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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hallowe'en Wilde

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

Samhain Ain't the Same

Let us now celebrate crowdsourced public relations for candy companies and early addiction to harmful but competitive performance enhancing substances!

The Developmental State As War Machine or As Consensual Scene? (Observations Upon Reading Parenti)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Is RNC Panicked About Upcoming Telemundo Debate Commitment?

I can't help but wonder whether the RNC's hilariously bad-faith suspension today of further NBC-affiliated debates is really a stealth effort to evade the upcoming NBC-affiliated Telemundo debate in February given the apparently irrepressible and obviously electorally disastrous bigotry of most of the candidates. The admittedly slipshod -- what do you expect from dumb business "journalists"? -- moderators of the CNBC Debate are really mostly in trouble for mentioning inconvenient facts about quite evidently unworkable and contradictory tax plans and questionable product endorsements and curious campaign website quotations, all publicly demonstrable, checkable, which are being represented by the RNC as outrageous gotcha attacks rather than utterly conventional questions, every one of which should have been anticipated by the least professional debate preparations. Some of the candidates are expressing the desire to participate in debates in which only sympathetic -- or even pledged Republicans -- moderators "engage" them, a further retreat of the GOP from a nationally-relevant party to a neo-Confederate rump in a paranoid patriarchal white-supremacist bubble not so much popping as leaking gas unto death day by day by day in a rapidly diversifying, secularizing, planetizing America. I don't deny these rationalizations provide an intuitive appeal to the GOP's White-Racist Patriarchal Christian-Talibanist Plutocratic dupes, but I'm pretty sure the real worry is that the GOP disarray behind the curtain is on full view in the anti-Establishment convulsions of the House and among the frontrunners for the nomination, and the GOP's bedraggled professionals are fending off existential threats to ongoing viability as a real political party at this point.

Reconciliation, Translation, Reflection

Interpretation, from interpretari, L, "to explain, to expound, to understand," and in turn from interpres, "agent, translator."

I am an atheist, and yet I find that I can sympathize with religious or spiritual practices to the extent that I can translate them into aesthetic terms. I am a socialist, and yet I find that I can sympathize with anarchist aspirations to the extent that I can translate them into democratizing terms. It is an open question to me whether these translations are more respectful than disrespectful.

Read the Bottom Line Please

"I want a government so small I can't see it," sounds an ominous note for Rand Paul's future as President but also as ophthalmologist.

Waiting for the Robarians

Will you be disappointed to discover "The Rise of the Machines" is nothing but some assholes making some more money?

Sophie's Choice

The strict etymology of the term "philosophy" reveals it to be the love of wisenheimers.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Boehnality of Evil

Doll-eyed dolt Paul Ryan has been fluffed as Idea Man for years. It will be entertaining to observe his Boehnerization.

Hit Piece or Hit Parade?

I get it that Doug Henwood has written an earnest anti-Hillary stop-Hillary evil-Hillary screed here, but honestly, given the political realities at hand, I would be amazed if not a few Hillary stalwarts would not at least secretly prefer this Hillary As Gun-Toting Badass image from his book cover over official campaign posters of I'm A Grandmother*... (*not to deny grandmothers are often badasses and don't need to be gun-totin' to be bad-asses)

Republican Anti-Intellectualism Today Is Not A Matter of Ignorance (And That Matters): A Twitterresponse

National Cat Day

I'm not a cat lady but an actual cat maybe.

Possibly Something To Do With The Mirror Universe?

Star Trek is most dystopic in its depiction of casual attire and swimwear, envisioning a galaxy in which International Male not only did not die but somehow achieved total fashion hegemony.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Proposition 47: HEAL DON'T HURT

 More information via CURB:
Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) is a coalition of over 65 organizations... experts on California’s incarceration policies who support reducing the number of people in prison, the number of prisons in California, and removing barriers to reentry, we believe it is important... to point out both the positive steps that Prop 47 would bring about, as well as raise questions and concerns to consider... California has a history of defining criminal justice policy through ballot initiatives. In order to achieve passage, many have included provisions that appeal to racism, and have strengthened aspects of “tough on crime” politics. Some provisions reinforce “business as usual” policy practices that harm communities of color by funneling state funds into destructive questionable “crime prevention” programs. We have compiled the summary below in order to educate about the different aspects of this proposition.

Brief Summary of Proposition 47 -– The Safe Neighborhoods & Schools Act of 2014

Prop 47 changes the lowest level nonviolent drug possession and petty theft crimes from felonies to simple misdemeanor for some people. It authorizes resentencing for any adult or juvenile who is incarcerated for these offenses and who is determined to “pose no threat to public safety.” According to the official website promoting the initiative “the majority of people who will be eligible for resentencing are people of color, particularly African Americans and Latinos.”

