woman is presumably remedied by the fetish structure: "x, but through the fetish not x"; hence, absence of the penis, but through the presence of the heel, the penis after all... but in the story the fetish enables our protagonist as well the denial of death more successfully than most of the drifting awful ugly mortals paraded in the collection, warded off for this protagonist not through the farcical dream of a death by a trampling by heels in an act of arson -- already a sexual substitute, as we all know from criminal profiler dramas that crowd our teevees now -- in a theater that wakes him in a cold sweat after spying a prostitute's dead body, but the pleasure of the sniffing and caressing of his collection of heels themselves which staves off awareness of death in a death-in-life of insignificant pleasure in submission to the arbitrary signifier itself) or, "Woman in the Mirror" (in which a man discovers his enabling memory of a possibility of self-love in the refusal of patriarchal masculinity was an imaginary structure, that a shattered mirror never reflected anyone but himself). "The Rash" is truly a beguiling mysterious thing, in which figural and factual realities traffic restlessly but relentlessly between each other and in which, I am finally convinced, two real characters must actually be dreaming one another in the face of death. The photographer-protagonist of "Hell," the story that opens the collection (have a look here) refuses the very idea of objectivity or justice after Hiroshima, but the real hell is depicted in "Good-Bye," which closes the collection and summarizes its claustrophobic misogynist nihilistic post-war universe with brutal almost facile succinctness. My favorite piece is the short enigmatic "Sky Burial," a lovely little miracle of transcendence surrounded by the squalor and meaningless and despair of the collection more generally. Tatsumi is manga's Eisner, a genius, a fore-father.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Looking For Some New Voices

I'm wondering if there are any particularly sensible eco-socialist and/or environmental justice oriented blogs and commentary sites readers might recommend? I'm not looking for another manifesto, heaven help me, I'm looking for pragmatic planetary policy analysis with its eyes on the right prize.

Sad But True

The ever sensible, indispensable Steve Benen, on reading the same Krugman column I reacted to in the last post:
If I had to guess, I’d say many White House officials would approve of this kind of approach, but tend not to say so. Why not? Because of political realism -- the president and his team don’t see much value in pushing a series of proposals that have no chance of passing Congress. An ambitious approach to lowering unemployment was effectively taken off the table the moment Americans elected a Republican-led House. If voters wanted policymakers to focus on jobs they shouldn’t have backed candidates intent on making unemployment worse. The administration could still push the issue, even if a jobs agenda can’t pass, but Obama’s team see political risks in such an approach -- the more the president sticks his neck out, the more he appears ineffectual when Congress ignores him.
Yep.

Krugthulu Against Learned Helplessness on the Jobs Crisis Among the Leets

Krugman:
The core of our economic problem is… mainly mortgage debt -- that households ran up during the bubble years of the last decade. Now that the bubble has burst, that debt is acting as a persistent drag on the economy, preventing any real recovery… [O]nce you realize that the overhang of private debt is the problem, you realize that there are a number of things that could be done about it...

[W]e could have W.P.A.-type programs putting the unemployed to work doing useful things like repairing roads -- which would also, by raising incomes, make it easier for households to pay down debt. We could have a serious program of mortgage modification, reducing the debts of troubled homeowners. We could try to get inflation back up to… 4 percent… which would help to reduce the real burden of debt…

I recognize, of course, the political obstacles to actually pursuing any of the policies that might work... [A]ny effort to tackle unemployment will run into a stone wall of Republican opposition…

As I see it, policy makers are sinking into a condition of learned helplessness on the jobs issue: the more they fail to do anything about the problem, the more they convince themselves that there’s nothing they could do. And those of us who know better should be doing all we can to break that vicious circle.
Notice that Krugman isn't making the mistake of embarking here on yet another round of carping against the Obama Administration.

The problem here, as always, is primarily Republican obstructionism against any pro-active efforts to address actual problems with tools actually on hand on the basis of actually macro-economically literate policies (just as Republicans refuse to address problems of climate change with available tools in accord with literate climate science -- just as they refuse to shape healthcare policy with available tools in accord with literate social principles -- eg, health care is not a commodity, socializing its provision is the only way to bring down costs to a level society can bear, endless historical and international evidence supports this -- just as they refuse to shape drug policy or gun policy or sex education policy with available tools in accord with literate harm reduction principles, just as many of them would refuse to teach evolution in biology classes, or the actual Constitution in civics class -- which they have de-funded out of existence in any case, preferring as they do the insectivorous "patriotism" of unquestioning thugs and saucer-eyed consumers to well-informed citizens with critical thinking skills).

It's not that Obama's people don't understand what Krugman is saying here, nor is it that they would not undertake policies in this vein if they could (though possibly they would not go FDR quite as intensely as Krugman or I would like them to do), but that Republican obstructionism and the right-wing disinformation machine make these sorts of proposals absolute non-starters. And the Obama administration has too many simultaneous crises to deal with on a daily basis to waste time or political capital on non-starters. Pragmatic realism of the kind Obama has retreated to is scarcely equal to the severity of daily difficulties.

This is far from proposing that pragmatic realism is equal to structural difficulties (anthropogenic climate change, financialization of the economy, militarization of the economy, spiraling healthcare costs, structural unemployment, widespread education failure, widespread infrastructure failure, resource descent, and so on), but Republican denialism, obstructionism, nihilism prevents any movement at this structural level.

One might fault Obama for not using the bully pulpit to educate the public on the structural level, but it seems to me he has done this more than he gets credit for, and efforts in this vein are incredibly vulnerable to mass-mediated misinformation and distraction that make them more trouble than they're worth in the face of the urgencies of the moment, as Obama puts out fires on a daily basis.

Still, folks like Krugman and Duncan Black (Atrios) deserve real credit for their persistent insistence that the economic crisis is a job crisis and not a "debt crisis" (and pointing out that even those "deficit hawks" who declare otherwise are shown to be liars by the fact that they inevitably use the deficit as a pretext to do the things they really want -- things that have at best a negligible impact on the deficit -- which tend to be still more tax cuts for the rich, still more deregulation of proven bad actors in economic sector after economic sector, and, especially lately, union busting) and pushing back against the deception and disinformation in ways that the President cannot and should not be expected to do on his own, especially given everything else he is up to.

Although their vital critiques are all too readily read as glib critiques of our so-called elites that have Administration figures as their principal targets, I suspect that they should be seen instead and certainly they should function instead as counter-weights facilitating the emergence of a commonsense understanding the White House already shares and which it would be more than happy to deploy, were it to achieve a consensus of support, in the service of the actually realistic address of real problems in an actually literate way for once.

Against learned helplessness, always learned helpfulness.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Addicted to Drug War? Try Incarcerex!



Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball!

What If Doll-Eyed Dolt Paul Ryan Is the Last One in the Anti-Medicare Pool, Not the First?

via PoliticalWire:
"I said it many times. This is like skinny dipping. Somebody has to be the first one in the pool and it's real lonely when you're the only one in the pool. Paul Ryan is in the pool. We want the rest of the town to come along."-- Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA)… on the House Republican Medicare proposal.
Of course, Paul Ryan is not the first Republican in the Anti-Medicare pool by any stretch of the imagination. Extreme right-wing Republicans always hated Medicare. Plenty of Republicans sought to keep Medicare from being implemented from the first. Plenty of Republicans have dreamed of dismantling Medicare throughout the life of the program.

What is being exposed (apart, apparently, from his fanatically-P90X-toned skinny-dipping body, if you'll forgive the unfortunate associations of this extended analogy) by the devastating push-back against Republicans who have sought to end Medicare through their endorsement of Randroid Ryan's ridiculous budget is that just as Social Security is the "third rail" of American politics, Medicare is a "fourth rail."

If this is as true as I think it is, it demonstrates that the anti-governmental logic driving a generation of Movement Republicanism is running against some hard limits that demand a radical change of course if the GOP is to be a viable national party rather than a self-marginalizing neo-Confederate regional rump party, and hence that Paul Ryan may find himself soon enough the last one skinny-dipping in a dark clammy pool.

(By the way, if Medicare is indeed the "fourth rail" of American politics, the best route to single payer -- congratulations Vermont! we Californians are ready, willing, able, and eager to join you next up -- does indeed look like "Medicare Buy In" and/or "Medicare for All" in the years to come.)

Mitch McConnell's Demand to Yoke Raising the Debt Ceiling to Medicare Cuts Dooms the Republicans to Devastating Defeat

The raising of the debt ceiling has always been equally indispensable to both parties, to the extent that they are parties embedded in an actually-existing government and in an actually-existing national economy which has to be functioning at some level for either party to do any of the things it is there to do.

This is exactly equally true even of the party that has come to be defined by its anti-governmental zealotry: I mean, without government how would the GOP enforce the anti-abortion police state of its daydreams? How would it get all that sweet Department of Defense welfare pork to its favorite evil billionaires?

Nevertheless, the Republican party, now chock full o' wingnuts who rode a wave of righteous but inchoate economic disgruntlement into the House and who have convinced themselves that this means somehow that the American people dream of living in a country that looks a lot like a cross between Atlas Shrugged and The Handmaid's Tale, has been playing a facile game the last few months in which it has tried to get some of the ruinous unpopular things it always wants -- you know, ever more tax cuts for billionaires, looting vital social programs such as Medicare or public education which it has always despised, that sort of the thing, the usual Republican crap sandwiches -- simply by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling even though doing so is quite as indispensable to it as to the party from which it has sought to exact these ugly extras.

