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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Futurologists Fail Upward! Onward! Into the Future!

A little cat scratch adapted and upgraded from the Moot...
Quite apart from the jarring anti-democratizing views that pop up among them with such alarming regularity -- even the ones who declare their notional devotion to democracy in between genuflections to authoritarian technocracy, neoliberal eugenicism, and anarcho-capitalism via digital utopianism -- I must say that Futurenauts (as in: inhabiting always in imagination their hyperbolically marketed future -- not!) like Minsky (still doing his low-rent Asimov drag king schtick for the pop-tech rubes, I see) also rather remind one of right-wingnuts in the way they fail upward... I ruefully note, for example, that the recent flagrant duhson-spheroid idiocies of George Dvorsky seem to be winning him a comparatively cozy berth in the transhumanoid equivalent of the wingnut welfare archipelago: chats with NASA scenario-spinners, a guest-spot on io9 (has our Annalee developed a taste for extropian trash?), and now he's soliciting pay for HumanityPlus!tron seminars just like an Objectivist in their cultic heyday (from Ayn Randroids to Ayn Raelians in one hop, skip, and a jump). One needn't be a futurologist to predict a whole lot of crap sandwiches are about to be served up to the marks on some stale ill-nourishing white bread.

If At First You Don't Succeed Lie, Lie Again: Mitt Romney Detroit Fail Edition

via Ezra Klein:
“The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.” -- Mitt Romney, Feb 4, 2012

Romney’s “position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed. I know it infuriates them to hear that. The only economic success that President Obama has had is because he followed Mitt Romney’s advice.” -- Eric Fehrnstrom, senior adviser to the Romney campaign, April 30, 2012

See You In May

An interesting segment on Occupy and the Right to the City on Democracy Now! this morning with David Harvey (well, you can't just listen to David Graeber ALL the damn time, people, you'll end up making another Zizek of the poor guy):


My Floridian Father, Explained by Science

Being 'Born-Again' Linked to More Brain Atrophy

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Republicans Seem To Think "You Didn’t Clean Up Our Mess Fast Enough” Is A Winning Message For Them

That zinger came from former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs this morning on Meet the Press. This kind of clear, tough talk is music to my ears, and should appeal to Obama's Base as well as to many so-called "independents," who seem to respond well to resoluteness of tone, at any rate more than they do to substantive arguments. Gibbs also said, “We know this about Mitt Romney, he’s not a job creator. When he was governor of Massachusetts, they were 47th out of 50 in job creation. His experience [is] in downsizing and outsourcing jobs and bankrupting companies and walking away with a lot of money for himself. His economic ideas are the failed economic ideas that we tried for eight years.” We need to hear much more like this. Remember, winning the White House will be a diminished end if we cannot win back the House and hold on to the Senate by our fingernails (though for the sake of the Supreme Court and the ongoing implementation of healthcare and financial regulations, such as they are, even that diminished end will be well worth the effort).

These Charts Tell A Story We Are Starting to Re-Write Right Now

See You In May

After days and days of highlighting May Day posters, this one is testifying to where I will literally be tomorrow afternoon, at the beautiful Chestnut campus of SFAI, probably personing the table for our Visiting Faculty Association. Come by and say hi if you are around.

Republican Repeatedly Denies the Fact That Women Are Paid Less Than Men And Then Patronizes the Woman, Rachel Maddow, Who Points Out the Falsehood

All via ThinkProgress

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Futurological Brickbats

I know enough to know I don't know enough to be a scientific authority, while futurologists know enough to know that most people don't know enough to know the difference when they pretend to be scientific authorities.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Romney's War On Women

"Leading Scientists to Debate Views on Rejuvenation Biotechnologies"

So the transhumanoids at Accelerating Future tell me. Here's how such a "debate" would go if "leading scientists" were actually involved.

Robot Cultists: "We stipulate that magick would be awesome in the following ways..."

Leading Scientists: "Okay, then. We're going to go over there and talk about real stuff amongst ourselves now, if that's all right with you."

In a world where people are dying of measles, whooping cough, and unclean water, Robot Cultists are still masturbating about how they are going to live for centuries in comic book sooper-bodies capitalism is going to deliver them for being such good consumers. Honestly, has it ever been more palpably true that the "accelerating future" and the "acceleration of the acceleration of change" these techno-fantasists crow about is simply a misreading by those who are its relative beneficiaries (mostly North Atlantic middle-class white boys of the douche-nozzle variety) of the extreme destabilization and precarization produced by neoliberal net-facilitated fraud-financialization?

See You In May

To Criticize A Successful Con Man Is Not To Criticize Success

Please have one of your drassage horse masseuses make a note of it, Mitt.
This kind of devisiveness, this attack of success, is very different than what we’ve seen in our country’s history. We’ve always encouraged young people: Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.

Many Real Americans Lack Parents Who Have Wads of Extra Money on Hand to Put Us Through College Without the Assistance of a Good Government That Grasps the Importance of Public Investments In Education for the Good of All

Please have one of your drassage horse masseuses make a note of it, Mitt.
We’ve always encouraged young people: Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.

Friday, April 27, 2012

See You In May

Long Day at Dogpatch

Naomi Klein and Claire Bishop this morning in seminar -- with a little AbFab thrown in for good measure. More symposium prep in thesis workshop at noon. End of term looms -- but since beginning of summer intensives looms as well, no relief on the horizon, eek.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yes, Ben, Yes It Does

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke asked a rhetorical question at a press conference yesterday for which I think the answer most Americans would give may be quite different from the one he thinks we think it is: “Does it make sense to actively seek a higher inflation rate in order to achieve a slightly increased pace of reduction in the unemployment rate?” Given that unemployment is very much a crisis for millions of Americans, and inflation very much is not, then it makes no sense to pretend the answer to this question would be no, especially not an unhesitant no, especially when there are good reasons to believe that allowing a higher inflation rate might yield more than a "slight" improvement in the nation's employment picture.

Dick Republicans Prefer Dictatorship: Michigan Edition

Michigan, smell the freedom, GOP style!

Maddow Blog:
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers today rejected a petition drive that would have put the state's emergency manager law on the November ballot. The board's staff had reported that the petitioners had collected enough signatures, and recommended that the board deny a challenge on the basis that the petition's type size might be too small. That challenge came from a project living inside the same Republican consulting firm with a partner on the board… [T]he board voted two-two, on party lines, meaning the petitions were toast. They had been signed by more than 200,000 Michigan voters. Eclectablog, a Democrat activist and blogger, was in the room. He writes: "The vote was followed by chants of 'SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!' " And this: "After the vote, the room erupted. I apologize for the blurriness of this photo but it was pandemonium." An attorney for the group trying to overturn the emergency manager law tells us he'll file an appeal as early as Monday. "We had hoped that they would put democracy ahead of party allegiance, but we did not find that in this case," Herb Sanders said.

