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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Long Meeting Day

Faculty meetings from 10am to 4.30pm, so low to no blogging from here on out. Yeesh, end of term.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

While watching sports on television doesn't make you a real athlete, masturbating to online porn does at least give you a real sex life.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Life is terribly deficient in form. Its catastrophes happen in the wrong way and to the wrong people.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Long Teaching Day

I'll be in the City all the livelong day, so low to no blogging.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

The difference between a used car salesman and a televangelist is that one steals from you by lying about the vehicle while the other steals from you by lying about the road.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

There is always more brass than brains in an aristocracy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Glee and The Walking Dead

Is it fucked up that those are the two shows I watch with the greatest eagerness these days?

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

You have to lie to a whole lot of people before the rotten liar becomes the respectable professional, just as you have to owe a whole lot of money before the serf becomes the King.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Prayer must never be answered: if it is, it ceases to be prayer and becomes correspondence.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Decade in Three Onion Headlines

Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over' -- January 17, 2001

Holy Fucking Shit! America Attacked -- September 26, 2001

Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job -- November 5, 2008

Beyond parody 'n all that...

Bill Clinton on The Stupid and What It Means for the GOP

From Kristof's latest:
I asked Bill Clinton -- who has a better intuitive feel for politics than anyone I know -- about Obama’s chances for re-election. “I’ll be surprised if he’s not re-elected,” Clinton said, adding that Obama would do better when matched against a specific opponent... Clinton added that Romney or any Republican nominee would be hampered by “a political environment in the Republican primary that basically means you can’t be authentic unless you’ve got a single-digit I.Q.”
As I have said before, we have arrived at a weird moment when truth-telling is sometimes indistinguishable from what looks like name-calling, very much to the detriment of truth telling. But there is almost nothing in the world more important than grasping just how unprecedentedly, flabbergastingly dumb and evil Republicans are right now, and how that makes them, given their inertial emplacement within the power structure of an earthly superpower, in my view at least, the single most dangerous organized force in the world today. For generations Republicans have had more than their fair share of scoundrels, bigots, and know-nothings, of course, but what the GOP is today is... something else. It's refreshing to see even glancing references to this reality from Establishment figures like Bill Clinton (and, no, I'm not a big fan of his, but that's not my point).

BooMan on Race, Progressive Politics, and the "Occupy Disconnect"

A thought experiment. If the federal government forgave all student loan debt above ten thousand dollars and then demanded the refinancing of all underwater mortgages at their present diminished values at a reasonable fixed rate on terms affordable by most of these homeowners, do you really believe that the Occupy Movement would not declare victory and go home?

Like postwar kids pampered into the expectation that they would be The Future's princes of the world and who suddenly found themselves drafted to fight an evil irrational war in Southeast Asia, their own children who grew up in the dreadful delusive Reagan era have woken up to find his lies about "Morning in America" all dried up as well, and while the military-industrial complex and neoliberal plutocracy are indeed evils that demand righteous confrontation it is easy to mistake the scene of such a confrontation for a deeper and more clearheaded thing than it really is, when the confrontation is driven by a situated distress as personal as it is progressive.

There are calls to prosecute financial fraudsters, to introduce financial transaction taxes, to make tax rates steeply more progressive, to break up banks that are too big to fail and hence too big to exist coming out of the Occupy movement, and I do think these get at deeper more structural evils of neoliberal capitalism. But there are also voices just as prominent calling for the total transformation of society to "consensus based" processes of public decision making, which is more or less a call from a different 1% all too eager in my view to marginalize Occupy into yet another Burning Man. Sometimes I think people actually forget that the Situationists FAILED in 1968, even if they made a joyful noise and that isn't nothing.

But, to return to the thought experiment with which I started: While I certainly do think student debt amnesty and serious mortgage cramdown would be very welcome, it is striking to me that the capitalism that would remain intact in the aftermath of these stunning progressive victories would remain profoundly and perniciously stratified by racial inequity and violence as American capitalism always has been. If I am right to believe the implementation of these policies (which, sensible though I think they would be, I don't actually expect to be implemented any more than most of the other sensible things I've mentioned, certainly not while Republicans control both Houses of Congress, one by holding a majority and the other by requiring supermajorities to get anything accomplished, not that such matters ever find their way into much of the discourse of the Occupiers) would indeed cause the Occupy Movement to evaporate in a roseate glow of satisfaction, it suggests that Occupy symptomizes most of all the distress of the shrinking white working middle class at the realization that neoliberal capitalism isn't working for them, as it has never worked nor even pretended to care to work for millions upon millions of others to much of that white working middle class's longstanding indifference.

There are even more obvious ways that such stratifications are playing out in Occupy, as when young white activists righteously court arrest, a prospect that means something profoundly different to, say, an African-American male all too accustomed to the random humiliation of racial profiling, serial rituals of stop and frisk, tales and experiences of police brutality, and awareness of surreally high rates of incarceration in underserved overcrowded Boschean Hells in a for-profit prison industrial complex swelled by a multigenerational racist War on (some) Drugs.

It is with that context in mind that I recommend to your attention, this recent provocation by BooMan:
58% of the Progressive Caucus is non-white. If progressives represent the leftward border of the Democratic Party, why then… [do] African Americans, who are 12.6 percent of the U.S. population, make up only 1.6 percent of Occupy Wall Street[?] One… [has] to occasionally remind people in the blogosphere, who are also overwhelmingly white progressives, that the bigger half of the progressive movement is non-white and that this non-white bigger half has distinctly different opinions about the president, the party, and the state of American politics. This is why the blogosphere periodically convinces itself that the president is losing his base of support only to discover that polling data doesn't back it up… Blacks are accustomed to glacial progress. They're familiar with cutting shitty deals that move the ball a few inches down the field. They've never been under the misimpression that the cards aren't stacked against them. They are no strangers to high unemployment, job insecurity, or grinding undeserved poverty. If there is one defining difference between how the black and brown progressives have reacted to the president and how white progressives have reacted, it has been that black and brown progressives had much more realistic expectations. I think a lot of blacks look at the white people protesting income disparity and think to themselves, "when did you notice?" People might expect blacks to leap into the fray, relieved that they have new allies. But the lack of solidarity whites showed them in the boom times helps explain the lack of solidarity now. “Occupy Wall Street was started by whites and is about their concern with their plight,” Nathalie Thandiwe, a radio host and producer for WBAI in New York, said in an interview. “Now that capitalism isn’t working for ‘everybody,’ some are protesting.” New Jersey comedian John “Alter Negro” Minus says he won’t participate in the Occupy protests because black people are being besieged by so many social injustices, he can’t get behind targeting just the 1 percent... [I]t's not like black people have been historically shy about protesting for their rights. By and large, they're not motivated by this fight. I can't say that I fully understand why they're not motivated by it, but I can say that it indicates some massive flaw in the movement. A real progressive movement would encompass the entirety (and certainly the sizable majority) of the progressive spectrum. Some will blame the black community and say that they are just being protective of the president. But I think they're showing a shrewder political understanding and more maturity. The pace of progress may be agonizingly slow, but that's the same as it ever was... if you've been really paying attention. It's not a shock or a disappointment if you've been the one waiting the whole time.
Of course, BooMan's provocative comments are full of overgeneralizations -- people of color and concerns about race and poverty and police violence are conspicuous and indispensable to Occupy here in Oakland, for example -- but rather than make easy recourse to that objection to dismiss the thrust of his critique I think we would all do well to dwell for a moment in his larger point.

I do want, by way of conclusion, to re-iterate that I am and have remained throughout these months a happy celebrant of Occupy (more so than BooMan has been, to be fair). I was enthusiastically blogging Occupy even before it began, when it was just a call to Occupy, and then in its first smallish weekend, and all along since then. Here I am, literally thanking Occupy on Thanksgiving Day, okay? Occupy has diverted Establishment discourse into more actually real concerns and actually progressive frames -- and this is painfully long overdue and nothing to sneeze at. It is an incubator of effective new activist tactics, it is a space of indispensable network-building and progressive education. Also, of course it is true that there are more ways than just one to do activism or to contribute one's measure to human progress toward equity-in-diversity.

The point of critique -- as I am forever telling my students in critical theory courses -- is not through criticism to provide an easy excuse to dismiss and so fail to be touched by a testament or program or proposal, but to take us deeper into that fraught worldly situation out of which the testament or program or proposal emerged the better to connect to it in our own, different, also partial, also imperfect, also fraught, situation. Occupy claims to speak for the 99%. In many ways it does just that, and with a power and a promise like nothing else in the world. But there are also ways in which it fails to speak for the 99%, symptomizes stratifications it would do better to address -- in itself and in the world. The point of BooMan's critique is not to dismiss Occupy but to understand it and to enrich its address, at least that's how it looks to me.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

The only thing more exaggerated in prime time crime dramas than the incidence of crime is the competence of criminologists.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

It is hard to have a good story interrupted by a fact.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Apparently, Still A White Penis

The Future!