This has never made much sense, honestly, as a gambit, inasmuch as it amounts to a kind of confused hostage negotiation in which the hostage taker puts the gun to his own head and thinks this has strengthened his position somehow. I do think that some Democrats have been just policy-wise and politics-foolish enough to fall for this sort of nonsense occasionally in the past, that is, to pointlessly capitulate to some absurd and evil Republican threat for no other reason than that they grasp the magnitude of dire policy consequences that would result from Republicans acting on the threat even if there is little political ground for thinking Republicans could actually do their worst in any case.

But given the dependency of the Republican party on financial interests which would be among those most negatively and immediately impacted by failing to raise the debt ceiling as Republicans are threatening to do, there really has never been a good reason to believe that this threat of theirs is anything but a ridiculous infantile bluff, and it does indeed seem as though Democrats in the main understand this quite well and are acting accordingly for once.

Of course, the key word I used in describing the Republican threat is "infantile," and as the Republicans realize that most Democrats seem disinclined to fall for their little hostage drama this time around they have responded mostly by puffing out their chests and raising the temperature and toxicity of the rhetoric to create the impression that they are being boxed into a corner by their own idiot fervency into doing something even they do not really want to do, so that what has to be a bluff actually might end up not being a bluff after all or something like that.

While it really is true that the Republicans seem to present an unusually crazy cohort this season, even for them, such that all the crazy talk about jumping off the cliff is a bit alarming after all, there remains vanishingly little reason to believe them in earnest about their little suicide pact, given the corporate interests they are in bed with, and so all the bluster really makes the almost inevitable defeat and walk-back in the near future all the more delicious to contemplate, especially as one conjures up in imagination the howling hair-tearing chorus of betrayal and bewilderment sure to follow among the saucer-eyed white-racists and Randroids of their Teabag Base.

All of this provides the context in which we should read today's stakes-raising demand by Mitch McConnell that any agreement to raise the debt ceiling must include Medicare cuts, a move which seems to me the final nail in the coffin for Republicans in this deranged hostage adventure with the debt ceiling.

In the aftermath of their rather stunning defeat in the NY-26 special election (that is to say, their defeat in an extraordinarily Republican-skewed district, a defeat that turned quite palpably on the embrace of the losing Republican of the Medicare-killing Ryan budget and the defense of Medicare by the victorious Democrat), the GOP clearly grasps that their disastrous embrace -- now, thanks to Harry Reid, in both the House and the Senate -- of the Medicare-killing billionaire-taxcut-larding Ryan Budget is looking rather like the Waterloo they once wistfully thought Healthcare Reform was going to be for President Obama during the inglorious Summer of Tea.

By attaching Medicare cuts to any raising of the debt ceiling, Republicans obviously hope to cut their losses in 2012 by making Democrats share in the wearing of Paul Ryan's dirty diaper. While this might seem a bit of cunning opportunism in the moment of its proposal it actually amounts to a sudden switching of all the terms of the hostage drama on the part of the Republicans that exposes the extent to which all of this nonsense about not raising the debt ceiling has never been anything but superficial and opportunistic fun and games from the beginning.

It was reasonable to fancy that at least some Democrats might capitulate to demands for macro-economically illiterate spending cuts demanded by Republicans as the price of raising the debt-ceiling as they were always going to do anyway just out of fear of how awful it would be if somehow they didn't raise it after all and also because there is so much wrongheaded and hypocritical obsession inside the beltway about deficits in general these days (when the crisis is in fact a jobs crisis and the solution is short term stimulus via infrastructure and renewable energy investment to be paid for by the revenues arising from the consequent recovery, and everybody actually knows this but simply isn't acting on it because Republicans make this next to impossible and in any case, when all is said and done, even the people who know better are mostly rich and powerful enough not to be likely to suffer the full brunt of the devastation that comes from not doing anything even when they know what should be done so nothing gets done) that some Democrats might be willing to do some of that kabuki deficit-hawk theater just to have a chance to get on one of the Sunday shows for once despite being a Democrat or something like that.

But now that McConnell has turned on a dime, and changed all the terms of the hostage drama from Republicans holding the gun to their own heads while demanding dumb deficit-hawkery that was never anything more than silly political opportunism to holding the gun to their own heads while demanding Democrats give them a free pass on the one-way ticket to oblivion they purchased with their votes on the Ryan budget which is also nothing more than silly political opportunism but with the difference that the stakes of this new opportunism are far more readily grasped in precisely such opportunistic terms by Democrats, McConnell has revealed the crass and idiotic superficiality of the whole charade from the beginning and in a way that clarifies as never before the benefits to Democrats of not playing along.

None of the underlying fundamentals has changed in the least: raising the debt ceiling remains precisely as equally indispensable to both parties as it ever was, the financial interests to which the Republicans are if anything even more beholden than the Democrats will be among the first to see to it that the debt ceiling is raised and so not doing so has never been anything but a non starter, the ideological handwaving to the contrary has never been anything but theater but has gone far enough along to ensure that the end-game can only hurt Republicans and benefit Democrats with the consequence that Democrats have even less reason to play along.

Now, on top of everything else, Republicans have revealed that they are fully aware of the extent of the mess they are in with their public exposure of their long suppressed hostility as a party to the Medicare beloved by the American people and are now incoherently flailing about, yoking one foolish disaster (the never anything but absurd Republican debt-ceiling hostage drama) to another foolish disaster (the never anything but suicidal Republican hostility to Medicare).

In the moment, from the vantage at the bottom of the deep hole they have dug for themselves, Republicans seem to fancy that this effort to kill two birds with one stone is some kind of genius move, but it actually manages to expose to an ever more glaring blaze of light the extent to which Democrats are holding the winning hand here, hence bolstering in ways they rarely manage to do for themselves their always too-weak resolve to do what has always obviously been the right thing to do here in any case.

No, it is unlikely that even today's Democratic Party will negotiate with hostage-takers holding a gun to their own heads, especially when the clowns holding the gun change their tactics at the last moment and offer not only to stop holding the gun to their own heads if we do what they demand as if anybody believes they really mean to pull the trigger, but to do what they demand in exchange for literally accepting the gun from their hands, holding it to our own heads, and pulling the trigger ourselves.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Back to Teaching...

Hard to believe, I submitted grades for SFAI's Spring term Friday, and today is already the first day back teaching, this time Summer Session A at UC Berkeley, the first of three summer intensives in all... Blogging may be a wee bit sporadic, we shall see.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Phony Parity of Anti-Presidential Derangements

Lefties like me hated Bush because he stole an election (he did, you know, it still matters), he lied us into a ruinous illegal immoral war of choice, and he smashed the budget to give mounds of money to his billionaire friends, not to mention the fact that he was a mean spoiled palpable idiot, er, was "incurious" as the pundits liked more gently to put the point.

To recognize these facts and register one's disapproval of them was to exhibit "Bush Derangement Syndrome" according to many Beltway pundits at the time, especially Republicans who were busy joyfully wallowing in ballooning deficits and corpses and smacking their lips smashing civil liberties while we "deranged" ones looked on and protested in helpless dismay and hopeless despair.

Many a right-wingnut now hates Obama and loudly insinuates that our president is a Kenyanazislamosocialist and so repudiate policies they once advocated the moment Obama proposes them because either they are racist assholes or because they know their Base is full of racist assholes and they are well pleased to pander to such evil idiocy since, whether they are racist or not themselves, they too are assholes.

Sometimes these people are now said by punditocratic wags to be exhibiting "Obama derangement syndrome," and to the extent that these folks also often traffic in climate-science, evolutionary, and macroeconomic denialisms there is indeed something quite literally crazy in their belligerent embrace of such willful ignorance.

But calling both of these heated modalities of Presidential disapproval, of both Bush and of Obama, whatever the circumstances that prompt them and the facts or fancies that underlie them, "Derangement Syndromes" may provide pampered punditocratic incompetents a congenial pathologization as universally deranged the whole body of the politically involved populace who happen not to live inside the beltway (literally or imaginatively) as they do, and thus confirm them in their comfortable complacent misplaced sense of superiority, but that is far from making their proposal of a equivalence of derangements true or, indeed, for that matter, anything but a deranged proposal itself.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

In a Surprise Move, Evil Stupid Republicans Still Hate The Gay While Everybody Else Is Finally Growing Up

A new Gallup poll documents a large shift since last year in favor of legal gay marriage. This is of course part of an ongoing shift registering liberalizing attitudes across the country on a host of lgbtq issues in recent years as queers have become more visible in the mainstream and more people have been educated about loving queer relationships, military service, the bullying of queer youth, discrimination in the workplace, and so on.

Try to act surprised that this same poll shows that all this movement has taken place among Democrats and so-called "independents" while the numbers for Republicans haven't moved a single point in the poll, while literally everybody else in the whole country, across the board, has grown more educated, more fair-minded, more welcoming, more comfortable with their queer family members, colleagues, fellow-citizens, and neighbors.

Yes, as always, the white-racists, the patriarchal pricks, the Darwin haters, the macroeconomics illiterates, the climate change denialists, the law and welfare for me but not for thee hypocrites, the love the fetus hate the child mob, the more guns more war more executions more needless suffering from treatable diseases "pro-life" death cult, the Christianists who worship profit in the name of the champion of the poor and who worship aggression in the name of the prince of peace and who wrinkle their noses at brown skin while expecting a brown skinned man to redeem them, these always wrong, always mean assholes are wrong and mean yet again, right to the bitter end, doing their worst, not budging an inch, spoiling everything for everybody as long as they can manage the feat.