About Michigan's Emergency Manager Law (via StandUp4Democracy):
The Emergency Manager law allows the governor to declare a local government or school district in financial distress and appoint an emergency manager to take control. Emergency managers are nelected bureaucrats are unaccountable to local taxpayers and have unchecked, unprecedented power. Under this law, they can:
* seize and sell assets owned by the city, such as buildings or parks, without the approval of voters or local elected officials
* add to local debt, by putting property tax hikes on the ballot with confusing wording that hides the real cost of the tax hike
* outsource to private and out of state companies
* lay off thousands of public employees including teachers, police and firefighters
* change or terminate the contract of city or school district employees
* suspend contracts and collective bargaining agreements
* eliminate collective bargaining rights for up to 5 years
* fire elected officials, and
* dissolve or merge whole cities, counties and school districts
The unelected bureaucrats would be empowered to write the local government's budget and all its contracts for two years AFTER they are gone. No input from local residents, no collective bargaining.

See You In May

Dispatches from Libertopia

Republicans are divided between the rich ones who want to pretend they are giving when they are taking, and the poor ones who want to pretend they will be rich so they're not getting taken.

More Dispatches from Libertopia here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Republican Security Imaginary As Self-Consuming Artifact

Atrios points out yet another paradoxical (read: batshit crazy) landmark in the Republican policy terrain:
One hears about various TSA plans to take security theater productions on tour to all kinds of mass transit locations, and then one hears about various authorities wanting to let people carry their concealed guns everywhere. If there's any point to security theater, it's, you know, to find the damn guns. If the guns are legal then there's really no point to it at all.
Of course, the paradox is resolved when one realizes the delusional end-game here involves the eventual replacement of the TSA by a mercenary army of white racist muscular baby jeebus worshipping death cultists from the NRA.

So, This Teleprompter and an Etch-A-Sketch Walk Into A Bar…

via PoliticalWire and Buzzfeed:
"The most articulate and talented teleprompter reader in America." [Killer Clown audience: "Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!"] -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), quoted by the New York Times, mocking President Obama in 2010.

"I left my last page of the speech, does anyone have my last page? Did I Ieave it with you?" [America: "Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!"] -- Rubio, while giving a speech today at the Brookings Institution.

Steve Benen takes notes of another interesting Rubio-doh! today: "George W. Bush, in my opinion, did a fantastic job as president over eight years." If Romney gets the votes of every single American who shares that opinion, Republicans included, he might actually be elected second deputy dog catcher in Peoria.

The My Me Mine Asteroid Mining Fantasists

Lots of people are hyperventilating over the spectacle a handful of narcissistic celebrity tech CEOs are making of themselves about their plans to mine asteroids.

Soon enough, all of these same people will be too busy hyperventilating over the spectacle a handful of narcissistic celebrity tech CEOs are making of themselves about their plans to construct an orbital love motel or a bucky-magick space elevator to notice when the plan fizzles because neither the technology nor the will to do any of these things is there, and hence they won't be able to swing let alone sustain the capital investment to make any kind of go at it.

Indeed, no for-profit futurological folly will ever make a go at any kind of space program that doesn't amount to the fraud of calling low earth orbit amusement park rides a "space program."


Space enthusiasts (one of whom I fervently am myself) need to seriously get their Kennedy on and become avid Big Government types and stop this endless fruitless futurological confusion of science fiction with science policy and libertopian confusion of "free market" neo-feudalism with secular techno-scientifically literate social democracies that can actually sustain public investments in space exploration and extra-terrestrial infrastructure.

PS: And now for something completely different:

See You In May

Austerity Isn't Working (And It Never Will)

When David Cameron became PM, and announced his austerity plans… many were the hosannas, from both sides of the Atlantic. Pundits here urged Obama to “do a Cameron”; Cameron and Osborne were the toast of Very Serious People everywhere. Now Britain is officially in double-dip recession, and has achieved the remarkable feat of doing worse this time around than it did in the 1930s. Britain is also unique in having chosen the Big Wrong freely, facing neither pressure from bond markets nor conditions imposed by Berlin and Frankfurt.

Cameron is expected to double down on the Thatcherite bullying of the vulnerable and coddling of the rich with the inevitable pageant of contraction to continue on and on. Funny how you can't eat your civilization and have it, too.

If France switches horses mid-fuck to the milquetoast socialism of Hollande the table is possibly set for a course correction back to macroeconomically literate Euro policy amidst the entirely predictable ruins of the unforced error of Very Serious People who pretend that Keynes and Hicks (and possibly Copernicus) never happened.

Needless to say, here in America we are still struggling to clean up the mess even more deeply illiterate conservatives wrought in the Killer Clown Administration of George W. Bush while the soulless plutocrat Mitt Romney wants to argue that we should return to Bush's shit policies because Democrats haven't managed yet to shovel all the shit Bush dumped on us all the while Republicans have struggled with every ounce of their energy to tear from our hands the shovels we need to shovel the shit with. If I may say so. Here in America, of course, conservatives not only fail to learn their Keynes, they read the terminally awful Amway bodice-rippers of Ayn Rand (when they aren't reading The Bell Curve or visiting the Creation Museum or masterbating to The Handmaid's Tale) instead of Keynes and fancy the resultant sooper-stoopidity constitutes a form of sooper-genius.

If Obama wins a second term with the coat-tails to regain the House and retain the Senate, and Hollande begins to turn the tide in Europe away from austerity there may be a window for some sanity sooner than later. This will require lots of people to work hard for results that scarcely seem equal to the effort, and it will require a whole lot of luck of a kind that tends to be in short supply, but that's where we are.

Best Plutocracy Money Can Buy

via ThinkProgress:
Mitt Romney spent over $76 million to win the GOP presidential primary, more than the combined spending of all three of his main opponents. That breaks down to $18.50 per vote, and $126,000 per Republican convention delegate through the end of March, according to an analysis by CNN Money. If one includes the spending from super PACs supporting Romney, the total jumps to $122 million and breaks down to nearly $30 per vote and more than $200,000 per delegate.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

See You In May

Off to Work We Go

This morning it's Judith Butler's Undoing Gender and Carol Adams Neither Man Nor Beast in Critical Theory at Chestnut in the City. No meetings, so, a comparatively early day home.

Monday, April 23, 2012

See You In May

Today's Random Wilde

The real tragedies of 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.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Zombie Futurists Want Brains!

Welcome, futurological newcomers to this blog! I have noticed that somebody has glommed onto a little post of mine via Reddit -- Futurologists Are Mortal But Faith-Based Futurology Is A Zombie That Cannot Be Killed -- and it has attracted some comment there. What fun!

"smartalbert" declares: "Carrico got some ok points but it seems he is overdoing it. he gets almost hysterical and it makes his criticism sloppy."

I propose that if "smartalbert" re-imagines the tone of the piece as one of withering amusement rather than hysteria he might find the gist somewhat clarified.

"BaronVonDonut" announces "Wow, it took him 10 paragraphs to say: 'I disagree. My friends are smart, and they too disagree.'"

I submit that in between donuts the Baron might try a closer reading than one that discerns among dozens of observations, assertions, and conclusions only a claim about "my smart friends" which happens not to appear anywhere in the piece at hand.

"Toktyn" makes what seems to me the most bewildering claim, namely: "The way he argues against futurist ideas and projections reminds me of a Christian arguing against evolution. The writing is overly biased and so harshly written as to detract from its credibility, he doesn't support his claims well, and many of the claims are just plain wrong."

