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

Friday, September 30, 2016

Enthusiasm For Me Not For Thee!

Every time I express enthusiasm for HRC or joy at the prospect of an HRC victory the Purity Cabaret left warns me about smugness, concern-trolls me about complacency and chicken-littles me over "shy" Trump Voters and "legitimate" economic anxieties and I honestly think this is because they're still mad, their souls are sad and their politics are bad.

I warmly wish all the Thought Leaders of Tech an early retirement on Mars.

h/t Alex Knapp

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Future Is An Ad For Crap In The Present

Just saw a Vonage commercial premised on the patently false beliefs that Drexlerian nanotechnology is real and the space shuttle is still operating...


Candidate Gary Johnson reminds us that even though libertarians are just Republican assholes who like to smoke pot, it'll still be up to Democrats actually to manage to legalize its medical and recreational use.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Obama says:
"Don't boo, vote."

Lefty bedwetting and chickenlittling reveals the need for an additional admonition:
"Don't swoon, vote."


Observing actual asshole Trump supporters and reserved Clinton supporters, I must say I think a shy Clinton voter theory makes more sense to me than the shy Trump voter theory I keep hearing about.

Ink Blot Test

So, I'm lecturing on Plato's anti-sophistical trilogy of dialogues, Protagoras, Gorgias, and Phaedrus for a few lectures in a row, and yesterday was the second lecture of a series that should be four lectures long once I cap it off with my discussion of the Symposium -- which reprises the scenario and much of the cast of Protagoras and many of the themes of Phaedrus, and seems to me something like the satyr play appended to the tragic trilogy of the three dialogues (though Gorgias is much funnier than it gets credit for). I'm a bit behind, my lecture notes keep biting off more than I can chew, at SFAI in the City and in summer intensive courses at Berkeley I've gotten used to lecturing for roughly three hours, and I still haven't gotten back into the groove of lecturing for an hour and a half, especially taking in administrative nonsense and student questions and the slow affable windup into the subject matter I like... time keeps getting away from me a bit.

Anyway, yesterday I was finishing up my discussion of the Protagoras and moving on to the Gorgias (the text assigned for yesterday) and I looked down at my Gorgias notes and was surprised to find the page spotted like a cowhide. I should add here that I always write up new lecture notes even when teaching a text I've taught many times before -- re-reading the text, as I do each time I teach it, I usually think about it differently and I find that teaching to what interests me at the moment tends to make the lecture more engaging -- and that I usually scribble up my notes in the few hours right before delivering the lecture, more or less as a way of gathering up my thoughts and sculpting key observations into the trajectory of a dramatic narrative and argumentative form.

Few people could make sense of my notes, they are usually sentence fragments and page numbers and the occasional odd trigger word, in little numbered or lettered lists, sometimes with time stamps indicating how long I can allow myself to elaborate on what might fascinate me for hours at the expense of the actual topic at hand. My lectures probably usually seem like a series of riffs, I hope mostly entertaining and unexpected riffs, swooping into close readings of apparently incidental details onto wider contextualizations into citations of texts and themes I've already assigned with an eye to making these dramatic associations at key moments, all of which collide near the end to make whatever points I hope most to emphasize (this is what most folks who teach literature or philosophy as literature do, I expect). And I tend to just glance down at my notes from time to time as I go because they remind me of good anecdotes and the turns in the reading my overall argument needs and keep me more or less on track.

So, it was a strange thing to turn to my Gorgias notes, scribbled on the bus on the way from my apartment to campus on a folded sheet of paper snatched from the printer tray before I left home, and find them covered with black splotches. Involuntarily, my hand went to the page and I scarcely comprehended why but the page was suddenly more speckled still, ink obliterating many of my gnomic references and bullet points before my eyes. It was just about then that I realized my hand was drenched in ink, and just about then that both of my hands were in fact blackened, and just about then that the pen in my hand was leaking onto my hands, and just about then that I didn't know how long any of this had been going on but I knew I had surely touched my face, my hair, fiddled with my glasses plenty of times over the course of the lecture and for all I knew my face was grotesquely smudged with ink in front of over a hundred staring students and that I could no longer lean on the banister of my lecture outline to guide my discussion of the Gorgias because it had been more or less obliterated.

Mind you, all of these terrific revelations seared into my mind in the lightning flash of a few seconds at the end of which I took a breath at the proper place afforded by the sentence I had been uttering through all of this and sat the pen on the surface before me, moved my ink-wet hands from the page, decided there was nothing I could do if my face was now measled with smudges and, breathless, embarrassed, discombobulated, working without a net, I glanced at the clock to find it declared I had about forty minutes to go and proceeded to ramble on about the Gorgias without much of a game-plan or even the memory of one, delivered while my actual mind was mostly given over to volcanic insecurity and paranoia that I suddenly, conspicuously, and as if by magic, had the blackened face and hands of a nineteenth century coal miner crawling through some dim dusty shaft and was coming off at best as a caricature of the disheveled absent-minded professor and at worst veering in derangement out of some clown car.