Sheesh, Republicans, just suck a dick and get over yourselves for Christ's sake!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Koch and a Smile

Every Republican Is Always Just One Personal Catastrophe Away From Becoming A Hypocrite

If you thought I was going to say Republicans are always just one personal catastrophe away from becoming Democrats, that's probably because you are not a Republican and so think everybody, even Republicans, actually learn from experience. But, of course, few people with either basic decency or common sense have to actually experience personal catastrophe to grasp the indispensability of good government to a sustainable, prosperous society with liberty and justice for all, and such people rarely become Republicans these days in the first place, unless, I suppose, they have the misfortune of a profoundly insulated or ignorant upbringing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Today's Queergeekery: That's So Takei!

Scott Walker's Union Busting Includes the Civil Ones, Natch

[Vile gangster] Gov. Scott Walker believes a new law that gives gay couples hospital visitation rights violates the state constitution and has asked a judge to allow the state to stop defending it.

What, you're surprised that smarmy Republican pipsqueak hates The Gay, too? What an asshole.

"Ending Medicare Is the New GOP Litmus Test"



Now, if the DNC can get this spot to just under a minute we're off to the races.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Funeral Fun Fer All in the Republican Field

How loudly how largely the Republican presidential hopefuls keep dropping out or flaming out day by day.

For the moment, Republican activists and politicos clamor for the quivering warm wonk mucus that is tepid Indiana Governor and failed Bush accountant Mitch Daniels. What is now hilariously characterized as the "adrenaline rush" of Daniels is little more than the vertiginous thrill of deferring, one moment longer, the realization that the quivering warm wonk mucus of tepid former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is the best it's going to get this campaign season for the GOP.

Curiously many Republicans in the aftermath of the Season of Tea apparently mistook for an endorsement of their crazy market-fundamentalist and muscular white-racist baby jesus fundamentalist worldview what was nothing but America's idiotically uncritical kick-all-the-bums-out or just-stay-home mid-term election disgruntlement at the con-job and joblessness of the ongoing Great Recession and now the Base demand of all things a real Movement candidate with a real Message campaign to vindicate their faith and decisively bring down the femislamofascialistic New Deal and the whisperBlack Man/whisper in the White House at long last.

Oh, how they snort and tear the turf in their pining after a fit Messenger now of all times in this consummating moment of their Movement, this last chance to wave back the browning girling secularizing planetizing tide of reality!

But of course, there is no Messenger who can sell the Message because the Message is crap and nobody wants it but a few white racist assholes, patriarchal pricks, and cynical billionaires who think they can roil the white racist patriarchal mob into guarding their treasure pile another generation.

Every new Republican with whom their Base will fall momentarily in love for spouting loud and proud some ugly facet of the turd-crystal that is the Movement Republican Message -- whether Trump, or Huck, or Newt, or Palin, or the Bachmonster, or the Man-on-Dog Sanitarium -- will become in that moment of fervent loving unelectable and the Base will fall instantly out of love with the stink of defeat clinging to their Messenger and go looking for another better truer salesman from whose blood-red Believing lips the sales pitch will actually sell the unsellable they've been sold themselves in their mean manic moronic distress.

As for Romney and Pawlenty and Huntsman, they are none of them remotely gangster enough to convulse the bullying boot-licking hard-on of the Republican Base id. And even most Independents -- craven thrill-seeking ignoramuses every one tho' they may be -- will vote for an actual Democrat over a phony one just as in the past they always voted for the actual Republican over the phony ones the DNC thrusts onto the showroom floor from time to time (at this point, of course, you have to be a certified loon and/or wear your criminal intentions on your sleeve to qualify as a Real Republican).

Given the economy it should be an easy matter to unseat this incumbent President, but the crazytown sirens have got the GOP in thrall and until they lash themselves to the mast of something like reality they won't right the vessel or ride it to the White House any time soon. Of course, the inertial illusions that the Republicans remain a viable party likely exert sufficient pull to enable them to pull off a Senate majority given the horrendous hand the Democrats hold for 2012, and without the Senate it's not as if the White House or even a House regaveled by Pelosi can do much good anyway.

Obama's prospects are solid, the House is in serious play, but what we must hope for is a Republican candidate so dismal that Obama's coattails can accomplish the miracle of one more Democratic Senate. So far, the Republicans are being rather obliging in all this, but it's a year and a half out, and the punditocrats have not yet started to manufacture their inevitable demoralizing horse race.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Assault and Attempted Rape Isn't a "Sex Scandal"

Rape isn't sex, and there is nothing naughty, titillating, or glamorous about it you stupid assholes!

The Cruel and Unusual Things Republicans Talk About When They Talk About the Rich and the Poor

You know, it really is cruel what the Republicans say about how unemployed people are lucky duckies and poor sick people deserve their suffering and how public teachers struggling to make ends meet while literally saving the nation last minute to last minute from an idiot tide of blank-eyed blood-letting are wantonly wallowing in unearned luxury and stealing food from the mouth of baby Jesus and on and on and on.

And, you know, it really is unusual what the Republicans say about how CEOs who get billion dollar bonuses for laying off their employees and then get bailed out with taxpayer money the moment their enterprises go bankrupt are heroic risk-takers and how the nation's top priority is larding self-promoting entrepreneurs and vulture investors with ever more and more treasure as average incomes stagnate and fall and social mobility evaporates and wealth concentration assumes feudal dimensions and how welfare for the richest of the rich in the form of "Defense" that defends nothing but the wealth of the richest of the rich is the only kind of welfare that smells like liberty and yet millionaires and especially billionaires are a persecuted minority in America and on and on and on.

But, you know, it really is insane that Republicans say both of these things at the same time, describing rich people as poor people and poor people as rich people and hating poor people for their riches and weeping at rich people's poverty and on and on and on. Honestly, what are you supposed to say in answer to this endless awful, idiotic, crazy Republican fart aria?

Rahmsputin Sworn in This Morning as Chicago Mayor

Keep your eyes on FDL for liveblogging of imminent frog plague.

The Marriage of Education and Technology

A "fan" of Amor Mundi, which he generously describes as a "unique space with opinions at the intersection of politics, technology and humanity in general" writes to express the hope that I will use Amor Mundi in the future "to discuss how technology and education are currently merging to promote accessibility to higher education."

"Online degree programs" he proposes, "are steadily gaining credit and are allowing people of all kinds -- mothers with families, fathers, seniors, the disabled -- to get graduate educations that align with their personal tendencies and everyday duties." In consequence, he would like to see more "speculat[ion]" at Amor Mundi about what he calls "the future of this marriage of technology and education." He wonders: "Will it become more streamlined in the future? Will more universities offer online programs? How will this negatively or positively impact society's idea of education?"

File my response under tough love -- whether its target amounts in truth to some variation on a form letter or is simply the product of an education already too close for comfort to the imbecile ideal he is promoting:

"What you propose as the 'streamlining' of education looks to me like the corporate looting of the academy more than anything else, the triumph of the norms and forms of marketing and promotional discourse over the indispensable standards of the humanities and critical sciences. You will forgive me if I cannot muster much enthusiasm for the catastrophic metastasizing scam of online diploma mills.

"Although there is obviously something to be said for increasing access to reliable knowledge to those whose difference or distress denies it them and occasion for reflection and criticism for those constrained by the demands of brutalizing survival or disease, I think facile recourse to the landfill-destined gizmos hyperbolically marketed as 'technology' today never provides the solutions to these shared problems of our communities and rarely offer much that the support of more dedicated teachers sharing more space and more time with diverse students in communities of learning that actually cost something because they are actually worth something would provide incomparably better in every imaginable way. When you speak of 'the future… marriage of technology and education' I strongly suspect you discount the extent to which all education has already always been utterly and inextricably suffused with technique, but worse, I fear to my soul that you are mistaking a rape for a marriage."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cloudy Senate Prospect Has A Faint Presidential Silver Lining

Senate math in the upcoming election is truly terrible for Democrats. When you include the two Independent senators who presently caucus with them, Democrats are defending twenty-three states compared to just ten for Republicans, and many of the seats the Democrats are defending are too vulnerable for comfort. The GOP needs only a net gain of four seats to claim the majority, and gain control of the Senate.

The good news is that the Republican presidential field really is a flabbergasting trainwreck. Huckabee is out, which actually is good news for Bachmann, Santorum, and Newt, which actually is good news for Democrats because Bachmann, Santorum, and Newt (even a Newt backed by the Koch machine) are truly jokes and just the kind of jokes the jokers of the GOP base who rule the early primaries want to hear, to the consternation of lame limp noodles like Pawlenty and Romney.

If Republicans manage to run a candidate so awful they cannot garner 40% of the popular vote, those radioactive coat-tails provide Democrats with just about their only hope to retain control of the Senate. (By the way, these days I'm gaming it out for Pawlenty to win in the end, and though I don't think he can win the White House I do think he can make enough of a showing to give the GOP control of the Senate, without which I fear winning the White House will be too Pyrrhic to write home about.)

Maybe Maine's whackjobs will primary Snowe and/or Indiana's whackjobs will primary Lugar and open the door for moderate Dems to squeak out wins and thereafter misbehave in ways that will give the left blogipelago years of material to complain about. In a rational world such as we do not inhabit naked Scotty Brown should surely be beatable in Massachusetts. Maybe Arizona's open seat will provide a Christmas miracle, or Democrats can beat Dean Heller in Nevada (I won't hold my breath on those outcomes, not with the corporate cash spigot Citizens United turned on full blast). Hell, with a bad enough Presidential candidate even browning Texas comes into play, believe it or not (I'm betting on NOT).

