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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Act Up for Women’s Health, Choice Nation, Run Riot!

I’m sure you’ve already read about Virginia state senator Janet Howell, who brilliantly proposed an amendment to an intrusive paternalistic anti-women’s health bill that would require women to pay for an impertinent, costly ultrasound before they can have an abortion, requiring that men undergo a rectal exam before they can be prescribed medication for erectile dysfunction. Although this medically unwelcome and likely humiliating procedure was offered up as a direct analogy to the ultrasound, the truth is that for a non-negligible number of the men in question a rectal exam would prove an unexpected remedy to their erectile dysfunction (believe me, boys, just relax, you might just find it’s awesome).

I don’t have anything to say about Howell’s most excellent and righteous proposal that a million other people who happen not to be patriarchal pricks in a full froth of hysterical sex panic aren't also saying, I'm sure. But I will add that there is something about the way Howell’s proposal viscerally dramatizes both the hypocrisy and costs of sexist and anti-choice politics that reminds me of the sorts of dramatic queer politics Queer Nationals and ACT UP and Riot Grrrls engaged in for nearly a decade, from roughly 1988 to 1997, and which energized educated queer activists built on in powerful coalitions online and on the ground with representatives and popular culture figures over the next decade or so, culminating soon enough in the end of DADT, anti-discrimination statutes, gay marriage initiatives... and I believe this is very much to the good. (By the way, I say this as an anti-militarist queer who disapproves of marriage and who is pleased that my critiques of patriarchal heteronormativity are now voiced from a position of righteous refusal rather than of marginal exclusion.)

I believe that the politics of choice have everything to gain from the absolutely vindicated strategies of parodic spectacular radicalism that have brought queer folks unprecedented equality in a breathtakingly short time in the United States (opposition to the racist War On (some) Drugs might also benefit from reflection of the tactics and strategies of millennial queer activism). I think that women and girls who have had abortions should come out loud and proud and en masse, I believe that the wives, daughters, and girlfriends of rich and powerful anti-choice figures should be outed as hypocrites when they make recourse to healthcare they would deny others, I believe that those conservatives who are both anti-choice and pro-capital punishment should be forced to say in public places that they believe rape victims and health care providers should be executed as murderers, and the arrant madness of their positions exposed to the glare of scrutiny. For far too long a bland faith in the availability of abortion coupled with a nervous distaste for the topic has provided a smoke screen behind which this nation has drifted via a thousand small regulations and cultural pressures into a nation in which a perfectly legal and absolutely necessary medical procedure has become disastrously de facto unavailable to millions of the poorest and most vulnerable through the efforts of the most ignorant, hypocritical, hateful zealots imaginable.

It’s time to stop pretending that anti-sex anti-women bigots and psychotics could care less that abortion rates factually decline when women have access to contraception, education, and healthcare or that pregnancy is an inherently risky process taking place in their own bodies over which women have the competence and right to consider on their own terms and in private consultation with their doctors. It’s time to stop letting the war-loving, gun-loving, execution-loving, child-poverty loving, insurance-profiteer loving death dealers get away with declaring themselves a Party of Life.

Fuck them! Keep Your Laws Off Our Bodies! Act Up! Fight Back! Out of the Back Alley and Into the Streets!

Behold the Man...

Teaching Nietzsche's Ecce Homo in seminar this morning in the City, but should be back in plenty of time to make a pitcher of Mai Tais and enjoy the GOP shenanigans...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Drag Race and Untucked Are Back

Monday night is shaved!

My initial thought is that Latrice Royale and Willam could do a seriously sick Goren and Eames. 


Gingrich to Romney: “I Know You Are But What Am I?”

"What a pathetic situation to be running for the President of the United States with nothing positive to say… All you got to do is try to tear your opponent down to where they get smaller than you are,” said Newt Gingrich of Mitt Romney in an interview with NBC

Today's Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen.

Highly inspiring.

Palin Vindicates Atrios Grand Unification Theory of Republican Douchbaggery

For years and years Atrios has been saying that the way Republicans decide what to champion, from guns in churches, to ketchup as a vegetable, to god hates fags, to drill baby drill, to bomb bomb bomb bomb-bomb Iran, to hanging abortion providers in the name of “life,” to food stamp president, to show me the birth certificate is simply, what would make the liberals mad? What would drive fact-based folks crazy? What would upset the bleeding hearts and artists? 

At first, I chuckled at his quip. Yeah, sometimes it really does seem that way, doesn’t it? But, really, how do these wingnuts manage to come up so quickly and consistently with the most heartless and ineffectual policy proposals, what short cut could they possibly be deploying? I mean, clearly they aren’t consulting science or experts or even common sense, so what can it be that leads them so seamlessly and as it were systematically into such perverse self-destructive death-dealing nonsense so forcefully and so resolutely, again and again and again? To say whatever one imagines liberals would be most upset by on every occasion, whatever the circumstances, whatever the evidence, whatever the consequences, provides precisely such a method to achieve the desired end, no mus no fuss.  

And, you know, the longer one observes Tea Bag Megachurch Fox News sorts, the harder it is to shake the suspicion that Atrios is really on to something profound. Whenever some wingnut bloviator winds up for a particularly putrescent bit of anti-Obama invective or suicidal policy prescription there really often is a slight twitch at the corner of the mouth to be discerned there, a strange misting of the eye as if their gaze has turned deliciously inward to imagine for a moment some earnest progressive wonk gasping in horror and despair to hear such defiance of decency or sense.

Oh, and here’s  Sarah Palin earlier today: "Vote for Newt. Annoy a liberal.” There ya go. Exhibit bazillion infinity.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Norquist Is Raving In the Bunker

There is something truly unhinged and desperate and pathetic in Grover Norquist’s recent interview in the National Journal. This is especially so, when he is handwaving about a Republican White House and Senate and House extending the ruinous Bush tax cuts for the rich for five years more and implementing Paul Ryan’s couponification of Medicare and so on in a dreamy screamy hundred-day inversion demolishing FDR’s New Deal and rewriting America in the image of Somalia and Galt’s Gulch over the objections or possibly the dead bodies of two hundred million Americans who want no such thing.

I mean, at least Karl Rove was sitting on a toypile of apparent accomplishments when he talked this way, and had a plan to re-orient the GOP to appeal to palpably changing demographics when he bragged about a permanent Republican majority and all the rest, and yet even with something to back it up you could clearly hear the Chorus upstage portentiously muttering, “famous last words.” But hearing Norquist singing the same surreal arias amidst the Occupied ruins of market fundamentalism in a wholesomely browning secularizing planetizing American multiculture with an enormously likeable and well-liked Democratic President struggling against high odds and ugly obstruction for people who work for a living, Norquist's words seem more than just hubristic or hollow but honestly hysterical.

