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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Last Week on the Sing-Off Afro Blue Outflanked Fugees' Flack…

…what will they accomplish tonight?

I hope the two manifestly most talented and intelligent a cappella groups on NBC's charming if somewhat cloying singing competition this season -- Afro Blue and Pentatonix -- will manage to slug it out all the way through to the finale. But I fear the comparatively less interesting and accomplished all boy scrum choruses will continue to garner undue praise from the judges with their endlessly tedious slapstick crapola and "so entertaining" boys-will-be-boys mugging for the camera.

I Give This News Two Snaps Up In A Circle

Heard via Colorlines:
Keenen Ivory Wayans will bring his classic sketch comedy “In Living Color” series back to Fox next spring. If the show does well it, could come back for good... Wayans is slated to produce two half-hour specials that will take a contemporary spin on the classic show that aired from 1990-1994. The show will feature “fresh, young talent” as well as musical performances by special guests. Wayans left the show that he started with his brother Damon after the third season due to disagreements with Fox over censorship.
Advice? Two words: "Fly" "Boys"

MundiMuster! Deadline TODAY! Sign the Petition to Tell HHS To Protect Women's Access To Private Insurance Coverage For Abortion

Planned Parenthood:
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is on the verge of issuing new rules that will determine whether millions of women are able to purchase private health insurance that includes abortion care.

Our opponents want to ban insurance coverage for abortion for every woman in America and make it impossible for millions to get affordable care -- and they're sending a flood of messages to HHS. We can't let them drown us out. Fill out the form below to submit your comment to HHS before the October 31 deadline.

Talk Back to the Banksters

When you receive unsolicited credit card and other helpful financial offers from the world-destroying big banksters, rather than simply throwing them away as no doubt you do now (I am assuming that few of the bright readership of Amor Mundi would still be falling for their sunny grinning-skull sales pitches), you should always use the enclosed pre-paid postage return envelope from here on out to mail all their materials back to them at their expense, ideally with a note recommending that the everyday people staffed out to open this stuff join a union because they are, after all, like the rest of us, the 99%.

I have noticed that some folks who are recommending this sort of talking back are proposing you make the return envelopes heavier and more rigid by enclosing cheap wood shivs or roofing shingles with the rest of the stuff you return, but there is a good chance that this could damage post office sorting machines. Remember, it's right-wing anti-civilizationists who want to deride, defund, and destroy the post office. We good civic-minded lefty civilizationists actually like things like functioning public postal services with unionized postal workers. Make sure your protests target the actual assholes.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Where everyone is quirky, no one is.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

One must never regret that a poet is drunk, but that drunkards are not always poets.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yeah, Ed, We Actually Already Noticed That

Longtime Republican strategist Ed Rogers, writing in the Washington Post in a matter-of-fact way about the psychology of his party:
Republicans are hierarchical, and we like order… And we don't have much tolerance for too many facts or too much information. In politics, a bumper sticker always beats an essay.
I find this quite bizarre. Why isn't this statement an indictment immediately preceding Rogers' permanent rejection of the party with which he has been associated all his life? Are these confessions the equivalent for him of another Rogers, Will's famous rueful observation, "I don't belong to an organized party -- I'm a Democrat?" Democrats might not be thrilled about our occasionally inefficacious lack of organizational focus, but to the extent that it arises out of our celebration of diversity it is a price we are usually more than willing to pay. Does Rogers think that the authoritarian idiocy he is recognizing in his party is a comparably charming quality? I am baffled.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

If your home isn't as sterile as an operating theater you are a failure as a human being. Also, you are in terrible danger.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Republican Militarism Gives Them Selective Keynesnesia (And What Lies Beneath)

Krugman discerns a "New Rule" for the Randroid Right: "government spending can’t create jobs, but cuts in government spending can destroy jobs -- as long as the jobs are in the defense sector."

Of course, every right-wing capitalist is always a crony capitalist first of all -- actually free or fair trade is for suckers! -- and so this New Rule really just amounts to the opportunistic truism that every Republican can be counted on to talk like a Keynesian, contrary to the endless macroeconomically illiterate market-fundamentalist pieties they spew otherwise, if only for a moment, as Krugman nicely puts the point, whenever "campaign contributors are about to lose a lucrative contract."

He elaborates: "Propose some kind of public investment, say in green energy, and the right screams 'Solyndra! Waste! Fraud!' But propose spending the same amount on weapons that we don’t need, and it’s all good. If only we could convince Republicans that solar power or mass transit were complete wastes, but that they would upset some foreign power -- the French, that’s it! -- a big stimulus program might sail through." So, once again, right-wing ideologues proceed in the manner of evil children with their faces smeared with stolen jam, a ready lie on their tongues, and Daddy's loaded gun in their hands.

But rather than simply stopping there, I do think it is instructive to realize that to the extent that so-called "principled" market libertarians/Movement Republicans [1] declare themselves advocates of the "spontaneous order" of presumably natural, presumably virtuous, presumably optimally efficient markets, and so carve out only the "barest" minimal government, one confined to police and military functions to protect given relations of property and commerce, as justifiable and yet [2] defense and policing in the actually-existing world involves the development and maintenance of a vast and fantastically sophisticated technoscientific apparatus and a substantial body of organized personnel, this means that [3] every "free marketeer," so-called, from the most "principled" to the most cynical, actually celebrates in the name of "free markets" a centrally planned economy and elaborate subsidized research and development policy all stealthed as "defense," and supported by a non-negligible portion of the supposedly "free" population subjugated to an explicitly authoritarian hierarchical command-and-control social structure.

Of course, there has never in fact been a "natural market" qua "spontaneous order" in the first place, since what passes for free exchange and legitimate ownership has always been articulated in the context of historically contingent laws and treaties and protocols and regulations and conventions, a dynamic ritual and material infrastructure generating a sense of trust and legitimacy and reasonable expectations, and so the whole "market naturalist" conceit is the most arrant nonsense imaginable, a conjuring trick in which customs are deliberately mistaken for optimalities or even inevitabilities as a way to preserve given social relations and distributions of force and resource as beyond political contestation even as they rely for their maintenance on political collaboration.

No wonder then that the "spontaneist" champion of what passes for natural market order here and now (never mind his no doubt accidental, incidental identification with the incumbent-elite beneficiaries of that order) will always depend on an essential recourse -- always figured as "exceptional" and not "essential" -- to military-police violence, across every layer of his discourse, from the disavowal of history that enables the spontaneist conceit at root all the way to hypocritical defenses of wasteful military spending to coddle pet constituencies in day to day editorializing.

More Than Cute Little Kids in Costumes

About half of the chocolate eaten in the U.S. comes from the Ivory Coast, where documented instances of forced child labor on cocoa farms persist despite a decade of pressure on chocolate companies to implement better oversight. And because corporations like Hershey's (which has recently been found to be exploiting workers here in the U.S., too) and Cadbury manufacture their products using beans from all over the world that get mixed together, it's highly likely that any chocolate bar you unwrap is made with at least some cacao grown by underage workers with little in the way of rights or compensation.

The U.S. State Department estimated that over 100,000 children work on Ivory Coast cocoa farms, and 10,000 of those could be victims of trafficking or enslavement, said Kelsie Evans, chocolate products coordinator for Equal Exchange, a fair trade co-op. A Knight-Ridder investigation in 2001 first gave the issue wide exposure, portraying the lives of boys as young as nine, who perform the backbreaking work of harvesting cocoa beans, while receiving beatings, inadequate meals, and little or no pay in return.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Your results will vary.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The American child educates its father and mother.

Friday, October 28, 2011

So Far, I Think the Relationship Between the Occupy Movement and Democratic Party Politics Is Absolutely Wholesome

BooMan writes:
[N]othing has disappointed me more than how the activist left pushed Obama to stop compromising with the Republicans and take his case to the people, and then six weeks ago when the president decided to do exactly that, the activist left decided to pour all their energy into the Occupy Movement… It's like something snapped after the debt ceiling fiasco. I think it destroyed hope all around… I just worry that the left is splintering at a dangerous time.
I personally think that there is enough complementarity in the way the Occupiers are directing attention to wealth disparity and resulting corruption and precarity and in Obama's cross-country pitch for his Jobs Bill that I do not see the left splintering or any concrete reason to fear it. Indeed, I think the rise of the Occupy Movement and Obama's recent abandonment of "capitulatory bipartisanship" are both enormously healthy and encouraging responses to the debt ceiling fiasco.

I do suspect that one of the reasons Obama feels so confident in continuing to draw a stronger contrast with Republicans than he had been doing hitherto in always offering them olive branches and providing excuses for their bad behavior is precisely because the Occupiers' strident populist framing is resonating so clearly with so many of the American people, and so I think the Occupy Movement is already bolstering better Democratic politics in a real sense.

