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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Racist Rainbow

That 'Uni-Tea Rally' in Philadelphia intended to highlight diversity in the tea party movement? The early reports from our team in the field describe a small, not-very-diverse crowd of 100 or so.

Color me... so surprised!

This Week's White Guys of "The Future" Report

This morning only four of the faces of featured authors at the website of the stealth Robot Cult outfit IEET, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, so-called, are not those of white guys. Nevertheless, it remains as true as ever, as I have been pointing out week after week for months now, that only a minority of people in the world are white guys, only a minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared are white guys, only a minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are 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 white guys.

(And, contra R. J. Eskow -- much of whose work I enjoy and have regularly learned from -- I do not think that there is anything the least bit problematic about the fact that I am pointing this out and am a white guy myself -- nor is it strange in the same way that all the posts published in a personal blog by a white guy are by that white guy as it is strange that so much of the discourse of a techno-fixated "movement" claiming to speak for "The Future" of the world fails remotely to represent the diversity of that world, especially when there are so many academics and activists -- in Science and Technology Studies and in the Environmental Justice movement, for instance -- who concern themselves with technodevelopmental questions who both incomparably better and comparatively comfortably represent that diversity.)

Even granting that a couple of the faces at IEET today are in fact the same picture of the same face, four is indeed better than the none or one I have typically ridiculed about the weekly futurological p-rade (the p stands for penis!) these boys-'n-toys proffer as a form of "serious" philosophical and policy discourse. At the same time, as the creators of the ill-favored Uni-Tea Event this afternoon will surely discover to their cost, the ability to produce for a moment the superficial appearance of a diversity you cannot sustain only emphasizes the failure as such.

Were the Robot Cultists at IEET really to manage to engineer for a sustained length of time (as they have not yet done nor do I expect they can do) the appearance of an actual diversity of featured contributors to their site it would certainly rob me of the ability to make fun of them quite so easily as I have done for the last few months on this score, but wouldn't do much to alter what one would still discover in taking a long look at the proportion of white guys who remain identified with their "movement" or whose works are typically recommended to the attention of their members, who contribute money, who function as spokesmen, who remain in positions of leadership in their organizations (of which IEET is, after all, just one in a Robot Cult archipelago of futurological, net-hype, digital-utopian, singularitarian, techno-immortalist, and greenwashing technofixated organizations).

For me, it is just one rather obvious symptom of their marginality that the Robot Cultists remain so strangely and stubbornly non-representative of the diversity of the world and "The Future" of which they fancy themselves to be spokesmodels.

But it is worth noting that even were they able to bamboozle a more diverse crowd into falling for their schtick they would remain in my view an essentially deranged and deranging faith-based sub(cult)ure peddling -- in a super-hyperbolic variation of the fraudulent futurological hyperbole that already suffuses corporate-militarist-consumerist advertising and promotional discourses -- the infantile wish-fulfillment fantasy of transcendence via "technology" (in a facile misconstrual as some generalized autonomous suprahistorical "force") of the actually inescapable contingency and finitude of the human condition.

For more on these larger and in fact decisive problems with the white guys of "The Future" I recommend this Condensed Critique of Transhumanism, and the other pieces archived in my Superlative Summary.

Bigotry's Sacred Tears

Anti-semitism remains a destructive force in the world. And its long history and deeply disseminated social and cultural roots have repeatedly unexpectedly re-crystallized into a devastatingly destructive force even in societies and epochs that have seemed otherwise to have overcome anti-semitism altogether.

That is part of the reason I am so disheartened and worried at the frivolous way in which organizations committed to the necessary vigilance and education to protect Jewish people from bigotry and violence and to the proper celebration of the incomparable contribution of Jewish people to planetary civilization sometimes seem to risk the integrity of their principles in the service of other causes and hence undermine their effectiveness in pursuing their actually indispensable task.

Here in the United States it has been the eagerness with which some leaders have sought to create the obviously false impression that anybody who disapproved of the treatment of the Palestinian people by the present foreign policy of the State of Israel are all anti-semites for holding such views (including, presumably, the many Jewish people who oppose these policies, including many Jews who are also citizens and even representatives of the State of Israel) that has seemed to me hitherto the most cynical and damaging mis-appropriation of the necessary critique of anti-semitism in the service of short-sighted and parochial political ends.

However, the recent statement of the usually valuable mainstream Anti-Defamation League in opposition to the proposal to build the Cordoba House, an Islamic Community Center two blocks from the site of the ruin of the World Trade Center, is another, and comparably damaging, diversion from and blow to the vital work of exposing and overcoming anti-semitic bigotry in the world.

Here is the final paragraph of ADL's misguided and heartbreaking statement:
Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain -- unnecessarily -- and that is not right.

Let us be clear, the community leaders who have proposed and invested in Cordoba House do have the right to build at their chosen site (not "may"), and they certainly have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam (not "may"), a positive message modeled explicitly, in fact, on the sort of positive message sent by the construction of many Jewish Community Centers.

And like most of the statements which eagerly exploit the passions generated by the description of the site as one that is "in the shadow of the World Trade Center" when it is in fact fully two blocks away from that site, the ADL statement fails to mention that the site is located in the midst of a community for which Islamic residents and workers and visitors are an indispensable part of the living fabric -- a reality out of which emerge concrete needs and opportunities that are not exactly irrelevant to the decision to build a community center there.

The ADL statement condemns those whose opposition to the Center is an expression of bigotry but then makes a plea for sensitivity to the pain of some of the survivors of terrorist crimes. But, again let us be clear, there is no pain that might be occasioned by the sight of an Islamic Community Center that is not an expression of the bigotry ADL claims to disapprove.

The terrorists responsible for the crimes of September 11, 2001 obviously represent (as criminal cohorts always do) a vanishingly small and misguided minority of the over a billion and a half human beings on the planet who espouse the Islamic faith (among them, many victims of these acts of terrorism themselves, working in or visiting the World Trade Center that day), and it is only ignorance born of bigotry that would mis-identify that minority with the faith as such and hence take offense at the existence of an Islamic Community Center nearby in the first place.

Not only his targets but also every bigot himself is a victim of his own bigotry, violently cut off by it from some portion of the meaning-making life-invigorating presence of humanity's diversity by ignorance, hostility, and fear.

I do not doubt that a samesex or interracial kiss in sunlight causes pain and distress to the homophobic or racist bigot too ignorant or afraid to connect the joy of people different from themselves to their own joy. Nor do I doubt that the sight of a Jewish merchant in the neighborhood causes pain to the anti-semite. It is hard to imagine that the misguided authors of the ADL statement would likewise concede uncritically to the pain of the anti-semite but would seek instead to overcome that bigoted pain through the difficult world-building work of education and open dialogue.

Needless to say the facilitation of such education and inter-faith dialogue is one of the reasons the Islamic Community Center is to be built. ADL makes a mockery of its own stated educational mission in failing to support the shared vision out of which the Islamic Community Center arises as well.

One wonders, given the premise of their statement, why the ADL seems so insensitive to the pain that would be aroused should they succeed in the hearts of every non-bigoted person in the world sure to despair upon seeing the site where the Cordoba House would have stood were it not for the victory of voices of ignorance and hate?

That ADL's shoddy reasoning mirrors so precisely the frankly idiotic tweets of reactionary know-nothing abomination Sarah Palin on this issue should have been an immediate and decisive indication that they had been driven by the most superficial thinkers and immature hot-heads among them into the most questionable company imaginable. It will require long years of good works to undo the damage to their reputation representated by this appalling statement.

Again, given the importance of the work to which they claim to be committed this is a terrible shame -- shame compounded on the shameful bigotry to which they have given vent in the content of the statement itself.