 The measure would require misdemeanor sentencing instead of felony for the following crimes:
Shoplifting, where the value of the property stolen does not exceed $950.
Theft, where the value does not exceed $950
Forgery, where the value of a check, bond or bill does not exceed $950
Fraud, where the value of the fraud does not exceed $950.
Possession of a narcotic drug
Possession of concentrated cannabis.
The measure would permit consideration of re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for crimes listed above. Proponents estimate a significant reduction to California’s prison and and jail population; around 10,000 prisoners would be eligible for resentencing. Re-sentencing is not guaranteed. People with prior convictions for certain violent felonies would be disqualified from the reduced charges under the initiative. It emphasizes that “people convicted of dangerous crimes like rape, murder or child molestation” are not eligible for release. It requires “thorough review” of criminal history and risk assessment of any individual before re-sentencing to ensure that they “do not pose a risk to the public.” ... The Proposition makes strong distinctions between people with prior felony convictions for violent crimes. It emphasizes that only people “no longer a threat to public safety,” can be released.

The measure creates a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund to receive savings accrued by the state during the fiscal year, as compared to the previous fiscal year, due to initiatives provisions. The estimated savings range from $150 million to $250 million/year. Monies would be distributed from the Fund as follows: 25% to the Department of Education to reduce truancy and support at-risk students or victims of crime, 10% to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board for trauma recovery centers, and 65% to the Board of State and Community Correction for grants to public agencies providing mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment to reduce recidivism of people in the justice system.

The measure will have a significant impact on incarceration rates, there will be the potential to release a large number of individuals, mostly people of color, and prevent thousands more from being locked up in the future. If in state incarcerations rate drop, there is potential to bring out-of-state prisoners back to California. It will also provide funding for education programs aimed at reducing truancy, mental health, substance abuse and jail diversion programs. If passed a majority of Californians would be affirming the need for locking-up fewer people. This could have resounding impacts on the national and statewide discussion on prison and mass incarceration. However, if voters are seen opposing criminal justice reform efforts, which could have a negative effect on ongoing efforts to reduce incarceration.

Groups opposing the initiative include California Police Chiefs Assoc., California Sheriff’s Assoc., California District Attorneys Assoc., and California Victims United.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Long Teaching Day

Normally, a day spent teaching first the Gay's "Beggar's Opera/(with 'Brecht's' Threepenny Opera)" and then John Carpenter's "They Live" later on would be a delightful day, however long it took to get through, but on this day I am still coughing and sneezing and my head is spinning and contemplating the commute and the classroom is a bit dire. Students are handing in papers and so a grading marathon beckons with its skeleton hands as well.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

In the Houses of Healing

I was felled rather suddenly last night by some kind of a bug and am spending the day in bed, hoping to be sufficiently on the mend for my the commute and teaching marathon Tuesday, which is exhausting on the best of days. I've been reading Starhawk's The Fifth Sacred Thing in bed all day and am enjoying it much more than I expected to do. It's rather like the urban dystopian West of Octavia Butler (the two Parables, Clay's Ark, "Speech Sounds") interspersed with scenes in a future San Francisco which is a bit like Hobbiton meets Lothlorien. Now, I'll have to read the prequel and a sequel that is fortuitously coming out at the end of this year.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cyborg Realness

Dentures, adult diapers, and tracksuit as transhumanist techno-transcendence strategies.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Absence Makes The Heart Go Wander

Somewhat arduous alternative media forays have interrupted the usual blogging festivities. Nothing may come of it, but that's what's afoot.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hover Bored

Is there a limit to the things pop-tech "journalists" can pretend are Back To The Future hoverboards so we can pretend that Back To The Future was prophetic of our present rather than symptomatic of its present?

Every Winner Is Lost

It isn't exactly clear to me why we praise "go-getters" rather than recommend they get counseling.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Long Teaching Day

Early this afternoon we're reading Sheridan's School for Scandal and a bit of Adam Smith (apt, since one is something of a spontaneous order, at least a bit of froth, and the other champions something of a spontaneous other, the invisible hand). We'll also take up Kant's "History With A Cosmopolitan Purpose" published about a decade after the others. Later in the afternoon, I'll be lecturing on Debord's Spectacle and Naomi Klein's critique of the Logo. Expect blogging to be low to no till tomorrow.

uber = douchecab

That is all.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Smart Car, Kill Thyself

If cars are so "intelligent" now and are programmed to "avoid dangers," then why aren't they committing mass-suicide before they destroy the planet?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Look, Ma, A Technologist!

When someone declares themselves a "technologist" it is usually safest to assume they are bragging about using language and wearing clothes.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Graeber and Thiel Non-Debate on Technological Progress

Here is a link to a video of the (non-)debate that was the occasion for the following scattered sputterings on twitter late last night. Their talk is entitled "Where Did The Future Go?" and my response would be something like the question, "Why Won't The Futurists Just Go?"

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fully Customizable!

It's telling how often the results of the "fully customizable" are, nonetheless, indistinguishable.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Dreamtime of the Driverless Car

Slap another 2,500 bucks onto the already steep price-tag of Tesla Motors' Model S sedan and your luxury "smart car" will be rendered even "smarter" still (no, Virginia, cars are not actually smart), with software activating a suite of features that represent a first version of an "autopilot" program aligning libertechbrotarian Elon Musk's car company more stolidly with kindred Google libertechbrotarians who have been futurologically evangelizing Driverless Cars for years now.