Notice that in this scenario it is the one who is dismissively skeptical about Robot Cultists promising techno-immortalism via Robot Bodies and Genetic Sooper Medicine and Mind-Uploading into Cyber-Heaven who is being compared to a faith-based Christian, and further that the skeptic is assigned residence in the position of one who argues against science (here, "evolution") not because I am defying scientific consensus but precisely because I am in accord with it. In case you're wondering I, uh, you know, also affirm evolutionary biology, sex education, Keynesian macroeconomics as revised by Hicks, the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, and that there is no such thing as a safe cigarette.

I will add that there is a heavy dose of sarcastic humor in the piece in question, well-deserved and hard won in my opinion after decades spent exposing, critiquing, and ridiculing the pseudo-science and deranging hyperbole of pop tech and faith-based futurology (for more of which begin here). I offer up these critiques from a techno-scientificially literate secular progressive vantage informed by environmental justice critique and science and technology studies (subjects which I teach at the university level should such things happen to matter to you). I have written plenty that is not humorous and which might therefore evade the worries of the humorless about my "tone" and "bias" directed against techno-immortalists pretending to offer up serious policy prescriptions and to report on scientific developments by saying how cool it would be if magic were real and how entrepreneurial capitalism is going to deliver everybody techno-transcendence "in twenty years."

America Will Probably Have to Lose All Florida -- After All, Its Wang -- Before It Stops Acting Like A Dick on Climate Change

Offered up in rueful appreciation of a comment from "JimF" in the Moot, who wrote:
We would have to lose a few cities (mostly, ironically if not deservedly, in the South) before Republicans... would start taking a problem like anthropogenic climate change seriously....It's almost exactly like the business with cigarettes and lung cancer...

Chris Hayes Enables the Anti-Ecologism of "Reasonable" Republicans

I'm in a blistering bad mood, largely brought on by watching Chris Hayes this morning. Hayes is of course amazingly earnest and bright and righteous and he actually takes environmental issues seriously, and yet today he had "reasonable" Republicans on his show talking about climate change.

And you know what? Christine Todd Whitman and Paul Douglas frankly probably really are the closest thing to reasonable Republicans on environmental issues ... and yet the simple truth is that because they were there the discussion was worse than useless (even the infinitely adorable Sam Seder couldn't turn the tide). After Hayes offered up his fine initial editorial framing of some of the issues at hand, no one who actually knew anything about the scale and seriousness of the problems at hand and the necessarily governmental and quite radical scale and nature of the kinds of organized intervention that alone will be adequate to address these problems was able to keep the focus where it should be for any length of time.

It would seem that even "reasonable" Republicans who are not outright denialists about climate science all end up behaving as what I call "second stage denialists" in their embrace of market non-solutions and refusal to call out patently obvious bad actors in this death-dealing drama. And quite apart from engaging endlessly in that kind of second stage denialism, the Republicans on the panel this morning wasted everybody's time pretending Republican anti-civilizationism is actually somehow the inevitable result of the "bad attitudes" or "imprecise phrase-making" of environmental scientists and activists... or indulging in "both sides are exactly equally to blame" nonsense (the denial of which is not at all the same thing as pretending Democrats are doing enough when they obviously are not or would all do enough even if they could when they obviously would not)... or fluttering about how we must not demonize wonderful celebrity CEOs or our marvelous plutocratic free enterprise system just because we all know who the bastards are who are destroying the world for short term profit... and on and on and on and and on.

Nothing could be clearer than that when "reasonable" Republicans condemn a lack of government vision or effectiveness in the face of environmental problems they are always doing so as part of the making of a profoundly pernicious wholesale anti-governmental case that is incomparably more catastrophic as a vision or guide to pragmatic considerations than anything they are presumably condemning while making it... and all the while, the polite lefty host and actually concerned environmentalists blandly nod, or say "interesting" or "good point," as if sublimely indifferent to the fact that they don't agree at all with the actually salient ideological point really being made, and despite the fact that these points are, even at their best, the furthest imaginable thing from actually interesting or good, but are usually quite flabbergastingly obvious and inept and tired (when they aren't actually outright destructive).

Although I suppose it matters less than the rest of what bugged me so much about the discussion, I'll admit that neither do I have much patience for that whole tired "reasonable" Republican rap that reminds us for the millionth time about Lincoln and Roosevelt and the national parks (as if either of them could be so much as elected runner-up for deputy dog catcher by today's white-racist pro-corporatist GOP), how Nixon deserves credit for founding the EPA (which he did to gain executive control over what was then a clear inevitability rather than to promote an environmental vision of his), or how green Reagan was compared to the present day GOP (when of course his appointment of rabid anti-environmentalist loon James Watt to Secretary of the Interior directly prefigured the current Republican anti-ecologist death cultism). There was plenty of that deceptive self-serving crap in evidence as well on the show.

Part of me concedes that one should perhaps allow this sort of thing to permit some kind of face-saving grace for reconciliation with the GOP in this consummating moment of their madness, some kind of a space for the emergence of actually "reasonable" Republicans to become something other than an always only relentlessly obstructive and actively world-destroying force... but then I find myself wondering why the only way such grace or such a space can be made is presumably by collaborating in lies and deceptions and frauds? What kind of "reasonableness" is really finally facilitated by this sort of enabling and hand-holding?

The simple fact is that quite apart from the explicit anti-science turn in Republicanism that leads to the more loud-mouthed forms of denialism about environmental crises, Republican anti-governmentalism eliminates tools without which there can be no adequate address of environmental crises and so amounts to a second, and equally catastrophic, layer to their anti-environmental denialism. The fact that Republicans are also a bought-and-paid-for lobbying arm of petrochemical multinational corporations whose world-historically unprecedented profits depend on the externalization of the actually-existing environmental costs of the extraction, processing, transportation, and consumption of their commodities is of course another layer, one that depends for its maintenance and force on these twin anti-science and anti-governmental denialisms.

Setting aside the role of Republicanism in the ongoing class war on the poor and even on the middle-class, on the disabled (I prefer the term differently enabled, but whatever), on women's health, on vulnerable children, on educators and on the diversity of secular culture and on the role of knowledge in accountable policy-making, setting aside the literal Republican devotion to war-making, gun-waving, execution of innocents, and so much more, setting all this death-dealing aside, their role enabling climate catastrophe makes the Republican Party the single most dangerous organized force in the world right now. There are no "reasonable" Republicans. Republicanism is not a force for reasonableness, the role of reason is the complete marginalization into irrelevance of every Republican from civilized life.

It's too late for the Republicans. If we waste more time pretending otherwise, it's too late for us all.

See You In May

Today's Random Wilde

Ordinary theology has long since converted its gold into lead, and words and phrases that once touched the heart of the world have become wearisome and meaningless through repetition.

Friday, April 20, 2012

See You in May

Today's Random Wilde

It is always nice to be expected, and not to arrive.