By way of conclusion, let me quote the opening lines of ADL's statement, and note simply that the harmful and ill-considered words that follow these stand utterly condemned by the principles rightly invoked here only to be abused in the statement as a whole:
We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths -- to build community centers and houses of worship. We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What Atrios Said

In answer to the suave hypocrites who strut and crow about the necessity of blowing billions endlessly murdering civilians in unwinnable wars of choice to protect ladies from islamofascist terror…
If We Cared About The Women And Children Of The World It would be far better to spend $100 billion per year granting them political asylum and paying for their transport and relocation to the US than invading their countries and caressing them with our freedom bombs.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


After extended office hours and lectures are done today I enter at last the final lap of what has been an unusually exhausting slog through my summer intensives teaching -- one week of instruction remains for my critical theory survey at SFAI and two weeks remain for my rhetoric of interpretation course at Berkeley. Prompts for the final essay are assigned today and the end is near. The prompts give you a nice flavor of what my preoccupations have been these last weeks during which my blogging has been rather more incidental than it usually is...

Prompt One:

To be recognized as human is to be accorded a special status, an “authentic” ethical standing, while to be dismissed as nonhuman, as subhuman, as infrahuman through racializing, sexualizing, pathologizing, infantilizing, primitivizing, or bestializing discourses is to be cast outside of culture and history, and so rendered precarious, abject. Discuss what you take to be the role of this proposition in any of the pieces we engaged with in class, especially by Adams, Althusser, Arendt, Burroughs, Butler, Carpenter ("They Live"), Fanon, Foucault, Gilroy, Haraway, Latour, Lewis, or Solanas.

Prompt Two:

The conviction that technoscientific development might achieve a level through which universal human emancipation might finally be accomplished keeps re-appearing in a number of the texts we have read over the course of the term -- from Wilde, to Marx, to Solanas (and you may well think others). The conviction that technoscientific development has arrived already at such a level but that its emancipatory promise has been diverted to the service of unjust ends re-appears in a number of others -- from Adorno, to Benjamin, to Debord, to Klein (and you may well think others). In still others -- in Barthes, again, in Adorno, in Arendt, in Fanon, in Latour, in Lewis (and you may well think others) -- we discern the concern that framing human emancipation in the instrumental terms of technoscientific development in the first place fatally deranges our grasp of and hopes for such emancipation. Through a comparison of two pieces from the course that seem to offer up conflicting views on the question, or through a reading of a single text that seems to you to exhibit ambivalence on this question, make a case that the text(s) provide an essentially progressive or an essentially reactionary view of technoscience (or instrumentality) in relation to emancipatory politics.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

DNC Hanging Tea-Bag Insanity Around Republican Necks

Republicans are decrying this ad as desperate and negative. Negative? But surely the "Real 'Murcans" of the new white-racist christian-talibanist greedhead-feudalist Movement Republicanism are celebrating this crisp delineation of their vision of less big bad gu'ment and less taxes? I especially enjoy the choice of a parchment-tinted background -- very Constitutiony, kinda sorta like watching Glenn Beck.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"This Is Fiscal Insanity and a Moral Tragedy"

Progressive Democrats in Congress Decry Vote on War Funding:
Once again, war is being paid for with a credit card while investments in our children’s future are tossed aside. These investments –- $10 billion for teacher jobs, $1 billion for summer youth employment, $5 billion for Pell grants, $701 million for border security –- were cut from the war funding bill coming to the House floor despite being fully paid for and not adding to the budget deficit. They have been jettisoned in favor of further borrowed war spending. Today’s bill doesn’t include anything to maintain first responder, police or firefighter positions despite the dramatic need for those jobs in every community in America. We believe this is fiscal insanity and a moral tragedy.

Consider the following: Despite widespread shortfalls in education funding around the country, the $10 billion that would have saved 140,000 teacher jobs across the nation – all of it offset – has been cut. The $37.12 billion in war funding, on the other hand, is not paid for. Every single penny adds directly to the national debt. This is not good for national security. This is continuing a failed policy at the exact wrong time.

The bill before the House denies our children the right to an education and takes away their future earning power. It also adds to the economic burden they will eventually have to bear. This is a moral outrage. We find it unacceptable that this Congress places a greater priority on foreign wars than urgent domestic needs. We have compounded our moral short-sightedness with utter fiscal irresponsibility.

After the dramatic revelations of this week, it is clearer than ever just how daunting a task our troops face in Afghanistan. We are trying to build a modern, democratic state in an area divided by tribal and ethnic identities that has successfully resisted foreign powers for centuries. We are fighting for one side in a civil war, killing civilians, building resentment toward the United States, and making it nearly impossible to gain the popular support that could make success possible.

As multiple reports have shown, pervasive corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan siphons resources so that even worthwhile projects are doomed to fail. This is not how we want to spend borrowed money. Our people at home are facing a difficult job market, lower funding for education, and a shattered Gulf economy that needs significant attention. We need to prioritize and make the right choices, not continue as before out of inertia or a lack of urgency. We urge the president to consider how this spending really improves the lives of Americans and how it can be spent in more productive ways.

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva
Rep. Barbara Lee
Rep. Lynn Woolsey
Rep. John Conyers
Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Rep. Alan Grayson
Rep. Danny Davis
Rep. Yvette Clarke
Rep. Donna Edwards
Rep. Bob Filner
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
Rep. Chellie Pingree
Rep. Jared Polis
Rep. Pete Stark
Rep. Maxine Waters

Don't Expect Republicans Who Hate Good Government Ever to Govern Well

House Minority Leader John Boehner [the man who would be Speaker should Republicans manage to re-take the House in the mid-terms]… endorsed the REINS Act, sponsored by Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY), which states that "any rulemaking where the estimated cost to Americans would exceed $100 million," could not go into effect "without Congress voting on it first." That's short of the full moratorium for which Boehner initially called, but could nonetheless be a recipe for gridlock and ugly politics. That standard in the act would ensnare scores of new regulations every year, including both broadly popular, time-sensitive ones, and others over which remain substantial partisan disagreement.

Republicans hate good government and when they are in power they actively loot and demolish it, and when they are out of power they obstruct good government however they can. Given that they endlessly literally declare that this is their "principled" stance, their whole "philosophy," it is puzzling that so few seem to take seriously the possibility that they always govern so abominably because they disdain the desirability, indeed the very notion, of doing otherwise. No doubt, by the way, the enormously clever symbolism of denominating this anti-governmental sledghemmer "REINS" (we Republicans are "reigning in" the DemocRAT commienazis and that black furriner who stoleded our country!) is not exactly lost on anybody.

Wherever government is meant to be of by and for the people, to be anti-government always means to be against the people.

Republicans Cannot Be Trusted With Money

Yesterday, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) released its findings on how the money was spent from a special Iraq reconstruction fund set up by the Department of Defense (DOD) between 2003-2007. The account used Iraqi oil money to fund the reconstruction of Iraq. SIGIR concluded that 96 percent of the $9.1 billion the reconstruction program cannot be accounted for.

Whenever a right wing politician declares all government wasteful, criminal, and corrupt you should pay close attention, because he is announcing his plans.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Futurological Schtick

One really wonders if the futurological schtick will ever stale for the saucer-eyed consumers on whom it preys...

Will we ever weary of the mainstream futurology of military recruitment ads promising combat-qua-videogames or better-than-evah EZ-pour spouts and herbal male enhancement and anti-aging face cream ads promising easy abundance and eternal youth?

Will we ever disdain the techno-utopian futurology of "serious" think-tank scenarists peddling corporate-militarist triumphalism by asking the same burning questions year after year?

How many years to AI? (only answer that matters now: not)

Is it unethical to clone them or him or her? (only answer that matters now: can't)

How will our economy cope with robot slaves? plastic abundance? digital utopia? energy too cheap to meter? thousand-year lifespans? (only answer that matters now: won't)

Can "geoengineering" solve anthropogenic climate catastrophe? (only answer that matters now: stop!).

Futurology is an advertising genre, and as such is mostly a matter of relentless exaggeration veering not occasionally into outright fraud.

In its mainstream developmentalist variations futurology peddles endless exploitation of the precarious (cheap energy, cheap labor, cheap credit, cheap goods) for the benefit of the privileged as Progress Unto THE FUTURE to fearful and greedy rubes all the while picking their pockets and looting the commons.

