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Monday, May 31, 2010

Robert Reich: Obama Should Put BP Under Temporary Receivership

Definitely something to consider:
It's time for the federal government to put BP under temporary receivership, which gives the government authority to take over BP's operations in the Gulf of Mexico until the gusher is stopped. This is the only way the public will know what's going on, be confident enough resources are being put to stopping the gusher, ensure BP's strategy is correct, know the government has enough clout to force BP to use a different one if necessary, and be sure the President is ultimately in charge.


Malawi president pardons gay couple after UN pressure.

UPDATE: In the Moot, Steph directs us to this important Questioning Transphobia post on the pardon:
[V]irtually every… news report (and statement by human rights and other activist groups) – persists in labeling Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza as a “gay couple”, “two men”, etc, and using male pronouns about them despite Tiwonge’s self-identification as a woman.

Is Netanyahu Going to Force a Turning Point in US-Israeli Relations With His Belligerance Toward Turkey?

The deadly Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza on Monday prompted widespread condemnation and set off a diplomatic crisis for the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Several European nations and Turkey summoned Israeli envoys for an explanation of the actions. At the request of Turkey, The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session on Monday over the attack… The White House, [has] been at odds with the Israeli prime minister over settlements in East Jerusalem.

Since Turkey is a NATO ally and an EU candidate, the US cannot just side with Israeli aggression as usual and pretend it is only "the Islamic world" (already a ridiculous and insulting oversimplification of a vast diversity of institutions and a billion individual stakeholders) that disapproves of this. The whole world is rightly regarding the attack on Gaza relief workers and peace activists as an obscene act of belligerence on Israel's part -- not to mention an inexcusably unforced error -- and if Israel goes forward with Netanyahu's usual bloodyminded bluster and actually attacks Turkish ships we are hearing noises about now we are fast approaching the point at which Israel might be regarded as engaging in straightforward acts of war against a US ally and condemned by the whole world for it. Given the stress exacerbated by Netanyahu in the current US-Israel relationship it seems less likely than ever that the US would be inclined to go out on such a limb, whatever the ongoing influence of lobbyists for the most militant factions in Israel (and if anybody wants to indulge the disgusting tactic of declaring me "antisemitic" for disapproving reactionary militant factions in Israel you should first declare Jews in Israel and across the US who likewise disapprove them in the name of democracy and peace "antisemitic" as well). The US might try some kind of neutral impartial negotiator role in such a circumstance, but siding unambiguously with Israel against the EU and everybody else on earth doesn't seem doable for once, and that in itself may be enough to make this a turning point in the US's indiscriminate support of Israel, come what may, however injurious that may be to our own interests and to the interest of lasting peace in the Middle East for Israelis and everyone else alike.

Afghanistan, By the Way

I strongly disapproved of our Afghanistan adventure before our illegal, immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq, and I still disapprove of it.

Responding to the domestic tragedy and injustice of massive civilian casualties through the inflicting of the tragedy and injustice of civilian casualties in foreign places is stupid and evil, whatever anybody in a suave suit or a full-froth of dot-eyed nationalism says to the contrary.

For me, Afghanistan was never "the good war" that enabled one to hold the proper anti-war position concerning Iraq while still genuflecting to the bloody minded brutal anti-democratizing he-man militarism that ruinously suffuses American society.

Terrorism is a matter of global policing and limited covert operations (all of which have their problems too, obviously), and all within the larger context of a need for multilateral diplomacy, international institutions, and social support of the obscenely overexploited regions of the world by we culpable beneficiaries of corporate-militarism extractive-petrochemical-industrialism and neoliberal developmentalism.

Memorial to Mission Accomplishment

Chart via OpenLeft

Exchange With "Radical Cool Dude"

Adapted from the "Moot" to a post in which I talked about Hillary Clinton's positioning via Secretary of State for a 2016 Presidential run, a frequent commenter here engaged with me in the following exchange, which is pretty representative of most of the exchanges we've had since Obama's election but also representative more broadly of a particular sort of exchange I've often found myself in with disgruntled folks of the left with whom I generally identify and without whose ferocity of shared conviction I would not have survived intact the evil madness of the Bush years just behind us.

"RadicalCoolDude" quoted the following material from a post I wrote a couple of years ago:
In a reasonably successful and hence spectacularly popular eight year Obama Administration, SOS [Secretary of State] is a higher profile and more Presidential position than Clinton is likely to wangle otherwise as Junior Senator from NY, a position from which to launch her own bid for 2016 as at once a continuation of a successful and popular Administration with which she is strongly associated while at once recapturing the energy of an historic Presidential election (no doubt calling to mind the joy of our moment).

To this "RadicalCoolDude" appended this comment:
Reasonably successful and hence spectacularly popular? Riiight...

I responded (bear in mind that this is one of many exchanges of a similar character with which I have participated with "RadicalCoolDude" over the years):

Your sarcasm provides little sense of the criteria on the basis of which you yourself would define "success" in terms of actual legislative possibilities, nor any sense of the relation of your own notion of "popularity" to actual election results or Party ID numbers. As usual.

My own politics hover somewhere between what most informed people would describe as social democracy and democratic socialism, and hence I am well to Obama's left, and so I'm sure you will believe me when I agree with you about how easy it is to sigh histrionically about all the manifold failures of actual governance to pass muster measured against my ideals.

If you just want to vent about your frustration at the lack of single payer, the failure to enshrine the principle that too big to fail is too big to exist, the ongoing refusal to care about unemployment that hurts almost everyone more than about deficits that hurt mostly a few rich assholes, the ongoing insanity in Afghanistan, the heartbreaking amplification of Bush epoch secret detentions and terror tactics, the flogging of clean coal bullshit and nuclear madness and offshore drilling crap, the genuflections to right wing "social security crisis" and "charter school" BS, the absurd slowness of the repeal of DADT, the retreating horizon for ENDA, the vanishing hope for repeal of DOMA, the breadcrumbs offered to organized labor, and on and on and on, well, go ahead, vent. You're not saying anything I don't know already, and don't have to vent about myself.

And yet I stand cheerfully behind every word quoted in the passage to which you have appended your content-free eye-roll.

If you can't walk and chew gum at the same time, if you can't hold on to animating ideals while at once assessing pragmatic possibilities realistically, if you can't grasp the force of painfully inadequate piecemeal reform in history, if you can't see just how dangerous the Republican Right is in this historical moment and how every diversion of energy from actually-possible Democratic victories to Republican victories is a catastrophe, well, I can only say that you are simply of no use to me at all, you're just an enervating demoralizing bore, however bright or well-meaning you undoubtedly are in the abstract.

Given your rather all-embracing sarcastic repudiation of the passage quoted above, inquiring minds want to know:

Is it your view that a McCain Presidency would have been more successful by your lights?

Is it your view that a candidate whose politics were more like Bernie Sanders', say, could have won the Presidency or accomplished more successes as you adjudge them in the actually-existing setting and constraints of the current environment?

Do you think that Obama's failure to meet your own standards of success will also translate to losses of Congressional majorities for Democrats in the mid-terms or to a one-term presidency for Obama?

Do you disagree that even people to the left of the Democratic Party or Obama's politics can assess politics in a way that is sensitive to the differences between pragmatic possibilities in the service of reform and regulative ideals?

Do you actually disagree with the argument in the post to which you are presumably "responding" that Clinton has positioned herself for a solid 2016 Presidential run via SOS?

Do you actually disagree that what are widely deemed legislative accomplishments -- even if they fail to pass muster by your more exacting standards -- would likely benefit a Clinton presidential run in 2016? Do you even think questions like these are worth answering, that they connect in any way with something you think of as "politics"?

To this, "RadicalCoolDude" replied:
My own politics and my critique of the Obama administration is nearly identical to that of Chris Hedges who, as you probably know, has little patience for liberals bending over backwards to defend the undefendable.

But my sarcasm was more directed to your fancily [fanciful?] notion that the Obama administration would be "spectacularly popular" in light of the fact the right is galvanized while the left is disillusioned.

The sad thing is that sober left-wingers who weren't lost in the "joy of moment" predicted that this is exactly what would happen when Obama actually started governing. So the question is: Why didn't you?

To this I went on to reply:
the right is galvanized while the left is disillusioned

I've never bought this right-wing friendly frame. It failed its first empirical test on primary day, by the way.

One of many concrete questions I asked to shift you from sanctimonious sniping from the mountaintop was whether you thought Obama's failures would translate to losses of majorities for Dems or to a one-term Obama presidency. As usual, you fail to answer, hiding behind Hedges (last time it was Klein) rather own up to concrete positions.

