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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Newt Comes Out

Multiply married and divorced Republican Presidential non-entity and intellectual non-eminence Newt Gingrich defines gay marriage as "a temporary aberration that will dissipate."

Anwar al-Awlaki

Regular readers will be unsurprised, I suppose, to discover that I disapprove not only the legal execution of American citizens accused of murderous criminality but also the unconstitutional assassination of American citizens accused of murderous war-criminality.

Quite apart from the fact that I do not think freedom loving governments should be in the business of murdering people for whatever reasons, consider: If there is no scrupulous accountable extra-military judicial process required to justify the extraordinary action of stripping the citizenship and expectations of due process connected with that citizenship of an American who becomes in some sense a terrorist or enemy combatant or supporter of such, then it becomes dangerously easier to harass, incarcerate, and even assassinate strong critics of American government, especially when they leave the country, when they can be connected however tenuously with organizations networked with other strong critics of US policies.

More, And Better, Democrats Are Our Only Hope

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, Friend of Blog "Martin" posts an excerpt from a piece in the LA Times and warmly comments on it:
"It's almost a classic case of the Stockholm syndrome, in which a hostage bonds with his captor despite the obvious threat to his existence. Even though many Democrats admit in private that they are shocked by Obama's position on civil liberties, they are incapable of opposing him. Some insist that they are simply motivated by realism: A Republican would be worse. However, realism alone cannot explain the utter absence of a push for an alternative Democratic candidate or organized opposition to Obama's policies on civil liberties in Congress during his term. It looks more like a cult of personality. Obama's policies have become secondary to his persona."
It's not enough to point how much worse the Republicans are and promise that we'll support and elect better Democrats later. Democrats (especially in Congress) need to oppose Obama's civil liberties-destroying policies now, and loudly.

To this, I reply:

That the article demands we set what passes for "realism" altogether aside as inadequate to our circumstances and then leaps instead feet first into the most appalling obfuscatory anti-intellectual pop psychology should make you more leery than it seems to have done.

You say it is not "enough" to point out that Republicans are worse than Democrats, but I have to wonder just how "enough" is functioning in your thinking here. Where partisan politics are concerned, all you have are the parties and the platforms and the candidates that you have. If all one knows is that Republicans are worse than Democrats by your lights, then, actually, that is indeed enough to tell you all you need to know to vote for Democrats, surely? We are all of us hostage to reality.

Of course, when it comes to Democrats -- whatever your frustrations with much that they are doing or failing to do -- you also know that there is much that they managed to do despite unprecedented Republican obstructionism and a razor thin working Senate majority (where "working majority" has come to mean supermajority and this despite some Dems who were so socially conservative and corporate friendly themselves they were more or less working for the other side in many legislative areas in any case) and that you presumably do approve of, which you also surely must realize would not have survived a McCain-Palin presidency nor one presided over by any of the present killer clowns in the running. You may remember that the Obama White House and Pelosi House and Reid Senate overhauled the food safety system, advanced women’s rights in the work place, ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) in our military, stopped defending DOMA in court, passed the Hate Crimes bill, appointed two pro-choice women to the Supreme Court, expanded access to medical care and provided subsidies for people who can’t afford it, expanded the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), fixed the travesty of rescission and preexisting conditions deployed by insurance companies, invested unprecedented levels of money in clean energy, overhauled the credit card industry, making it much more consumer-friendly, began, with Dodd-Frank, the still necessary re-regulation of the financial sector, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has been relentless in support of veterans, got help for people whose health was injured during the clean-up after the 9/11 attacks, and is beating the drum for more progressive taxes, more financial regulations, and so much more. When you declare that "we need to oppose Obama's civil liberties-destroying policies" it is important that you realize how many civil liberties expanding and affirming policies he has supported at one and the same time. Neither blanket opposition nor celebration makes much sense as a response to this record of accomplishment, frustration, and bad conduct.

Some of what you have said in your comment, Martin, honestly simply flabbergasts me. Anybody who really thinks Dems should be wasting energy and money on a completely quixotic primary challenge to Obama right now leaves me wondering if they may be suffering from a head injury (I say this, of course, as it were, pop psychologist to pop psychologist). I mean, the DCCC and DCSC haven't even gotten candidates to challenge every congressional seat yet for 2012 for pity's sake, at a time when winning back the House and keeping the Senate are desperate matters with little hope of success whatever their necessity.

I must say I despair a bit at the state of a mind like the quoted newspaper editorial writer's, at once so righteous in aspiration and yet so cartoonish in perception that the only way we are told one could regard Obama as the best actually available option for 2012 is by making recourse to assumptions about Obama as some sort of messiah figure enfolded in a cult of personality.

If anybody thinks that I, for one, am endlessly advocating More, and Better, Democrats here on Amor Mundi because I have succumbed to a variation of Stockholm Syndrome I can only assume you haven't noticed that the only people in power who advocate anything remotely like outcomes I cherish are all fucking Democrats while the fucking Republican Party is full of white-racist Christian-Talibanist science-denialist neo-feudal corporatists who want to dismantle civilization.

I agree that the Obama Administration has continued Bush Administration policies in too many areas -- I opposed his Afghanistan surge, I opposed the Libyan intervention, I oppose undeclared war via drone attacks, I oppose Guantanamo (which Congress failed Obama on not vice versa), I oppose military tribunals over civilian trials (again Congress was little help there), I oppose the ongoing consolidation of the Unitary Executive, I oppose the ongoing ramification of the surveillance/insecurity complex, I oppose the treatment of Bradly Manning, I oppose hysterical accusations that wikileaks is terrorism rather than reportage, I oppose the trumpeting of trumped up terror-plots and so on.

But to support the President (indeed to do so enthusiastically, as I do) in spite of all that is neither to support everything he does nor even to say that what I don't support matters less than what I do. I strongly believe that even when it comes to most of the things I do NOT support in the President and Democratic leadership the best way to empower those who might resist what I do not support and lend their effort to what I do support instead requires my support of the President.

This position only seems paradoxical if you make the mistake of pretending politics is a matter of the logical unfolding of arid abstractions rather than the material struggle and clash of contending stakeholders in historical and institutional settings. In the actual world, strong support of the President is indispensable to the facilitation and support of the election and empowerment of more of the people of his own party who will ride his coattails into office and to the frustration and marginalization of ever more Republicans hell-bent on destroying most of what I care about.

The people who can be facilitated into positions of actual power to do something about the issues I care about -- including the ones I have approved of in the President and Democratic leadership as well as others I have disapproved of -- are by far most likely as a practical matter to be helped by my support of Obama for President than otherwise.

It doesn't matter if thinking at this level of complexity breaks your heart or hurts your head. This is what actually conscious actually critical participation in politics requires -- but only to the extent that this politics is a partisan matter engaged in efforts at reform. Now, of course, there are other ways to do politics and other ways to work to ameliorate the suffering caused in the world by bad politics. One can do educational work via issues oriented organizations, one can do organizational work via campaigns toward better local legislation or lobbying for such at higher levels, one can do ground-level voluntarism, advocacy, support of vulnerable suffering populations, one can take up more revolutionary and insurrectionary forms that disdain partisan reform altogether. For most of these alternatives you know as a regular reader of mine that I am sympathetic -- if in varying degrees -- so long as those who engage in them know what they are doing and don't pretend what they are doing is something other than it is or has a better chance at a more progressive yield of outcomes than it really does.

Although reading old school environmentalists and black lesbian feminists as an undergraduate transformed my assumptions and aspirations in crucial ways, I would have to say that direct action and outreach, illegal needle exchange in empty after hours grocery parking lots with ACT-UP, NOW marches, bacchanalian Queer Nation sit-ins truly transformed my own political consciousness and made me who I am. Even if a movement like "Occupy Wall Street," say, does not easily align up with partisan programmatic politics (it may come more to do so as it discovers and elaborates more and more its vital ties with organized labor, but the larger point still stands) it is, nonetheless, absolutely and marvelously, a space where generations of folks are making connections among disparate struggles, are emerging into a more radical consciousness that will come to fuel the hard slog of reform politics in months and years and decades to come.

Sure, it upsets me a little bit that some people may be radicalized in the street in ways that lead them to disdain electoral politics and reformist struggles rather than to lend their energies and imaginations to those painful struggles, but I honestly don't think that is the worst thing in the world, and in any case plenty of people who like to brandish magic marker glitter font signs in protest festivals do then go on to phone-bank for compromised but best-on-offer progressive candidates for office (or become these themselves).

I am far from pretending that the reformist partisan politics I have come to prefer myself to revolutionary politics can be said to be, you know, actually working to get us where we need to go well enough, quickly enough, adequately enough -- so the fact that I doubt "ill-focused" mass protests will achieve their desired outcomes isn't exactly quite the strike against them one might think I mean by pointing this out. Since nothing is working, I think it is not a bad idea to try lots of things and enjoy the beauty that emerges while at once opportunistically availing oneself of the momentary advantages unexpectedly arising from the scrum.