When his interviewer gently prompts how Norquist would respond instead to a world in which Obama remains in the White House and Democrats gain in the House and remain a force in the Senate, the level of lunacy with which he responds seems to me quite instructive:
Obama can sit there and let all the tax [cuts] lapse, and then the Republicans will have enough votes in the Senate in 2014 to impeach. The last year, he’s gone into this huddle where he does everything by executive order. He’s made no effort to work with Congress.
You know, nobody in their right mind is falling for the line that Obama has made no effort to work with Congress, everybody knows the Teabag Congress wants nothing but to Shut It All Down (except for the parts that police lady parts) and that McConnell’s “first priority” is not governing but bringing down Obama. And, Impeachment is it? Oh, my dear! Again, nobody, nobody, nobody in their right mind is buying the threat that Obama could be impeached -- of all things! -- for letting tax cuts expire on schedule. Remember that pesky bit about High Crimes and Misdemeanors all ye tricorn hat wearing Constitutionalists? Not everybody would agree with my own spin on the specifics of the political scene, by any means, but nobody this side of sanity would credit Norquist's fantastic pronouncements.

The simple reality is that whatever his limitations, Obama and the Democrats simply outmaneuvered Boehner and the rest of the dumb-dumb GOP last year, over and over again despite their wave-election numbers and crazytown energy, so that at this point he really can do literally nothing while counting on Congress continuing doing nothing and just let tax rates return to a semblance of sanity and Defense budgets get slashed in the direction of sanity all the while demagoguing the GOP refusal to carve out an exception for middle class tax-rates (making him the tax-cutter even as taxes rise precisely as he wants them to do) and touting his various splashy bloody military accomplishments (making him strong on Defense even as he cuts the Defense budget and shifts the emphasis to “soft power” and multilateral diplomacy).

The truth is that Obama and the Democrats have too many of the facts on their side and far more talent on their side and are simply incomparably better attuned to the spirit of the country as it is, rather than as a few whiny white guys and old bigots want it to be, than racist dimwits like Jan Brewer or Mr. One-Percent, Mitt Romney.

More painful still, the truth also is that Norquist already got what he wanted, he already got what he has fought for all his life: he already built his daydream Congress, and it is America’s nightmare, with every poll to prove it in spades. Movement Republicanism was consummated in the Gingrich Contract Hit on America and W’s Killer Clown administration and 2012 (whatever a handful of bigoted assholes in South Carolina say) is turning with a decisive shudder of revulsion from the legacies of both. Obama is almost certain to regain the White House, and even if Democrats were to lose the Senate and Republicans keep the House, it is clear that neither result looks to be a GOP triumph, and the Democratic presence in both chambers will certainly remain substantial, while prospects for regaining the House and retaining the Senate are far from impossible, even though the odds look steep on paper and the necessary result remains an achievable hard-won triumph given the national mood and demographic trends. Either way, Norquist’s anti-civilizational anti-tax pledge is about to die on the altar of realpolitik, at least as an unchallengeable axiom of GOP politics (and once that dam cracks there follows the flood), his vision has been falsified and repudiated.

Just another mean broken flim-flam McCarthy or Nixon or Gingrich of the debased Republican Right is Grover in his corner. And you can be sure, Norquist can already taste the punchline he is about to become and which will be the lousy legacy of his whole life, and you can see the darting-eyed desperation, you can hear the shaky bluster in his voice, you can smell the horror on his breath

Wait And See

I'm still slow and sleepy-eyed, putting off various school related chores, reading a Terence Rattigan biography desultorily in the bath, actually maybe feeling mildly depressed about who knows what, but I can't say there is much to blog about that is sparking my attention anyway. I'm hopeful about the pieces coming together with Richard Cordray and Eric Schneiderman that maybe some assholes will go to jail and more folks with underwater mortgages may get relief, but I can't say that I'm ecstatically hopeful by any means, and so too I'm disgusted by the ongoing GOP scrum as The Artificial Man sews up the nomination to strains of the usual, if unusually relentless, hate and idiocy, but I can't say I'm epically disgusted by any means, just generally worn down and ambivalent I guess. It's awfully early in the silly season to feel this way, but I'm feeling -- as the title suggests -- very Asquithian about the whole thing for now.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bleary

Given yesterday morning's post, you will be unsurprised to hear that I slept thirteen hours last night, and woke up with a rat's nest on my head, no good for anything but watching Cranford DVDs all day.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Long Night's Journey Into Day

Ended up pulling an all nighter editing thesis drafts from my MA cohort, and now face a long teaching day at the Dogpatch campus, teaching the quarrel of the ancients and moderns, thinking Hobbes as precursor to Mill's homo economicus and talking about Rochester and the Man of Mode in my graduate seminar and then meeting individually with my MA students all afternoon. I'm not feeling too tired at the moment but expect I'll be fending off exhaustion on the train back home hours and hours from now. It would seem that college life simply imposes these follies on one occasionally, however one plans or prepares. I've been turning in all-nighters since I was an undergraduate, writing papers and later grading them, nearly thirty years now, even though I'm a veritable geezer ill-suited to their exactions these days, I'm afraid.

Atheist

Personally, I do without god. Isn’t that what "a-theist" means, anyway?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

“I’m Running for President, for Pete’s Sake, I Can’t Have…”

I’m the furthest thing from surprised that an American multi-bazillionaire like Mitt Romney employs transparently inequitable but legal tax dodges and loopholes and shelters to insulate his ill-gotten gains from being taxed in a way that would make such a beneficiary of American norms and infrastructure pay his fair share to support them.  Obviously, all these rich guys do most of that crap. But I must say it really is a little perplexing that when such a multi-bazillionaire also happens to spend more than a decade running for President he doesn’t polish and prune and fumigate the most damning details of these financial shenanigans long before they would attract the inevitable scrutiny of actual primary contests as his party’s frontrunner.

I mean, quite apart from the hypocritical unpleasantness of caring so conspicuously and so opportunistically about optics over substance every single moment, from moment to moment, whatever the soul-pretzeling demanded by that in the first place, what the hell was Romney thinking just leaving all these blatantly obvious landmines lying around all this time? Have all the competent professionals just left the GOP in despair, preferring to work with people who, you know, appreciate science and aren’t bigots? Is Romney just so insulated by privilege that he dismisses efforts to connect him to the perceptions and problems of people who work for a living without whose votes he cannot win the Presidency he so covets?

And if I can be forgiven a sudden topical veer, since I’m pointing out perplexities rather than the usual disagreements about policy and facts, just why is it that Romney so covets the Presidency anyway? Why keep fighting for it famously in the face of so much antipathy from his colleagues? Why invite so much scrutiny, especially given how obviously uncomfortable it makes him personally? It’s not that he’s on some kind of crusade, given his flabbergasting flip-flops on issue after issue. I’ve still yet to understand why he even wants the job so desperately… because it’s there? To kill time? To check off a box on his superrich white guy bucket list? Is it like W. again, some sick rich asshole inflicting his Daddy issues on the whole world via the GOP party apparatus? Honestly, what is it with this guy?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scientist Discovers Deathly Hallow...

...but cautiously urges the sensationalist press that even with the Invisibility Cloak in hand two more Hallows must still be found before she can reasonably expect to be considered for a Nobel Prize or declared Master of Death.