More than that, it goes without saying that if the left is demoralized by the Republicans' deliberate obstruction and dysfunction and mischief and disinformation (and demoralizing the left is of course one of the explicit goals of their efforts), 2012 could be a total catastrophe for this country. But because of Occupy Wall Street I think there is a lot of activist energy being unleashed and attention to injustice being devoted and even some unexpected hope being inspired across the left.

Many have observed that the young people who were going to Obama rallies this time last Presidential cycle are now protesting in Occupy Movement assemblies. I think there is some truth in that, but I certainly don't think this is inevitably bad news for Obama rather than very good news.

Although I know many of the Occupiers are rightly skeptical of efforts at appropriation by partisan politics just as they are rightly skeptical of efforts at mis-representation by Establishment media, I still think it is important that Democratic politicians continue to express strong support for the Occupiers as well as frame their messages in ways that co-ordinate with the concerns that are expressed by the Occupiers, so that these forces strengthen one another rather than confuse the progressive message to the advantage of relentless Republican misinformation.

Also, the intensification of police violence is sure to continue as the Occupy movement shows no sign of abating, and it is crucial that independent media as well as more progressive Establishment media outfits like MSNBC direct attention to the inevitable abuses so that sympathies remain with the Occupiers. In the absence of such attention, these crackdowns will tend to add insult to injury, not only violating the Constitutional rights of peaceful assembly and protest but stigmatizing the protests with a generalized association with a disorder and violence they are victimized by making them seem both riskier and so less popular and also, incredibly, less legitimate themselves just because they are targets of illegitimate violence.

I personally don't think the Occupiers should fear co-optation by the Democrats, but neither do I think the Democrats should try to instrumentalize the Occupiers. The only hope the Democratic Party has is to reject its disastrous Reagan-epoch flirtation with corporatism via the DLC and people in the pocket of finance and insurance lobbyists, and embrace again its originary ethos as the Party of People Who Work for a Living.

The shriveling of the DLC, the jettisoning of so many Blue Dogs over the last few election cycles (the number of Blue Dogs thrown overboard in the 2010 mid-terms was one of the very few silver linings of that catastrophe), the increasing frequency with which Democrats defend and even celebrate the necessity of good government to general welfare and justice for all point to precisely this re-embracing of a populist ethos. To the extent that this is true, it is plain that the language of Occupiers -- the 99% versus the 1% -- are obviously complementary with a return to a more proudly progressive Democratic Party.

When the people lead, the leaders will follow. I think Obama's campaign often voiced precisely this sentiment, insisting that the scale of our problems as a country in the aftermath of the Bush administration would require all of our efforts. When he said that sort of thing in his campaign, clearly he didn't know the half of it. I think the scale of the catastrophe he would face was greater by far than he expected it would be, and I think the scale of obstruction he would face from Republicans was also greater by far than he expected. But the basic truth that we must all be the change we want to see in the world is as true as it ever was.

I still think that one of the tests (not by any means the only one, but a real and important test nonetheless) by which we will eventually measure the power of the Occupy Movement to effect real and lasting progressive change in the world will be to see if the position of the Democratic Party is stronger or weaker going into 2012 in the aftermath of the Movement's height of influence.

I personally am not enormously concerned about Obama's prospects for re-election (although I would have probably felt much the same about Carter's prospects against that B-movie actor), but I do think it is vital that Obama's victory be strong enough to have coattails to re-gain the House and keep the Senate in the hands of Democrats else it doesn't much matter if Obama holds the White House given the nihilism of today's Movement Republicans (well, Supreme Court appointments still matter enormously, but you get my gist). Anyway, I think it is still an open question whether the Occupy Movement will indeed strengthen rather than weaken the position of the Democrats in the final analysis.

There is always a real danger that a righteous and radical critique will inspire a "plague on both their houses!" dis-engagement with partisan politics that renders citizens indifferent to differences that make a difference at the partisan level to the cost of their own desired outcomes. But I must say that there is no inevitability about this, and I for one don't see much sign that this is playing out in the politics or in the reception of the Occupy Movement.

BooMan goes on to comment, "I have the sense that the Republican talking points and arguments seem a little more detached from reality and a little more irrelevant or impertinent than they did before the Occupy Movement got started. It's just a feeling, but if it's right it might mean that the debate is moving in a more favorable direction." I think this is definitely right, and I think that the resulting befuddling and cracking of the usually seamless Republican disinformation echo chamber is a real boon for Democrats while at the same the power of the Occupy Movement's progressive populist message is bolstering to the best impulses of the Democrats themselves in ways that are no less a boon to their political efficacy.

As I said, I do think the jury is still out when it comes to the question what the impact on Democratic politics the Occupy Movement will finally have. I for one feel more hopeful about our prospects because the Occupy Movement has erupted -- if anything I have been a bit flabbergasted and terrified that the lack of such a movement over the last few years especially might have indicated an insurmountable acquiescence and malaise in the face of planetary precarity and environmental catastrophe had set in to the ruin of us all -- and I think it is more likely that Democratic Party politics will be bolstered by an energized and broadly disseminated populist progressivism sometimes complementing Democratic messaging, sometimes pushing Democrats into alignment with the people from the Party's own left.

Today's Random Wilde

One has a right to judge a man by the effect he has over his friends.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

I wasn't interested in what you were selling before, but now that you are shouting at the top of your lungs about the damn thing I must say it is becoming more alluring by the second.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beginnings of Accountability? Beginnings of the End of Our New Gilded Age?

Merscorp Inc., the operator of a national mortgage registry used by banks, was sued by Delaware’s attorney general for allegedly using deceptive practices that hide information from borrowers. The MERS database, which tracks ownership interests in mortgages, impeded the ability of homeowners to fight foreclosures and obscures its data, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said in a complaint filed today. “MERS engaged and continues to engage in a range of deceptive trade practices that sow confusion among consumers, investors and other stakeholders in the mortgage finance system, damage the integrity of Delaware’s land records, and lead to unlawful foreclosure practices,” Biden said…

Biden described MERS as “a front organization” at a news conference today in Delaware… Separately, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed Merscorp for information about how mortgage servicers including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. use the system... MERS faces multiple unrelated lawsuits by counties over allegations that the company cheated them out of mortgage filing fees…

“The MERS system has raised serious questions about who owns what in America,” Biden said at the press conference... Biden asked the court to bar MERS from initiating any foreclosure actions in the company’s name, from acting as a nominal mortgage lender when it didn’t have a “beneficial interest” in the property and from recording such mortgages in the company’s name. Biden also asked the court to stop MERS from assigning or taking any other actions on Delaware mortgages until the company’s system has been “audited and corrected,” according to the complaint. The court should order MERS to correct the chain of title on Delaware mortgages that were recorded in county offices, Biden said.
Follow the link for an edifying glimpse of the defensive crouch produced in the accused by Biden's blisteringly strong charges, and try to savor before you spit out the weasel words that spew from that ignominious posture. It seems to me that these lawsuits, Obama's nationwide campaign for the Jobs Bill, various state-based recall efforts against GOP union-busting and mass voter disenfranchisement overreach, as well as the Occupiers on the front pages spotlighting that lethal concentration of Harrington's Other America into our new Gilded Age's 99% versus the 1% are hardly identical or seamlessly continuous, but they are productively complementary and cross-pollinating, rhetorically, organizationally, agitationally, practically.

To complete the picture, to grasp the discordant backdrop against which these forces are buttressing one another despite their differences, just listen to Republican Presidential candidates out-crowing one another about tax cuts for the rich at their circus debates while the Republican Congress (with a ruling majority in the House and a ruling minority in the filibuster Senate, yes, it's a Republican Congress that has historically unprecedented disapproval ratings right now) continues gleefully to obstruct every effort, however modest, of the Democrats to invest in jobs in the midst of universal catastrophe, and while Paul Randroid Ryan weeps fat wet tears from his dead doll-eyes at the very thought that abused starving wronged punished Americans might stop patriotically sucking corporate cock for a split second.

Shocking True Confession Just Heard on Hardball

Chris Matthews: "That's what this show is all about: people arguing inarguable positions."

Statement Today by My Representative Barbara Lee

I shared my outrage and grave concern about the police brutality in Oakland directly with the Mayor. My thoughts go out to the injured and especially Scott Olsen. I strongly support the occupy movement and continue to stand with the peaceful protesters in this struggle for economic justice and equality.

Occupy Oakland Calls for a General Strike, Wednesday, November 2

via Calitics:

Below is the proposal passed by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly on Wednesday October 26, 2011 in reclaimed Oscar Grant Plaza. 1607 people voted. 1484 voted in favor of the resolution, 77 abstained and 46 voted against it, passing the proposal at 96.9%. The General Assembly operates on a modified consensus process that passes proposals with 90% in favor and with abstaining votes removed from the final count.