I strongly suspect I oppose most of the very things that are provoking "Martin's" ire. But I think he and I have a responsibility actually to specify what we would mean by the demand that we "oppose" the things we do. That my own support of the President and the Democratic Party despite my shared opposition with Martin and other progressives to many specific Administration policies presumably invites frankly facile pseudo-psychological diagnoses of uncritical celebrity fandom or cult of personality or Stockholm Syndrome suggests anything but clarity on the part of the one who would differ from me on these practical questions.

If the form "opposition" to specific Democratic policies takes happens to enable Republicans who are no better on these issues at all and who are incomparably worse on most others then such "opposition" is objectively reactionary. It doesn't matter that a reactionary outcome arises from well-intentioned motives. Letting the fox into the hen house or shooting yourself in the foot are still what they are whatever gorgeous dreams inspire you to engage in such disastrous conduct. Again, this doesn't mean we should ignore terrible injustices enacted by figures we otherwise support, but only that we have to find ways of opposing those injustices that don't also or even only benefit those who are worse enemies of equity and justice otherwise.

Martin's only genuflection to specificity about the opposition needed is that it must be "loud[er]." But, "louder" certainly will do little good if, for example, it is a loudness that drowns out awareness of the crimes and evil plans of the right or demoralizes the always skittish left into an inaction that enables worse outcomes in every way. To recognize this isn't to advocate silence or acquiescence -- I think activists need to keep shining a spotlight on the Administration where it is wrong (for me, its militarism, invasions of privacy, undermining of equal recourse to law).

It is true that I am already nervous about "enthusiasm gap" stories that are already appearing in the press -- just as they were around this time before the literally catastrophic 2010 result -- and I think one needs to take into account the apparent skittishness of Democratic coalition voters and pay attention to the work Republicans are doing to game close outcomes with disinformation and disenfranchisement schemes. I do think one has to keep these factors in mind before one starts trumpeting blanket denunciations of the President or the Democratic Party when they may be all that reliably stands between us and world catastrophe (the clock is ticking on climate change, weapons proliferation, neoliberal immiseration, you know).

By way of conclusion I just want to return to this point: You know, it really does matter that everybody who sensibly IS criticizing Obama, everybody in power who sensibly IS struggling against what progressives and civil libertarians disapprove in Obama, everybody who is NOT afraid to point out these abuses on progressive terms happens to be a Democrat (or somebody who caucauses and works with Democrats) who will benefit from an Obama Presidency.

When frustrated people say nobody is criticizing Obama or Democrats that claim is patently false -- unless you are unwilling to count as real criticism any criticism that does not amount to struggling to topple his Presidency and diminish the presence of Democrats in Congress and Governor's mansions and State legislatures. I have to wonder if those who are frustrated with Democrats honestly think toppling the Obama presidency or demoralizing Democratic voters or losing the Senate or failing to regain the House will save a single person from Guantanamo or get us out of Iraq a single day sooner or end illegal spying? And that consideration is quite apart from all the complete evil idiotic authoritarian shit we all know Republicans will do if they can because they are already trying to do so right before our eyes!

I do not refrain from criticizing Obama, I do criticize Obama where I disapprove of him -- but I really must say that Republicans are behaving worse in every imaginable way and there are only so many hours in the day. It's certainly not that I am afraid or lack the guts to rail against Obama more immoderately or indiscriminately than I do, it's just that I have a brain and I am using it.

The sides are the sides they are. Which side are you on? One works to re-elect Obama or one is working to elect a Republican who will do nothing to support outcomes you claim to care about while doing incomparably worse in incomparably more.

I recommend you join and support the ACLU (I'm a card-carrying member, are you? if not, given your concerns, why not?) and Amnesty International, write your representatives to inform them of your issues (if they are Democrats they are likely to sympathize with much that you say and may even appreciate the nudge to do what they already know to be right), make your disapproving and potentially disruptive presence known to the complacent plutocrats by marching with the masses in the streets and celebrating the joy of public association, and also, yes, ALSO donate all the time and money you can as well as your vote to every goddamn Democrat you can.

More, and Better, Democrats is our only hope. I'm not asking you to like it, I'm asking you to face it.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

There is nothing the least bit romantic about instant coffee.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prime Defective

You do realize of course that were members of the Federation actually to abide by the terms let alone the spirit of the Prime Directive there wouldn't have been a show?

MundiMuster! Montana and the Momentum for Single Payer

Vermont Gov[enor] Peter Shumlin (D) made history earlier this year when he signed… legislation that would make his… the first state to lay the groundwork for a single payer health care system. In order to enact this system, the state needs a waiver from the federal health care law, which it will be able to obtain in 2017. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has introduced legislation to move the waiver date up to 2014, an idea President Obama has endorsed.

Now, another governor is looking to take advantage of flexibility in Obama’s health care law in order to establish a single payer system. Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) announced yesterday that he will be seeking a waiver to set up his own universal health care system in his state modeled after the single payer Canadian health care system[.]
I thought for a while that California would be next up after Vermont, but I am pleased to see Montana keeping up the momentum, especially after a brief flush of excitement over CA AB52 got nixed by some backroom strong-arming of a handful of still unnamed corporate Dems.

(Before this tragic but true observation mobilizes the usual bullshit equivalency thesis chorus in the Moot, I will just point out that Dems proposed AB52, that only Dems support it, that it is only because of disproportionate Dem majorities in California that AB52 has any chance at all, that Dems are indeed fighting even now to get AB52 back up in January, and that if you have enough sense to grasp what it would mean for the tenth largest economy in the world -- California's -- to introduce a public option and more stringent healthcare consumer protections and join with Vermont and Montana on the road to single payer then you damn well better support the Dems working on this issue rather than indulging in deranged and demoralizing holier-than-thou a-plague-on-both-their-houses performance art in front of a mirror expecting magical progressive outcomes somehow to eventuate from such bad behavior.)

Organizations you should get involved with if this is an issue that concerns you (and it does) include CaiforniaOneCare, Healthcare for All, California, and Single Payer Now

Democratic Senator Leno's Senate Bill 810 in support of single payer will be heard in Senate Appropriations in January 2012. Whatever the barriers Leno's Bill faces, it does not face at any rate the looming inevitability of the Governator's Chrome Veto Dildo anymore.

It is especially useful for organizations and businesses that support SB 810 to send endorsement letters as soon as possible in anticipation of this. A sample letter and recommendations as to useful recipients of such endorsements follows. If you use the sample letter as a guide it is crucial that the letter still be personalized as much as possible. Also, remember to place your letter on organizational letterhead (if it is from an organization). Be sure to cc: Senator Leno at (916) 445-4722 or email at and also cc: Cindy Young It is also a very good idea to mail or fax your endorsement letter to your own legislator. You can find out who that is if you don't remember, here It is also a good idea to fax letters of support to each Appropriations Committee member. They are:

Christine Kehoe, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee, Fax: (916) 327-2188

Mimi Walters, Member, Appropriations Committee, Fax: (916) 445-9754

Elaine Alquist, Member, Appropriations Committee, Fax: (916) 324-0283

Kevin DeLeon, Member, Appropriations Committee, Fax: (916) 327-8817

Bill Emmerson, Member, Appropriations Committee, Fax: (916) 327-2187

Fran Pavely, Member, Appropriations Committee, Fax: (916) 324-4823

Curran Price, Member, Appropriations Committee, Fax: (916) 445-8899

Darrell Steinberg, Senate Pro Tempore, (916) 323-2263

Mark Wyland, Member, Appropriations Committee, (916) 446-7382.
SB 810, the California Universal Health Care Act

Directions: Please use the following letter as a template for your own personalized support letter.


The Honorable Christine Kehoe
Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee
State Capitol, Room 5050
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 327-2188

Re: SUPPORT FOR SB 810 (LENO) -– The California Universal Health Care Act of 2011

Dear Senator Kehoe:

I am writing to express my organization’s strong support for single payer, universal health care and for SB 810 (Leno), the California Universal Health Care Act. I urge your support for this important legislation and request that you work hard to bring it to the Governor’s desk.

Health insurance premiums are drowning California’s working families and businesses who struggle to pay unaffordable premiums that rise as much as 40% each year. As premiums increase, benefits are steadily decreasing -- leaving families unable to pay the cost of their care, even when they have insurance.

With national Republicans challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, a model they initially proposed, it is more important than ever for California to continue pushing forward on a Medicare for All single payer plan. Such a plan is the only universal health reform plan that is immune to constitutional challenge and it’s the only plan that Americans on both sides of the political spectrum are familiar with and strongly support.