In its superlative variations futurology peddles delusive faith-based fantasies of outright transcendence of the human condition, deranging the contingency of our knowledge and error of our ways into fantasies of superintelligence (brute amplifications via neuroceutical pill-popping or shiny cyborg-shells, guidance via parental-angelic Robot Gods), deranging the vulnerability of our dis-ease and distress into fantasies of superlongevity (near-immortalization via scoopage into shiny Robot bodies, or sooper-genetic therapies, or uploading into cyberspatial spirit realms), deranging the demands and promises of stakeholder politics into fantasies of post-political superabundance (robo-slaves, nanofogs, ubicomp, immersive virtualities, edenic asteroids).

In all its variations, whether mainstream or superlative, one discerns in futurological formulations the squalid screaming infantile id of industrial extractive petrochemical broadcast-mediated corporate-militarist consumer capitalism confronted with the substance and prospect of its consummating oblivion into which it would prefer, however avoidable, idiotically to accelerate.

Fiction Not Science

Precisely true to the futurological genre to which they are contributing, the bloggers of Discover Magazine's Science Not Fiction (including stealth Robot Cultist Kyle Munkittrick about whom I've written before here) are busily offering up bad fictions they hope you will mistake for sciency insights.

The chirpy self-description of the blog captures its tone perfectly:
Sometime in the future, a group of renegade scientists and technologists will take a time machine to now. They're spilling the secrets of tomorrow here at Discover's Science Not Fiction blog.

It goes without saying that not all of the contributors actually are scientists, especially the ones who seem to provide the lion's share of the blog's actual content, and that those who are scientists scarcely seem to be "renegades" particularly. Whether they are fairly described as "technologists" is anybody's guess, since that doesn't actually mean anything.

All this is just to say, all this slick self-description is fiction (to be generous) and like the content of the blog more generally has little that is more than superficially scientific about it. Fiction Not Science, for Science Not Fiction, to be plain. But also do please note that even as a science fictional premise their intro-seductory snippet is so hackneyed that only self-appointed futurists would still be trying to get mileage out of it.

Time machines and sooper-geniuses aside, no actually respectable science fiction writer would churn out the sort of loose scenarios and whiskered conceits that so-called professional futurists peddle to keep their bread buttered. That they go on so often to add insult to injury, pretending that their stale speculations constitute some kind of serious ethical discourse or policy analysis is really just too much.

For Republicans Nothing Succeeds Like Distress

Steve Benen:
Democrats wanted a bigger stimulus, but couldn't overcome Republican opposition. The recovery effort, then, was less successful, leading to a bizarre dynamic -- political rewards for those who were wrong, political punishment for those who were right. Those who screwed up the most before, during, and after the crisis are the same folks strutting around, proud as can be, unaware and unconcerned about how foolish reality makes them look -- because they're winning.

Now just apply this dynamic to nearly every practical policy question and you will have a pretty accurate picture of the shape we're in, from financial regulation, environmental protection, tax policy, budgetary priorities, harm reduction, diplomatic relations, public investment, you name it.

Treason Is the New Patriotism

Hotline OnCall:
Rep. Zach Wamp (R-03) suggested TN and other states may have to consider seceding from the union if the federal government does not change its ways…. "I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government," said Wamp…. He lauded Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), who first floated the idea of secession in April '09, for leading the push-back against health care reform…

Gosh, I sure hope elections go our way. Otherwise, "Second Amendment Remedies," y'all! Nice.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Carly Fiorina's Tea Party Radicalism

Tea Partying in between Hair Appointments, Carly has an all too familiar vision for California.

It's easy for "Have Enough" billionaires to take sides with "Had Enough" white-racist christian-talibanist greedhead authoritarians. For the rest of us, tho', not so much.

Re-elect Progressive Champion Barbara Boxer for the US Senate.

Harry Reid Accepts Dan Choi's West Point Ring

Probably the biggest headline from the Netroots Nation event.

Reid: "When we get it passed [DADT repeal] you'll take it back, right?"

Choi: "I sure will, but I'm gonna hold you accountable."

Sounding the Alarm: Al Franken's Netroots Nation Keynote Address

Franken makes a remarkably clear, urgent, and appealingly good-humoroed case that the struggle for democracy against corporatist expansion in this historical moment has been shaped by the 5-4 Roberts Republican Supreme Court Citizens United decision, by concerns over the upcoming Comcast/NBC merger, by the vicissitudes in the incessant struggles to preserve Net Neutrality, and how all these struggles form the urgent context in which to understand the stakes for the mid-term election this November. For those who are devoted to the politics of ongoing p2p-democratization, Franken's case is enormously welcome and I am hoping excerpts will circulate far beyond the conference audience.





I have heard some declare Franken's speech to be desperately alarmist and defensively weak-kneed, but I must say that in my opinion if you are not alarmed and mobilized by the prospects of would-be House Speak Boehner with his Gingrichian promises to shut down responsible governance in the midst of a near economic Depression coupled with Issa's promise to take up the gavel and transform the House into a puke funnel for frivolous multi-million dollar nuisance lawsuits and scandal mongering a la Clinton era Blackwater-Vince Foster-impeachments-for-blowjobs, if you are not alarmed by the prospect of a complete corporate-militarist dismantlement of our already almost fatally dysfunctional democratic processes, then you are either dangerously ignorant or deluded indeed.

Stopping the Republicans Is Job One

What BooMan said:
The number one job that the Democrats are doing at the moment is simply not being Republicans. That may be an uninspiring message, but it's their single biggest accomplishment and nothing even comes close to it in importance. The policy accomplishments are more important for what they can do to maintain the allegiance of the public than they are in themselves. I'm not saying that policy doesn't matter or that the Democrats weren't elected to get things done. I'm saying that the Republican Party cannot be allowed to govern this country at the executive or congressional level because they will ruin us and get an unspeakable number of people killed. You can disagree with me, but that's what they did under Bush and they're twice as crazy now as they were just two years ago.

I agree with BooMan in the main here. However, saying that stopping Republicans so long as Republicans remain in white-racist christian-talibanist greedhead-bully mode is Job One is not saying that it is the only job or that education agitation and organization to achieve progressive reforms and outcomes is not important, so don't put words to that effect in my mouth, please, and go into the usual convulsions of performance art radicalism in the Moot.

To be so demoralized by the pace of progressive reform that you sit out the elections or skip off into third-party foolishness (given actually existing institutional constrains on third parties, obviously longer term third-party strategies are well worth contemplating so long as they do not undermine practical progressive politics here and now) all in ways that would facilitate actively authoritarian and reactionary Movement Republicanism is simply either delusive or stupid. We must build on what we have to make things better rather than demolishing what we have because it fails for now to be all that we would demand of it.

Frankly, given the scale of Democratic accomplishments over the last couple of years -- which, contra BooMan, seem to me to matter for the lives they have improved rather than only for the partisan allegiance they inspire -- accomplishments achieved through heartbreaking compromise and relentless effort in the face of literally unprecedented monolithic Republican obstructionism, I find it a bit weird that Democrats aren't running on their record as well as running on exposing the dangerous insanity and authoritarianism of the Republican alternative in this especially debased moment in that Party's history. Obviously the ongoing catastrophe of the economy makes this difficult, but the lack of an effective media strategy for the promotion of real Democratic accomplishments and the failure of the Netroots to pick up the slack by finding ways of celebrating reforms while at once pushing from the left for more substantial reforms goes a long way to explain the current dilemma Democrats may face.

That said, I've said it before I'll say it again, I really do think the Democratic doomsaying narrative is overblown and does not comport well with actual polling in my view, so I wouldn't go into survivalist mode for fear of a Republican putsch in November by any means.

Losses in the Mid-Term Can Still Translate into Huge Gains for Democrats

Even with considerable mid-term losses in Congress for Democrats the terrain for progressive legislative accomplishment can improve by an order of magnitude if only Democrats manage to hold on even to the slimmest majority -- as seems likely to happen -- so long as they manage to break the deadlock created by the historically unprecedented and unfathomably irresponsible Republican obstructionism in the Senate.

