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

Monday, October 26, 2009

BooMan Is Making Sense

Over the last few weeks I have found BooMan's analysis of the insurance/health care reform process the most relevant by far, and that definitely includes today's installment Making Tea From Tea Leaves. I strongly recommend that folks read it.

He has no truck with unsourced doomsaying missives declaring Obama secretly enraged about the progress of the Public Option he has always supported in no uncertain terms, that pronounce him a crazed bipartisanship fetishist, that prove he secretly adores triggers despite public pronouncements to the contrary, that worry he disdains democrats while secretly seeking to crown Olympia Snowe Empress of all the Russias and so on.

Given all that, it may come as little surprise that while I recommend people read BooMan I also strongly recommend that people stop reading for a while HuffPo's weird divisive demoralizing unsourced gossip-bombs and Firedoglake's recent crazy cantilevered popsickle stick bridge conspiracy theories, unless you want to lose all hope or lose your mind or both.

By the way, even though I think Jane Hamsher has gone completely off the deep end lately the fact remains and must always be remembered that her intransigence earlier in the process getting commitments in writing to the public option from the Progressive Caucus was instrumental in keeping that body disciplined for once and getting us where we are now. We are all in her debt. Although the netroots have long understood how the Villagers Inside the Beltway are hopelessly blinkered through courting "Inside" sources and chatting up would-be power brokers in the cocktale weenie circuit, and so on, it is also important to grasp how being in the trenches, fighting majorities and Rahm Emanuel types who relentlessly ridicule you, can easily lead to comparable blinkeredness. I'm sure Jane will blink from this temporary blinkeredness and snap out of it soon enough, she's just in the weeds a bit, but I think she's still great.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Ten days in and I'm only just starting to feel better. Flu season is scary when you are a superannuated wreck.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Nixonesque" and "Nixonian" "Shades of Nixon" in the Obama Administration

Richard Nixon (Movement Republicanism's frowny-faced obverse of smiley-faced, but equally toxic, Ronald Reagan) once famously declared that "The Press is the Enemy." It is curious that Nixon's name is attaching now to President Obama, of all people, as figures across the mainstream corporate media terrain rush to the defense of "Fox News" precisely because the President has recognized that this partisan media organization has repeatedly and publicly declared him to be The Enemy.

CNN's Anderson Cooper, for example, has adorably insinuated (Cooper is incapable of professional gravitas and has wisely opted to be interminably adorable instead as the next best thing) that there may be "shades of Nixon" and his infamous "enemies list" in the Obama Administration's conduct. It is worth noting that there really is a difference between creating an enemies list and noticing that your own name is at the top of somebody else's enemies list and acting accordingly.

It is also worth noting that in acting according to this recognition, the Obama Administration has not ceased to admit Fox News reporters to the White House Press Room, nor ceased to call on Fox News there, nor established any general policy to shut out Fox requests for interviews with Administration figures. That is to say, Obama hasn't done anything but publicly recognize what Fox repeatedly crows about equally publicly themselves, and is simply refusing to perpetuate the fantasy that they don't know what everybody already knows about Fox as an opportunistic propaganda and activist organizational arm of Movement Republicanism.

It is also worth noting, as Jamison Foser of Media Matters for America has pointedly done, that while figures like The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus and NPR's Ken Rudin have sniffed out something worrisomely "Nixonian" or "almost Nixonesque," respectively, in the frankly flabbergastingly obvious recognition by the President, by White House communications director Anita Dunn, by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and others in the Adminsitration that have said that "Fox is less a news organization than a partisan political operation" none of these would-be respectable mainstream media figures seemed eager to draw comparably Nixonian parallels to the, you know, blatantly literally Nixonian moves of our previous President George W. Bush as he illegally wiretapped citizens, and journalists and peaceful progressive activists in particular, and broke laws in efforts to destroy his "enemies" like Joe Wilson who told inconvenient truths undermining deceptive rationales for his killer clown administration's pre-emptive war adventures or US Attorneys who wouldn't play ball in their partisan election fraud schemes.