In the Bloomberg Business advertorial (as expected, every single "journalism" outlet coughed up some promotional hairball flogging the Tesla press release for free in the name of what passes for technology news) the car's new features were framed in customary futurological narrative mode. The first sentence of the first paragraph casts the software package as the materialization of a long-deferred dream: "Tesla Motors Inc. will begin rolling out the first version of its highly anticipated Autopilot features to some owners of its all-electric Model S sedan Thursday."

Since the infantile fetishists thronging gizmo-fandoms do indeed wait in long lines to purchase the latest landfill-destined models of this or that handheld gadget, I concede that this first sentence is factual enough as far as these things go, and do not doubt that visions of Tesla Autopilot sugarplums have been dancing in the heads of cheerleaders Musky for the latest low-earth-orbit SpaceX amusement park ride or coffin train Hyperloop cartoon gifted to the world by our soopergenius savior celebrity CEO.

However, as a rhetorician I have to point out that the real argumentative heavy lifting performed by the framing of a product as the fulfillment of a collective dream, the arrival into The Future promised by futurists past, is that it offers up narrative collateral investing the futurological dream of the sentence following it with the plausibility and force to make the bigger sale: "Autopilot is a step toward the vision of autonomous or self-driving cars, and includes features like automatic lane changing, auto steering and the ability to parallel park itself."

Enraptured by this "vision" you may have overlooked that the none of the features actually listed there is new -- some amount to the phony novelty of marketing neologisms repackaging features decades old, like slightly souped-up 70s-era cruise control, while others have been available for a few years now in other cars and offer a mixed record of welcome minor conveniences as well as troubling new occasions for accidents, like automatic parallel parking features.

Of course, there is nothing like futurology to distract you from the disappointment and even danger of present offerings by recasting them as stepping stones to future satisfactions in which you are somehow participating aspirationally now, even if in the form of disappointment and danger. Consumer capitalism does few things better than tricking us into paying for the dissatisfaction of deferred satisfactions as satisfaction (a deferral that ends in our deaths, by the way, and eventually, very possibly, in the death of our planet).

As with the futurological nightmare of truly autonomous weapons systems, or Killer Robots, exclamation point, the futurological daydream of truly autonomous automobiles, or Driverless Cars, exclamation point, is far from reality -- of a piece with the general denigration of intelligence, recognition of which is indispensable to the support of human dignity, in faith-based futurist discourses of "artificial intelligence," as well as with the general demoralization of intelligence distracted by small screens and harassed by targeted marketing and scoring -- but quite apart from that reality on the ground, the "vision" of autonomous artifice as a documentary and justificatory rhetoric is palpably ideological, functioning to distract our attention away from the risks and costs of parochially profitable technodevelopmental changes and especially away from any grasp of the culpability of the investors, owners, designers, coders, marketers, sellers of artifacts in the suffering and death that accompanies that parochial profitability by divesting actual actors of agency and imaginatively investing artifacts with agency.

Given the long-held American romance with cars as cyborg shells -- a romance adjacent and often entangled with fantasies of gun-ownership and open-carry prostheses -- at once "enhancing" and ruggedizing us as individuals ready to compete for positional advantage or more usually momentary survival in a Hobbesian-Darwinian marketplace (the never-needed four-wheel-drive wilderness vehicle or the unsafe-security-theater-massiveness of the mini-van enlisted for the work commute, the exurban shopping trek, the flight to heteronormative suburbia) as well as providing avenues for comfortably conformist pseudo-rebellions against the exactions of this relentless competition (the road trip of the youth not yet or the retiree no longer defined by wage-slavery, the vestigial frontier of the lonely highway, the alluring transcendental myth of traffic flow), it is initially hard to see how the relinquishment of agency promised by the "driverless car" exerts its ideological tug in the first place.

Rather like the plummeting sticker-value of a freshly purchased car the second it is driven off the lot, perhaps there is a likewise instantaneous plummeting of a car's dream-value the moment it is snarled in a traffic jam, resounds with the collision of an empty shopping cart, bleeps an engine-temperature warning, or the needle edges its way all too soon toward empty. But surely the deeper ideological work of "the driverless car" is that it provides a discursive space in which one can concede the conspicuous catastrophes of car culture -- the pollution and waste and unsustainable suburban sprawl, the white-racist demolition of thriving diverse neighborhoods to make way for highways and overpasses facilitating the fiscal and institutional abandonment of majorities living in our cities -- catastrophic outcomes inspired by an earlier generation of futurists, hell, some of history's most influential futurists actually called their dream of car culture Futurama -- all the while disavowing the need to address these catastrophes in a substantive way: The Driverless Car is the futurological promise that we will save ourselves from car-culture by saving... car culture!

