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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

State of the Blog 2011

The post that has attracted consistently the most attention to this blog was actually written last year, Full Monty "Geo-Engineering", and the splash page for my Condensed Critique of Transhumanism also seems to be a pretty consistent draw.

By far the most widely read post for this year has been Belgium Is Not Anarchy; Or, Scattered Speculations on the Radical Democratic Imaginary Against the Anarchic Imaginary. That this post was this year's big winner came as a complete surprise, but I am content with the readers' choice, it wasn't a puff piece or anything.

The trend since 2006 (I started Amor Mundi 2004) of posting one to two hundred more posts each year than the year prior has continued on in 2011, suggesting that this strange blogging compulsion of mine has grown still more insistent if anything.

Of course, I could attribute this year's growth entirely to the almost daily posting of Fool Me Tee Vee wisecracks -- since these now number nearly two hundred. They are all anthologized together, chronologically, here. I have noticed that reading them cumulatively produced rather a different effect than peeking on them one at a time each morning does.

Thanks to all my readers, ephemeral and regular, disgruntled and sympathetic, and especially to Friends of Blog like "JimF" and "jollyspaniard" and "Chad Lott" and always always always Eric and others who post provocations in the Moot even knowing how cranky my off-the-cuff responses tend to be. Live long and prosper, Amorous Mundyites!

Chickens, Meet Roost (Gingrich Edition)

"Politics has become a really nasty, vicious, negative business and I think it's disgusting and I think it's dishonest." -- Newt Gingrich, in an interview with ABC News.
Language: A Key Mechanism of Control

Newt Gingrich's 1996 GOPAC memo

As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that "language matters." In the video "We are a Majority," Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: "I wish I could speak like Newt."

That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.

This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.

While the list could be the size of the latest "College Edition" dictionary, we have attempted to keep it small enough to be readily useful yet large enough to be broadly functional. The list is divided into two sections:

Optimistic Positive Governing words and phrases to help describe your vision for the future of your community (your message) and Contrasting words to help you clearly define the policies and record of your opponent and the Democratic party.

Please let us know if you have any other suggestions or additions. We would also like to know how you use the list. Call us at GOPAC or write with your suggestions and comments. We may include them in the next tape mailing so that others can benefit from your knowledge and experience.

Optimistic Positive Governing Words

Use the list below to help define your campaign and your vision of public service. These words can help give extra power to your message. In addition, these words help develop the positive side of the contrast you should create with your opponent, giving your community something to vote for!
• active(ly)
• activist
• building
• candid(ly)
• care(ing)
• challenge
• change
• children
• choice/choose
• citizen
• commitment
• common sense
• compete
• confident
• conflict
• control
• courage
• crusade
• debate
• dream
• duty
• eliminate good-time in prison
• empower(ment)
• fair
• family
• freedom
• hard work
• help
• humane
• incentive
• initiative
• lead
• learn
• legacy
• liberty
• light
• listen
• mobilize
• moral
• movement
• opportunity
• passionate
• peace
• pioneer
• precious
• premise
• preserve
• principle(d)
• pristine
• pro- (issue): flag, children, environment, reform
• prosperity
• protect
• proud/pride
• provide
• reform
• rights
• share
• strength
• success
• tough
• truth
• unique
• vision
• we/us/our
Contrasting Words

Often we search hard for words to define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast.

Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.
• abuse of power
• anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
• betray
• bizarre
• bosses
• bureaucracy
• cheat
• coercion
• "compassion" is not enough
• collapse(ing)
• consequences
• corrupt
• corruption
• criminal rights
• crisis
• cynicism
• decay
• deeper
• destroy
• destructive
• devour
• disgrace
• endanger
• excuses
• failure (fail)
• greed
• hypocrisy
• ideological
• impose
• incompetent
• insecure
• insensitive
• intolerant
• liberal
• lie
• limit(s)
• machine
• mandate(s)
• obsolete
• pathetic
• patronage
• permissive attitude
• pessimistic
• punish (poor ...)
• radical
• red tape
• self-serving
• selfish
• sensationalists
• shallow
• shame
• sick
• spend(ing)
• stagnation
• status quo
• steal
• taxes
• they/them
• threaten
• traitors
• unionized
• urgent (cy)
• waste
• welfare

ABBA New Year To All!

Another Amor Mundi holiday tradition!

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Tee Vee young is not real young, Tee Vee ugly is not real ugly, Tee Vee intelligent is not real intelligent.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

[T]hough one can dine in New York, one could not dwell there.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Killer Clown Top Ten

Krugman Is Right

Keynes Was Right.

Romney's Run Is Gonna Be Ugly As Sin

So, it seems that Mitt Romney's clone, er, "son," "Matt," is now demanding that President Obama release his birth certificate and grades presumably because Americans have a right to know about how he is a Kenyan Muslim and stuff and how, you know, he may seem all smart and stuff but really he is stupid and owes everything to teleprompters and affirmative action that keeps The White Man down and stuff… oh, wait, actually, all of this material has already been released and endlessly mulled already despite the utterly obvious outrageous ugly racism out of which such demands inevitably originate.

And apparently the NRA's fundraising is mushrooming as the gun-nuts pull out all the stops to defeat the Obama, since he wants to take away all their guns and proposed all that popular commonsense gun regulation in the aftermath of the Giffords shooting… oh, wait, actually he shows no sign of wanting to do anything like that (supremely sensible though it would be if he were to do so) and none of that happened at all.

Of course, Romney actually kicked off his 2012 campaign with an egregiously obvious deception the exposure of which demonstrated Romney was not even particularly interested in the fact that he lied and certainly not apologetic about it, followed by Romney accusing Obama (and a few of his Republican zealot colleagues) of being Communists for not thinking financial fraud and outsourcing is totally awesome… oh, wait, wasn't Romney supposed to be the sensible electable moderate compared to all the fulminating loonies around him in the GOP this year?

There's no way around it: given the unthinking depths to which Movement Republicanism has plunged the GOP, 2012 is going to be full of evil lies and racism and the kind of relentless idiocy that makes everybody with a brain and heart well nigh suicidal.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Actually, no, your cleaning product isn't in any available sense revolutionary.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

I never came across anyone in whom the moral sense was dominant who was not heartless, cruel, vindictive, log-stupid, and entirely lacking in the smallest sense of humanity.

Who Would You Save and Who Would You Kill?

You can go back in history and save one person from untimely death, but then in exchange you must kill another person (also now dead) before they managed their mischief, to right the karmic scale. So, who do you choose?

I'll go first!

Save? Bobby Kennedy.

Kill? Alice Rosenbaum, before she became known as Ayn Rand.

Anybody else want to play?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Obama - Clinton 2012 Nonsense

Robert Reich is making the latest of many predictions-slash-wishfulfillment fantasies that Biden and Clinton might switch places on the 2012 ticket (I indulged in this very speculation myself, way back on November 15, 2008, as it happens). I think this sort of provocation is harmless enough, rather like watching funny YouTube clips at work when there's nothing else to do. Reich's between terms and wants a little attention now that he doesn't have office hours to hold. The Republicans have been such a loud garish technicolor atrocity exhibition, it's easy to see Dem wonks want to have a little fun, too, blow off some steam.

But, really, people, this is not serious speculation. Why on earth would Obama signal weakness going in to 2012 with such a dramatic shift? Why feed the inevitable White House in disarray narrative, especially when one of Obama's strengths is that the GOP is so palpably... in disarray? But beyond all that... people, people! All the Obama - Biden 2012 swag is already printed up. The buttons, the t-shirts, the stickers, the letter head, the coffee mugs, the baby unitards, the whole nine. That stuff didn't roll out as some clever head fake to set the stage for a Democratic Convention stunner. That's boredom talking. Focus, people. Obama's gonna win, but we've got a Senate to hold and a House to re-take. There's work to do.

Idly Pining for a More Parliamentary Form in the USA

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot longtime friend of blog "jollyspaniard" writes:
The useful idiots in the GOP base are now the GOPs own worst enemy. Good luck taking control of both houses though. I used to think that America had the best designed Democracy on paper. Not anymore.
It's hard to disagree with you about that! Just look at the catastrophe of the profoundly anti-democratic Electoral College, for one thing. But ugly as was the plutocratic sentiment that inspired the inept Electoral College (and the appointment rather than election of the original Senators) I actually think so many of the Founders' anti-factional fears may have introduced some of the worst blind spots into the Constitutional framework as well. Needless to say, the very factionalism they sanctimoniously bloviated against and refused to account for already had a hand in allotting the electoral votes that made Washington President and by the Adams and Jefferson election full-on party politics already brought the fledgling Republic to the brink of utter dysfunction.