SB 810 will dramatically reduce premiums for businesses and families, cover all medically necessary health care, eliminate the risk of medical bankruptcy, and is proven to contain health care spending over the long term. SB 810 will save California businesses and state and local government millions of dollars in employee health care costs and is the only plan that responsibly funds retiree health care.

Single Payer will help middle and lower income families and businesses that are the backbone of California’s economy. SB 810 will create jobs, ease the burden on California’s budget and improve health care for every single Californian. California families and employers can no longer afford to foolishly waste 30% of every health care dollar on a private health insurance bureaucracy designed to minimize the payment of claims instead of maximizing the health of the people.

SB 810 would dramatically increase patient choice and provider competition by guaranteeing every Californian total choice over his or her doctors and hospitals instead of the narrow provider networks that restrict choice today. I urge your support.


Do something!

Fear Not, Robot Cultists! "The Future" of Futurology Is Still A White Penis

Last year I made the unhappy habit for quite a while of weekly visits to the website of the Very Serious techno-"progressive" futurologists at the stealth Robot Cult outfit IEET, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. And week after week after week after week I noticed the same thing (by all means, check the archives if you seek confirmation): Of all the faces of featured authors to be seen on IEET's site there were, time after time after time, curiously few if any that were not the faces of a white guy.

Soon enough, I grew rather bored with belaboring the obvious. Taking a look at the site today, however, I am oh-so-future-shocked to find, authoring the thirteen futurological features on offer there, the usual pale pageant, with only a single exception to the parade of white guys. Yes, the so-called "transhumanists" would have us believe they have seen The Future... and that it is a White Penis as bald as the head of a middle-age middle-class middle-American male.

And yet, it remains as true as ever that only a small minority of people in the world are white guys. Only a small minority of people with whom tomorrow will be made and shared are white guys. Only a small minority of people in the world impacted by technodevelopmental changes are white guys. Only a small minority of people in the world who are well informed and have important things to say about matters of technoscience are white guys. The relentless non-representativeness at IEET, supposedly the most "academic," "moderate," "respectable" of the membership organizations in the futurological Robot Cult archipelago, has long seemed to me to represent just one of the more obvious symptoms of the profound marginality of what I call superlative sub(cult)ural futurology.

For more of my critique of the glaring conceptual and political problems with these White Guys of "The Future" I recommend interested readers begin with my Condensed Critique of Transhumanism.

That Makes 100

Fool Me Tee Vee -- A Clip Show has grown unexpectedly long unexpectedly quickly... I do hope folks enjoy these brief bitter interruptions of our regular programming...

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

The image of an infant nursing at her mother's breast? Unacceptable! The image of an obese shirtless man nursing a beer in a stadium crowd? Ubiquitous! It's called standards, people.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

All bad art is the result of good intentions.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Future Schlock Credulity Levels

Across the Robot Cult archipelago the talk has turned, that is to say returned, to the topic of "Shock Levels," to futurists boasting about how much techno-transformative storm-churn their manly meme muscles can take as compared to meek mehum sheeple of the "luddite" herd. Writes Singularitarian Transhumanist Michael Anissimov, "Categorizing people by their shock level with regard to the future… it’s great!"

As with so much superlative futurology devoted to declarations about accelerating acceleration of acceleration blah de blah the objective observer is actually struck most of all by the stubborn stasis of the discourse.

As Paul Hughes indicates in the piece that has momentarily re-ignited the hubbub, all this talk of feeling accomplished without accomplishing anything via self-congratulatory self-reports of one's futurological unflappability is of course old hat, with Yudkowski offering up the locus classicus for this quintessential doctrine for boys for their toys back in 1999, before we all endured a lost decade the futurologists were sure would be a Long Boom.

Needless to say, reasonable skeptics will aver such "shock levels" rarely track much apart from the credulity levels of the futurological faithful.

You know, it's been a long time since the marginal and derivative literary genre popularized by Toffler's Future Shock has yielded much that isn't better described as Future Schlock. One notes with interest the showcased illustration accompanying the Hughes piece is of Montreal's Habitat 67, itself now nearly half a century old.

Little wonder that the sensible among us have long since moved on from future shock to future fatique.

Philosophy lacks a fashion sense, while Theory is a perpetual fashion victim.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Why listen to your doctor when instead you could be directing your doctor's attention to things actors on television who don't know you and can't see you are talking about so that the pharmaceutical companies that hired them to say these things can make more money?

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

I have the greatest contempt for optimism.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Long Teaching Tuesday

Gone early, back late, so don't expect too much...

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

How strange to observe that as tee vee screens keep getting bigger the fine print for the legal disclaimers on tee vee commercials is still getting smaller.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Musical people are so absurdly unreasonable. They always want one to be perfectly dumb at the very moment when one is longing to be absolutely deaf.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Establishment Media Deliberately Misrepresents Inspirational Conclusion of Obama's CBC Address As Castigation

I posted the entire clip of Obama's Congressional Black Caucus address and provided a transcript of the choicest bits of the address (with parts I especially liked in italics) yesterday. I did this, in large part, because I considered the speech the latest in a series of really welcome re-framings of Obama's message into more progressive terms, terms I believe at once more righteous and also more likely to be electorally efficacious than his language and efforts have often been, especially since the disastrous mid-term elections.

I have to say I have been rather dismayed to observe the extent to which both broadcast and blogipelagic coverage of the CBC speech has seemed to fixate not on Obama's calling out of the ugliness and craziness of so much that the Repubicans are saying and doing in public places these days (my headline, unlike anybody else's I've seen, pointed to his laugh line describing Republicans as "the bad kind of crazy") but on his exhortation of his allies in the CBC to put on their marching shoes at the end of the speech. Not only did I not regard that part of the speech as particularly noteworthy, but definitely I did not make the surreal error of confusing a call to arms as a so-called Sista Souljah moment, of all things. I consider those who are saying otherwise to be deliberately whomping up a phony controversy on a par with "bitter"-gate (remember that idiocy?) from the 2008 campaign trail.

I don't know if this is a matter of lazy or dull witted reporters falling for Republican operative spin, I don't know if this is a matter of Villagers worried that Obama's successfully activating his base will spoil the plausibility of their preferred mode of horse-race coverage of 2012, I don't know if this is just the usual misplaced resentment onto Obama of the frustrations of our ridiculous and appalling moment. But I do know that nobody who actually listened to Obama's CBC address, let alone to the many other speeches Obama has made recently in which he riffs on variations on its themes, can honestly pretend that Obama was telling unemployed people to stop complaining about their lot -- in a speech that trembled in empathy and outrage at the tragedy and scandal of catastrophic unemployment among especially African Americans and also so many others in America today.

Obama was literally exhorting everybody in that room, his natural allies and friends at the CBC, to get on board with his effort to pass his Jobs Bill to make a difference in the lives of the unemployed. Obama was asking for support now, from constituents and everyday citizens and activists on the ground, precisely as he has been doing through his advocacy of his Jobs Bill over the past few weeks. Obama is striving to overcome the temptation so many seem to feel, to give in to the apparent hopelessness of this moment, to give in to inertia in the face of evil GOP obstruction, to sleepwalk through the next year thinking that only our re-election efforts can mobilize the agency to "do something" about our problems... eventually. Obama has been moving people in their millions to call their congresscritters, even when they are Republicans, to urge their support and action on his Jobs Bill, here and now, now, now.

Obama is insisting on all this despite the unprecedented obstructionism of Republicans who hold the House majority and have used their power there and by manipulating arcane procedures in the Senate as well to stymie efforts to solve the shared problems of the American people both because they are ideologically committed to dismantling government and to making Obama a one-term president by any means available to them, however destructive.

Don't believe me? Listen to the speech, read the transcript. It's all there.

I must say, by the way, that I am not happy with Maxine Waters' widely reported recent comments in which she rather opportunistically jumps into the feeding frenzy on this phony controversy, invigorating it in ways it does not deserve and to the cost of her own politics (which are surely in sympathy with Obama's recent priorities and formulations). The truth is that Waters' constituents (among them, me) are to the left of Obama and we usually rather like it when she pushes him left from his left, but I do think that this time around her comments look to be an impolitic miscalculation (rather as Obama's comments are now being mischaracterized by his allies as a way of making the story go away as quickly as possible). The truth is that Obama has been making powerful speeches in support of proposals of precisely the kind his critics on the left have bemoaned the lack of for years (sometimes in ways that testified to an ignorance of or indifference to actual political realities, I might add) and the last thing that needs to happen is for Establishment media hacks to punish him for doing what is right and then having his natural allies bash him on top of everything else for making the sorts of moves we actually want of him. (I still love Maxine Waters, though.)

PS: Rachel Maddow has just done a fine job of reporting on this story this evening and I will post a clip from her indispensable work on this Establishment Media mischief-making against the President the moment it appears.

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Republican Response to GOP Debate: Dive! Hide! Run for Your Life!