On My Way to Dogpatch

Screening and discussing Velvet Goldmine in my seminar this morning, then workshopping four presentations with my MA thesis cohort later in the afternoon. Long day, but rather fun.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

See You In May

On the Bus

Strangely solitary, melancholy image of President Obama sitting on the bus where on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat for a white passenger in the racially segregated south.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ABDC Early Picks

Season 7 Round One is done and I'm torn between Fanny Pak (they was robbed) and Mos Wanted Crew so far. I have truly loved this show, its diversity and generosity and earnestness and energy and intelligence make me feel something weirdly akin to patriotism, actually, but I'm possibly sensing slight enervation this time around and really must say I am not pleased to see the whole standard-lowering baby-crew phenomenon not only returning but doubling this season.

Malvina Reynolds Helps Keep Amor Mundi More Positive

Ted Nugent's Dangerous Liaison

The Secret Service is going to meet with fulminating right-wing loon and officially-affiliated Mitt Romney supported Ted Nugent tomorrow to discuss what seemed a very public declaration on his part that he would attempt to assassinate our President should he be re-elected. Given what we now know about the Secret Service, I would recommend that Nugent wear nothing too alluring to the interview.

If You Respect Working Parents So Much, Republicans, Put Your Votes Where Your Mouths Are

Republicans spent the last few days crowing about how the words of one Democratic pundit unaffiliated with the Obama administration could be twisted into a slur against parents who manage to stay at home and raise their kids and about how this reveals that Democrats are engaged in a secret war on child raising. This is a sentiment that literally not a single fair minded person would actually attribute to the words of the pundit in question, of course, let alone would be plausibly entertained for even a split second by anybody who knows anything about the long history of efforts by Democrats to support the health, education and welfare of actually existing children, single mothers, parents with endless proposals every one of which is always fought tooth and nail by, who else? The Republicans, always the Republicans.

And now Progressive Democrats, lead by the Democratic Congressman Pete Stark of my great state of California (naturally), are trying once again to use this moment to make the lives of actual working parents better in the real world, in spite of the lies and brutality of the usual hypocritical Republicans. While it is unlikely that Republicans can be shamed into putting their votes where their big mouths are, one assumes this will put the obscenity of their cynical lip-smacking feeding frenzy to a welcome stop, as well as expose for anybody who needs yet another in the series of a million reminders of just whose side Republicans are on. I must say it is rather heartening to realize how politically inept Republicans are revealed to be in so transparently seeking to seize a news cycle by pretending to care about what they have endlessly testified on record and on tape to not caring about, and in a way that exposes them to the risk of undermining their usually relentless focus on their ongoing anti-government pro-feudalist civilization dismantlement project and opens the door to public discussion of the ways in which social democracy might be made to work for the majority of people who actually work for a living if people of good sense and good will who actually care about such things are the ones we support. Here is the Press Release from Pete Stark's office:
WASHINGTON -- Today, Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) introduced the Women's Option to Raise Kids Act (WORK Act), which would recognize that all parents who stay home to raise young children are, in fact, doing important and legitimate work. Original cosponsors of the WORK Act include Reps. John Lewis (D-GA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Laura Richardson (D-CA).

Rep. Stark: "Mitt Romney was for ObamaCare before he was against it. Then, he was for forcing low-income mothers into the workforce before he decided 'all moms are working moms'."

"I think we should take Mr. Romney at his most recent word and change our federal laws to recognize the importance and legitimacy of raising young children. That's why I've introduced the WORK Act to provide low-income parents the option of staying home to raise young children without being pushed into poverty."

Why we need the WORK Act:

Current law does not count low-income stay-at-home parents who are raising young children as meeting the necessary Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) work requirement. Current law also bans states from counting these individuals toward that state's work participation rate, which can result in financial penalties if not met. This effectively bars low-income parents who choose to stay home to raise their young children from access to the financial support of TANF.

As reported by the New York Times and others, the TANF program has been particularly unresponsive during the economic downturn (see this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). Today, TANF is only serving 27% of families living in poverty, compared to 68% when the program was enacted to great acclaim in 1996. The result is that more children are being pushed deeper into poverty and destitution. Congress needs to start fixing this problem to ensure that low-income families have access to needed assistance. The WORK Act is an important step in that direction.

What the WORK Act does:

The WORK Act would amend TANF law to recognize the critical job of raising children age three or younger as work. Under the legislation, low-income parents could work, receive job training, search for work, or raise their children until they are school-aged without fear of losing TANF support and being pushed deeper into poverty. This is the same option that wealthy families, such as the Romneys, enjoy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Off To The City....

Hannah Arendt this morning in my critical theory survey course, excerpts from The Human Condition, On Violence, Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Monday, April 16, 2012

But I Feel Fine...

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot: much climate change denialism really amounts to the very familiar, very ugly North Atlantic racism that says: Sure, climate-change will increase famines and droughts and lethally destructive storms that end the world for millions... sure, it will release more disease-carrying insects at higher human-dwelling altitudes and undermine hygiene and despoil freshwater and swell slums to intensify plagues that end the world for millions... sure, it will demolish infrastructure and empower warlords and further destabilize societies and set millions more precarious refugees in motion whose worlds are turned upside down... and so on and so forth and so on and so forth... hell, it already is, sure enough, right now, even now! -- but, hey, it doesn't matter, it's not the end of the world, not really, not the END end of the REAL world... because it will mostly continue always only to happen to THEM, you know, OVER THERE, you know, where everything is always nothing but lethal and devastated and alien and precivilized and not-world... WE will be okay, WE will still have our bottled water, WE will still have our big box retail outlets and air conditioned malls, WE will still have our lawns to mow and our freeways to motor and our drive-throughs to have fries with that, WE will still have our high walls and our bubble-domes, WE will still have our guns to protect our treasure hoards... So often, climate change denialism is just another variation on the usual denial of humanity to the majority of humans on the planet, not least by people who smugly declare themselves to be some kind of humanists.

"Geo-Engineering" As Second Stage Denialism

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, "jollyspaniard" writes:
Part of the appeal to Geo Engineering comes from hopelessness with the politics. In a way that marries perfectly with the denier narrative. The Koch Brother types want you either to deny or to give up hope. Both serve the same end.
One of the things I emphasize in my own critique is the nonsensicality of this particular argumentative move. Every geo-engineering mega-engineering wet-dream, were it to move from fancy to actual implementation, would require the very politics (funding, regulation, dispute-adjudication, maintenance) to work relatively effectively the specific denial of which tends to be the enabling condition for entertaining these boondoggles in the first place. As often happens in futurological discourse, we are never more than a hop, skip, and jump away from straightforward magical thinking here.

I agree with you that "geo-engineering" plays into denialism. In my earliest critiques of "geo-engineering" I actually declared its anti-politics a kind of second stage climate-change denialism: where many begin by denying the scientific consensus about catastrophic anthropogenic climate change "geo-engineering" enthusiasts end by denying the possibility of any democratically accountable equitable collective response to the shared problem of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. Chris Mooney in particular pooh-poohed this point of mine as a real stretch. But it seems to me a fine way of understanding what Al Gore has famously diagnosed as the tendency of so many folks to leap from a kind of denial to a kind of despair that keeps them maddeningly passive in the face of climate catastrophes like pollution and resource descent.