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

The pill, powder, or potion promising you weight loss or to lower your cholesterol level when accompanied by a sensible diet and exercise never points out that a sensible diet and exercise need no accompaniment by pill, powder, or potion to promise you weight loss or to lower your cholesterol level.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Action becomes simply the refuge of people who have nothing whatsoever to do.

Friday, November 25, 2011

GOP Now So Dysfunctional It Fears the Only Way Republicans Can Win the White House Is To Pretend They Aren't Republicans

Twenty two million dollars and counting of "Draft Bloomberg" stealth-Republican bullshit. Not to burst anybody's bubble here, but whatever this "bipartisan" "moderate," "Independent," "Third Way," "technocratic," "Unity" elite-incumbent corporate-militarist right-wing re-branding merchandising campaign desperately wants to peddle itself as... this effort actually quite obviously represents the hilarious and embarrassing lengths to which the anybody-but-Romney but obviously-only-Romney GOP will go to keep playing Savior Flavor of the Month just a little bit longer rather than stop and pause to face and reflect on the deep dysfunction of a rapidly self-marginalizing party of upwardly failing rich assholes still counting on the white-racism and authoritarian wet dreams of enough of the dupes and dicks and dumbasses of the country who remain after their disenfranchisement and demoralization of the rest of the majority to vote to keep them in power despite the reality of a wholesomely browning and secularizing nation ever more concerned with actually real actually urgent planetary problems of environmental catastrophe and obscene social injustice.

Bang, Bang, Obama's Silver Hammer Comes Down on the GOP's Head; Or, Learning to Love the Democrats' Dual Trigger Non-Plan Plan

Ezra Klein pre-emptively savors some sweet comeuppance: "It would be quite a turn of events if the GOP started by proposing the Ryan plan and ended with the dual-trigger plan."

What he means by the "dual trigger" plan -- strictly speaking a non-plan except in the nth dimensional chess sense, and I mean that in a good way -- is that if Congress does absolutely nothing (which is what it does best when GOP obstructionists are in the majority in the House and force usually-unattainable supermajorities in the Senate) then the Bush tax cuts will expire and the "triggers" imposed by the failure of the "Super Committee" will begin to go boom in January 2013, just before Obama is inaugurated for his second term, after trouncing that lying flip-flopping super-rich Snidely Sniderson automaton everybody hates, especially the Dominionist fundies and Randroid-libertopian fundies of the GOP base, the one because of their anti-Mormon bigotry the other because of their anti-Romeycare hysteria.

I have found myself thinking of what Klein delineates as a Dual Trigger Non-Plan kinda sorta Plan instead as "Obama's Silver Hammer." Here's why: It goes BANG BANG, that's why.

There are, to be sure, as there always are, plenty of things to complain about in the fact that the end of the Bush tax cuts as is will include marginally less effective and more painful increasing in taxes for more than only the rich (Democrats would want to target the rich more selectively) and in the fact that some of the "triggered" spending cuts will hit actually good and useful and stimulative public spending (again, the Democratic scalpel would be more precise), however the focus on Defense cuts and protection of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in the already agreed-upon trigger package reflects Democratic priorities amazingly better than anything they could subsequently negotiate in any case.

When Klein posted first on the implications of the "Dual Trigger" Atrios chimed cynically in (I've fiddled with order of his post editorially, follow the link for the original): "Not sure why we're forgetting the cards Republicans have... Government shutdowns, debt ceiling showdowns... So Many Hostages."

He is right, of course, that one never goes far wrong predicting Democrats will capitulate their way to ruin, but I do think such thinking tends to ignore the differences between 2010 and 2012. It's true that Republican hostage taking managed to keep the ruinous Bush tax cuts for the rich intact for two years and they were happy to think they would be able to manage the feat again in an election year, which is why they agreed to the deal.

But in 2010 Democrats were faced with the loss of control of Congress to Republican obstructionism and the deal enabled Obama to get a wan and imperfect second stimulus against all odds, extending unemployment benefits and providing tuition credits and small business incentives for many Americans as the Recession otherwise deepened (largely because obviously better government interventions and remedies and supports were nixed by monolithically obstructionist Republicans and the handful of icky conservadems emboldened by the cover provided by these Republicans) but also the signature lgbtq civil rights victories of Obama's first term, the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the pivot toward support of gay marriage.

There is nothing a comparable deal could get Obama in 2012, Republicans won't offer him anything worth paying for, and if anything he is likely to have a better Congress after 2012 than before so he might as well wait for it. Both the debt ceiling fight and the serial American Jobs Act battles have been trial balloons demonstrating that Republicans were far too smug when they fancied they would come out ahead if the 2012 campaign is indeed framed around making people pay for a government that actually works for everybody instead of for the few.

If, as Atrios fears, Republicans decide to shut down the government for the right to screw over the middle class some more and lard the rich with more privileges, it doesn't take a genius to see that a Nation turning the page from the Summer of Tea to the year of Occupy is going to give Obama coattails to keep the Senate (maybe this time Democrats will have the sense to alter the filibuster rule) and regain the House in yet another wave election. Such a Congress can tinker with the aftermath of the dual triggers to reflect Democratic priorities even better.

To return to Obama's Silver Hammer, for a moment, I have no doubt that there will be plenty to pooh-pooh in the details of this outcome, and the larger context of the macroeconomic stupidity of focusing on long-term debt rather than government stimulus at the zero lower bound as well as the ethical sin of advocating austerity in the midst of obscene wealth concentration and plutocratic failure and fraud ensure that there is plenty to rail about even if practically best outcomes prevails given their obscene distance from optimally-best and yet still eminently-doable best outcomes. But before we leap off into such critiques -- it really does pay to look at the distance between what the Republicans really wanted and still want to implement and what will be implemented instead through the triggers painstakingly and cleverly orchestrated by the Obama administration and Democratic Congressional Leadership.

Just look at the evil stupid Republican wet-dream of the Ryan budget which all the Republicans are on record as signing onto as their own, which incredibly proposes still more tax cuts for the richest of the rich (on the sick sad stupid sociopathic randroidal fantasy theory that rich people are the only "job creators" and the rest of us just litter their world and should settle gratefully for the scraps they occasionally flick our way or starve to death in quiescent silence), while privatizing, looting, and dismantling the inadequate but real healthcare and financial reforms shepherded through by Obama and his Do-Something 111th Congress, as well as the tattered remains of the Great Society and the New Deal the Republican Party has hated and hunted throughout its modern existence. Meanwhile, should we find ourselves in the aftermath of the triggers, we find an outcome in which the cuts (largely from surreally bloated Defense spending) are dwarfed by revenues coming in from a considerably more progressive tax code.

My point is not just to say that what we get with the triggers is better than what we get from Republicans (indeed, better than any other actually existing proposal -- apart from the best proposal of all, the one by the Progressive Caucus, which Klein did not but should have included in his chart even if it blunted the rhetorical force of the point he was trying to make in my opinion), neither is my point just to say that what we get with the triggers is so much better than what we get from Republicans that it literally dramatically inverts the sick skewed priorities of the Randroid Ryan Republicans, but my point is to say all that and also that the priorities implemented by the dual trigger non-plan plan (Obama's Silver Hammer) painstakingly orchestrated by the Democrats actually better reflects the priorities of a country that makes any kind of comparatively sustainable equitable policy sense, and given the madness and distress of this historical moment -- reasonable criticisms of the specifics in their legions notwithstanding -- such an outcome would really amount to a flabbergasting accomplishment, all things considered. I mentioned Klein's table, which makes all this quite clear already, and here it is:
The Ryan Budget (which, again, House Republicans already signed onto unanimously and, I might justly add, with diabolical glee) is the second to the left on the graph, while the dual trigger non-plan plan (Obama's Silver Hammer) is the last one on the right end. The contrast could not be more stark, nor could it matter more in its starkness to people who care about this country. It's no wonder Ezra sounds so pleased with what he sees.

So, Today, What If Instead You Bought Nothing?

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Never once has making a good purchase made a person good.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

History is merely gossip.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank You Occupy!