Dig the soundtrack the DNC provides for these clips -- only high camp does justice to these killer clowns!

Writes one poor panic stricken Republican: "These debates are a farce and a detriment to the electoral process. All they do is open Republicans to mocking by a liberal-biased media. To hell with the debates because they do not serve Republicans at all." For God's sake, don't let America actually know what relentlessly stupid evil assholes we are! We'll never win that way! Put a lid on it! Stop the presses! No more debates! Dive! Dive!

One is reminded a bit of --

Left Takes the French Senate for the First Time Since 1958, Deals Blow to Sarkozy-Merkel Dreams of an Eternally Austerian EU

In this week-end's elections to the French Senate, the Left not only won but managed a larger victory than anybody expected. The Left has gained a majority in the Senate for the first time since the constitution of the Fifth Republic in 1958. How you like them apples? These days, electoral victories for the left in local and regional elections have been taking place here and there since Nicolas Sarkozy became president, and Senators are elected by a college almost entirely composed of such local elected officials. What was originally intended as a device to ensure a strong conservative bias and has functioned as such for generations has turned the tide to the Left. Conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy is of course just seven months away from his own presidential election, and cannot be happy with this latest sign of a resurging left. I'm no expert on EU politics, but this Senate loss almost certainly seems to mean that Sarkozy will fail to get the two thirds vote he needs to impose the so-called "Golden Rule" he and Merkel have sought, attempting to anchor an austerity-compelling "balanced budget" amendment into the EU constitution.

It's Not Just That The GOP Must Be Burned If America Is Not To Burn, But That The GOP Must Be Burned To Be Saved Itself.

I decided that last line deserved emphasis.

Obama on Today's Republican Party

via Politico:
President Obama, “Has anybody been watching the debates lately? You've got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change… It's true. You've got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don't have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they're gay.”
More like this, please. Whatever the moderateness (so-called) of his temperament, Obama must take no prisoners with today's Republican Party. A Presidential blow-out creates the only possible conditions in which Democrats will regain the House and hold on to the Senate (which will take something like a miracle). I have little fear that Obama will beat this dismal GOP field, but the point is that his victory needs the kind of coat-tails that give him a Congress that will work with him, else the victory is pyrrhic. In this atmosphere of unprecedented right-wing obstructionism and extremism to the point of madness, there is no alternative but to go Negative and go Big. Oddly enough, this ever more fascistic self-marginalizing Movement Republican cul-de-sac will only benefit from such a drubbing itself, since only in utter defeat can the Republican Party pause to find its way back to some semblance of sense and national relevance: It's not just that the GOP must be burned if America is not to burn, but that the GOP must be burned to be saved itself.

Learning from Lanier's Inverse Moore's Law

From his Half A Manifesto, now well over a decade old:
As processors become faster and memory becomes cheaper, software becomes correspondingly slower and more bloated, using up all available resources.
It's truly hard to believe that there are still Robot Cultists out there who fancy Moore's Law is going to spit out a Robot God and end human history in "The Singularity," but sadly, so sadly, there are. Far from an acceleration of accelerating change, the computation-multimedia-industrial complex has looked to me to be cranking out stasis for landfill rather than building a toypile to tech-heaven for a long time now.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Broadcast television is so righteous you can show your hero putting his fist in somebody's mouth every single episode and win awards but if you show your hero putting his penis in his lover's mouth just once you'll never work again till the day you die.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The praise of the man who can't understand me is quite as injurious as the abuse of any enemy can be.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Obama to Congressional Black Congress: Today's Republicans Are the Bad Kind of Crazy

Excerpts from the Transcript follow:

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, CBC! ... It's good to be with the conscience of the Congress... I suppose the reason I enjoy coming to the CBC -- what this weekend is all about is, you and me, we're all a little bit crazy, but hopefully a good kind of crazy... We’re a good kind of crazy because no matter how hard things get, we keep the faith; we keep fighting; we keep moving forward...

That starts with getting this Congress to pass the American Jobs Act... You heard me talk about this plan when I visited Congress a few weeks ago and sent the bill to Congress a few days later. Now I want that bill back -- passed. I’ve got the pens all ready. I am ready to sign it. And I need your help to make it happen.

Right now we’ve got millions of construction workers out of a job. So this bill says, let’s put those men and women back to work in their own communities rebuilding our roads and our bridges. Let’s give these folks a job rebuilding our schools. Let’s put these folks to work rehabilitating foreclosed homes in the hardest-hit neighborhoods of Detroit and Atlanta and Washington. This is a no-brainer...

Why should we let China build the newest airports, the fastest railroads? Tell me why our children should be allowed to study in a school that’s falling apart? I don’t want that for my kids or your kids. I don’t want that for any kid. You tell me how it makes sense when we know that education is the most important thing for success in the 21st century... Let’s put our people back to work doing the work America needs done. Let’s pass this jobs bill...

We’ve got millions of unemployed Americans and young people looking for work but running out of options. So this jobs bill says, let’s give them a pathway, a new pathway back to work. Let’s extend unemployment insurance so that more than six million Americans don’t lose that lifeline. But let’s also encourage reforms that help the long-term unemployed keep their skills sharp and get a foot in the door. Let’s give summer jobs for low-income youth that don’t just give them their first paycheck but arm them with the skills they need for life... Tell me why we don’t want the unemployed back in the workforce as soon as possible. Let’s pass this jobs bill, put these folks back to work...

Why are we shortchanging our children when we could be putting teachers back in the classroom right now, where they belong? ... Laying off teachers, laying off police officer, laying off firefighters all across the country... Why aren’t we helping? We did in the first two years. And then this other crowd came into Congress and now suddenly they want to stop. Tell me why we shouldn’t give companies tax credits for hiring the men and women who’ve risked their lives for this country -- our veterans. There is no good answer for that. They shouldn’t be fighting to find a job when they come home...

These Republicans in Congress like to talk about job creators. How about doing something real for job creators? Pass this jobs bill, and every small business owner in America, including 100,000 black-owned businesses, will get a tax cut... You say you’re the party of tax cuts. Pass this jobs bill, and every worker in America, including nearly 20 million African American workers, will get a tax cut... Pass this jobs bill, and prove you’ll fight just as hard for a tax cut for ordinary folks as you do for all your contributors...

These are questions that opponents of this jobs plan will have to answer. Because the kinds of ideas in this plan in the past have been supported by both parties. Suddenly Obama is proposing it -- what happened? ... What happened? You all used to like to build roads... Right? What happened? Reverend, you know what happened? I don’t know. They used to love to build some roads...

[L]ast week, I laid out a plan to pay for the American Jobs Act, and to bring... down our debt over time. You say the deficit is important? Here we go. I’m ready to go. It’s a plan that says if we want to create jobs and close this deficit, then we’ve got to ask the folks who have benefited most -- the wealthiest Americans, the biggest, most profitable corporations -- to pay their fair share...

We are not asking them to do anything extraordinary. The reform we’re proposing is based on a simple principle: Middle-class folks should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires.... That’s not crazy -- or it’s good crazy. Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. A teacher or a nurse or a construction worker making $50,000 a year shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than somebody making $50 million. That’s just common sense...

[G]o out, start a business, get rich, build something. Ou[r] country is based on the belief that anybody can make it if they put in enough sweat and enough effort. That is wonderful. God bless you. But part of the American idea is also that once we've done well we should pay our fair share... to make sure that those schools that we were learning in can teach the next generation; that those roads that we benefited from -- that they're not crumbling for the next bunch of folks who are coming behind us; to keep up the nation that made our success possible.

And most wealthy Americans would agree with that. But you know the Republicans are already dusting off their old talking points. That's class warfare, they say. In fact, in the next breath, they’ll complain that people living in poverty -- people who suffered the most over the past decade -- don’t pay enough in taxes. That's bad crazy. When you start saying, at a time when the top one-tenth of 1 percent has seen their incomes go up four or five times over the last 20 years, and folks at the bottom have seen their incomes decline -- and your response is that you want poor folks to pay more? Give me a break. If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a janitor makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor. I have no problem with that... It's about time.

They say it kills jobs -- oh, that's going to kill jobs. We’re not proposing anything other than returning to the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans that existed under Bill Clinton... I was asking him, how did that go? ... Well, it turns out we had a lot of jobs. The well-to-do, they did even better. So did the middle class. We lifted millions out of poverty. And then [under Bush] we cut taxes for folks like me, and we went through a decade of zero job growth. So this isn't speculation. We've tested this out. We tried their theory; didn’t work. Tried our theory; it worked. We shouldn’t be confused about this.