This is unbelievably good news:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Saturday that Democrats will try to change Senate rules on the longstanding practice of filibusters. Reid said that while Democrats were still looking at options as to how they would change the filibuster, Republicans' use of the rules to force a 60-vote majority on most items before the Senate meant that a change was needed. "This Republican Senate has started abusing the rules, so we're going to have to change it," Reid told liberal bloggers assembled in Las Vegas for the "Netroots Nation" conference.

Later in the piece we are told that "a rules change would be difficult for Democrats to manage…. Senate rules require 67 votes just to change the rules, meaning that a number of GOP senators would have to sign on to an effort that would undercut one of their most useful tactics as a minority party."

While what The Hill says here is indeed true for the present session, it is crucial to remember that at the beginning of a new Congress, such as the one that will begin after the mid-terms, filibuster reform can be made part of the vote to establish new rules. Then and only then a simple majority vote suffices rather than the two-thirds majority vote required at later times to change such procedures. If Democrats retain their majority in the Senate -- as seems even likelier there than their retention of the majority in the House -- they can reform the filibuster then and there if they chose. The Vice President is there, of course, to break a possible tie.

With the breaking of Republican obstructionism in the Senate, Democrats could actually begin to function as the majority they always have been. I suspect they would have made such a change last time around had they any inkling just how unprecedented would be the Republican obstructionism they would face, despite the scale of problems the country faces at the moment.

It's easy to scoff and insist they certainly did know this, but to say this really seems to me to miss just how flabbergastingly unprecedented this kind of bad behavior really is as an historical matter and miss just how flabbergastingly irresponsible the whole Republican Party is being in this environment. I'm not at all surprised that career politicians were taken by surprise by Republican misconduct in the Senate.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

If At First You Don't Succeed... Secede?

Funny (and not funny ha ha) how many Republican State governors and would-be governors seem to think that calls to secede from the Union if and when elections fail to deliver desired political outcomes are somehow patriotic rather than, you know, the baldly treasonous sentiments that they obviously are.

This Week's White Guys of "The Future" Report

This morning only three of the featured faces of authors at the website of the stealth Robot Cult outfit IEET, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, so-called, are not those of white guys. Nevertheless, it remains as true as ever, as I have been pointing out week after week for months now, that only a minority of people in the world are white guys, only a minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared are white guys, only a minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are 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 white guys. The failure of these futurological fraudsters -- and I do not use the term fraud lightly, regarding mainstream corporate-militarist futurology as a deceptive and hyperbolic advertising and promotional genre while regarding the superlative futurology of the various Robot Cult sects as further amplifications of this hyperbole into dangerously delusive sub(cult)ures of True Belief promising personal techno-transcendence to the faithful -- to reflect these realities remains a particularly glaring symptom of their derangement from reality more generally (about which I have much more to say, among other places, here).

Rachel Maddow Is the Face of the Progressive Left Right Now

What I found most extraordinary about President Obama's surprise video message to the activists at the Netroots Nation conference was his choice to let a clip from the Rachel Maddow Show do the talking for him when he asked Democrats to remember the accomplishments of the last eighteen months in the midst of our disappointment and distress at the slowness of change despite the abiding urgency of now. Given the way presumably up-and-coming right-wing figures like Marco Rubio and Naked Scotty Brown also make recourse to clips from Maddow's show to crystallize what it is they want to be seen as fighting against it seems quite clear that there is something vital she is representing about the progressive left in this particular moment. In her cheerful queerness and corny geekiness, in her obsession with infrastructure and in her expectation that people in government should believe in the capacity of government to help solve shared problems, in her unabashed patriotism for an actually secular, equitable, diverse American ideal we have never quite managed really to incarnate (I could do without some of the rah rah military moments, I'll admit) I personally find Maddow an enormously appealing exemplar of the left wing of the possible, and there is something heartening about her widespread popularity across the left as well as the apparently widening recognition across the right that she represents a threat to their greedy, mean, deceptive, incompetent, fearful, and stupid view of what America should be.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Whiny White Guys Still Ruining Things

Public Policy Polling:
[N]et approval of Congressional Democrats… [is] 16 points better than that of Congressional Republicans…. Yet… the generic ballot [is] a tie. The reason… is that Republicans are cleaning up with a voting bloc that accounts for 26% of the country and could end up being the most important group of people at the polls this fall: voters who hate both Congressional Democrats and... Republicans. The GOP has a 57-19 generic lead with this group of voters that could perhaps be described as the angriest segment of the electorate. Their support is fueling the GOP's success right now…. 44% are Republicans, 34% are independents, and 21% are Democrats. They're largely male (60%) and white (82%). I think it's very accurate to say that angry white males are the key to GOP prospects this fall. One interesting thing about these folks is that only 35% of them identify as Tea Partiers.

I must say that I find it rather terrifying that as many as 35% of these whiny white guys identify as Tea Parters inasmuch as to identify as a Tea Partier is more or less to declare proudly that you are a white racist christian-talibanist greedhead gun-nut.

I will add that if it really is the case that 21% of these folks identify as Democrats and are being lumped together in their declared hostility to both parties as fueling GOP success, this seems to me likely to yield skewed expectations, since I think that many Democrats who hate both parties hate them both for different reasons than Republicans who hate both parties hate them for and that when all is said and done many of these Democrats will vote for Democrats over Republicans anyway. This is rather like the error made by many who treated as identical those who were angry about HCR because it was Socialism! and those who were angry because it wasn't single payer… the already softening negativity of the ignorant conspiracists and impatient radicals should have been no surprise but the treatment as monolithic of HCR opposition yielded misreadings of the terrain -- perhaps this is happening again with the whiny white guys.

Finally, I don't see why this group is supposed to be "the most important group of people at the polls this fall" when they are actually probably a stratified minority many of whom are as likely to be ambivalent or demoralized non-voters as passionate activists for mainstream party candidates -- although I suspect a high proportion of whiny white guys among pundits and pollsters may have something to do with the attention they get.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Backdooring a Second Stimulus

Since apparently we can't get a sensible second stimulus through the economic-illiterates now denominated deficit-hawks (who are essentially arguing that we must burn this civilization to the ground to "save" it, but never mind) I am assuming we are going instead to sunset the ruinous Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and then spend the added revenues in ways that take advantage of shovel-ready infrastructure needs and the greater propensity of everyday as against rich people to spend pocket-money and hence get a back-door second stimulus that way. It's ridiculous that it's come to that, but here we are.

Movement Republicanism Makes Its Teabaggery Official

Washington Post:
Rep. Michele Bachmann is the leader of the Tea Party -- literally…. [O]n the Capitol grounds 104 days before the midterm elections --- Tea Party activists and Republican officeholders set aside any pretense about the two groups being separate. They essentially consummated a merger: The activists allowed themselves to be co-opted by a political party, and the Republican leaders allowed themselves to become the faces of the movement.

There are only two ways for this to end: Either this represents the next step in the ongoing suicidal self-marginalization of the Republican Party into a white-racist Christian-talibanist rump incapable of maintaining even the pretense that it is a serious national party or this is the next step in the ongoing cultivation of an alliance between a demoralized and ignorant mob with a moneyed minority on its way to transforming a dysfunctional democracy into a totalitarian dictatorship. In case you're wondering, I'm betting fairly cheerfully on the former, but that doesn't make it a bad idea to be as clear as possible about what is actually afoot and what the stakes are.

Keep Pushing on Health Care Reform

The Hill
Creating a public option that all Americans could choose would save $68 billion through 2020, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. The analysis was included in a letter to Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who along with Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) is introducing a bill this week creating a public option in the state exchanges that start in 2014.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fire Tom Vilsack and Replace Him With Shirley Sherrod

That is all.