Why change public policies or budgetary priorities to facilitate dense diverse walkable neighborhoods and bike lanes and public transportation and continental rapid rail when you can pretend instead that simply purchasing millions more cars year after year as we have done year after year -- sure, so soon to be hybrid and electric, so soon to be artificially intelligent, so soon to be driven entirely by precarious, disorganized, unregulated drivers or,I suppose, "AIs" summonable with a digital handheld app, or so the story goes, as if that means anything real or would mean anything good even were it to become real in any measure -- purchasing millions more demanding, costly, lethal, indistinguishable cars, inching day by day through jammed traffic and an amplifying status quo toward The Future of flaming wreckage, bleak cube-stack mountains, and toxic landfills -- that somehow, somehow, this treadmill will take us somehow somewhere new, will address somehow our existential car culture grievances, will solve somehow our planetary car culture problems.

I predict...

It won't.

YES or NO?

So much that is celebrated as "positive" is made of the NO of denial.
So much that is castigated as "negative" is making a way for a YES.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Drowning in Obscurity... my youth I used to think the water warm and fine. Now I realize it's warm because plutocrats are peeing in it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Long Teaching Day

A faculty meeting calls me to campus early for a longer than usual long day. Then, in early afternoon it's Congreve's "The Way of the World" and later in the day Barthes' Mythologies. Blogging low to no -- you'll have to tweet the first Democratic debate tonight without me I'm afraid.

Monday, October 12, 2015

In Which A Lessigian TechbroThirdWay Supporter Is Tyrannized By Me

To Saturday's Lessig Is Moar post we can now add:

This prompted a response, and then a rather revealing exchange:

Cannabis Regs, Right to Humane Assisted Suicide, Unprecedented Renewable and Energy Efficiency Standards, Motor Voter, and Now...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Trek for Millennials

I'm definitely ready for a new Star Trek series, this time recounting stories and adventures of a diverse, principled, mostly nonhuman crew of Federation scientists and doctors who have as little to do as possible with the uptight sociopaths of the reactionary militarist Star Fleet. It would be great if they made a point of having episodes written by working science fiction authors who are actually intelligent, inspiring, and provocative. Imagine Trek eps written by Nnedi Okorafor, Bruce Sterling, Becky Chambers!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lessig Is Moar

Apparently, Chris Hayes thinks it is outrageous that the DNC has not invited the single-issue gimmick candidate Lawrence Lessig to participate in their upcoming multi-issue Presidential debate. Just think how enlivening it would be to hear Lessig turn literally every question into a discussion of campaign finance reform. Perhaps he could use his occasional turns to speak to do PowerPoint presentations in the manner of a TED Talk. With such contributions to dazzle them one wonders whether the pundit class would forget to devote every paragraph of their post-debate analysis to snark about Hillary's physical appearance and her inescapably sinister affect. You know, Hayes is right, it really is hard to fathom why so few Democrats are taking seriously a candidate who has promised to resign the Presidency even before he wins his party's nomination or attracts a single percentage point of support. Lessig may not get to be leader of the free world but he will never not be a Thought Leader amirite?

Over at the Lessig Presidential website, a click on "The Plan" leads to the following "strategy" to "make it happen" (these words are in quotes because, believe it or not, "plan" and "strategy" and so on are actually the words he is using to describe what follows):
Win the Presidency
Compel Congress to pass reform
Establish a government that works
You have to love that "Compel Congress" there. So pithy! Such vim! "Establish a government that works" -- now why hasn't anybody thought of that before? The "Collect Underpants" part after "Win the Presidency" is simply implied. (Yes, Lessig is promising an Election Reform Act most of the principles of which I find not only congenial but familiar from other proposals from actual Democrats running for actual office who don't promise to "crowdsource... the details" later.)

I wonder, if a techbro claimed to be running for President as a single-issue environmentalist and he promised he would build a weather machine technofix if he were elected President, would Chris Hayes take him seriously, too? The techbrotastic reductive obliviousness and frank narcissism of Lessig's, no doubt they will call it "quixotic," bid for attention in this silliest of silly seasons is truly a wonder to behold, if you ask me. Perhaps Lessig should seriously consider a white techbro Presidential ticket with transhumanoid robocultist Zoltan Istvan. Democracy and/or Singularity are assured! Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Futurology: The Dumb, the Desperate and the Deceptive

Thursday, October 08, 2015


I'm noticing how much of my time as tech critic is spent explaining why things called "tech" aren't or things attributed to "tech" weren't.

Capitalism always offers you The Future when and as it kills progress.

Futurological imminence is a reductio ad absurdum of the everyday masochism demanded by consumer capitalism's endless deferrals of satisfaction.

Universal Machine Translation Still Imminent After All These Years

Perhaps twitter is an effort to garble writing to a level low enough for bad universal machine translation eventually to appear to have been accomplished after seventy-five years of always promising always imminent crap results?