No, I'm not counting on it, indeed I don't expect it, I'm expecting the worst, and even with Pelosi regaining her gavel as seems reasonably likely and Obama in the White House as seems incredibly likely Republican control of the Senate keeps America stuck like a gnat in amber in an economy itching to double dip catastrophically while Greenhouse storms sweep the shores and tear the turf of our feudal Red States to the ready ruin of our last faint hopes.

There's a difference between shooting yourself in the foot and blowing your brains out, and sometimes urgent advocacy for Democrats in general really does feel a bit like throwing a pep rally for the joyful prospect of shooting yourself in the foot. But the Republican party in its present incarnation is an organized force of nihilism and irrationality and evil abroad in a land wounded nearly beyond healing in a world on the brink of destruction. That these are the stakes and the terms on which those stakes are to be fought is perfectly grotesque, but there, nevertheless, it is.

Republicans Take Themselves Hostage, Threaten to Shoot Hostage

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declared on "Face the Nation" today that he's "ready to cut the deal today" on raising the U.S. debt ceiling, so long as the President accepts a package of fiscally irresponsible spending cuts many of them reflecting the extreme right-wing ideological priorities of his base.

As Steve Benen comments: "Boehner’s not talking about striking some kind of compromise; he’s talking about being paid a ransom. In this case, the 'deal' is 'Boehner gets what he wants.' I don’t mean to sound picky, but that doesn’t match any reasonable definition of a 'deal.'"

This is true of course as far as it goes, but what is really so extraordinary about this situation is that Boehner is exactly equally concerned about the consequences that will result from the failure of the deal as the people are with whom he is presumably negotiating this hostage crisis. Boehner is like a parent taking his own child hostage, threatening his own partner (with whom he still lives and expects to continue to live as if there were nothing the least bit odd about all this business) with the killing of his child, and hoping his partner will give him whatever he is demanding all the while cherishing the child he threatens quite as much as his partner does.

Republicans have been whining about the dangers of economic uncertainty to justify their refusal to regulate enterprise that has demonstrated repeatedly that it cannot be expected to behave remotely responsibly in the absence of regulation, and now threaten to plunge the US economy and no small part of the world economy into profound uncertainty and crisis, as we default on our debts and lose the sense of who can be counted to pay how much, when across the board.

Of course, this is nothing new, as Republicans have spent the whole year fulminating about deficits while proposing to balloon deficits because they refuse to raise revenues even when spending cuts are palpably unequal to the deficits they claim to abhor all the while ensuring their increase. No, everybody knows the talk of uncertainty is a deception to enable the real devotion to the deregulatory dismantlement of government as such, everybody knows the talk of deficits is a deception to enable the real devotion to the defunding and dismantlement of government as such, everybody knows that Republicans hate government, they hate the very idea of good government, they hate the work government does to provide any measure of security or stability or equity that might constrain incumbent-elite accumulation of control and wealth.

But of course the threat not to raise the debt ceiling is a threat to dismantle facets of governance without which these very incumbent elite interests cannot maintain some of the control and profit-taking to which they have grown accustomed. Movement republicanism has indulged its nonsensical deceptions for so long that the agents implementing the con have come to believe it themselves or are so stupid or enraptured that they could scarcely understand the real stakes of the game they are playing if you laid it out for them in monosyllables and cartoons.

No, Republicans haven't taken their own child hostage, they are actually holding the gun to their own heads and are demanding we restrain them from pulling the trigger for fear of drowning us in the gore of the resulting explosion, and losing track in their imbecilic triumph at the scheme that they would be killing themselves were they to make good on the threat.

There is no negotiating with people who behave this way. The only way to win this game is to refuse to play and hope Republicans will come to their senses or be cajoled into compliance with sense by their corporate masters.

America voted or allowed these lunatics to run the asylum, elections have consequences, it's not like this is any kind of surprise.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Twelve Basic Political Assertions

1. Politics is not morals.

2. Politics arises from the recognition that the people with whom we share the world are ineradicably different from one another, and that we can co-operate or not to resolve shared problems including problems arising from co-operation.

3. Morals arises from the recognition that the people with whom we identify in the world share similarities that seem to us worth the real costs of maintaining them.

4. Democracy is the idea that people should have a say in the public decisions that affect them.

5. Progressive democratization is the struggle to enable ever more people ever more of a say in the public decisions that affect them.

6. Democracy values equity and diversity above all, but since the absolute aspiration to equity can so threaten diversity and the absolute aspiration to diversity can so threaten equity the democratic struggle to implement and express equity-in-diversity is finally interminable.

7. Democratic politics as an arena of self-expression can be an end-in-itself but progressive politics succeeds as such only when it is actually democratizing, that is to say when it is enabling ever more people ever more of a say in the public decisions that affect them.

8. There is no democracy without a legible scene of consent, a scene that is more legible as such the more it is rendered ever more informed and ever more nonduressed through the work of institutional organizations.

9. There is no democracy without the maintenance of alternative institutional organizations for the nonviolent adjudication of disputes including disputes as to what properly constitutes violence.

10. Progressive politics is always organized, and even if networked organizations are different in important ways from the professional and authoritarian organizations of industrial modernity none of these differences are of a kind that would annul the prior recognition that progressive politics is always organized.

11. Progressive democratization is always substantially a matter of education, agitation, organization to resist anti-democratization, and education, agitation, organization to implement democratization, that is to say, equity-in-diversity, peer to peer.

12. The desire to smash the state is always ultimately anti-democratic, since democratization is always the democratization of the state.

The Assimilation of Peer to Peer Discourse to the Anti-Democratizing Politics of the Status Quo

Peer to peer discourse coming from the left is by now almost fatally undermined as a source for substantial resistance to the prevalent right in my view due to its near suffusion with spontaneist, anarchic, libertopian conceits.

At this point, the corporate-militarist neoliberal/neoconservative global developmentalist status quo -- framed and rationalized in general as a spontaneous market order and by its chief beneficiaries among incumbent elites via the usual reactionary moralisms and technocratic pieties -- confronts in the chief theories (both popular and critical) of insurgent peer-to-peer networked formations a perfectly congenial sponaneist-libertopian mirror image and in actual practice literally ever more of the same incumbent-elite or elite-in-training faces, the entrepreneurs and official intellectuals stress-managing authoritarian order.

Peer-to-peer formations are at risk of assimilation to the status quo, are at risk of failing to do their democratizing work educating, agitating, organizing resistance to authoritarian plutocracy and implementing scenes of equity-in-diversity. Intellectuals of peer-to-peer formations seem to me to be failing to grasp these risks -- and as often as not now function to market and promote this assimilation as if it were resistance -- and for the most part fail even to grasp the promise they are betraying.

Koch Is Still A Political Problem

This exchange occasioned by one of the right-wing billionaire Koch brother's effort to buy and control a university's econ department is upgraded and adapted from the Moot:

A Reader points out:
Uber-wealthy amoral scumbags will buy you if you're for sale. One easy way to combat this is to not be for sale. Koch is a scumbag, of course, but FSU seems rather villainous, too. Why don't they just auction off parts of their core curriculum? Think of the money they could get to spend on the football team.


I reply:

But of course, recognizing that non-negligible numbers of people will be corrupt or "for sale" isn't an answer but the point of departure for coming up with solutions. Declaring all parties "villainous" is even worse, it suggests disinterest in the very idea of coming up with political solutions.

If sizable numbers of people weren't prone to error, deception, corruption, aggression, abuse then so-called "market solutions" would actually be adequate to social and political problems. Since all people are prone to these problems in some measure (even, sometimes especially, people who strive not to be) one needs norms, law, regulation, rights, incentives/architecture, separation of powers, subsidiarity, yoking taxation to representation, periodic free election, general education, redistributive welfare entitlements, firewalls against regulatory capture, and so on.

The alternative to embracing this actually political point of departure is usually reactionary: it will amount either to
some facile pre-political variation on "spontaneism," like market fundamentalism or one of the left anarchisms,

or it will amount to
an authoritarian moralism, some construal of "we" over "they," "kill all the scumbugs."

Given your stated prejudices about the frailties of amoral uber-wealthy people and universities that prioritize football over, say, their humanities curriculum, I would no doubt find your construal of "we" as sympathetic as not, it sounds like we see things comparably.

But of course politics is not morals, come what may. And Universities, whatever their gaucheries and injustices, are one of the few remaining institutional spaces that resist American anti-intellectualism and (ever less and less) resist market imperatives. They are worth saving. So all the actual problems that beset us remain.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

2 + 2 = 4 or 5? Earth Round Or Flat? Republican Says, None of Your Business!

Asked at a press conference earlier today whether he believes in evolution or in the theory of creationism Republican Governor Chris Christie testily replied: “That’s none of your business."

Governor Christie, as no doubt you know already given his incredibly high profile for whatever reason in national media, is the lumbering panda-eyed ignoramus whose radioactive charisma, as it were, has driven GOP activists not to mention vapid pundits across the nation (everywhere indeed but in New Jersey itself) into ecstasies of speculation about how his entry into the 2010 Presidential race would set the world on fire and provide no end of trouble for that whisperBlack Man/whisper in our White House. Indeed, not since napping re-animated corpse Fred Thompson's entry into the last Presidential race have we witnessed such premonitory ecstasies from pundits, and we all know how right their tingling body parts slash intuitions proved that time around.

One suspects the reason some concerned citizens might have made the terrible error of mistaking Christie's opinion on the question of the factual status of evolution versus creationism as in some sense "their business" was because last week at a town hall meeting in Manalapan, Christie declared that the decision to teach creationism in public schools should be made at the local level, a position he reiterated today as well.

“Evolution is required teaching,” Christie said. “If there’s a certain school district that also wants to teach creationism, that’s not something we should decide in Trenton.”