Like Naked Scotty Brown Before Him, Marco Rubio Tries to Play the Rachel Maddow Card... And Gets Played

He shoots:

She scores:

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

You really have to wonder just what it is about Rachel Maddow that keeps prompting these rather dim Republican guys like Dick Armey, like Scott Brown, like Marco Rubio to attack her as they do, usually without much in the way of direct provocation to explain the attacks, as if something about her makes her feel to them like an opponent to their position in the world even though she so manifestly is not running for any public office they hold and given that as a critic of their ideological positions she is among the more respectful and non-threatening of their many critics in the media. I recall that fascbag Rush Limbaugh drew enormous attention to Rachel Maddow long before most who would sympathize with her viewpoint had otherwise noticed her, for example. She used to run his rather breathlessly paranoid exasperated "Has anybody ever heard of Rachel Maddow?" clip on her radio show every day in tribute to the free plug he was drawn so curiously irresistibly to provide her, provoked like so many of the patriarchal pricks of the Gelded Oldsters Party to shine a spotlight on Maddow's awesomeness and always only to their cost. What is it? What can it be that so drives these GOP-boys to weepy hair-tearing distraction?

Mid-Term Navel-Gazing

Tom Schaller:

Blue Dogs or other House Democrats who often vote with them are going to account for the vast majority of House Democratic losses this November, which is not a real shocker to anyone following the situation closely…. The House Democratic caucus, whether holding onto a thinner majority or falling into the minority, will be more liberal in the 112th Congress than it is now.

Follow the link for his data.

I do not expect Democrats to lose the majority in the mid-terms. Though that Democratic majority will almost certainly be just by our fingernails I also expect Republican base demoralization brought on by the dashing of foolishly hyperbolized expectations coupled with the brushing off of Blue Dogs will prevent this slim majority from anxiously nudging rightward.

Pelosi's House has been the most progressive force in these last two years and I expect it will remain so, though reform of the filibuster rule would make the Senate (which I am even more confident Democrats will retain control of) a worthier partner.

If the House were to be regained by a Republican squeaker, given their overall disarray, their demographic nightmare, their inability to implement any of their actual agenda given the other branches, and the likely irresistibility of self-marginalizing histrionic scandal-mongering via subpoena and tin-earned government shut-down dramas as their only avenue for venting their white-racist greed-head bully-manchild ids I personally doubt this slim majority of theirs would survive the re-election of President Obama in 2012 (no, Virginia, we are not actually going to elect Sarah Palin President, and the whole Republican field amounts to Sarah Palin upon closer scrutiny).

It is amusing in an annoying sort of way to contemplate how many progressives might find themselves liking Obama much more in such an atmosphere, since he would no doubt become more media confrontational and make more ready recourse to Executive Orders under such circumstances (and thus provide more occasions for the more symbolic, rather than substantial reformist accomplishments, which some would-be radicals seem so to pine for).

No doubt the next two years will provide more experience to nudge the left Netroots still further up the learning curve they have been rather convulsively scaling these last two years, adjusting to the difference between full-throated opposition to Christian talibanist fascists in power and assuming responsibility for compromised reformist governance under ugly constraints.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blogging While Slogging

After a single day of decent blogging I'm already back to work -- grading mid-terms for one intensive and doing lecture prep for another intensive... Blogging is taking a back-seat for a few more weeks...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back to Gravel: More Signs of the Singularity!

WSJ -- found via Atrios:
Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue.

What Futurists Want

Futurists want you to think there is such a thing as "Technology in General" which is going somewhere in particular that only they know about because only they understand the language in which "Technology in General" declares what it wants.

In short, they are just another cohort of bamboozling Priests who are passing the collection plate.

The Endless Celebration and Enablement of Assholes

Jesse Lemisch
Steinbrenner… Donald Trump… Simon Cowell… Judge Judy… the brutality of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”… Dr. Phil…. If you haven’t seen these horrors, you ought to acquaint yourself with them. They give strength to the environment in which Sarah Palin and the rest operate… We need to present and get out there in new ways an alternate set of values, just, humane and non-competitive. The left won’t make a better world so long as we dismiss such concerns as “soft,” and leave the presentation of alternate values to the right, or to Oprah.

"Technology" Is Not a Force for Either Liberation or Oppression

It is people, and only people, acting together, peer to peer, taking up tools and techniques and directing them to liberatory or oppressive ends that are the only force for liberation or oppression that matters in the world.

To speak of "technology" as a force is always a mystification. It is a mystification in the same way that those who declare in the face of some political dilemma that we should "let the market decide" the outcome are always actively forgetting in so saying that what passes as "the market" in any epoch is made up of laws, treaties, customs, expectations embedded in maintained infrastructures all of which are the consequence of human decisions, and so imputing to the result of decisions a capacity for decision that functionally displaces present public responsibility for making a decision onto human decision-makers past or hidden.

Such mystifications disproportionately constrain liberatory possibilities, since it is always to incumbent and secretive elites that agency defaults when present and public agency is disavowed.

This is a point that cannot be made often enough, especially given how regularly techno-utopians and futurologists peddle their mystifications in the stirring cadences of calls to and celebrations of emancipation (in this, as in other things, their close kinship with advertising and self-promotional discourses more generally, is unmistakable).

What we tend to call "technology" in any epoch is always in fact a fraction of what is actually technical or artifactual in the world. As we grow accustomed to our techniques and artifacts we tend to "naturalize" them. We lose track of the artifactuality of our cultivated terrain, the technical expressiveness of our body's gestures and bearing.

To lose track of the made in this way is to lose a thread that might help us make our way through history's labyrinth: to forget what has been made otherwise is fatally to misconstrue what could be made otherwise still.

We tend to assign the moniker "technology" only to that portion of artifice that remains as yet unfamiliar, that seems in its unfamiliarity to be disruptive to our expectations, and in turn in that disruptiveness seems to promise or threaten potency. Nothing is more commonplace than to confine the assignment to the sphere of the "technological" only those events and entities which, in their confused unfamiliarity, might be invested with the most hyperbolic dreams of omnipotence and nightmares of impotence.

My point is not to propose the contrary mystification that technology is somehow "neutral" or "autonomous" but to recognize that the interestedness and embeddedness with which the "technological" inevitably reverberates begins in the assignment always only to some and not all that is susceptible to that designation the "technological." The politics of the "technological" in its most general register is the elaboration of collective agency through the policing of the bounds of what will be taken to be the familiar and the unfamiliar, and so the open and the closed, the possible and the important.

Needless to say, the faux-progressivism of that most paradoxically reactionary of contemporary public discourses, the futurological, (whether in the mainstream futurology of neoliberal developmentalism or in the surreal Robot Cultic extremities of superlative futurology) consists in little more than the exacerbation and exploitation of ignorance and confusion about the state of the art the better to substitute for deliberation about the costs, risks, and benefits of technoscientific changes to their actual stakeholders in the world a faithful conjuration of superlative futures toward which these changes are presumably nothing in themselves but stepping-stones along a path toward the ultimate techno-magickal transcendence of disease and mortality (super-longevity), error and humiliation (super-intelligence), frustration and compromise (super-abundance), a return to infantile plenitude purchased at the usual cost of the refusal of adult engagement in the open futurity inhering in the present, peer-to-peer.

To invest with the force of the agency which is rightfully ours what has already been arbitrarily assigned the status of the "technological" is always to constrain possibility in the service of incumbency, to peddle the promise of amplified gratifications the better to distract us from the permanent promise of liberation through education, agitation, and organization, in our open and opening present, peer to peer.

This Week's White Guys of "The Future" Report

Seven days have come and gone, and I have made my way once again to the website of the stealth Robot Cult outfit, IEET, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies to peruse its futurological fulminations.

Although only a minority of people in the world are white guys, and only a minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared are white guys, and only a minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are white guys, and only a minority of people in the world who are well informed and have important things to say about matters of technoscience are white guys, nevertheless I can report that of the fifteen portraits of today's featured authors and speakers there you will find only three that is not a white guy (two direct us to the contributions, such as they are, of the same white lady).

Of course, quite apart from this ongoing non-representativeness of the Robot Cult (even in its most respectable faux-serious think-tank face) there are still endlessly many other weird and wrong things about these boys with their toys deserving of our appalled note, many of which I have written about here.

Once Elected We Republicans Will Immediately Embark on an Ambitious Year-Long Paid Vacation!

Would-be Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced that if the American people are so good as to vote Republicans back into the majority in the mid-term elections they will respond with a year-long moratorium on all federal regulation.