For the life of me, I can't really even remember what I said in those last forty minutes. I'm pretty sure the first part of the lecture went well, but the second part I fear was a scattered and careening thing. Turns out, I managed not to get ink on my face or clothes after all, and the mess mostly came out in the sink before I commuted back home. I spent a lot of time last night castigating myself for delivering a shitty lecture, which is something I do rather a lot anyway to be honest. I'm now unhealthily obsessed with ensuring tomorrow's lecture compensates with crystalline clarity the debacle in my mind of Tuesday's lecture.

I say "in my mind" only because I have discovered that students often don't have an inkling that a lecture has gone wrong from my perspective -- encountering the material for the first time, many of them not even caught up with the reading, what seem to me throwaway observations incidental to the provocations and illuminations of my closer reading are more than enough for them to feel they are getting their money's worth. I have also noticed that brain freezes and losing my place and getting snagged in some detail that momentarily obsesses me at the expense of some more general and generally more important point and digressions into television or politics or jokes that sometimes get me off track, while these all too commonplace interruptions and befuddlements often lead me into retroactive shame spirals my students seem usually not to have noticed that they happened at all or that they represented anything gone amiss.

When these little disasters occur, I do seem to find myself calling upon long hammered habits of work discipline from my days as a child star doing musical turns in the dinner theater circuit across Kentuckiana: When I realized that ink had destroyed my notes and drenched my hands and for all I knew given me panda eyes and a comic ink mustache I nearly said the words aloud as I steeled myself for the long forty minutes still ahead... "The show must go on."

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Relieved Reflections on the State of the Campaign in the Aftermath of the First Debate

Generations of conventional campaign wisdom have insisted that endorsements matter, fundraising and advertising matters, organizing on the ground for GOTV matters and by all these measures the Clinton campaign is performing professionally and consistently well while the Trump campaign looks like a cross between an amateur clown college and a right-wing morning zoo radio program. That conventional wisdom also says the key inflection points in the general campaign are the Vice-Presidential pick, the Conventions, and the debates. The vice presidential picks were a wash -- though Pence holds a number of extremely unpopular socially conservative views that may be exposed in the upcoming vice-presidential debate and hasn't generally performed well in situations of public pressure in ways that have not yet really been tested on the scale of the Presidential campaign trail, so we shall see -- the Party conventions (and Trump's attacks on the Kahn family in their aftermath) were such a devastating contrast for Trump that they briefly threatened electoral apocalypse for the GOP before it regained its footing, and now the first and probably most widely viewed of the debates is behind us.

The expectations for Trump were set in the basement. The mainstream media dutifully reported Trump team spin that they were worried about Trump fidgeting: Would there be a "Fidgetgate" or would Trump triumph by managing simply to stand still for an hour and a half? (As it happens, he couldn't scale even that low bar.) For Clinton, the usual minefield had been prepared: would she smile wrong? would she frown? would she cough? would she be too loud? would she be strong enough? would she be too bossy? would she seem folksy? would she seem like a know-it-all? would she be authentically inauthentically authentic? On and on and on and on and on.

And then... the debate. Not only did Hillary Clinton not lose the debate, or lose despite winning it on the substance (as long experience has taught me to fear), she won and won so conspicuously and by so many separate measures that she is even seen to have won. The reason Trump's defeat may have longstanding impact on the race is that it played out in ways that accord well with the Clinton campaign's preferred narratives -- he was and is unprepared, she was and will be prepared to be President, she was solid and informed and he seemed erratic and ignorant and unfit to be President. She even managed to get in a few words about her larger vision -- supporting working and struggling families by raising the minimum wage, ending student debt, providing paid family leave, investing in new and renewable energy, transportation, communication, water treatment infrastructure providing millions more jobs, recognizing and battling systemic racism in policing, housing, education, making rich one-percenters pay their fair share in taxes and regulating business to stop its abuses (themes nicely illustrated by her opponent as a bonus).

I hope but do not expect the polls to shift to reflect this event [added, a few days later, they have indeed shifted--d], as I trust at least some of the conventional wisdom about organization and substance still matters even in the aftermath of the Great Sort (party polarization and regionalization baking in Party ID and making straight ticket voting the norm) and social networks scrambling assumptions about fundraising and narrative management. The Culture Wars have been won by the left in ways that seem too often to make the left complacent and divisive (there's still too much Purity Cabaret getting performed by people who, like me, have political convictions to the left of the Democratic Party which must nonetheless be a primary vehicle for our aspirations and must be supported to win to do so even as it inevitably disappoints us) as it makes the right more disciplined and defensive (just turning on the television is enough to make them think every election is the last battle before they are compelled to live in the laid back tolerant multicultural secular progressive world that will fill them with existential panic right up to the second it prevails and they start enjoying the life it affords).