We as fellow occupiers of Oscar Grant Plaza propose that on Wednesday November 2, 2011, we liberate Oakland and shut down the 1%.

We propose a city wide general strike and we propose we invite all students to walk out of school. Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city.

All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.

While we are calling for a general strike, we are also calling for much more. People who organize out of their neighborhoods, schools, community organizations, affinity groups, workplaces and families are encouraged to self organize in a way that allows them to participate in shutting down the city in whatever manner they are comfortable with and capable of.

The whole world is watching Oakland. Let's show them what is possible.

The Strike Coordinating Council will begin meeting everyday at 5pm in Oscar Grant Plaza before the daily General Assembly at 7pm. All strike participants are invited. Stay tuned for much more information and see you next Wednesday.

When the Emperor Is Naked…

…the Movement to Expose His Nakedness Does Not Publish a Manifesto, But Merely, Physically, Publicly, Points.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's Statement Last Night

Jean Quan’s complete statement reads as follows:
We support the goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement: we have high levels of unemployment and we have high levels of foreclosure that makes Oakland part of the 99% too. We are a progressive city and tolerant of many opinions. We may not always agree, but we all have a right to be heard.

I want to thank everyone for the peaceful demonstration at Frank Ogawa Park tonight, and thank the city employees who worked hard to clean up the plaza so that all activities can continue including Occupy Wall Street. We have decided to have a minimal police presence at the plaza for the short term and build a community effort to improve communications and dialogue with the demonstrators.

99% of our officers stayed professional during difficult and dangerous circumstances as did some of the demonstrators who dissuaded other protestors from vandalizing downtown and for helping to keep the demonstrations peaceful. For the most part, demonstrations over the past two weeks have been peaceful. We hope they continue to be so.

I want to express our deepest concern for all of those who were injured last night, and we are committed to ensuring this does not happen again. Investigations of certain incidents are underway and I will personally monitor them.

We understand and recognize the impact this event has had on the community and acknowledge what has happened. We cannot change the past, but we are committed to doing better.

Most of us are part of the 99%, and understand the spirit of
the Occupy Wall Street Movement. We are committed to honoring their free speech right.

Finally, we understand the demonstrators want to meet with me and Chief Jordan. We welcome open dialogue with representatives of Occupy Wall Street members, and we are willing to meet with them as soon as possible.
Clearly this statement reflects awareness of the international outrage over the surreal violence of the Oakland police, and given the historical context in which this violence took place one can scarcely know how long this resolve to minimize the disruptive and threatening police presence will last or how diligent will be the promised "inquiries" into police brutality and misconduct. The Occupiers aren't calling the reclaimed Oscar Grant Plaza by that name for kicks, you know. The framing of the Oakland police as "99% professional" seems at once, to say the least, inaccurate and too cute by half. Still, the Mayor's tone of absolute contrition and support for the Occupiers was the appropriate one, and I understand that so far the police specter has indeed not re-appeared and that the Occupation is still strong and absolutely undaunted.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Only the decorative deceptions of the advertizing agency deserve the label "artisan" whenever this term attaches in their commercials to mass packaged productions and fast food extrusions.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

As one reads history, one is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted.

Every Time A Republican Speaks of "Job Creators" Simply Substitute "Parasite" And You Will Have Arrived Much Closer to the Truth of the Matter all ideology people and their circumstances appear upside down as in a camera obscura... -- Marx

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

After Yesterday

I've been in a bleak enraged mood all day, my thoughts are racing completely incoherently. I still haven't gotten over the tears of a couple of students of mine who came in late to class yesterday and were among the Occupiers in Oakland who got caught up in an early wave of the violence of the Oakland police against protestors there. Any reader of this blog will surely already know that this police violence only grew more intense and more outrageous as the day and night wore on, and that there have been comparable incidents of misconduct on the part of authorities in some of the other Occupations, notably Atlanta's.

I live in Oakland, heck I live on Broadway in Oakland, and I moved here from Atlanta. Whatever my worries about how Democratic party politics in a key election year would interact with the radical democratic politics of Occupy Wall Street, I have always been thrilled by the fact of the protests themselves, by the obvious righteousness of their cause, by their many accomplishments.

I can't say that I have any great insights to offer about all of this, but I do want to say that there is something absolutely wrongheaded about descriptions of the shift and escalation of police violence against the protests over the last couple of days as if this represents some kind of shift or "turning point" toward violence in the protests themselves. The protest is as it ever was, it is the desperation and misconduct of various city authorities that has changed.

There is something deeply wrong about armed police attacking peaceful assemblies with tear gas and rubber bullets in the name of "public safety." The paradox is obvious of course, and it does not play out to the benefit of authorities on YouTube or Establishment News whatever the spin -- a guy does two tours in Iraq and then comes home to get shot in the face for protesting an injustice pretty much everybody agrees with him about, yeah, go ahead, spin away -- but this nonsense about police forces engaging in violence against public citizens exercising Constitutional rights in the name "public safety" is all the more nonsensical when you realize that the whole point of the protests is to expose and denounce how wealth concentration and corrupt corporate governance and unequal access to law render the public profoundly unsafe, insecure, precarious in the deepest most abiding sense.

There is also something wrong with those "concerned critics" who are expressing worry that the Occupiers may get distracted over the question of their right to "The Park" rather than "the real issues" -- even though these Occupations have been indispensably about claiming spaces as public in public by the public themselves from the start as a visceral rebuke to the catastrophic privatization that has resulted in the profound dysfunction and injustice which I presume are "the real issues" these critics are worrying the Occupiers might lose sight of. The occupation of these public space is the performance through which "the real issues" and their solution are being expressed in the protests.

There is also something terribly wrong about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan (who I voted for goddammit) airily declaring all the protestors are "anti-government" on my tee vee despite the fact that in our democracy government is of by and for the people and these protestors are the people protesting government corruption and malfeasance and misconduct considered such by majorities of the people whether they are explicit Occupiers or not all in order to make that government accountable and therefore better. What could be more patriotic?

There is of course also something crazy about Republicans like doll-eyed dolt Randroid Ryan claiming that President Obama's efforts to pass a flabbergastingly necessary Jobs Bill and pointing to obvious facts that everybody already knows about wealth disparity is somehow "sowing seeds of class resentment" as if anybody who isn't a goddamn clueless millionaire doesn't know the score already and feel plenty resentful about the endless coddling of the rich and endless pain meted out on everybody else. But Republican crazytown is more than familiar by now, just as increasing police violence against Constitutionally protected assemblies and protests is getting all too familiar these days as well.

And yet last night hit me differently somehow anyway. I don't know what else to say. Police are part of the 99% too -- the protests are here to stay and the politics have far to travel.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

How apt that the vast tragedy of for-profit insurance peddles its wasteful skimming and lethal scamming in the form of little comedy sketches.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

When I think of all the harm that book* has done, I despair of ever writing anything equal to it.

*Wilde refers to The Bible

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Long Teaching Day

It's Tuesday... not so much blogging from here on out. Back tomorrow.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

However much money she made in the exchange, it is not finally to the advantage of anyone that the name Jaime Lee Curtis once reminded us of movies but now bowel movements.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

There seems to be some curious connection between piety and poor rhymes.

Racism Is Fun!

Asked why he questioned President Obama's copiously documented and repeatedly demonstrated citizenship this weekend, occasional secessionist traitor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said, according to PoliticalWire:
"It's a good issue to keep alive. It's fun to poke at him."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Judith Butler at the People's Mic


I came here to lend my support for you today, to offer my solidarity, for this unprecedented display of democracy and popular will. People have asked, "So, what are the demands? What are the demands all these people are making?" Either they say there are no demands, and that leaves your critics confused, or they say that the demands for social equality and economic justice are impossible demands and impossible demands, they say, are just not practical. If hope is an impossible demand, then we demand the impossible. If the right to food and shelter and employment are impossible demands, then we demand the impossible. If it is impossible to demand that those who profit from the Recession redistribute their wealth and cease their greed, then, yes, we demand the impossible. But it is true, there are no demands that you can submit to arbitration here, because we're not just demanding economic justice and social equality, we are assembling in public, we are coming together as bodies in alliance, in the street and in the square. We are standing here together, making democracy, enacting the phrase, "We the People." Thank you!


It's a lovely little paragraph, devoted to two key observations. The first is by now familiar, dispensing with the nonsense that the Occupiers make no demands when it is so obvious to everybody the flabbergasting injustice to which the Occupiers are responding, just as it is obvious what, as a general matter, the proper response to this obvious injustice should be.