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Dear Elon, Everybody Dies Whether You Want To Or Not

Elon Musk is declaring in public that he doesn't want to live forever in order to peddle the completely false impression that techno-immortality is plausible for those hoping otherwise. Such credulity is money in the bank for his whole skim-and-scam-artist billionaire techbro "Think Leader" set. Musk's comments about longevity medicine (not a thing -- all healthcare increases and improves life, no "enhancement" or "longevity" or "cyborgic" or "uploading" or "gengineering" medicine separate from healthcare exists except as a rhetorical and marketing exercise) are akin to his recent flogging for funds for serially failed AI by warning everybody about "killer robots" and Satanic Robot Gods that must be stopped with protective tech and friendly software now that the sooper-intelligent ubicomp better-than-real-VR digitopian long-con is starting to lose steam here in the ruins of smart-but-dumb landfill-destined consumer crap and digital sharecropping and Big Data surveillance and marketing harassment. Advertisers always have both the carrot (youthful skin!) and the stick (pimpled pariah!) at their disposal to get their snake-oil off the shelves. Robocultic futurologists do like to keep switching their pitch from handwaving tech-heaven to Very Serious tech-apocalypse to selective tech-agnosticism to keep the pop-tech infotainment illiterates guessing and the collection plates full.

So Noble

It's an outrage that Nick Bostrom and Elon Musk haven't gotten a Nobel Peace Prize for saving us all the Satanic Robot Gods that don't exist.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Long Teaching Day

So, first up today, teaching in the City, early afternoon in my Homo Economicus course on English mannered comedy and political economy we're talking about "The Country Wife" and Collier's moral panic pamphlet about the Immorality of the Stage. Although there are definitely students who are engaging the material, five weeks in I'm a bit worried that the saucer-eyed contingent in this class is a bit too numerous for comfort. In class line readings randomly assigned as a provocation to discussion may be called for, we shall see. Later in the afternoon, in my survey of critical theory it's Freud day, which always puts me through the wringer, general themes, then the short "Fetishism" piece, then excerpts from the Schreber case study. Heavy. As always, I won't return home till quite late tonight, and as always blogging will be low to no. Hope all is well in your worlds.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Beware Libertechbrotarians Bearings Gifts: BIG Meets Bitcoinsanity

I've warned about the stealth neo-feudalization schemes libertechbrotarians advocate in the name of "basic income" in my short essay: A Neoliberalization of Basic Income Discourse? Here's a taste:
Right-wing forms of "basic" income advocacy reduce all too readily to visions of bare life without the rights, standards, and supports to ensure an actually legible scene of consent to the terms of everyday relations for the majority of the people. Game the minimum "sufficient" basic income into a state of near-precarity without recourse to any other pillars of equity-in-diversity and you've peddled feudalism as a universally emancipatory scheme -- in the drearily predictable right-wing manner.
Now, Behold!