Again, American voters are sorted into their parties: and this is a base mobilization election. I think the Clinton campaign has always known all this -- watch Clinton's announcement video and speech, the themes were already clear -- but their strategy of making a spectacle of the support of Republican moderates and eminences grises to attack Trump's fitness without going personally negative and also to build a governing mandate in the face of likely unprecedented obstruction seems to have softened some base support. I think narratives foregrounding this softening are overblown, I think it is not only wrong but insulting to pretend young people and people of color don't know or won't vote in their obvious interest, but the polls aren't where I would like them to be and facts are facts.

The so-called "values voters" are consolidating behind the man who debauches their every value because he is a Republican. This is not only their usual hypocrisy (I'm a gay man who has faced their hateful love first hand growing up and then as an activist in the South, so I know what I am talking about when I glibly declare so many of them hypocritical) since the Supreme Court really is their last hope to survive the existential threat of demographic diversification and secularization. If Trump loses Clinton appointments to the Court will indeed bring this branch in line with the diverse, secular, equitable, sustainable assumptions and aspirations of the REAL real America of the coalition of the ascendant that already elected Obama twice and grows by the day, and this may break the back of politicized Christian fundamentalism and invite separatist retreats and re-connection to community service priorities that prevailed prior to the organization of the moral majority (never a real majority, any more than Nixon's silent majority was one, but that is another story for another day), which may come to seem a doomed and demoralizing detour from evangelical principles orchestrated by cynical opportunistic businessmen looking for dupes to vote against their interests in order to swell the treasure piles of the rich with precious tax cuts.

Obama repeatedly pined for "the fever to break" in a Republican Party appealing to its paranoid-aggressive war-mongering gun-loving white-supremacist patriarchal science-denialist base in the face of electoral defeats by the Obama coalition (the famous Republican Autopsy report provided a wan and premature glimpse of that future). Though Donald Trump makes a ridiculous spectacle of himself when he makes his ugly and impossible promise to "build a great and beautiful wall" it is true that the Great Sort is the geopolitical firewall (gerrymandered House districts and Red State disenfranchisement schemes and refusals to accept Medicaid support for their own citizens are concrete symptoms of this demographically and geographically partisanized ideological firewall) that has made a nearly unprecedentedly awful candidate a plausible one for the Presidency. There is good reason to think that breaching the wall would be a tipping point taking it down once and for all in the face of overwhelming demographic and economic realities. Obama's second victory didn't manage the trick and Clinton's first victory might not either (especially if Democrats can't manage to win back the Senate or chisel into the GOP's House majority). But the tide is turning (and has been since 2006), the breaking of the fever is before us, the crumbling firewall will fall, and then possibilities for unprecedented changes for the better become possible where before they were impossible. The stakes are high, we stand on a knife-edge, things can go badly wrong, despair is well-warranted but it is not an option.

Monday, September 26, 2016

In the interest of fairness...

...Hillary Clinton's debate contributions will be musically accompanied by yakety sax.


More and more, unless I am painstaking in my movements my movements are painsgiving.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Way We Live Now

The artist is Pierre Brignaud.

Siren Songs of Fauxvolutionary Futurism

Added: Just to pour salt on an old wound, to no good purpose: You know, I still haven't completely gotten over the experience of the primary campaign, in which a rather amazing number of people who have long and loudly appreciated my critiques of tech culture then castigated and unfollowed and even blocked me for supporting Hillary Clinton, though I did and do so on the basis of exactly the same assumptions, concerns, and arguments they presumably affirmed in my arguments about tech. The same trivialization of radical and revolutionary politics via the entertaining distractions of consumer fandom and marketing deceptions are in evidence in tech discourse and Sanders for President discourse -- no party primary contest is revolutionary and "look, a birdie!" is indistinguishable from Mountain Dew is the revolution, sorry not sorry. The same choice of detailed policy (even policies with which I disagree on the details) over sloganeering distinguished the campaigns in their communication emphases and strategies. My preference for the best actual but of course non-ideal candidate on offer to give my support as well is compelled by the same criteria as my preference for accounts of technoscience progress focused on historical struggles over distribution of costs, risks, and benefits of change rather than narratives in which progress is a destiny, a growing toypile, or the gift of elite benefactors. My general understanding of political progress as the result of mostly exhausting, if occasionally exhilarating, historical stakeholder struggles with both partisan dimensions mucked in frustrating real-time problem solving and compromise and pressure in the direction of reform and stage-setting for further reform inter-implicated in deeper transformational education, agitation, and organization work to shift the terrain of the possible and the important is very much the same when it recognizes the superiority of the Democratic over the Republican, Libertarian, or Green Parties in the United States, the superiority of Clinton over Sanders before and Trump now, or rejects the reactionary moonshine of corporate-military and New Age bourgeois-boutique futurisms that suffuse public technoscience discourse (including, quite dangerously, too many liberal circles in which prevailing reactionary marketing discourse for feudal and fraudulent tech practices have gotten muddled up with well-meaning but under-informed Democratic desires to support scientific research and public infrastructure and fact-based policy making). I find it hard to shake the rather demoralizing suspicion that many who have supported my critique of feudal tech-talk simply didn't take much care to understand the actual substance of the arguments I have been making but happened to agree with me about the villains in the narrative -- mostly ridiculous robot cultists and heinous venture capitalists and uselessly idiotic "Thought Leaders" -- and enjoyed the baroque gargoyle sentences with which I excoriated them... but happened to think of Hillary Clinton as a similar villain and simply didn't much care to find me supporting the Cthillary Monster in her quest to bathe the world in blood from atop a mountain of cash where she dines on babies with a cabal of neoliberal billionaires. Beset by balloon animals to my left and to my right, forgive me if I retreat to the Hufflepuff common room. I've got goddamn lectures to craft and papers to grade and the stoopid, it burns us.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Oculus CEO Luckey: "Let them eat Oculus!"