The point of framing demands in terms of "the impossible" here, I am supposing, is that the response is so far from mysterious or impossible, indeed, to italicize how everything is frankly obvious and easy and modest. It is obvious, of course, that we must at the very least redistribute insanely concentrated wealth -- especially given the fraud and dysfunction that still enables this concentration under the present circumstances -- at least enough to provide all citizens with food and shelter and livelihood. This is the farthest imaginable thing from an impossible demand: if anything it is a heartbreakingly modest way to define social equality and economic justice. And this is what critics would declare incomprehensible or impossible, of all things?

The second observation Butler makes is a little less commonplace, and to me just as if not finally more important. In describing the Occupation in terms of "bodies in alliance," for one thing, Butler connects the observation about the nature of the demands being made to a vital reminder about the substance of the political as such. In Occupying "the street, the square" these spaces are transformed not only physically but in their meaning. Spaces that were devoted to the business of maintaining an unfair, inequitable, exploitative status quo become spaces in which people also protest and contest that business.

And as is by now well known, public discourse across layers of Establishment Media and among elected representatives and variously celebrated figures has transformed the space of public discourse in response to this transformation of public space. Where pundits and politicians had been talking for months about the surreally misplaced "priority" of dealing with long term deficits by cutting spending on services and supports for those who are suffering here and now in their millions because of the misconduct of elites, suddenly pundits and politicians are talking instead about the crisis of joblessness, the suffering of the long-term unemployed and those who have lost their homes due to predatory lending practices, and about the continued affluence of bad actors in this recession paid for by their victims in the midst of their ongoing distress.

Through the transformation of the spaces that have enabled "Business As Usual" into spaces that also attest to recognition of and resistance to this rank bloodyminded business the whole discursive- practical- institutional- tissue out of which "Demands" are made and heard and translated into actions in the first place has been transformed in mere weeks.

Critics wish to denigrate a lack of demands! It is precisely the lack of efficacious demand that is being filled, the better to be fulfilled, with the filling of the street and the square with these "bodies in alliance."

This leads to Butler's celebration in her brief statement of politics in the Arendtian sense. Politics for Hannah Arendt -- the politics Butler is discerning and enjoying in company with the Occupiers of Wall Street -- is never properly reducible to the instrumental business of translating means unilaterally and unanimously into ends. For Arendt, the essence of political power and of freedom is not a matter of capacitation, an enhancement of our force to accomplish business, but refers to an enacted state of legibility, of meaningfulness, of legitimacy, of real pleasure that can only emerge peer-to-peer, fragile, even evanescent, in "the space of appearances," as it were, "in the street and in the square," one of a number of states, not all of them political in this sense, without which we are not fully human beings.

That we testify to our hopes and our histories in the presence of our fellows yields history-transforming results in the world, victories, implementations, works, monuments... but we are wrong when we are so distracted by such results that we fail to grasp that the substance of our freedom and our political power is already materialized in the testament, the tale, the judgment itself, offered up in the midst of a diversity of "bodies in alliance."

Bodies in alliance form a body in turn, an assembly, a congress: they body forth the equity-in diversity of folks ineradicably different in their situations and capacities and aspirations, and yet "coming together" "standing together" as peers, as sharers of a world and of a moment, offering up judgments and expressions of creativity and, yes, of demands, too.

"Power springs up whenever people get together and act in concert," writes Arendt in her Reflections on Violence and this power is not in political terms most essentially a means to an end (even if co-ordination and collaboration obviously can and does arise out of such collectivity to yield desirable ends that are otherwise unattainable) but an "end in itself."

While it is true, and obviously true, that critics who claim confusion as to the "Demands" of the Occupiers are mischievously denying the obvious, the better to deny the equally obvious reasonableness and realizability of these obvious demands, Butler is also insisting, even in such a brief statement, that we would be profoundly wrong in speaking of demands to miss the obvious vitality and power of this "unprecedented display of democracy" on its own terms, in its beauty as it plays out here and now.

It is in the coming-together in resistance to injustice, it is in the emergence of a world otherwise in spaces once defined by injustice, it is in the transformation of the contours of deliberation and the terms in which demands can legibly be made and the significance of events judged, it is in the palpable pleasure of citizens and strangers connecting and disputing and building in their differences that much of the power and the freedom of the Occupation substantially consists. It is the materialization of "We The People" who will make demands, who will judge events, who will have a say in public decisions that affect their lives, who will criticize public figures, who will re-make what democracy means now, who will declare "this is what democracy looks like," who will re-make and so "make democracy" "in the street, in the square" itself. Demands are made and heard and enacted and reacted to in a world -- and the Occupiers are not just making demands but re-making the world in which demands are made.

I think this is what Judith Butler is trying to draw our attention to most of all in her brief statement.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Rather than resigning ourselves to the endless ramification and amplification of advertizing in our lives what if instead we tried suing for harassment?

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

I quite agree with Dr. Nordau's assertion that all men of genius are insane, but Dr. Nordau forgets that all sane people are idiots.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Occupy SCOTUS (Also, Too, Vote for Obama)

Cornel West's righteous protest and subsequent arrest on the steps of the Supreme Court one week ago today provides Dahlia Lithwick a useful occasion to remind us that the Citizens United ruling, while dangerous, disastrous, and dingbatted, is hardly singular for all that but is in fact a representative decision in a suite of profoundly anti-democratizing corporatist decisions by the Roberts Court. And just as Citizens United is but the iceberg tip of Roberts' pernicious plutocratic Court so too resisting Citizens United must be taken as a key but also symbolic fight in a larger struggle against a host of recent epochal actions made by the Roberts Court.

I would be remiss if I did not mention in this context both -- first -- that the unprecedented obstructionism of the Republicans in the Senate has yielded a predictably unprecedented crisis of empty court benches as these Republican ideologues stonewall the confirmation of perfectly qualified judges across the board creating yet another crisis in the government that they so despise in word and deed even though for some reason some people keep electing them to govern in spite of their stated and proved hostility to the very idea of governing, and also -- second -- that the next President will likely appoint justices to the Supreme Court hence either consolidating or breaking the hold of the plutocrats (not to mention sexist assholes who want to take away women's right to choose) in that Court, one more reason to vote for Obama even if your despondency over your dashed hopes that he would be your own Personal Jesus and Sooper Dad makes you want to pretend that declaring "a plague on both your houses!" and taking your ball and going home represents some kind of radical politics in the service of progress rather than a profoundly disgusting selective abandonment of an indispensable however unedifying part of the field on which actual progress is convulsively exhaustingly heartbreakingly made.

The Tea Partiers Have Little in Common With the Occupiers

The Tea Partiers are angry because they think government is giving too much to Black people, the Occupiers of Wall Street and elsewhere are angry because they think government is giving too much to filthy rich people. The first movement is wrong, evil, and stupid, the second movement is factually and actually obviously correct.

Those who propose that there is an interesting and possibly productive overlap between these movements are focusing on superficial similarities (often ineptly mistaking racist dog-whistle statements about "taxes" and "corruption" and "Big Brother" for actual propositional substance) while missing the glaring and irreconcilable difference between these movements.

Just as one is mostly wrong to think of "independents" as anything but disaffected Republicans who think like Republicans (if "thinking" is the word for it) but are now ashamed to say so given GOP antics, one is mostly wrong to think of "Tea Partiers" as anything but yet another stale repackaging of the usual white-racist patriarchal theocratic Base of the Republican Party since Nixon. One understands almost nothing about the Occupiers by reading them through tea-tainted spectacles.

Krugthulu's Elegy for the EU

What a tragedy. A rich, productive continent, which has produced arguably the most decent societies in human history, is tearing itself apart because its elite insisted on embarking on a dubious monetary project, and now can’t bring itself to take the steps necessary to give that project a chance of working.
For those "necessary steps," incredibly pithily put, follow the link.

We may hope that the EU will discover that they remain rich, productive, and decent (with substantial caveats given still-resonant colonial legacies), and that they are much more than a "dubious monetary project" precisely when that project fails. Rather than "tearing itself apart" the EU could listen to its vibrant street, jettison its failed elites and their punitive austerity recommendations, and hold together through recourse to a shared if fledgling secular sustainable social democratic rights culture. The planet needs a sustainable democratic socialist EU to help show the rest of us the way out of our long neoliberal nightmare. It should take more than predictable Euro-fail and desperate last gasps from conservative dead men walking like Sarkozy, Merkel, and Cameron to stop the EU train toward Green Democracy and a world worth living in.

Perry Birther-Flirting in Hopes for a Second Act Among the Loons

Rick Perry, in an interview, fails yet again to provide definitive proof that he doesn't fuck goats.

Send in the Clowns: Why the GOP Is Likely to Be Sarah Palins All the Way Down for Some Time to Come

Jonathan Bernstein asserts that many or even most Republicans are now "running for President" not because they are qualified or even really seeking that office in earnest, but as a way of raising their public profile to sell books or pitch tee vee shows or get bigger fees for speaking gigs.