Since we are not just electing "representatives" but "Administrations" (a term that implies a basic capacity to accomplish the actual work of establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility, providing defense, promoting general welfare) I must say that the Parliamentary Democracies do seem to have gotten some of it better than us, generally speaking. I do think it would be better, for example, if every four years in electing an Executive Ticket we voted in not only a President and Vice-President of a party with a clear platform clearly contrasted with alternatives and with a real mandate, but also the Speaker of the House and with the Vice-President functioning not just as the occasional tie-breaker but as the Senate's Majority Leader.

The power of the Leaders of the House and Senate over the running of the meetings and composition of committees and so on would give the Party in power the ability to implement, within limits, the program their election mandated, while also giving them powers to check tendencies in the Opposition to abuse rules to create dysfunction. The periodical regularity of elections would check abuses of the Party in Power. In moments of divided government when the Executive presided over majorities of other parties in Opposition, the majority would have the power to force real compromises on the Administration but not abuse rules to grind the people's business to a halt. Especially in a mass media environment, our present system invites dysfunction and disinformation -- and gets it.

By the way, I am still a booster for publicly funded campaigns and instant run-off voting and same-day registration in every state and an Election Day holiday and all the rest of the reforms one tends to hear championed by those who want to get money out of our hopelessly corrupted system and who want to break the present two-party system but in a way that doesn't always render third-parties functional spoilers always undermining our intentions as happens now. But I think your comment referred to even deeper problems in our Constitution that even such wholesomely and radically democratizing reforms would fail to address.

Of course, campaigns for publicly funded elections and instant-runoff are already an incredibly hard slog, as are important ongoing efforts to switch from the electoral college to the popular vote state-by-state. I don't even think campaigns to make our system less dysfunctional and more parliamentary are even on anybody's radar screens, and they could hardly be described as organizational priorities given everything else afoot. So this post should be taken in a completely philosophical spirit with no real practical substance, except insofar as it might usefully illuninate certain structural difficulties we deal with in our dysfunctional notionally-representative plutocratic constitutional republic.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

On crime shows, the most famous guest star did it. It's the law.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, but cannot.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Romney's Anti-Latino Rhetoric Renders Him Actually Unelectable

Quite apart from everything else (lack of enthusiasm for Romney in the white-racist patriarchal prick Randroid-and/or-Dominionist fundamentalist GOP Base even before the Mormon issue taken into consideration, lack of Robots for Plutocracy demographic more generally in the United States, the whole flabbergasting flip-floppery problem, and so on), BooMan draws out the implications of Republican anti-Latino anti-immigrant racist hysteria and especially that from still-likely eventual nominee Mitt Romney's horrid "hey, guys, I can be a scary racist too!" schtick this year:
Staking out a position on immigration well to the right of Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry hasn't done Mitt Romney any favors with Latinos, according to a new survey from the Pew Hispanic Center. Let's remember that Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 despite getting 32% of the Latino vote, and he barely won the Electoral College in 2004 despite getting 44% of the Latino vote. When John McCain only mustered 31% of the Latino vote in 2008, his campaign was crushed. A Republican can no longer hope to win less than a third of the Latino vote and still scrape their way into the White House. Those days are over. So, how is Romney doing? President Obama holds a wide lead among Hispanic voters when matched against potential Republican challengers... The [Pew] survey… revealed a dramatic general election weakness for Republicans among an increasingly influential voting bloc -- with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry each winning less than one-fourth of the Hispanic vote in hypothetical matchups against Obama. Obama leads Romney 68-23 and Perry 69-23 among Hispanic voters, with an error margin of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points for the voter sample… Twenty-three percent isn't going to get it done. And the numbers would be considerably worse if the Obama administration were not deporting 400,000 Latino immigrants a year. That aggressive policy is tearing apart families and hurting Obama's standing in the Latino community. But the Republicans are far from being able to capitalize on this weakness… [as t]hey do everything they can to make sure Latinos know that they aren't welcome in this country, whether they're here legally or not…
I've said it a million times, that Obama is going to win isn't the most urgent issue in my book, given the clown college the GOP has thrown up (perhaps literally?) this round -- what keeps me up nights is that Obama must win in a way that has coattails that keep the Senate (this makes the difference in Nevada, for example, and so makes all the difference, even assuming Elizabeth Warren will topple bankster-bunny Scotty Brown, especially now that asshole Ben Nelson, who justified his asshole betrayals by saying they were necessary for his re-election is retiring after hovering up scads of Democratic cash on the expectation that he would not) and also regain the House and so makes the Obama win relevant for more than Supreme Court nominations (which isn't exactly chopped liver either) by giving him a Congress that can actually implement his mandate over GOP idiot evil obstruction. There's a difference between the popular vote and the electoral college, of course, but the larger point here is well nigh unassailable: when the GOP realized that anti-gay hate speech no longer worked its evil magic for them they shifted back to the white-racism that worked for them so long with the Southern Strategy (consigned by demographics to the electoral dustbin just as surely as their gay-bashing was, and roughly simultaneously) and in their ugly abject panic doubled down on the anti-brown-folks hate speech only now directed at gale-force to Latinos and Muslims. The GOP didn't adapt to the realities of diversity and now confront marginalization into a rump of crazytown Christianist-Taliban and white-racist Neo-Confederates on their deathbeds.

Failed Effort to Overturn Anti-Gay Proposition 8 May Have Created Grounds to Overturn Anti-Civilizational Proposition 13

Proposition 13, which revolutionized [for "revolutionized" substitute: demolished to general ruination --ed] government financing in California by slashing property taxes and erecting new barriers to other state and local tax increases, was upheld by the state Supreme Court soon after it passed in 1978, seemingly ending all questions about its legality. But a team of lawyers headed by a former federal appeals court judge has sued to overturn a crucial provision of Prop. 13 -- the requirement of a two-thirds legislative vote to raise state taxes. The lawyers argue that the two-thirds requirement has been undermined by more recent decisions... In particular, they contend, the court's May 2009 ruling on same-sex marriage defined the limits on voters' power to amend the California Constitution by initiative, and showed that a change as far-reaching as the two-thirds requirement exceeds those limits… That change "restructured California's basic governmental plan by granting a minority in either house of the Legislature a veto over the majority's exercise of the core legislative power to raise revenue by taxation"...

Gay-rights advocates used a similar argument to try to overturn Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California… They said it altered the state's constitutional system in a different way -- not by increasing any voting requirements, but by using the initiative process to attack the concept of equality. Such a change, Prop. 8's opponents claimed, amounted to a "revision" of the state Constitution, and not merely an amendment. Constitutional revisions can be placed on the ballot only by the Legislature or a constitutional convention, while amendments can be circulated as initiatives. The state Supreme Court disagreed. In a 6-1 ruling, then-Chief Justice Ronald George said Prop. 8 was not a constitutional revision because it did not "make a far-reaching change in the fundamental governmental structure or the foundational power of its branches." [But, of course, t]hat's just what Prop. 13 did, by eliminating majority rule for tax increases and making it virtually impossible for a divided Legislature to raise money for everyday programs...

George said in a speech later in 2009 that Prop. 13's two-thirds vote requirement has played a key role in making California's government "dysfunctional." … If the suit succeeds, it would restore majority-vote legislative approval for state tax increases -- while leaving Prop. 13's property tax reductions intact. It would also change the balance of power in Sacramento, where minority Republicans routinely unite to prevent any increased levies. Prop. 13's chief advocate, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, is taking the suit seriously, said Jonathan Coupal, the association's president and a member of the legal team defending the measure. But Coupal said the state Supreme Court decided in 1978 that the measure was a valid initiative and it's not likely to reconsider that conclusion…
I include that last bit, just to show how nervous the execrable Jarvisites sound about the prospects of this unexpected challenge. And when the Jarvisites are scared, decent people of sense everywhere should prick up their ears and pay attention, because it can only mean that a possibility for Good has unexpectedly and undoubtedly appeared on the scene.

The role of Proposition 13 in the dismantlement of California civic order -- of our once and future model public education system, for one thing -- cannot be overstated. The place of 13 as a harbinger of Movement Republicanism's catastrophic ascendancy is no less conscpicuous, as will its overturning be a harbinger of the coming transformation, sooner and quicker than anybody thinks, of America into a sensible, sustainable social democracy.

It's a nice paradox that in dismissing the challenge to the hateful Proposition 8 the courts delineated the very criterion which creates the grounds for a challenge to the no less hateful 13. For my critical theory students in the house: just as critique is so often a matter of turning established facts into contradictions ripe for reform or overthrow, so too reformist struggle is often a matter of the sizing up and seizing of paradoxical opportunities thrown up by the interminable indeterminate vicissitudes of history.