For what it's worth, I've read and own all Hedge's books and I teach Klein every term, I like much though not all of what they've written very much and consider them both indispensable engaged intellectuals. But your eagerness to play a dummy generally ventriloquizing their positions tells me nothing about what you really believe about anything.

I get it. You're a disgruntled lefty who thinks Obama's policies too corporatist and too militarist to pass muster as genuinely democratizing. I agree with that sentiment myself, of course.

But that's not where our disagreements are happening. Retreating to that level of easy abstraction, hiding behind accomplished writers without saying what you think, flinging sarcastic stink bombs at others' efforts without justifying them isn't illuminating or helpful. You may think you're an engaged intellectual, but that demands actual engagement. Argue for positions you defend, be prepared for the objections of those who agree about policy limitations but want to know what practical alternatives are more realizable.

Now, I don't deny well-documented reports of an "enthusiasm gap" between the Dem and Repug bases. I do disagree that it will translate into another Gingrichian wave election or some wholesale repudiation of Obama. The punditocrats like that storyline because it's easy, they take right-wing talking points seriously, and they tend to be rich pampered dullards.

The "galvanization of the right" you trumpet is also the bald exposure of the racism that has driven Repug politics for generations. I entirely disagree with your insinuation that Obama's failure to live up to your (or my) higher standards for unambiguous legislative success has anything at all to do with the energy behind this Republican base. I also disagree that it is necessarily bad for Dems, given demographic realities in the US and attitudes among younger people about the go-to racism and panty-sniffing that drives Republican base politics.
The sad thing is that sober left-wingers who weren't lost in the "joy of moment" predicted that this is exactly what would happen when Obama actually started governing. So the question is: Why didn't you?

I did predict that Obama would have to compromise given Congressional numbers and Conservadems caucusing with the Dems. I take these facts into consideration all the time when talking about prospects for actual healthcare or financial or DADT reform making its way through Congress. I hated the appointments of Summers, Salazar, and Gates and expected mischief from the whole "Team of Rivals" fluffery. Who on earth with any sense didn't "predict" such stuff?

I did think Obama had a slight shot at getting the Public Option through had he pushed at just the right time (which is one of the reasons I pushed so hard through that struggle, emphasizing the optics and also the logical case both of which were all on our side and that was the time for such a case), but that outcome was always a sometime thing. His optics on the BP spill right now are terrible, too. But compared to what is practically possible, given limited resources and events nobody controls, there are plenty of things the Admin is doing that I disapprove but understand enough not to indulge BS equivalency theses.

I try to remember the institutional realities that articulate the play of policy choices, compare disappointments not only against my ideals but against other probable outcomes, and I remain forever aware how limited successes and failures take place within the larger context of enabling or disabling movement Republicanism from moment to moment as a defining force of American politics.

I don't agree that your impractical perfectionism, your demoralizing whining, your vapid generalities constitute "sober left-wing" analysis, and I don't agree that the joy I felt the day Obama was elected made me "lost" or "uncritical."

Obama's election was a milestone, and if you felt no joy in it I'm glad not to be you.

Actual democratization is heartbreaking, compromised, piecemeal, reformist struggle against endlessly high odds, institutional inertia, disseminated ignorance and fueled by the measure of joy we take in such accomplishments.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weekly White Guys of "The Future" Report

Seven days have passed, and so I made my weekly jaunt to the website of the stealth-transhumanist Robot Cult outfit, IEET.

The acronym stands for "Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies." It should be noted, however, that "ethics" seem a rather tangential preoccupation there as compared to science fiction fanwanking misconstrued as policy deliberation. Also, the "technologies" under consideration there tend to be rather more fantastical than actually emerging, strictly speaking. (It is worth noting, in this connection, that even their occasional references to actually emerging technoscience tend to frame discoveries and impacts not in the technical or political terms that actually beset us, but always only as "stepping stones" along hypothesized trajectories toward imaginary superlative outcomes, thus investing even the actual with the fantastical, so that even what is actually emerging is treated as an insinuation of the "emergence" in reality of what remains utterly imaginary.)

But even if the imaginary technologies on which the futurologists of the IEET are fixated aren't exactly emerging, definitely a pattern is:

I can report again that this week, just like last week, of the fifteen portraits of today's featured authors and speakers there you will find none that is not a white guy. You may recall that in the two months I've been doing these weekly reports only two folks who are not white guys have ever been so featured on the IEET website (unless you count cartoon aliens and robots of indeterminate race and gender, which are also better represented at IEET, despite not even existing, than are non white guy humans).

Unlike post-biological superintelligent Robot Gods, unlike biological minds "uploaded" into cyberspace or scooped up into shiny Robot Bodies or therapized into superlongevity, unlike desktop nanobotic Anything Machines or ubiquitous automation or Holodeck whorehouses and treasure caves or energy too cheap to meter delivering superabundance (superintelligence, superlongevity, and superabundance are in my view little more than the theological omnipredicates omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence ineptly translated for neoliberal reductionist consumerist promotional-hyperbolist societies into the super-predicates of superlative futurology construed as faith-based initiatives for wish-fulfillment fantasists who fancy themselves paragons of Scientific Reason), unlike all the endlessly relentlessly regurgitated paraphernalia of the Robot Cult... racism and sexism actually do exist, they go on making their pernicious play in the present world.

And I'll say it again, like I say it every week:

Only a minority of people in the world are in fact white guys.

Only a minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared, peer to peer, are in fact white guys.

Only a minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are in fact white guys.

Only a minority of people in the world who are well informed and have important things to say about matters of technoscience are in fact white guys.

And given these salient facts IEET's endless ongoing parade of techno-transcendentalizing white guys fancying themselves spokesmen for "The Future" is actually an enormously perplexing and problematic thing.

Of course, the public participants of this stealth-Robot Cult outfit have far more problems on their hands than just this weirdly abiding issue of non-representativeness. Their insistently nonsensical mistaking of science fiction for science and fanwanking for policy deliberation as well as their consistently undemocratic dis-identification with the humans with whom they share the present world and identification with imagined post-humans in "The Future" (usually just surrogates enabling parochial moralizing in the present world) provide an iceberg-tip of deeper difficulties that beset these superlative futurologists. For more on some of these problems I recommend the six pieces assembled in this Condensed Critique of Transhumanism.

Be all that as it may, I do think that their apparent inability to take seriously or be taken seriously, institutionally, at least for long by anybody but white guys is a symptom that graphically gives the lie to their pretensions to represent anything like a serious professional academic mainstream-intelligible bioethics or technoscience policy think-tank rather than just a clumsy sanewashing operation for their rather deranged, and certainly deranging, not to mention reactionary, Robot Cult.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hillary Clinton for President, 2016

Chris Bowers, on OpenLeft earlier today:
[S]ince she became Secretary of State, her favorables have soared into the mid-60's, putting her well clear of any other statewide officeholder in the country. Hillary Clinton will turn 69 in the final week of the 2016 campaign, which makes her slightly younger than Ronald Reagan when he first was elected in 1980. Also, as Secretary of State, a major presidential candidate, a U.S. Senator, and First Lady, she is also probably more credentialed than any other potential Presidential candidate, too….Because Barack Obama made her Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton remains remarkably well-positioned to run for President in 2016, even more so than she was in 2008.

For shits and giggles, here's what I wrote November 15, 2008, when I first heard the rumor that Obama was pitching State to Clinton.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We Recruit

Oh So Soft Straight Soldiery

During a radio broadcast, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association declares that Hitler was gay -- and also possibly that Eva Braun was a fag hag -- but also that, contrary to generations of relentlessly unfunny mean-spirited right-wing stereotypes depicting lisping fairies in pink chiffon uniforms squealing in the face of enemy fire and skulking about among the shower stalls, now, apparently, the right-wing fantasy of the queer soldier is one "who ha[s] no limits [in terms of] the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after," as against straights who lacked the requisite "savage[ery] and brutal[ity] and viscious[ness]" of The Gay.

Fischer does have the decency to concede that the Nazis actually ruthlessly persecuted homosexuals (the lgbtq Pink Triangle derives from the badge over fifty thousand gay folks wore in Nazi concentration camps), but presumably his own acquaintance with many self-hating closeted gay evangelical Republicans in positions of influence within political movements dedicated to anti-gay bigotry has made it easy to reconcile the paradoxical fantasy of queer folks as at once the victims of the Nazis' genocidal rage and yet also somehow the elite apex of their ferocious masculinist militarist order. True, it does seem a bit odd that Fischer's argument seems to impute a sort of effeminacy to straight soldiers in their straightness, but I'm sure that only his therapist, or possibly his hairdresser, really knows for sure what he is thinking here.