Hell, it's also worth noting that the partisan propaganda and activist organizational media formation of "Fox News" is in fact just the latest chapter in the radioactively partisan career of Roger Ailes, a career whose earliest chapter was his doing, on a smaller scale, precisely the same thing he is doing now with Fox for, yes, you guessed it, quite literally, Richard Nixon, whose media consultant he was. Nothing "Nixonian" or "Nixonesque" to see there, apparently, folks.

It would seem to me that in refusing to pretend that Fox is News President Obama is actually declaring himself to be a friend to the Press as an indispensable institution, insisting on the distinctions without which legitimate News cannot do its proper and vital work in a democratic Nation, contributing to the self-education of the citizenry and holding authoritative institutions and persons accountable for what they do in our names.

I daresay that many of those stenographers and gossips who reside in the tattered precincts of mainstream would-be news media know better themselves than Obama does how little their own efforts rise to the standard he is defending in defending them from identification with the likes of Fox News. No doubt they know better themselves how little difference there is, or could easily come to be, between the shallow insinuating opportunism and hyperbole of Fox and what they are themselves capable of and fit for. I don't doubt in the least that in defending Fox from public exposure as a Movement Republican partisan activist and propaganda organization these other marginally more legitimate news organizations are defending themselves in their kinship in the downward slide to becoming themselves what Fox already is.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Makes Me Smile Just to Look

Poised to Regain Their Dominance!

TPM shows the latest of a spate of polls indicating the ongoing catastrophic self-marginalization of the GOP into an ever-more out of touch white racist patriarchal gay-hating gun-toting corporate-militarist authoritarian Christianist neo-confederate rump endlessly absurdly and histrionically declaring itself a "moral majority" of "Real Americans" in what is in fact a browning secular socially democratizing post-imperializing multicultural nation unready and on the brink of climate catastrophe. You can be sure that the headlines would shriek "Democrats in Disarray!" well before the Democratic Party reached anything remotely like this level and intensity and ubiquity of longstanding dysfunction, but the corporate punditocracy (Very Serious) is incapable of grasping that the Republicans can be anything other than either dominating or poised to dominate.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why Oh Why Is Obama Declaring War on the Serious Patriotic Journalists of Fox News?

Who can say?

Obama Sapping Precious Republican Bodily Fluids

Digby helpfully connects the dots available in a recent study that may have eluded hitherto the slower-witted passengers on the Teabag Express, revealing for all with eyes to see Obama's secret plan to sap Republican precious bodily fluids prefatory to interning them in Bachmanniacal re-education camps or just, you know, killing them:
Republican men nationwide may have experienced a drop in testosterone levels the night Barack Obama was elected president, according to the results of a small study that found another link between testosterone and men's moods.

By taking multiple saliva samples from 183 young men and women on election night, researchers found that the testosterone levels of men who voted for John McCain or Robert Barr dropped sharply 40 minutes after Obama was announced the winner... Low testosterone levels in men are linked to increased risk of premature death..

"First," as Digby explains so patiently that even the Producers of the Beck show can probably follow, "they lower their testosterone so they don't feel like procreating, then they kill them. It's all there. What else do we need to know?"

Do please note, by the way, that the eeevil Obama exposed by this low-t Republican exterminism plan would not be the same being as the stealth eeevil corporatist Obama with the secret plan to kill the public option by introducing it, owning it, and interminably supporting it that some left-blogospheroids are presently fulminating about so energetically.

To grasp the complex relations of eeevil stealthcorporatemilitarist Obama to eeevil islamofasocialistBlackPower Obama one must first watch the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror." Also, apparently, it is helpful to master an obscure discipline known as nth-dimensional chess. I mention the latter only because it seems that any time I attribute even the most elementary foresight or political gamesmanship to members of the Obama Administration I'm accused of assuming they're playing it.

Organizing and Mobilizing a Movement in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

Join Us At is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis -- the solutions that justice demand.

Our mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis —- to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.

In order to unite the public, media, and our political leaders behind the 350 goal, we're harnessing the power of the internet to coordinate a planetary day of action This Saturday, October 24, 2009. We hope to have actions at hundreds of iconic places around the world -- from the Taj Mahal to the Great Barrier Reef to your community -- and clear message to world leaders: the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis.