Given state and national trends, there is little question that Proposition 8 will fall soon enough, come what may, but it may be that the delay of its fall when it had its day in court may have hastened the day another hateful destructive reactionary measure will fall, and in a way much easier than any of us anticipated. Heck, I've been thinking all this time a perilous constitutional convention might be required or nothing short of winning an implausibly huge reliably progressive Democratic supermajority would finally do the trick.

Now, even if the court challenge fails (and if it succeeds, well, caloo! calay!) it is likely the issue will still gain more public attention that educates the public of the real reactionary causes of California dysfunction in an obstructionist minority abusing rules in the service of their wildly unpopular anti-government zealotry (sound familiar? as goes California, so goes…) than California activists have ever managed hitherto, and hence make headway with ballot initiatives or make into campaign issues in ways that nudge a more accountable supermajority into better sense at last.

It's too early to hope too much, but I am hopeful.

Condensed Critique of Transhumanism As A Book?

I wonder, do you think it would be sufficiently useful, wanted, novel to adapt (and perhaps not very much) the material anthologized as my Condensed Critique of Transhumanism, to be worth the effort?

Live Free and DIE!

Ron Paul's campaign touting the endorsement of a pastor advocating death penalty for homogaysexuals like me, you know, for kids! Muscular Baby Jesus wants to kiiiilllll and is very proud both of his Dominionist pastor and of libertopian Ron Paul.

Swinging Dick Secessionist Rick Perry Seeks to Overturn State Rules He Finds Personally Inconvenient In Big Brother Federal Court

TPM calls it "ironic," but stupidity and hypocrisy actually aren't particularly ironic as far as I can tell. But, then, I'm just one of them faggots who are ruining everything, so don't you mind me, Goobernor N****rhead.

Feel the Frothmentum!

Rick Santorum, sooper-godly sooper-genius, can game expectations with the best of 'em:
"If I finish dead last behind the pack I'm going to pack up and go home," [said] Rick Santorum, quoted by CNN, on his need to "exceed expectations" in the Iowa caucuses.

The Sarah Lexicon

For the three or so of you who might be interested, yesterday's screen-capture of my cat Sarah's Twitterverse actually did document much of the, er, range of her discourse. As near as I can tell

"Mao!" means, "Hungry! Hungry now!"

"Ngang-ngang?" means conversation. Who can say what Sarah is going on about, but when she gets talkative there is a whole lot of "ngang-ngang-ngang ngang-ngang?" Usually, the peroration is followed with starting suddenness by paw-licking.

"Brrp!" is the sound that inevitable warns us that Sarah has landed on the floor after having quietly been up to no good on a tabletop, countertop, dressertop. This sound is usually meaningless, but should not be confused with the longer and interrogative variation

"Brrrrrrrrrrrp?" which means, "I've noticed you are looking at me!" This state of affairs usually provokes a fit of spastic rolling about or the assumption of a recumbent posture, tilt of the head, and the raising of her paws into the air to keep us looking at her as long as possible.

"Eeeeeeeeeeee!" means "Let go!" "Let me down!" Sarah thinks this is very ferocious, but it is in fact enormously cute and rather absurd, and so, poor thing, rather more apt to prolong or even attract these unwanted attentions than end them.

Yes, cat blogging. Screw you, it's the holidays.

Pluralism and Religiosity

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, my very pleasant ramble continues on with long-time Friend of Blog "JimF." For the earlier episodes, just scroll down a bit.

When last we chatted, I had written, among other things:
I don't agree that all forms of religious faith are incommensurable with the proper defense of consensus science... I'm an atheist myself but I'm also an aesthete and I have no trouble squaring the idea that true beliefs that yield prediction and control should emerge from testable hypotheses attracting a public consensus of conviction while true beliefs that yield beauty should make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up or enable me to empathize with a lifeway that had hitherto been too alien to me to connect to...

To which, "JimF" replied:
I understand what you're saying here, of course.

I guess it depends on which "magisterium's" (as S. J. Gould put it) "true beliefs" take precedence when they come into conflict. It probably doesn't matter much (except as as an unfortunate symptom) when ordinary people dismiss evolution as the only intellectually compelling framework for the origin and development of life. The advice of a cardiologist is a subject on which **most** (but not all) folks would accept "beliefs" deriving (somewhat loosely, as always in medicine) from the "true beliefs that yield prediction" of modern science.

But matters of, say, child rearing, is an area in which religious folks are all too likely to ignore the advice of experts, however well attested by the evidence. Also, of course, public policy as it impinges on matters of, say, sexual morality. I hardly need to give examples of that sphere! (But an unfortunate recent one was the overriding by the Secretary of Health and Human Services of a decision by the FDA to approve over-the-counter sales of a "morning after" pill. Whatever the excuse may have been, you **know** it was a political one driven by a perceived need to avoid a confrontation with the religious right.)

Certainly, one's view of the significance of future events on Earth must be substantially altered if one **really** believes that mortal existence is a "vale of tears" destined to end sooner rather than later with all the best people being reborn in indestructible bodies living for eternity in a transcendent reborn reality. (One wonders, though, how many people **really** believe this, whatever they may profess in public -- it does go against the grain of common sense, as well it might!).

And of course, as Bertrand Russell said in an interview, "I get letters constantly from people saying 'Oh, God will look after it.' But he never has in the past! I don't know why they should think he will in the future."

To which, I now reply:
It's strange, I think my pluralism may derive from the habits I acquired training in analytic philosophy (a vantage from which I tend to be excoriated as a menacing relativist now, amusingly enough), namely, coming upon a recalcitrant conflict, tension, paradox, either change your mind or propose a distinction to relieve the thing. It's not that I have no True Beliefs left, but that I have some measure of irony about them, knowing that their ownership always imposes costs (often well worth paying) along with their benefits and that there is little that is not finally susceptible of argument, interpretation, or therapy (which are all much the same thing) if only you live long enough.

Again, I get it that you are annoyed by so many Christian fundamentalists of the more aggressive and idiotic American variety. I mean, as an atheist, faggot, lefty, feminist, pacifist, vegetarian I have the ire of no small few of their ugliest and most hypocritical factions aimed at me fairly regularly and conspicuously. It's a hard thing not to notice.

I must say, though, I do think these people are a more marginal minority than the attention they receive merits, that they are more ambivalent and susceptible of sense in a diversifying, secularizing society than the attention they receive suggests, and definitely they are idiosyncratic enough in their sects neither to be treated as representative of "religiosity" in general nor monolithic in their own practice.

Most parenting seems to me very much in the worst possible taste but not all bad parenting and proselytizing is child abuse -- or, maybe it would be better to say, all heteronormative child rearing skirts the edge of child abuse in ways with which our society has yet to come to terms leaving us to reap endlessly the harvest of abuse in damaged humans. But to attribute that feast of violation uniquely to religion or Christianity would miss the mark.

I disagree with and, more to the point, disapprove the move of the HHS Secretary (and then Obama's weirdly sanctimonious patriarchal prickish support of this move) overruling of the FDA on the morning after pill, but I cannot agree with those who say this is simply the story of the derangement of a purely scientific verdict (tho' it's safe to say the pill's safe precisely as they say it is) when palpably there is more afoot here: Surely, just as we are wrong to pretend that science is the same thing as folk music as the "Creation-Scientists" would have us do, so too we are wrong to hope science can provide an effortless short cut circumventing unpleasant political reconciliation work we have not yet done, such as ridding America of its still thriving hysterical hostility to the very idea that women, even many quite young ones, can and do enjoy sex and make rational healthcare decisions in matters connected to sex.

Stepping back a bit, it is also painfully clear that the sane effort of the progressive education movement has been a yet another tragically unnecessary casualty of thirty years of Movement Republican market-ideological looting and white racist reaction, for both of which tendencies the tide has thankfully turned at last, leaving us to contemplate the work of a long generation that will bury us long before it's done.

I disagree with your declared certainty that a faith in heavenly resurrection renders those who hold it bad faith actors in such progressive work, since I have observed people of faith are a diverse lot, though I do agree with you broadly (as with the Nietzsche who railed against ressentiment) about the unpleasantnesses such faith tends to have in tow -- but, again, all beliefs do have their costs, you know.

I will admit that I became an atheist myself while still very young the moment I realized that the presumed existence of hell made me morally superior to the Christian God, and my subsequent researches into the varieties of religious experience seemed little different from my researches at the same time of varieties of, em, sensory experiences of the sexual pharmacological political and artistic kinds, if you will, and I came to the conclusion then that I still largely maintain that the whole theological business is better conceived as a matter of aesthetics and for ethnographers.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

If you enjoy time travel narratives, might I suggest watching C-SPAN?