Romney Tacking Center Is A Self-Consuming Artifact

Many have pointed out a real dilemma for the Republican Presidential nominee given the current extremity (a nice word for white-racist greedhead gun-loving patriarchal death cult) of the Republican Base. The usual strategy of playing to the hard-right base voters in the primaries and then tacking back to the "center" to win over independents in the general is doubly difficult for Mitt Romney. First, this is because he has earned such an unprecedented reputation for opportunistic finger-to-the-wind flip-floppery that this sort of perfectly standard campaign re-tooling plays for him in particular into some fairly lethal ready-made negative narratives about his lack of courage or convictions that will likely turn off as many independent voters as more moderate positions would gain him. Second, this is because Romney is distrusted by his base while at once Americans more generally are highly turned off by the sorts of extremism represented by the Tea Party, the Ryan Budget, and the War on Women, and this means that both energized Republicans and energized Democrats really want Romney to stick to the extreme positions he advocated over the course of the primaries, so that every signal of "moderation" will likely generate a devastating firestorm from Republicans, while every signal of fidelity to his Base will generate an equally devastating firestorm from Democrats.

So far, the Romney campaign seems to be trying to thread this needle by affirming Romney will keep to his civilization-dismantlement promises from the primary, but insisting that Romney says nice things about the programs he is destroying right before he destroys them, or assuring us he sure hopes somebody somewhere will still do the important things that he is making it impossible to do. "We'll junk healthcare reform… but here's hoping somebody does something about all those uninsured folks and all those abusive and fraudulent insurance practices! No support for Planned Parenthood… but gosh I'm sure somebody out there will support it. The NEA and the NEH? What awesome glorious work they do! It's high time we junk them! Now, onto more tax cuts for zillionaires like me!" I have no interest in offering Romney campaign advice, obviously, but I will say that it is hard to imagine this clumsy contradictory self-consuming strategy pretzel is going to work, dude.

CNN Political Ticker:
Answering a question from CNN affiliate KDSK of St. Louis, Romney listed off a series of programs he would either eliminate or defund in order to reduce the federal deficit… "You get rid of Obamacare, but there are others… Planned Parenthood, we're gonna get rid of that. The subsidy for Amtrak, I would eliminate that. The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, both excellent programs, but we can't afford to borrow money to pay for these things." Speaking on CNN Tuesday night, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said the candidate was listing programs, including Planned Parenthood, that could be defunded to balance the budget. "He singled out some areas of the budget he would eliminate or curtail, all in the name of achieving a balanced budget," Fehrnstrom said. He added, "It would not be getting rid of the organization. They have other sources of funding besides government operations, but in order to achieve balance, we have to make some tough decisions about spending."

Today's Random Wilde

There is always more brass than brains in an aristocracy.

"Romney... If He Wins, We Lose"

Fightin' back in the class war, y'all.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How Is YouTube Not Like An Etch-A-Sketch?

Ask Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney: Stay-At-Home Moms Lack "Dignity of Work"

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

Here Mitt says directly and contemptuously the very thing his campaign has made hay with for days by falsely implying Hilary Rosen said it, namely, that raising kids at home isn't hard work or real work... and then he ties it up with a bow by resurrecting the ugly richy-rich class-war specter of Reagan's so-called "welfare queen." No doubt the entire wingnut-o-sphere will now commence to howl and tear out their hair in another round of fulminating outrage over the insult to stay-at-home Moms? Cue crickets chirping. It is fun to see Republicans still haven't quite gotten their minds around the whole accessible video archives and cellphone recordings and google thing yet.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What Are People Really Talking About When They Talk About "Geo-Engineering"?

My latest article published at The Futurist is here. I am re-posting here it at Amor Mundi as well:

This article is not intended as a contribution to the debate on "geo-engineering." I insist on that because it seems to me the more important point to make about "geo-engineering" is that it is, strictly speaking, non-debatable. More specifically, I think the principal work of "geo-engineering" discourse is to displace debate, not to have it, in the first place.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I fear that the topic of "geo-engineering," such as it is, ends up being a way of not debating serious environmental problems and any serious technical, practical, educational, organizational, legislative efforts at solving them, by preoccupying and distracting us with non-debatable fancies. And the fact that many of those who are caught up in "geo-engineering" discourse are themselves quite serious people, and even quite serious about environmental problems, makes the ultimate unseriousness of "geo-engineering" seem to me all the more serious.

Part of the reason I say that "geo-engineering" is non-debatable is the rather obvious fact that there really are no actually existing instances of "geo-engineering" for us to debate. Even the handful of proposals of various "geo-engineering" projects that have attracted enormous amounts of attention and generated all sorts of enthusiasm are inevitably pitched at a level of generality that falls far short of the sort of specificity that could yield serious engineering schematics and actual budgeting proposals.

Indeed, the pattern with "geo-engineering" proposals, so-called, so far -- whether they have called for dumping vast quantities of iron filings in our oceans or for spewing vast quantities of sulfur in our skies -- has been that precisely as these proposals become more detailed warnings of their deleterious environmental impacts have multiplied so explosively, concerns about their unknowable environmental impacts have proliferated so threateningly, questions about the legal, logistical, technical, funding hurdles to their implementation have ramified so breathtakingly that these proposals get tossed into the wastebasket by the serious within moments of being taken the least bit seriously.

Of course, in making this last point I might seem to be conceding what I began by denying: that "geo-engineering" is debatable. It might now seem to the contrary, that as someone who tends to be rather skeptical about "geo-engineering" proposals, I would want to draw the opposite conclusion, that "geo-engineering" is not only debatable but should be debated all the more seriously because when it is debated it is its critics rather than its enthusiasts who have tended to benefit from such debate.

But what I mean to emphasize is that it is never really "geo-engineering" that is being debated in any of these cases. It is not clear to me that any number of definitive critiques against specific proposals onto which the "geo-engineering" label has attached can ever diminish the enthusiasm with which proponents of "geo-engineering" declare it an important consideration, a necessary strategy, a last ditch effort, a crucial "Plan B." Neither is it clear to me why the particular details leading us to reject one "geo-engineering" proposal would necessarily have any connection at all to the details that would lead us to reject another. This is actually another way of saying that neither is it clear to me just what it is that causes some climate-change mitigation proposals to be corralled together under the "geo-engineering" label and not others in the first place. All this is to say, that although when people talk about "geo-engineering" they tend to talk as if they are saying something about technologies or strategies or plans, there really are no technologies, no strategies, no plans, no underlying commonalities at hand.

What I want to propose, then, is that "geo-engineering" actually isn't a technique or a practical approach or a plan at all, but a discourse. That is to say, "geo-engineering" is a way of talking, it is a way of framing a discussion, it is a kind of style of thinking about certain problems, it is an intellectual genre with highly characteristic preoccupations, conceits, figures, and argumentative gestures.