If an international grassroots movement holds our leaders accountable to the latest climate science, we can start the global transformation we so desperately need.

Go to for more information.

Plug in your zip code to find an Action near you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Dirty Thirty

Here are the names of the thirty dirty old men of the Republican Party who disapproved of freshman Democratic senator Al Franken's bill requiring the Pentagon no longer to do business with any contractor which prevents its employees from suing if they are sexually abused.

The Dirty Thirty let them be forever after be known.

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

In the Daily Show clip the many disgusting hypocrisies of these Republican gang-rape apologists (won't somebody please think of the corporations!) are pithily and devastatingly exposed, as one would expect. But I must say the clip's concluding call-back of the same filthy cast of characters rampaging against Acorn (which, whatever its imperfections, is actually hated by Republicans because it registers underrepresented minority communities to vote and works to raise minimum wage standards across the country) was especially revealing and revolting.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"The Future" Is Not Beyond Left and Right

I have never once heard a person who claimed to disdain those who "cling to outdated political classifications," or who crowed about being "beyond Left and Right" or who fancied they had found their way to the latest "Third Way" or the next "New Way" or the next "Post Politics" whose politics were not completely and transparently legible within the most conventional political terms: Democracy, consent, and equity in diversity across the Lefts. As against incumbency, authority, and hierarchy across the Rights.

And I find that such claims to post-politicizing novelty or innovation are not only readily translated back into these conventional political terms, but also disproportionately tend to expose essentially right-wing assumptions and aspirations once they are so translated. This should not be surprising, since to fancy oneself post-political, a-political, anti-political is usually simply to take for granted as natural or inevitable or necessary or optimal or most practical incumbent states of affairs that in fact could be otherwise and very likely have been otherwise hitherto and most surely will be otherwise eventually come what may.

To naturalize the status quo is to express an essentially conservative world view, to police its maintenance through de-politicizing inattention to the actually open futurity inhering in plurality, peer-to-peer (and usually this passive-aggressive epistemic policing is supplemented with actual police, or at any rate with engineers, pencil-pushers, and salesmen acting as police collaborators). These de-politicizing gestures typically: [one] invest some self-appointed elite with an unearned (unearnable) position of unaccountable authority over the majority of their peers in a naturalized hierarchy as in conventional ideological formations of the aristocratic/oligarchic type; or [two] treat historical arrangements or outcomes as "spontaneous" when they are in fact facilitated -- sometimes to an extent that approaches outright determination -- by contingent legal, normative, and infrastructural formations as in the endlessly proliferating variations of "market" rhetoric pervading neoliberal, developmental, libertarian discourses (it sometimes seems as though libertarianism is re-discovered and asserted as a rationale for naturalized hierarchy among would-be aristocrats on a daily basis, each time with some neologism to mark its "discovery"); or [three], treat as a technical problem for engineers or bureaucratic/technocratic quasi-engineers acting (in a sense perhaps better denoted as "behaving") on a warranted consensus what is in fact a political problem of a diversity of stakeholders to ongoing change actually acting to reconcile their dissensus of histories and hopes while maintaining a shared world.

Politics, recall, arises from the fact that we share the world with a diversity of peers with a diversity of aspirations that provoke an open and interminable diversity of contingent reconciliations. It is this open and endlessly re-opening force of futurity inhering in plurality that is disdained and denied by the politics of the right in its many variations, including those prevailing discourses that clothe themselves in the false futurity of "The Future." Typically, this gesture takes the form of [one] a parochial extrapolation from the status quo demanding calculation rather than deliberation or [two] a fraudulent salesman spiel promising a hyperbolic amplification of the privileges and pieties of incumbent interests or [three] a reassuring rationalization of present problems and injustices enabled either through an expedient location of the present within a progressive developmental narrative that pretends to infuse present imperfection with the coloration of inevitable perfections toward which it presumably aspires and in which it is asserted already partially but definitively to partake or presumes to survey present imperfection from a vantage of superiority from which it assigns imperfections the status of atavisms and to itself the authority (often depicted as responsibility) to impose conformity to itself in the name of education or treat difference from itself as consent to exploitation.