I will say that I have been rather nervous watching the slow unfolding of the effort at DADT repeal -- fearing yet another Lucy and the football fakeout like everybody else -- and especially so given the lackadaisical attitude of our so-called "fierce advocate" in the White House... But when this full-throated fantasy freakout about hypermasculine homos in SS uniforms fellating innocent straights from the plain states was unleashed across the reactionary right I began to think maybe this modest righteous popular harmless sensible repeal of a cruel and pointless discriminatory policy really is going to happen for real this time around, else these loons wouldn't be losing their lunches over the thing like this.

The Straights Were in Barracks All Snug in Their Beds While Legions of Faggots Fellated Their Heads

Senior Fellow for Policy Studies of the Family Research Council Peter Sprigg warns that should Don't Ask Don't Tell be repealed sleeping heterosexual males will be fondled and fellated by the gays.

Sprigg sounds stressed. I think somebody needs a massage. Perhaps a colleague from elsewhere in the Family Research Council can make a recommendation?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

British Petroleum's Hostile Invasion, Occupation, and Looting of America Continues

BP CEO Tony Hayward ordering American press people and other American citizens on a public beach to "get out of here."

As Atrios pithily puts the point: "It's BP's America. We just live it. At least until they kill us."

Seize their assets. Divert the money entirely over to emergency cleanup and real compensation for the victims of these criminal acts. Throw BP's smug executives into a POW camp. Get a handle on this earthshattering travesty, Obama.

DADT Breakthrough

I'm inclined to view the announced compromise as a real breakthrough. There are lots of fine activists who are warning that this is a "sellout" "bullshit" "nothing" or "less than nothing" or "worse than nothing" and so on: we're Democrats, and there always are such complaints (it's a feature AND a bug).

But it seems to me that this compromise is just a recognition (forced upon too many outrageously lackadaisical Democrats by direct action and pressure from queer communities) that we didn't have the votes to pull this off in Congress as is. This, even though, as we all know, nearly 80% of the American people are behind repeal and so this should be an utterly uncontroversial decision -- except for the fact that the venue in question happens to be filled with old straight white guys most of whom are out of touch millionaires. This compromise functions to take off the pressure enough to make enough of these superannuated patriarchal prigs just comfortable enough with the vote to get it through. Even so, I understand we're scrambling to get the votes in committee.

It looks like we need 15 votes to enact (14 if Byrd sits this one out for health reasons) and so far we have 12 yes to 11 no (a whole array of the worst Republican assholes, McCain, Inhofe, Sessions, Chambliss, Vitter and so on -- but also so-called "moderates" like Lindsey Graham and naked Scotty Brown), since icky Ben Nelson is one of the so-called "undecideds" I'm counting on getting the votes from Bayh and Webb, neither of whom fill me with confidence, but at least this seems more doable than the whole enterprise did a few days ago.

For those who find ominous the language of the compromise punting the actual implementation over to "the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" and only after they "have considered the recommendations contained in [December's] report," all I can say is that the delay to the report was happening anyway, and all three of the figures making the decision are on record making unambiguous statements that DADT should be repealed for practical and moral reasons.

Sure, this could conceivably set us up to get sandbagged, but those who are saying this now seem to me to have arrived late to the party, because before this compromise got things moving again I was thinking this was looking stymied for another generation, incredibly enough.

You're not going to lose many bets if you always just preemptively declare everything hopelessly compromised and ineffectual and corrupted -- politics involves compromises among stakeholders that you commit to despite discomfort at their costs and worries about their always contingent longer-term outcomes, unlike morals and aesthetics in which one can offer up stainless steel visions of best outcomes with which you can then comfortably and whole-heartedly identify.

There's plenty to feel nervous about in this compromise language, there's plenty that will demand close scrutiny and continuing pressure, but, again, this feels like a breakthrough to me. We'll see.

The second this thing goes through for real we should change our mental channels and start pushing like hell for ENDA. That matters far more to me personally than this endless funneling of so much of the struggle for gay rights through the fight for the right to kill people in needless wars, I must say.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Conservadem Sellout? But cha ARE Blanche, ya ARE!

BP Is a Hostile and Destructive Foreign Invasion Force

The effort to stanch the vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was mired by setbacks on Monday as state and federal officials feuded with BP over its failure to meet deadlines and its refusal to stop spraying a toxic dispersant…. BP was locked in a tense standoff with the Environmental Protection Agency, which had ordered the company to stop using a toxic chemical dispersant called Corexit by Sunday. But BP continued spraying the chemical on Monday, despite the E.P.A.’s demand that it use a less toxic dispersant to break up the oil.

"Setbacks"? "Feuds"? "Standoff"?

Honestly, what the hell? I have never once in my life understood why the US spends more on its military than every other nation on the planet combined (actually, I do -- it enables so-called free market fundamentalists to advocate a planned US economy and so-called rugged individualist ideologues to advocate welfare for the rich, all stealthed as "Defense" -- what I mean to say is that I've never understood the public rationales offered in justification for these obscene military priorities), especially when there are so many stomachs crying out for nourishment and minds crying out for education and lives crying out for support that are ignored while we churn out our endless bullets and bombs… but, honestly, this takes the cake.

The United States has been catastrophically attacked by a hostile remorseless invading foreign power, British Petroleum. BP is refusing to comply with our legally constituted authorities in matters over which they have perfectly clear legitimate jurisdiction.

For heaven's sake: Freeze and seize all BP's goddamned assets, divert all the money to cleanup and to salaries for regular employees and emergency crews, get all their Suits into orange jumpsuits and throw them in jail. Take control of this situation. As a pinko-pacifist-faggot trained in nonviolence at the King Center I can't exactly pretend to be comfortable taking up even superficially the guise of a warblogger of all things, but this is a National calamity unfolding here. The, you know, Homeland is under attack and stuff.

Where are all the gun-totin saucer-eyed barking-dog patriotic swinging dicks in all of this mess?

I've never approved of the catastrophic anti-democratizing militarism of the neoliberal/neoconservative epoch, but I frankly don't understand the point of its champions even on their own immoralist irrationalist imperialist terms if we are just going to sit here on our weapons stockpiles while these corporate pipsqueaks attack our country and kill our citizens and destroy our land and rake in our treasure.

More On Flaccid Futurologists

In the closing sentences of this week-end's "White Guys of The Future! Report" (entitled, just to be mean about it, Flaccid Futurology) I wrote:
[O]nly a minority of people in the world are in fact white guys… only a minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared are in fact white guys… only a minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are in fact white guys… only a minority of people in the world who are well informed and have important things to say about matters of technoscience are in fact white guys and hence [the] endless ongoing parade of techno-transcendentalizing white guys fancying themselves spokesmen for "The Future" is actually an enormously perplexing thing. Of course, the public proponents of this stealth-transhumanist outfit [IEET] have far more problems on their hands than just this weirdly abiding issue of non-representativeness... Nonetheless, I do think that their apparent inability to take seriously or be taken seriously, institutionally, for long by anybody but white guys is a symptom that graphically gives the lie to their pretensions to represent anything like a serious professional academic mainstream-intelligible bioethics or technoscience policy think-tank rather than the sanewashing operation for their Robot Cult that they look to me to be.

In the Moot, Friend of blog Martin offered up some interesting points about that post I'm reproducing in the following exchange:
You point this out every week, but I think a bigger white guy problem needs to be addressed.

Even if you are right, this doesn't get the Robot Cultists off the particular hook they are twisting on. Far from it.
The technologies that will impact our lives over the next few decades will be created by scientists and engineers who are still mostly white guys. The kinds of technologies and technodevelopmental programs that will be considered worthy of pursuing will mostly be driven by the psychological and cultural peculiarities of white guys

I don't think one can say either of these things with anything like your confidence!

In saying this, however, my point is certainly not to deny the urgency of a feminist politics of science education for girls and support of women in research and an increased focus on the impacts on women and children of technodevelopmental change under conditions of patriarchy, and so on.

But I'll admit that I don't personally think my exposure of the weird white guyness of the Robot Cult is addressed by these actually mainstream feminist concerns. I think the whiteness and guyness of futurology bespeaks more than the structural sexism of our culture in general or science more specifically, at least historically, and I think its exhibition among Robot Cultists is of a different scope and shape and insistence than is playing out in the technoscience practice and policy more generally (though, no doubt, one can sketch continuities).