And, er, no, I am not surprised in the least by this morning's Daily Beast bombshell that "Palmer Luckey -- founder of Oculus -- is funding a Trump group that circulates dirty memes about Hillary Clinton" any more than I am surprised that tech-darling Elon Musk wants to privatize education and use environmental crisis as an occasion to sell Musk-boondoggles and turn the nobility of civic-spirited space exploration into space Vegas amusement parks or that brave intolerance-advocate and misogynist Peter Thiel wants to live in a lawless Randroid sooper-pirate island right off the coast of socialist San Francisco (to make sure he's a helicopter hop from working hospitals photogenic sexslaves and restaurants kept hygenic by nannystate regulators) and expects to live forever in a robot body in a nano-treasure cave when he gets home from celebrating Donald Trump at his authoritarian bigotpalooza Republican Convention. I've been watching transhumanoid and singularitarian Big Thinking luminaries and publicity hounds flog Machinery of Friedman market fundamentalist pieties and anti-democracy from Robin Hanson to Max More to Eliezer Yudkowsky to a host of assorted tech-talkin' gun-nuts and robocalyptic climate-complacent geo-engineers and on and on and on and on for years and years and years and years by now. No. I'm not surprised. Nor should any of you be: I warned you.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


Another long teaching day ahead -- out the door just after seven am, back just before seven pm, lectures on both sides of the Bay -- another long sleepless night behind me. Marx in the morning, Plato in the afternoon. What poison eggs will Trump lay while I am away this time? The term from hell grinds on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Three weeks of Plato at Berkeley begin today with a lecture on the Apology. A full night's sleep helps. The Trump campaign still threatens catastrophe. This term is clearly going to be a day by day thing.

Monday, September 19, 2016


I can't believe it -- another Monday morning facing three hours of lecture (Freud today, "Fetishism" and Schreber) in the City after the usual brutal mobbed commute under the Bay... and insomnia has stolen my sleep, leaving me raw and shaky before I've even begun. I'm far too old to pull off all-nighters on school nights, this is quite ridiculous.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Election By Projection

He lies repeatedly and daily, so he calls her a liar. He bases his whole campaign on bigotry, so he calls her a bigot. He builds his political constituency by amplifying and sustaining and becoming the public face of the Birther Movement, so he accuses her of starting it. He conceals tax returns, organizational ties, medical information, so he calls her secretive. He funnels campaign contributions into events promoting his properties and spends charitable contributions from other people made in his name into personal vanities, so he declares her corrupt. He whomps up fear without facts in a crisis, attacks allies because he is out of his depth, threatens military reprisals for perceived insults, so he declares her unfit to be a leader.

Now, I don't think Donald Trump is going to be elected President. I think the diversity of the twice-winning still-growing Obama coalition threatened and insulted by the Trump campaign is being widely ignored and underestimated in this campaign. I think the incredible organizational investment in voter education and mass-registration and coalition-mobilization and get-out-the-vote of the supremely competent and professional Clinton campaign vis-a-vis the shambles of the Trump campaign is also being ignored and underestimated -- even though it is an excellent proxy for the capacity of a leader and organization to handle nation-scaled hyper-mediated long-term administrative complexities. This contrast was of course quite evident in the two Conventions a couple of months ago, one a chaotic freak-show and the other a seamless and compelling celebration, a contrast so stark the media could not manage for weeks to conceal it in the horse-race and false-equivalency narratives which now, once more, prevail. During that brief period of post-convention Clintonian supremacy, Democrats were outperforming Republicans in this cycle far more than they managed to do at any point in 2012, but otherwise 2016 is and has always been quite comparable to 2012, steadily and consistently reflecting Democratic demographic and electoral college strengths over the Republicans, and if anything Clinton's position remains a bit better than Obama's did (and with which he, you may recall, won handily). It is only because Trump is so very appalling and because we know that only a large victory with coat-tails can win Clinton a Congress that solves problems with her rather than obstructs her to the ruin of all that I personally feel more anxious and ill in this election than I did in 2012. I would like to think -- and I'll admit that at some level, Mouseketeer that I am, I really honestly do -- that when it finally comes to it most people are too sensible not to fear Trump's erratic dangerous unprofessionalism even if it amuses them and too decent to want to be represented by Trump's loud belligerent bigotry even if it speaks at some level to their own fears and resentments.