Every futurism is a retro-futurism: every solicitation of identification with or effort at selling through the conjuration of a "The Future" would evacuate plurality of the substantial futurity with which it presents us, in our own we-presence, peer-to-peer. This gesture is essentially reactionary, and almost inevitably authoritarian, despite its tendency to celebrate duressed outcomes as consensual, despite its tendency to celebrate conformism as spontaneism, despite its tendency to celebrate incumbent triumphalism as progress or even transcendence, despite its tendency to celebrate reductionism as imagination, despite its tendency to celebrate moralizing as ethics, despite its tendency to celebrate instrumentality as freedom.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Not Offensive, Just Delusive

Michael Anissimov writes, over at Accelerating Future:
Dale’s post on cryonics, when he talks about the brain being “hamburgerized” -- he is making no sense. Vitrified brains don’t get “hamburgerized”. Dale probably knows about vitrification, so he is just forwarding propaganda because he is politically and morally uncomfortable with cryonics. That is because cryonics symbolizes the affirmation of the individual and potential avoidance of death in a way that can be offensive to hyper-socialistic, here-and-now-and-nothing-else politics. Well, too bad.

I did not quite realize that the designation "hamburgerized" was such a term of art for your modern day cryonicist, that it had the technical force to blur a distinction between frozen as against vitrified brains that is cherished by Robot Cultists of the techno-immortalist sect. Since I think intelligent minds of the human sort are indispensably biological rather than bio-dispensably informational I can't say that I agree that the distinction properly affords Michael his apparent triumphalism on this score as I reckon these things myself. Whatever our differences, I do hope he will be reassured to hear that in describing corpses disposed of by cryonics firms as "hamburgerized" (as against what tends to happen to them in graveyards or crematories) he does not think I mean to suggest by this that they should find their way with pickles and mustard onto a sesame seed bun.

As for the "hyper-socialism" and rabid "here-and-now-ism" of my politics, dude, get a grip. Why be stupid if you don't have to be?

My Irreligiosity

Upgraded and Adapted from the Moot. "Mitchell" asks:
Dale, I was wondering the other day - were you ever a transcendentalist or utopian in any form?

I was raised Catholic -- and went to a Catholic school for a few years when I was very young. My faith was habitual and never considered, and did not survive for more than a few weeks after I left home for the first time for college. There I confronted peers of different faiths and drew the conclusion that faithful attachments were arbitrary almost at once, and I became an atheist quite soon thereafter. I've never looked back.

When you ask about "transcendentalism" though, you know of course that folks like Emerson and Thoreau are taken up through that moniker explicitly, and I will say that I have a deep fondness and affinity for much that they wrote (though not all), as I do for Aldo Leopold's "Land Ethic" and the discussions of a "web of mutuality" in Martin Luther King, and the "web of life" in George Eliot, all of which seem to me inter-implicated notions.

When William Burroughs declares that we live in a "magic universe," a universe susceptible to poetic refiguration it seems to me that this is less a conventionally supernatural claim than a recognition of the force of re-signifying practices, of rhetoric (my trade, after all), connecting the shamanic-qua-poetic imaginary to the American Pragmatist/post-Nietzschean European philosophical traditions. I find these connections edifying, and they come up quite a bit in my teaching.

Despite the fact that I do not believe in either God nor gods, I tend to be rather laid back about those who do believe in these things, unless they want to get all authoritarian or judgmental about them. This is because I have noticed that when people affirm such beliefs they tend to be saying things I can make good sense of if I simply translate them (to my self, out of politeness) into terms of affirming matters of personal aesthetic taste or affirming matters of we-intentions concerning moral communities to which they happen to belong. Likewise, I have noticed that when people do terrible things they rationalize through recourse to the affirmation of such beliefs I can make better sense of what is afoot if I simply translate them into terms of authoritarian/incumbent political views or, sometimes, mistaken or deranged claims that fail to pass muster as warrantedly assertible descriptions of the world for purposes of prediction and control.