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Every effect that one produces gives one an enemy. To be popular one must be a mediocrity.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Now that their norms for male beauty have become as unattainable as those that have so long prevailed for female beauty, mass media have made as their single concession to feminism the eager encouragement of equal self-loathing.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

People are never so trivial as when they take themselves very seriously.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

More Pluralism

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, long-time Friend of Blog "JimF" quotes from yesterday's long "reality has a liberal bias" post and then raises some incisive questions:

I had written, among many other things:
I assume that those who cannot imagine defending science, defending facts, defending fairness, defending nonviolence, defending democracy, defending rights, defending standards while at once holding on to beliefs like these [about the ineradicable uncertainty and contingency of the warranted beliefs of finite beings such as ourselves, and about the pluralism of reasonableness of multifaceted social beings such as ourselves --d] are either honestly a little ignorant for now or just rather stupid, by which I mean to say that they are being terribly lazy, inattentive, uncritical, and even rather bratty about the whole thing...

To this, "JimF" responded:
Well, of course it's more complicated than that.

To the extent that the political right wing is imbricated with religious traditions, and it overwhelmingly is, then these folks have a different standard for truth, fundamentally incompatible with "defending science" as the ultimate standard for determining the facts.

They see science as a flawed human enterprise (which it is, of course), circumscribed by the limits of human reason (which it also is), while at the same time subscribing to a "higher truth" (opaque to you and me) which they get from their holy books and prophets.

The Mormons, for example, are quite explicit about this -- an
individual's standard for knowing the truth of Mormonism is supposed to be a "testimony" -- a warm and fuzzy feeling in your guts that's supposed to be coming straight from God. On the other hand, if you don't have this warm and fuzzy feeling, or if you get warm and fuzzy feelings about things which aren't on the approved curriculum, then **you've** got problems.

These are incommensurate discourses, and I see the ultimate resolution as a Darwinian one. Whichever one endures or predominates in the long run will be the one that tends toward the long-term survival of the human race. This isn't a particularly cheerful thought, but there you are. I'm hopeful, personally, but if something like global warming changes the rules of the game faster than human civilization can adapt, then we're screwed, pure and simple.

My reply, off the cuff, as it were:
I don't agree that all forms of religious faith are incommensurable with the proper defense of consensus science. When you say the right wing is imbricated in religious faith, I am last to deny the danger of the program attested to in those precincts of the right that are infused with patriarchal authoritarian Dominionist politics, but it really is important to remember that not all religious formations are the same, and also that religious formations change in the face of historical vicissitudes like all sociocultural formations do, in the face of the pressures of a wholesomely diversifying, secularizing, queering nation for example. To be honest, I see as much or more of the trace of the triumph of "acceptable" deception, hyperbole, self-promotion that has come from the suffusion of our public life with the norms and forms of advertizing and marketing in the ugly evils of Movement Republicanism as I do the scary trace of Dominionism.

Anyway, if I can be pluralist about modes of warranted-belief and truth-talk anybody can. I'm an atheist myself but I'm also an aesthete and I have no trouble squaring the idea that true beliefs that yield prediction and control should emerge from testable hypotheses attracting a public consensus of conviction while true beliefs that yield beauty should make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up or enable me to empathize with a lifeway that had hitherto been too alien to me to connect to or something like like (that is, some standard of warrant quite different from the one that makes scientific beliefs reasonable). If Mormons are a moralizing subculture and fandom they can treat all sorts of things as matters of taste accompanied by warm and fuzzy feelings differently than I do without threatening outright incommensurability in matters of prediction and control or political reconciliation. How warm and fuzzy do they feel about their cardiologist, after all, as they are going under?

Claims about utter incommensurability of belief seem to me almost inevitably too hasty: Humans are awfully clever over time when they need to find ways of reconciling apparent contradictions between their histories and hopes or between changing members of their communities. As you know, I find it rather easy either to moralize or aestheticize faith-claims among believers, to make a quiet translation that makes initially unreasonable declarations among them seem instead reasonable enough to deal with.

It is only the insistent fundamentalists, the ones most recalcitrant about pluralism who are trouble. But when it comes to this sort of recalcitrance champions of science can be easily as fundamentalist as the faithful are -- and it is often from such a place that genocidal rages for order making recourse to clash of civilizations narratives, discerning interminably incommensurable epistemologies, or declarations about pluralists qua menacing relativists come.

Of course for the pluralist herself the reductivist/ fundamentalist, whether religious or scientific, scarcely seems incommensurable to her -- fundamentalisms tend rather to look like neurotic symptoms after all, which is simply one of the many ways finite humans as incarnated poems with a creative unconscious coping with the vicissitudes of history remake themselves into unexpected beautiful perverse art-works for the world. "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" can be a declaration celebrating proliferation as easily as a chestnut proposing a facile reassuring collapse. So, I do agree that barriers to pluralist conviviality are a bit more complicated than just ignorance and laziness, but I just don't like to leap to the pathological too quickly is all.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Bury Crass Mess!

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Time for another Amor Mundi holiday tradition! I've been a crusty atheist for over a quarter century, but I still find Wilde's "The Selfish Giant" utterly charming and moving.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Does It Really Mean To Say That Reality Has A Liberal Bias?

Krugman generalizes from an instance to the larger problem:
[W]hat’s going on in the discussion of economic affairs (and other matters, like justifications for war) isn’t just a case where different people look at the same facts but reach different conclusions. Instead, we’re looking at a situation in which one side of the debate just isn’t interested in the truth, in which alleged scholarship is actually just propaganda. Saying this, of course, gets you declared “shrill”, denounced as partisan; you’re supposed to pretend that we’re having a civilized discussion between people with good intentions. And you’re supposed to match each attack on Republicans with an attack on Democrats, as if the mendacity were equal on both sides. Sorry, but it isn’t. Democrats aren’t angels; they’re human and sometimes corrupt -- but they don’t operate a lie machine 24/7 the way modern Republicans do.
Okay, I agree with this and I really do think it is enormously important and that this institutional capture and failure of so-called Established Elites (not just media but regulatory offices more generally) to defend actually warranted beliefs and standards from their contraries is quite disastrous, indeed possibly it is the deepest disaster of our historical moment, given the catastrophic failure of elites to police ongoing financial fraud, address wealth inequality, or act in the face of climate change all amply attest.

I mean, obviously I think this, as the pile-on post I wrote the day before yesterday deriding PolitiFact's all-too-predictable aggressive-defensive pretense that a true statement (Republican Medicare privatization and voucherization schemes would end Medicare as we know it even if they still called the result "Medicare") was a lie, indeed their Lie of the Year, and the way they then proceeded on the basis of that deception to decry the usual irresponsible "Both Sides are Equally Wrong" narrative should have made more than clear enough.

But even if you missed that rather pedestrian rant it should also be obvious that I agree with Krugman on this theme since here on Amor Mundi I so regularly deride the frank illiteracy of macroeconomic austerity recommendations, regressive taxes, climate change denialism, abstinence only sex miseducation, quack medical explanations for sexual desire, reductive biological justifications for racial or gender inequities, either triumphalist or clash of civilization themed meta-historical doctrines, futurological wish fulfillment fantasies and so on and on and on.

But here's the thing. I think that because it is also true that I am a pinko commie faggot humanities professor teaching cultural studies and critical theory at a San Francisco art school after getting a PhD in Rhetoric of all things at UC Berkeley, presumably ground zero for "fashionably nonsensical" effete elite aesthete nihilist relativist postmodernist hoo hah, it is sometimes imagined that either I will defend the state of affairs Krugman is decrying (as when, more often than you would expect, right wing lying for money is smugly described by some dependable people on the Left as "a triumph of postmodern doctrines" somehow, as if Derrida and Foucault and Rorty and Butler actually agreed on much of anything at all let alone how awesome lying for money is) or I am getting my comeuppance as the chickens come home to roost for all my historicizing anti-foundationism now that rich powerful assholes are lying to augment their fortunes as if rich powerful assholes ever behaved otherwise or gave two shits about the complex doctrines that get lazily corralled together under the heading of "postmodernism" by people who don't really read of them with any care if they read them at all.

As people who come here to not only to read my more predictably anti-Movement Republican ranting or not only to read my less predictably anti-futurological ranting, but instead to read my occasional posts on pragmatist philosophy or on queer theory already know very well about me, I really am one of those silly or menacingly pluralist historicist secularist socialist constructivist anti-foundationist theoryheads you may have heard about. Also, for those of you who think the definition of the word "rhetoric" is "bullshit" -- hello, pleased to meet you! As I said, my actual PhD is in… Rhetoric. I'm a rhetorician not only by temperament but by trade.

And, yes, I do happen forcefully to believe that the Universe has no preferences in the matter of how humans describe it in language either as to matters of fact or of value. And in my view this means that even those beliefs which I hold for good reasons may eventually be superseded by better ones, and this means in turn that I can be quite confident but never certain in my beliefs. And this means others can be quite as confident and differ from me in ways that are deeply threatening in ways I cannot really overcome and which I might perhaps learn instead to embrace.