I have spent years and years of my life trying to get some of the many thousands of students in my classrooms (and the comparatively fewer readers of my more marginal blogging effort) to question: what possible talents or virtues among the richest of the rich could justify the fantastic concentration of wealth into their hands in an America that is unthinkably rich and powerful due to the work and inheritance and commons shared by us all yet has flabbergastingly inequitable and dysfunctional systems for the provision of good healthcare, sound education, and the security of general welfare to all?

How I have struggled to get them to question: whether the rights to free expression and free assembly which we claim to define our glory and distinguish us from all others even really exist if all it takes is for a cop to tell us to move on or settle down to silence our expressions and scatter our assemblies? How I have strived to get them to ponder: how the proliferation and normalization of tasers and "non-lethal" crowd control technologies might not only have ameliorated the lethality of police intervention but far more importantly facilitated through that apparent amelioration a radical multiplication, amplification, and suffusion of police violence into our everyday public lives profoundly curtailing our experiences and expectations of liberty in a presumably free country?

Of course, there are many good people who have been raising these and other questions over the years (most with greater forcefulness and clarity than I manage in my pedantic way here and there), but, true though that is, there has always been a rather demoralizing marginalization of these vital questions and critiques always only to what have seemed, at least to me, the same small portion of activists and intellectuals, preaching ever more desperately to an insufficient choir while inequities in health outcomes, opportunities, privileges, security, access to law have grown ever more and more catastrophic all the while the norms and forms of an authoritarian police state devoted to the support of those inequities have grown ever more and more numerous and normal.

And yet suddenly, with the emergence and growth of the Occupy Movement, these topics have moved beyond the margins into everyday discourse, they are suddenly thematized in Establishment media accounts, their stakes are on the lips of multitudes of people talking to one another online and on the street, the polls and graphs and media whirligigs to which our millionaire representatives respond while pretending to respond to their non-millionaire constituents sometimes now actually reflect our real concerns.

It was always rather hilarious to hear people claim not to understand the demands of Occupy when the demands were so palpable and obvious, but annoyance with that sort of facile cluelessness has sometimes obscured what can only be regarded as the uncanny inerrancy with which Occupy has directed its attention, and hence everybody's attention, precisely to those sites and those contradictions and those demands that are most vital, most structural, and hitherto never attended to by more than a few in any kind of sustained way, from the obscenity of conspicuous wealth concentration, to the criminality of the fraudulent financialization of the global economy, to the plutocratic perversion of justice and law, to the misdirection of the police from the protection and service of all citizens to the guardians against everyday citizens like themselves of oligarchs who pretend to own them as mercenaries and to the surreal violence enabled and ensured by that misdirection, and on and on and on.

Especially to the extent that the Democratic party remembers its ethos as the party of people who work for a living and resonates with the distressed testaments and civic aspirations given voice by Occupy, and attracts more, and Better, Democrats into campaigns, and into government, to respond to the concerns of everyday people and reform our institutions to better enable and serve democratic equity-in-diversity then I find that the growing power and prestige of Occupy and the democratizing movements it goes on to inspire and from which it has drawn its momentum (like the Wisconsin protests of Walker's austerity budget and anti-union crusade) fills me with more hope and excitement than I have had in my life.

It is the work of critique to expose or pressure what are taken to be facts of the status quo into contradictions that open the status quo to contestation and progressive transformation. Occupy is foregrounding and so turning the Established facts of neoliberalism into contradictions demanding address across the terrain of long-accustomed plutocratic norms, protocols, institutions. I would like to think at least some of the groundwork for these sweeping interrogations was prepared by the work of a generation of critical theorists all too aware of the dangerous assumptions and aspirations of the followers of Hayek and Friedman (who were never more than a hop, jump, and goose-step away from the followers of Rush and O'Reilly), the crony capitalists, the union busters, the white-racists, the Dominionists, the domestic policy bullies and foreign policy hawks who throng the ranks of Movement Republicanism and the neocons and anarcho-capitalists of its reactionary avantgarde. But until now that project of critique, however righteous, has never seemed to be even remotely enough.

After a lifetime of reconciling myself to a status quo littered with contradictions taken for facts, obscenities too appalling to tolerate and yet for all the world too entrenched ever to change like our suicidal pollution and consumption of the environment on which we depend to survive, like the racist War on (some) Drugs and an ever-expanding Hellmouth of prisons, like our regressive tax system and the self-mutilating lowest-common-denominator appeal of anti-tax rhetoric, like the tragedy of capital punishment, like anti-social corporate personhood, like our commercial elections, like our for-profit private-insurance mediated healthcare system, like our scarcely regulated gun trafficking in streets and schools soaked in blood, like our dependence on a criminally exploited and humiliated informal and hence un-unionizable workforce, like our denigration and demoralization of teachers, universities, freethinkers, artists, critics, gadflies, harmless eccentrics, anything but pre-packaged imagination, anything but consumer-friendly rebellion, like the total suffusion of our public life with the deceptive and hyperbolic and crassly opportunistic norms and forms of marketing and promotion and advertizing… after a lifetime contemplating so much that was so wrong so ruinously and so obviously and yet seemed so impossibly remote from our collective attention and agency and address, suddenly Occupy has set its sights and settled its sites right there and taken us all with it, and there assembled, and thus expressive, they are making palpable and so possible so much of the change I have so wanted to see and yet despaired of forming in the world.

Pardon the clichéd genuflection to the "On this Thanksgiving Day what am I thankful for?" genre, but it seemed a fair moment to give some voice to the hope Occupy has given a worldly face for me.

Kenyan Muslim Socialist Thanksgiving Perversions

So, I see that blackaroni and cheese is on the menu... Can anyone doubt that the meal will begin, not with a heartfelt prayer to Muscular American Baby Jesus, but with terrorist fist bumps all around?

A Thanksgiving Prayer

A venerable Amor Mundi holiday tradition!

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Beyond the thanks, think: Beyond the feast, famine.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Getting Into That Special Thanksgiving Spirit...

Best. Chopped. Ever.

The Food Network show "Chopped" is often aggravating (male ego runs rampant as usual) and often amusing (male ego runs rampant as usual), and the hour almost always flies frenetically by in a diverting way. But never before have I been moved to tears by an episode of a competitive cooking show as I was by "Chopped" last night.

This time the show featured four high school cafeteria chefs, who were extraordinary everyday people, full of creativity, dedication, and common sense. That these wonderful women are called "lunch ladies" instead of the chefs they obviously are, and that behind this designation often hides a system of unreasonable demands and heartbreaking disrespect was actually a theme bubbling regularly up to the surface the whole episode through.

I must say, rarely have the competitors on the show been so uniformly supportive of one another, so helpful in the kitchen or complimentary of the talents of the others who were there, so kind and humorous in their interactions. On your usual episode of "Chopped," as on so many televised cooking competitions, a helpful competitor who disdains cut-throat brutality is often deemed "timid" or "lacking fire in the belly" or "refusing to stand up for their vision" and so these shows endlessly reward those traits of character which in the real world are almost universally disdained as those of unpleasant assholes, unhelpful bullies, untrustworthy cheats, uninteresting egomaniacs.

Given how regularly these swinging dick braggarts completely fall apart under the least pressure, or start bawling about how misunderstood they are or how they miss having their wives around to kiss their boo boos the second they face the consequences of their rampages there is usually a reasonably entertaining comeuppance attached to the endless enabling of boys will be boys misconduct in these shows -- but it remains the case that palpably false premises are disproportionately cherished in the genre, bad boys are treated as though they are charming rather than tedious and nice folks still finish last all too often rather than being cherished as they are in the real world where things actually have to work.

Anyway, on last night's "Chopped," White House chef and healthy food activist Sam Kass was a guest judge, and questions of affordable nutrition, obesity, childhood hunger, stressed public school budgets, overworked public servants, and many other issues emerged in a powerful, natural, non-pedantic way throughout the hour. These indispensable and yet often overlooked women (representative of countless thousands of dedicated women and men in this demanding and neglected field of work) were thanked for their service as they should be, were celebrated as heroes as they should be, were rewarded for their effort and good works as they should be. And none of this diminished in the least the inherent drama of the competition, even if I thought they soft-peddled the demands of the mystery ingredient baskets a little bit for the contestants.

Spelling all this out risks the impression that there was something preachy or pedagogical about the episode, but nothing could be further from the truth. It was actually perfectly charming, the judges have rarely seemed more likeable or fair, and even if some real-world awareness managed to creep into the program, it was for me by far the most emotionally satisfying entertainment the show has afforded in its run. One wishes that what got chopped by last night's episode were so many of the reactionary and sociopathic attitudes and conceits that still suffuse the genre more generally. I doubt I am the only fan who would still be watching every week if generosity and fairness and eccentricity were celebrated on shows like "Top Chef" and "Chopped" in addition to all the predictable bad behavior and tedious male ego endlessly on display now.