If he is right about that -- and I believe he is -- then it seems especially dangerous that the GOP is still regarded, perhaps more or less inertially at this point, as one of two legitimate political parties in this country fielding candidates to represent and administer it. It is dangerous because this means that a non-negligible number of profoundly unqualified unserious people, some of them not even really wanting the job but taking it on as a kind of unpleasant risk of their marketing strategy, are going to keep getting invested with the power to do untold damage to millions upon millions of people.
Why is this year’s Republican presidential field so, well, weird? … [It's] the growth of the market for conservative books, television shows, and speaking engagements has made a presidential run a good brand-builder for those not seriously seeking to be president but eager to exploit that market…. [T]here’s been a marked increase in fringe candidates who are “running for president” for reasons other than actually attempting to obtain the Republican nomination. There have always been ideological minorities who used the process to press their views or issues… But what’s relatively new, and is now apparently more attractive, is using the presidential race as a way to create or build one’s brand in the conservative marketplace…. Their incentive is to stake out the most extreme positions and court controversy in order to get themselves noticed by the most partisan customers of conservative books, talk shows, and other products, instead of developing carefully constructed issue positions designed to build party-wide support… [N]ow the GOP field is lousy with them, from Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum to Michele Bachmann to the man of the hour, Herman Cain. Of course, some of these “candidates” may think of themselves as serious contenders or, perhaps, ideological crusaders. But their behavior reveals them to be more concerned with selling books or getting a syndicated radio show… My guess is that Republicans will be dealing with this situation for many elections to come.
Note that Bernstein doesn't even mention Sarah Palin, who didn't run for President, but who managed very much to be a part of the process anyway, stalking the early actual contenders, all the while pretending to flirt with announcing her own run, in a cross-country campaign bus, yet, all in order to keep her face out there and sell more books and pitch more product. I agree that today's GOP will likely remain vulnerable to this deranging celibridacy phenomenon for quite some time.

Just as browning, secularizing, urbanizing, planetizing demographics feed an emerging democratic majority and also, importantly, will push it wholesomely leftward, these same developments will impel the ever more marginalized white-racist patriarchal incumbent and elite minorities who make up the sad stupid sick coalition of the Republican party to retreat ever more desperately into the alternate-virtual reality of separatist Fox News and megachurch and hate radio and big print hardback polemic archipelago reflecting back at them the reassuring delusive verities of the lost world.

It is the inevitable prominence of such virtual reality enabling celebrity reactionaries at the heart of the Movement Republican project that suggests the GOP Presidential contest qua self-promotional slog will remain with Movement Republicanism through its twilight years as a structural matter.

For a time, remember, the desperation inspired by the increasing marginalization of white-racist patriarchal theocrats invested the GOP with the ferocious energy and disciplined unanimity of culture warriors fighting the last war, yielding after the early humiliations of the Birchers and Goldwater and Nixon first the sunny suicide of the Reagan Devolution, then the Gingrich Contract Hit on America, then the Killer Clown administration of George W. Bush that lowered taxes while embarking on illegal immoral ruinously expensive war adventures based on lies, and then the consummating lunacy of Summer of Tea which won the superannuated Republican "Young Guns" the House of Representatives and a number of Governor's Mansions and brought governance to a halt and then sent millions of citizens to revolt in State Capitals and in the streets at last.

It is crucial to realize that the left won the culture wars and the right failed to achieve its goal of the total dismantlement the New Deal that has fueled them since WWII and now they can no longer exploit incumbent America's deep-seated racism or paranoia sufficiently to manage the feat: America's bigots and puritans must observe instead for the rest of their miserable lives as Democrats in a multicultural America concerned with shared planetary problems of sustainability, inequity, violence and immersed in peer-to-peer media formations partner with the people of a democratizing world to build an American social democracy in the context of secular sustainable equitably democratic federalist planetary governance.

The GOP will either become a more or less regional neo-confederate rump in which bitter "Real American" assholes plot the Rise of Dixie or the Fourth Reich until they die unremarked by the world, or the GOP will return to viability by finding a way to reorient conservatism into an actually governing philosophy, appealing to a diverse continental electorate, and sensitive to factually real planetary problems. Until then, a Movement Conservatism that did untold damage to the world but nonetheless failed in its objectives will long remain instead a space of fervent denialism, yielding up a harvest of figures whose prominence in Republican precincts derives from their enablement of this denialism rather than their interest in governance in reality.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Loan sharks and mail-order pawn shops are advertizing on prime time television now. Things are going well.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The people of America understand money-making, but not how to spend it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Christine "Not-A-Witch" O'Donnell Endorses Mitt "Possibly-A-Gnome" Romney

"Right now a lawn gnome could beat Obama in 2012, so, yes, we can be picky, but not nasty or malicious."


Now that the Republican Presidential candidates have loudly sided with the richest one percent of Americans against the interests of the 99% in their rejection of the popular Occupy protests and their repudiation of popular jobs bills paid for by minutely raising the taxes of the richest of the rich, and now that the Republican Presidential candidates have loudly rejected the ending after nearly a decade of America's illegal immoral unpopular catastrophically destructive socially destabilizing ruinously expensive war and occupation of Iraq one has to suppose they are at last perfectly poised in both domestic and foreign policy terms to prevail in the upcoming popular election?

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

We urge you to call and order within the next five minutes! Your supplies of credulity are limited.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Learned conversation is either the affectation of the ignorant or the profession of the mentally unemployed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cap and Trade Comes to California

KQED Climate Watch:
It’s official…. California has cap & trade… [T]he program starts ramping up next year. Today’s approval by the state’s Air Resources Board was described by chair Mary Nichols as like “moving a large army a few feet in one direction.” The objective that “army” is marching… toward is… the fulfillment of California’s goal to roll back greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the end of this decade… [T]he program is expected to produce at most, 20% of the hoped-for reductions in carbon emissions. The rest will come from other measures… under or related to the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, more widely known as AB 32. Those other measures include stricter standards for tailpipe emissions, a “low-carbon fuels standard” (still being worked on), and the ambitious-but-attainable goal to get a third of the state’s electricity from renewable energy sources, also by 2020. The next major milestone will come late next year, when the state begins meting out permits or “allowances” to release carbon dioxide into the air. At first, 90% of those permits will be given away but analysts have estimated that within a few years, at least half will be auctioned off at a price estimated by Thomson Reuters Point Carbon analytical service to be about $36 a ton. To most of us, that doesn’t mean much by itself, but for a refinery pumping out a few million tons a year… that adds up to some serious revenue for the state. How those “carbon dollars” will be spent is one aspect of the program that has yet to be worked out.
Market fundamentalist interventions like Cap and Trade are far from an adequate response to climate change, but the inability to implement even such conservative and comparatively painless regulations have come to function in my view as a larger drag and obstacle to America's capacity to mobilize the collective will to deal with environmental problems in more effective ways that will demand far more radical changes to our accustomed way of life. Doing something at last, even if it is not enough, will free us to do more, and eventually enough more to be enough.

As things have stood for so long now, an endlessly frustrated and frustrating inability to conjure a will the least bit equal to conspicuous shared problems has become an obstacle to reasonably radical education, agitation, and organization that has inspired in too many otherwise informed and conscientious people either dangerous descents into cynical and acquiescent despair on the one hand or dangerous leaps into megalomaniacal futurological wish-fulfillment fantasies of techno-fixes and authoritarian "geo-engineering" boondoggles.

It is encouraging that in California the cap and trade program is one piece in a suite of regulations and programs. As you see, key details are still being struggled over even as elements of the program are being implemented, but given the role of committed environmentalists in the process (else this would not be happening here at all, after all) it remains to be seen how strong this suite of regulations and programs can be made to be how soon.

It is also encouraging to remember that California is one of the ten largest economies in the world, and so forcing institutions into compliance here will have a wholesome effect across the country even as comparable efforts at federal regulations have so far been less successful (that's why it is so important for California to be a leader in providing a healthcare public option and, better, a single-payer system as soon as we can).

Never underestimate the capacity of Eurozone environmental and fair trade and transparency regulations in conjunction with comparable regulations from California to form a pincer pressuring America as a whole toward greater sustainability, fairness, and sanity simply by making the costs of selective noncompliance a nuisance not worth bothering over (especially given the fact that a more sustainable, fairer, more transparent world is simply an incomparably better world to live in and work in even if you are a stupid shortsighted greedy asshole who has to be dragged into sense kicking and screaming every inch of the way).

When it comes to California, State politics are often functionally national politics -- this is one of the special responsibilities of being a California citizen, one of the reasons why it is so important for California citizens who would be politically active to be as aware of and as active in Sacramento as they are Washington.