Newt’s Loony Lunar Promise

Presumably, Newt Gingrich’s futurological declaration today about a Moon Base within a decade was not meant as an admission of his eagerness to frak and drill and deforest the earth into a dead moonscape dotted with military bases, but was just a symptom of his usual grandiosity as he became momentarily distracted with daydreams of a Glorious Gingrichian Golden Age within his grasp at last, at last! This becomes even clearer when we discover that Gingrich offered up a number of other futurological promises in the speech which remain as yet under-reported, among them a promise to migrate the White House into an L5 torus from which asteroids would be tossed to smite his enemies, a promise to end the recession by unleashing programmed nanobotic swarms that will transform America’s Blue States at a molecular level into self-regenerating multi-ton layer cake archipelagos that can be had and eaten, too, and a promise that all who believe in him will have everlasting life once he uploads what he described as their "data-souls" into cyberspace (which he also promised would be heaven and not hell despite bugs, crashes, surveillance, and spam).

More Evidence That Both Sides Are Equally Crazy!

It has been widely discussed that Republican State Senator Ralph Shortey of Oklahoma City introduced Bill 1418 yesterday, prohibiting "the sale or manufacture of food or products which contain aborted human fetuses." But less well known so far, no doubt due to Liberal Media Bias, is that here in the Bay Area Democrats have expressed their San Francisco Values by introducing a Bill the very same day to reclassify aborted fetuses as vegetables so that even vegetarian liberals can continue to eat the fetus flesh we all so desperately crave.

Nancy Pelosi's Secret Plan to End the Whore

Contrary to right-wing conspiracists -- who seem to have a dread of Nancy Pelosi bordering either on the psychotic or the supernatural, depending on the flavor of their particular wingnuttery -- everything that the once and future Speaker of the House "knows" about why Newt Gingrich will never be President is knowable by anybody who cares to spend ten minutes skimming the public record, as Greg Sargent patiently elaborates, and not for the first time, here.

The Grumpy Old Piss-ants Party Is Mourning In America


 As far as the nation is concerned, it would seem that the Republican contribution to the President's stirring practical fair-minded State of the Union Address last night amounts to the image of Eric Cantor's supremely sour facial expression throughout the speech together with the decline and fall narrative and austerity for all but the already rich prescriptions of Mitch Daniels' dreary Republican Response providing the caption.

While critics deride the conspicuous exhaustion of the GOP's Gipper Pep and delusional can-do Zazz (Is that weepy John Boehner I hear in the background, with his "Hell, no you can't!" banshee howl?), I think it is only fair to point out that Republicans are not demoralized by phantoms, after all, but by palpable realities: the wholesome demographic diversification of the nation has stolen the racist Southern Strategy and gay bashing culture war flogging away from them at last.

With less hate to divide the people who work for a living from one another and provide cover for their pro-plutocracy activism the GOP finds itself at the margins of an ever more secular multiculture, and is forced to appeal precisely to the most desperate dwindling dead-end extremists and know-nothings in their coalition for organizational energy at the cost of ongoing accelerating self-marginalization. When Republicans rail about decline it is not America's but their own they are testifying to, and the decline is real, as is their pain.

The Republicans have plenty to be grumpy about. You see, they are right: the mean parochial white racist America they love is going, going, gone for good, and they are not ever going to get it back. They lost the culture wars, they are losing the political wars, they are on the verge of losing the social wars, and either they will lose or in winning we will all lose the sustainability war.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I'll Give Daniels This, Though --

His little speech was less robotic than Mitt Romney would have been, and less demonic than Newt Gingrich would have been, while differing from neither of them very much on the likely substance -- if substance is a word one can apply to such nonsense.

Pick One UPDATED

In the official Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address, embattled Indiana governor Mitch Daniels said we can no longer afford to fund the safety net and yet called for more tax breaks for the rich. Quite apart from how obscenely skewed are the priorities expressed in such a vision, how does it make any kind of sense to declare we can afford to blow trillions giving handouts to the already rich while we cannot afford providing basic security to the vulnerable majority who work for a living to the benefit of all? America is an unimaginably rich nation and Democrats know we can indeed afford to provide security and equity for our people in our diversity. Republicans say we cannot afford anything while at once bellowing to lard billionaires with more of the money they say we cannot afford. For heaven's sake, pick one! Daniels revealed that even at their most reasonably modulated, Republicans in this moment of their utter debasement offer nothing to the country but incoherence in the service of injustice.

UPDATE: Steve Benen patiently elaborates the deceptions and absurdities in Daniels' address.

Emma Lazarus


Monday, January 23, 2012

But Al Gore Is Fat

Frakking is bringing earthquakes to the mid-west, and carbon pollution is bringing tornado swarms to the South in January. Sounds like it's high time for more tax cuts for the rich!

Law and Order

Always there, on some channel, in some incarnation, stalwart, steady, and true, when you sit down on the couch with your sandwich. Easy to figure out even if you arrive in the middle of the episode, always easy to turn off when you’re done whether the episode is over or not, always engaging enough while you munch away when MSNBC is in prison mode or Joe Scarborough is on.

Dueling Pedants: Vulture Capitalist Edition

I realize that vultures actually perform a vitally important role in the ecosystems of which they are a part and that, hence, describing enterprises like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital -- which swoop in on local communities, engage in leveraged buyouts, shut down plants, ship jobs overseas, sell everything that isn’t bolted down, restructure businesses often deliberately into bankruptcy, sometimes devastating whole communities so that a handful of already filthy rich predators can take the money and run -- as “vulture capitalists” is deploying a metaphor which ecologists know to be, stricto sensu, inapt. However, as a rhetorician (who also happens to teach environmental politics) I must say that what matters at least as much as this particular mismatch is that “vulture capitalist” sounds almost the same as the “venture capitalist” Mitt Romney falsely claims to be, a serendipitous euphony that provides a rare occasion for a lethal and memorable pun, instantly replacing Romney’s self-congratulatory fraud with the image of a very scary skinny predatory bird not exactly dissimilar in appearance from Romney himself and redolent with precisely the associations of gorging on death one would want people to think of when they think of Bain Capital. While one must concede the ecologist their point, I daresay it is not unreasonable to propose they focus on the wholesome project of doing justice to the ecological role of the vulture at some other time than the entirely unrelated moment when pundits and politicians are trying to score quick points against evil assholes who are destroying lives with predatory financial schemes and then expecting to be celebrated for it as job creators? So, I see your Nelly Olson and raise you one Henry Higgins.

Mahjong

I realize I've gone more than a whole day without blogging at this point, and you deserve to know that the entire reason is that I've been obsessively playing Mahjong Titans on my new computer instead. Confessing this in public is my penance for lamely blowing my weekend in this way.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Newt! Newt! Newt! Newt!

For anybody who wants Democrats not only to keep the White House in 2012 but wants a Democratic administration that can actually implement the agenda it has a mandate for with Democratic partners in the Senate and Congress, today is a very good day. Stupid bigots of South Carolina, I salute you!