Can Somebody Please Tell Me Why Republicans Like Killing People So Much?

Watching the GOP Presidential debates and listening to the things the candidates say, and especially the things the candidates say that incite the loudest jubilation from the crowds, there is nothing more clear than that Republicans really like killing people. They like killing people in wars, even the inevitable civilian casualties. They like killing people with capital punishment, even the inevitable innocents eventually exonerated by newfound evidence. They like killing people without insurance, even those with easily treatable conditions. They like killing women with medically precarious pregnancies and in illegal back-alley abortions, even though they are utterly indifferent to the health, nourishment, safety, poverty, education, or welfare of the "precious life" they claim to be saving the moment it arrives in the deadly world they would make for it. Listen to them, howling for blood in their crowds and on their blogs! Torture detainees, beat the independence out of children, randomly profile and frisk and humiliate people of color, bully gays into suicide, work foreigners to death and then shoot them at the border, fill our streets and malls and bars and churches with more and more and more guns, drill, baby, drill until the whole living world is a dead cinder! How are we ever going to find a way of building a world worth living in with these horrible dangerous people?

Hold On To Your Change Until the Anti-Gay Salvation Army Makes A Change

Bil Browning:
As the holidays approach, the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in front of stores dunning shoppers for donations. If you care about gay rights, you'll skip their bucket in favor of a charity that doesn't actively discriminate against the LGBT community. The Salvation Army has a
history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians. While you might think you're helping the hungry and homeless by dropping a few dollars in the bright red buckets, not everyone can share in the donations. Many LGBT people are rejected by the evangelical church charity because they're "sexually impure." The church claims… that "sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage." The Salvation Army doesn't believe that gays and lesbians should ever know the intimacy of any loving relationship, instead teaching that "Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life." … The organization also has a record of actively lobbying governments worldwide for anti-gay policies -- including an attempt to make consensual gay sex illegal.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

When they turn the cameras off, you do realize the models spit that garbage back out, right?

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Art is what makes the life of each citizen a sacrament and not a speculation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Voicegate Offers Deceptive and Dishonorable Official Start to Romney's 2012 Campaign

At a campaign event one month before he was elected in 2008, Obama told voters, “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’” In Mitt Romney’s very first official television ad of the 2012 campaign he features only this part of the quote: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” It is, of course, an egregiously, flamboyantly deceptive and dishonorable ad. That it is also a preview of coming attractions is implied by the defense of the ad provided by the Romney campaign, according to CBS News:
Romney senior New Hampshire adviser Tom Rath tells CBS News the ad is “exactly what we want.” … Pressed on whether it was unfair to lop off the top of Mr. Obama’s comments -- which would show the president was quoting the McCain camp -- Rath said, “He did say the words. That’s his voice.”
"That's his voice"? If we get Obama's voice on tape reading Genesis will the Romney campaign credit Obama with creating the Universe? If we get Obama's voice on tape reading the Constitution will the Romney campaign credit Obama with being a Founding Father? Or, applying the same standards to Romney as ThinkProgress wryly has done, will we soon see ads as informative as this on the air?

Democrats Want to Fall in Love, Republicans Want to Fall in Line

I would have thought it goes without saying that for somebody of the Left like me (in the radical democracy, social democracy, democratic socialism neck of the ideological woods) there can only be a tactical alliance with any actually electable President. Education, agitation, organization yields political change, and while politics is not reducible to partisan politics, neither does it make much sense to disdain so preeminent an agency for political change as plays out through partisan politics.

I have said many times that Obama is the most progressive President we have had since FDR, and this is almost always taken as some sort of uncritical Obama-mania on my part rather than as a fairly straightforward indictment of the limits of the Presidency since WW2 for a person of the Left. While that indictment is perfectly true, it seems to me just as obvious that for a person of the Left, Obama is such an incomparably better candidate than any Republican will be and any Republican so devastatingly bad, that not to support Obama (either actively by voting for somebody worse or passively by not voting and thereby conceding the election to those who vote for somebody worse) is simply stupid or, in this day and age, simply reveals you to be evil. That's how bad Republicans are now: a generation or two of mostly scoundrels and ignoramuses and smug bigots crystallizing in the present in an unambiguous authoritarian identity movement.

I believe that it is a political commonplace to say of Democrats that they want to fall in love with their President, while Republicans like all anxious authoritarians are looking to fall in line. Neither attitude is commendable, and neither attitude conduces to reasonable political thinking.

So, just what is a consistent, and therefore probably what will pass in this day and age for radical, person of the Left to do? How to reconcile one's ideals with one's practice? Now, anarchism as a practical or ideological orientation on the right (the market fundamentalists and anti-government conservatives) carries water for plutocracy, and on the left amounts mostly to a form of performance art (not without its beauty and usefulness -- but the Left already won the Culture Wars so the usefulness is limited). Meanwhile, third parties function as spoilers for the foreseeable future -- since the institutional reforms that would render them otherwise (like implementing publicly financing campaigns, instant runoff voting, and reorganizing the way committee assignments are made in the House and Senate) are either as or more fundamental than the institutional reforms that can be made within the current system that would yield the policy outcomes the desire for which make third parties seem attractive in the first place. Few are willing to make the sacrifices demanded of literal revolutionary politics (which requires more than big talk, online or over coffee), and in any case too many forms of revolutionary insurrection have yielded in my view unintended consequences as vile as the ones that provoked them.

For a person of the Left -- and as such almost certainly a person to the Left of the politics of most candidates of the Democratic Party -- that leaves as the only sensible attitude and practical arena remaining always to work to support the election of More, and Better, Democrats across all layers of government, while continuing to engage in education, agitation, and organization in other modes of criticism, dialogue, activism, cultural intervention, and social support as a supplement to partisan politics pushing Democrats and the country and the planet more generally to the Left from the Left, but always in ways that disempower progressive partisan politics as little as possible.

This is no time to fall in love or pine to fall in love with elected officials, nor is this a time to limit one's struggle to the bounds of electoral politics. At a time when our institutions are so dysfunctional it makes as little sense to fall in line as it does to disdain altogether the struggle to regain control and reform those institutions back into functionality. So much paralyzing demoralization and pointless recrimination interfering with the heartbreaking heartening work of progressive change simply arises from the failure to recognize that one has to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Elect More -- and Better -- Democrats. Engage in partisan politics -- and in social, cultural, political struggle beyond the immediate horizon of elections and reform legislation.

It is not either /or. It is not one to the detriment of the other. It is both/and. It is both, to the extent that they enable one another.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

The Soap Opera is a languishing narrative form, its vestiges now living on primarily in prime-time televised singing competitions.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The highest Criticism, being the purest form of personal impression, is in its way more creative than creation.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Afro Blue Was Robbed!

This soul wrenching performance of "A Change Gonna Come" lost Afro Blue a spot on The Sing Off finale next week. In other developments, up is now down, two plus two is nine, and water boils at thirteen degrees. I am fairly confident that this means those consistently inventive, always fun, outrageously talented kids of Pentatonix will win it all -- and I am happy for them to win it all, I think they are great. But I've been moved the whole show through by Afro Blue. They were never provided a challenge squarely in their jazz mode and yet their superior musicality and soul uplifted every genre they touched. They didn't win, but theirs is the record I will buy when it comes out. Soul Survivors! As for the boy scrum the judges let through, whatever. Their leads are Branson bait, and most of them will probably end up being stock brokers.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

You may think it's clean but let's see what is revealed by this black light… oh, look at that, vile bacteria still clinging to your gums even after brushing… germs seething around the base of your toilet bowl… and, oh dear, your soul appears to be irredeemably stained with complicity in the wasteful destruction of the planet and the exploitation of billions of the world's poor…

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The greatest men fail -- or seem to the world to have failed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bad Hominem

Things have gotten pretty bad when truth-telling becomes indistinguishable from name-calling.

Occupy the Constitution

On Friday, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) introduced the first piece of federal legislation directly inspired by the [Occupy] movement. Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) would amend the Constitution to outlaw the use of all corporate money in elections, not only undoing the biggest changes under Citizens United but also going after the legal concept of “corporate personhood” altogether.
Follow the link for Susy Kimm's interview on the proposal with Representative Deutch.

Today's Republican Party

At this point, to be a registered Republican is to admit proudly and in public to the kind of sweeping ignorance that should send you back to High School, the kind of sociopathy, narcissism, and anger management issues that should send you into serious counseling, and a penchant for fraud, looting, and assault that should send you to trial with a fair prospect of incarceration. Not only can Republicans no longer be trusted to administer the state, one begins to wonder if they should all be wards of the state.