Christie mumbled incoherently about how his position is not in any way an endorsement of creationism vis-a-vis evolutionary biology, but rather an endorsement of making decisions about curriculum outside the common core standards at the local level. Ponder for a moment what would have happened if the GOP Governor had declared comparably that teaching 2 + 2 = 4 or 5 in mathematics classes or teaching the Earth is round or flat in geography classes was a decision to be made at the local level without meddling from Big Bad Gu'ment.

I can see the Teatard banners now: Fight Muslim Arithmetic! No More Addition Only Substraction! We Want Social Division Not Long Division!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Contextualizing the Think-Tankification of the Academy

St Petersburg Times:
A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University's economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting "political economy and free enterprise." Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they've funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom. Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control.

Permit me a few scattered comments, most of which could be fully-fledged on their own if I felt an inclination to elaborate them, but which taken together in this more fragmentary state actually better reflect my reaction to this news item:

First, and I suppose most obviously: In the aftermath of the New Deal big business interests overcame their antipathy to and ineptitude at organized political activity (the priorities of profit-driven enterprise tend to be more parochial, proximate, opportunistic, competitive rather than co-operative) and began funding an archipelago of foundations and think-tanks spewing useful propaganda to counter the inconvenient results emerging out of universities. Now, in the present epoch of the pernicious corporatization and for-profit precarization and dumbing-down of the academy, Koch's purchase and control over university hiring and content begins (really, amplifies the long ongoing) re-writing of the academy itself in the image of the think-tanks that originated to combat the academy itself.

Second: Despite their incessant whining to the contrary, of course, it was never the left-wing bias in intellectuals they were combating in creating these alternate institutions (these intellectuals, after all, tend to come from privileged backgrounds or are engaging through their education in a process of upwardly-mobile professionalization, all of which tends to be forcefully prejudicial in the lives of even well-intentioned and progressive-identified people in countless ways, subtle and gross), but what has come jocularly to be known as Reality's "left-wing bias." And so these think-tanks busy themselves with the discounting of consensus scientific results whenever these support the case for regulations in the public interest that diminish profits, peddle faux-populist plutocratic "free-market" nonsense directly to lobbyists, elected representatives, and through mass-media outlets, engage in relentless marketing and promotional discourse selling or at any rate reconciling majorities to policies that benefit incumbent-elites, mobilizing and canalizing deep American currents of white-racism, sex-panic, anti-intellectualism, social distress in the service of voter disenfranchisement, mass-media distraction and disinformation, the maintenance of the plutocratic central economic planning and welfare for the rich programs misleadingly denominated "defense spending," and so on.

Third: That factual reality would have a left-wing bias, all joking aside, derives in a general sort of way from the converging tendencies of contingent universalization that happen to characterize both the publication and testing processes through which consensus science arrives at warranted beliefs as well as the democratization and consensualization processes through which ever more people arrive at ever more of a say in the public decisions that affect them through the provision of an ever more informed and nonduressed scene of consent coupled to ever more equitable access to ever better legitimated alternatives for the nonviolent resolution of disputes.

Fourth: Koch's move isn't unprecedented, actually, but reminds us of the reaction of the Robber Barons to the radical populism of massively best-selling author Henry George and the popular movements his writing inspired (in the company of the extraordinary early influence of Marx and organizing labor, as well as "free men, free labor, free land" Republicanism in post-Civil War America), that is to say, their creation and endowment of formal economics departments in universities across the United States, devoted to the creation and dissemination of laissez-faire sophisms as an official discourse. Of course, this backfired when in the context of the academy this orthodoxy was overturned by the Keynesian Revolution. Hayek and Friedman then began the long slog to re-impose that discredited still-nonsensical laissez-faire orthodoxy, a painful story summarized by the word "neoliberalism" (actually, that is a no less painful oversimplification of the story, but, after all, so was the use of the phrase "Keynesian Revolution" to summarize the no less complex convulsive narrative that preceded it). Anyway, Koch's infiltration is not only the latest episode of the tragic story of neoliberal re-imposition of laissez-faire orthodoxy as plutocratic official discourse but an episode that re-stages the inaugural scene through which that official discourse was first installed as such.

Fifth: When I speak of the dissemination of a phony congenial right-wing alternative reality through the hijacking of the academy, through the combating of the academy by way of the phony scholarship of the bought-and-paid-for pseudo-academy of the think-tank archipelago, and through the opportunistic mass-mediation of right-wing spin, denialism, know-nothingism, social discontent and cultural violence, it should be noted that this critique is not the same thing as nor even properly subsumed under the critique of the Culture Industry by Adorno and the critical theorists or of the Spectacle by Debord and the Situationists (or of Barthean Mythology before them). No, were the academy to regain its autonomy from the parochialism and corruption of profit-making and competitive-military imperatives, were media monopolies broken up and media co-operatives set up to reflect the diversity of experience and expression of communities as well as shared problems and general interests, still the tendencies to reconcile majorities to exploitation, to naturalize the bourgeois status quo, to distract people with pseudo-needs critiques by Adorno, Barthes, Debord and others would remain in force. Right-wing think-tanks, Fox News and right-wing hate-radio, and Movement Republican efforts to privatize, marginalize, commandeer University departments have far more specific historical contexts and effects, they are playing out at a level of concrete specificity which is not the level at which critiques of the fetishized commodity form, the Culture Industry, Benjaminian "Aura," the Situationist Spectacle, and other comparable key Marxist/post-marxist critiques are pitched and it is crucial to grasp and respond to these developments in their actual specificity. (This is not to deny the continued vitality of these more fundamental critiques in their proper precincts, of course.)  

Sixth: Like the return corporate-militarists get for campaign contributions to elected officials (sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in such investments yield billions upon billions in subsidies and profitable deregulation at taxpayer expense), it really is flabbergasting to see how cheap it really can be for incumbent-elites to buy what amounts to a University Department in today's precarized academy with which to indoctrinate a generation of paid shills to champion feudalism in the midst of notional democracy.

Seventh: The organized futurology with which I tend to be preoccupied in this blog should be viewed as of a piece with the right-wing think-tank archipelago. Of course, the really bonkers extremities of superlative futurology that I tend to deride as a Robot Cult archipelago often have more in common with the organizations and subcultures associated with Scientology or Randian Objecitivsm, but sometimes even these extremes have their comparatively well-heeled well-funded facets (Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute is an example of what I mean by comparatively well-heeled superlative futurology, Singularity University is an example of what I mean by comparatively well-funded superlative futurology). Of course, the still techno-fetishistic but more prevalent futurological corporate-militarist foundations and think-tanks peddling neoliberal "development" schemes, liberal eugenic "bioethics," "geo-engineering" diversions, network and robotic "security" measures and so on are the truly dangerous, truly anti-democratizing point of intersection between my anti-futurological arguments and my concerns with the Movement Republican anti-academic institutionalization of a phony congenial right-wing alternative reality.

I'm So Tired

Well, the MA Thesis Symposium that took place Monday and Tuesday all the livelong day over at SFAI went off without a hitch. I'm especially proud of my student Ian, whose Thesis I chaired and who won the Outstanding Thesis Award. Splendid and well-deserved! And now I turn my attention to grading final papers from my Politics and Anti-Politics of Design seminar and norming writing portfolios for the undergraduate writing sequence at SFAI. Undergrad fourth years (some with far more than four years to show for that "fourth year" moniker) I haven't heard from forever suddenly are discovering dusty incompletes barring their graduations that need to be addressed with no time to spare. Graduation events fill the days to come and it means a lot to students and their families to come to them, even if you are feeling that it would be better by far to find a table in the corner of a dark room to hide and hibernate in for a week. And since I'm teaching three summer intensive this year, one my usual Critical Theory survey course at SFAI, but the two at Berkeley both brand new -- an undergraduate critical writing course on nonviolence and an upper division course on the rhetoric of narrative selfhood in graphic novels -- I've got scarcely days to re-read dozens of books, re-think my lecture claims, tinker with syllabi and so on, before I'm back in the saddle again. It's a charmed life I lead, this curious rather precarious nontenured nonbenefited itinerate theoryhead troubadour lecturer's life I've cobbled together by the beautiful Bay, you'll hear few complaints from me on the grand scheme of things, but right about now I really do think I could use a good long nap....