I mentioned a moment ago that it is not always clear why some sorts of environmentalist proposals tend to be described as "geo-engineering" while others are not. When people talk about "geo-engineering" proposals they tend to start talking about vast mega-engineering projects, about dreamy archipelagos of mirrors in high earth orbit, about tanker fleets converging for megaton sea dumps of iron filings, about fleets of airships spraying pseudo-volcanic aerosols into cloud banks, about undersea cathedrals of vertical piping to cool ocean surfaces. Sometimes, but only rarely, massive tree-planting efforts and cool-roof painting projects are also described as "geo-engineering." It is interesting to note that reforestation or roof-painting is hardly anybody's go-to imagery for "geo-engineering," and yet these are the only kind of plausibly describable "geo-engineering" proposals that have ever been undertaken in the real world. It is also interesting to note that what is emphatically NOT regarded as "geo-engineering" proposals are efforts to regulate fuel efficiency standards for automobiles or to incentivize the purchase of energy efficient appliances or to enforce more renewable materials in construction practices or to regulate power plants or to make public investments in mass transit or bike lanes or to mandate the introduction of smokestack soot filters or to create loan incentives for homeowners who introduce geothermal pumps, attic fans, front porches, or solar panels in new or renovated homes. Even if the aggregate impacts of especially national efforts at legislation, regulation, education, investment, incentive play out on a scale comparable to that presumably involved in "geo-engineering" proposals, these more familiar kinds of environmentalist proposals are not only not regarded as "geo-engineering" but advocacy of "geo-engineering" is often accompanied by a strong disdain for precisely these kinds of environmentalist proposals. Indeed, the inevitability of their failure is often the very foundation on which advocacy of "geo-engineering" is premised. Although some "geo-engineering" enthusiasts insist that they are proposing a supplementation and not a replacement for conventional environmentalist regulation, education, and investment it is interesting to note that while one is talking about the one, one is not talking about the other. And it is a strange thing to supplement something real with something that is not real, especially when the problems, the dangers, and the damage remain very real.

I would describe “geo-engineering” as an apparently environmentalist discourse in which corporate-military organizations are imagined to declare and wage war on climate change on an industrial scale. I say that "geo-engineering" is only APPARENTLY environmentalist, first of all, because it functions to direct our attention away from so many of the premises, aspirations, and concrete proposals with which environmentalist activism and concern are indispensably identified, across the range of its mainstream and radical forms. I have already mentioned the way "geo-engineering" discourse systemically directs our attention from recognizable environmentalist proposals, but I would have you notice also that to the extent that "geo-engineering" simply amounts to the proposal that large-scale human activity can change the planetary climate for the better then "geo-engineering" is really little more than a kind of smiley-faced can-do variation on the foundational notion of anthropogenic climate change as such. If human behavior in the aggregate is causing global warming, then it seems plausible in turn (though this is not logically necessarily true) that human behavior might also be made to cause global cooling. Be that as it may, considering how many people are either ignorant of or actively deny the overwhelming consensus of relevant scientists that catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is a clear and present danger -- mostly the result of massive ongoing public relations and misinformation campaigns on the part of actors who parochially profit from activities contributing to global warming -- "geo-engineering" simply seems to be another way of not talking about what must be talked about, another way of evading the necessity of education in the facts of the matter, another way of indulging in denial about the reality of the threat at hand as a collective threat and not just another opportunity for individual profit. I would add that in quite a lot of "geo-engineering" discourse there is a kind of alienated attitude toward the earth itself, in which environmentalism is re-cast as a kind of science fictional narrative in which humans are aliens arriving on a distant planet and technologically setting about terraforming it to suit their needs, rather than a recognition that we are earthlings evolved for fitness and flourishing on a good earth that we have damaged in our ignorance and aggression and short sighted greed. I am not sure that a genuine environmentalism can arise and abide from such an earth-alienated vantage when all is said and done. (And I say this is someone who views artifice and technique as part of human nature all the while remembering that humans are earthlings, and who sees all culture as essentially prosthetic all the while remembering the connection of culture with cultivation and of cultivation, once again, to the earth.)

Part of what it means to rewrite environmentalism in the image of competitive corporate-military organizations waging war on climate change on an industrial scale is that "geo-engineering" proposes that the very agents most responsible for environmental catastrophe are finally the only ones suited to resolve it. I think this vision is, to say the least, doubly discomfiting to a proper environmentalist. For one thing, as I said, we know that many corporations profiting from the pollution and waste that contributes to anthropogenic climate change devote considerable resources to deceptive public relations campaigns undermining the force of the scientific consensus about the reality and danger of climate change as well as to lobbying and other kinds of political organizing to undermine legislative efforts to regulate pollution and invest in sustainable alternatives. Further, it envisions attacking climate change primarily in the very mode of mega-scale brute-force extractive-industrial agency through which environmental catastrophe has been wrought.

Futurological discourses, of which "geo-engineering" very definitely is one, regularly drift into the cadences of redemptive wish-fulfillment fantasy. A post-war America traumatized by the implications of Hiroshima was all too willing to be peddled a redemptive fantasy of clean nuclear power too cheap to meter (a fantasy purchased at the cost of a constellation of ruinously costly, unfathomably dangerous, centuries-poisonous boondoggles). An America terrified by the implications of Peak Oil is all too willing to be peddled a redemptive fantasy of "clean coal" or petrochemical multinationals peddling soothing images of sunflowers and languidly turning wind turbines. An America harassed and controlled by targeted marketing and panoptic data profiling and fine-grained always-on surveillance is no doubt all too willing to be peddled a redemptive fantasy of iPad democracy and facebook liberation. I suppose it may be logically conceivable that industrial juggernauts will find profitable ways of healing the devastating planetary wounds they have wrought in their industrialized profit-taking, but there are plenty of reasons to be supremely skeptical of the impulses that make such redemptive endorsements of incumbent elites seductive.

It is certainly difficult to understand how those who declare themselves forced into advocacy of "geo-engineering" as a Last Resort or a Plan B given the conspicuous failure of conventional environmental politics actually imagine the fantastic mega-engineering projects they sigh over would actually be funded, regulated, and maintained if not by conventional funding and regulatory agencies, or just how they square the faith that such conventional investment and governance will prevail over "geo-engineering" with their despair that such governance will never rise to the challenge of our shared environmental problems. To advocate more mainstream-legible environmentalist proposals of legislation, regulation, education, incentivation, and public investment is not to advocate the same old nothing rather than something promising and new, but to advocate something still over a nothing pretending to be something else. It remains to be seen if human beings will grasp the truth of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change and organize in large enough numbers to impel equitable accountable governance to address our shared planetary problems in time, but I refuse to pretend loose techno-utopian wish-fulfillment fantasies are real alternatives, rather than the distractions and derangements and denialisms they really are.

Republican War On Women Rages On

Everybody knows by now that Hilary Rosen, a Democratic pundit unaffiliated with the Obama administration (and a rather corporatist one at that, a moneyed muckety muck who managed to side wrongly with BP and wrongly against Napster, for example, right when it mattered most, just saying), made an offhand comment on the tee vee the other day that the wife of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Ann Romney, had "never worked a day in her life" and in so doing apparently, unexpectedly, tore the lid off of Hell.