The Romney Rule

If this ad by the Democratic Priorities USA PAC is a preview of the framing of 2012, then clearly we can expect a campaign that foregrounds our dangerously unhealthy wealth concentration, conspicuously unfair regressive taxes, and dysfunctional corrupt plutocracy as much as 2008's campaign foregrounded Iraq. This is a good thing. I strongly believe that the Democratic Party needs fully to remember and embrace its legacy as the Party of People Who Work for a Living, a phrase that nicely complements (without appropriating or being saddled by) the Occupiers' resonant "We Are the 99%".

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Just think how recently we all settled for the radical impoverishment of our viewing experience of not having a logo announcing the network we are watching at the moment filling a corner of the screen at all times.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Geniuses are always talking about themselves, when I want them to be thinking about me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Feisty Business Insider Recommends Building Two Trillion Dollar "Pyramid to the Sky"

Might I recommend this one, by Gaudi?

This one, by Wright?

Or this one, by Tyrell?

Their point, by the way, is that pyramid building makes incomparably more sense than the endless Republican macroeconomically-illiterate pain-to-the-people civilization-dismantlement nonsense. Needless to say, throwing that kind of money at intercontinental high-speed rail and millions of solar rooftops and student loan and underwater mortgage jubilees makes even more sense, especially if we soak the rich and break up the banks on top of it. But if it must be vast hubristic pyramid arcologies, then let it be vast hubristic pyramid arcologies.

A Few Contrarian Proposals About the Occupiers

I think Occupy Wall Street emerged out of Wisconsin more than it did from Cairo, and I think this context is an indispensable part of the reason why OWS might not just change the focus of a few newscycles but facilitate progressive change in the legislative agenda for 2011-2012 (which is the best outcome OWS can hope for politically). I think it is a good thing that Oaklanders and so many other Americans have been inspired by the example of Occupy Wall Street to bring its strategies of occupation and resistance here, but I don't think it is a good thing that Londoners and apparently so many other Europeans have been, too. The last thing the European left ever needs to do is follow America's lead of all things when it comes to resistance, just as the last thing US Occupiers need is to lose themselves in a narcissistic fantasy that they are leading the world only to be lead by the nose by incumbent-elites to domesticate a real possibility for organized resistance into another Burning Man.

Republican Audiences Are Still the Story of the Debates

Although it has not yet attracted quite the attention of earlier bloodcurdling moments in the previous debates, as when GOP audiences cheered, first, mass executions (among them, inevitably, of innocents), and then roared their brutal approval of letting uninsured Americans die of their treatable illnesses, and then the would-be patriots howled and booed at a soldier in Iraq because he was gay, last night's debate provided yet another spectacle of the debased state of the Republican base when the audience cheered the cruel and plainly nonsensical accusation that the their fellow citizens who are struggling in this catastrophic economy are to blame for their own misery. When Cain doubled down on his Scrooge blame-the-victim schtick the dot-eyed hyenas in the crowd smacked their lips and cheered with even greater abandon.

I Don't Like Talking on the Phone

When I tell people I don't have a cell-phone nor a phone-ish handheld of any description nor ever had one nor even felt any inclination to get one they often act as though I have wandered onto the scene from another planet. And thereupon farted. Also, the fact that I screen calls at home is an occasional topic of rueful and even disgruntled conversation among people I know, as is my practice of dispensing whenever possible with business matters via e-mail rather than over the phone.

You know what? I don't like talking on the phone. Is that really so flabbergasting? I find talking on the phone at once uncomfortably constraining and also profoundly alienating. For me, talking to somebody over the phone is like trying to talk to your kidnapper through a hood. Not only that, but I don't like to waste time on the phone, aimless conversation on a phone is impossible for me to attend to for any length of time, and most conversations are so unmoored they feel aimless to me even when they probably shouldn't. Certainly I don't feel like I am "in touch" with a person on the phone, time on the phone doesn't count as "keeping up" with a real person in any authentic way, it's dead time, empty time, awful time.

And, you know what else? I don't want to always be reachable by phone. I emphatically am not living the sort of life in which I need to be making arrangements on the fly about an impending meal or finding a breathlessly entertaining way of filling my evening with who knows whom. I'm not an overbooked caterer. I'm not the PA of a globe-trotting public figure. I'm not busy. I don't buzz. I definitely don't want to talk about work after work on my way home on the train. On the train I want to read a book or space out at the window. When it comes to practical matters, I can communicate the nitty-gritty more readily and concisely in an e-mail anyway, no muss no fuss.

I frankly think it is an impertinence to believe that I should be at anybody's beck and call just because they happen to be able use a phone. Running a hot bath may indeed matter to me more than your scheduling conflict later in the week. Can you imagine somebody barging into your home interrupting whatever you are doing just to bark about whatever inane thing happened to pop into their head at the moment? Why is answering a phone supposed to instantly rise to the top of my priorities whatever I am doing or whatever frame of mind I happen to be in just because the damn thing is ringing?

Since I don't know the President of the United States I am sorry to be the one to inform you that almost nothing that is happening in your life is so goddamned urgent that you can't leave a message to tell me about it. Or better yet, leave me an e-mail. We can arrange a meeting if it comes to that. We can talk about it over coffee. We can chill out over at my house in front of the tee vee or out on the porch steps.

But as far as the phone goes, Sheryl Crow had the right idea: "Hello, it's me. I'm not at home. If you'd like to reach me, leave me alone."

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Every reviewer of books who uses the word "unputdownable" should be put down immediately for it.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

History never repeats itself. The historians repeat each other.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Long Teaching Day

It's still dark outside now... it'll be dark again by the time I get home. Sleepy.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Given the curious prevalence in them of unappealing protagonists placed in pointlessly unpleasant situations, one gets the impression that car companies have not yet given their whole hearts to the selling of hybrid or electric vehicles.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Private property has really harmed Individualism, and obscured it, by confusing a man with what he possesses.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Obama Continues to Draw the Contrast

An Excerpt from the Transcript:
THE PRESIDENT: Now, our problems were a long time in the making –- we’re not going to solve them overnight. But there are things we can do right now to put people back to work -- right now. There are things we should do right now to give the economy the jolt that it needs. So that’s why I sent Congress the American Jobs Act. (Applause.) … Keep in mind -- keep in mind, Asheville, this is the kind of bill containing the kinds of proposals that in the past have received support from Democrats and Republicans. It’s completely paid for -- by asking our wealthiest citizens, folks making more than a million dollars a year, to pay their fair share. (Applause.) … 63 percent of Americans support the ideas in this jobs bill. (Applause.) So 63 percent of Americans support the jobs bill that I put forward; 100 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against it. That doesn’t make any sense, does it?


THE PRESIDENT: No, it does not. Now, it turns out that the Republicans have a plan, too. I want to be fair. They call -- they put forward this plan last week. They called it the “Real American Jobs Act.” The "real one" -- that’s what they called it -- just in case you were wondering. (Laughter.) So let’s take a look at what the Republican American jobs act looks like. It turns out the Republican plan boils down to a few basic ideas: They want to gut regulations; they want to let Wall Street do whatever it wants.


THE PRESIDENT: They want to drill more.


THE PRESIDENT: And they want to repeal health care reform.


THE PRESIDENT: That's their jobs plan. So let’s do a little comparison here. The Republican plan says that what’s been standing in the way between us and full employment are laws that keep companies from polluting as much as they want. On the other hand, our plan puts teachers, construction workers, firefighters and police officers back on the job. (Applause.) Their plan says the big problem we have is that we helped to get 30 million Americans health insurance. They figure we should throw those folks off the health insurance rolls; somehow that's going to help people find jobs.


THE PRESIDENT: Our plan says we’re better off if every small business and worker in America gets a tax cut, and that's what’s in my jobs bill. (Applause.) Their plan says we should go back to the good old days before the financial crisis when Wall Street was writing its own rules. They want to roll back all the reforms that we’ve put into place.


THE PRESIDENT: Our plan says we need to make it easier for small businesses to grow and hire and push this economy forward. (Applause.) All right, so you’ve gotten a sense -- you got their plan, and then we got my plan. My plan says we’re going to put teachers back in the classroom; construction workers back to work rebuilding America, rebuilding our schools -- (applause) -- tax cuts for small businesses; tax cuts for hiring veterans; tax cuts if you give your worker a raise. (Applause.) That's my plan. And then you got their plan, which is let’s have dirtier air, dirtier water.


THE PRESIDENT: Less people with health insurance.


THE PRESIDENT: All right so, so far at least, I feel better about my plan. (Laughter and applause.) But let’s admit I’m a little biased. So remember those independent economists who said our plan would create jobs, maybe as many as almost 2 million jobs, grow the economy by as much as 2 percent? So one of the same economists that took a look at our plan took a look at the Republican plan, and they said, well, this won’t do much to help the economy in the short term -- it could actually cost us jobs. We could actually lose jobs with their plan. So I’ll let you decide which plan is the real American Jobs Act. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Obama's plan!

AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT: Look, I appreciate the “four more years,” but right now I’m thinking about the next 13 months. (Applause.) Because, yes, we’ve got an election coming up, but that election is a long ways away, and a lot of folks can’t wait. A lot of folks are living paycheck to paycheck. A lot of folks are living week to week. You’ve got kids right now who’ve lost their teachers because at the local level you ended up having layoffs. You’ve got bridges right now that are crumbling and deteriorating. So we don’t have time to wait. And we’ve got a choice right now -- right now.

How Quickly Terms Multiply Their Valence

Just a dumb observation, but it's funny to contemplate how readily after a whole lifetime otherwise the imagination can accommodate "Wall Street" as a site not only of predation but of resistance, not only a signifier of disdain but of hope. It's funny how quickly one can come to identify with Occupation after for so long defiantly dis-identifying with Occupation. It's one thing to teach the dynamism, opportunism, performativity of language, but still startling to find oneself dancing in delight to the beat.

They Only Call It "Class Warfare" When We Fight Back

Democrats are pivoting to the precincts of the Occupiers with admirable ease. It's a winning move and we all need them to win, so it's all to the good. Democrats are waking up from their long DLC Reagan-Democratic hangover and embracing the rhetoric of the Party of People Who Work for a Living -- not so different from the Occupiers "We Are the 99%" after all. More like this, please, everywhere and over and over.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

There's something about the endorsement of a cartoon character that just inspires immediate and absolute confidence in the quality of a product or service.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The mind of the well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.

Cain Wasn't Kidding About the Killing

Palin-esque phony presidential-run-qua-book-tour self-promotional con man (and given the complete disarray of the GOP at the moment, accidental savior flavor of the moment and "frontrunner") Herman Cain lied to fluffy haired fluffy brained David Gregory on "Meet the Press" yesterday, saying that his comment about stringing an electric murder-fence across America the Beautiful's southern border was "a joke."

Quite apart from the deeper truth that everything about Cain as a presidential contender is "a joke," and quite apart from the deeper truth as well that genocidal torture fantasies aren't "a joke" to anybody who isn't a sociopath, I think the actual clip of the actual comment leaves little doubt that Cain meant what he said and that it wasn't "a joke" and that, if anything, he thinks anybody who doesn't share his self-righteously cruel and bloodyminded daydream is "a joke."

Roll tape, you judge:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Kvetchigarchy": Despotic Rule By Whiners Take All Spoiled Brats

via Krugman

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Every time I watch a pharmaceutical ad today all I can hear is the ad tomorrow soliciting plaintiffs in a class action suit.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Muscular White Baby Jesus Talks To Mike Huckabee And Tells Him To Burn Things

"Call them and ask them, 'Are you going to vote on Issue 2 and are you going to vote for it?' If they say no, well, you just make sure that they don't go vote. Let the air out of their tires on election day. Tell them the election has been moved to a different date. That's up to you how you creatively get the job done." -- Mike Huckabee, quoted by the Cincinnati Enquirer, urging supporters of a law limiting collective bargaining for public employees to stop opponents from voting.
Soon we will be told what an obviously funny joke this is to other people who worship Muscular White Baby Jesus like the Huckster does and how mean the rest of us are for saying mean things about such funny jokes.

All You Have To Do Is Listen To Know What the Occupiers Want

Okay, I'll bite. Most of these demands seem more or less representative or directly entailed by the Occupiers.

1. Too Big to Fail Is Too Big to Exist! Use antitrust laws to break up the big financial institutions rather than bailing them out when they misbehave.

2. Tax the Fraudsters! Tax income from capital gains at the same rates as income from work. Tax all financial transactions that take place over networks to limit high frequency, algorithm-driven share trading and other forms of online speculation that facilitate fraud and exacerbate market volatility. Raise the taxable income cap to keep Social Security solvent for well over another century.

3. Mainstreet Bailout! Refinance all underwater home mortgages at their post-crash values with affordable fixed rates for individual home-owners (but not for home flippers). Forgive all student loan debt.

4. Perp Walks! Prosecute banking and ratings agency executives who peddled unsound speculation as sound investment.

5. Jobs! Pass Obama's goddamn Jobs Bill for a start. And then pass a Green energy and agriculture Second Stimulus to put a million solar roofs and a hundred thousand wind or tidal turbines in every state in the union, encourage small-scale sustainable organic and local farming practices, put an organic farmer's market with affordable nourishing produce in every urban neighborhood, and connect every major city to every other with high speed rail. (I don't think this Green priority is just me -- there are lots of environmentalist signs out there, but this is an attempt on my part to connect them more concretely to the rest of the job-centric anti-corporatist OWS agenda.) Provide an easy path to full citizenship to all law-abiding tax-paying people born or raised or working here whatever their family's country of origin.

6. Democratic Elections! Switch to exclusively public financing for elections, mandate same-day registration and a full month of early voting in every state, make Election Day a National Holiday, institute Instant Runoff Voting federally and abolish the Electoral College for the Popular Vote. Allow the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to become full US States if their populations want to be.

7. Corporate Reform! Introduce clauses in all corporate charters limiting corporate lifespans, insisting that corporations must never operate against the public interest, requiring that corporations keep to their initial purpose or lose their licenses, and mandating that the difference in total compensation between the lowest and highest paid permanent and contract employees of the corporation never exceed five to one.

8. Healthcare for All! Lower healthcare costs and solve long-term deficit problems by allowing Medicare buy-in for all as a Public Option. Decriminalize and tax marijuana and other recreational drugs like Ecstasy (if you don't think that's one of the demands, you just aren't paying attention -- or possibly you're high), and use the occasion to close fifty jails and open a hundred community health centers across the country providing drug-abuse counseling among other things.

Well, that sure was fun, I could do that sort of thing all day long (that's why one should avoid it). I've confined these recommendations to the sorts of things that seem directly relevant to the Occupiers, stuff you hear if only you listen -- but there's plenty of stuff I care about personally as much or more, of course, or which as a theory-head I think get to deeper more structural problems of the white-racist patriarchal corporate-militarist capitalist evil octopus, but simply haven't gone on about in this context, from ending US occupations, renewing civil rights protections, protecting women's right to choose, celebrating queer lifeways, controlling private gun use and trafficking, ending capital punishment, supporting lifelong public education, advocating for a democratically-elected UN Parliament, ending war and disaster profiteering, protecting freshwater commons, providing basic income guarantees, instituting a Keynesian Clearing Union, demolishing car culture, severely curtailing ubiquitous marketing and advertizing, and so on. Also, these recommendations are very US-centric even though the Occupy movement is of a piece with a planetary movement, the priorities of which are related but different from the ones registered in this little wish-list.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Having new sneakers doesn't mean having a new soul.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

In the summer term Oxford teaches the exquisite art of idleness, one of the most important things any University can teach.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Is God Fucking With GOP Presidential Contenders?

Anita Perry said yesterday her husband Rick Perry was called by God to run for president… Karen Santorum, wife of Rick Santorum, said her husband was also called, noting "we believe with all our hearts that this is what God wants." Michele Bachmann said she regularly receives "assurance" from God about her direction, including running for office. Herman Cain has also said that God wanted him to run. "I just know at this point I am following God's plan."

Know Your Enemy

Stumbled onto via Art Fag City (go there for the pic, stay there for the review of the second season premier of Bravo's "Work of Art"):

A young Mitt Romney at the trough and on the town, clearly fancying himself quite the spark and predator god.

Is Europe Having Second Thoughts About the Pointless Pain Proselytizing of Neoliberal Austerity?

On Thursday (14 October) in a speech… at an annual Brussels pow-wow of government ministers, journalists, businessmen and even nobility, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso marked a change in strategy, or at least in the rhetoric surrounding the bloc's policy response. "Are austerity cutbacks the right solution for Europe’s economic woes? …As you may have guessed, dear friends, the commission does not believe that cutbacks are the solution to Europe's challenges."

At the same conference, Poland's finance minister, Jan Rostowski, warned that "Cuts could -- and this really is true -- can make the recession worse." He described a "vicious cycle" wherein the imposition of austerity on a weak economy can suppress demand, which then inhibits companies' willingness to invest, which frightens other firms from investing and encourages households to save instead of spend. As the economy takes a nosedive, government revenues decline, expanding public debts, forcing further public-spending cutbacks.
It's not exactly a turning of the tide, but maybe it's a crack in the ice of the neoliberalism of the not very nice.

Today's Random Wilde

A school should be the most beautiful place in every town and village -- so beautiful that the punishment for undutiful children should be that they would be debarred from going to school the following day.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Won't somebody please think of the children? Except, you know, when they're gyrating around to dance beats in diaper commercials or made up like street walkers on reality shows about the pageant circuit...