Who Is Gingrich Really Putting In Their Place?

Newt Gingrich is surging right now because a whole lot of Republican racists think Gingrich is putting black people “in their place” through his slurs against the work-ethic of hard working Americans like Juan Williams (whose betrayal by the GOP serves him right and which he was quite foolish not to expect) and through his misleading sloganizing against food stamps, an indispensable program in hard times like these on which more struggling white Americans than black ones currently depend.

Newt Gingrich is surging because a whole lot of Republican patriarchal pricks think Gingrich is putting women “in their place” when he calls his ex-wife a liar because she pointed out that he is a serial philanderer who has demonstrated a distressing tendency heartlessly to divorce his wives whenever they become sick or vulnerable and actually need him, despite his pious grandstanding about his family values and his leading the charge against a popular sitting President for philandering even while he was doing so himself (the Clinton marriage, by the way, remained intact).

Newt Gingrich is surging right now because a whole lot of Republican crybaby paranoids (the same ones who think themselves to be relentlessly tortured victims in their perfectly normal unchallenged Christianity just because different people than them also happen visibly to exist) think Gingrich is putting a phantom liberal media “in its place” through his declarations that it is outrageous to point out perfectly well-substantiated and already widely known instances of his misconduct, hypocrisy, deception, and corruption.

Newt Gingrich is surging right now because a whole lot of stupid Republicans think Gingrich is smart just because he is shameless and unscrupulous (Republicans do this a lot, it is the reason Karl Rove is considered a genius rather than simply a sociopath for example), and because they fantasize that he will deploy his stunning genius in debates to “put in his place” an African-American President they think to be a Teleprompter-dependent welfare-case rather than the consummately brilliant, accomplished, competent, inspiring, likeable reality of Barack Obama.

All this is just to say that right now, right before our eyes, an ignorant inept mean-spirited hysterical out of touch white racist woman-hating gay-hating war-mongering Republican base is putting itself in its proper place… as an utterly ugly dysfunctional neo-confederate rump at the margins of a nation that is wholesomely promisingly browning, secularizing, democratizing, socializing, ecologizing more and more with every passing day.

The GOP Is Not Re-Staging the 2008 Obama-Clinton Primary Contest

Many GOP consultants are now trying to spin this recent turn of their primary contest from coronation to bloody slog as a positive development, comparing this toxic train wreck with the 2008 competition between Obama and Clinton. What I have to assume is that these consultants are hoping nobody notices the difference between a competition between two brilliant, talented, historically epochal, base-mobilizing candidates like Obama and Clinton whose skirmishes sharpen their abilities and strengthen their organizations, as against a competition between profoundly (even shockingly) flawed candidates whose skirmishes highlight differences that also happen to expose and exacerbate deep (and demographically soon to be fatal) fissures in their party’s coalition and between its base and establishment.

Does anybody in their right mind imagine that a President Romney or Gingrich would invite their palpably despised rival into the highest imaginable place in their own administration and with a comparable expectation of the finest service, as Obama rightly expected of Clinton? Of course not. But, then, nobody really expects any of these killer clowns actually to win the White House either, now, do they? Nor should they. Emperor, meet your new clothes.

Obama Is the Big Winner Three for Three

A week ago I was feeling rather disappointed that South Carolina looked to represent a three and three coronation for Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee for President. Today I am rather pleased to see South Carolina as the state that looks to be the threshold into a months-long primary competition, with three different winners in the first three states, and the prospect of the still-inevitable nominee Romney arriving at his convention bloodied beyond recognition and resented beyond bearing because of attacks and critiques from other Republicans which Obama surrogates will go on to reprise devastatingly in the general, but now with the imprimatur of bipartisanship and without any implication of “going negative” in an already entirely negative environment. Heck, if in the general Obama continues to draw the contrast with Romney in the deft and understated manner being previewed so far even his negativity may read as positivity compared with the ugly toxicity of the GOP knife-fight and festival of resentment.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Long Teaching Day

Fridays are my long day this term. I'm off to the Dogpatch campus to teach my graduate seminar (What Now? Aesthetics and Politics Between Past and Future) from nine to noon, then a bit of a break followed by workshopping three hours with my MA Thesis cohort. Shouldn't be too bad, tho', I'll usually manage to be home before dark at any rate. I can already tell that the greatest hurdle in the way of my Fridays is the one-two punch of sweet distraction that is Project Runway All-Stars followed by 24 Hour Catwalk the night before to interfere with course prep...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Would Rather Fight Romney

I understand why Democrats rub their hands together in glee contemplating a Gingrich or Santorum nomination. Like the imbecile Cain, the secessionist Perry, the dot-eyed loon Bachmann, Gingrich and Santorum are so damaged, so inadequate to the Presidency, so utterly divisive the prospect of a race between any of them and Obama inspires visions of a Goldwater style landslide victory with the kind of coattails that can deliver the House and Senate and give Democrats another bite at the apple of enacting the policies the Obama mandate already afforded but which the unprecedented obstructionism of incompetent, deceptive, traitorous, bigoted, bought and paid for Republicans has restrained.

The thing is, apart from his Mount Rushmore of a head, it is hard for me to see why anybody thinks the universally disliked, awkward, flip-flopping, liberal Massachusetts, serial political failure, richy rich vulture financier, Mormon, creator of the healthcare reform on which was modeled the healthcare reform detestation of which defines Republican hostility above all else is by any available measure a better or stronger candidate than any of the other killer clowns on offer this time around.

I personally prefer Romney as the candidate with whom Obama competes for the Presidency, simply because Romney is so conspicuously the candidate representing the 1% that his nomination best ensures Obama runs more explicitly as he should as the candidate representing the 99%. This means that the 2012 Presidential Campaign can actually provide a tutorial on the utter failure of the neoliberal paradigm and an opening for a renewal of the social democratic impulse imperfectly discerned in the New Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society.

The other candidates with whom Obama might otherwise spar all provide juicy target-rich environments of bigotry, know-nothingism, extremism, and volatility that might dilute the message that the conspicuous contrast of Mr. One Percent Romney versus President Obama of the People Who Work for a Living makes well-nigh inevitable.

Obama will still win as surely as he would with Santorum or Perry, indeed, we may still be granted our righteous empowering landslide. But above all a battle with Romney continues the lesson begun in Wisconsin through Occupy Summer, and that is a lesson America needs to learn if we are ever to take up in earnest the necessary national task of collaborating with the rest of the world in the building of a sustainable, equitable, diverse, democratic planetary civilization.