Monday, May 09, 2011

Join Me Today and Tomorrow at the San Francisco Art Institute

MA Thesis Symposium Schedule

Monday

10:30-11:00
Claire Daigle, Director of MA Programs – Welcome
Krista Lynes, Assistant Professor of History and Theory of Contemporary Art – Opening
Comments

11-12:30
Marly Hammer – Reclaiming the Public: Combative Billboards and Text-Based Art Practice
Pamela Campanaro -- Labors of Language: Crafting the Revival of Medium in Contemporary Art
Bokyung Kim – Presence in Present Tense: The Significant Moment in JoAnn Verburg, Carla Shapiro and Kimsooja
Question and Answer Session

12:30-1:30 Lunch

1:30-3
Casey Mouton -- Watts House Project and a Critical Vocabulary for Public Art in Practice
Sally Widdowson – The Potential for Influence: Artists’ Role in Urban Renewal
Heatherly Born -- Contested Terrain: The Historical Impact of Urban Development on African Americans in South Prescott, West Oakland
Question and Answer Session

3-3:15 Break

3:15-4:30
Kim Cook – Beyond Beuys: Defining Social Sculpture Today [presentation: Agents of Change: A Framework for New Methods of Engagement]
Claudia Schidlow – White Cube, Darkened Theater: Experiments in Display for the Projected Image
Melina de Hoyos – Docentry in the 21st Century: The Professionalized Volunteer in Museum Education
Question and Answer Session

Tuesday

10:30-12:30
Ian Alan Paul – Border Politics, Border Poetics
Emily Dippo – Planetary Visions: An Ecofeminist Atlas of Contemporary Site-Specific Art
Faustino Mendonça – The Landless and the Revenge of the Commons in Brazil
Kim Silva -- Those Who Do Not Sit on Golden Chairs: Queering My Barbarian’s PoLAAT Pedagogy in Madrid, Spain
Question and Answer Session

12:30-1:30 Lunch

1:30-3
Charlotte Miller – Gamescapes: Gaming Out Everyday Life in China
Meredith C. MacKenzie -- The Real Housework: Domestic Servitude in Postidentity TV Culture
Frida Cano Domínquez* – Mainsdream – A Reality that Overwhelms Dreams
Question and Answer Session

3-3:15 Break

3:15-4:30
Karl Nelson – Storyboarding: Light with Form: The Rise of an Epidermal Media
Allison Blomerth – Uprooted: Institutionalizing Grassroots and Ephemeral Art Practice in MoCA’s WACK! and Out of Actions
E. Maude Haak-Frendscho – Social Meal Spaces in Contemporary Art: Discursive and
Methodological Strategies for a New Critical Approach
Question and Answer Session

Thanks, Awarding of Outstanding Thesis

4:30-6 Celebration, SFAI Quad

*Fundación Colección Jumex Scholar and Recipient of the Program Beca para Estudios en el Extranjero 2010-2011 del Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes

Sunday, May 08, 2011

More Signs of the Singularity! (Damn You Auto Correct! Edition)

Damn You Auto Correct!

Among the transhumanists and singularitarians and techno-immortalists of the Robot Cult, there are many "serious futurologists" who seriously believe that a real person cartoonishly represented in crappy code that like-minded futurological sociopaths happen to be too inept to distinguish from the real person would through such an operation be techno-transubstantiated and techno-transcendentalized thereby into immortality in cyber-heaven (they have the pie charts). It is of course no easy matter to imaginatively inhabit the mind of a person so flabbergastingly deluded or deranged as that on the best of days, but dipping into a site like DYAC for a few minutes makes entertaining such facile fancies that much more hilariously impossible still for all but the Truest True Believers in the coming Robot God and the Singularity that Will End History and Deliver the Techno-Faithful unto Holodeck Heaven.

Reactionary Robot Cultists (Again)

Some folks in the Moot and elsewhere are expressing surprise -- others, who've been around longer, are expressing amusement -- at the drift into conventional reactionary politics in the statements of certain high-profile Robot Cultists who, however silly the futurological moonshine they've been peddling, had at least seemed (or at any rate protested in public places to be) more reasonably progressive in their political viewpoints.

In my view, futurological discourses are best understood as hyperbolic variations on mainstream neoliberal corporate-military "developmentalist" rationalizations and amplified variations of the conventional norms and forms of marketing and promotional discourse (in the most extreme superlative variations of futurology I deride as Robot Cultism that amplification of advertising hype actually takes on transcendentalizing and hence quasi-theological tonalities), and it really shouldn't be that surprising to stumble onto structural affinities of such discourse to right-wing rhetoric after all.

As one of my Futurological Brickbats puts the point more brutally: "To speak of "The Future" is always to indulge in reaction. All futurisms are finally retro-futurisms."

A few years back, I elaborated some of the structural connections between futurology and anti-democracy here, for those who are interested or need reminding.

Of course there are a handful of self-identified radical leftists with a high profile in the Robot Cult archipelago, poor things, but I must say it takes a rather dim bulb (or perhaps an especially desperate person, afraid of death, eager for attention, happy to be in on the scam for once, whatever it may be) to mistake what amounts to an epic-scaled late-nite boner pill ad for a utopian vision of the revolutionary left.

Just to be clear, for the millionth time: Advocating for the "rights" of software doesn't put you on the cutting edge of a civil rights movement, it expresses sociopathic disdain for actually existing, actually exploited and precarious planetary peers -- Pining for a Robot God to End History and solve all our problems for us is straightfoward authoritarian navel gazing -- Dreaming of nanosanta overcoming the impasse of poverty isn't a form socialism but of rank acquiescence to the bloodstained status quo -- And handwaving about your "geo-engineering" wet-dreams is a particularly egregious form of corporate-militarist greenwashing, hardly a more radical and hardboiled realist variation of environmentalism.

To pretend otherwise is at best pathetic, at worst, outright pernicious.

For Mother's Day

Saturday, May 07, 2011

It's Not My Friend, the End

I'm off to the City for another dress rehearsal, this one more informal at least, of the Symposium my MA Thesis cohort are going to be presenting for next week. End of term is littered with day-consuming events like this, and grading deadlines, and frantic students suddenly re-emerging from obscurity to question incompletes that stand between them and graduation, and looming obscurely ahead the prospect of summer intensives I have yet to prepare for at all...

Friday, May 06, 2011

Futurological Brickbats

It is only a magical universe that can be a tragical one. The scientific imaginary cranks out nothing but consumers and coincidences. "Coincidence" is so much the spell that dispels magic it is easy to confuse its charm with the magic it displaces. And while it is true that science's toypile can never connect consumers with Heaven, Job's dungheap never managed that trick for sinners either.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Robot Cult Conceits

Upgraded and Adapted from the Moot:

Yes, it is the familiar Robot Cult gambit...

First, repackage a commonplace with a neologism (as when healthcare becomes "longevism" or "immortalism," network security becomes "Friendly AI," molecular biochemistry or materials science becomes "nanotech," and so on), then

Second, invest the neologism with quasi-religious transcendental significance (paradise, ascension, resurrection, immortality, superabundance, omniscience/super-intelligence), meanwhile

Third, rely on the original commonplace for whatever plausibility you need to sell whatever futurological scam you are on about -- be it singularitarianism, utility fog, post-human enhancement, whatever -- (after all, healthcare, security, biochemistry are palpably real and interesting enough) and then usually

Fourth, draw not only on such disavowed commonplaces but also from the intuitive plausibility arising from the citation of age-old narrative, figurative, topological conceits that freight the western magickal/technological imaginary -- from prometheus, icarus, the fountain of youth, faust, to frankenstein, the golem, the sorcerer's apprentice, the philosopher's stone, brave new world, and so on and so forth...

Repeat ad nauseum.

Response to a Critic

From a post entitled Nick Bostrom Makes Me Wonder Whether I'm Really a Transhumanist from a blog called Queering the Singularity:
This post comes as a response to rereading Bostrom and Dale Carrico for the last session of David Correia‘s class on cyborg society and techno-futures…. Dale Carrico, on the other hand, inspires me to wear the transhumanist identity proudly. Though to be fair ey has encouraged me to rethink my engagement with the Singularity scene, eir utter disdain for ambitious social transformation convinces me of the revolutionary potential in transhumanism. Carrico’s dismissal of the desire to overcome biological limits such as aging as insane and infantile demonstrates the ideology’s distinctiveness despite eir fervent protests to the contrary. Ey contradicts himself by claiming transhumanists offer nothing new yet simultaneously constitute a pernicious robot death cult.


Here is what I had to say about this. The blog's proprietor moderates comments, as do I, and mine has not yet appeared there. (UPDATE: My comment has not yet appeared, though another, submitted later, has, so poosibly mine did not "pass muster," a matter which I am content to let readers ponder the significance of to their own amusement.) I've corrected a couple of grammatical errors and added some links in the following:

"I'm assuming the piece of mine you read actually provided a critique of futurology? Clicking the link in your post here just sent me to my blog -- a blog in which I talk about lots of political, philosophical, and pop cultural topics remote from the subjects of futurology, robot cults, technoscience I would scarcely expect transhumanists to care about particularly...

"Let me add, as an advocate of the planetary provision of universal healthcare, lifelong education, and basic guaranteed income, as well as the democratization of global governance currently beholden to incumbent-elite corporate-military interests, it is patently ridiculous for you to accuse me of "utter disdain for ambitious social transformation" just because I don't buy into your own pet techno-transcendentalizing hopes.

"As an advocate of healthcare, scientific research, and actually informed, non-duressed consensual prosthetic self-determination (of a piece with my advocacy of pro-choice and multicultural politics more generally), it is simply straightforwardly weird for you to ascribe to me hostility to overcoming disease and biological distress. Any honest reader of mine knows I disapprove what I take to be the eugenic pretense of transhumanists that they know in advance of what 'enhancement' necessarily consists when these values are crucially under contestation.

"I also do indeed regard transhumanist preoccupations with immortality, omniscience, and invulnerability to be facile citations of the age-old deceptions of authoritarian organized religiosity. As I have said many times before the technodevelopmental calling into question of biological limits does not end human finitude but expresses it, as we no longer know exactly what our limits are and what they mean. You'll forgive me if I do not turn to the circus barkers of transhumanism for insights into such dilemmas.

"Denialism, reductionism, scientism, technological determinism, parochialism are none of them new, but they are plenty pernicious come what may, and in extreme subcultures can readily lend themselves to authoritarian and even cult-like formations. No doubt it is my own "insanity" and "infantilism" that blinds me to the contradiction expressed in pointing out such a truism."

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Queer Manifestations

There are queerer things in heaven and earth, Gay-ratio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Here I've corralled together many posts I've written over the lifetime of this blog that tend toward queergeekery and genderfuckery (with some additional odds and ends)....