But even so, Trump managed to become the nominee of one of our two major parties through what amounts to the bragging, threatening, projecting strategies of a grade school bully, and the failure of the Repubican Party to ward off his takeover demonstrates a truly dangerous organizational failure. So, too, the present ominous "tightening of the polls" (a misleading phrase that actually denotes the reversion to the norms I mentioned already and is deployed largely to distract attention from the facts that Clinton remains, as she always has done, from the beginning of the race through to the present, the favorite to win it by the reckoning of the polls as well as by indicators that usually are treated as mattering: demographic breakdown of support, state of the economy, Presidential approval, offices and volunteers in the field, fund raising and ad spending, and on and on and on) demonstrates a no less dangerous organizational failure of the media to inform the public of even the best-documented lies of the Trump campaign or the absurdity and vacuity of the policy proposals, such as they are, of the Trump campaign, or of the basic qualifications for the actual job of the President for which the execrable incompetent Trump is presumably being interviewed in this campaign, which is not, mind you, a cast member in a trashy campy reality show in which rich idiots overturn tables, grab their balls, and scream "I know you are, but what am I?" in the White House.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Democratic Proposals of Peace With Police Are Distorted By Republicans Into A "War On Police"

Of course, most police officers are doing commendable public service in a difficult and sometimes dangerous job. As a general matter, especially since the Reagan administraation, it is not Republicans but Democrats who are champions of those who devote their lives to public service, the protection of communities, the defense of justice for all. Just as Republicans like to brand themselves as fiscally responsible when they repeatedly run up irresponsible deficits with their war adventures and giveaways to the rich while dismantling the rules and public investments on which fiscal solvency depend, so too Republicans like to brand themselves as defenders of "law and order" when they repeatedly champion the lawlessness and disorder of gun violence, institutional bigotry, rape culture, and corrupt unaccountability for abusive officers and departments.

Nothing could be clearer: It is those who deny the danger to democracy represented by the ongoing militarization of policing, it is those who deny the violation of civil rights facilitated by non-accountable, un-representative, ill-trained (in de-escalation, sensitivity, civics) officers, it is those who deny the injustice of racial profiling, disparate sentencing, patterns of bias and brutality in individual officers and departments who are in fact undermining and insulting good police who uphold the law, support their communities, save lives and ameliorate conflicts, defend rights (including rights to assembly and protest), ensure domestic tranquility by pretending that bad cops are inevitable or the norm when they are not and should never be allowed to be.

Just as it is not true that there is some rhetorical "War On Police" taking place just because there has been legitimate critique of unacceptable and factually documented abuses, neither is it true that there is a practical "War On Police" in the streets. (Yesterday's endorsement of the belligerent bigot Donald Trump by the powerful Fraternal Order of Police reveals the suicidal genocidal white-supremacist strain in too much official police culture, a strain which every well-meaning and sensible defender of the indispensable work of the police in a sustainable equitable diverse accountable consensual society of laws must reject and resist.) Contrary to ratings-attracting mis-informational media sensationalism and gore-soaked television dramas, there are many occupations in industrial settings that are as or more dangerous than policing that are not thought of as hazardous in the least. Most police offers never shoot their firearms outside of training settings in their entire careers. And like violent crime more generally, violence faced by police officers has also long been in decline -- even as reactionary paranoid-aggressive narratives of noble police as armies of occupation in barbarian war zones that happen to be the communities they are meant to serve and protect have proliferated ever more deliriously.

I do not doubt that the ready availability of guns on the street contributes to the feeling of danger many police officers feel -- some, no doubt, legitimately so -- on the job, and this is one more reason why common sense gun safety and licensing regulations are so necessary. (And we all know that it is the Republicans, bought and paid for by the blood-money of the gun lobby who have obstructed sane gun laws proposed by Democrats since the Johnson administration.)

So, too, it is ever more obvious that the failed racist war on drugs (in its present incarnation inaugurated by the Republican Nixon administration and amplified surreally by the Reagan administration, as even now Democratic efforts to address sentencing disparities, over-incarceration, legalize medical and recreational cannabis use, and shift from punishment to healthcare responses to drug abuse are obstructed and de-funded and pilloried by so-called "law and order" Republicans) exacerbated longstanding structural inequities and irrational passions in ways that create incomparably more problems than they address.

Finally, the need to shift in general from punitive to harm-reduction policy making has never been more obvious... even as the fearful and cruel and too often profitable parochialism, defensiveness, and paranoia that sustains punitive policy and disdains harm-reduction policy leads Republicans over and over and over to deride the "weakness" and "emotionalism" of Democratic proposals based on factually documented effective programs emphasizing treatment over incarceration, commonsense gun control over terrorizing open-carry and stand your ground vigilantism, schools over jails, social support over militarization, flexible over draconian compulsory sentencing, community policing over occupation, cultures of accountability over wagon-circling impunity, representative policing over profiling and surveillance, de-escalation and sensitivity training over harassment.