The Handmaid's Tale -- Utopia or Dystopia?

Apparently, answering this question is all you need to do to distinguish Republicans from Democrats. That, at any rate, is what we learned from the Republican Presidential Candidates' "Thanksgiving Family Forum" in Iowa. It really has come to this.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Also, I hear, every jiss begins with Jay.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

It is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dear City Mayors and College Administrators: Tear-Gassing Citizens and Bludgeoning Students With Batons "For Their Safety" Is Rather Contrary to Purpose

Yeah, we noticed, assholes.

Super Whew!

Rarely has the prospect of failure been more devoutly hoped for than the one on the immediate horizon for the so-called Super Committee.

Once they fail as we all knew from the beginning that they would can we all stop pretending anybody actually gives two shits about The Deficit at a time like this, especially when we all know that Americans really just want more jobs and Republicans really just want more tax cuts for the rich?

Co-Operation Not Co-Optation

Those who are worrying about Democrats and organized labor getting too cozy with or even "co-opting Occupy" possibly need to re-think their priorities when too many Democratic Mayors are actually attacking peaceful protestors in their cities and when Republicans are explicitly organizing to destroy the movement and planning media strategies to defeat Democrats on the basis of their misrepresentations of Occupy.

Oh, how I wish we could get more Democratic Mayors cozier with Occupy! Oh, how I wish we could get more Democrats who will be smeared with associations with ridiculous reactionary fantasy constructions of Occupy anyway to actually talk with Occupiers, actually testify to the reality of the protests in the media, actually express support for the righteous and commonsense critiques provided by the movement, and actually declare their solidarity with the protests!

Of course the Democratic Party is far from an ideal partner in the work to provide real justice for the 99% and for the 1% given its historical complicity in the emergence of the financial crisis and the present limits of its aspirations in addressing the resulting injustice.

But it seems to me that such a partnership can only be a wholesome thing in the eyes of those who would want the Democratic Party to become a better vehicle for the majority of people who work for a living. The Occupy Movement needs as much organized co-operation as it can get, and should not misread indispensable co-operation always only through a paranoid fear of inevitable co-optation. Even if there are risks in such a partnership these risks seem flabbergastingly far from the ones that should be most on our minds at a time like this.

"To Protect and Serve" ...Whom?

Federal prosecution of financial fraud has now reached a 20-year low, despite the fact that such fraud has enabled a minute minority of rich guys in suits to destroy the world. Those who peacefully protest this injustice, however, are rarely so lucky:

Kidding Themselves So They Can Live With Themselves

Pundits who like to talk about how the Tea Party Movement's white racist stealth-Republican shills have "so much in common" with the ferocious advocates for social justice of the Occupy Movement do so for the same reason that pundits like to pretend that "bipartisan compromise" between brazen fascists of the GOP and still-remaining timid capitulationist Democrats is somehow "centrist" despite the extreme divergence of such compromises from policies demanded by actual majorities of the American people they claim to represent: namely, so that these pundits can pretend that they themselves are not active forces for evil they know enough to know better than to serve and know in their hearts that they do.


Santayana's warning that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it is true even though Twain's observation that history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme is also true. The paradox is resolved by the recognition that history, like life, is mostly doggerel.

Rhetorical Warning

Objections practiced in the mirror may be less conclusive than they appear.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

If she isn't careful Jane Lynch may soon discover that literally the only thing people won't buy if she is selling it is that she is an actress.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Eric At Brunch Today

"You gotta love these guys saying 'My Daddy beat me every day and I turned out all right!' clutching their gun and looking at you with their crazy eyes..."

Where Your Eyes Don't Go

Whenever I propose to colleagues that students read more or write more or take on more I am often met with the comment that I forget that other people are not me, and I swear that every time I hear it I am clutched with an ice cold feeling in my gut, and I have to restrain the escape of what seems to me the urgent and obvious question, and what makes you so sure that I am me?

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

The world isn't a better place just because you got off.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The real tragedies in life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blog School Blog School Blog School

School work is impoverishing my blogging a bit lately. Sorry about that. Honestly, tho', what is there to say about the dismal antics of the Republican Presidential field? Likewise, what is there to say that isn't better done when it comes to the fraught magnificence of Occupy?

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

When you're painting with cosmetics the blank canvas is inevitably more beautiful than the resulting painting.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Randon Wilde

In New York a good model is so great a rarity that most of the artists are reduced to painting Niagara and millionaires.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Visit

I've spent the morning prepping for a faculty meeting happening in a couple of hours at which I am getting called upon to address a host of ticklish and demanding topics about our graduate programs, some of which are likely to have long term impacts in ways I do feel I have a strong personal stake in. But it's strange to step back and contemplate just how I have come to inhabit these stakes, why I have come to feel these stakes so keenly. Since I was ABD and definitely since I got my PhD I've made my bread and board as a sort of itinerant lecturer in the Bay Area (there are lots of idiosyncratic reasons for this, reasons that keep me in the Bay Area when most of my peers went on nationwide job-hunts for tenure track jobs -- with highly mixed results). Anyway, in addition to the summer teaching I still do in the Rhetoric Department at Berkeley, from which I got my PhD in 2005, officially I'm "visiting faculty" at SFAI in the City, teaching a full load of courses every term since I guess 2003 or so by now. One has to wonder a bit at the nature of an interrupted seven year "visit" as functioning faculty in an institution. When does a visit become more than a visit, for pity's sake? Definitely I have found -- mostly in ways I have welcomed, or which seemed perfectly sensible as they have made their incremental way -- that one can accrue responsibilities and commitments and authorities simply through an engaged and competent persistence within an institution which doesn't really otherwise recognize or reward that persistence in a way the least bit commensurate with the ever greater demands and work you take on. There is a lot of this going on in the wider world, of course, in the midst of the distress of a planetary neoliberal/neoconservative corporate-militarist catastrophe, of which the still ongoing corporatizing academy is a symptom and part, all in an abidingly anti-intellectual America ever more suffused by the deceptive and hyperbolic norms and forms of marketing and promotional discourse. And of course I am grateful to be somebody who actually is working when so many are not, and not only working but teaching (which I love) and teaching what I love at that -- democratizing critical theory, which so few people get to devote themselves to, even when they are as devoted to it and well trained in it as I am. Nevertheless, there is something wrong and worrisome about my situation. And right now, anxiety and exhaustion is how I am living that wrongness.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Today's observation is made with 100% real fruit juice.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The word "natural" means all that is middle class, all that is the essence of Jingoism, all that is colorless and without form and void.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Long Teaching Day

Low blogging as usual. My big goal on Tuesdays is simply to get home with my brown bag from the tacqueria and my beer from the convenience store in time to catch Glee. I only swing it if I catch the bus and then the train exactly right, and it only happens about half the time. Exciting, no?

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Has any manufactured good remained either alluring or even functional for nearly as long as the packaging it comes in lingers on as toxic landfill?

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Murder is always a mistake. One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Elizabeth Warren's First Ad

More here.

Do UC What I See?

Artificial Imbecillence

Far from endowing our artifacts with intelligence, we are mistaking for such endowment the process by which we are becoming ever more superficial and uncritical through our mediation and consumption of unintelligent artifacts.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Dunce Dance

Trump, Newt, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Newt again, one after another the Anybody But Romney candidates have surfaced as GOP savior flavor of the moment, attesting as they fall upon attracting actual scrutiny to an abiding antipathy to Romney in a Republican Party too dysfunctional to field a nationally credible candidate their own membership can stand. One cannot predict with assurance who will rise or rise again next or for how long in the dunce dance, but you can be sure the last of the Anybody But Romney's to prevail will be Barack Obama.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

The bigger the box, the more air inside.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Life's aim, if it has one, is simply to be always looking for temptations. There are not nearly enough. I sometimes pass a whole day without coming across a single one.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Occupy UC Berkeley Calls for Strike November 15

I found all these links reading zunguzungu, which is always great but which has been essentially on fire since Occupy Oakland.

Here is a clear discussion of the context of the Call for a Strike, with stirring images of the Occupation itself.

Here is a powerful, one might even say model letter, to Chancellor Birgeneau, condemning excessive police force in response to peaceful student protest on their campus.