And all this is exacerbated in my view by the related realizations that I am a finite and limited historically situated socially interdependent being prone to error, misunderstanding, rationalization, denial, humiliation, illness and aging and that chance is not something I can ever quite overcome even as it plays out in matters of chief concern to me.

I also believe that the standards and criteria on the basis of which beliefs are warranted as reasonable ones actually differ depending on the nature of belief, that scientific beliefs that yield prediction and control are warranted as reasonable very differently from the ways that moral beliefs that yield belonging and identity or ethical beliefs that aspire to an assent more general and sometimes against the grain of moral belonging or political beliefs that seek to reconcile the aspirations of a diversity of stakeholders who share the moment and the world are so warranted. And this means that "Reason" is real but plural, not properly reducible to or hierarchized in respect to the standards that prevail in any one of a constellation of domains of truth-telling (where truth, in William James terms, is that which is "good in the way of belief -- and good for definite, assignable reasons").

As it happens, believing none of these things makes me the least bit inclined to say that nothing is anything or nothing means anything or everything is as good as everything else or any of that nonsense.

I assume that those who cannot imagine defending science, defending facts, defending fairness, defending nonviolence, defending democracy, defending rights, defending standards while at once holding on to beliefs like these are either honestly a little ignorant for now or just rather stupid, by which I mean to say that they are being terribly lazy, inattentive, uncritical, and even rather bratty about the whole thing.

But worse than their stupidity is the way I believe such people violate and profoundly undermine the substance and the usefulness and even the beauty of the warranted beliefs and standards and fragile accomplishments and values they imagine they are championing in decrying versions of these standards and values that accommodate the uncertainty and contingency and plurality I hold to be just as obviously true as the beliefs warranted by consensus science (including climate science) or Keynesian macroeconomic insights (with some decent revisions most of which are also a half century old by now) or fact-based social science recommending an end to capital punishment, the legalization, consensualization, regulation, taxation, and readily available therapization of drug use, the strict regulation of dangerous technologies like assault weapons, steeply progressive taxes subsidizing generous welfare entitlements and not for profit enterprise and expressivity, public education, equitable recourse to accountable law enforcement, regulation of commerce in the public interest, the shift from extractive-industrial-petrochemical to renewable energy and sustainable consumption, and ongoing investment in public goods and stewardship over common goods in the service of all.

I happen to think that the Academy, properly so called, was and should be a non-commercial non-profit non-reductive archipelago of institutions and spaces and practices devoted to the education, research, and development of warrantable truths and meanings and beauties for all, which makes me abhor the present looting and reduction and commercialization of the Academy as well as the development of the mostly right-wing archipelago of corporate-military think tanks and media outlets that function as a counter-Academy pushing deception, fraud, hyperbole, and self-promotion in the service of elite-incumbent interests.

Even though I agree with those critiques of the Academy and other comparable Elite/Establishment institutional locations (courts, media, museums) that point out their parochialism, inequities, rationalizations for the status quo, and so I agitate for their democratization in the face of those critiques, I am still easily and eagerly able to defend the indispensability of scientific and academic and legal and journalistic and art institutions and practices to the determination, articulation, education, application of warranted beliefs and the triumph of reasonableness more generally (part of which is a proliferation of meaningful expressivities and unpredictable reconciliations of differences in my view), both their tattered and vulnerable and imperfect vestiges in the world and the forms they should and could take given sufficient work, reform, struggle.

I do not understand those who pretend my pluralism undermines warrantable standards any more than I understand why so many let their parochial perfectionisms become the enemy of the realization of the better in the world. I find myself making arguments against people holding these sorts of positions all the time, here and elsewhere, and while it is usually rather different people who argue with me from these vantages or tendencies it does seems to me that they are actually related or even strictly complementary errors, that is to say, complementary idealisms defended at the expense of pragmatic standards, expressivities, equities and, funnily enough, both usually propounded with a measure of scorn at my own supposed irrationality or impracticality in refusing their own self-defeating rationalizations.

To say that reality has a liberal bias -- as so many of us do find ourselves saying in the ever multiplying sorts of situations to which Krugman is responding above -- is actually to suggest some rather profound things about how reality seems to us and how we should act in respect to it. I like the glib throwaway line plenty, I like how elegantly and forcefully it holds together so much sense, but I do think at least occasionally we should ponder at greater length what it is we are committing to in saying this about reality, especially if we say it (as I do) as people who do not really believe reality has preferences in the matter of how human beings portray it in language (as I do not).

The Amor Mundi Xmas Tradition

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

No celebrity who calls himself a dork, a nerd, or a geek in the expectation that this will be regarded as charming is a dork, a nerd, a geek, or charming.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Even in acts of charity there should be some sense of humor.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tax Kim Kardashian!

Kim made more than $12 million in 2010, but she only pays a tiny bit more in taxes than a middle class Californian. That's not OK, especially when budget cuts are decimating schools and critical programs for children and the elderly.

Tax Kim, for Kids!

Believe me, she can afford it.

For more on California's proposed Millionaire's Tax ballot initiative go here.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Anybody can become famous, but only monsters remain famous.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

To yield to all one's moods is to really live.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rick Perry Thinks Everyday America Is "A Rat Hole"

Earlier today Republican Presidential hopeful Rick Perry declared that stimulus in the form of a continued payroll tax cut for Americans who work for a living and continued support for unemployed Americans in the midst of unprecedented joblessness is "putting [money] down a rat hole." Needless to say, he went on to imply that providing still more free money in the form of tax cuts, deregulation, and subsidies to the rich assholes who tanked our economy and who alone in all America are not suffering from its ongoing devastation is supporting "Job Creators."

As a candidate Rick Perry is going nowhere, of course, but his statements today are worth notice in their absolute GOP typicality. They are not at all remote, for example, from the Republican "moderate" (many decry him as a liberal!) front-runner Mitt Romney's weird recent Red-baiting escapades: for example, Romney's fulminations that increasing by just four percent the rate at which the rich are taxed, or comments that maybe, just maybe, CEOs should make thirty times more than average employees rather than three hundred times more represents a communist plot to impose absolute homogeneous equality on the general population.

Just to re-cap, though, today Rick Perry (not so long ago the GOP's savior flavor of the month) has declared, in a nutshell: [one] that the basic economic literacy of Obama's tax proposals and his introduction of the least bit of fairness into the discussion of these proposals represent, and I'm quoting, "Messed Up Priorities"; [two] that Americans who work for a living are rats living in a "rathole"; [three] that civilization depends on the creative genius of our rich asshole overlords, who are the real "Job Creators," all evidence to the contrary notwishstanding, and also, [four] On your knees, ingrates! (well, that part was implied).

Today's Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen.

Whether For Profit-Taking Or For Love-Making: A Note On The Essential Continuity of Right and Left Anarchist Faiths in Whatever Their Preferred Parochial "Spontaneous Order" Looks Like

Upgraded from the Moot "BerserkRL" made an interesting intervention:
You claim that "all market libertarians," including "those who imagine themselves to be of the left," ignore "the contingent historical artifact of regulations, treaties, pricing conventions, provincial customs, norms, infrastructural affordances that passes for 'the market' here and now," etc. Now since you mention libertarian of the left, you're obviously aware that some of us do stress at great length those "contingent historical artifact of regulations, treaties, pricing conventions, provincial customs, norms, infrastructural affordances that passes for 'the market' here and now," etc. So it looks as though you're simultaneously acknowledging and denying our existence. Why's that?

Simply enough, because it doesn't look that way to me, that's why.

I would say that anarcho-capitalists "naturalize" historically contingent exploitative and plutocratic arrangements as a "spontaneous market order" in an effort to legitimize them, while anarcho-socialists expose historically contingent exploitative and plutocratic arrangements in an effort to illegitimize them the better to "naturalize" whatever "spontaneous order" they themselves prefer.

It is my conclusion that these superficially different positions are actually complementary if not identical errors that you are probably mistaking as a paradox or contradiction on my part (which is not to deny that you might still productively disagree with my conclusion).

I think an unexpurgated return to my original quote makes this at least a little bit clearer: "Like all market libertarians (and I do suspect all libertarians, always, even those who imagine themselves to be of the left) his [Ron Paul's] is a vision of freedom and dignity that requires the treatment of key assumptions and institutions of the status quo as natural and inevitable rather than as artificial and historical, and hence his is a profoundly reactionary viewpoint at its base [emphasis added].

Now, I would be the last to deny there is all the difference in the world between profit-taking and love-making -- but to the extent that parochial characterizations of these are universalized (eg, presumably definitive propensity to truck and barter, game theoretical assumptions about wealth maximization strategies, evolutionary justifications for sharing behaviors, anthropological documentation of mutualist impulses, popular anthemic declarations that all you need is love) to provide the basis for false faith in spontaneous orders and programmatic anarchisms I disapprove of them all the same and for much the same reasons (while remaining, nonetheless, a Lennon fan).