A wacky survey of basic income conjoined to bitcoinsanity, digital-sharecropping, and Burning Man-style good vibes on a planetary scale, man, has been provided in what seems a sympathetic post from the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives. Some highlights (and you must forgive my occasional incredulous irrepressible eruptions):
Greg Slepak, for instance, is the sort of Bay Area software developer who reads the Yelp reviews of homeless shelters to learn about their conditions.
[And we all know what "sort" of Bay Area software developer THAT is.--d]
“We cannot say with a straight face that we provide welfare to Americans,” he has concluded. “We don’t.”
[Actually, of course, we do, and to the extent that we do we make the world a better place -- and that we don't do enough is obvious and almost entirely because of the power simplistic libertopian rhetoric like his own in the hands of Republican anti-tax anti-welfare anti-commonwealth plutocrats.--d]
His response, of course,
[Of course!--d]
is software -- in particular, Group Currency, a specification for online currency systems that provide basic income-like
[To be clear, "like" here means: not really at all.--d]
distributions of funds to all their users. He believes that the technology underlying Bitcoin -- a database called a blockchain,
[Gadzooks, here they go again with the blockchain of fools.--d]
shared among its users without need for central authority -- makes this possible in ways that it wasn’t before. When based on a blockchain, money itself can be a shared resource. “For the first time in the internet’s history, mass ownership is possible,” Slepak says. “It gives individuals back their self-determination, back their dignity, back their freedom.”
[None of this is actually true in reality, of course, unless abetting fraud and arms sales and human trafficking is what you mean by "self-determination," and for an unusually high proportion of libertechbrotarian "Thought Leaders" from the good old days of the cypherpunks list to the present, that weirdly seems to be the case when a case is actually made beyond handwaving.--d]
... In San Diego, Alex Goodwin has more than just a schematic. The initial implementation of his idea, FairShare, is already up and running -- it uses a bot on Reddit
[Sounds Very Serious to me!--d]
to pass out portions from a stash of donated bitcoins. Payouts are still small,
[We call that an understatement, kids.--d]
but they’re there for the taking.
[Especially if you're on the take.--d]
Slepak considers the FairShare specification “vague,”
[The hell you say!--d]
but Goodwin wants to develop the project through practice, not theory. He takes as his motto an utterance of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin: “We shouldn’t delay forever until every possible feature is done.” ... Perhaps the most eyecatching
digital basic income out there is the one associated with BitNation -- ”a collaborative platform for do-it-yourself governance” led by Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, a Swedish entrepreneur whose resume includes contracting stints in Afghanistan and Libya.
[Oh, "entrepreneur[ial] stints," were they?--d]
The idea is to use blockchain technology to provide opt-in, state-like
[There's that pesky "like" that doesn't mean like again.--d]
services free from the constraints of borders. Basic income is to be one of those services -- alongside pensions,
[Vaporware pensions are the BEST, y'all.--d]
marriage contracts,
[You provide the Elvis impersonator.--d]
and “contract enforcement”
[Pretend not to notice this is an endorsement of gangland warlordism and you too might be a future Thought Leader!--d]
-- though the program has fallen short of its initial $20,000 crowdfunding goal. Tempelhof is outright opposed to a basic-income scheme coming from a government.
[Of course she is. Anything from government is BAD, you know, democracy, rule of law, public goods, civil rights, all that jackboot stuff rich white sooper-businessmen can save us from like Ayn Rand sez.--d]
“At Bitnation
[Where's that, you ask? Everywhere, of course, and also nowhere.--d]
everything is done through voluntary means, rather than through forcing people through the use of -- or threat of -- violence,” she says.
[Since we all know real world "voluntary" contracts are never duressed by inequity, fraud, misinformation, blackmail, precarity! This is the classic and enabling "free enterprise" disavowal/delusion.--d]
“We believe voluntary participation is the only morally defendable way of doing things.”
[Just ask anybody who has voluntarily participated in wage slavery, not to mention human trafficking and serfdom.--d]
... For those wary of cryptocurrency,
[You know, Luddites and Statists who aren't riding the Wave of the Future.--d]
there are other ways to fund a basic income program that don’t require an act of Congress
[Being agin' the gu'ment does seem to be the main thing, after all.--d]
... the organization GiveDirectly turns donations into direct cash transfers in poor regions.
[Ah, to warlordism and serfdom we now add the selective supplemental of largesse and patronage from certain high-minded aristocrats. Another forward thinking futurological policy proposal from our cherished bleeding edge tech culture progressives!--d]
Follow the link for more in this vein. In case you are curious, my own sooper-statist-deathist-luddite "Pay-to-Peer" argument on this subject is here. Another taste:
I argue that the free creative content provision, collaborative problem-solving and editing, citizen journalism and criticism facilitated by peer-to-peer networks provides public goods the ongoing support of which more than justifies the provision of a universal basic income guarantee (BIG). I argue, further, that a long history of public subsidization of communications infrastructure (the post office, roads, telegraphy, telephony, WWW) and of public education to facilitate continental-scaled good governance among a well-informed citizenry since the founding era offers a congenial context for the comparable case for a public subsidization of "free time" for citizens in the expectation that enough of them would fill it with innovative problem solving and network maintenance that it would more than compensate the public investment.... In the absence of its public subsidization peer to peer collaboration is always accompanied by increasing precarity. Whenever and wherever peer-to-peer labor formations are celebrated (for their "open access," for their "flexibility," for their "resilience," for their "innovation"), but this celebration is not just as repeatedly and explicitly accompanied by the recognition that this provision of services and maintenance of public goods is almost certainly unpaid labor, then one must read such celebrations for what they are, as celebrations of exploitation. p2p means EITHER Paid to Peer OR it means Peers to Precarity. The politics are as stark as that, and the evidence of their urgency mounts by the minute.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

On Guns (Only) in America

While the scale and scope of gun-violence in the United States is exceptional, as compared to other industrial and at least notionally representative societies in the world, it seems to me that the American Constitutional system also provides for an exceptionally clear solution to the problem and one that illuminates a host of questions that are often incidentally but rarely insistently connected in discussions of the problem. All right, so guns…

At the outset, I am going to simply set aside as fundamentally unserious the prevailing misreading of the Constitution popular among so-called Second Amendment absolutists (most of whom are cynical shills for gun-lobby profiteers and the unwitting dupes of their mass-mediated echo chambers): If you do not believe that the Second Amendment sanctions individual ownership of nuclear weapons then you already concede the premise that there are weapons safety bans and regulations compatible with the Second Amendment.

Once conceded, the question becomes a matter of just what gets banned and regulated according to objective determinations of harm and how best to implement these bans and regulations. I commend much of the suite of reforms familiar to gun control advocacy for well over a generation: universal background checks facilitated by waiting periods; elimination of egregious loopholes for gifts and gun-shows; refusing violent criminals, domestic abusers, certain emotionally distressed individuals from the use and possession of guns; banning of military style weapons and arsenals to private citizens; implementation of licensing regimes requiring periodic demonstrations of competence and awareness of safety rules and laws at least as strenuous as those already required of those who drive cars or operate other kinds of potentially dangerous machinery; compulsory purchase of insurance to defray the public costs of damage and disruption from gun use for all gun owners and users; sequestration of recreational shooting to public facilities with on-site storage of the weapons used in them; radical circumscription of destructiveness of weapons sanctioned for hunting; ongoing tracking of weapons and ammunition purchasing and public circulation; and so on. Again, I am going to simply set aside as fundamentally unserious, and usually as outright deceptive, the commonplace claims of gun activists and enthusiasts who declare such measures impractical or ineffective, inasmuch as nearly all of them have been demonstrated to be both practical and effective in real world practice.