This follows, of course, Republican declarations that the recent hard-won regulation of insurance company abuses and reckless fraudulent financial institutions must also be repealed. You know, for kids!

The Republican "philosophy" of dismantling civilization to make way for the re-emergence of the "spontaneous order" of feudal warlordism is on full display here, and no number of failures, catastrophes, counter-evidences, expressions of popular discontent will ever diminish the fervor with which generation after generation of Movement Republican and so-called "libertarian" True Believers will continue to advocate this demolition.

Americans must finally grasp that Republican politicians who declare all politicians to be thieves, incompetents, and tyrants are simply announcing their plans, and we must keep voting instead for the politicians who declare that good government of by and for the people to help solve our shared problems is both possible and desirable.

This Week's Wireside Chat Puts the Blame Where It Belongs And Makes the Mid-Terms A Discirminating Choice, Not A Chance to Vent Indiscriminately

[T]oo often, the Republican leadership in the United States Senate chooses to filibuster our recovery and obstruct our progress... [A]fter years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, including a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, they’ve finally decided to make their stand on the backs of the unemployed. They’ve got no problem spending money on tax breaks for folks at the top who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them; but they object to helping folks laid off in this recession who really do need help.

This message needs to go on the road, and not be confined to his Wireside Chats.

If this election is a choice between the incompetent and deregulatory policies that created this mess and the comparatively saner and fairer policies of an Administration worker to make things better against the odds (and with a string of hard-won accomplishments to show for its efforts so far), rather than an indiscriminate anti-incumbent expression of discontent in the midst of distress, then Democrats can hold the white-racist greedhead brain-dead christian-talibanist Republicans at bay at mid-term.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pekar Shrine

A fine Tribute blog-post, steadily accumulating addenda, to the great prosaic-poetic graphic-scenarist and story-teller Harvey Pekar, now dead at 70. If you don't know Pekar's work as a self-made contrarian American left intellectual and artist and working-class hero this memorial shrine has a few excerpts from his work, a couple of infamous acerbic Letterman clips and snips from the movie made about him, and some fine testimonials in the comments.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Republicans As Existential Threat

What BooMan Said:
The Republican Party that impeached Clinton was dangerously insane. They took it up several notches after 9/11. But what we're witnessing now is of a totally different scale…. I don't dismiss these people at all. I think they rank with climate change and nuclear proliferation as threats to humanity. And we have no time to be dicking around arguing over the soul of Barack Obama.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Jobs Or Deficits?

To prioritize worries about soaring deficits over worries about soaring unemployment in a long term economic crisis, means to reflect the greedy concerns of millionaires over the urgent concerns of average citizens. Obama is now signaling he doesn't think he can get the jobs stimulus through Congress that he wants. He is almost certainly right about this, flabbergastingly enough, given that although the country is filled with non-millionaires in distress, Congress is filled with millionaires who live in a world of millionaires and reflects that perspective more often than not. Obama tends not to fight publicly for things he doesn't think he can get, for fear that this will weaken his position given the current polarization of the country and the debased state of the media. He has probably been sensible in this for the most part, frustrating though it is to watch especially if you are of an activist bent. But in the case of giving up on jobs to genuflect to deficit hawks he is not merely being frustrating but he is almost certainly wrong strategically, since Republican obstruction of job growth is evil and will be seen as evil by majorities (including many Republican-identified folks). In losing this battle against Republicans (as he -- and we -- would, it now appears) Obama is less likely to seem weak rather than strong, but right rather than wrong, and in a way that will strengthen his and Dems' position for 2012 (as his economic policies otherwise no longer look like any kind of sure bet to do, despite his best efforts). If Dems take substantial losses in mid-terms this is a strategy Obama will have to get used to, I'm afraid.


Prepping for the upcoming week in which I will devote fifteen hours of lecturing on either side of the Bay to Nietzsche's Ecce Homo, Marx's German Ideology and the fetishism of commodities, Benjamin's "Mechanical Reproducibility," Adorno and Horkheimer's "Culture Industry," Debord's Society of the Spectacle, Carpenter's film They Live, and Klein's No Logo, among other things. All great texts, but it's an exhausting slog -- four weeks remain of one intensive, five of another. I'm already feeling stretched thin and it's not even the halfway point.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

MundiMuster! President Obama, We Can't Let the Denial of Protective Gear That Hurt 9/11 Clean-Up Workers Happen Again in the Gulf

BP Makes Me Sick

Join experts, political leaders, and thousands of Americans in signing the statement:
We cannot let the denial of protective gear that hurt so many 9/11 clean-up workers happen again with the Gulf clean-up workers.

President Obama and the federal government must demand that BP allow every clean-up worker who wants to wear respiratory protective equipment to do so -- and ensure that workers get the equipment and training they need to do their jobs safely.

There Is Still a Chance the Killer of Oscar Grant Will Face Justice

Commentary from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights: Jakada Imani: Justice or Just Us? Beyond the Hype of the Mehserle Trial

There is still a chance for justice in the case.
NPR: Justice Department To Investigate BART Shooting

Keep the pressure on.
Sign the Petition: Eric Holder: Bring Justice to Oscar Grant, Prosecute Mehserle in Federal Court

In case you have not already seen this video, be warned that it is terrible to watch.

Republicans Love the Constitution… To Death

Steve Benen surveys the recent right-wing enthusiasm for repealing Constitutional Amendments, from widespread calls to repeal the 17th Amendment which empowered citizens to elect their own Senators rather than have the States select them and also calls to repeal the 16th Amendment which created a progressive federal income tax (Nevada loon Sharron Angle has made a big splash calling for the repeal of the 16th Amendment, together with her desire to demolish Medicare, Medicaid, the EPA, and who knows what other underpinnings of civilization, but she is far from the only Republican saying this in these days of the teabag mob), to the recent spate of calls from the likes of now-notorious Randroid Rand Paul of Kentucky, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Duncan Hunter here in California to repeal the 14th Amendment, because it mandates birthright citizenship and so imperils white-racist hegemony which matters a lot if you are a white racist asshole.

The Republican Party's present-day Constitutional Demolition Derby comes, of course, in the immediate aftermath of the Bush Administration's orgy of faith-based initiatives and circumscribed "free speech zones" (in defiance of the 1st Amendment), warrantless wiretapping (in defiance of the 4th Amendment), indefinite detentions and show trials (in defiance of the 6th Amendment) and torture chambers (in defiance of the 8th Amendment), and that's just off the top of my head. (And, yes, one wishes the Obama Administration would have broken more decisively with this tendency than it has done, and it remains yet another part of the unfinished business of American Democracy in the midst of our present overwhelming distress that we compel this, whether our President and Congress is ready or not.)

However, as Benen reminds us, at the height of Bush Republicanism this rank indifference to the Constitution's published dictates was conjoined with an extraordinary enthusiasm for Constitutional supplementation:
[B]y the mid-point of his presidency, George W. Bush was on record supporting at least six different proposed amendments to the Constitution: (1) prohibiting flag burning; (2) victims' rights; (3) banning abortion; (4) requiring a balanced budget; (5) prohibiting same-sex marriage; and (6) allowing state-endorsed prayer in public schools. As a wise blogger noted at the time, Bush "really seems to think the Constitution is just a rough draft."

Given the interminable invocations of the Constitution among Movement Republicans, given the cynical farce of their minuets to "original intent" in the face of their ferocious activist dismantlements of the law, given their pious genuflections to calligraphy fonts and parchment-colored backgrounds for the online and on-Fox screeds in which they cry out for their white racist barefoot and pregnant prescientific corporate feudal warlord nuke muscular Christianist theocratic libertopian paradise, it is worth noting from time to time that this "Constitution" they so cherish would appear to bear only a tenuous relation to the actually-existing Constitution and refers instead to a more fanciful document for which our Constitution is but a placeholder, awaiting radical expurgation and expansion and utter transformation unto death.

This Week's White Guys of "The Future" Report

It's been seven days, so I ambled my way, as usual, over to the website of the stealth Robot Cult outfit, IEET, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and gave it my weekly looksee.