I Agree With Kos

Politico on PIPA and SOPA:
Leo Hindery [has warned] Obama might have reason to worry about his entertainment industry fundraising base... The television, movies and music industries donated more than $9 million on Obama last election, according to Center for Responsive Politics, and more than 70 percent of the industries’ donations to federal candidates from employees and political action committees have gone to support Democrats in recent years.
dKos replies:
[H]ow many people are lining up behind the pro-PIPA/SOPA forces? How many regular Americans are fighting alongside the studios? How many petition signatures has the MPAA and RIAA gathered from its customers? The answer is none. There isn't an industry more disdainful of its audience than these self-styled "content producers" (as if they're the only ones producing content). And [when] they aren't busy trying to kill new technologies like the VCR (and the internet), or pre-accusing their customers of being criminals by flashing that insulting FBI warning before every video that they've bought, or suing teenagers and parents for posting videos of their babies dancing to commercial music, then they're working the congressional backrooms to screw the broader public.... Here's the deal, Mr. Fucking Hollywood—don't donate more money. Take your $9 million and shove it up your ass.... Hollywood dinosaurs can whine and cry about how "unfair" it is that everyone hates your fucking guts, and you can weep about how the issue has become "political," as if it wasn't already political the moment you demanded PIPA and SOPA in exchange for millions of dollars in political contributions. Hollywood isn't alone in demanding services for campaign contributions. The Republicans, after all, are owned outright big Big Oil, Pharma and other major corporate interests. But I don't expect good responsive government out of the Republicans. I do expect it from our side.
Here's to the real content providers, the internet Occupied the Media ages ago, peer to peer! All the creative people, all the funny people, all the imaginative people are already on the side of the Democrats, who gives a shit what the suits think in their sinking ships? dKos can raise nine million in a couple weeks, fer cryin out loud! I agree with Kos, it's high time for the Democrats to tell the self-appointed elite-incumbent "content providers" (skimmers, censors, middle-men, vulgarizers, falsifiers all) to shove it if their contributions come with the usual corrupt strings attached. Contact your congress critters if you have not already done so and insist they repudiate PIPA and SOSA. Believe me, even Big Media will be fine without it.

Syllabus for My Graduate Seminar This Spring at SFAI

What Now? Aesthetics and Politics Between Past and Future

Critical Studies 500-1, Spring 2012

Third Street Lecture Hall, Fridays, 9.00-11.45

Instructor: Dale Carrico; dcarrico@sfai.edu

Course Web-Site: whatnowbetweenpastandfuture

Approximate Grade Breakdown: Attendance/Participation 25%; Precis/Co-facilitation 25%; Symposium Presentation 10%; 25pp. Paper 40%

Provisional Schedule of Meetings:

January

Week One | 20 Course and Personal Introductions.

Week Two | 27 Fontenelle Digression on the Ancients and the Moderns | Hobbes, excerpts from Leviathan on Power, Wit, Equality -- Poems by Rochester, all posted on the blog | George Etherege, The Man of Mode

Supplemental: William Temple, On Ancient and Modern Learning, Jonathan Swift, "The Battle of the Books," Luc Ferry, Rights: The New Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns

February

Week Three | 3 Kant Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View, What Is Enlightenment? | Willian Congreve, The Way of the World

Supplemental: Hannah Arendt, Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy, J.B. Schneewind, The Invention of Autonomy

Week Four | 10 Schiller, Aesthetic Education of Man | Richard Sheridan, The School for Scandal

Supplemental: Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism

Week Five | 17 Engels "Marx as the Darwin of History" on blog, Marx on the Fetishism of Commodities | Adam Smith: excerpts from Wealth of Nations and John Stuart Mill on Homo Economicus, all on the blog | John Gay, The Beggar's Opera

Supplemental: Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature

Week Six | 24 Oscar Wilde, "Soul of Man Under Socialism," and The Importance of Being Earnest, including the cut "Grigsby Episode" on the blog; Preface to Dorian Grey, Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young, Transcripts of the Wilde Trials.

Supplemental: Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process

March

Week Seven | 2 From Aesthetics and Politics, Presentation I, Ernst Bloch Versus Georg Lukacs, Presentation II, Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin, pp. 9-99; Fredric Jameson, Reflections in Conclusion, pp. 196-213 | in class screening of Noel Coward, "Hands Across the Sea"

Supplemental: Gayatri Spivak, Death of a Discipline, Paul Gilroy Postcolonial Melancholia

Week Eight | 9 From Aesthetics and Politics, Presentation III, Adorno Versus Benjamin, pp. 100-143 | Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility | Horkheimer and Adorno, Culture Industry; Adorno Culture Industry Revisited | Marinetti, Futurist Manifesto | Joe Orton, The Good and Faithful Servant

Supplemental: Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing, Dreamworld and Catastrophe

Week Nine | 16 Spring Break

Week Ten | 23 Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses | Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future, "Preface: The Gap Between Past and Future," pp. 3-14, Human Condition: Action (handout) | Kafka Before the Law, and on the blog "Give It Up!"

Supplemental: Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

Week Eleven | 30 Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, and also the Preface to the Third French Edition | Joe Orton, "Entertaining Mr. Sloane"

Supplemental: Roland Barthes, Mythologies

April

Week Twelve | 6 Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style | Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp

Supplemental: David Lloyd, Paul Thomas: Culture and the State

Week Thirteen | 13 MFA Reviews

Week Fourteen | 20 in-class screening of Todd Haynes' "Velvet Goldmine," videos on blog by David Bowie, Pet Shop Boys, Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga, and others.

Supplemental: From Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, from Jameson,Postmodernism, Bruno Latour We Have Never Been Modern

Week Fifteen | 27 Naomi Klein -- Introduction to No Logo One and Two, and Patriarchy Gets Funky | Claire Bishop Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics -- in-class screening of AbFab episode, "Doorhandle"

Supplemental: David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Saskia Sassen Territory, Authority, Rights

May

Week Sixteen | 4 Symposium
Hand in Final Essay no later than May 8.

Course Objectives:
1. To think the "now" as a modernity substantiated in serial quarrels of ancients and moderns, as a vantage from which offer up aesthetic judgments, and as a provocation to change implicating the aesthetic in the political.
2. To think the relation of aesthetics and politics -- in our own "now," construed as the consummating moment of Neoliberalism -- via a survey of mostly post-marxist aesthetic and cultural theory.
3. To contemplate some of the ways in which cultural/political subjects have made spectacles of themselves for audiences of themselves, especially on stages and screens, roughly concurrently with the ways in which they have struggled to think themselves along the way.
4. To grasp some of the fraught relations of the cultural and the social to one another through the indispensability to each of the state and of the state itself to the states of culture and society.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back to School!

First day back teaching, a critical theory survey (here's the syllabus if you're curious). Friday is my intense teaching day this term, today should be quick and painless, administrivial mostly. Still, blogging may be low today -- especially if, as I hope, my new desktop arrives today (my first new computer in over a decade, not counting the hand-me-down Eric gave me a few years ago when he upgraded). No, if you're wondering, I'm not a Mac.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fuel for the Frothmentum! Totally Fucked Up Shit Edition

I don't know what is more fucked up, the fact that crazytown anti-gu'ment-except-for-my-pet-police-state anti-gay anti-abortion anti-contraception crusader Rick Santorum's partner in madness lived in sin in her twenties with a partner who was an abortion provider and outspoken liberal and pro-choice crusader, or the fact that this partner of hers, apparently forty years older than she is, was actually the obstetrician who delivered her! Who delivered her!