Of course, Rosen made this point in a discussion about Mitt Romney's curious declaration that his wife was his primary consultant on women's issues, speaking as though she were the ambassador of some alien unfathomable species with whom he otherwise is in scant contact (which, if true, would account for much of his weirdness on this topic). Apparently, Ann Romney has told Mitt in no uncertain terms that the ladies are much more worried about how much multimillionaires like her husband have to pay in taxes than they are in things like Romney's good friend Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker overturning laws securing the right of women to sue for equal pay for equal work or things like Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer making Constitutionally protected medically indispensable healthcare procedures like abortion all but impossible to procure in her state or Republican legislators in Virginia insisting that doctors must rape women with transvaginal probes and humiliate them with angelic ultrasound images of their soon to be murdered fetal gum-wad homunculi if they need an abortion.

Quite obviously and sensibly, what Rosen was pointing out is that Ann Romney might not be the best person for Mitt to consult if he really wants an accurate sense of the way women in America who happen not to have spent their whole lives leisurely lolling about in mansions feel about issues like the Lily Ledbetter Act or Planned Parenthood or Roe v Wade.

Republicans decided to pretend that when Rosen made this point what she really meant to deny was that raising kids is real work or worthy of respect and that, therefore, her comment slotted neatly into one of the readily available narratives through which Republicans express their sense of being forever aggrieved and infinitely victimized by political correctness, by disrespect for the total awesomeness of the Confederacy, by the War on Christmas, by the racism of being called on their racism, by the pink octopus of the homosexual agenda, by various secretly communist environmentalist hoaxes, and, of course, by feminazis and uppity negroes. Needless to say, and hence apparently infinitely needful to say, Rosen is herself a mother (even if, dun dun DUN... a lesbian one) who has raised kids and would be the last person to think that the work she was doing raising her kids wasn't the work it was, but she went on tee vee to apologize anyway to anyone who might have honestly thought she was denigrating motherhood when she was obviously making a point that Ann Romney's extreme wealth gave her extraordinary privileges as a mother that make her altogether atypical.

Ann Romney responded with robotic predictability on Fox News, self-righteously insisting that "we need to respect all choices that women make," as if Rosen didn't respect the choices of parents (of either sex, actually, Ann) who focus on raising their children over other concerns, often at great personal cost, also as if she and her husband are not themselves devoted to precisely a Republican politics systematically denying women choices they would make about the health of their own bodies or the choice to devote themselves to careers as equals to their male peers, also as if 99% of American woman can make anything like the same sort of choices a super-rich 1% woman with access to nannies, maids, drivers, tutors, infinite resources and leisure time does -– which was, of course, Rosen's obvious point from the beginning, precisely as true and as damning as it was when she said it.

I personally don't think that President Obama should have made public remarks distancing himself from what Rosen said. I mean, can you imagine Romney having to distance himself from the radioactively racist sexist homophobic Islamophobic death-drooling militarism and gun-nuttery and so on that wingnut pundits remark on in public places from perches exactly equally proximate to Romney's campaign as Rosen is to Obama's on a daily basis? I certainly don't think Obama said anything wrong, in fact I thought his comments were quite spot on, and who can say whether the Republicans would have vomited up more or less phony outrage had he said nothing instead of something in the first place? It is impossible to predict how these lying loonies will react to anything, really. I definitely think the handful of timorous DNC folks who seemed to think that "Rosengate" means Democrats should retreat from the highly concise, highly memorable, highly effective, highly accurate messaging about a "Republican War on Women" are obviously quite silly and useless, and I am happy to see that few seem to be taking them seriously, as Joe Biden, various Democratic Senators, and certainly popular progressive media figures continue to use the phrase.

It remains to be seen whether the incredible gender gap opening up in support of Obama will be the least bit diminished by "Rosengate." I personally doubt it will be, especially as obliging Republicans continue to pass their anti-woman anti-contraception anti-abortion anti-healthcare anti-equity legislation and indulge their sexist ids in public. For me, the lies and laughs and slurs issuing from Republican mouths over the course of Rosengate looked far more like one more ugly episode in the ongoing War On Women than the glorious end of the War on terms favorable to the Republicans, of all things.

Certainly, if nothing else, by jumping on the anti-Rosen bandwagon Ann Romney demonstrated a cynical deceptive opportunism that proves beyond a doubt that she is a good match for her equivocating, prevaricating, not exactly scintillating, endlessly awkward-making humanoid husband. It is nice to be clear about that before we continue on in this joyless ritual through to victory in November.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Technician, Heel Thyself

Writes TPM's David Kurtz:
Before James Cameron saccharined it all up with a love story, the story of the sinking of the Titanic was an object lesson in the hubris born from man’s love affair with technology… I couldn’t help but wonder if that lesson has stuck in any real way.
Given TPM's endless advertorial pseudo-reportage about the awesomeness of the various Kindles and iPhones they want the lemmings to consume at the moment, or TPM's breathlessly uncritical hyperventilations about the artificial intelligence of palpably unintelligent software, or TPM's handwaving about the superabundance promised in deceptive corporate press releases hawking 3D printers and sooper solar panels and wearable computers, or TPM's falling for faster-than-light nonsense or extrasolar planet porn, or TPM's celebration of the so-called greatness of celebrity tech CEOs who actually do little more than repackage stale crap and skim the ideas of anonymous thinkers and outsource manufacturing to poisonous slave camps and beg for government handouts and contracts and bailouts when they aren't jerking off for the camera about what Randian hyper-individualist free market capitalists they are, or TPM's flogging of the inevitably emancipating force of digital networks more likely to surveil and control us, harass us with incessant target marketing, and evacuate our deliberation of anything more substantial than reports of the present contents of our stomachs and the cuteness of babies and kittens, given all this, I do indeed think that Kurtz would do well to remember object lessons in the hubris born of people's love affair with what passes from moment to moment for high technology and technology's fantastic futures.

For more posts castigating facile futurism and techno-utopianism at TPM you might look here and here and here and here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Work Day

MFA Reviews at Dogpatch all day long. Yet again, blogging low to no.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Today's Random Wilde

The one person who has more illusions than the dreamer is the man of action.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Off to Dogpatch

Long teaching day ahead -- In the morning seminar, it's Hebdige on style and subculture and Sontag on camp, and a couple of plays by Joe Orton. In the afternoon, a quartet of MA theses to workshop. Blogging, I fear, low to no.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

GOP Thinks Consistency Is Funny

By all means, Republicans, spend all the money you want airing ads in which President Obama is demonstrated to be a consistent and tireless defender, year after year, of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits on which millions and millions of voting Americans depend for their survival, while Republicans keep trying to destroy those programs and those benefits so that the already rich can lard themselves with even more money while people who work for a living lose their access to healthcare and basic security. By all means, Republicans, go ahead and let America know how terribly amusing you think this life and death struggle is. Enjoy your infinitely inauthentic inconsistent flip-flopping vulture capitalist candidate -- you really truly do deserve one another... Just as America deserves and expects and is demanding so much better than you.

Go With What You Know: Wisconsin GOP Pins Their Hopes on Cheating and Lies

Wisconsin State Journal: "The state GOP has lined up six fake Democrats to run in upcoming recall elections targeting Gov. Scott Walker and five other Republicans."
Good luck with that, assholes.

Cr-a-a-a-azy Lie-bruls And Hysterical Women!