This is especially the case when we turn to technodevelopmental theory and policy deliberation -- the domains most relevant to the actual sorts of content (such as it is) that transhumanists are peddling and aspiring to be seen as contributors to. I personally find STS and EJ [Science and Technology Studies and Environmental Justice Movement/Critique] scholarship and activism to provide the most relevant and congenial discourse in these areas, and if you peruse the organizations and conferences and publications and course work associated with these formations you will discover that they are incomparably more diverse than the robot cultists are. Believe me, they've got their problems, too, but we're talking a whole different world here.
To me, the background of the people actually building the future is far more important than the background of activists and cheerleaders on the sidelines.

Technodevelopmental social struggle is actually articulated by regulation, funding, education in its substance. And so I would include scholars and policy-makers together with laboratory researchers and funders and so on among the ones who today are "building together" tomorrow!

There is, I agree, little use for "cheerleading" in the facilitation of equitable consensual outcomes for any of these tomorrow-building pursuits, though I understand scam artists have a lot to gain from their employment of such cheerleaders.

As I like to put the point: Mainstream futurology is just corporate-military PR/advertising discourse, while superlative futurology amplifies the advertising hyperbole into the promise of personal transcendence and the PR fraud into outright organized religiosity.
So, more women in science, then, right?

Hell, yeah!

But, again, I don't think one learns much from yoking together too tightly the ways in which science and secular democracy can benefit from the inclusion of more women among its guiding voices, and the more idiosyncratic difficulties of Robot Cultists who can't seem to find ways of peddling their white-boy circle-jerks as attractions to women who know better.

Right Wing Violence Map


Time to Start Racial Profiling Dumpy White Guys?

Perhaps I need to re-think looking like a page from the L.L. Bean catalogue all the time. All the professional women and sensible people of color who constitute the American majority might start whispering uncomfortably in the plane that I look like one of "those people."

GOP Declares Randroid Paul a "Novice" Rather Than a Menace

Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, said on Meet the Press yesterday that Paul is a "novice," and candidates new to the national stage "occasionally stumble on questions." Cornyn (R-TX) said that candidates who are not professional politicians might have to backtrack when articulating their philosophy.

Politico quoted Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) as saying that Paul would have been better off resting after the primary. "He should have taken some time," Guthrie said, while local Republican chairman and a former Grayson backer Bill Betson called it "a little bit of a rocky start." "We have somebody new in the political scene and we have to get through it," Betson told Politico.

What these GOP "professional pols" are saying is that Paul hasn't learned to lie about his views yet.

Needless to say, if you are in the GOP and you want to get elected the first thing you need to do is lie well and lie often. Neither the guns-wars-executions-death-cult patriarchal-theocratic white-racist reactionary cultural views of the neo-confederate rump that is the GOP base nor its avowed agenda to protect the profits of the rich could possibly attract the majorities necessary to prevail in even our diminished democracy.

If you want to get people to vote against their best interests, or demoralize them into not voting at all (which is exactly equally injurious to their interests), the first thing you have to be is a liar.

Randroid Paul's views as a libertopian are of course completely idiotic, that he holds them reflects his insulation by privilege from the complexities of reality, but his views are certainly not more harebrained heartless or horrific than those of the know-nothing scoundrels of the GOP more generally. He differs from the GOP's elected old hands primarily in actually saying what he means and meaning what he says in public places.

Please don't mistake that for a compliment. Variations of stupidity and evil remain stupid and evil.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This Is Egg-zactly What Democracy Looks Like

"Voters dressed in chicken costumes won't be allowed inside Nevada polling places this year."

A Salute to Martin Gardner

Scientific American has published a fine profile of Martin Gardner, who died yesterday. I've flipped through my old dog-eared stain-paged copy of Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science in his honor this morning. Since I have so many Robot Cultists lurking among my readership let me just say, do yourselves a favor and give it a read yourself.


I've deleted my Facebook account. I've never really immersed myself in the thing at any depth, finding it rather insipid and too Geocities-like overall, though I have been re-acquainted with some friends from high school and from my activist Atlanta days and maintained a tenuous connection with some of my students through it. Still, the panoptics and hacks and marketing penumbra made it all far more trouble than it's worth from my point of view. I don't expect to miss it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Truly Cthulhic Horror That Is Wenlock and Mendeville

London's Olympic mascots were unveiled and for one brief shining moment a single question knit together the whole world in a way the Olympics themselves could only dream of doing: Why Do Olympic Mascots Always Suck? Fortunately, io9 is totally on it.

What If All Republicans Only Ran for Public Office to Market Their Anti-Government Books?

You tell me.

"Bankrupt Leadership"

Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana -- yes, that Louisiana -- delivering this week's official Republican Party address:
Some in Washington have tried to seize on this real human tragedy in the Gulf to advocate for a radical new energy agenda. That only cheapens the loss of those who've lost loved ones and brushes aside the ongoing, unsolved problem to spring forward with an emotionally-charged political agenda… That's wrong and, frankly, an example of bankrupt leadership.

You gotta love that "frankly," there.

Let's be clear about Vitter's vitriol, shall we? Trying to hold people accountable for fraudulent promises, criminal neglect, ongoing deception is "politicization"? Trying to actually solve problems "cheapens" the losses of those who have actually suffered from the failure to address the problems? Trying to determine the facts of the matter and assign costs and regulate dangerous practices in ways that reflect these facts is emotionalism? Trying to get an energy policy that actually reflects the reality that there isn't enough offshore oil to drill our way to the maintenance of the status quo, that drilling this inadequate oil reserve is profoundly dangerous and likely to cost more than it is worth in terms of damage to wildlife and indispensable ecosystemic services and other crucial industries like tourism, and that actually-available distributed solar rooftop grids and windmill farms and mandated energy-efficient building and mass-transportation policies provide an already viable sustainable and probably enormously profitable alternatives to the destructive dead-weight of greenhouse-gas polluting extractive-industrial petrochemical incumbent practices is dangerously "radical" rather than simply sensible? Trying anything other than endlessly facilitating profit-taking for corporations whatever the costs to human lives and the ecosystems on which we all depend for our survival and flourishing is "wrong" and "bankrupt leadership"?

No need to choose here between the usual alternatives where Republican utterances are concerned, Vitter's statements are clearly BOTH stupid AND evil in roughly equal amounts. And while Establishment Republicans have sent Randroid Paul to the woodshed this weekend for saying out loud what most Republicans really believe in their heart-holes, note the perfect continuity between the sentiments in this officially sanctioned GOP address and Randroid's own admonishment of Democratic criticisms of BP as "un-American."

Is It Time to Invade and Occupy BP?

Given the high-handed way BP seems simply to be refusing to co-operate with government agencies that have actual and unquestionable jurisdiction over them (refusing access to information about or inspection of the spill, even using goons to enforce unconstitutional media black-outs of the relevant disaster sites, lying to regulators and investigators before during and in an ongoing way, refusing to comply with the EPA demand to switch to more effective less toxic dispersants, and so on) it is becoming more and more difficult to see why BP should be treated as anything other than some sort of hostile invading army or piratical gang attacking the sovereignty of the United States at this point. I mean this in a fairly straightforwardly literal sort of way.

The obvious rejoinder is to say with a histrionic roll of the eyes that of course BP is behaving this way, since we live after all in a corporatocracy rather than a democracy, and this is yet one more datum to be trotted out in evidence about how right we are to say so even if many who do say this most stridently never seem to go on to do anything else but just say this over and over again. (Like many a good old American pragmatist I am disinclined to treat as a real difference in belief any assertion of belief that makes no real difference in conduct. Just saying.)

But what is truly perplexing to me is that BP actually seems rather recklessly and egregiously to be pushing the Administration into a corner in which it will have little choice but to start actually throwing rich folks in business suits in jail and imposing actually ruinous financial penalties on BP and Halliburton, otherwise it has simply to concede instead that BP runs the show in a way that would radically undermine its jealously guarded authority. And there really is little reason for the government to make such a concession at this time, considering that the President is, you know, Commander-in-Chief of the most disgustingly vast military apparatus in earth's history, not to mention an enormously popular bully-pulpiteer, and all the rest.