The Radical King In His Own Words

For those who think the ferociously brave, profoundly disruptive, absolutely radical King was indeed the thoroughly domesticated postage stamp now beloved by all and feared by few, I recommend this year, as every year on this day, you watch or listen to or read the transcript of this fine Democracy Now! Special.

Ayn Raelian Update

My documentation and explorations of key reactionary figures and organizational nodes in the Robot Cult archipelago The Ayn Raelians, has been considerably expanded. I'm beginning to think this bit of muckraking needs a place in the book I've been piddling around with over break based on the pieces in the Condensed Critique.

So, Presumably We're Pretending We Thought Huntsman Was Actually In the Race?

Sure, fine.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Futurological Brickbats: Thinking Person's Guide

In coming to terms with the present, especially in grasping the meaning of what has taken us by surprise, we understand and, better still, become understanding. In predicting the future, especially in proposing coinages that would work as spells to dispel being taken by surprise, we become ever more susceptible to fraud and, worse still, become frauds. Where thinking is concerned, this is a variation on the difference between investment and speculation.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Mean Mitt's Dog-On-A-Roof-Gate Draws Comment Across the Blogipelago

Buzzfeed surveys some of the most piquant parodies so far.

Dispatches From Libertopia: Acton Edition

If it is usually true that command corrupts, it is absolutely true that only the corruptible covet command.

More Dispatches from Libertopia here.

Randroid Kreme Sundae

I Was Shitting You People -- A Message From Ayn Rand

Behind the Music: Atlas Shrugged

When Alan Met Ayn: Atlas Shrugged and Our Tanked Economy

Audio of Sam Seder (adorable!) on Ayn Rand's Hypocrisy.

Ozymandias Shrugged, read it for the comments -- here's mine.

Implausible Characters, Vacuous Foundations

Dispatches from Libertopia: Envy Edition

That the greedy decry all judgments of their misconduct as expressions of envy is hardly surprising, since in giving in to greed one has first of all to give leave to judgment the better to give oneself over entirely to envy.

More Dispatches from Libertopia here.

Four Freedoms

Detail from the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC.

MundiMuster! Corporations Are Not People! Endorse America's Senator Bernie Sanders' Constitutional Amendment Overturning Citizens United

via Democracy for America:
Today, as a result of the absurd Citizens United Supreme Court decision, corporations and billionaires can spend unlimited sums of money, without disclosure, in political campaigns. And that is exactly what they're doing.

Last month, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Join Sen. Sanders and tell Congress that --
* Corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as human beings.

* The people have the right to regulate corporations.

* Corporations are prohibited from making campaign contributions.

* Congress and states shall have the power to set reasonable limits on election spending.
Add your name now.

When Gays Are Not Being Bullied To Death It Makes Muscular Baby Jesus Cry

via TPM:
A proposed bill in Tennessee would create a loophole in the state’s anti-bullying laws to protect those expressing religious, philosophical or political beliefs, which one proponent says would ensure that people can still express their “views on homosexuality.”
As if bullying the vulnerable were a kind of prayer or philosophical proposition, a poem! To say that the queer people in their communities are not people at all is not to express a view but to engage in a violence against those people, against their community, and as such against themselves though they will not know it.

The intolerant always demands tolerance for his intolerance. The bigot always decries as violence and as bigotry the restraint of his bigotry from the worst of its violence. The racist always declares racist the exposure and denunciation of his racism. How righteously they demand the rights they violate, how convinced and smug they are in their hypocrisy, how sure they are of the unassailable logic of their self-contradictions! It is a demoralizing game the moralizers play, endless and enervating, and the only winning move for those who would oppose their mean parochialism and energetic cruelty is simply never to play it on their terms.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What We Aren't Talking About When We Talk About Our Soldiers Desecrating the Bodies of the Dead

While I obviously agree with those who point out that American soldiers desecrating corpses in Afghanistan isn't making Americans any safer or more free, indeed quite the contrary, still it seems to me all the while we are arguing about this we are neglecting the no less obvious prior point that soldiers making corpses in Afghanistan in the first place isn't making Americans any safer or more free either, if it ever did. We shouldn't be occupying Afghanistan and we shouldn't be killing its people year after year to no purpose -- that we shouldn't also desecrate the bodies of those we kill in this endless bloody idiocy, while patent to anybody who isn't utterly dead to decency or sense, is surely a supplementary consideration?

Rachel Maddow Documents Mean Mitt's Animal Cruelty

Just in case you thought Romney's callous cruelty was confined to his treatment of human animals who work for a living...

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

For more information, I recommend the website Dogs Against Romney, which has apparently been active since 2007 and knows where all the, er, bones are buried. Among other things, like reading blog updates with lots of good information for those of us who already have plenty of reason to think Mitt Is Mean, one can purchase from the website adorable shirts and hoodies, like this one declaring that, indeed, "Mitt Is Mean." So true, so true…
As a cat person, I appreciate enormously the availability as well of this protest tee from the affinity "Cat's Division" of Dogs Against Romney. "Hiss!"
Also, too, spread the terror! Google bomb, away, you know, for kids -- and all the little puppies and kittens.

Countries Are Not Companies!

Paul Krugman clearly, patiently, insistently makes the obvious, indispensable, endlessly ignored basic political point yet another time:
...America is not, in fact, a corporation. Making good economic policy isn’t at all like maximizing corporate profits. And businessmen… do not… have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery. Why isn’t a national economy like a corporation? For one thing, there’s no simple bottom line. For another, the economy is vastly more complex than even the largest private company. Most relevant… is the point that even giant corporations sell the great bulk of what they produce to other people, not to their own employees -- whereas even small countries sell most of what they produce to themselves, and big countries like America are overwhelmingly their own main customers... six out of seven American workers are employed in service industries... largely insulated from international competition, and even our manufacturers sell much of their production to the domestic market. And the fact that we mostly sell to ourselves makes an enormous difference when you think about policy. Consider what happens when a business engages in ruthless cost-cutting. From the point of view of the firm’s owners (though not its workers), the more costs that are cut, the better... But the story is very different when a government slashes spending in the face of a depressed economy. Look at Greece, Spain, and Ireland, all of which have adopted harsh austerity policies. In each case, unemployment soared... [and] the reduction in budget deficits was much less than expected, because tax receipts fell as output and employment collapsed… Mr. Romney is… claiming that his career makes him especially suited for the presidency…. [T]he last businessman to live in the White House was a guy named Herbert Hoover… [u]nless you count former President George W. Bush… Like many… I was somewhat startled by [Romney's] latest defense of his record at Bain… [claiming] he did the same thing the Obama administration did when it bailed out the auto industry, laying off workers in the process. One might think that Mr. Romney would rather not talk about a highly successful policy that just about everyone in the Republican Party, including him, denounced at the time. But what really struck me was how Mr. Romney characterized President Obama’s actions: “He did it to try to save the business.” No, he didn’t; he did it to save the industry, and thereby to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost, deepening America’s slump. Does Mr. Romney understand the distinction? America certainly needs better economic policies… [M]ost of the blame for poor policies belongs to Republicans and their scorched-earth opposition to anything constructive… [and] we’re not going to get better policies if the man sitting in the Oval Office next year sees his job as being that of engineering a leveraged buyout of America Inc.