This debate is about priorities. If we want to create new jobs and close the deficit and invest in our future, the money has got to come from somewhere. And so, should we keep tax loopholes for big oil companies? Or should we put construction workers and teachers back on the job? ... Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we invest in our children’s education and college aid? Should we ask seniors to be paying thousands of dollars more for Medicare, as the House Republicans propose, or take young folks’ health care away? Or should we ask that everybody pay their fair share? This is about fairness. And this is about who we are as a country. This is about our commitment to future generations.

When Michelle and I think about where we came from -- a little girl on the South Side of Chicago, son of a single mom in Hawaii -- mother had to go to school on scholarships, sometimes got food stamps. Michelle's parents never owned their own home until she had already graduated -- living upstairs above the aunt who actually owned the house. We are here today only because our parents and our grandparents, they broke their backs to support us... But they also understood that they would get a little bit of help from their country. Because they met their responsibilities, this country would also be responsible, would also provide good public schools, would also provide... parks that were safe, making sure that they could take the bus without getting beat over the head, making sure that their kids would be able to go to college even if they weren’t rich.

We're only here because past generations struggled and sacrificed for this incredible, exceptional idea that it does not matter where you come from, it does not matter where you’re born, doesn’t matter what you look like -- if you’re willing to put in an effort, you should get a shot. You should get a shot at the American Dream.

And each night, when we tuck in our girls at the White House, I think about keeping that dream alive for them and for all of our children. And that’s now up to us. And that’s hard. This is harder than it’s been in a long, long time. We’re going through something we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.

And I know at times that gets folks discouraged. I know. I listen to some of you all... I understand that. And nobody feels that burden more than I do. Because I know how much we have invested in making sure that we’re able to move this country forward. But you know, more than a lot of other folks in this country, we know about hard. The people in this room know about hard... And we don’t give in to discouragement. Throughout our history, change has often come slowly. Progress often takes time. We take a step forward, sometimes we take two steps back. Sometimes we get two steps forward and one step back. But it’s never a straight line. It’s never easy. And I never promised easy. Easy has never been promised to us. But we’ve had faith. We have had faith. We’ve had that good kind of crazy that says, you can’t stop marching.

Even when folks are hitting you over the head, you can’t stop marching. Even when they’re turning the hoses on you, you can’t stop. Even when somebody fires you for speaking out, you can’t stop... Even when it looks like there’s no way, you find a way -- you can’t stop... Through the mud and the muck and the driving rain, we don’t stop. Because we know the rightness of our cause -- widening the circle of opportunity, standing up for everybody’s opportunities, increasing each other’s prosperity. We know our cause is just. It’s a righteous cause.

So in the face of troopers and teargas, folks stood unafraid. Led somebody like John Lewis to wake up after getting beaten within an inch of his life on Sunday -- he wakes up on Monday: We’re going to go march... Dr. King once said: “Before we reach the majestic shores of the Promised Land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead. We must still face prodigious hilltops of opposition and gigantic mountains of resistance. But with patient and firm determination we will press on.”

So I don’t know about you, CBC, but the future rewards those who press on... With patient and firm determination, I am going to press on for jobs... I'm going to press on for equality... I'm going to press on for the sake of our children... I'm going to press on for the sake of all those families who are struggling right now. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I am going to press on...

I expect all of you to march with me and press on... Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off... Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do...

[Emphases added. --d]

Hastening the Day Texas Turns Blue for Good

Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO -- The Congressional redistricting plan that passed the Texas legislature this spring is illegal, according to a U.S. Department of Justice ruling Monday. Attorneys for the state on Friday had defended the new election districts drawn by the Republican-led Legislature, saying they were designed within the law… Several minority and Democratic groups filed a lawsuit over the redistricting maps approved during the summer, alleging new voting district lines are illegally discriminatory because they camouflage a statewide surge in Hispanic growth during the past decade… Texas received four new seats in the U.S. House based on the most recent census population count. That was more than any other state and came in the wake of a population boom overwhelmingly driven by Hispanics. The Legislature was tasked with updating the district lines. Plaintiffs argued the surge in Hispanic growth warranted those residents getting more representation in new districts, yet the Republican plan splits Hispanic and black communities so conservative white residents would be more likely to win seats in Congress… Critics contend Hispanic-dominated precincts with a history of low turnout were moved… to meet the constitutional requirements while maintaining its GOP dominance. Hispanic voters have traditionally supported Democratic candidates.
The clumsy and conspicuous efforts by the Texas GOP efforts to exploit population gains by Democratic-leaning minorities to consolidate the Republicans' ever more precarious hold on Texas have been called out by the Justice Department and in a way that highlights their racism as much as their desperation. It is to be hoped that this will hasten the inevitable day when Texas turns Blue exposing for all and for good the reality of the modern GOP as an out of touch reactionary patriarchal theocratic white-racist neo-feudal neo-Confederate rump utterly marginal to the life of our ever more wholesomely diversifying, secularizing, socializing, planetizing Nation.

Cruel Spectacle Ends

Last bullfight before the Ban in Catalonia

MundiMuster! Make Banks Pay, Bay Area Week of Action
During "It's Time For Wall Street Banks to Pay Week" (September 26-30 in the Bay Area & October 3-6 in Los Angeles) homeowners, community members, faith leaders and students will hold events in hard-hit neighborhoods across the state saying it’s time to make Wall Street banks pay for destroying jobs and neighborhoods with their greedy, irresponsible and predatory business practices.... The Bay Area Week of Action will be September 26 to 29th. The mobilization will be on September 29 meeting at 555 California St. San Francisco, CA at 3:30.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

It really is too bad the way car exhaust is destroying so many lovely wilderness settings car commercials might otherwise be filmed in.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

While the first editions of most classical authors are those coveted by bibliophiles, it is the second editions of my books that are the true rarities.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Between all the heartfelt talk shows and all the heart burn commercials, who really has the heart to watch day time television?

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Nowadays so many conceited people go about Society pretending to be good, that I think it shows rather a sweet and modest disposition to pretend to be bad.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Teavangelical Terror

It’s not yet too late (though dangerously close) to solve the problems that, left unresolved, will lead to the same social unrest we have seen in the Arab spring countries and other areas of the world. The problems are disturbingly similar: the increasing number of poor, the growing number of young people with a higher education but no jobs or even prospects for employment, the mortgage debacle that will only get worse if left unaddressed. Both parties are at fault, though one has entirely lost its moral compass. One party of extremists -- using the Big Lie to shout down any other position than its own and deciding that the country can be sacrificed in order to bring down Barack Obama -- ought to be identified for what it is: fanatical terrorists, armed by hypocrisy, greed, and the absence of compassion.
Can I get a amen?

The Village Market

Man, the difference between the way Establishment Media folks react to stock market nosedives causing momentary pocketbook jitters for the rich compared to job market nosedives causing year after year of existential misery for millions upon millions of their fellow citizens really does speak volumes.

Promotional Pop-Tech Pseudo-Reportage Metastasizing on TPM to the Detriment of Their Respectability As A Trusted News Source for the Serious Democratic Left

In a post last month I expressed the concern that while
Talking Points Memo is an excellent source of current events reporting and policy analysis... its readers are also subjected regularly to facile futurological narratives (artificial intelligence around the corner! green cities around the corner!) and annoying indulgences in advertorial techno-fetishistic pseudo-reportage -- got yer kindle yet? bought yer iWhatev yet?
I am sorry to say that this is getting worse and worse lately. Josh Marshall is posting one sentence snippets from hyperbolic press releases and sunny superficial glosses of lab results more and more regularly all the time, not to mention giving space to all sorts uncritical celebrations of "social media" as if these represent serious analyses of political events. This all reminds me of the irrationally exuberant digirati nonsense that sometimes suffused the privileged gizmo-fetishizing precincts of the left (and the libertopian right) in the 1990s, with its insufferable parade of white boys with shiny toys offering up endless neoliberal "Long Boom" platitudes and promising never-materializing technofizes to real social and environmental problems.

Obviously there is a place for serious analysis of global technodevelopmental quandaries, especially in an era of planetary networked political organizing, planetary environmental catastrophes, planetary economic collapse and fraud. But pom-pom squads attributing global resistance to the magic of twitter and facebook and promising that all our skyscrapers will soon be shellacked with solar-panels providing clean energy too cheap to meter and offering facile one-sentence fellations to what are in fact incredibly qualified preliminary brain scanning or genetic therapy research results under the portentious headline Wow does worse than a disservice to those of us who take technoscience issues and their politics seriously.

I don't know if these little bits of gizmo-promotional pseudo-reportage result from Josh Marshall's personal and lamentable vulnerability to techno-marketing and futurological flim-flammery or constitute instead some surreptitious effort at revenue enhancement via ad content sufficiently post-like to pass unnoticed by ad-filtering software, but whatever it is that is going on there is making me less and less likely to turn to TPM as a news source and I would hope that sensible people of the left -- especially the ones who take technoscience seriously -- would pay careful attention to this development as well.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

One thing sure to improve this quip for next time would be to slap some bacon on it.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

The Debates Are Introducing America to What the Republicans Have Become

Traditionally, the importance of Presidential debates during the primary season is that they provide the initial exposure of candidates to a national audience, at a time when they are appealing to their own party's base voters.