(PS: Yes, my dear sweet unreliable fauxvolutionary purity cabaret frenemies, I do know the Democratic Party doesn't have clean hands in this history and in the present distress -- but I also know where almost everybody who is working legislatively in the service of reforms in the spirit and direction of the assumptions and aspirations I express here can be found as well as where all the most conspicuous and relentless foes of this vision and efforts compatible with it can be found. The difference between Democrats and Republicans matters more than the difference between Democratic legislation and the ideal outcomes I endorse for good reasons as a democratic eco-socialist anti-white-supremacist feminist queer academic. If you don't know who is who, you need to get an education before instructing this lifelong activist and educator about my sad sold-out political deficiencies... and if you actually do know who is who, and I believe most of you know enough to know better, and yet pretend it doesn't matter, what you need to do is grow a goddamn conscience and a backbone you privileged lazy self-indulgent self-congratulatory assholes. If you can't walk and chew gum at the same time, if you can't distinguish compromise from corruption, hypocrisy, or capitulation, if you can't grasp that politics is not aesthetics, if you can't work for the lesser evil that takes us a step down the road and sets the stage toward the next step toward the greater good, go peddle your moonshine elsewhere, this incomparably stupid disgusting year of Trump and Sanders has forever destroyed my patience for fauxvolutionary nonsense.)

Now That's What I Call Techno-color!

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Toast to Edward Albee

Rubbing alcohol for me. Never mix, never worry.

Donald Trump The Birther King

Never forget.

Indica Is Indicated

This insomnia is really getting brutal! I made it through another long teaching day, three hours lecture on both sides of the Bay with a cramped commute clinging exhausted to a strap in between and with little sleep to go on... Teaching Nietzsche in the City nine to noon in one seminar while working up lectures for my Berkeley lecture at three for the Sophistical sequence of Platonic dialogues, Apology, Protagoras, Gorgias, Phaedrus, Symposium has an enormous impact on one's understanding of... Nietzsche. I mean, it's an obvious point, Nietzsche was a philologist and made no secret of his Socratic obsession, but it is still strange to grasp just how often what seemed punk rock in your first adolescent encounter with Nietzsche turns out to be a nerdy jokey citations of work thousands of years old. I slept like the dead past noon this morning and made up my sleep deficit at last after the usual rocky start... I must say when recreational cannabis is legalized in California in a couple months and its delivery becomes easier and more reliable I must say I fear this insomnniac phase of my life threatens to turn me into a regular pothead, just to relax and get my sleep back.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

2008 Vibe For A 2016 Campaign Spot

We did it before, and we can do it again. And a win is something we can build on.

Trump's 50% Statement: (Another) Campaign "Moment of Truth"

Captain Camp

I personally rate the camp delight of "Back. To. Your. Posts!" Shatner higher than the camp delight of "Kaaaaahn!" Shatner.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Scylla And Charybdis In A Silly Season Gone Sour

There are two key institutional failures that are conspicuous in this utterly demoralizing election cycle:

[first] is the radical dysfunction of the GOP, one of our only two major political parties, in failing to ward of the primary challenge of such an objectively outrageous, dangerous and unqualified nominee as Donald Trump (McCain's Vice-Presidential Palin pick, the embrace of the Tea Party and subsequent rejection of the recommendations of the post-2012 Autopsy Report were the canaries in the coal mine here), and also

[second] is the mainstream news-media's radical dysfunction as a vetting apparatus for candidate qualification and the truth of public claims -- for which all the embarrassing gossip-chasing and false equivalency and horse-race narrative fetishization on display are merely accompaniments (the failure to vet George W. Bush's foreign policy and economic policy claims on the campaign trail and then uncritical acquiescence in the rollout of the illegal, immoral, ruinous war and occupation of Iraq with all its catastrophic consequences, many still ongoing, were the canaries in the coal mine here).

Of these two institutional crises I actually believe GOP dysfunction is the easier one to remedy -- though most of the short-term incentives still favor pandering to its racist ignorant discontented base since resistance means confrontation now rather than later with the abyss, ultimately the diversifying, secularizing, urbanizing, planetizing reality of Obama-epoch America requires a course correction from the GOP if they are to be a nationally viable party rather than a superannuated regional rump. As a life time Democrat I do recognize the necessity of a nationally viable, functionally governing opposition party (however much I disapprove of its ideology) as a check on corruption and complacency in my own party. This is all the more true given that the political effort to reform the two-party system seems in every way harder than the political effort simply to accomplish goals frustrated by the two-party system through the system itself, which means we are going to have a two-party rather than anything like a parliamentary system for the foreseeable future frustrating though that is -- and hence it would be a good thing if both the parties were at least minimally sensible and competent whatever their differences.