The power of such translations tells me that there are more warranted modes of belief ascription than just the instrumental claims of the naturalist (indeed, I believe there are different criteria that render reasonable or not beliefs in instrumental, moral, aesthetic, ethical, and political modes, about which more here), and although this doesn't inspire a faith in the supernatural in my case, I do not doubt that those who cherish reductionist epistemologies would likely decry as "transcendental," or possibly menacingly relativist, in me what seems to me simply like sensible pluralism.

As for utopianism -- surely every progressive is properly speaking utopian at least some of the time? Progress is always progress toward an end, and there is something utopian about any unrealized end toward which one aspires through political education, agitation, and organization. I will say that I consider my "progressivism" subsidiary to my devotion to democracy, consent, equity, and diversity as ends. I struggle for progress toward the realization of these values, hence I think of myself as more of a democrat than a progressive, strictly speaking. I don't think this is a big deal, since most progressive-identified folks are really struggling for a more peaceful democratic world, too, and terminological squabbling doesn't seem very useful to me for the most part outside the context of academic philosophy.

I have argued that democracy relies for its intelligibility and force on a scene of consent that is actually informed and actually nonduressed, and that access to reliable knowledge and social security (non-duress) demand at best (as close as we can get to) the provision of universal education and a free cultural commons, universal healthcare, and a universal basic income guarantee -- political ends which many would surely describe as plenty utopian. I happen to be more interested in the ongoing social struggle for democratization -- the struggle through which ever more people achieve ever more of a real say in the public decisions that affect them -- than in "democracy" as some abstract ideal. And so I am interested in the actual educational, agitational, organizational, legislative struggles through which more and better education, more and better access to knowledge, more and better healthcare, more and better welfare are accomplished, and ongoing democratization achieved, than in the distance intellectuals claim to discern between the present state of affairs and some ideal. So, I don't know if you really want to call me utopian or not given all that.

Like many a good pragmatist, I think it is enormously important to remember that the perfect can be the mortal enemy of the good. Like many a fine idealist, I think it is no less important to recognize that pragmatists who assert the previous can in their fixation on what seems possible, lose sight of the good in ways that undermine their grasp of the actually possible. I think both insights are indispensable and I don't think there are any criteria on hand to assure us which is the more relevant perspective in any generally useful sort of way, and so that one must remain rather self-critical and attentive and persistent in the face of inevitable frustrations, come what may. All of this seems to me simply a straightforward matter of intelligence.

Those Curious Cryonaughts

"JimF" posted the Moot to yesterday's Cryonics post:
It is morbidly interesting to imagine the kind of world that would exist if the sorts of people who sign up for cryonics today became the immortal elite of tomorrow. I doubt if the plot would be much like that of Damien Broderick's Transcension.

An interesting quote:
"In my 20 years of watching cryonics, I've never seen a more narcissistic
self-destructive bunch of people than cryonicists. Mike Darwin was right
when he once said cryonicists don't deserve cryonics."

Jim: I'm sure the cryonicists themselves, like most Robot Cultists, will decry your overgeneralization and then declare any generally observable anti-social tendencies in their subculture always only to be unrepresentative -- whereupon your observation of a worrisome general sociopathy will then trigger a facile-clever debate-club point-scoring accusation that you are the sociopath (rather like a dumb wingnut thinking it's the world's most brilliant move to decry as racist the one who exposes a racist sentiment or outcome).

Be all that as it may, one may discern that cryonicists as a cohort are not just different from the larger population only in their choice of cryonics over burial/cremation upon death (and, yes, they are dead dead dead, like everyone on earth has and will die), but are rather atypical and monolithic in other ways as well.

Given that even on their own terms they are relying on social organizations that would presumably devote themselves continuously over long time-scales to their mission it has always seemed to me that this self-marginalization was rather counter-productive, inasmuch as it would surely only be through mainstreaming themselves -- and taking on the considerable diversity of the mainstream -- could they hope to secure the organizational resilience to provide for their own care and maintenance in an ever-changing world.