"If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars." -- RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

Who knew Democrats and mainstream media outlets were so all powerful that they could make all these Republican Presidential contenders and high profile Republican lawmakers and Republican public figures and Republican dominated state legislatures engage in jeremiads against the Girl Scouts of America as a lesbian socialist indoctrination outfit and crusade against funding for women's healthcare services provided by Planned Parenthood helping millions and millions of Americans and mandate women who choose to undergo legal and necessary healthcare procedures like abortion having to suffer involuntary vaginal probes and getting forced to stare at ultrasound scans of fetal homunculi and contemplate their supposed sins for days and days before the procedure can take place at all and their physicians forced by law to tell them terrifying untruths such as that abortion increases their risk of getting cancer and circumscribe their right to this procedure by phony restrictions of "partial-birth abortion" and exceptions even for women raped or subjected to incest all waived away whatever the medical dangers all the while gun toting lunatics throng and bomb healthcare clinics and terrorize and murder abortion doctors whenever they aren't watching Fox News? Pity the poor Republicans, forced by those mean Democrats to do so much evil stupid damage to so many millions against their will!

The Republican War on Women is real and every woman knows it for sure, as does every man who truly loves and respects the women with whom he shares this world. Democrats didn't make Republicans do what they have done and say what they have said. Mainstream media have not invented the vile words that echo in our ears and the ugly laws plain to see before our eyes. I think poor Reince Priebus is revealing more than he means to do in comparing the reality of Republican anti-woman hatred to a war on caterpillars, of all things. The caterpillar looks like a shriveled little worm, does it not, boys? And indeed the patriarchal pricks of the GOP are shrinking in a good dunk of cold clear righteous spring water. And after years and years of feminist-bashing and accommodation and backsliding, I am seeing a beautiful butterfly spreading her wings.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Selling the Debased Present With Fraudulent Futures

The momentary reflection on Jeffrey Toobin's disgusting self-promotional stunt in the last post leads me to make a larger point that actually provides a way of understanding what drives this quirky quixotic blog of mine. In my opinion, we can never underestimate the devastating force of marketing and promotional discourse, a mode of mass-mediated deception and hyperbole that has always operated less according to traditional rhetorical relations of logical entailment and evidenciary substantiation and figural evocation than in the more ballistic terms of velocity and timing and saturation, from the early Nazi propaganda tactics of the Big Lie to the Bush Administration selling a pre-emptive catastrophic criminal war based on lies modeled on bringing a product on market at the most propitious season. There is in my view nothing more devastating to the possibility of democratic deliberation, progressive reform, and shared problem solving than the current suffusion of our public life with the always deceptive always deranging norms and forms of marketing and promotional discourse. It is this concern that drives this blog's shared preoccupations (which may seem strange) with both Movement Republicanism and with futurological discourses.

Movement Republicanism came into its own after a long struggle in resistance to New Deal and Great Society progressivism with the administration of a "Great Communicator" whose communication was entirely advertorial (it actually matters that there were no "welfare queens," it actually matters that "Star Wars" could not work) and it is dying before our eyes as its various incarnations deploy its codes and manipulate the electoral process in efforts not to govern or make policy but to sell books and promote their personal celebrity and augment their personal fortunes, whatever the public costs, from Rush Limbaugh to Sarah Palin to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich.

Futurology came into its own in the aftermath of WWII and always functions in the service of the neoliberal Washington Consensus, peddling the phony redemption of Hiroshima into nuclear energy too cheap to meter (a reality of ruinously expensive catastrophically dangerous boondoggles) and plastic superabundance for all (a reality of toxic petrochemical crap first blighting the visible world and then bulldozed into mountains of poisonous landfill wounding the living world for centuries) and "urban renewal" yoked to emancipatory fantasies of traffic flow (a reality of devastated once-vital diverse neighborhoods, white capital flight via snarled enraged carbon pollution spewing snarls into demographically and environmentally and psychologically catastrophic suburban enclaves, eventually hyperbolized into paranoid privatized walled compounds) and longevity medicine (a reality of skin cream and boner pills marketed to Baby Boomers by pre-teen models and snake oil salesmen hawking nutritional supplements and sports cars and uncanny-making cosmetic procedures and yearly press releases about the latest athlete-in-a-pill lab result) and open-access participatory digital democracy (a reality of vapid 140-character limited content and pet videos and hyperbolic self-promotional profiles posted to the indifference of "zero comments" and plowed into a mulch of targeted corporate marketing and military surveillance).

Both Movement Republicanism and futurology (especially evident in sub(cult)ural formations of futurology that also identify as "Movements" like the transhumanists) functionally promote corporate-military incumbent elites and the status quo from which they disproportionately benefit either by trumpeting an anti-governmentality that promises the future emergence of a spontaneous order of liberty if only we dismantle any countervailing powers that constrain their profit-taking abuses or by trumpeting a techno-transcendence that promises the future emergence of a toypile of superabundance and superpowers if only we get out of the way of the celebrity CEOs and thought-leaders to bring all the supergoodies to market. Both are hyperbolic variations on the deceptions, hyperbole, brand-building, buzz flogging, repetition drilling, neologism-coining and repackaging strategies of marketing and promotional discourses selling a debased present through the fraudulent conjuration of spectacular futures.

Jeffrey Toobin's Lucrative Self-Promotional Train Wreck

TNR provides a rather distasteful but indispensable minute by minute account of the way Jeffrey Toobin marketed his new book by catapulting carefully crafted "trainwreck" and then "plane wreck" tweets into layer after layer of the Village vapidsphere, in ways that didn't reflect so much judicious assessments or efforts at clarifying events on which he was commenting from a position of useful expertise, but always instead with an eye to the best possible timing to get his own personal snowball rolling into an avalanche of ever higher profile self-promotion. The way Toobin shaped the panic stricken conventional wisdom on the significance of the debased state of Supreme Court questioning of provisions of the Affordable Care Act actually had real world ramifications, real in a sense that contains more than the higher number of books he will sell with the augmented halo of name-recognition he has managed to craft at the expense of sensible deliberation on urgently important issues to which he would presumably claim to have devoted his life, some of which eventually even found their way to the mouth of the President of the United States.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Clean Sleep for Romney

Did I say sleep? I meant, sweep. G'night Mitt. (Speaking of dreaming, am I really hearing doll eyed dolt Randroid Ryan is at the front of the line for Robot Richy Magicpant's veep?) (Still speaking of dreaming, did the dude with the car elevator just say the President is out of touch because he flies in Air Force One like every President does? Did that really happen?)

Dvorsky's Fuzzy Math Sphere

He's much more polite about it than I was (no surprise there), but Forbes' Alex Knapp has as little patience for Dvorsky's latest futurological nonsense as I did.

Pam Opticon

Off to work in theoryhead drag. Foucault in Critical Theory this morning.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Lesbians Will Save America

Eric pointed out this morning that I've been saying lesbians would save this country from itself the whole time he's known me (together ten years, for those keeping track at home), and he concedes that Rachel Maddow and Stephanie Miller may well be vindicating me. In case you're wondering, this is what my blogging sometimes looks like when I am actually grading mid-term papers.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Today's Random Wilde

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