I mean, I get that these petro-chemical guys are assholes, that they float in an insanely entitled cluelessness cloud, and none of them are even remotely as bright as they think they are and few show signs of more than quotidian intelligence to be generous, and so on. (Recent testimony from those surreally smug Goldman Sachs jackholes on Capitol Hill confirmed our worst possible suspicions about the idiocy and sociopathy of our Elite Overlords, for anybody who still needs such confirmation, after all.) But, still, the level of belligerently assertive defiance by BP in the face of a palpable catastrophe arising out of no less conspicuous misconduct on their part at a time of widespread populist hostility to large corporations is truly unfathomable to me. (One hopes Randroid Paul can find it in his Big Brain to forgive my saying such "un-American" things.)

So far Obama has seemed to me ridiculously conciliatory and complacent about the Gulf drilling disaster -- along with Deep Muddy Afghanistan, pointless DADT shilly-shallying, and the ongoing shoring up of the Imperial Presidency, his response to BP's and Halliburton's catastrophic crimes in the Gulf ranks among my deepest concerns about the Administration at the moment. Still, I am hoping this has been a long carrot phase soon to be followed by a stick phase, and that while Obama has been unreasonably hopeful for reasonableness from BP all this time he has also been allowing them the rope to hang themselves with if they don't see sense soon. No doubt this sentiment is just more Obamabotics or nth dimensional chess on my part. But I just can't make sense of alternative hypotheses on offer given the realities on the ground.

Flaccid Futurology, or More White Guys of "The Future"!

Seven days have passed and so it is time for another White Guys of "The Future" Report. I made my weekly jaunt to the stealth-Robot Cult outfit IEET's website, and I can report this morning that of the fifteen portraits of today's featured authors and speakers there you will find none that is not a white guy. You may recall that in the nearly two months I've been doing these reports only two folks who are not white guys have ever been so featured on the IEET website (unless you count cartoon aliens and robots of indeterminate race and gender, which are also better represented at IEET, despite not even existing, than are non white guy humans).

I will repeat again, as I have done every single week I've offered up one of these White Guys of "The Future" Reports, that only a minority of people in the world are in fact white guys, and that only a minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared are in fact white guys, and that only a minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are in fact white guys, and that only a minority of people in the world who are well informed and have important things to say about matters of technoscience are in fact white guys and hence that this endless ongoing parade of techno-transcendentalizing white guys fancying themselves spokesmen for "The Future" is actually an enormously perplexing thing.

Of course, the public proponents of this stealth-transhumanist outfit have far more problems on their hands than just this weirdly abiding issue of non-representativeness -- for some of these problems have a look here, for example. Nonetheless, I do think that their apparent inability to take seriously or be taken seriously, institutionally, for long by anybody but white guys is a symptom that graphically gives the lie to their pretensions to represent anything like a serious professional academic mainstream-intelligible bioethics or technoscience policy think-tank rather than the sanewashing operation for their Robot Cult that they look to me to be.

See you guys again one week from now, one week further into… The Future!

Grayson Tries to Force the Catastrophe of Militarism Back Into Public Awareness and Conversation

Needless to say, Grayson doesn't think that this can pass. He is trying to render visible but also intelligible the flabbergasting scale of the cost, opportunity cost, waste, corruption, insidiousness, insanity of that old enemy of democracy, the military-industrial complex. Among the other things it does, this exposes the bullshit of the considerable and yet nonsensical overlap in American public life, and in the libertopian flavors of right-wing movement politics especially, between the jingoistic warmongers and the so-called "anti-tax" zealots and "deficit hawks."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Randroid Paul, Loon. Also, Whiney White Guy

The classic libertopian portrait is now complete.

"When does my honeymoon period start? I had a big victory," Paul told George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America" today. "I've just been trashed up and down and they have been saying things that are untrue. And when they say I'm for repealing the Civil Rights Act, it's absolutely false. It's never been my position and something that I basically just think is politics." Paul's comments came amid a firestorm of criticism sparked earlier this week when he appeared to question the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which he said went too far in banning discrimination by private companies.

I had a big victory! Stop asking me to explain my weird views!

Randroid Paul's Libertopian Hits Keep Coming

What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen.

Corporations lie, destroy planet, billionaires make money, average people die, what's not to like?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Principled" Libertopianism -- Randroid Paul Offers Democrats the Opportunity for a Teachable Moment After Decades of Market Indoctrination

Piqued and pouting libertopians are defending "principled" "intellectual" Rand Paul now that Rachel Maddow has exposed part of the anti-social substance of the libertopian worldview to the light of day.

Yes, of course, in the interview linked and briefly discussed below from the Rachel Maddow Show Rand Paul means to imply that it is both bad business and immoral to be a racist, but that not everything immoral should also be illegal. I'm an ethical vegetarian who doesn't believe corpse-eating should be illegal, for example, and so it is easy to rise to a level of abstraction in which the application of this sentiment to institutional racism might momentarily seem appropriate if provocative. But another moment's sustained attention reveals Randroid's little thought-experiment unworthy of serious consideration among decent, sensible, law-abiding citizens in a secular democratic multiculture like ours.

You see, since Rand Paul also clearly believes that precisely because racism is bad business the magic of market competition would ameliorate its immorality more readily than ever could any pesky interfering government regulation, he no doubt fancies that this faith in wholesome market forces trumps the lived humiliation and destruction of public good that comes from the application of his facile libertopian scheme to reality on the ground. But he is quite simply wrong about that, and he is starting to pay the price for being wrong about that now.

The sort of "principled" disconnect of principle from reality involved in defenses of private racism where public enterprises like businesses are concerned suffuses neoliberal and market fundamentalist discourse across the board, of course, right down to the foundational axiom of most self-described right-wing market libertarians to "abhor the initiation of force" but then to treat this non-violence as identical with the defense of market outcomes and contracts even when on the ground, in actual reality, the terms of exchange and agreement are duressed by conspicuous inequities or misinformation.

Hence the abstract libertopian declaration of principled anti-coercion takes on a form that absolutely ensures coercion will take place in reality. (That libertopians also inevitably refuse government any role but armed forces and police to enforce the terms of these actually-duressed contracts should make it clear to all but infants and infantilized True Believers that they are advocating what will play out on the ground as corporate-militarist planned economies stealthing their central planning and incumbent-entitlements as "Defense.")

Likewise, of course, as a straightforward factual matter, private racism can and endlessly many times has been so widespread and institutionalized that its "private" exercise has crystallized into a segregation that is indistinguishable from outright public segregation. Market competition is not a force yielding always only wholesome outcomes -- local/ historical competition for profit can unleash a race for the bottom as easily as a race toward the top. In characteristically racist societies businessmen can compete for racist customers through ever more conspicuous demonstrations of the ruthlessness of their racism after all, and normalized forms of institutional racism can and do proceed in ways market forces are utterly indifferent to.

Even if in the longest long term the outright idiocy and awfulness of racism might introduce some inefficiencies that some savvy businesspeople might exploit for competitive advantage in ways that might ameliorate some of its injustices, the fact remains that in the long run we are all dead, as Keynes put the point, and that the damage and humiliation of lived racism is as urgently a matter of concern to proper political economy in our policy-making deliberation here and now as facilitating efficiency and production are. Racism poisons a democratic society and destroys the equity-in-diversity on which a nation of peers depends for its flourishing, and that is an end to it.

That's why the 20th century civil rights movement happened, and why even nice but clueless market fundamentalists who fetishize unregulated enterprise on terms parochially preferred by incumbents and elites will be rightly charged with the facilitation of institutional racism -- even if they are not malignant expressive racists in their personal attitudes, which should neither be assumed due to or provide an alibi for the former.

As so usually happens with libertopians, Rand Paul has offered up an abstraction that fails to connect to actual reality and which is compelling through its simplicity and internal consistency, but mostly for those who are ignorant of the way the world actually is, usually because they are insulated by privilege from the complexity of that world and their own complicity in its injustices.

At the heart of his "principled" defense of the bigoted private businessman is the usual facile libertopian disavowal of the extent to which every private enterprise is constituted and maintained by and through public forces which impose responsibilities on his efforts just as they empower him. Zoning, health standards, professional licensing, dependence on public services, infrastructure, social stability in which all citizens (even the people whose skin color or sexual practices or whatever you might disapprove of) contribute their indispensable measure to the order, prosperity, value, intelligibility of the private forms libertopians claim to value while denigrating the public forms on which the private depends for its flourishing.