Although only a minority of people in the world are white guys, and only a minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared are white guys, and only a minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are white guys, and only a minority of people in the world who are well informed and have important things to say about matters of technoscience are white guys, nevertheless I can report that of the fifteen portraits of today's featured authors and speakers there you will find only four that is not a white guy.

I should add, however, after months of keeping tabs on this curious and symptomatic imbalance, that compared to the usual token appearance of at most a single featured person who happens not to be a white guy (not including the occasional artist's conception of robotic, alien, and chimerical personages of comparatively indeterminate race and sex), today's bounty of four out of fifteen is a veritable genuflection to the reality of planetary polyculture past, present, and emerging. And so, I suppose, I should offer my, er, congratulations, boys!

Of course, there are still endlessly many other weird and wrong things about the Robot Cultists deserving of our appalled note, many of which I have written about here.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Progressives Need to Shift Into Election Mode Now

If you are a democratically minded American I personally think you would do more good by post-poning or at any rate balancing your righteous complaints about Democratic inadequacies, if only just for the four months until the mid-term elections, and start flogging Democratic accomplishments and phone-banking for Democratic candidates and making sure all the people of good sense and good conscience you know are registered to vote and then do vote for Democrats.

This upcoming mid-term election is starting to look truly grim and I am not sure everybody who can help is helping.

If too many progressives spend most of their time criticizing the Democrats for not doing enough good rather than the Republicans for actively standing in the way of doing anything good, with the consequence of depressing Democratic turnout and energizing Republican turnout, progressives will be handing over the country to actively crazy and evil forces at the cost of everything they claim to care about.

My point isn't to pretend that Democrats are perfect when palpably they are not or do no wrong when palpably they do, but to recall accomplishments along with frustrations, to weigh outcomes against actually available alternatives as well as ideals, to recall the constraints of the actual stakeholders and actual processes through which legislation and policy are accomplished, and to focus our energies where they can do the most good at this moment.

That much has been done that is far from progressive (surging rather than leaving Afghanistan, bank bailouts rather than jobs programs) and that much more could have been done that is far more progressive (prosecutions of war criminals, undoing the unitary executive) does not alter the fact that this Congress and this Presidential Administration has and will have done more good in progressive terms in two years than Carter and Clinton managed in twelve years, and that unless you happen to be over seventy years old this has been the most progressive American government in your entire lifetime.

It also does not alter the fact that every person who votes for a Republican by voting for a Republican, or voting for a third-party protest candidate, or not voting at all will be actively working to ensure that the most progressive Democratic government of your lives will be replaced by Republicans at the time in which their party has been captured by the most extreme, insane, idiotic, authoritarian, racist, theocratic elements of the right.

Anybody who thinks of themselves as democratically-minded and yet thinks this country will either be little changed or even better off with House Speaker Boehner or anarcho-capitalist Senators in place of mushy Democrats needs to have their head examined. I mean, honestly.

I have been laughing for months at what have seemed to me to be hysterical and ridiculous headline-grabbing mainstream-media narratives about a revolutionary Republican resurgence in the face of whomped up white-racist Repugs and demoralized Dems… I had thought that the transparent stupidity and plainly crazy policy positions of so many of these Teabaggy and Randroidal Republicans disqualified them -- as it obviously should -- from serious contention in elections…

But polling isn't exactly bearing this out as it should and I'm not laughing anymore.

Meg Whitman is trying to buy her way into running California (not just a State, but on its own terms one of the most populous and economically powerful and most culturally influential polities on the planet) while quite plainly saying she wants to do exactly the same things that have been destroying California for years and which lead her predecessors to unprecedented unpopularity. How can she possibly be running neck and neck with Brown? Racist hysteria about immigration is looking to be a winning issue for Republicans. How on earth is that possible? Economic illiterates are peddling utterly discredited Friedmanian slogans cheered by the very people who are targeted for destruction by their doctrines. What the hell is going on with people? Policies once advocated by conservative Republicans are now being vilified as "socialism" and consensus science vilified as "scams" by passionate mobs bent on installing corporate warlord feudalism and Christianist theocracy in the name of "liberty." Is this some kind of madhouse?

Progressives, for heaven's sake, get in line and get to work and get the message out. More, and Better, Democrats, defeat Movement Republicanism before it destroys America and destroys the world.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Democracy Is Not Anarchy

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, a response to an interlocutor I suspect wants to launch into a dreary exchange about anarchism:

I want not to smash the state but to democratize it. I am no anarchist, and I have to say that neither is my patience unlimited when it comes to anarchists.

Not to put too fine a point on it, it seems to me that the definitive ideal of democratization, equity-in-diversity, is not attainable in the absence of good government, and unless we create and maintain institutions for the nonviolent adjudication of disputes the permanent possibility of violence inhering in human plurality will prevail.

Given the susceptibility of all states to capture by incumbents and all authorities to rationalization anarchism provides an indispensable vantage for critique, but few resources from which to educate, agitate, and organize the ongoing struggle for democratization, consensualization, and equity-in-diversity.

The red thread of inequity and violence undertaken by tyrannical and corrupt governments is horrible to contemplate and should bolster the resolve of radical democrats, but anarchists just seem to me to throw the baby out with the bathwater or, worse, seem in their assumptions about politics to have remained in the nursery themselves, mistaking hopes for harmony (or, worse, the customary coercions of contract for peace), or declarations of abstract principle for the painful compromised concrete struggles for reconciliation or reform.

In particular, I regard the endless recurrence to fantasies of "spontaneous order" on the part of anarchists -- whether they fancy themselves to inhabit the left or the right or some place "beyond left and right" -- a parade of functional facilitations of oligarchy.

Now, I abhor empire, and it is a deep confusion to identify all government with empire, or to insinuate that those who would struggle to make government of by and for the people more convivial pine after a "good empire" (both of which the commenter did in framing their question in the Moot).

As for why governance now needs to be planetary in scope (this was the topic of the post which occasioned this upgraded exchange from the Moot), as I said, global governance already exists now, but in authoritarian corporate-militarist forms, and it is the struggle of our living generation to democratize this existing global governance in the interests of sustainability and fairness not to invent some planetary government ab initio and as some kind of end-in-itself.

Our environmental problems are planetary in character and the nation-state system is manifestly inadequate to cope with them (thus threatening us all with literal destruction) while at one and the same time the public realm has been likewise rendered planetary through p2p-media formations that are the register in which contemporary citizenship makes its play. The planetary character of our problems, of the emerging terrain of political agency, and even of existing institutions are already before us, the work is to democratize them else be enslaved or destroyed by them.

As for the more basic questions posed about the presumed dispensability of political life as such: Human plurality is palpable, as is our interdependency with one another, peer-to-peer, and our shared indebtedness to the archive of history's accomplishments and troubles are all facts of life. That we are obligated by the voices of those with whom we share the world is no less true when we deny it or rationalize it away. Equity, diversity, consent are fragile but indispensable to human flourishing and must be accomplished through civitas. Until these fundamentals are grasped one cannot expect to talk sensibly for long about politic matters.

Please don't expect to draw me into a politics 101 discussion with an online libertopian of the right or the left, if either you may be, or any such nonsense -- I have learned the hard way that it's a waste of my time and to little purpose.


Comments appear to be getting unaccountably swallowed in the Moot again, proceed with caution...


Five weeks remain in my summer intensive Critical Theory survey course at SFAI in the City, and as of today I begin a second summer intensive, this one a six week course, at UC Berkeley on the Rhetoric of Interpretation. Lecturing six hours with nothing but a commute from one side of the bay to the other for a break makes for a draining day I can tell you. The next month is going to be heavy.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

MundiMuster! Endorse the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly

Learn More.

Endorse the Campaign.

Pew's Latest Stink

Why do Democrats hate America? Let's ask these scienticians…
Nearly six-in-ten (59%) non-Hispanic whites say they are extremely proud of being an American compared with 36% of non-Hispanic blacks. People younger than 30 also are less likely than older Americans to say they are extremely proud of being an American. Those who give Barack Obama the lowest job ratings -- predominately Republicans and independents who lean Republican -- also are more likely to say that they are extremely proud to be an American than are those who give the president more positive ratings.