As for the other institutional failure, my own hope over the last twenty years has been that news-media would reform under pressure of digital democratization and activist journalism... and that hope has by now palpably failed in my opinion and it is hard for me to find another countervailing power to build an optimistic narrative for our prospects around right now. Advertorial infotainment and access-driven celebrity-gossip narratives suffuse the form at this point, perhaps beyond remediation so long as informing the electorate is a profit-driven enterprise. I guess as an educator myself, then, I'm pinning my hopes on this score (such as they are) on a better educated populace in the future, hopes that depend on increasing public education investment, improving access, lowering costs and eliminating debt, and raising standards in all jurisdictions, hopes that yoke me ever more tightly to Democratic Party politics (despite the Party's present distressing STEM fetishism and vulnerability to privatization schemes via various tech fads -- which rightly worried me about Gore, rightly worried me about Obama, and rightly worries me about Clinton).

Teaching Day...

Finishing up Thucydides and starting up Euripides today... Hecuba's desperately failed argument with Odysseus over the sacrifice of her daughter Polyxena as a re-enactment of The Melian Dialogue provides my link. Last night I had a successful skirmish in my ongoing battle with insomnia and so I am going in to this afternoon's lecture better rested at any rate.

Monday, September 12, 2016


Another Monday morning, another teaching day, another night battling insomnia... Nietzsche today, so that's a mercy, I can lecture on "Truth and the Lie" The Gay Science and Ecce Homo while sleepwalking, which I rather feel I shall, but I fear another mobbed morning commute clinging to a strap for forty minutes will do me in. I must say this year -- and not least this campaign season with its fauxvolutionary frivolity and media malfeasance -- has left me shipwrecked, I can scarcely imagine how HRC feels at this point.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

From The Earth To Moon To... The West Wing

I've been re-watching my DVDs of the From the Earth to the Moon mini-series this weekend as I recuperate from last week's teaching and prepare for the next... I must say I didn't remember that there was so much overlap with The West Wing... The miniseries aired on HBO in 1998 and The West Wing pilot aired on NBC a little over a year later, and so some of the connection may derive from that late-Clintonian pre-W place they are both arriving from. The vibe is often quite similar, it seems to me, at once elegiacally patriotic for the accomplishments of good government and earnestly hopeful about inspiring people into public service and celebratory of an ethos of professionalism... I'll add that my favorite episodes of the mini-series, "Spider" and "Galileo Was Right" also feel to me, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most WestWingish of the bunch. Also, the shared casting is pretty striking (at least sausage-wise) -- Gary Cole, Brett Cullen, Mark Harmon, Joshua Malina, Jay Mohr, Stephen Root -- including key characters introduced in the last few post-Sorkin years of the series (which I think are a bit underappreciated). Of course, I have a notorious soft spot for the imperfect but superlative Sorkin series (I've watched the whole run of the series twice since HRC announced, as a weird tension reliever from the actual primary and now general contest, and I listen to The West Wing Weekly podcast religiously), and I'm also something of a NASA fanatic, so I guess it isn't that surprising to find all these proliferating connections among the works. Tom Hanks executive produced and introduces each episode of the mini-series... and I must say his performance in Spielberg's Bridge of Spies felt (as did Lincoln too) rather WestWingy to me. But, then, so does Angels in America, and now we're off to the races. I'm looking forward to the upcoming Hidden Figures film with Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer to fill in a painfully glaring gap in the miniseries, as I pine for a now/next generation Aaron Sorkin -- perhaps famous West Wing superfan Lin Manuel Miranda? -- to tell an immersive multi-episodic tale of the Obama presidency and the coalition of the ascendant that fulfilled and surpassed so much that The West Wing promised... (The grand Martin Sheen/Blair Brown Kennedy mini-series didn't make its way to NBC until the twentieth anniversary of the JFK assassination and the fine fragmentary film Bobby, its coda, appeared in 2006... I suspect the certain success of the inevitable Obama memoirs, from POTUS and FLOTUS alike, will ensure the wait for no-drama-Obama-dramatizations will not be so long...)

Friday, September 09, 2016


"Imagine Trump's America"

NBC's Commander-in-Chief Forum was a flabbergasting debacle, of course, in which moderator Matt Lauer -- whose expertise is the three-minute celebrity puff/gotcha interview, so I'm not sure why anybody expected a particularly different result -- asked Hillary Clinton next to nothing about foreign policy (the topic of the forum and one of her strongest areas of experience and expertise) in order to obsess instead about her use of private e-mail as Secretary of State, as the press has done more generally for over a year by now despite serial multi-million dollar investigations and exonerations on that subject, and then tossed Trump softballs without interruptions or follow-up questions or push-back against his repetition of well-documented outright lies... And yet the utterly ignorant and erratic and belligerent Trump still managed in spite of the inherent asymmetry of the forum to provide plenty of material demonstrating what a catastrophe his election would be.

As this video shows, the Clinton campaign knows how to make lemonade from lemons like that Forum, and I am still confident that she will win the White House. But I must say I am rather infuriated that press false-equivalency, horse-race narrative fetishization, lowering of the bar for Trump, inherent legitimation simply by taking Clinton on as an opponent -- phenomena every one of which first benefited Sanders during the primary in ways that cut into her victory and seem likely to do so again for Trump in the General -- are all too likely to undermine this year's historic opportunity for Democrats to take advantage of an unprecedentedly terrible Presidential candidate to win back the Senate and even the House and hence overcome Obama-epoch Republican obstruction to urgently necessary, widely popular, common sense gun regulation, immigration reform, policing reform, public spending bills providing jobs to repair infrastructure and provide greener alternatives paid for by increased taxes on the wealthiest American beneficiaries of our public investments, reforms that would invigorate the economy, ameliorate social tensions, address corruption, begin work to preserve civilization in the face of climate catastrophe and remind we the people that good government is possible and cynicism self-defeating.