(As an aside, as an entirely negative critical rather than positive programmatic vantage I am more sympathetic to anarchisms, especially of the green, socialist, radical democratic, and queer/punk varieties.)

You Never Know Enough to Justify Despair

This time last year I was angry and disgusted about the results of the mid-term elections, and I was perfectly right to be, since we all know the mid-terms were pointlessly disastrous in precisely predictable ways. But even as I was sunk in despair, I should have remembered one of the very simple points I try to drive home to my students in critical theory courses: that there is always much more going on than even the most attentive and engaged of us can know (Haraway), that history always breaks out unpredictably (Arendt), that the street always finds its own uses for things (Gibson). Elections have consequences, and I knew the consequences of the mid-terms would be terrible, and they have indeed been terrible. But even as I felt the terror of what I knew so well, I had no inkling of Tahrir, Madison, Zucotti, the Oakland Port, the Ohio repeal, the Wisconsin recalls, and so much more. In politics, the knowledgeable know knowledge isn't enough, and that if courage and perseverance don't fill the gap inevitably introduced by our ignorance then despair and excuses will fill it instead, making our knowledge worse than useless.

Dispatches from Libertopia -- Austerity Edition

As a policy matter, austerity measures are nothing but a kind of pseudo-scientific bloodletting, treating as a treatment the weakening of the weakest. As a moral matter, austerity measures are nothing but a kind of brutal bullying, treating as a treat the weakening of the weakest.

More Dispatches from Libertopia here.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

"So crazy" is inevitably what boring people call being boring.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

I never put off to tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

When I was a kid every refrigerator had a bottle of Thousand Island dressing in it. Now, every refrigerator has a bottle of Ranch dressing in it. Progress under consumer capitalism is, we all know so well, marvelous and inexorable. Who knows what salad dressing will grace the refrigerators of the future?

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reset-Trek's Hot Spock Has More Than Uhura On His Mind

As Spock would say, once you out the impossible whoever remains in the closet, however obvious, must come out... or something like that.

Yes, Reset-Trek's Spock, Zachary Quinto, has come out, and at the height of his career, too -- talk about strange new worlds!

As for my well-known Vulcan Queergeek fetish and wannabe issues -- not helping, Quinto! not helping!

PolitiFact Admits "Lie of the Year" Isn't A Lie At All

As you likely already know, PolitiFact has declared the statement "Republicans Voted to End Medicare" their "Lie of the Year" for 2011. A million outraged blogs and media outlets have covered this all the livelong day, but I have to admit I was a bit surprised to discover myself not only that PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" is obviously not a lie, but that PolitiFact declares an equivalent statement to the "Lie of the Year" as "true" in the very piece announcing their ridiculous choice.

Yes, PolitiFact declares the statement "Republicans Voted to End Medicare" their "Lie of the Year," even while declaring in the very article making this announcement that the statement "Republicans Voted to Privatize Medicare" is MOSTLY TRUE (only MOSTLY instead of ENTIRELY TRUE because, according to the Ryan plan Republicans unanimously voted for, today's lucky seniors would not have their own benefits privatized and voucherized even as they meanly and hypocritically voted to do so to younger citizens than themselves).

Let's just look at that for a moment: The "mostly true" statement that Republicans who voted unanimously for the Paul Ryan budget voted to privatize Medicare but then re-brand the transformed result as "Medicare" anyway, even though it would be altogether unlike what Medicare has always actually been, is presumably so different by PolitiFact's reckoning from saying such a transformation would indeed "end Medicare as we know it" that the latter statement is not only no longer "mostly true" but somehow so untrue as to be rate the condemnation of a full-on "Pants on Fire" Lie (the nomenclature is theirs).

On the basis of this ridiculous sleight-of-hand PolitiFact then pretends to ascend above the political fray and indulge the usual "both sides are equally to blame" burlesque of objectivity that is always injurious to the very notion of the fact-checking to which they are presumably devoted, proposing that through this wild lie (that is indistinguishable from variations of the same proposition that they themselves declare true) Democrats are "turning-the-tables" on Republicans and offering up a mirror-image to 2009's PolitiFact Lie of the Year, the straightforwardly paranoid fantasy charge by Republicans that Health Care Reform involved the creation of "Death Panels."

Yes, Politi"Fact" is declaring the claim that voting to privatize Medicare is in fact voting to end the program as we know is equivalent to the claim that voting for Health Care Reform was in fact voting to kill Grandma!

Quite obviously they are not, even on PolitiFact's own accounting. But just as obviously, because they are not, "PolitiFact," in their grandest gesture of the year 2011, risks the reputation ruining impression that they have opted to provide "Polite" cover to liars over "Fact"-checking. Needless to say, they should quickly and publicly re-assess their terrible decision, else stubbornness and shoddy standards render them altogether useless to their own stated purpose.

Republicans Support Con Job Creators

It's a 1% thing, you wouldn't understand.

Reactionary Isolationism Is Not The Same Thing As Principled Anti-Militarism

Consider that a shorter version of yesterday's anti-Ron Paul post. Thanks Eric, swak!

"This Is Not Poker" Not To Mention, This Is A Winning Hand

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Bonus Non-Random Wilde: "One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards."

Presidential approval rates are rising according to multiple polls, meanwhile Congressional approval rates are at historical lows (at 11% polling less well than the proposition that "US should go Communist" -- not a joke).

Concern trolls warning and reactionary ideologues crowing that Presidential economic populism and castigating of the 1% would destroy Obama (despite squaring with reported attitudes of abundant majorities of voters of both parties) appear to have been perfectly predictably wrong.

Dinosaurs, meet asteroid.

Dems and Pinko Commie Fags

Adapted and upgraded from the Moot to this post, long-time friends of blog "jollyspaniard" and "jimf" usefully skirmish with me thus:

I'm not certain the Democrats abhor militarism, America's military budgets have more than a whiff of bipartisanship about them. Still Obama is winding things down in a manner that is prudent. America can't unplug its military hegemony, it's got to be replaced with something else. Still I have to say it's good to see an anti war wing in the Republican party. This could be part of their evolution into something less odious (although it probably isn't). However that's not to say that I'd want it's current cheerleader in chief anywhere near the levers of power.

The first point is fair enough, certainly Obama is hardly a pacifist and the Dems have more than their share of hawks... nevertheless, you know as well as I do that when nonviolent activists find their way into organized politics they are most likely to become Democrats, when a politician proposes the creation of a Peace Department they are most likely to be a Democrat, when you hear prioritizations of diplomacy and foreign aid over armed intervention you are likely to be listening to Democrats, that critiques of militarism and budgets skewed to Defense are made mostly by Democrats. All this makes a difference that should make a difference.

Your second point I'm a bit more ambivalent about. I don't know that I agree that all "anti-war" positions are made equally. I think Ron Paul's anti-war stance is ultimately superficial when viewed as premised on a repudiation of foreign policy as an instrument to solve shared planetary problems altogether (and hence only incidentally disapproving of war-making like all other foreign policy interventions, including sensible problem-solving and democratizing ones) and on an anti-civilizational war of all against all handwaved fancifully into a "spontaneous order" of virtuous and optimally efficient markets that always only accidentally amounts to plutocracy, dear.

That is to say, I think it is wishful thinking to hope for something "less odious" to emerge (discourse does not "evolve," but that is another discussion) from such assumptions and aspirations -- it just won't. Only by actually understanding the indispensable connections between nonviolence - consent - welfare - democracy - diversity can advocates nudge public discourse hegemonically to a place that will make the political parties, Democratic, Republican, whatever, less odious more generally.

The first point is fair enough, certainly Obama is hardly a pacifist and the Dems have more than their share of hawks... nevertheless, you know as well as I do that when nonviolent activists find their way into organized politics they are most likely to become Democrats...

Which is of course a handicap the Democrats always struggle under, even when they're in power. They're always liable, when reining in war-fever or defense spending, or attempting foreign policy through diplomacy, to be accused of being, at best, defeatist wusses and at worst traitors. Or Communists, or anti-American, or crypto-sympathizers with America's enemies. For "wuss" you can substitute weak, unmanly (to the point of effeminacy or homosexuality), cowardly, etc. For "anti-American" you can substitute ungodly, immoral (to the point of evil), imprudent (if not loving of the destruction of tradition and authority just out of spite or out of the ressentiment of the sissy for the he-man), etc.

These stereotypes **always** play into the hands of right-wingers, and tie the hands of left-wingers even when they're in power. So it goes.

We won the Culture Wars. I say it again and again. This matters!