None of this preliminary throat-clearing is the least bit original, of course -- important though it is to make these obvious points given the insistent ubiquity of their denial -- but nor is any of that the thrust of my post. For me, it matters that the Second Amendment guarantee of "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" is explicitly subordinated, both conceptually and grammatically (not to mention as a matter of the historical context of the harsh collective memory of military occupation by the British out of which the Amendment originated), of "a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state." I regard the Amendment as an insistence that the military and police providing "the security of a free state" be accountable to and representative of -- and hence, "well regulated" -- of "the people" in whose name they act. This imperative is also expressed, of course, in the Constitutional establishment of civilian control over the military but it provides as well, in my reading, a firm Constitutional basis for contemporary demands not only for gun safety regulations but also for accountable, representative community-based policing in the United States.

It is not an accident that gun-control activism and Black Lives Matter movements to end violent, inequitable, unaccountable, non-representative, predatory white-racist policing practices are happening at one and the same time. These movements are structurally connected, and not only in their shared aspirations, but in the interdependence of the crises they would overcome: the suffusion of public space with guns in private ownership provides an official rationale or at least inevitable argumentative recourse for ever more militarized domestic policing practices.

This is far from the whole story, however. The incessantly reported and invoked defensive, even paranoid, psychology of public policing in a gun-suffused public space materializes, or more specifically embodies, the broader, inchoate, poisonously repressed defensiveness and paranoia occasioned by the demographic diversification, secularization, and planetization of an American public displacing the white supremacy long sited and secured by policing: For not only have the police historically policed white-supremacy in the name of civil order, but the police have historically been sited in the cultural state investing racially long-marginalized populations like the Irish, Italians, Polish, Latin Americans, and so on with at first and at best probationary "whiteness," whiteness provisionally secured while provisionally securing white-supremacy.

The defensiveness, especially, of white police who do not live in the communities of color they police is a performance of alienated occupation that rationalizes its violence through the paradoxically Janus-faced recourse to, on the one hand, an historical imaginary that treats these communities as themselves an invasive, occupying force on the body politic of White (sometimes denominated "Real") America -- yes, it is obscene to figure as an alien "invasion" the violent kidnapping and enslavement of people and subsequently as an alien "occupation" a people officially emancipated but then in fact ruthlessly subordinated by Jim Crow, terrorist lynching, share cropping and wage slavery, exclusion from Progressive era and then New Deal reforms creating the White American middle class, segregation through education and zoning and election practices, and mass incarceration -- but also, on the other hand, by recourse to a futural imaginary that treats these communities as the symptom and specter of a demographic reversal in which a majority minority America now threatens White-Supremacy-qua-Occupation with all of its dirty, ugly, guilty open secrets with the prospect of factual displacement and just reparations.

To make much the same point from a different vantage, there is nothing the least bit paradoxical in the fact that some of the first accomplishments of the gun control movement were occasioned by practical interventions and protests of violent white-racist policing on the part of the Black Panthers that took the form of Black bodies Open-Carrying defensive weapons while the consummation of gun-activism today is represented by the spectacle of White bodies Open-Carrying threatening weapons, usually in public spaces where people of color make their homes or are otherwise encouraged to feel welcome. Open-Carry, today, is a political movement to countermand ongoing American diversification by suffusing public space with white-racist patriarchal terror, and in this it is directly connected to the terrorist work of lynching as an historical maintenance of white-supremacy.

By way of conclusion, allow me to take yet another step back for an even wider contextualization of the issue at hand... Gouverneur Morris was a Founding Father who has not quite remained a household name. He wrote the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, which insists that liberty is secured through the promotion of general welfare, and he was one of the few delegates who was explicitly opposed to slavery (by the way, he was also a strong public advocate for the building of the Erie Canal to transform New York into a modern global industrial commonwealth -- on the basis of a proto-Keynesian pre-Rooseveltian understanding of stimulative public investment as general welfare in line with the thinking of another abolitionist Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton). Meanwhile, a much more famous Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Declaration of Independence, which delineates instead an individualist conception of liberty, and he was an apologist for slavery now notorious for his exploitation and abuse of slaves.

Of course, the assertively individualist, agrarian-feudalist "democracy" of Jefferson -- that is, individualist in the form of a distraction from or outright denial of social interdependence; that is, democracy in the form of plutocratic, slave-holding anti-democracy -- has long held ideological sway over the American public imaginary, especially in moments when Americans seek to rationalize their avowed democracy with their anti-democratic sins and crimes. (Given this blog's usual preoccupation with reactionary "tech" discourse and corporate-militarist futurology, allow a parenthetic reminder of the special indispensability of these Jeffersonian formulations to neoliberal venture-capitalist "tech culture" from the California Ideology, to Barlow's so-called Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, to the abiding metaphor of the Electronic Frontier.) But whatever the rhetorical priority of the Jeffersonian formulation of liberty it is the Constitutional Morrisonian formulation of liberty that has primary legal standing. And of these historically competing American ideologies of liberty, it is the Constitutional version that also seems to me by far the most philosophically sound, practically sustainable, and authentically American.