To convey your own outrage at an ever more corporatized UC to respond to intelligent criticism in ever more militarized ways, and to remind the administration and other relevant authorities what Universities are actually for in actually free societies, you might contact:
Phone: (510) 642-7464
Fax: (510) 643-5499
200 California Hall, MC#1500
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-1500

Not to mention:

Chief of Police
Phone: (510) 642-1133

The Police Are Part of the 99% But They Are Working for the 1%

From the corralling of public protest into "free speech zones" and the proliferation of "non-lethal" crowd control measures like rubber bullets and acoustic bombs and ubiquitous tasering together with the circumvention and circumscription of public assemblies from vast pre-emptive arrests of activists at national party conventions and international trade organization meetings and highly choreographed Potemkin Village "town hall" meetings, this generation has witnessed an ongoing criminalization of assembly and dissent along with the concomitant privatization of public spaces and services. As with so much else connected to the Occupy movement, all the many criticisms and protests of these developments that have fallen more or less on deaf ears for years have seemed suddenly in Occupy to attract real attention and to crystallize into demands that have real force. And with every militarized overreaction to the Occupiers the movements have gained wider attention, sympathy, numbers, and power.

Although the police are part of the 99% whose paychecks and pensions are being defended by the Occupiers against the fraudsters and parasites of the 1% there is no question that so far these police have been the face of the force most palpably directed against these assemblies, these re-publications of privatized space. In these fraught contestations it has been human, all too human, police who have been the conduits through which the malign will of the 1% has expressed itself. And it really does yield a painful perplexity, that the ineluctable emergence of a police state must be resisted by civic-minded citizens and all people of good will, but that the police who are the face and force of that police state are themselves victims of its authoritarianism even as they implement it. In the distressed inhabitation of that perplexity it is unsurprising that many individual police (some of whom are no doubt temperamentally unsuited to "protect and serve") behave badly, even criminally, just as it is unsurprising that many protestors vilify police as fascist thugs when they seek to give voice to the structural reality of a hierarchized organization with a policing function that has been misdirected into the service of a predatory minority at the expense of the majority of citizens among whom the police should properly number themselves.

There is no easy way to navigate the perplexity that the face of the interface of the force of the 1% against the 99% belongs to members of the 99% themselves, and it is to the credit as well as the distress of the Occupy movement that it has taken on this perplexity head-on, as it has so many others, come what may. A key passage of Pat Taibbi's well regarded How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests elaborates on this point:
I originally was very uncomfortable with the way the protesters were focusing on the NYPD as symbols of the system. After all, I thought, these are just working-class guys from the Bronx and Staten Island who have never seen the inside of a Wall Street investment firm, much less had anything to do with the corruption of our financial system.

But I was wrong. The police in their own way are symbols of the problem. All over the country, thousands of armed cops have been deployed to stand around and surveil and even assault the polite crowds of Occupy protesters. This deployment of law-enforcement resources already dwarfs the amount of money and manpower that the government “committed” to fighting crime and corruption during the financial crisis. One OWS protester steps in the wrong place, and she immediately has police roping her off like wayward cattle.

But in the skyscrapers above the protests, anything goes.

This is a profound statement about who law enforcement works for in this country. What happened on Wall Street over the past decade was an unparalleled crime wave. Yet at most, maybe 1,500 federal agents were policing that beat – and that little group of financial cops barely made any cases at all. Yet when thousands of ordinary people hit the streets with the express purpose of obeying the law and demonstrating their patriotism through peaceful protest, the police response is immediate and massive. There have already been hundreds of arrests, which is hundreds more than we ever saw during the years when Wall Street bankers were stealing billions of dollars from retirees and mutual-fund holders and carpenters unions through the mass sales of fraudulent mortgage-backed securities.

Fail Upward and Release the Hounds: Documenting the Misconduct of the 1% in the Administration of UC Berkeley

From the CUGL Minority Report:

The UC executive administration is the only major component of the UC system that has failed in its mission over the past several decades. This can be measured in several ways.

a. Every other component of the University –- from the faculty who have made its departments the best in the world, to the undergraduate and graduate students whose accomplishments are well established, to the tireless staff who work with faculty and students each day –- receive consistent high praise from external, objective, quantitative sources. No such praise or external validation has accrued to our administration since the days of Clark Kerr. No one raids UC for its top executives. No one accords them honors other than themselves. And yet our citizens and legislature are told repeatedly that they must pay top dollar to compete for them.

b. The UC executive administration has consistently violated its own compensation policies and damaged its reputation in rewarding its highest-paid members. It has hidden “executive compensation” in perquisites, allowances, furnishings, benefits, and expense accounts that are not available to other UC personnel, and that have been repeatedly exposed and ridiculed by the press. It is difficult to find a segment of the California state administration held in lower esteem than UC executives. These practices have not been rectified since the years of Dynes and Atkinson; in fact, the administration continues to defend them, apparently tonedeaf to a public that has had it with overpaid executives. The most recent example is the September 2011 Regents meeting, where the main agenda items included approval of a number of such outsized compensation packages–including a huge bonus for a UCOP executive based on work done by personnel outside UCOP –coupled with a proposed 81% tuition increase for students. In addition to the damage these practices do to UC’s reputation with lawmakers and the public, top donors are now reported to be refusing to contribute further to UC because they no longer trust UC to use their money well.

c. The UC Administration has lost the confidence of the Legislature (including and sometimes especially Democrats) and Governor. It should have unremitting support from both but has reached this point by making short-sighted political deals, disregarding the norms and accountability expected of a public institution (including compensation issues), and failing to represent UC as the prime mover in California’s twentieth century economic and social success story.

d. The UC Administration has lost the confidence of much of UC’s faculty, staff and students. Undoubtedly, the Administration believes that this is the result of being scapegoated for having to do a tough job in tough times. We think otherwise. We believe that its executives are increasingly unfamiliar with the difference in mission between a corporation and a University, and that they are at too great a distance from the teaching and research mission of the University to pilot it effectively through these difficult times.

Does This Really Make Sense To You?

Strictly speaking, Occupy is a Counter-Occupation.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

If Los Angeles were as dedicated to recycling as it is to remakes you could eat the buildings for dinner by now and they would grow back in time for breakfast.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Suicide is the greatest compliment that one can pay to society.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Future!

Apparently, still a white penis.

Voice of Generation Occupy? "Out of My Way"

This piece, published yesterday in the Washington Post by a graduate student, Thomas Day, has attracted a lot of worthy attention. Although it was written on the occasion of the child abuse scandal and the culture of complicity connected to yet another institutional elite that has become unaccountable in its conduct -- this time not financial fraudsters or Catholic priests or regulation agencies captured by the industries they should oversee, but leaders of a world famous college athletic program, the truth is that the tone of despair and disgust with failed would-be elites sounds a note familiar to anyone who listens to the young people participating in the Occupy Movements sweeping the institutional landscape at this moment as well.