The basic political struggle is always between democracy against oligarchy, between those who struggle to ensure that ever more people have ever more of a say in the public decisions that affect them against those who defend at any cost incumbent interests with which they parochially identify. In the United States for the last century this battle has been fought in the abstract between those who struggle to achieve social justice through recourse to the democratically accountable state against those who champion "the free market" conceived as a wholesome spontaneous order autonomous from or even hostile to the democratically accountable state, and has been fought on the ground between those on the left who struggle to implement and extend the New Deal and the Great Society against those who struggle on the right to denigrate and dismantle the imperfect unfinished accomplishments of these great democratizing efforts to benefit minorities with which they identify in preference to the general welfare of the people.

Behind the suave abstractions of the market ideologues, the libertarians and neoliberals and free market apologists, one will always find the substance of anti-New Deal oligarchs and anti-Great Society white-supremacists.

Last night, Rachel Maddow exposed a sliver of that libertopian truism to the light of day in her interview with Rand Paul. More, please.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Randroid Paul Meltdown on the Rachel Maddow Show

Even I expected it to take more than twenty-four hours for him to make himself radioactively unelectable.

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

Needless to say, even if you really do personally think it is not at all nice for racists to segregate their privately-owned lunch counters and bowling alleys it is still obviously and rightly going to be an enormously controversial and problematic thing to advocate that this not-nice thing should nonetheless be legal in America today. If you say such things and really believe them for reasons you think are good it isn't a gotcha attack to expect you to explain that controversial view in public to those you want to represent in government, and it is rather flabbergasting that a person on the record saying such things apparently wouldn't be prepared to be asked about them after winning his state party's senate primary.

Must Read Calitics

Here is the always indispensable Robert Cruickshank, this time applying ideas of economist Richard Koo to the current situation in California over at Calitics, California Needs Prosperity, Not Austerity:
[A]usterity budgets, particularly spending cuts, are the worst and last thing California needs if we are to have economic recovery. We've had four summers of spending cuts, dating back to 2007, and what's happened to our economy? We now have the worst unemployment rate in the state in 60 years, no real growth, and gutted public services that make it difficult to see real recovery….

[Californians] are in… a "balance sheet recession" where the private sector is deleveraging -- purging debt. That is inherently deflationary and destroys economic growth. Unless government supports the economy with deficit spending and increased budgets, the deleveraging will become economically destructive…. [During] the unwind of great bubbles… companies go from maximizing profits, as they had done in normal times, to a post-bubble concern of reducing debt.

Regardless of how much priming of the pump monetary authorities do, the psychology of debt reduction will limit the effectiveness of monetary policy as a policy tool. In sum, the psychology after a major bubble is very different than the psychology before its collapse. The post-bubble emphasis becomes debt reduction and savings, making monetary policy ineffective, not because financial institutions are unwilling lenders but because companies and individuals are unwilling borrowers. These are forces to be reckoned with for some to come….

[I]n 1997 Japan went ahead with massive budget cuts, an austerity that produced a serious and deep recession, prolonging and worsening Japan's ongoing "lost decade." We're going to see the same thing in California if Arnold's reckless austerity budgets aren't rejected.

Read the whole thing.

Give Your Money Directly to Candidates

It was almost the best possible night for fighting liberals last night, with phony-Dem for a day phony-moderate for a generation Specter going down while Establishment pols are left boo-hoo crying in their fancy feather pillows, meanwhile Republicans blew a million bucks they could have spent instead at faux-lesbian strip clubs losing the Pennsylvania special election thereby dealing yet another blow to the corporate-media's pet Republican Mid-Term Resurgence narrative, meanwhile labor-backed Halter yanks vile conseravdem Blanche Lincoln into a run-off she possibly cannot win all the while turning her little faux-populist derivatives regulation gambit into a real progressive amendment she and Dodd can't sweep under the rug, meanwhile in Kentucky the more liberal Conway beat Mongiardo in the Democratic Senate primary while Randroid Paul's victory over McConnell's groomed-pick in the Republican primary opens the window wide for another Democratic pick-up in the Senate (but I thought naked Scotty Brown's victory over dead flashlight battery and Establishment darling Martha Coakley was supposed to mean Dems are DOOOOOOMED in the Senate!), meanwhile, incredibly, some Dem villagers seem grumpy about the outcome, pouting and stamping about how Obama comes off looking bad by this result (hate to break it to you, guys, but Obama looks good every time a Democrat wins, nobody cares that he didn't pass Arlen a note in gym like you thought he shoulda woulda coulda). Apart from the obvious implications here, this also means that those of you who are providing monetary support for Democrats should bypass the DSCC, DCCC, and DNC altogether for now -- they are not making sound decisions about viability this cycle, they are trapped in a pre-Obama mindset, they are misreading the anti-establishment mood of the electorate as generally threatening to Democrats when in fact it is often quite encouraging to more progressive Democrats -- give your contributions, your phone banking time, your support directly to progressive candidates and campaigns for now.

Randroid Paul Gives Dems Another Shot at Victory

Thanks, batshit crazy Teabaggers!

Getting It Wrong Is Part of the Futurological Job Description

In a post entitled Triumph of the Stupidly Optimistic Paul Kedrosky asks the question: "How many jobs are there where being wrongly optimistic for ages gets you promoted? I offer you ... equity analysts, who have, on average, overestimated S&P 500 earnings by 2x for a generation."

Needless to say, I would point to the relentless delusive hyperbole of the Futurological Congress, who predict the arrival of artificial super-intelligence, super-longevity medicine breakthroughs, space hotels, energy too cheap to meter, robot slaves and so on every year on the year for generation after generation without ever arriving either at The Future they promise so breathlessly nor at the moment of modest re-assessment their serial failures would otherwise prompt in the sane.

Of course, compared to Kurzweilian graphs of progress rocketing upward literally into transcendence, even the fraudulent boosterism of financial analysts comes to seem comparatively humble. But the similarities between these pseudo-professions are hard to miss, and not only the non-coincidence that they both literally like to gab about "Futures": there is the same relentless aggressive can-do optimism, the same cantilevering of fudged facts and rosy projections one after the other treated as sound data, the same obfuscating squid ink-cloud of terminological chaff and charts connecting to no actual professions or credible sources and yet treated as signs of technical or scientific expertise, the same neologistic repackaging of stale notions and commonplace capacities as exciting novelties and a rocketship ride to future wealth and happiness beyond measure…

What I want to emphasize is that this is not an incidental resemblance between two cohorts of pseudo-professionals who happen to fail upward every time they get wrong the subject of their presumed expertise. Financial boosters and futurologists are not incompetent when they are handwaving hyperbolically, they are doing their jobs, they are doing what they are paid to do.

Stupidly optimistic financial analysts and futurological hucksters are engaging in a particularly egregiously hyperbolic mode of advertising discourse. They are ginning up enthusiasm for corporate-militarist aspirations, they are investing the agendas of incumbent interests in the present with the coloration of future emancipation for all, they are seducing the rubes into enthusiastic collaboration and identification with their exploiters.

Both are rewarded not despite their endless mistakes but precisely because of their willingness to shill (or, for those who are not only deceivers but deceived themselves, the fundamentalist Randroids and Robot Cultists, for their highly useful idiocy in this regard). Telling people what they want to hear, especially people who are willing to pay for the privilege, is a sure way to make a quick buck or draw edifying attention to yourself. There's a sucker born every minute, after all: ask any self-help guru or authoritarian priest, they know the score. But don't expect respect from anybody with the least bit of sense or decency, they know the score, too.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Today's Republican Base, Ladies and Gentlemen

According to TPM, Mark Williams, chair and frequent spokesman of the Tea Party Express, wrote this on his blog this week-end:
The animals of allah for whom any day is a great day for a massacre are drooling over the positive response that they are getting from New York City officials over a proposal to build a 13 story monument to the 9/11 Muslims who hijacked those 4 airliners. The monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists' monkey-god[.]

I do hope "Low-Enthusiasm Democrats" frustrated at the pace and scope of reform this last year and a half in the face of our many ecological, ethical, and economic catastrophes will think seriously nonetheless about just what kinds of flabbergasting bigots, liars, know-nothings, and greed-heads have gained momentum in today's Republican party and want to gain control of our actually diverse, actually secular-democratic country. Truly horrifying.

The Essential Continuity and Co-Dependency of Supernative and Superlative Futurisms, of Biocons and Robot Cultists

In the Moot, friend of blog Athena Andreadis has said that she is considering writing a book critiquing transhumanists, singularitarians, and techno-immortalists. Another long-time reader, "RadicalCoolDude" enthuses that Athena could become the "go-to Robot Cultism skeptic," and I couldn't agree more. Athena's is a credible, critical, accessible, poetic voice of sense that could do a world of good against the deranging hyperbole, junk-science, and anti-democratizing authoritarianism of the media-friendly, incumbent-friendly frames and formulations of superlative futurology. "RCD" goes on to "suggest [Athena] weave a critique of bioconservatism/bioluddi[sm] into your critique of transhumanism to neutralize the predictable accusation that you are a bioconservative/bioluddite."