Of course, the pseudo-scientificity on which their claims are based, coupled with the irrationality that drives most people into their futurological sub(cult)ure in the first place ensures that they cannot achieve such mainstream success, hence that's not a going option for them. Just as the Singularitarian Robot Cultists can never hope to be more than, say, something like the neocons (who despite the damage they did, were ultimately defeated by their own palpable irrationality), and just as the transhumanist Robot Cultists can never hope to be more than, say, something like Scientologists (who despite their considerable resources remain absurd figures in the wider world), so too cryonicists and even more so the other techno-immortalist branches of the Robot Cult (like the bio-denialist "uploaders") are doomed to perpetual marginality.

For me, these sub(cult)ures and their discourses and practices are most interesting as clarifying extremes illustrating the sorts of reductionisms, denialisms, elitisms to be found as well in more prevailing (post-enlightenment, especially neoliberal) global techno-developmental discourses.

Of course, they are also interesting on their own terms as they are taken up by the contemporary mass-media terrain, since superlative futurological formulations attract undue attention in their drama and in the way they tap into certain conspicuous pathologies in a precarious era of disruptive technoscientific change such as our own. And so I think these interesting but absurd extreme futurological views impact in terribly negative ways on public deliberation, rendering it more confused in its actual scientific claims and more irrational in the fearful and greedy passions it excites than should be the case.

Also, I do concede that Robot Cult organizations and personalities deserve at least some scrutiny on their own terms, whatever their marginality, just because -- to return to my earlier examples of the coterie of neocons or the Church of Scientology -- foolish extreme social/cultural formations can occasionally do great mischief in the world for a time -- especially when they provide ready rationales for incumbent interests -- and so need watching.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Generations Mingle Beautifully at the National Equality March and Rally

Shoot Ze Hostage

Via Calitics:
"Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided to turn the normal legislative process… into a hostage crisis. The governor has demanded that either he gets a water bill by the end of the day today, or he's going to just randomly start vetoing bills, even bills designed to do things like help pregnant women get health care.

"Apparently Arnold has decided about 500 bills are to be held hostage, but already about 100 bills have been vetoed. 100 more are going to be signed, in… a "let a few hostages go" move apparently designed to show the sane people outside the barricaded room (which would include all 36 million of us as well as the legislators who have so far rightly refused to accept a craptacular water deal) that the governor really is willing to deal.

"Do we need any greater sign of how totally state government has collapsed? Our governor, who usually plays the Hollywood hero who rescues the hostages from the bad guys, has now himself become one of the bad guys holding the people of this state hostage to his wild demands."

Italian Retro-Futurism On the March!

Apparently there is something of a inter-sectarian brou-ha ha brewing in the Italian "transhumanist" futurological sub(cult)ure -- a sub(cult)ure whose members number, after all, in the tens -- in which one sect is accusing another of being fascists, prompting the counter-accusation that they are Papists, leading to the counter-accusation that they are conservatives. Hey, maybe they're all right?

Of course, we can discern one of the earliest most explicit conjunctions of fascism and technophilia in the Italian Futurists. Please to enjoy this snippet from their Manifesto way back in 1909:
"We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed. We want to glorify war -- the only cure for the world -- militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman."

This latest Italian transhuman tangle among today's futurological faithful is plainly a problematic discourse with a prolonged pedigree.

Wingnuts Don't Elect a President To Do That

Satanic Spawn Liz Cheney on Fox "News" Sunday:
I think if you look at the language of the [Nobel Peace Prize] citation, you can see that they talk about, you know, President Obama ruling in a way that makes sense to the majority of the people of the world. You know, Americans don't elect a president to do that.

Quite so, quite so, nod the Fox wingnuts. When oh when can we get back to bombin' the brown people for Muscular White Baby Billionaire Jesus?

Cryonicists Getting Cool Reception These Days

Over the last few weeks, Larry Johnson and Scott Baldyga's book Frozen has drawn an enormous amount of unattractive attention to the ghoulish parodies of "medical practice" and "scientific practice" performed by the Techno-Immortalist True Believers in the so-called cryonics movement.

If you find yourself, somehow, in a creepy subculture as marginal as that of the cryonicists, it is probably easy to tell yourself that there's no such thing as bad press, but David Letterman's bad cryonicists Top Ten List probably didn't help our intrepid Techno-Immortalists mainstream their scam particularly, even if millions watched.