Just as the historical emergence and consolidation of the American "free enterprise" was predicated on the quintessentially unfree system of chattel slavery, so too the ongoing ideology of free enterprise depends on fantasies of voluntary contracts the terms of which are too often actually duressed by the unequal knowledge, unequal precarity, and unequal access to cultural and infrastructural affordances of the participants in the contract as also the eventual profitability of free enterprise depends on socializing the risks and costs of enterprises while privatizing their benefits.

There is a direct connection between the historical fantasy of the historically American individualist who disavows his dependencies on the ritual and material artifice of slavery, wage slavery, and unpaid domestic labor and the present-day fever dream of the white-racist patriarchal "Real American" individualist for whom the Open-Carried weapon is the ruggedizing cyborg shell that disavows interdependence to "stand its ground" on an American Homeland geography resonating with the history of native American genocide, slavery, sex-panics, anti-immigration mobs, drug-war hysteria, postwar militarism, and post-9/11 security state insecurity. The feudal Jeffersonian conception of possessive individualist liberty resonates still in the "Castle Doctrine" so cherished by gun culture, in which the individual and his gun is figuratively transformed into a feudal castle "standing its ground" on an anarchic terrain of lawless warlords -- and, no doubt, damsels in distress -- the all too familiar imaginative recourse of Confederate slave-masters of whom Jefferson was a precursor and market libertarian ideologues for whom Jefferson remains a paragon.

The Morrisonian Preamble to the Constitution endorsed the crucial premise of the Jeffersonian Declaration that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" with the frame "We the People… in order to form a more perfect Union… ordain and establish this Constitution." After the conspicuous failure of the radically minarchist "Articles of Confederation," Morris proceeds with his fellow delegates to institute a federal form for that just and consensual government (as Jefferson hesitated to do in principle but then did with gusto in his Presidential practice, of course). Against the individualist spontaneism of the Declaration and failed Articles, the Morrisonian Preamble elaborates the public constitution of the Union from which alone can flow the "blessings of liberty," the "establish[ment] of justice… domestic tranquility… common defense… and [the] promot[ion of] general welfare." It is not until the Fourteenth Amendment ensuring birthright citizenship and universal equitable recourse to the administration of justice in principle that the Constitution doctrinally admitted (as, needless to say, it has never fully or consistently managed to do in actual practice to this day) the third plank in the uniquely American conception of liberty, that America is a nation of immigrants and the exercise of its liberty is invigorated by the diversity of its stakeholders.

It is no surprise that gun culture is connected so regularly with the politics of white-supremacy, nor that self-described patriots and even law enforcement personnel allied with this gun culture are connected so regularly with nullification strategies and secessionist rhetoric and hostility to birthright citizenship. In their specifically American form, racist white supremacy and libertarian spontaneous order are of a piece historically, culturally, and conceptually. Understanding these connections is indispensable to resisting them here, but doing so also provides uniquely American resources for hope. Just as feminist and anti-racist work are both clarified and strengthened by grasping their intersectionalities, so too gun safety advocacy and community policing work and Black Lives Matter movements are clarified and strengthened by grasping theirs. Gun safety activism both practically and intellectually facilitates activism against the drug war, the school to prison pipeline, the abuse-to-prison pipeline, for-profit prisons, police militarization, bloated military budgets, and for community policing reform, structural racism education, work to expose and end sexual violence, and all and each for the others as well.

None of the preceding is offered up to imply that the aristocratic Gouverneur Morris was without great faults any more than to deny that the radical Thomas Jefferson had his strengths, but the distinction I have drawn between them is meant to highlight an early and abiding contest between negative and positive, private and public conceptions of liberty that help elaborate connections between gun control, community policing, immigration politics today that clarify stakes and identify allies. Gun safety regulation "in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity" is also a struggle to clarify and implement the American Constitutional conception of a positive liberty indispensably indebted to accountable/consensual governance, public investment in common goods, and the critical, creative, constructive dynamism of stakeholder diversity. American gun violence today is an exceptional outrage, as our solution to it tomorrow could provide an exceptional illumination to ourselves and our posterity.

Pot Shot

A nice side effect of pot legalization is that once the issue is off the table there will be little left to distract everyone from the realization that US-style "libertarians" are all just assholes.

Thursday, October 01, 2015


The Gun-Nut Prom

In the aftermath of every mass shooting in America -- a dance of death all smug prayers and crocodile tears and no solutions.

And I have to add, that while those who advocate gun control wring our hands over the inevitable inaction that follows upon these tragedies time after time the appalling truth is that mass shootings are now occasions for gun lobby ACTION to disseminate insane "only guns stop guns" rhetoric, demolish all vestiges of gun safety regulations, and whomp up hysteria to sell more guns, to multiply private arsenals, to normalize open-carry to suffuse all public space with white-racist masculinist terror.

The Stench of Libertopia

Every mass-shooter a gun-ruggedized individualist.
Every mass-shooting a bloody realization of the fever dream of lawless liberty.

Don't You Dare Politicize

If you are not politicizing, educating, agitating and organizing against gun violence you are collaborating in gun violence.

At Any Rate He Noticed It

"Freud democratized genius by giving everyone a creative unconscious." -- Phillip Rieff