Nobody who devotes energies like I do to lgbtiqq issues or who struggles personally with the ruinous imbrication of America's rampaging anti-intellectualism with its sex-gender system could believe for a second that we have "Smashed The Patriarchy!" obviously, my point is not to indulge in wishful denialism... But I really do think it is important to point to a real (if obviously incomplete) accomplishment and insist that we grasp its implications and act on them: It's ever more and more okay to be gay in this society, homophobia and misogyny are ever more and more likely to signal a threatened and defensive phony-masculinity than to signal and bolster "true masculine" agency.

As you say, sexist stereotypes **always** play into the hands of right-wingers... right up until they don't.

The patriarchal underpinning of militarism is undeniable -- which is part of the reason ending DADT and having strong women and "effeminate" men treated as normal parts of the cultural landscape on tee vee are far from the superficial changes they may seem.

America is wholesomely browning and secularizing and queering... and the right-wing playbook will have to be re-written altogether into a semblance of something like sense sooner than you think and sooner than the assholes can stand. Serves them right!

If You Don't Like Gangsterism and Financial Fraud, Go to Russia! (UPDATED!)

Apparently, dead-eyed money-man Mitt Romney is now accusing those who disapprove his own preferred crony capitalist/financial fraudster pathway to personal fortune (well, that and, you know, being born already rich) of "flirting with communism." If only!

(I keed! I keed!)

Talking Points Memo summarizes this gesture as more or less the tried and true Cold War rhetoric "if you hate the obvious and correctable flaws of American style capitalism, then move to Soviet Russia!"

This is true as far as it goes, but it does pay to dwell for a moment on the fact that not only was this a completely idiotic gambit during the Cold War (why wouldn't efforts to reform what passed for "capitalism" to better serve more people be seen as an effort to strengthen and support capitalism rather than an effort to subvert capitalism and give comfort to the Red Enemy, dun dun DUN, for instance?), but it is surreally idiotic now that the Cold War is over and Soviet Russia no longer even exists for one to go to (not that the Russia reform-minded Americans were being invited to move to ever really existed as much more than a paranoid fantasy in the minds of scared stupid assholes whose kids would grow down to be anti-civilizational Teavangelicals in the first place).

This absurdity is compounded when we realize that the fall of the Soviet Union was heralded by libertopians and neo-cons as the End of History and the inevitable opening for the spontaneous order of virtuous maximally efficient markets to provide indisputable evidence of the righteousness of their assumptions and aspirations -- and left an immiserated wasteland of gangsters and dysfunction and fraud.

Rather than social democrats "going to Russia" Russia went to anarcho-capitalism, and the "flowering" of anarcho-capitalism yielded pre-civilizational disorder and misery.

As Lawrence Lessig pointed out in Code, the abject failure of the libertopian existence proof playing out over and over again in the laboratory of post-Soviet polities lead the irrationally exuberant market fundamentalist ideologues to migrate Libertopia into cyberspace, whereupon a thousand crypto-anarchist long-boom post-nationalist digital-capitalist manifestoes and frauds bloomed (as Naomi Klein went on to provide the next chapter, when the cyberspatial libertopian existence proof failed just as abjectly, the market ideologues had already moved on to the laboratory setting of "Baghdad Year Zero").

To Romney and other one-percenters who invite democratic reformers to take a trip to Soviet Russia via the Wayback Machine I am tempted to invite them to take a permanent vacation in Somalia, except that I would rather collaborate with the good people of Somalia to build a sustainable social democracy there than foist our own rich evil assholes on them. I daresay it would be enough to soak them in taxes and throw the worst of them in the jails that would be emptied by ending the (racist) War on (some) Drugs.

UPDATE: See Also, TPM's Campaign in 100 Seconds for Today:

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee


More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The secret of remaining young is never to have an emotion that is unbecoming.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why I Am Not One of Those Democrats Who Are Fond of Ron Paul, Not Even Up To A Point

Ron Paul is often discussed by Democrats as though there was something paradoxical about his hostility to regulation and general welfare on the one hand, which they dislike enormously about him of course, and his hostility to militarism and the war on drugs on the other, with which they imagine they sympathize.

This whiff of paradox vanishes immediately once we recall that Democrats do not merely abhor militarism but advocate the implementation of a planetary rights culture and vastly amplified provision of foreign aid as a progressive alternative to self-defeating militarism, and that Democrats do no not merely abhor the racist and hysterically moralizing War on (some but not all) Drugs but advocate the implementation of more sensible safety regulations and the taxation of drugs the better to fund rehabilitation and education programs to ameliorate the social problems of drug abuse.

While Democrats disapprove (as Ron Paul and other libertarians sometimes also seem to do) of war-making as the image and model for their address, Democrats know that there actually are planetary problems of systemic injustice, social instability, organized violence, environmental threat, needless harm and suffering for which we are impelled by our shared inhabitation of this planet and this historical moment to work our way toward shared solutions.

Let us be very clear: Democracy is the idea that people should have a say in the public decisions that affect them, but this is best understood not only as an affirmation of individual dignity as it is part of a larger commitment to the elimination of violence from public life (that people must also have a say in the decision as to what will count as violence in public life yokes these commitments ever tighter together, even while rendering the experimental implementation of these commitments interminably dynamic).

Democrats defend the widening of the franchise and accountability of election to public office to provide an alternative to the violent transfer of authority over public institutions, they defend the law to provide alternatives to the violent adjudication of disputes otherwise, they defend welfare programs to secure a scene of informed nonduressed consent to the terms on which we deal with one another in our commercial and private relations, and defend the public administration and investment in common and public goods to overcome tendencies toward structural violations that inevitably attend other administrative arrangements of such goods: nonviolence and equity-in-diversity suffuse the democratic vision across all of its layers.

Ron Paul, like all market libertarians, declares market exchanges and contractual arrangements "non-violent" by fiat, whatever the misinformation and duress that actually prevail over their terms; he believes that the contingent historical artifact of regulations, treaties, pricing conventions, provincial customs, norms, infrastructural affordances that passes for "the market" here and now is somehow an eternal and natural and spontaneous order; and he believes that the contingent historical artifact parochially construed by him as a reasonable responsible resourceful possessive individual subject is likewise given and natural. Like all market libertarians (and I do suspect all libertarians, always, even those who imagine themselves to be of the left) his is a vision of freedom and dignity that requires the treatment of key assumptions and institutions of the status quo as natural and inevitable rather than as artificial and historical, and hence his is a profoundly reactionary viewpoint at its base.

It is from this reactionary base that arise all the reactionary details, from the racism of his defense of segregation to his rejection of public health, safety, education, which those who view him as a paradoxical figure seem to want to regard as accidental or incidental to his "civil libertarianism." Not to put too fine a point on it, one cannot properly be civil anything if one repudiates civics as such.

For Ron Paul individualism means isolation, liberty means neglect, free to choose means free to lose (even when the loss is an avoidable one and a loss to us all). There is nothing paradoxical about his worldview -- except perhaps the usual Republican paradox of those who declare their detestation of government scrambling to find a comfortable home in government all their lives long. But I daresay that is better described as hypocrisy than as paradox. Like all libertarians, Ron Paul's point of view is an essentially pre-political one. Democrats who discern paradox in Ron Paul's positions would do better to grasp the consistency that unites Ron Paul's anti-democracy as well as unites the democratic commitment to nonviolence and consent, to equity-in-diversity.

Ah, End of Term!

I'm detecting an alcohol theme in this morning's blogging already.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

I adore flavored coffees. I mean, they are talking about booze aren't they?

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

One must never regret that a poet is drunk, but that drunkards are not always poets.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Here is a link to the final this term for my Technoscience and Environmental Justice course at the San Francisco Art Institute (variations on which I teach every couple years at SFAI and which I have taught a few times at UC Berkeley as "Green Rhetoric" as well). The finals I received were amazing, as always, and included some truly gorgeous and inventive projects, hand-made books, a couple of atlases, magazine re-appropriations and collages, a stunning light box installation, a beautiful oil painting, digital image galleries, a photo-essay, and this videotext project, among others. I'd love to provide links to even more of these lovely projects this time around (or from projects long past in prior versions of the course) -- so, if you were a student of mine and produced documentation of your project that I can readily link to, let me know in the comments to this post and I'll do so.


I realize blogging has been rather light these days -- end of term grading is upon me. Hoping to finish today, absolutely must finish by tomorrow. Then I'll have a few weeks to recover and, more like, prepare for the next onslaught.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

More fast food should arrive in a bucket. It's handy to vomit in when you're done.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Language is the noblest instrument we have, either for the revealing or the concealing of thought; talk itself is a sort of spiritualized action.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

The revolution was televised but I only caught it in syndication.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Whatever limits, constrains, and mutilates is essentially ugly, though the eyes of many are so blinded by custom that they do not notice the ugliness till it has become unfashionable.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Accepting Keystone XL Language Looks To Me More Like A Deal Than A "Cave"

Republicans have decided they won't consider extending the payroll tax cut for people who work for a living (as we all know, Republicans prefer tax cuts only for the rich, thank you very much) unless the Obama Administration agrees to come to a decision on whether to support the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline in two months' time rather than after the election as they had already agreed to do.

Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell is on record that he "will not support any bill without the Keystone XL language as part of the agreement.” The consensus description of what it will mean for the President to accept this demand -- that is to say, not to veto a payroll tax cut extension that includes this Keystone XL language -- is that it is a "cave" or even an "embarrassing cave," presumably indicating Presidential weakness, lack of principles, selling out his environmentally literate constituency, or whatever.

The whole point of this exercise is for McConnell to get in a little symbolic hippy punching (it upsets environmentalists that we are pointlessly destroying the world and Republicans think it is fun to upset them even if to do so is ultimately suicidal because Republicans are stupid assholes) and, more to the point, this presumably better sets the scene for demagoguing the pipeline issue during the Presidential campaign which Republicans would do anyway -- and, really, one can no more restrain Republicans from their Drill Baby Drill! war dance than one can keep them from doing the Electric Slide at buffet suppers, they're dumb hicks what can you expect? Just let it happen.

And since inclusion of the language really just means that in two months' time the President will come up with some bureaucratic blather that yields a decision that defers the decision until after the election anyway, who cares?

Sure, we can point out that the jobs numbers Republicans are attributing to the project are wildly inflated, sure, we can point out that conceding the value here of public infrastructure investment creating jobs gives the lie to their endless claims to the contrary when it comes to every single infrastructure proposal Democrats make with the sole difference that Democrats don't like this one so Republicans do, sure, the oil refined via the pipeline goes on an international market and so doesn't even actually address jingoistic domestic supply worries Republicans like to crow stupidly about and which only the shift to a renewable system Republicans revile because Democrats approve it could actually address, sure sure sure sure.

So what? It doesn't matter. Republicans will demagogue the issue whatever we say or do, they will say they want the opposite of whatever Democrats figure out is the best solution to our shared energy and environmental and schlerotic macroeconomic problems whatever we say or do. None of this matters.

Republicans say this is what they want and giving it to them changes almost nothing at all, so compromising on this isn't caving on principle. This isn't a philosophical debate they are having, in case you didn't notice. In fact, it's much more like actually governing, albeit in a form articulated by the intense stupidity and belligerence of so many of the participants in the process. What giving in to the Keystone language Republicans demand in exchange for getting the extensions Democrats demand (to head off an unnecessary shock to a fragile inadequate economic recovery that would harm almost everybody and to ameliorate the hardship of so many unemployed citizens whose lives touch almost everybody, too) is kinda sorta just getting a best case outcome given the demands of the stakeholders actually at the table, however mean and dumb they may be.

I don't think any of this muddles Democratic messaging on the environmental threat of tar sands, on the stimulative effect of infrastructure investment, on the irrationality of wealth concentration, on the demand that the rich need to pay their fair share, or anything else. I don't think either side will make a single argument differently than they otherwise would or behave differently in any other way either.

Maybe Democrats could try to get another bite at the minute tax on the richest of the rich apple in exchange for agreement on the Keystone language if they want, though it's not like they will get it or it will make any difference, really, and maybe Republicans won't take yes for an answer even if the President agrees to the Keystone language (since, after all, McConnell is also on record that making Obama a one-term President is his first priority, and keeping the economy in the shitter by any means necessary is the best tool Republican tools have on hand to try to accomplish that first priority, no matter how many lives it ruins). Who knows?

The payroll tax cut extension is actually stimulative and its curtailment would likely depress the already desperately inadequate recovery -- and so getting the extension and the extension of unemployment benefits is much more real than anything presumably lost by the demands Republicans are making for getting it. Since Republicans are monolithically obstructing almost every other stimulative policy tool actually available to government, we should take what we can get on the best terms we can get. Republicans will lie and demagogue the same whatever Democrats do, trying to circumvent such mischief is a fool's errand, and pretending that a compromise on language that doesn't commit us to any outcomes anyway to be a deep betrayal of principle is to misconstrue the stakes at hand to the detriment of sense.

Obama's actual acceptance of the pipeline would be such a compromise of principle, and I do worry that will happen after his election unless activists really educate, agitate, and organize to stop it (the Administration wasn't making encouraging noises before they decided to defer the decision after all). The general sense of the Hill is that forcing a decision on the Pipeline sooner than later is actually more likely to derail the project than to realize it, but all Republicans really seem to want is the pretext for a quasi-culture war fight with environmentalists, which likely means they will have the fight whatever happens here anyway.

Accept the dumb language and get the real extensions and then keep on making the substantial case against the pipeline and just hope more, and better, Democrats win in 2012 to do something more like the right thing than the wrong thing.

Christopher Hitchens' Body Has Caught Up to His Brain

Possibly it was disappointment at the end of the Iraq War that finally did him in? I raise my glass to a fellow contrarian, whose example restrains my sipping it: I mostly thought you were a prick, Hitch, even when we agreed. It's lucky for you, especially now, there is no hell but the one they make on earth for sexists to burn in for their sins.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

'Tis the Season for all the white patriotic consumers to celebrate the birth of the brown pacifist communist they would kill.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Meredith is a prose Browning, and so is Browning.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Four More Wars! Republicans Still Want to Bomb Bomb Bomb Bu-Bomb Bomb Iran…

Tax cuts for the rich and bomb the world, you know, for kids! Today's Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen...

When asked what he would have done upon learning a U.S. surveillance drone had crashed in Iran, Romney said “absolutely take it out.”
He (Obama) was extraordinarily weak and timid in a time of … a critical moment. This will have severe implications for us, long term, and it was a terrible mistake on his part. I find it incomprehensible that he didn’t destroy it, or go get it. I think destroying it would have been a good deal easier. Destroy it immediately, or go get it. But the idea of letting it fall into the hands of people who will use it against us, use the intelligence capacity against us, is an extremely enormous mistake on the part of this president.
… [F]ormer Vice President Dick Cheney has suggested in recent days that Obama should have just ordered an airstrike to destroy it, damn the consequences. Romney seems to be suggesting the same.

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Republicans Who Hate the Very Idea of Government Are Threatening To Shut Down Government Yet Again, You Say?

Chickens, meet roost.

Newt Getting the Boot

A spate of polls declare Newt to be in free-fall already, just the latest Not-Romney GOP Savior Flavor of the Week to implode upon scrutiny. I can't say that I am surprised -- this isn't anybody's first trip to the Rodeo, Palin, Trump, Bachmann, Cain have all taken us to the Rodeo -- but I will admit I'm a bit sad. I was hoping Newt's ascendancy was arriving close enough to Iowa to do real damage, but, alas.

The question I'm left with is whether the money-bag puke funnel (er, GOP Establishment) will be able to hypnotize the know-nothing white racist patriarchal prick muscular baby jeebus death-cult wannabe serfs (er, GOP Base) into solid support for dead-eyed bazillionaire Mr. 22% with the same ease that they kneecapped their shining pseudo-intellectual futurological-guru superannuated badboy scam artist pet. The thing I liked about a Newt nomination wasn't that I thought him beatable, since Obama can handily beat any one of the clowns in the GOP clown car this silly season, even with this economy in my opinion, but that I thought him so devastatingly beatable that his beat-down would have the coat-tails for Democrats to keep the Senate and regain the House, which our collective nightmare since the mid-terms has demonstrated must also happen if Obama winning the White House is supposed to mean anything apart from non-insane Supreme Court nominations given the monolithic obstructionism and relentless stupidity of Today's Crazytown GOP.

Now, if everybody in the GOP Base keeps on disliking Romney's cardboard manner and see-saw convictions and keeps on distrusting Romney's used car salesman protestations that he is quite as death-dealing and anti-civilizational as any Base GOP voter could care to meet, then perhaps Romney's thorough deconstruction by the Obama campaign might yield adequate demoralization of the GOP Base and worry-slash-disgust of the so-called Independents (not one of whom has ever had an Independent thought let alone voted on the basis of one) to yield enough coat-tail to keep the Senate and regain the House after all.

But that necessary work will be a harder slog by far for Democrats with Romney boring everybody into indifference to differences that make a difference, especially since no doubt the left blogipelago and media will undoubtedly give so many megaphones to performance artists declaring Obama and Romney to be twins as compared to their anarchist or socialist dream dates all the livelong day.

Anyway, maybe there's still time for Ron Paul to caress the GOP's Randroid Boner into something comparably suicidal to the Gingrich scenario, and, hey, Frothy Santorum hasn't yet been given his, er, shot, at the, er, mix. Here's hoping the Rodeo stays on the road. More cowbell!