Although the writer is fully fifteen years younger than me I feel a visceral identification myself with much that he says here. Even so, I think that there are places where even he is not delving quite so deeply as one has to do to get at what is wrong and what it righteous in this historical moment of failure and resistance and promise. And so, I have not just pruned his piece a bit, but interrupted it a few times to pressure some of his premises a bit (follow the link for his piece whole and uninterrupted). Still, I wouldn't want these interruptions to be mistaken as indicating a greater disagreement than I feel. Again, much even most of what Day says rings painfully and forcefully true to me.
I’m 31, an Iraq war veteran, a Penn State graduate, a Catholic, a native of State College, acquaintance of Jerry Sandusky’s, and a product of his Second Mile foundation. And I have fully lost faith in the leadership of my parents’ generation. I was one of the lucky ones. My experience with Second Mile was a good one. I should feel fortunate, blessed even, that I was never harmed. Yet instead this week has left me deeply shaken, wondering what will come of the foundation, the university, and the community that made me into a man. One thing I know for certain: A leader must emerge from Happy Valley to tie our community together again, and it won’t come from our parents’ generation. They have failed us, over and over and over again. I speak… of the public leaders our parents’ generation has produced. With the demise of my own community’s two most revered leaders, Sandusky and Joe Paterno, I have decided to continue to respect my elders, but to politely tell them, “Out of my way.” They have had their time to lead. Time’s up. I’m tired of waiting for them to live up to obligations.
I will admit that I am perplexed not only by the genuflection to politeness here but by the way it really does seem representative of so many in the generation of my best students. My own generation had little patience for politeness, and before you point to the failures of my generation to do anything progressive in an epoch of catastrophic privatization and corporatization and wealth concentration and militarization and environmental disaster, and propose that these failures suggest maybe it is time to change the tune, let me point out that I was active in precisely those struggles that were the least polite and most effective, around struggles against homophobic stigmatization of people with AIDS (marginalized), sodomy laws (gone), don't ask don't tell (repealed), legal discrimination against queer relationships and families (vanishing before our eyes), on the one hand, and in humanities department skirmishes for multiculturalism on the other hand. I know this viewpoint is not widely shared, but I happen to believe that my jaded and nonpolite generation of Queer Nationals and Riot Grrrls and politically correct English majors won the culture wars, a victory that has not yet fully been grasped or assessed but which built the cultural groundwork on which some of our best hopes for contemporary successes in the name of equity-in-diversity rest. Nevertheless, there truly is an earnestness and politeness in so much of Occupy, from the stunning People's Mic to bicycle power generation to nonviolence training and on-site teach-ins (one of the reasons why the violent police crackdowns are so surreal to witness). There's something very "Glee Generation" and not "Me Generation" in all this, though I do note that Day declares "out of my way" rather than "out of our way." Perhaps the latter would seem too threatening, too rude?
Think of the world our parents’ generation inherited. They inherited a country of boundless economic prosperity and the highest admiration overseas, produced by the hands of their mothers and fathers. They were safe. For most, they were endowed opportunities to succeed, to prosper, and build on their parents’ work. For those of us in our 20s and early 30s, this is not the world we are inheriting.
Let us not forget the extent to which this "boundless prosperity" was premised on the inflation of an actually unsustainable petrochemical bubble of car culture and toxic plastic and input-intensive topsoil depleting BigAg monoculture and suburban sprawl and white-racist flight, as well as the seduction, often at gunpoint, of post-colonial nations into phony development schemes yielding neo-imperial debt-enslavement, so we are indeed reaping the harvest of the deceptions and self-deceptions of the post-WWII generation, not just the betrayal of the comparatively greater accomplishments of that epoch, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the GI Bill, and the Marshall Plan.
We looked to Washington to lead us after September 11th. I remember telling my college roommates, in a spate of emotion, that I was thinking of enlisting in the military in the days after the attacks. I expected legions of us -- at the orders of our leader -- to do the same. But nobody asked us. Instead we were told to go shopping. The times following September 11th called for leadership, not reckless, gluttonous tax cuts…
Of course, enlisting in the military was just one form that leadership might have taken, among others: for example, making the effort to better grasp the historical and structural forces that could lead fellow humans to undertake or support such destructive and desperate crimes. At the time, remember, those of us who suggested that 9-11 cried out for a better understanding and might even provide an occasion for connection among suffering nonviolent majorities across the planet were shouted down as traitors and appeasers. Exhortations to cut taxes for the rich and shop till we drop, disgusting though they were, were far from the worst things happening in the midst of that distress.
Those of us who did enlist were ordered into Iraq on the promise of being “greeted as liberators,” in the words of our then-vice president. Several thousand of us are dead from that false promise.
Not to mention the millions more we killed and crippled and curtailed ourselves.
We looked for leadership from our churches, and were told to fight not poverty or injustice, but gay marriage. In the Catholic Church, we were told to blame the media, not the abusive priests, not the bishops, not the Vatican, for making us feel that our church has failed us in its sex abuse scandal and cover-up. Our parents’ generation has balked at the tough decisions required to preserve our country’s sacred entitlements, leaving us to clean up the mess.
Worse still, they now sanctimoniously declare that their eagerness to dismantle these entitlements, from Medicare to Social Security to Public Education, is somehow "for America's children and grandchildren," even as they rush to reassure one another that all the benefits they refuse to pay for generations to come will still always be there for themselves. Truly revolting!
They let the infrastructure built with their fathers’ hands crumble like a stale cookie. They downgraded our nation’s credit rating. They seem content to hand us a debt exceeding the size of our entire economy, rather than brave a fight against the fortunate and entrenched interests on K Street and Wall Street. Now we are asking for jobs and are being told we aren’t good enough, to the tune of 3.3 million unemployed workers between the ages of 25 and 34. This failure of a generation is as true in the halls of Congress as it is at Penn State.

Herman Cain's Wife To Be the Next Victim of His Book Promotion Tour Antics

Although there is no reason to think she can add reliable information to clarify the ugly sexual harassment allegations Herman Cain is up to his neck in for two weeks running, his wife, kept absolutely backstage and silent throughout the Circus up to this point, is now being shoved in front of Fox Noise cameras to do a full Stepford, to tell us what a marvel of a man her loudmouthed lummox is with her hands folded neatly in her lap while her soul visibly shrivels like the Grinch's heart to a wee turd.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

When a Republican tells you government is good for nothing in his campaign ad you really should pay attention because he is admitting his attraction and announcing his plans.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

It is truly a marvelous thing to observe, rather like watching water turned to wine, the way companies turn whine into fodder, when, after being fought tooth and nail for as long as possible and in every possible way, supposedly onerous, supposedly ruinous, supposedly outrageous regulatory demands are instantly transformed the moment they are implemented into immensely desirable safety and energy efficiency features about which the companies go on to crow in the most self-congratulatory fashion imaginable and on the basis of which they go on most energetically to outcompete their rivals.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Tact is an exquisite sense of the symmetry of things.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Obama's Luck

What Politico is telling as a tale of Romney's Luck, namely that each of his rivals has imploded one by one, is of course really the tale of Obama's Luck, as the last his potential rivals, a stiff unlikeable Mormon on record and on tape espousing opposite sides of every issue and forcefully identified with the financial enterprise most despised across the left and with the signature healthcare program most despised across the right, will be the last to implode. And mark, I am not saying Romney will lose, but that he too will implode, only as his Party's nominee. Of course, it has been Obama's bad luck, as well as our own, to try to solve through government shared problems of desperate urgency in the midst of the spectacle of the even greater implosion which is parent to the serial implosions of his rivals. For the real story of 2012 will be the end of a Movement Conservatism born in hostility to the civilizing benefits of the New Deal now culminating in a self-marginalizing hostility to credible cosmopolitan democratic actually working civilization across the board, unable in its madness and hatred of the facts and people of the actually existing world to field credible candidates or conjure the capacity to govern at a national scale at all.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

You have to be pretty undistinguished to seek to distinguish yourself through the purchase of an automobile that is indistinguishable from every other.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

The value of the telephone is the value of what two people have to say.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

To Sum Up

Republican Ohio Governor Rick Kasich's union-busting law was overwhelmingly repudiated, Maine restored the election-day voter registration Republicans had attempted to eliminate, Mississippi rejected their extreme anti-woman anti-choice anti-abortion anti-contraception "personhood" ballot initiative, Arizona voters recalled Senate President Russell Pearce, author of the ugly anti-immigration "Papers Please" law, Democrats made Joe Liebermann cry by sweeping Connecticut, Democrats maintained control of the Iowa Senate to the relief of woman across the state, Kentucky's Democratic Governor was re-elected, an effort to recall a Republican state representative in Michigan was successful. Of all the things I was worried about yesterday, the only thing that happened was that Virginia Republicans may have won control of their Senate. The day played out closer to the best case than I could ever have hoped. The catastrophe of the mid-terms and their aftermath has ended, and 2012 is very well begun.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Iron Law of Televised Cooking Show Judging: When in doubt, kick the woman out.

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Today's Random Wilde

The final mystery is oneself.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Before Eight After Eight

Long, long teaching day ahead... low to no blogging... be good.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Watching drug commercials may cause annoyance related death.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Devotion to beauty and to the creation of beautiful things is the test of all great civilized nations.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Rick Parody And All That

No, it is not fresh Meta-Parody it is the usual Republicanism so awful as to be beyond parody.

This is nothing new, but contemplating the sad spectacle is it any wonder the Base Teavangelical Anybody-But-Romneys are turning back to serial adulterer and ethically disgraced failed former "Revolutionary" and present-day mail-order huckster Newt of all people now that Andy Kaufman wannabe Cain is imploding on cue in a tangle of ineptly denied sexual harassment charges? Of course, crazy-eyed Bachmann might get some crazytown mojo back now that she is accusing not only all Democrats of being socialists but also most Republicans. That has to be worth something. Maybe it's not too late for Huntsman to declare climate change a hoax and turn things around (after all, he doesn't believe in doing anything about it even if he differs from his clown college colleagues in admitting he knows it's real). Maybe doll-eyed dolt Paul Ryan can leap into the fray with a write-in candidacy and a platform promising water de-fluoridation and replacing public education with paperback copies of Atlas Shrugged for every K-12 American child. Man, T-Paw really must be crying into his pillow most nights.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

It's beginning to look a lot like Buy! Buy! Buy! Buy! Buy! Buy! Buy! Buy! Buy!