Speaking for myself, I am as little disposed to feel pride at being an American as I am at being over six feet tall or having blue eyes, confining as I do my feelings of pride to actual accomplishments of mine of which being born in this country is not one.

To this initial perplexity at those who declare themselves proud -- rather than, say, relieved or lucky -- to have happened to have been born American through no special effort of theirs, I will admit to additional perplexities at the sentiments that seem so regularly to accompany these spectacles of patriotic pride.

Among these, are plainly false statements such as that America is Number One when, sad to say, the reported satisfaction of our citizens is far from the highest, when the quality of our healthcare is far from the highest, when the life expectancy of our citizens and the survival rate of our infants are far from the best, when the scientific literacy of our population is far from the highest, when the proportion of our population behind bars is far from the lowest, when childhood poverty and obesity are far from the lowest, when we are not even the leader in supporting the freedoms of expression and assembly and press that once defined us, when our employment of renewable energy technologies and even our internet speeds languish far behind the actually leading countries on earth.

No less bewildering to me, I confess, are the customary celebrations among the pridefully patriotic of what they will describe as "the American way of life," and by which they seem only rarely to concern themselves with such worthy and as yet unfinished business of ours as achieving equity-in-diversity or a government of laws and not men, but more often something to do with the insanely disproportionate consumption, waste, and pollution of our planet's resources to the palpable ruin of us all -- and this without being made particularly happy by our profligacy in any case. I will admit that I find it hard to grasp what there is to be proud of in any of this.

While I like very much the diversity of my country I must say that white racist patriarchy thrives here sufficiently to constrain any real pride I might take in that vibrant diversity. And while I like very much the lack of any native aristocracy in my country I must say that the ongoing ruinous concentration of wealth and rising poverty rate here -- not to mention an ever-amplifying devotion to vapid celebrities -- is sufficient to constrain any real pride I might take in its wholesome populism. And while I like very much the tradition of civilian control over a voluntary military in my country I must say that the proportion of our national budget devoted to military spending incomparably higher than that of any other nation on earth in the midst of an insecure ill-educated precarious population conscripted by duress into cannon fodder to facilitate welfare for the already rich via "Defense" is sufficient to constrain any real pride I might take in our admirably civilian governance.

The Pew research article states the obvious when it goes on to point out that "those who agree with the Tea Party movement -- are among the most likely to consider themselves more patriotic than most people in this country."

It remains for the overwhelming majority of citizens in this country who disagree with the white-racist patriarchal theocratic minority of the Tea Party movement and whose interests differ from those of the even smaller minority of rich corporate-militarist Mobsters who manipulate the Tea Party mob to protect their profits to refuse these lies and crimes of the Right, to struggle to reform our institutions ever more and more in the direction of fairness and diversity and consent and democracy and flourishing and peace and a patriotism of principle.

Now that would be something we could all take some real pride in.

Holydays with William S. Burroughs; Or, William S. Burroughs Helps Make Amor Mundi More Positive on July the 4th

Happy Interdependence on This Independence Day

In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first. -- Ambrose Bierce

True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else. -- Clarence Darrow

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots. -- Barbara Ehrenreich

Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism —- how passionately I hate them! -- Albert Einstein

Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. "Patriotism" is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by "patriotism” I mean that attitude which puts the own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving interest in one’s own nation, which is the concern with the nation’s spiritual as much as with its material welfare -— never with its power over other nations. Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship. -- Erich Fromm

Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others. -- Emma Goldman

Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons. -- Bertrand Russell

Patriotism ... for rulers is nothing else than a tool for achieving their power-hungry and money-hungry goals, and for the ruled it means renouncing their human dignity, reason, conscience, and slavish submission to those in power... Patriotism is slavery. -- Leo Tolstoy

The soul and substance of what customarily ranks as patriotism is moral cowardice — and always has been. -- Mark Twain

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. -- Oscar Wilde

And so, we end with some not so random Wilde!

More Signs of the Singularity!

California health authorities declared an epidemic of whooping cough in the state on Wednesday…

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Tea Party Jesus

The words of Christians in the mouth of Christ. --h/t Gary Shiffrar

This Week's White Guys of "The Future" Report

It has been seven days, and so I have strolled, as usual, over to the website of the Robot Cult outfit, IEET, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and had a look around.

And again, as usual, although only a minority of people in the world are white guys, and only a minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared are white guys, and only a minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are white guys, and only a minority of people in the world who are well informed and have important things to say about matters of technoscience are white guys, nevertheless I can report that of the fifteen portraits of today's featured authors and speakers there you will find only one that is not a white guy.

This is still as weird and wrong as it was when I reported it in weeks and months prior to this one. Of course, there are endlessly many other weird and wrong things to say about the Robot Cultists, many of which I have written about here).

I should add that the one not white guy featured over at IEET at the moment is, as the featured not white guy so regularly tends to be, Martine Rothblatt, about whom I have written here before, for example here and here and here, and about whom I mean to say more in a moment.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Voice of a New Republican Generation

TPM: Young Conservatives Rage At the DC Machine Anti-Kagan Rally
"The fact of the matter is, years and years of college indoctrination and high school indoctrination has made Americans impartial," the 16-year-old YAF [Young Americans for Freedom] high school coordinator, Naphatli Rivkin, told me. "It's a real problem."

Biased AND Ungrammatical... into THE FUTURE!

Concerning My Vicious Crusade Against the World's Children

Upgraded and Adapted from the Moot

Because I have described as "infantile" anarchists who want to "smash the state" rather than democratize it and who seem to regard as roughly equivalent anyone who differs from them on that question, whether of the center-left, the center-right, the more radical left, the more radical right, and because I have also described as "infantile" superlative futurologists who pine to have their mammalian bodies and brains quasi-immortalized through "uploading" them somehow into cyberspace or into comic-book capacitated robot bodies thereupon to wallow in treasure and pleasure in virtual reality or nanobotic paradises under the vigilance and care of superintelligent superparental Robot Gods, and because I have accused the bravely pseudonymous hyper-regular commenter in the Moot "Summerspeaker" of being "infantile" on several occasions in which he seemed to be advocating such positions, he has declared me to be "ageist." Pro-child crusader "Summerspeaker" courageously castigates me thus: "Look at the narrative you're invoking. It codes the state of being grown-up as positive and the state of being a child as negative."

How right you are, "Summerspeaker"!

And no doubt all the world's gurgling babies gratefully acknowledge your efforts on their behalf against the devastating, tyrannical, and apparently "anti-child" premise I invoked.

You will be unsurprised to hear, knowing after all what a reactionary totalitarian bigot I am as compared to radical keyboard kommandos and Robot Cultists like you, I remain convinced that with the experience that properly freights the arrival of adulthood worthy human beings become more reasonable and responsible partners in the work of civilization.

I believe, further, that this maturation requires painful reckonings: with the inevitability of finding compromises among the diverse stakeholders with whom we share the world but differ in our aspirations and assumptions, with the awareness that we must regularly disdain present comforts for longer-term flourishing, that we must likewise relinquish comfortable moralisms to find our way to the precarious universalities of ethics and law, and so on.

A psychoanalytically-informed formulation of the premise would describe the confrontation of the Pleasure Principle (the infant's plenitude at the Mother's literal or figurative breast) with the Reality Principle (the youth's coming into awareness that her homely authorities are not, nor could they be, fully equal to their trust, that the customs, norms, and expectations familiar to her are neither universal nor yet justified, that all humans, as is she herself, are finite, error-prone, susceptible to disease and unease, and sure of death).

You can deny all this or disdain its salience or disapprove the form in which I have tried to phrase these insights if you like. But you'll forgive me if I admit you seem simply to reveal yet again the emptiness of the "radicalism" you trumpet as the superior of my own effort, and, I'm sorry to say, your ultimate unseriousness as a would-be interlocutor.

Here, by the way, is the text of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which I heartily approve despite being an anti-child ageist for calling would-be State-Smashers and Robot Cultists infantile.