Now, as someone who has been accused of being a transhumanist-libertechian-technophile by various bioconservatives and a bioconservative-luddite-deathist by various Robot Cultists I am here to tell you that there is little one can do to evade such charges.

Indeed, I have argued elsewhere that as a matter of plain pragmatic politics biocon/Primitivist orgs and transhumanist/Robot Cult orgs actually share an interest in seeing to it that technodevelopmental issues are framed in hyperbolic terms, and that their own antagonism be seen to delineate the whole technodevelopmental terrain, when of course almost all actually reasonable scientific practice and policy deliberation is happening in the mile-wide richness between the inch-thin futurological crusts at their extremes.

It isn't hard to see how there is not just a constitutive antagonism between technophobia and technophilia, but a deeper continuity between the two as precisely complementary un(der)critical vantages, both crucially conducing -- in their hyperbole, emotionalism, distraction, and undermining of consensus science and democratic deliberation -- to incumbent interests in my view.

I have of course written extensively about how the homo naturalis with whom bioconservatives identify over biomedical equity-diversity-consent and the homo superior with whom transhumanists identify over the flourishing lifeway diversity of their worldly peers yield precisely complementary eugenicist and authoritarian politics in my view.

The extensive case I have made against superlative varieties of futurological discourse as faith-based initiatives, wish-fulfillment fantasies, and delusive techno-transcendentalizing promises made in defiance of sense gives rise to an equally extensive and again precisely complementary case against what I would call supernativity (note the "n") that does much the same.

While some have found perplexing (and I hope usefully provocative) my insistence that every futurism is in fact a retro-futurism in which parochial values and incumbent interests are reassured they will be not so much threatened as amplified in the world to come, it is perhaps comparably perplexing to grasp that every bioconservative exercise in defensive nostalgia for natural and pastoral lifeways that never in fact existed or prevailed in the world is in fact a retro-futurism out actively to make and police the world into conformity with a parochial ideal image.

Neither extremity has ever been able to cope very well with what are the most salient facets of technodevelopment as politics, namely, [one] that there is no such thing as "technology in general" with which one can "ally" or "fight to the death" in the abstract, apart from the myriad technoscientific practices of invention, research, publication, regulation, funding, education, application playing out in all their differences among all their diverse stakeholders from moment to moment, [two] that the political and normative force of technodevelopmental vicissitudes depend on the distribution of their costs, risks, and benefits to their actual stakeholders and hence depend on the democratizing, diversifying, consensualizing, equitizing struggles and values that articulate these distributions and not so much on the "technological" per se as abstracted away from these actually-conventional left-right political struggles, [three] that all culture is prosthetic and all prostheses, all techniques, all devices are matters of cultural diversity in their political substance, and that there will be no progressive politics of "technology" that is not already committed to lifeway diversity and consensual convivial multiculture first of all.

(Those who wonder why I jettisoned the term "techno-progressive" from my own rhetoric when I was for so long so conspicuously associated with it, should understand that this was not only because Robot Cultists appropriated the term and use it to this day stealthily and dishonestly to promote their own harmful and extreme agendas -- though of course that is one reason -- but also simply because I came to view the term as unnecessary, unhelpful, and even a bit obfuscatory, since one need most crucially and simply to be progressive to be techno-progressive, after all. I suspect that the reason the techno-progressive term was vulnerable to opportunistic misappropriation by the Robot Cultists was precisely because it was premised on the false assumption that such a term was needed or even helpful in the first place, since such confusions provide fertile ground for futurological frames.)

I do think it is an interesting paradox that the superlative techno-utopians who like to crow so much about their superior scientificity seem so often ultimately both to disdain materiality in their immaterializing fetishization of the digital (not to mention, usually, neoliberal financialization and logo-ization as well) and also to propose what is an essentially transcendentalizing worldview focused on an otherworldly tech-heaven called "The Future," while the supernative biocons whose discourse is typically suffused with gestures to spirituality and a world "made by hand" so often ultimately fetishize little more than the material and familiar furniture of the world of their comfort-zones and that small sliver of human morphologies and lifeways with which they happen parochially to identify at the moment and which they would police into continence through the heavy hand of the state even in defiance of informed, nonduressed consent.

It is a profound error, however, to mistake such paradoxes and such superficial skirmishing antagonisms between superlative and supernative futurological discourses and subcultures as more substantive than are their underlying continuities, their structural similarities, and their complementary facilitation of incumbent, authoritarian, eugenicist, non-worldly, anti-democratizing technodevelopmental politics in my view.

Election Day Begins Well for Blue Dog Blanche Lincoln

Sen. Blanche Lincoln suffered what might be one of the all-time greatest campaign staff fails this morning. According to her campaign staff, Lincoln was initially turned away when she tried to vote at her home her polling place this morning after elections officials discovered she had already requested an absentee ballot be sent to her Virginia home. Poll workers told Lincoln their records showed she had already voted.

Best of luck to her primary challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Greens Are Seizing on the Gulf Oil Spill to Pressure Obama to Do the Right Thing

Much more like this, please, especially now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Futurism On the Ground

Many of the high-tech security devices adopted by George W. Bush administration have been expensive flops, government investigators say.

The handwaving promises made by boys about their toys proved disastrously disappointing again? That's un-possible! Gee, I sure hope all their profits are still intact at least.

Pluralist Reasonableness Against Fundamentalist, Reductionist, and Relativist Unreasonableness

The point that scientific progress has non-negligibly depended for inspiration on science fiction, and fantastic literature more generally, is unquestionably true. But I think the force of the point is usually misconstrued, and usually to the cost of a sensible understanding of science.

This misconstrual is exacerbated to the point of crisis in futurological discourses, which endlessly confuse science with science fiction, as well as hyperbolic corporate-militarist press releases and scenarios with "data" for serious policy deliberation: In their mainstream corporate-militarist forms futurological discourses superficially appropriate sf conceits and imagery in order to manipulate undercritical mass assumptions and aspirations about technoscience and deploy them to sell crap products and military spending, whomping up the usual greed and insecurity. And in the superlative varieties of futurological discourse associated with the various sects of the Robot Cult (the transhumanist eugenicists, the techno-immortalists and cryonicists, the cybernetic totalists and GOFAI-deadenders and Singularitarian Robot God priesthood and penitents, the digital-utopians, the greenwashing geo-engineers and techno-fixers, the nano-cornucopiasts, and so on) these hyperbolic marketing and self-promotional discourses are amplified from fraud into outright faith-based initiatives selling not just the usual phony promises of sex appeal and get rich quick schemes and security from all threats, but outright techno-transcendence of human finitude, post-human demi-godhood via superlongevity, superintelligence, and superabundance.

I don't doubt that many serious scholars of Roman history were seduced into participation in its rigors by initial contact with technicolor sword and sandals epics, just as I know many serious practicing scientists who were inspired by Star Trek to begin their careers in biology or aerospace or what have you (just as my own inspiration by Star Trek had a place in motivating me to keep up my reading and teaching of science and technology studies (STS) and environmental justice critique (EJ)).

Nevertheless, the standards on the basis of which we identify serious historical scholarship or the laboratory and publishing practices of actually warranted consensus science are different from the standards on the basis of which we are moved or inspired by gladiator flicks or space operas. A lab cohort working on the nanoscale is a marvelous thing, as is an sf fandom devoted to Caprica, but they are not the same thing even if their participants overlap and the standards on the basis of which we rightly grasp and celebrate their marvelousness should reflect these differences, because they do make a difference.

This can actually be a trickier observation to grasp than it initially seems inasmuch as many paradigm-shifting scientific hypotheses have involved flashes of insight or inspiration that were not themselves scientific per se, but relied on accidents or fruitful analogies that emerged in processes better likened to the creative intelligence of poets than the creative intelligence of scientists engaged in the more routinized observational, testing, publishing practices that yield the contingent but warrantedly confidence-inspiring beliefs of consensus science.

While some scientists were inspired to scientific achievement through poetic inspiration, demonstrably many others were inspired instead through religious faith if we are to take their own accounts of these matters seriously, and no doubt plenty of others would attribute their inspirations to dreams, fevers, hallucinations, intoxications, or chemical highs, or, hell, for that matter, to the provocative nudge of a delicious meal, a rentboy's hard cock, or a particularly intense bowel movement. Are we ready to invite all these prompts to creative expressivity into the domain of scientific method, properly so-called, in consequence of these obvious facts?