Snowball’s Chance in Hell (Holiday Cackles from the Balcony), December 25, 2004

Conservative Wants to Enslave Women to Make More Gay Babies, February, 2005

The Random Wilde ("The Queen Is Not a Subject" -- Redux Edition), March, 2005

Technoprogressive ARTs, October, 2005

Technology Is Making Queers Of Us All, March, 2006

Keep Your Laws Off My Body, March, 2006

The Real Scandal is that the Scandal is About Sex Rather Than Torture , October, 2006

Cackles from the Balcony: San Francisco Uber Alles Edition, January, 2007

"Post-Gender" or Gender Poets? April, 2008

Honoring Service, Because Freedom Isn't Free, November, 2008

Marriage? No, Thanks! The Right to Marry? You Bet I'll Fight for It! December, 2008

Obama's Gay Pride Parade from Hell, June, 2009

"Same Sex", December, 2009

"genderqueer," March, 2010

The Populist Politics of Expressivity, Right and Left, and the Equitable Left Since 1968, January, 2011

Can Queer Radicalisms Be Enabled by Gay Assimilationist Politics? February, 2011

Gay Assimilation, Queer Emancipation, and the Dialectic Demolition of the Closet, March, 2011

Marriage Equality Tide Sets Stage For This Year's Pride, June, 2011

Queer Projector: An Honor (and Dishonor) Roll of Queer Film Recommendations, July, 2011

Every Jock Is A Puke... And Why This Matters, August, 2011

Transhuman Transsex, September, 2011

"Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again," May, 2012

Robot Cultist Thinks There's Something Revolutionary About A Skeletally Thin "Androgynous" White Guy Being A Successful Model, June, 2012.

Using Queer Strategies to Overcome the Violence and Misinformation of the Anti-Abortion Zealots, July, 2012

Prosthetic Sex/Gender and Healthcare Politics, December, 2012

What Is Patriarchy? December, 2012

Anarcho-Anti-Sexist Robot Cultist Decides Feminism Is Too Hard, Declares Himself A Robot, December, 2012

The Coming Gaybagger Wave, April, 2013

All Patriarchy Is Eugenic, April, 2013

Finally, Republicans Discover A Tax They Can Love -- One That Expresses Their Hatred of Women

A funny thing happened in the House of Representatives while they thought everybody was still distracted and slobbering over the corpse of Osama bin Laden…

ThinkProgress:
In a 251 to 175 vote this evening, 16 anti-choice Democrats joined every House Republican present in passing H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act. A chief weapon in the House GOP’s “comprehensive assault” on women this bill proposes some of the most radical and draconian restrictions on women’s rights. They include:

-- Redefinition Of Rape: The bill sponsor Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)… tried to narrow the definition rape to “forcible rape” … to prevent the following situations from consideration: Women who say no but do not physically fight off the perpetrator, women who are drugged or verbally threatened and raped, and minors impregnated by adults. Smith promised to remove the language and… it is not technically in the bill, [but] House Republicans… insert[ed] a “backdoor reintroduction” of redefinition language. Essentially, if the bill is challenged in court, judges will look at the congressional committee report to determine intent. The committee report… says the bill will “not allow the Federal Government to subsidize abortions in cases of statutory rape” -- thus excluding statutory rape-related abortions from Medicaid coverage.

-- Tax Increase On Women And Small Businesses: H.R. 3 prevents women from using “itemized medical deductions, certain tax-advantaged health care accounts or tax credits included in last year’s health care law to pay for abortions or for health insurance plans that cover abortion.” In doing so, the bill forces women and small businesses that provide health insurance that covers abortion to pay more in taxes than they would otherwise. Both economic conservative Grover Norquist and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce noted that the bill is basically a tax increase.

-- Rape Audits: Because H.R. 3 bans using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or insurance, a woman who used such a benefit would have to prove, if audited, that her abortion “fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.” Essentially, the bill turns Internal Revenue Service agents into “abortion cops” who would force women to give “contemporaneous written documentation” that it was “incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger” that compelled an abortion.

-- Bans D.C.-Funded Abortions: The most recent spending resolution contained a ban on abortions in the District of Columbia by redefining the D.C. local government as the federal government. Thus, health clinics in D.C. are banned from using public funds from D.C. taxpayers to provide abortion services. H.R. 3…

In Hell

According to CNN, a majority of Americans say they think Osama bin Laden is in Hell. According to a survey of my own feelings upon reading this result, a majority of the time I think I am in Hell.

Glad to be Wrong

I think I was wrong.

You know, I was a raw nerve of distress and ambivalence upon hearing the news of bin Laden's death. I can't say that I was upset to hear he was dead, by any means, given all the suffering and destruction he was directly responsible for and eager to bring about in the future.

But I also happen to know the difference between justice and retribution, I know that retribution leads nowhere good, that it is difficult to end cycles of violence but that this is always difficult work worth trying since the alternative is always incomparably worse.

Also, I strongly oppose the death penalty -- and not just because it is ruinously expensive and inevitably inequitably administered and prone to tragic miscarriages of justice easily as devastating as the injustices it pretends to be equal to without ever rectifying those injustices even when it proceeds "smoothly," but also because I don't think states should be in the comfortable death administration business and regard it as crucially democratizing to circumscribe their agency in this way -- and, by the way, I am not particularly bamboozled by the substitution of the word "assassination" for "capital punishment."

So, anyway, bin Laden was dead, and I found myself thinking of all the stupidity and death and crowing patriotic bloodlust and waste on so many sides occasioned by, focused on, arising from this man, and I felt sad and ambivalent, and sad at my ambivalence, and ambivalent at my sadness, and so on and so forth in my usually muddled way.

And then I started seeing these news reports of spontaneous gatherings of folks that I was being told were growing explosively, and the faces were overwhelmingly the faces of young people (I didn't notice the rather telling difference in the diversity of these faces as compared with the greater diversity of the cities in which they were being declared to be so representative, by the way, or the specificities of the campuses where these rallies were taking place as compared to the ones where they did not), and hearing the rather terrorizing roar of those gatherings, hearing the barking dog whooping of USA! USA! seeing all these young people weeping and grinning and jumping up and down as the punditocrats declared that across America's college campuses, "everywhere," similar gatherings were erupting and then went on to offer their pious gimcrack pop-psychological explanations of this "phenomenon" as if it were true.

It now appears to me that these celebrations were not so widespread as reported, that many were more subdued than the pep rallies that drew the cameras of our vapid insipid media sensationalists, and that I obviously should not have accepted the word of such out-of-touch usually-wrong pundits that the same frat boys and party animals who take any occasion at all to whoop it up did so again upon hearing of the death of bin Laden somehow constituted The Authentic and Monolithic Voice of An American Generation.

Of course, I have heard much more thoughtful responses from Americans of all ages and regions and persuasions since that night. I've read lots of intelligent, sensitive, sarcastic commentary that makes me feel much less a stranger in a strange land the last couple of days (some of it right here in the Moot). I daresay it is not so surprising when all is said and done to realize that thoughtful decent people were not out-shouting the yahoos on the streets when bin Laden was killed and hamming it up for the cameras. They would scarcely be thoughtful decent people were they doing so, after all.

I think I swallowed a dumb-dumb corporate-media narrative (the ugly misbegotten stupidity of which was no doubt just ignorant and inertial more than conspiratorial in its dynamics) is what I think I did. I was upset and lost my head and swallowed too uncritically the hairball the media coughed up on the spot and came momentarily to inhabit the vulnerable emotional incoherent ignorant mind-set of the classic American "Independent Voter": You know, a complete fucking idiot.

I feel a bit better now.

Marco Rubio Sells Us Some Truth

Steve Benen:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made his "Meet the Press" debut the other day, and was asked about his support for the Republican plan to end Medicare. Given the number of retirees in Florida, Rubio's position is of particular interest. He responded that the GOP proposal "doesn't cut Medicare," adding, "The only people in this town that have voted to cut Medicare spending are the people who voted in favor of Obamacare. That's a fact."

The Ryan budget ends Medicare as we know it. Seniors will be forced to assume the costs of endlessly rising healthcare costs, and the ones who cannot will die on the streets exactly as they did before the program came into existence.

These programs were hated by Republicans much more than the spectacle of poor seniors dying in the streets before they were implemented and throughout the entire existence of these programs Republican leaders hated them as well, with perfect consistency. Republicans hate the very idea of any government that equitably administers to shared human needs.

How many times do Republicans have to say this over and over and over before it occurs to people who will suffer and die pointlessly if Republicans get to do what they want that they really want to do what they keep saying they want to do? One idly wonders.

So, you're an evil lying greedhead Republican asshole like Rubio and you get called on supporting the end of Medicare in a state thronged with vulnerable older Americans whose interests who pretend to represent? Just lie. Lie about it. You know, brazen it out, show conviction, flat out deny the truth, and then repeat the denial in an easy to remember sloganeering kind of way your victims will take up themselves as you lead them to slaughter and pick their pockets.

Rubio's supplemental accusation that it is healthcare reform itself -- you know, blackmanistan islamofascist "Obamacare" -- that really ends Medicare. What the fraught passage of healthcare reform begins to do is lower healthcare costs and eliminate egregiously evil abuses of coverage that freight our inexplicably stupid for-profit insurance and healthcare system, in defiance of the supremely superior systems elsewhere in the world, an address of costs and crimes which happen, among other things, to be the only actually possible way to preserve Medicare and other indispensable and cherished entitlement programs once we move beyond frankly idiotic market fundamentalist slogans, not to mention address the budget deficit Republicans pretend to care about as they lard super-rich parasites they actually work for with more and more treasure and power ballooning deficits ever ruinously higher and higher.