E-mails Between Oakland City Hall and Police Reveal Deception and Collusion About Crime and Violence to Justify Scandalous Crack-Down on Peaceful Constitutionally Protected Occupy Oakland

KTVU:
Ktvu obtained more than 1,000 internal emails between Oakland City Hall and police through a public records request that show just how stressful of a situation it was for leaders.
Before you devote too much energy empathizing with the "stress" created for Oakland's public servants by peaceful Constitutionally protected demonstrations among the citizens who voted them into their positions and in whose names they govern, presumably with some expectation that the fraught business of governing in a democracy will indeed be a stressful business -- which is why we tend to honor and respect such difficult service, after all -- I hope you will remember that the protestors were in the Plaza precisely because theirs, too, was a "stressful situation," a situation of deep and profound suffering, distress, exploitation in reaction to injustices far more profound.
In one message written Oct. 13, a sergeant said he'd been confronted by protesters camping at Frank Ogawa Plaza and that one implied they would remove officers by force if they entered the camp without permission. Five days later, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Israel told Chief Howard Jordan, "We can either wait for a riot, or order them to cease their night time occupation." Soon after, images of the protest began making national and international news.
You did notice, there, that the, er, "let's actually wait for a riot or something bad actually happening" option was disregarded.
In the days leading up to the Nov. 2 march on the Port of Oakland, city leaders warned about the drain on police resources. When Jordan received an update that crime was actually down 19 percent in the last week of October, he wrote an email to one of Mayor Jean Quan's advisers. "Not sure how you want to share this good news," he wrote. "It may be counter to our statement that the Occupy movement is negatively impacting crime in Oakland." Police and the city said Occupy has had an ongoing impact on their ability to respond to crime.
In other words, the surreal armed confrontation with peaceful protestors in the streets of my Oakland, images of which have been seared in the minds and memories of millions, introducing overwhelming force and destruction where there was none, simultaneously drained the resources and so undermined the capacity of the police to do their jobs elsewhere in the city where there were actual crimes and acts of violence to attend to. I do hope we are all clear, by the way, about the strategy the City adopted for "shar[ing the] good news" that crime was down considerably during the protests. They lied about it. They knew they were lying. They used the lies to justify their own criminal violence against their own citizens peacefully protesting in their own City about injustices that concern us all.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Incipient Sanity In Crazytown?

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, my reply in conversation with "jollyspaniard," for your consideration:
Of course, nothing could be clearer than that the GOP does NOT prefer Romney, hence their almost hysterical affirmation of not-Romney after not-Romney. That even much of the Establishment neither likes nor trusts Romney any more than the Base does is well documented (and following the money confirms this). However, his quick consolidation of front-runner status through the primary contests (which I certainly expected, given the alternatives) is quite interesting nonetheless. It is important to remember that what you appropriately call the "busload of clowns" (Palin, Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Santorum) are actually reflecting and catering directly to the real attitudes and assumptions that drive the GOP Base, so that when they "fall in line" as they are for Romney on the grounds of electability as they are (setting aside for the moment that I honestly regard him nearly as unelectable as the rest of clowns in the clown car, not just as likely to lose but as structurally nearly incapable of winning, with nothing but lots of money and his Base's rancid rather race-based hatred of Obama on his side) it is useful to notice that this choice of "electability" over their own core convictions is premised on their recognition that they are a marginal minority in a browning, secularizing, planetizing, democratizing nation -- that whatever their boasts about being the "real Americans" and "the American people have spoken and what they want is... voucherized social security! more austerity for the undeserving poor! zero taxes and regulations for our rich overlords! climate change denialism! creationism in biology class! jezebels hanged birth control!" and so on, they actually are starting to make political decisions based on changed assumptions. The unconscious realization that the right lost the culture wars has long driven the disciplinary fervor of the GOP (as well as accounting for their weird declarations that a blandly average Christian majority seems really surreally to feel themselves embattled and discriminated against and hanging by their nails at the edge of a precipice or something), but the emergence of a more pragmatic politics premised on the un-electability of candidates reflecting their actual views may be the first step toward recognizing that their views have been tested and found wanting. This may be the beginning of the self-awareness that will eventually redefine the Republican party into a version of conservatism that can partner in the fact-based administration of a diverse sustainable multicultural multipolar polity/world (their loss to Obama again, and the loss of most of their mid-term gains would drive that lesson home further still). Definitely the old dysfunctional coalition you rightly describe of "business plutocrats with christian[ist]s and teapartiers [eg, more or less the Bircher contingent -- various mixes of libertopian neo-confederates] as useful idiots" has not survived the p2p-democratization of base voters any more than the faux-centrist Clinton/DLC left survived the p2p-democratization of the Democratic Party from MoveOn through Dean to Obama's triumph (whose second term will reflect that transformation even better than the first if we manage to swing the Congress in my view).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Obama 2012: If the Supreme Court Skews We Are Supremely Screwed

Dahlia Lithwick:
For anyone considering the 2012 election’s importance to the future of the American judiciary, one fact stands out: next November, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be seventy-nine years old. If a Republican wins the presidential election, he or she may have an opportunity to seat Ginsburg’s successor, replacing the Supreme Court’s most reliably liberal jurist with a conservative. That would mean that the Court -- currently balanced almost elegantly between four liberals, four conservatives, and the moderate conservative Anthony Kennedy -- would finally tilt decisively to the right… A 2008 study by Richard Posner, a federal appeals court judge, and William Landes, a law professor at the University of Chicago, examined the voting records of seventy years of Supreme Court justices in order to rank the forty-three justices who have served on the Court since 1937. They concluded that four of the five most conservative justices to serve on the Supreme Court since 1937 sit on the Supreme Court today. Justice Clarence Thomas ranked first. Kennedy, who is ranked tenth in that study, will be seventy-six next November. If a Republican successor of Obama gets to replace both Kennedy and Ginsburg, it’s fair to predict that the Roberts Court may include five or even six of the most conservative jurists since the FDR era.
Needless to say, these so-called "conservative" jurists would surely be better denoted radical plutocrats with profoundly reactionary social and cultural views and an urgent activist agenda in mind.

American See Saw Seen

When Americans trust their government more than corporations things always get better, when Americans trust corporations more than their government things always get worse.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top Ten Plutocratic Mitticisms So Far

Go to TPM for the whole list and its hilarious annotation (also including evergreen "who let the dogs out" video):
1. “I’m also unemployed” (June 16, 2011)
2. “Corporations are people, my friend” (August 11, 2011)
3. “I’m running for office for Pete’s sake, we can’t have illegals” (October 18, 2011) ...
5. “I like being able to fire people” (January 9, 2012)
6. “There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip” (January 8, 2012) …
8. “I’ve always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will.” (April 5, 2007)
9. “Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.” (October 17, 2011) …
And counting.