Look, I am the last person to deny the role of the non-scientific to our collective and contested arrival at beliefs that are warrantable as reasonable in scientific terms, but I do not agree that such a recognition justifies a wholesale confusion of science fiction with science, or undermines the useful (I would say indispensable) distinction of the scientific as a domain of reasonable warranted belief ascription from other domains of the reasonable with which it is of course narratively and figuratively and historically and interpersonally and environmentally endlessly entangled in actual life.

It is actually important to grasp that many things that go on in labs were better described by Machiavelli than by any text on scientific method, that attention-economies, funding dynamics, reputation building, interpersonal organization in lab settings are often political through and through, that important scientific breakthroughs have often depended on flashes of inspiration and the workings of personal charisma, and so on. It is also important to recall that there is no definitive criterion on the basis of which we know when we have arrived at a sufficient accumulation of inductive weight to shift our mode of argumentation from the inductive to the deductive, just as it is important to insist that every deduction is in fact saturated with prior inductions, just as it is crucial to grasp that none of the criteria met by actually warranted scientific descriptions (coherence, falsifiability, testability, saving the phenomena, elegance, and so on) has never failed to warrant beliefs that were not subsequently replaced with better beliefs and hence that scientific warrant provides confidence but never certainty.

None of these crucial observations is meant to denigrate or disqualify science or deny its reasonableness or indispensability to human flourishing.

I will admit that I do hope they would provide useful constraints, however, on those who in the name of "championing" science would seek to invest it (and usually themselves, thereby) with inappropriate authority… Or who would reduce other modes of reasonable belief-ascription (the moral, aesthetic, ethical, political, among them) to the terms of the scientific… Or who would re-write contingent scientific beliefs in the faith-based image correspondence -- note that at the heart of both fundamentalist religiosity and faithly scientism is the fantasy of a Cosmos that has preferences in the matter of the language humans use to describe it, preferences would-be priests claim to be authoritatively qualified to speak in The Name of -- or the fraught capacitations of technique in the faith-based image of transcendence.

For me, to be reasonable is not to pretend to be scientific in every aspect of life -- nor even to pretend that all that is reasonable in science is itself reasonable in scientific terms -- because of some facile fetishization of superficial scientificity -- any more than I approve of those who would seek to reduce proper human life to the terms of aesthetic appreciation and expression out of a comparably foolish fetishization, or those ferocious moralizers who do the same with morals, or those cynics who do the same with politics. No, for me, to be reasonable means both to apply the criteria of warrant proper to each mode of reasonable belief-ascription as well as to grasp the actual mode of belief relevant to a case at hand in relation to other modes on offer. Mine is a pluralist conception of the reasonable, which is to my mind the furthest thing from the relativism fundamentalists (whether judeochrislamic, scientistic, moralistic, fascist-aesthetic, or what have you) will want to charge it with being.

I cherish proper scientific practice and its many accomplishments. And I happen to regard imperializing inflations of the scientific into other domains as a profound disrespect to its proper work and a dangerous derangement of the practices on which it actually depends to accomplish its proper work. And I regard the damage to science done by these self-appointed self-congratulatory Enlightenment champions no less devastating to reasonableness than I also so regard (as is more usual) superstitious and irrationalist and faith-based wish-fulfillment fantasies treated as competitors for reasonable warranted belief on proper scientific terms:

And that is just as true, whether these are Creationists who demand folk-poems be taught in biology classrooms, or climate-change denialists or safe-cigarette apologists who insist that any outcome sufficiently profitable to the few undermines the credibility of any claim, however warranted, that interferes with that profitability, or Robot Cultists who derange the qualified contingent consensus assertions of science into promotional and self-promotional promises of techno-transcendence.

Was (Not Was) Helps Make Amor Mundi More Positive

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

WSJ (aka WTF):
In old-money enclaves like Palm Beach, Fla., Nantucket, Mass., and Greenwich, Conn., WASPs are being priced out of their waterfront estates and displaced on their nonprofit boards by Jewish, Catholic and other non-Protestant entrepreneurs.

And don't even get them started about all them feminists, pansies, and uppity brown folks running around like they own the place!

Today's Random Wilde

The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.

Today's Salute to the Peanut Gallery:

"Newt's father should have withdrawn."

That comment by one "Winkandanod" was a response to Steve Benen's post today reminding us all that disgraced Republican pseudo-intellectual Newt Gingrich's rather hilarious demand this morning that Obama withdraw the Elena Kagan Supreme Court nomination is in fact a sequel to his identically hilarious demand one year ago this month that Obama withdraw the Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court nomination.

Grading, Grading, Grading

Deadlines looming, pile of papers likewise looming...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Democrats and Republicans Face Off, Figuratively, on Government Spending

It looks like Democrats are finally getting better at this…

Democrats Should Always Frame Government Spending As Public Assistance and Public Investment

and then

Democrats Should Always Frame Republican Hostility to Government Spending As the Looting of Public Assets, As Abolishing the Rules of the Road, and As Declaring to Everybody, You're On Your Own… You Know, For Kids!

Obama's Presidential Address on financial reform this morning was not half bad in regard to framing good government and public expenditure as assistance and investment:

But the Republicans are voluntarily, even eagerly, exposing their vulnerability to the damaging negative framing of their Deficit Hawkishness as nothing more than a desire to indulge in crony capitalism and the infantile fantasy that you can have a civilization while eating it, too. (This doesn't even begin to mine the rich veins of pork-stuffed hypocrisy available in this regard.)

In the Republican's opposing address this morning, Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) criticized Obama and Democrats on the budget deficit.

Demonstrating straight-up economic illiteracy (a nice complement to the climate change denialist, drill baby drill, Creationist, Bell Curve, supply-side, trickle-down, efficient-markets, abstinence-only know-nothingism that suffuses Republicanism more generally) Lee insists that cutting federal spending in the midst of a faint fragile recovery from a shattering epochal economic meltdown would magically improve employment.

His slogan? "Less spending, more jobs: it's that simple."

Yes, they're that simple-minded.

Earlier today Steve Benen provided one of many proliferating variations on this theme:
As states and municipalities continue to struggle with budget shortfalls, schools are being forced to let teachers go. Last year's stimulus bill saved over 400,000 teaching jobs, but it's a new year, and it will take another effort to prevent a massive number of teacher layoffs. Estimates vary, but my accounts, we're talking about 100,000 to 300,000 job losses in public schools nationwide. Democratic policymakers hope to do just that. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) are, with the White House's enthusiastic support, pushing the Keep Our Educators Working Act, which calls for $23 billion in emergency support to preserve these education jobs.

Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner explained the opposition's position on the legislation just yesterday:
The American people recognize that Washington's out-of-control spending is hurting our economy and stifling job creation… Giving states another $23 billion in federal education money simply throws more money into taxpayer-funded bailouts when we should be discussing why we aren't seeing the results we need from the billions in federal dollars that are already being spent.
Benen points out that Fox News is running with this framing of the Administration's support for teachers as "a bailout." It would appear that this really is the official Republican line here.

Needless to say, it isn't at all clear that reality is particularly inclined to support the Republican line that "we aren’t seeing the results we need from the billions in federal dollars that are already being spent," but more flabbergastingly, it isn't at all clear that Republicans really think they can tar government support for indispensable struggling teachers with the brush of "bailouts" for irresponsible Wall Street Bailouts (bailouts that, however horrendous I find them personally, on top of everything else, seem to have "worked" by some reasonable measures, kinda sorta as advertised).

Ultimately, what we have here really does seem to be the faith (the delusive actual belief?) on the part of Republicans that government spending really is always the worst possible outcome, even when it is directed toward the provision of indispensable services, even when the alternative is the dismantlement of working civilization, at least ideologically speaking.

Benen's piece continues on with this quote:
Doug Thornell, a spokesperson for DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), said in a statement, "Yesterday, job-killing House Republicans blocked a bipartisan plan that would help get more Americans back to work. Today, it appears John Boehner and House Republicans want to stand in the way of important funds that would help save teachers' jobs. It is unbelievable that John Boehner, who begged his Conference to support Bush's bailout of Wall Street banks, has the nerve to use teachers and children as pawns in his cynical game to regain the trust of the right wing of his party."

As I said, it looks like Democrats are getting better at framing this stuff.

It helps, you know, being right and all.