The three Republican debates that have taken place since Rick Perry entered the race have been extraordinary, among other reasons, because in the aftermath of each one of these debates the story has been less about the Nation's introduction to the Republican Party's contenders for the White House than about the Nation's re-introduction to the Republican Party itself.

Again and again the national conversation following each debate has been preoccupied with a vision of what the Republican Party has become, through a story about the way the Republican audience reacted to some question or some response and so revealed in themselves something profoundly ugly and frightening.

In the aftermath of the Reagan Library debate America cringed in discomfort at the gleeful cheers that met Rick Perry's boast about the large number of people his state has executed. In the aftermath of the Tea Party debate America recoiled when the audience cheered the prospect of uninsured Americans dying of their treatable ailments if they can't cough up enough money.

Apparently, last night on the Fox News debate the audience booed a soldier in Iraq because he is gay and then howled with joy when Rick Santorum said he would re-instate Don't Ask Don't Tell. One wonders if perhaps the next Republican debates will feature a bacchanal accompanying a book burning or the stoning of an adulterous woman.

To be a Republican today is to be a dangerous ignoramus and an evil-minded bigot with real mischief on his mind. It is this marginal and murderous mob that is being introduced to America through these debates, more than the Killer Clowns arrayed behind their podia awkwardly trying to look Presidential for the cameras.

A wholesomely diversifying, secularizing, greening America is taking a good long look at the vestiges of its ugly past and, it is to be hoped, drawing from that ghastly spectacle the strength to push harder still to move forward to solve our shared problems together through the agency of more, and better, Democrats, before it is too late.

Today's Random Wilde

Appropriate what is already yours -- for to publish anything is to make it public property.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dispatches from Libertopia

An anarchist's convictions usually have little but hypocrisy to redeem them.

More Dispatches from Libertopia here.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

I strongly suspect it is watching your commercial that has given me this burning sensation.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If I ever get married, I'll certainly try to forget the fact.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Own Opposition to Capital Punishment

I am utterly opposed to the dreadful barbarism of the death penalty, and advocate a life sentence without the possibility of parole for murderers. My primary reason for holding this view is not the usual one that mistaken convictions can take place and demonstrably have done, and without any possibility of a redress of that ultimate injustice -- though it seems to me this reason should surely be compelling for all but the most murderous.

My own reason for repudiating the death penalty is that while murdering a murderer does not reverse the loss to the murderer's victims, capital punishment actually amplifies the loss to those victims who remain among the living, taking from them sooner than need be their chance of finding their way eventually, on their own terms and in their own good time, to a miraculous forgiveness of the murderer, face to face, and hence to a different world of possibility and promise beyond that loss before they die themselves.

Contrary to the claims one regularly finds in the sentimental pseudo-literature of kitsch execution apologetics, it is actually rarely the case that capital punishment provides anything like a satisfying or meaningful "closure" for the living victims of a murderer's crimes. But it is always the case that capital punishment forecloses political possibilities of the real elaboration and substantiation of their freedom that might otherwise emerge out of their profound distress, and that is something no freedom loving state should ever countenance.

Hannah Arendt proposed that the experience of freedom is materialized in the offering up of deeds to the hearing of the world, whether works, judgments, testaments, promises, or, most crucially, acts of forgiveness. To indulge in the meaningless cycle of violence and revenge, to demand an eye for an eye, a life for a life, is to sin against liberty in its unique political substance. It is the proper work of the secular democratic state, to the contrary, to enable the experience of freedom, peer to peer, through the provision of nonviolent alternatives for the adjudication of disputes, and the facilitation of the exchange of opinions and stories thereby, through the provision of a legible scene of informed, nonduressed consent, and the facilitation of the making of promises and the forgiving of offenses thereby, through the provision of an equal recourse to law and the celebration of the diversity of lifeways flourishing thereby.

"All Futurisms Are Finally Retro-Futurisms"

The following is adapted from an exchange over at Accelerating Future, occasioned by one of my Futurological Brickbats: "To speak of 'The Future' is always to indulge in reaction. All futurisms are finally retro-futurisms."

Richard Holt protested: "Historically, Revolutionaries have fetishized ‘The Future’ far more than Reactionaries or Conservatives."

I replied that perhaps this helps account for why so many historical revolutions have eventuated in tyranny: A disdain for the open futurity inhering in the present, peer-to-peer, expressed through a parochial idealization of “The Future” imposes an instrumental rationality and instrumental misconception of freedom on political realities that are of a radically different character.

I happen to think "The Future" of the futurologists has so much in common with "The Golden Age" of reactionaries that it is illuminating to treat techno-fetishizing futurological ideologies as structurally continuous with "nature"-fetishizing bioconservative ideologies. Both are functionally retro-futural, both idealizing and naturalizing parochial values and then disdaining the present world of the diversity of their peers the better to dream of "The Future" world re-written in the image of the universal prevalence of their parochialism.

Holt then asserted: "Goals are political. The analysis of future scenarios [which is the chief business of 'professional futurologists' --d] is not."

To which I must reply that futurological scenario spinning is not analysis, properly so-called, so much as it is an inept literary genre aping and amplifying (sometimes to an extent verging on the theological) the hyperbole and fraud of contemporary marketing and promotional discourse while superficially appropriating the most hackneyed conceits and tropes from science fiction ready to hand.

Even Anti-Militarist Queers Can Cheer the End of DADT

Queering the Singularity:
Cheering the open incorporation of queer bodies into the imperialist project implies support for its horrors.
This reaction, while plausible on first glance, seems to me superficial and ultimately misguided. Queer critiques of militarism and refusals of participation in the military are rendered more forceful rather than less now that we are actually allowed open participation in them. Even for a hippy pinko queer like me the abolition of DADT is a clear victory for social justice. It is hard to see how the selective segregation of queers from participation in an anyway-existing military (in an already militarist-industrialist-patriarchal society) represents a boost for pacifism and anti-militarism the end of which is to be especially bemoaned.

Randroid Ryan's Mania

"I think the president has become a pyromaniac in a field of straw men. I think what he wants to do is set up those of us on the other side of the aisle as some caricature and assign policies to us that we don't have and then defeat those arguments." -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
I think Paul Ryan has become a sex maniac who won't be satisfied until he has fucked every man, woman, child, small dog, and kitten in the United States to a bloody libertopian pulp. As to the charge that outrageous policies are being assigned to Republicans that they don't have, Ryan will discover soon enough to his cost that all we have to do is run the tape.

Also, too, Paul Ryan is a doll-eyed dolt.

The Price

In my last post I proposed we demand payment for our experimental subjection.

The Rights guaranteed in the Constitution and UN Declaration, the franchise and eligibility to run for office, equitable recourse to law, nationalization of public goods and public stewardship to sustain our common goods, single-payer healthcare, lifelong access to public education, and a basic guaranteed income of ten thousand a year sounds like a fair price to me.

We should pay for it with steeply progressive inheritance, capital gains, income, and property taxes, and sundry licensing fees.

There's my big boring utopia, I guess. A little bit capitalism, a little bit socialism, but mostly just sustainable social democracy. Whoop de-doo.

Today' s Fool Me Tee Vee

We are all unpaid unwitting uninformed subjects in a profoundly dangerous experiment examining the effects of long-term exposure to complex combinations of toxic and medicinal substances nobody understands. Since we cannot opt out of our experimental subjecthood, I propose we demand substantial payment for our service from those who are disproportionately profiting from it.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

What is the good of friendship if one cannot say exactly what one means? Anybody can say charming things and try to please and to flatter, but a true friend always says unpleasant things and does not mind giving pain.

Elizabeth Warren Is Making Sense

Every Democrat should watch this and start practicing alone in their rooms with a mirror until they can talk this plainly and this forcefully and this correctly.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Skip the Armchair Psychologizing of Obama

I don't think the president had some epiphany and suddenly realized he's been going about things all wrong. Rather, I think that the calendar advanced to past Labor Day a year out from election day. It is time to campaign… [T]he president has a lot more credibility now when he takes his ideas to the public and says the Republicans aren't interested in compromise. You have to try and fail to get a compromise before that argument has any resonance. It's not so much 11-Dimensional chess as basic common sense. Everyone's poll numbers suffered during the summer, but no one's standing was weakened more the Republicans'. That's not an accident.
Especially when they're in campaign mode Team Obama has always been pretty consummate with the timing. Rhetoric 101 is the same as it ever was. They are reading the same polls the rest of us are. If there's no need to indulge in long-distance mind-reading exercises to account for deicisions why go there at all?