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rachel Maddow's Lovely Tribute to Frank Kameny

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

Think different… for real. Celebrating a life of struggle and accomplishment and liberty and justice for all.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Thank heavens after the Republicans dismantle our medical system, we'll still have celebrities hawking tee-shirts to support cutting edge research and universal healthcare coverage.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature -- it requires, in fact, a nature of a true Individualist -- to sympathize with a friend's success.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Slavoj Zizek, Our Heir to George Carlin, Does Standup at Occupy Wall Street

I do not agree with those who say that Slavoj Zizek is our generation's great radical philosopher after the death of Foucault, but I am willing to entertain the possibility -- and I certainly don't consider this an insulting proposition -- that Zizek may turn out to be our generation's wildcard radical comedian after the death of George Carlin. And it is in that spirit that I recommend to your attention Zizek's very fine stand-up Sunday afternoon at the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly, as transcribed by Impose. I offer up a few observations of my own after the transcript.
They are saying we are all losers, but the true losers are down there on Wall Street. They were bailed out by billions of our money. We are called socialists, but here there is always socialism for the rich. They say we don’t respect private property, but in the 2008 financial crash-down more hard-earned private property was destroyed than if all of us here were to be destroying it night and day for weeks. They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare.

We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scene from cartoons. The cat reaches a precipice but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath this ground. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street, "Hey, look down!"

In mid-April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV, films, and novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel. This is a good sign for China. These people still dream about alternatives, so you have to prohibit this dreaming. Here, we don’t need a prohibition because the ruling system has even oppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism.

So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a wonderful, old joke from Communist times. A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom -- war on terror and so on -- falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here. You are giving all of us red ink.

There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember, carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like “Oh. we were young and it was beautiful.” Remember that our basic message is “We are allowed to think about alternatives.” If the rule is broken, we do not live in the best possible world. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want?

Remember. The problem is not corruption or greed. The problem is the system. It forces you to be corrupt. Beware not only of the enemies, but also of false friends who are already working to dilute this process. In the same way you get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice cream without fat, they will try to make this into a harmless, moral protest. A decaffienated process. But the reason we are here is that we have had enough of a world where, to recycle Coke cans, to give a couple of dollars for charity, or to buy a Starbucks cappuccino where 1% goes to third world starving children is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after marriage agencies are now outsourcing our love life, we can see that for a long time, we allow our political engagement also to be outsourced. We want it back.

We are not Communists if Communism means a system which collapsed in 1990. Remember that today those Communists are the most efficient, ruthless Capitalists. In China today, we have Capitalism which is even more dynamic than your American Capitalism, but doesn’t need democracy. Which means when you criticize Capitalism, don’t allow yourself to be blackmailed that you are against democracy. The marriage between democracy and Capitalism is over. The change is possible.

What do we perceive today as possible? Just follow the media. On the one hand, in technology and sexuality, everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics, you can have sex with animals or whatever, but look at the field of society and economy. There, almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes by little bit for the rich. They tell you it’s impossible. We lose competitivity. You want more money for health care, they tell you, "Impossible, this means totalitarian state." There’s something wrong in the world, where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little bit more for healthcare. Maybe we need to set our priorities straight here. We don’t want higher standard of living. We want a better standard of living. The only sense in which we are Communists is that we care for the commons. The commons of nature. The commons of privatized by intellectual property. The commons of biogenetics. For this, and only for this, we should fight.

Communism failed absolutely, but the problems of the commons are here. They are telling you we are not American here. But the conservative fundamentalists who claim they really are American have to be reminded of something: What is Christianity? It’s the holy spirit. What is the holy spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other, and who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense, the holy spirit is here now. And down there on Wall Street, there are pagans who are worshiping blasphemous idols. So all we need is patience. The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home and then we will meet once a year, drinking beer, and nostalgically remembering “What a nice time we had here.” Promise yourselves that this will not be the case. We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire. Thank you very much.
There are some great jokes in there, jokes that righteously and devastatingly skewer neoliberal pieties, jokes that pre-emptively ridicule the narcissistic self-indulgence that can domesticate resistance.

I for one am not so wedded to a particular radical identity (be it Marxist, socialist, anarchist, Green, punk, queergeek, whatever) that I won't be pleased to live in a society that still thinks itself "capitalist" but happens also to be (as our own society so conspicuously is not) sustainable, consensual, democratic, equitable, and diverse, via environmental and election reform and amplifications of welfare entitlements to include guaranteed income, healthcare, education, and so on. Nor do I feel particularly ill-disposed to the vital work of Marxists, socialists, anarchists, Greens, punks, queergeeks, and others (including the ones in me) to a society worth living in -- many kinds of ideas, many kinds of support, many kinds of resistances are useful. Doctrinal disputes have a place -- thinking our way to sound judgments about what we are doing and what it all means always has a place in any society that is not anti-intellectual and hence hostile to freedom -- but such disputes obviously shouldn't displace the substantive work of education, agitation, organization, expression out of which a society worth living in is to be made, peer to peer. I'm not sure that Zizek would sympathize with that sentiment or not, or with what I mean by it, but to the extent that he might want to declare me an advocate of decaffeinated resistance for saying it, as always-already assimilated to the neoliberal Borg for saying it, I think he would be wrong and he would also be indulging in my view in his own version of falling in love with himself (or perhaps with the sound of his own voice, a foible a good comedian can surely be forgiven) at the expense of getting the job he claims to care about done.

Now, I spend a lot of time here on Amor Mundi, and also in my teaching, critiquing futurological discourses and sub(cult)ural formations. I will step back for a moment from all the wacky things individual futurologists say -- about how likely and how soon certain lucky or faithful people are to be uploaded into Holodeck Heaven or shiny robot bodies or therapized into comic book superheros or wallowing in nanobotic treasure caves under the loving ministrations of a history-ending Robot God sooper dad, for example -- or all the kooky guru wannabes and True Believers and pseudo-scientific cranks and celebrity CEO fluffers and loudmouthed self-actualization coaches and boner pill muscle powder anti-aging cream hucksters and endless white boys with toys thrown up by these marginal fanboy sub(cult)ures -- all of which are always fun and often important to critique or at any rate ridicule on their own terms. But I also regard futurology more crucially as simply the most hyberbolic of the marketing and promotional norms and forms that now suffuse public discourse to our ruin more generally as well as the quintessential discourse of neoliberal developmentalism formally speaking, and consequently as a profoundly clarifying illustration and symptom of more prevailing pathologies in contemporary life that must be understood and combated.

And so, I must say I am also especially interested in the connections Zizek is cracking wise about in his routine concerning the futurological imaginary functioning as a profound foreclosure of the revolutionary or even radical imaginary, a point I find myself arguing regularly with would-be "revolutionary" techno-transcendentalists. This is of course clearest when Zizek points out, in connection with alien invasion and genocidal pandemic and asteroid collision flicks that "It’s easy to imagine the end of the world... But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism." This is a good joke, and he repeats it a lot, as he should. It hits us where it hurts.

Zizek points out the crucial complementary of our hyperbolic techno-fetishistic aspirational imagination and the circumscription of our democratic aspirational imagination. He jokes, that "in technology... everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics... but look at the field of society and economy. There, almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes by little bit for the rich. They tell you it’s impossible. We lose competitivity. You want more money for health care, they tell you, Impossible, this means totalitarian state! There’s something wrong in the world, where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little bit more for healthcare."

Of course, there has been no increase at the upper bound of human longevity at all, there has been very little improvement in post-pubescent longevity (most gains are artifacts of decreases in infant mortality, and while scattered heart disease and cancer treatments are nothing to sneeze at they hardly inspire confidence in multi! century! lifespans! around! the! corner!), and although we once managed the trick it isn't actually true anymore that we can put someone on the Moon anyway. That we could improve healthcare by spending more on it (or, better, spending less on it through a single-payer system) is something we know is true because it is happening all over the world elsewhere, that we could raise taxes without hurting the economy while providing more security for our citizens is something we know because we were very recently doing it ourselves as is palpably available to the memories of the vast majority of our own citizens now living. The techno-fixation of our discourse (for which the Robot Cultists and superlative futurologists provide the especially gaudy and clarifying iceberg tip of an utterly prevalent vastly disseminated technocratic techno-reductionist techno-festishistic techno-developmentalist institutional and marketing and policy-making and subject-forming hegemony) does not just substitute a profoundly delusive destructive anti-democratizing aspirational imagination for sensible sustainable democrating possibilities but it even substitutes palpably idiotic fancies for the most modest and obvious imaginable progressive possibilties. The catastrophic impact of this substitution plays out in one political domain after another, but it is possibly its potential via futurological "geo-engineering" discourse to undermine environmentalism that worries me most of all, given the urgency of the problems of anthropogenic climate change, resource descent, and toxic polluting. Only a comic genius like Zizek could manage a really good joke on that particular subject, so I won't even try.