Rubio's glib lie that Obamacare ends Medicare is, of course, just the repetition of another lie, already repeated so often it has assumed the pseudo-substance of "truthiness" (this is what Rubio means by "a fact") for those who don't understand or care to understand the actual issues involved even the slightest bit.

Just so you know, Rubio is very smart to say all this, smart the way smarmy scum bags are smart, not, you know, smart in the sense of sensible or anything, because Rubio is very likely to succeed in his gambit -- media pundits are in the main too vapid to call him on anything, his constituents are in the main too ignorant to call him on anything, his likely opponents are likely to be too timid or compromised to call him on anything and even were they to do so they would likely retreat to utterly ineffective wonk speak untranslatable into making a case on a campaign trail or in the scrum of actual governance.

The real story of Rubio's debut on Meet the Press is that he exposed himself as a profoundly evil man bent on the destruction of countless citizens whose interests he would claim to represent and who is more than happy to lie with a skull-head smile right to your innocent face as he signs your death warrant and pockets your cash. Word in the Village is that he's a rising star who made a very impressive showing.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Today

The students of my MA Thesis cohort this year are having a dress rehearsal of their year-end symposium (about which, more later, all are invited), and I'll be in the City most of the day for that, so light posting, late posting for the day…

Monday, May 02, 2011

After A Fitful Night's Sleep, Some Perspective

I still think the whole howling frat party atmosphere that erupted in the aftermath of the news of our slaughter of the personification of evil last night -- price tag in the trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives though it be -- was disturbing, disproportionate, and unseemly, but if all this means we can now declare victory and end the wars and have our Constitution and our country back, well, I don't have to understand it, I'll take it. I am certainly grateful, if for nothing else, that this event has curtailed another week's distended contemplation of the awful Royal Wedding -- an event conclusively summarized for me by Jason Sklar's comment, "It's like a Tyler Perry movie with white people."

Sunday, May 01, 2011

I Don't Understand Anything

Mobs of ecstatic weeping cheering flag-waving Americans are appearing spontaneously in front of the White House and at the World Trade Center site and who knows where else.… I am hearing people say that a chapter has ended for the American people, a whole generation is turning a page, that America is united in celebration….

I have to tell you, I cannot even begin to grasp how people could be declaring, as they are doing, one after another, that the death of bin Laden is the most important moment in the Obama Administration. Even granting the obvious symbolic momentousness of all this, freighting as it does the eighth anniversary of Bush's declaration of "Mission Accomplished" and so on and so forth, I have to say I personally think that there have been at least dozens of legislative victories and defeats that seem to me incomparably more significant, in terms of the effects that will be felt in the lives of millions and millions of people….

Pundits are proposing that it is now possible as it hasn't been before to leave Afghanistan and Iraq in earnest, and if that is true of course that is all to the good. And if long-suffering people can truly begin to heal the wounds opened in and by our recent painful history of terror, war, and occupation, then of course again I am happy that is true.

I am hopeful that the mourning to which Obama referred in his brief speech tonight may begin to do its long-deferred healing work, re-opening Americans in our shared vulnerability as human beings to connection with the fellow-sufferers among Americans of all parties and persuasions and among those denounced for so long as nothing but enemies as well....

But I cannot claim to understand why this is the night for such possibilities, why this is the event that renews this hopefulness, why this is the Presidential announcement that would unlock these possibilities, why this killing, however justified it might be, would unleash these howling ferocious unifying celebratory energies….

There are times when I am proud of the effort I have taken to understand what is happening in the world and the understanding that effort has rewarded me with, but on a night like this I have to admit I don't think I understand anything at all, I don't understand my fellow citizens at all, I don't understand what is going on in people's heads.

9/11 was terrible, but so was America's reaction to it, and I feel it again tonight, whatever the manifold complexities in play, there is something truly terrible in this night, and I for one feel nothing so much as confusion and fear….

The Future of Facebook

Apparently a coterie of futurological experts (that is to say corporate-military apologists conveniently pretending expertise in something that doesn't exist, namely, "The Future") have convened an oh-so-timely Future of Facebook project. While I would never declare myself to be a "social technology thinker" or "professional futurist" or "thought leader," of all things -- being an academically trained philosopher and rhetorician focused on environmental justice, peer-to-peer political formations, and science and technology studies is quite ridiculous enough already, thanks -- I will nonetheless offer up my own lame prophetic utterance on this question. I predict that the future of facebook is the same as the past of facebook. One word: geocities.

Futurological Mad Men

Terry Eagleton's new book is full of surprises. For one thing, for a book entitled Why Marx Was Right, Eagleton spends quite a lot of time describing the ways in which Marx was wrong, or at any rate arguing with himself in ways that often placed him in the wrong (familiar criticisms that his viewpoint was reductionist, determinist, triumphalist, and so on are not so much dispatched as demonstrated to be more ambivalent for Marx than detractors would have them be).

But the real treat for me is Eagleton's unexpected occasional skewering of futurological conceits. "Capitalism is incapable of inventing a future which does not ritually reproduce its present," writes Eagleton at one point, a sentiment with which I would concur (indeed, I wish I had written it and could include it among my Futurological Brickbats). Like it though I do, I must say it is hard to see how a Marxist like Eagleton could believe such a thing himself, inasmuch as communism is presumably indispensably indebted to capitalism for its own emergence and so at least one possibility other than the ritual reproduction of its present really must be possible on his terms. (Although my own democratic socialism -- if that's what it is -- is not by any stretch virulently anti-marxist, neither am I anything like a proper Marxist, so I can agree with Eagleton's one-liner here quite comfortably myself, even if I'm not sure how he can.)

And the book's anti-futurological hits surprisingly keep coming, much to my own delight. Here is my favorite so far:
Foretelling the future, however, is not only pointless; it can actually be destructive. To have power even over the future is a way of giving ourselves a false sense of security. It is a way of shielding ourselves from the open-ended nature of the present, with all its precariousness and unpredictability. It is to use the future as a kind of fetish…. The true soothsayers of our time are not hairy, howling outcasts luridly foretelling the death of capitalism, but the experts hired by transnational corporations to peer into the entrails of the system and assure its rulers that their profits are safe for another ten years…. It is a mistake to believe that the biblical prophets sought to predict the future. Rather, the prophet denounces the greed, corruption and power-mongering of the present, warning us that unless we change our ways we might well have no future at all…

It is an incredibly rich passage, touching all at once on many topics that preoccupy my own attention (for instance here and here). Needless to say, Eagleton's conjuration of "experts hired by transnational corporations to peer into the entrails of the system and assure its rulers that their profits are safe" describes all too well The Futurological Congress of so-called professional futurists against whom I rail so regularly here.

What I would emphasize in my own supplement to Eagleton's jeremiad, is that the reassurance provided by professional futurists to corporate-military incumbent elites is not essentially a matter of complimentary sycophancy (though there is usually revoltingly plenty of that) but literally of promotional enablement:

When the futurists offer up their PowerPoint "scenarios" and growth-graphs arrowing upward to Infinity and Beyond and their neologistic jazz-riffs in air conditioned board rooms and in online tube-talks what they are doing is essentially of a piece with what mainstream advertising discourse is also doing when it reassures consumers that the endless re-cycling of trashed fashions and re-packaging of crap products and re-branding of the stasis is new! and improved! that we are all of us not mired in present distress so much as we are lucky passengers on a rocket-ship to The Future!

The futurological pre-occupations with promises of longevity are precisely mirrored in the models in labcoats around whom CGI-molecular models swirl in mainstream commercials for skin creams, the futurological pre-occupations with nanotechnology and robots suffuse the brand-names and advertizing for everything from phones to chewing gum to sweat pants, the futurological pre-occupations with fields of windmills and solar panels and sunflowers are precisely mirrored in the promotional imagery through which petroleum company brochures and commercials declare their solemn responsibilities even as their actual budgets and profits reflect very different priorities indeed, and in an epoch when the shuttle is bidding us farewell, when the Concorde is a distant memory, and our commercial air fleet is shaking itself to pieces before our eyes the copy of the futurologists and ad men still throngs with chrome spaceships disgorging gorgeous orange plumes and vast elaborate space-stations floating above the planet like pale lily-pads sparkling with Christmas-tree lights, the windows revealing glimpses of slim jet-setters with cocktails and square-jawed Republicans in uniforms.

The disavowal of the present parochially served through the futurological is rightly monikered by Eagleton "a kind of fetish" -- and for any serious reader of Marx, let alone Freud, one can only add, "and how!" (about which I have more to say here).

Annalee Newitz once proclaimed that science fiction was the entertainment wing of futurology. Pointing out the relation really was a crucial insight, even if, not to put too fine a point on it, she got the terms of the relation itself exactly backwards. Of course, what futurology actually happens to be is the promotional and marketing subgenre of science fiction literature.

That futurology peddles itself as a kind of policy discourse rather than the hyperbolic mobilization of greedy and anxious consumer affect onto perversely techno-stylized crap has no small whiff of the fraudulent about it, as does its disavowal of its inevitable beneficiaries, incumbent-elite corporate-military interests. But, of course, futurology shares precisely these traits with the advertising discourse under which it is properly subsumed more generally.

The present is a contingent accomplishment, always resonating in its vital substance to the ineradicable diversity of the stakeholders who contest over its terms. Futurity, in my own account, names the radical openness inhering in presence attesting to this threatening promising contestation substantiating the present.

"The Future" is always a surrogate commentary on the present, drawing its energy from the passions and anxieties of that present the disavowal of whose terms only unmoors and amplifies their potency, or it is a way to peddle crap in the present through a kind of transubstantiation of that crap, by much the same means, for as long as it takes to make the sale, into magic.