Obama: "This isn't class warfare; it's math."

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White House Fact Sheet on Jobs Act and Deficit Reduction

Transcript excerpts follow:
A week ago today, I sent Congress the American Jobs Act. It’s a plan that will lead to new jobs for teachers, for construction workers, for veterans, and for the unemployed. It will cut taxes for every small business owner and virtually every working man and woman in America. And the proposals in this jobs bill are the kinds that have been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. So there shouldn’t be any reason for Congress to drag its feet. They should pass it right away. I’m ready to sign a bill. I’ve got the pens all ready.

Now, as I said before, Congress should pass this bill knowing that every proposal is fully paid for. The American Jobs Act will not add to our nation’s debt. And today, I’m releasing a plan that details how to pay for the jobs bill while also paying down our debt over time.

And this is important, because the health of our economy depends in part on what we do right now to create the conditions where businesses can hire and middle-class families can feel a basic measure of economic security. But in the long run, our prosperity also depends on our ability to pay down the massive debt we’ve accumulated over the past decade in a way that allows us to meet our responsibilities to each other and to the future.

During this past decade, profligate spending in Washington, tax cuts for multi-millionaires and billionaires, the cost of two wars, and the recession turned a record surplus into a yawning deficit, and that left us with a big pile of IOUs. If we don’t act, that burden will ultimately fall on our children’s shoulders. If we don’t act, the growing debt will eventually crowd out everything else, preventing us from investing in things like education, or sustaining programs like Medicare….

We can’t just cut our way out of this hole. It’s going to take a balanced approach. If we’re going to make spending cuts -- many of which we wouldn’t make if we weren’t facing such large budget deficits -- then it’s only right that we ask everyone to pay their fair share.

You know, last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner gave a speech about the economy. And to his credit, he made the point that we can’t afford the kind of politics that says it’s “my way or the highway.” I was encouraged by that. Here’s the problem:

In that same speech, he also came out against any plan to cut the deficit that includes any additional revenues whatsoever. He said -- I’m quoting him -- there is “only one option.” And that option and only option relies entirely on cuts. That means slashing education, surrendering the research necessary to keep America’s technological edge in the 21st century, and allowing our critical public assets like highways and bridges and airports to get worse. It would cripple our competiveness and our ability to win the jobs of the future. And it would also mean asking sacrifice of seniors and the middle class and the poor, while asking nothing of the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.

So the Speaker says we can’t have it “my way or the highway,” and then basically says, my way -- or the highway. (Laughter.) That’s not smart. It’s not right. If we’re going to meet our responsibilities, we have to do it together.

Now, I’m proposing real, serious cuts in spending. When you include the $1 trillion in cuts I’ve already signed into law, these would be among the biggest cuts in spending in our history. But they’ve got to be part of a larger plan that’s balanced -- a plan that asks the most fortunate among us to pay their fair share, just like everybody else.

And that’s why this plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations -- tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don’t get. And if tax reform doesn’t get done, this plan asks the wealthiest Americans to go back to paying the same rates that they paid during the 1990s, before the Bush tax cuts.

I promise it’s not because anybody looks forward to the prospects of raising taxes or paying more taxes. I don’t. In fact, I’ve cut taxes for the middle class and for small businesses, and through the American Jobs Act, we’d cut taxes again to promote hiring and put more money into the pockets of people. But we can’t afford these special lower rates for the wealthy -- rates, by the way, that were meant to be temporary. Back when these first -- these tax cuts, back in 2001, 2003, were being talked about, they were talked about temporary measures. We can’t afford them when we’re running these big deficits….

I am ready, I am eager, to work with Democrats and Republicans to reform the tax code to make it simpler, make it fairer, and make America more competitive. But any reform plan will have to raise revenue to help close our deficit. That has to be part of the formula. And any reform should follow another simple principle: Middle-class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. That’s pretty straightforward. It’s hard to argue against that. Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. There is no justification for it.

It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million. Anybody who says we can’t change the tax code to correct that, anyone who has signed some pledge to protect every single tax loophole so long as they live, they should be called out. They should have to defend that unfairness -- explain why somebody who’s making $50 million a year in the financial markets should be paying 15 percent on their taxes, when a teacher making $50,000 a year is paying more than that -- paying a higher rate. They ought to have to answer for it. And if they’re pledged to keep that kind of unfairness in place, they should remember, the last time I checked the only pledge that really matters is the pledge we take to uphold the Constitution.

Now, we’re already hearing the usual defenders of these kinds of loopholes saying this is just “class warfare.” I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare. I think it’s just the right the thing to do. I believe the American middle class, who’ve been pressured relentlessly for decades, believe it’s time that they were fought for as hard as the lobbyists and some lawmakers have fought to protect special treatment for billionaires and big corporations.

Nobody wants to punish success in America. What’s great about this country is our belief that anyone can make it and everybody should be able to try -- the idea that any one of us can open a business or have an idea and make us millionaires or billionaires. This is the land of opportunity. That’s great. All I’m saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay our fair share in taxes to contribute to the nation that made our success possible. We shouldn’t get a better deal than ordinary families get. And I think most wealthy Americans would agree if they knew this would help us grow the economy and deal with the debt that threatens our future.

It comes down to this: We have to prioritize. Both parties agree that we need to reduce the deficit by the same amount -- by $4 trillion. So what choices are we going to make to reach that goal? Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare. We can’t afford to do both.

Either we gut education and medical research, or we’ve got to reform the tax code so that the most profitable corporations have to give up tax loopholes that other companies don’t get. We can’t afford to do both.

This is not class warfare. It’s math. (Laughter.) The money is going to have to come from someplace. And if we’re not willing to ask those who’ve done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit and we are trying to reach that same target of $4 trillion, then the logic, the math says everybody else has to do a whole lot more: We’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor. We’ve got to scale back on the investments that have always helped our economy grow. We’ve got to settle for second-rate roads and second-rate bridges and second-rate airports, and schools that are crumbling.

That’s unacceptable to me. That’s unacceptable to the American people. And it will not happen on my watch. I will not support -- I will not support -- any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share. We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.

None of the changes I’m proposing are easy or politically convenient. It’s always more popular to promise the moon and leave the bill for after the next election or the election after that. That’s been true since our founding. George Washington grappled with this problem. He said, “Towards the payment of debts, there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; [and] no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant.” He understood that dealing with the debt is -- these are his words -- “always a choice of difficulties.” But he also knew that public servants weren’t elected to do what was easy; they weren’t elected to do what was politically advantageous. It’s our responsibility to put country before party. It’s our responsibility to do what’s right for the future.

And that’s what this debate is about. It’s not about numbers on a ledger; it’s not about figures on a spreadsheet. It’s about the economic future of this country, and it’s about whether we will do what it takes to create jobs and growth and opportunity while facing up to the legacy of debt that threatens everything we’ve built over generations.

And it’s also about fairness. It’s about whether we are, in fact, in this together, and we’re looking out for one another. We know what’s right. It’s time to do what’s right. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Our gadgets are not alive and they are not intelligent. This matters, because we happen to be both alive and intelligent ourselves and when we say the same of things that are neither we risk being rendered less alive and less intelligent in compensation.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

To listen is a sign of indifference to one's hearers.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street


Republican Death Cult

Dahlia Lithwick:
Either you believe in government or you don't. The current field of Republican contenders for president are hard at work to prove they don't. The best government, they insist, will leave you alone to repair your own ruptured kidney while your neighbors bring you casseroles and cigarettes. In recent weeks, leading Republicans have made plain they don't believe in government-run health care (lo, even unto death). They don't believe in inoculating children again HPV (lo, even unto death). They don't believe in government-run disaster relief (ditto, re death), the minimum wage, Social Security, or the Federal Reserve. There is nothing, it seems -- from protecting civil rights to safeguarding the environment -- that big government bureaucracies can't foul up. But there is one exception: killing people. These same Republicans who are dubious of government's ability to do anything right have an apparently bottomless faith in the capital-justice system. Everything is broken in America, they claim -- except the machinery of death.
Although Lithwick is framing these observations as the delineation of a contradiction or an hypocrisy, nothing could be clearer than that Movement Republicans are perfectly consistent here. "[W]hen you hear Republicans moan about the bureaucratic burdens and failures of government-run education, health care, and disaster-relief systems, doesn't any part of you wonder why they have such boundless confidence in the capital justice system that stands poised to execute Troy Davis next week in Georgia?" asks Lithwick.

Well, honestly, I have to say I do not. That is because I think Republicans like it when people they think of as "too different" from themselves suffer and die -- whether different because of the way they look, different because of the sorts of people their families contain, different because of the stresses they cope with in their lives, different because of what they want from their lives or for their kids, different because of the things they cherish in their hearts -- and I think they like it when government or when culture or when any other form of association makes these different ones suffer and die and they dislike it when these ameliorate their suffering or diminish their death.