To Be Anti-Establishment Is Not the Same Thing As To Be Anti-Government -- In Fact Anti-Governmentality Is Almost Inevitably A Crypto-Establishmentarianism!

BooMan has been expressing exasperation about how otherwise perfectly commendable lefties like Glenn Greenwald and Matt Stoller seem unable to shake off the Randroidal siren song of so-called "libertarians" like Ron Paul. His exasperation is understandable, and his suspicion that this libertopian blind-spot in some progressives is a symptom of a deeper and quite important problem is absolutely correct in my view. His own answer to the problem is pitched at the proper level of abstraction, but I think his analysis is missing a crucial distinction. BooMan writes:
[P]rogressives need to act like they are the natural leaders of this country again. But we can't do that because we have too much distrust of power. We're so busy standing on the outside critiquing the Establishment that no one is going to hand us the keys to become the Establishment. And too many liberals don't want that responsibility because it would tarnish their purity. Stoller doesn't have an answer to Ron Paul because he's decided the system is so rotten that it is not only indefensible, but irredeemable. That leaves him with no solutions. And a progressive without a belief in progress is just a crank.
I think this is right and important, but I do fear that in putting the point in terms of the Establishment BooMan is inviting misunderstanding. I think it is important to distinguish Establishment (which seems to me inevitably to have conservative connotations) from Government.

The critique of tendencies to corruption, sclerosis, unaccountability, inertia, insensitivity, orthodoxy, authoritarianism in incumbent-elite orders is a vital, inevitable, and necessary dimension in most progressive, democratizing struggles and movements. Democracy is in a sense inherently anti-establishmentarian. Given the role of peer-to-peer network formations in the revitalization of the American left (the dKos "crashing the gate/keepers" figures this nicely concisely) this isn't a point to which you want to seem insensitive. But it is also true that to the extent that democracy is more than simply an uncritical assertion of good will, amounting to a kind of moralizing or aesthetic sentiment, democracy is also indispensably connected to an espousal of Government. And it is here that I think the real force of BooMan's critique is to be found (this indispensability of good government is what his focus on assuming "leadership" and taking "responsibility" both ultimately depend on).

At the heart of any proper democratic left outlook must be an insistence on the desirability of good, accountable, responsible government. And such an insistence demands a prior insistence on the possibility of such government.

I quite understand why BooMan wouldn't want to write as pedantically as I do (who would?), but I don't think this is the flaccid logical truism it may appear to be, but an enormously important insight of those who are truly devoted to politics of progressive democratization. After a generation of Movement Republicanism driven by (sometimes crypto, sometimes assertive) anarcho-capitalist pieties, crafted by Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, and then implemented in the fervor of the Reagan Counter-Revolutionaries, the Gingrich Contract on America, the Killer Clown Administration, and the Tea Party's Death Penal Summer and Mid-Term Debacle, it is not surprising that even those with the good sense to recognize the catastrophe of Movement Republican ideology and policy have accepted as their own at least some of the deeper premises from which that very Movement Republicanism takes its own energies (Clintonian and DLC neoliberalism is attributable in an important measure to the same self-defeating assimilation of anti-governmental premises to democratizing temperaments).

Republican anti-democracy in its anarcho-capitalist Movement Republican epoch has depended on a confusion of anti-establishmentarianism with anti-governmentality that Stoller and Greenwald may not have managed yet entirely to shake, and which BooMan and the rest of us cannot help them shake unless we explicitly dispel it as BooMan has not quite managed yet in his response. It is no accident that it is the discussion and reaction to Ron Paul, who depends so assertively on precisely the conflation of his idiosyncratic anti-establishmentarianism with a more general anti-governmentality, that brings out these doctrinal tensions among progressive advocates. What these "defeatist" progressives (in BooMan's phrase) need to grasp is that it is not paradoxical, it is not ironical, it is not accidental that Paul's own anti-establishmentarianism is in fact a stealthy advocacy of a neo-confederate re-establishmentarianism (I justify that term "neo-confederate" in another anti-Ron Paul jeremiad). So-called "individualist libertarians" or "market libertarians" always count on precisely the false conflation of Government with Establishment, and hence always advocate reactionary anti-democratization under the colors of progressive democratization.

Not to put too fine a point on it, you cannot champion civil liberties without first affirming the civic. This isn't a minor quibble, it is a fundamental point from which a whole swarm of consequent confusions inevitably arise: So-called "libertarian" isolationism is actually profoundly different from principled anti-militarism, "libertarian" indifference to diversity as anything but a potentially profitable niche markets is actually profoundly different from principled celebration and facilitation of diversity, "libertarian" advocacy of a radical neglect of the sufferers of drug abuse or exploitative sex work or gun violence is actually profoundly different from a principled opposition to the racist war on (some but not all) drugs and puritanical sex panics and advocating the regulation, taxation, and education of their responsible consensual adult use. Good government has an indispensable role to play in the advocacy of an actually principled progressive stance on each of these issues, and whatever their superficial similarities with certain "libertarian" positions, in every case their anti-governmentality renders the similarities completely insubstantial.

This is not the proposal that all governments are good, or that governments that have done good things are justified in the bad things they have done by those good things, indeed, one would expect that those who believe in the possibility and desirability of good government would be all the more ferocious in their denunciations of bad government (and often, naturally enough, in the form of anti-establishmentariansims). But it is actually quite crucial to grasp that these denunciations of bad government propound a profoundly different proposition from the declaration that government is bad as such. The latter proposition, even if it has occasionally provided a vantage from which progressive anti-authoritarian movements and reform have derived some of their strength, is at its heart a regressive and reactionary viewpoint, and more often than not it has produced regressive and reactionary politics.

It is crucial to grasp that there are some outcomes indispensable to the creation and maintenance of an arena for the free expression of diverse viewpoints, to the nonviolent adjudication of disputes, and to the provision of equal recourse to law and a scene of informed nonduressed consent to the terms of private and commercial life (eg, to form a more perfect union and establish justice), to the reliable and equitable maintenance of the security of the our persons, households, and communities (eg, to ensure domestic tranquility and provide common defense), to the responsible and sustainable administration and investment in common and public goods (eg, to promote the general welfare) for which legitimate government is the indispensable agency. Anti-governmental "libertarianism" declares itself dedicated to secure the blessings of liberty through the abolition of the very agency without which those blessing cannot be secured, and hence is a contradiction in terms.

As I said elsewhere (yes, in yet another recent anti-Ron Paul post):
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.
That progressive democrats should reject Ron Paul's politics is obvious, but that the rejection of Ron Paul's politics seems to provide a real and necessary teachable moment for the acceleration of a genuinely democratizing movement peer-to-peer online and face to face in the streets may be far more important in the long run.