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

He is fond of being misunderstood. It gives him a post of vantage.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Penultimate Penn

The best response to anything Mark Penn says is probably just always to assume the opposite of whatever he recommends is the right thing to do, the opposite of whatever he sees is the right thing to pay attention to, given his actual track record of failure, tone-deafness, ever-rightward skewing "centrism," capitulationist "bipartisanship" and selling out of Democratic constituencies and politics.

A recent example that has -- for whatever reason -- attracted rather a lot of attention is his concern trolling about Obama's calls to raise taxes the least little bit on the richest of the rich to respond to the incredibly widespread suffering and despair and disaster of America's ongoing unemployment crisis.

Of course, all the polls are on Obama's side on this proposal. And no wonder: everybody knows that the only people who are not suffering right now are the ones who created and profited from the crisis from which everybody else is suffering. That they should pay some price for what the did, that they should pay some fair share in the struggle to get us out of that mess is the minutest imaginable demand of common sense and common decency.

Penn warns, however, that this move will alienate upper class whites and fracture the Democratic coalition and lose Obama the election, saying that "[t]he people who vote on taxes are the people who pay them."

Set aside for the moment the pesky reality that Obama's Republican opponents are all proposing flat taxes and tax simplification schemes and entitlement reform Trojan Horses that impose flabbergasting new tax burdens on the majority of Americans, it seems that Penn's advice would apply far more to Obama's competition than to him, but somehow this doesn't figure into his analysis...

Set aside, too, the fact that even if it is true that the minuscule minority who are being asked to pay a bit more in taxes to save the whole world from catastrophe decide they won't support Obama anymore because of this, again by Penn's own logic, this proposal would lose Obama the support only of a minuscule minority, not a majority nor even a sizable minority...

Set aside, as well, the fact that even those who are taxed a bit more will also benefit (indeed, benefit proportionally more) from a world that doesn't completely collapse economically and become utterly suffused with social unrest and is completely dysfunctional across every institutional layer, and so those who feel so outraged at being asked to contribute a fair share to saving the world of which they are actually a part that they won't vote for the candidate asking this of them, chances are they are so deranged and so stupid and so evil that Democrats should be proud that they don't want anything to do with our Party -- and anyway how many of these assholes aren't voting for Republicans already anyway, honestly?

Set aside even the question of just what it even means logically and ethically as a proposition absolutely and fearfully to reject any suggestion of ever asking anybody to pay more taxes for actually indispensable government functions... set aside pondering what idea of politics a political party that is afraid to ask anybody to pay for what it is seeking office to preside over can possibly coherently have in mind... set aside that this quandary of a party dedicated at one and the same time to holding office while refusing the very concept of holding office honorably or legitimately defines today's Movement Republicanism but is rejected by any Democrat worthy of the name.

No, let us simply ask Mark Penn himself, as one of the few people in the country whose personal fortune makes him somebody who would be asked to contribute a bit more in taxes in order to save the country to which he owes so much, if he himself would not vote for the candidate of his Party because of this enormously popular righteous common sense demand.

Which is it, Mark?

Are you announcing your personal intention to betray the candidate of your own party, to vote for the further looting and lawlessness of anti-civilizational Republicans just so you can have a few more dollar bills in your pocket for a few extra days before everything goes to hell? Why should any Democrat give you the time of day if you declare your indifference to Democratic ideas and even literal candidates?

And if you aren't going to vote against your own Party and your own country for such selfish short-sighted reasons, then isn't your argument self-refuting? Don't you demonstrate that the upper class white segment of the Democratic coalition, such as it is, will not necessarily fragment at all when asked to do what is obviously the right thing? Why should any Democrat give a second's notice to fluttery concerns of yours that fail even to apply as they presumably should to their own author?

Taxes are the price we pay to live in a fairer more consensual more sustainable society, and there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. America is through with lies to the contrary and the liars who tell them to get filthy rich at everybody's expense. It is the job of Democrats to explain that simple idea to each new generation and to implement it ever better in their politics to the benefit of us all.

Mark Penn's declaration of an intention to bite the hand that feeds him or his self-refuting hand-wringing (you decide which it is) should be the next to last thing anybody ever hears from him -- right before his admission of being wrong about everything so that nobody should pay him any more attention from here on out than any other clown with a megaphone or his admission that he has always been a functional traitor to the democratic ideals of the Democratic Party so that nobody should pay him any more attention from here on out than any other snake in the grass.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

Whatever candidate or party prevails, it is only the television networks that are assured absolute victory in every American election.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

A man whose desire is to be something separate from himself, to be a Member of Parliament, or a successful grocer, or a prominent solicitor, or a judge, or something equally tedious, invariably succeeds in being what he wants to be. That is his punishment.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Message for Occupy from Barbra Streisand

"Laugh at the Kings or they'll make you cry."

Streisand and Sondheim for the 99% "Don't be afra-a-a-a-id!" Yeah, I'm gay.

Tatiana Makovkin's "Letter to the People in Black Masks"

Speaking Truth to Sour! Follow the link to read the whole thing, but here's the last few marvelous grafs:
I squatted in the Lower East Side in the early 90s. Evictions are not a game. The cops rolled a tank onto 13th street when they wanted the squatters out. A TANK. Were these "protestors" actually intending to defend [a vacant building downtown they briefly and dramatically occupied] militarily? Did they think they had a chance? What is the point of barricades? What is the point of burning trash cans? Do you think that will make it possible for you to keep the building? Of course not. You know you can't win against their military might. We can only win against their limp morality, their shriveled integrity, and their flaccid principles. And we win by being morally strong, impeccable in our integrity and holding fast to wise and courageous principles of service and compassion. Service to the community. We win by expressing our morality, integrity and principles with clarity and grace.

The people who raged in the street last night were not motivated by an impulse to serve the community, that is clear. What did motivate them, really? Maybe they will do some introspection, look into themselves and ask of themselves what is true. Were they looking to have a good time? Craving excitement and adrenaline? Infatuated with their own egos and sense of identity? Were they swept up in the euphoric feeling that comes with being part of something, part of a group, a club? This movement is not about being in a club. This is the 99%. This is for everyone. We show our faces. And when I say this movement is for everyone, I want to feel that this movement is for you too.

The people who were part of the drama that played out late last night need to look into their hearts. They need to ask themselves who they serve. If they are seeking to serve their own selfish needs, they don't hold a place of honor in this movement. They are the troublesome relation and we are all wondering how they will reconcile with the rest of the family. Maturity is expressed in a willingness to take responsibility. They should apologize. Publicly. They should work to mend the damage that they have caused to the spirit and reputation of this movement, a movement awash in beauty and humility. The people in this movement are so humble, none of them will claim to have the authority to lead or to speak for the other members. We represent ourselves, and we are all in leadership positions. Decentralized structure means that we are all responsible. You be responsible too, "anarchists". Be responsible on a spiritual level. Be responsible on an emotional level to the good, trusting people in this movement whom you have hurt. Be responsible on an intellectual level by thinking carefully about your goals and strategy and acting for the good of the whole.

Taking this building and starting a library and center of operations would have been an action that served the good of the whole. But that is not what you did. You didn't take a building. You just took a lot of attention and made the conversation center around yourselves. The people in the movement deserve better. The 99% deserve better. They deserve an apology.

Herman Cain's Campaign for President slash Book Promotion Tour Is Obviously Dumb, Deceptive, Disaster Prone, and Dangerous. But Is It Art?

It may not be art, Rachel -- but it is definitely the occasion for another Cocktail Moment.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

The televangelist's path to Heaven involves preying one's way to the top of a gold-plated pile of poop before perishing and praying the peak pierces Paradise.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

There are a hundred things I want not to say to you.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

It's corn syrup! Soylent Green is made out of corn syrup!

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

When I think of religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who cannot believe.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Lifestyles of the 1% -- Corporate Tax Dodgers

via ThinkProgress:
Seventy-eight of the 280 companies paid zero or less in federal income taxes in at least one year from 2008 to 2010…In the years they paid no income tax, these companies earned $156 billion in pretax U.S. profits. But instead of paying $55 billion in income taxes as the 35 percent corporate tax rate seems to require, these companies generated so many excess tax breaks that they reported negative taxes (often receiving outright tax rebate checks from the U.S. Treasury), totaling $21.8 billion.

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

In commerce, supplies are limited but the lies unlimited.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Misunderstanding is the basis of love.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Long Teaching Day

Hours and hours and hours ahead, low to no blogging...

Today's Fool Me Tee Vee

You are only as real as the envy your purchases inspire in others.

More Fool Me Tee Vee here.

Today's Random Wilde

Perhaps one never seems so much at one's ease as when one has to play a part.