Even the most strident "minarchists" and "anarcho-capitalists" jostling one another inside the Republican Pig Tent, declare that government has a legitimate and necessary role to play in Defense -- in an era when such Defense inevitably involves fantastically huge sums of money and hordes of people and huge swaths of territory and acres of machinery and ubiquitous surveillance, amounting to a Big Brother co-ordinating national and global economies while maintaining authoritarian command and control hierarchies millions upon millions of enlisted strong.

Why is all that okay for Republicans? Because, like the vast police state prison archipelago they also adore, Defense deals death and suffering to the different, and such death and suffering is what you worship in the Republican Death Cult. Republicans don't think government fairly and effectively administers the death penalty but cannot fairly and effectively administer anything else -- they don't care if the death penalty is unfair or ineffective. They just like seeing the corpses of the different pile up.

No doubt such assertions will be dismissed as partisan rancor or hippy pinko faggot hysteria or what have you. But I am compelled to point out that it would likely not have occurred to me to declare organized Republicanism in its contemporary consummation as a kind sub(cult)ure in the first place if it were not for the fact that the Republicans themselves declare themselves members of such a sub(cult)ure: A Culture of Life.

Survey the commitment of these "pro-life" cultists in support of civilian casualties in wars of choice, of lethal back-alley abortions, of poisonous material environments, of accidental executions of the wrongly convicted, of ever more guns and bullets in the streets, of children living in poverty, of seniors thrust out into the streets to fend for themselves if their investment portfoilios don't pan out, of billions dying in overexploited regions of the world of starvation, from unclean water and from treatable diseases all so that a miniscule minority can bask in a surfeit of privilege that yields them little meaning or satisfaction in life.

It takes little intelligence or imagination to make the leap from their declared membership in a "life cult" to the realization that Republicans are little more any more than a Death Cult. There's nothing inconsistent or paradoxical about their views, it's just that the obvious truth is almost too ugly and too terrible to believe.

You Know, Nobody Is Forcing You to Stay in Your Idiotic Robot Cult

“Transhumanists” could instead, after all, just be, you know, Democrats fighting for secular sustainable scientifically-literate progress and also, you know, nerds who enjoy science fiction and popular science blue-skying. Nobody is forcing you to be members of a Special Movement that is going to get you into Tech Heaven or Sweep the World, but at the cost of making you indulge in all this pseudo-scientific flim-flammery and self-promotional pseudo-wonkery and guru wannabe-ism and New Age texhno-transcendental True Believer whizbang.

Left Behind

German industrial and engineering conglomerate Siemens is to withdraw entirely from the nuclear industry. The move is a response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March, chief executive Peter Loescher said.... "The chapter for us is closed," he said, announcing that the firm will no longer build nuclear power stations. A long-planned joint venture with Russian nuclear firm Rosatom will also be cancelled... Siemens was responsible for building all 17 of Germany's existing nuclear power plants.... He also gave his backing to the German government's planned switch to renewable energy sources, calling it a "project of the century" and claiming Berlin's target of reaching 35% renewable energy by 2020 was achievable. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced at the end of May that all of the country's 17 nuclear reactors would be shut down by 2022. Before the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power accounted for 23% of electricity production in Germany.
Meanwhile, here in America, in thrall to the Republican Death Cult, it's still drill, baby, drill and lies about "clean coal."

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

It is truly perverse the number of commercials which indulge the fantasy of food endowed with speech… and with nothing to talk about except how desperately it wants to be eaten for lunch.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Cavaliers and Puritans are interesting for their costumes, not their convictions.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Organized Transhumanism and the Force of Futurological DIscourses

Adapted from another exchange over at Accelerating Future, one "Futunerd" asks:
Dale, do you think the organizations, which are just a tiny group of people, writing on some web sites have much or any influence on the vast majority of people…?
Organization amplifies influence. That self-identified "transhumanists" are a comparatively tiny and marginal sub(cult)ure does not rule out their having an impact. I think this is especially the case since they are saying things that have great appeal (which is far from saying they are either worthy or true): some to rubes eager to be told they don’t have to die because they might be "uploaded" into cyber-heaven or that easy wealth may come to them via nanobots any day now and so on; some to elite-incumbent corporate-military CEOs and footsoldiers eager to rationalize their privileges and also to be told in line with their narcissism that they are indeed The Protagonists of History; some to ignorant or sensationalist media types all too pleased to megaphone dramatic or simplified techno-triumphalist or disasterbatory narratives rather than help everyday people better understand complex technoscience and fraught developmental quandaries in their actual terms the better to deliberate on these in their own best interest. And so on. I talk about these and other points at greater length but still fairly concisely in Ten Reasons to Take Transhumanists Seriously.
people who just happen to think some ideas about technology and the future are interesting and worth thinking about, and perhaps doing something about…
I cannot stress often enough that neither “The Future” actually exists, nor does “technology” treated as a monolithic generality. These terms function as mystifications -- these words are smokescreens behind which far more fraught and complex and difficult issues are hidden, almost always to enable indulgence in evasions, deceptions, and wish-fulfillment fantasies. Rarely does such indulgence facilitate the "doing of something," indeed, more often than not, this sort of "thinking" enables others to "do something to" the one caught up in the deception, the distraction, the daydream.
Intel acknowledging the plausibility of the technological singularity idea of self-improving machines… could be said to be de facto transhumanists
I personally think we should describe as “transhumanists” only those who self-describe as such — just as we should when it comes to Randian Objectivists, Scientologists, Mormons, Bene Gesserits, and the like.

I have often noticed that advocates of transhumanism like to claim credit for scientific accomplishments they had nothing to do with or like to pretend greater prevalence by identifying themselves with broader intellectual currents that predate or subsume them. Also, critics of transhumanism are sometimes confronted by True Believers who want to declare any criticism of them somehow tantamount to a rejection of medicine or science or the role of logic in argument. Needless to say, medicine, science, and logic have managed quite well hitherto without self-described transhumanists to bolster them up in between their cheerleading for cryonics or mega-scale climate-engineering wet dreams and all the rest of their nonsense.

I personally take it very much amiss when I am sometimes declared a “closet transhumanist” either by bioconservative anti-transhumanists or even sometimes actual transhumanists, just because of some position I take up in defense of consensual non-normativizing medical-prosthetic-multicultural practices (like my strong Pro Choice politics, my rejection of the racist War on [some] Drugs, my support of neuro-atypical and deaf communities of affinity, or my defense of body artistry) or my championing of actually warranted consensus science and science education and medical research. None of these are views, I hasten to add, unique to or originating in transhumanism, of all things, while many views that are in fact uniquely or originally transhumanist strike me and most other secular consensual technoscientificially literate democratic progressives as utterly outlandish -- the presumably near-term developmental timelines and resulting “policy quandaries” of genetic posthumanization and superlongevity, “mind” uploading, desktop nanofactories yielding superabundance, history-shattering nonbiological superintelligence, better than real immersive VRs and so on.

One of the reasons I coined and use the phrase superlative futurology is to delineate a field of logical, topical, tropological connections between the overlapping discourses and subcultures and fandoms and organizational archipelago in which transhumanists, singularitarians, techno-immortalists, nano-cornucopiasts, geo-engineers play out their assumptions and aspirations, but also how these discourses and formations connect to more prevailing currents in marketing discourses and neoliberal developmentalist policy discourses, and also how these connect to deeper currents still from reductionisms, to utopianisms, to theological doctrines like omni-predication and dualism, to literary tropes from folk mythology to post-WW2 science fiction. It is crucial to the study and critique of futurological discourses that one not limit oneself merely to the expressed intentions of True Believers or the self-interested declarations of membership organizations.

That said, about your point in connection with Intel -- First, I would say not that “Intel [is] acknowledging the plausibility of the technological singularity” so much as that Intel is finding the figures and frames and formulations of singularity discourse congenial to its purposes.

I think the reasons for this congeniality are pretty obvious (rather like the pretense in so many of their television commercials that intelligent robots hobnob with coders in their employee cafeteria despite the fact that such robots neither exist nor even remotely threaten to arrive on the scene), and they certainly provide little reason to treat as more plausible the idea that human history is about to end due to the arrival of a Super Dad slash Robot God “who” will solve all our problems for us or reduce us all to computronium goo depending on how "friendly" we induce it to be according to the parochial prejudices of a priestly elite of self-appointed caped coder superheroes.

Second, I daresay any therapist or literary critic will have more useful things to say about such utterances than any scientist or policy wonk would. But, hey, I’m a muzzy humanities type, right, what do I know? By the way, I happen to think the person you should be reading to grasp the congeniality of singularitarian and other superlative futurological tropes to folks at Intel is Lanier on cybernetic totalism quite as much as anything I happen to have to say on that subject (which, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, is also quite a lot).