Truth be told, death-denialism is hardly confined to foolish cryonicist cranks and no doubt the pampered perpetual adolescents of the West who are presently freaking out to discover the details of a "neuro-suspension" (there just isn't a pretty way to get a human head into a cooler) would no doubt be comparably squeamish about the details of more conventional practices of cremation, burial, autopsy, embalming, and so forth.

I daresay the tales of megalomania, pseudo-science, hucksterism, and sociopathy in the community of cryonicists is more damaging in the long term to this branch of Robot Cultists (many of whom expect sooper-nanobots to build them robot bodies into which their hopelessly hamburgerized brains will be "revived" in The Future while others expect to their organismic minds to be "uploaded" into a pseudo-spiritualized cyberspatial paradise as immortal post-organismic data-streams in The Future) than the actual unpretty details of corpse disposal involved.

I personally don't think that the elaborate, infantile, and pointless death-denialism of the cryonicists is really that much more irrational than the dumb denialism that built the Pyramids or drives millions into churches on Sundays for a chance at a fluffy cloud-berth in Heaven or whatever. But it is true that institutionalized religious faiths tend to support their communities in more socially substantial ways than the consumer-model of cryonicist Death-Eating seems to manage, and it is also important to remember that most of the great religious traditions have done, however imperfectly, an enormous amount of the indispensable work hitherto of socializing human beings into the more empathetic and long-term thinking on which civilization depends (along, I should add, with all the authoritarian patriarchal war-mongering conformist damage they have also done from my personal perspective as a cheerful cosmopolitan atheist, democrat, aesthete, feminist, and pervert), civilizational work and support that is even less in evidence among the Randroids, transhumanists, would-be Heinleinian archetypes, and glorified boner-pill salesmen who throng the ranks of Techno-Immortalist subcultures. And I have to say that it really is especially disappointing, even pathetic, to find so many folks who pride themselves on their rejection of traditional supernatural religiosity falling nonetheless for faith-based pseudo-scientific hucksters peddling techno-longevity and pharmacological fountains of youth and spiritualized tech-heavenly virtual realities.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


"Thanatz" critiques from the Moot:
Predator droning AfPak civilians, GITMOizing Bagram, continuing an Iraq war despite, um, y'know, campaign promises, and a flat refusal to discuss or enforce an Israeli settlement freeze. Why you're right, Dale/Rachel, I couldn't imagine a more rightful recipient of the Henry Kissinger Peace Prize.

I am no less aware nor any less sensitive to these things than you are, and yet I see real possibilities for progress toward more democracy and more peace in awarding Obama this Prize, I see these possibilities differently than you seem to do. And it seems that Maddow has come to a similar conclusion.

I think her report was powerful, factual, sensible, and a force for good. People of good will can disagree on that and people of different tastes can go their diverse ways and still contribute to peace and justice.

No doubt your heart is in the right place even if you might not be either sensible enough or generous enough to recognize the same in me. But do go ahead and fight vigorously for a more peaceful and democratic and equitable and diverse world on the terms that seem best to you. And you can be sure that I will continue to do the same on my own.

You know, there really are actually broken, fearful, greedy, controlling, violent, authoritarian people and associations out there who fight equity and diversity and democracy and peace and creativity for real, all in the name of infantile certainties and corrupt incumbencies and pathological aggressivities.

You sound a little like someone who may have lost sight of what it means to appreciate collaborators who differ from you. Maybe I'm wrong to think that or maybe I'm just feeling a bit defensive in the face of your accusation, but it is always a worthy thing to remember that not all our allies will be our kin, our friends, or share our tastes or situations. And still, we people of the democratic left the equitable left the diverse left, we really are allies just the same.

If you see poison everywhere, even in faint compromised shafts of light, I suspect your heart will be too poisoned too soon to be of much abiding use in the struggles to which we are both likely devoted.

But that's something I fear and not something I know. Best of luck to you.

Maddow: "By Any Reasonable Measure, Americans Should Be Proud"