To anticipate the objection of holier-than-thou purity cabaret fauxvolutionaries who occupy with me an ideological space to the democratic socialist feminist anti-racist anti-corporatist anti-militarist anti-extractive-industrial left of the Democratic Party but who still read my blog despite my many betrayals as someone who is indeed a member of that Party, none of this is pretend that Democrats are ideal or even good enough or even as they are the best I think we can do politically -- it is just to understand that there are not only vicious circles in the world but virtuous ones, and supporting the best among candidate among available options and the best compromise among existing stakeholders to a problem is not only the best we can ever do but can also help to create the conditions under which the next candidate and the next reform will be better still. When choosing a lesser evil is choosing to make a difference that makes a difference for the better it is the greater good, and it is the motor of much of the movement from which real and even radical progress eventually is made. 

Milestones in Marketing

"Values Voters" sounds ever so much nicer than "Asshole Voters."

This Has Been An Unusually Stressful Silly Season

I'm not sure if the fulminating bigotry and bullying of the Trump-epoch right or the fauxvolutionary frivolity of too many of my colleagues in the academic left has been more the desolating spectacle for me along this overlong campaign season.

Oh, Hello

Slept past noon after days of insomnia and my longest teaching day (six hours of teaching, on both sides of the Bay with a train commute in between, up at six, out the door and in motion from eight to six, tackling Fontenelle, Wilde, DuBois, Thucydides), feeling bleary but refreshed, gathering my thoughts. This is going to be an unexpectedly arduous term. God, I'm old.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Wednesday, September 07, 2016


Realtime retweeting of horrified reactions to Trump is a form of screaming.

Don't Lose Your Head

Organized anti-corruption and accountability politics are progressive. But blanket anti-establishment politics, whether of the right or the left, are just vulgar anarchism.

The Stubborn Fable of Cyborg-Ruggedized Individuals Enjoying e2e Net-Liberty

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Teaching Day

Finishing up on Sappho, with Homeric echoes still reverberating. The indicatively masculine, assertive and insertive, agency of "words and deeds/words as deeds" that suffuses the contestatory civic imaginary that shapes the rhetorical perspective of the Athenians and, eventually, after a few twists and turns, the Romans. Turning today to Gorgias' "Encomium of Helen," an exoneration of Helen that actually re-enacts her abduction, and a celebration of rhetoric as productive and subversive force that may amount to a bit of titillation culminating in patriarchal-incumbent reassurance...

Eyeroll Theater

If purity cabaret fauxvolutionaries aren't excoriating your socialism as liberalism you probably aren't doing much of any real use to anyone.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Paper Day

Labor Day spent doing what would once have been paperwork -- futzing around with syllabi and course objectives and attendance tracking and enrollment issues and course guideline materials -- all online, tapping away at a keyboard, staring at a pulsing screen, hour after hour, ready for my day off.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

"This isn't symbolism, this is how you change the world."

Since readers of my blog tend, like me, to incline to theory-headedness in a way that makes them feel pride at their immunity from media manipulation I realize that my posting of this sort of sentimentalizing campaigning boilerplate is infuriating to some. (That so many of these same readers fell for "Look, a birdie, Sanders!" suggests some could use a bit more self-scrutiny than self-congratulation, I daresay.) I have read enough comments and e-mails and lost enough followers and friends on this score that there can be no room for doubt about their annoyance, you can be sure. But you should all remember that I got my PhD. in rhetoric and have continued to teach in a rhetoric department for over twenty years. I am actually quite interested in the ways campaigns make their arguments and frame their narratives in public spaces.

I supported Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary over Bernie Sanders (who seemed to me fatally disorganized and perniciously anti-pragmatic even if he espoused, as a democratic socialist like me, some ideal outcomes in line with my own) and of course I now support her over the execrable Donald Trump. I also think her campaign is being run mostly quite professionally and well and I am interested in the issues and frames her campaign chooses to highlight in material such as this. None of that is the same thing as saying I agree with Hillary Clinton on all the issues, or as saying the Clinton campaign is doing everything right, or as saying I am uncritically enthusiastic about the buttons that are getting pushed in content like this.

Political campaigns are job interviews for real jobs. And while there are very good reasons for disapproving of the job of President as Commander-in-Chief in the context of the military-industrial complex or the consolidating "Unitary Executive" in an epoch of mass-mediated celebrity and legislative dysfunction, none of those reasons justify the treatment of presidential campaigns as celebrity fandoms pining after presidential parent-substitutes or dream dates rather than job interviews for the actual jobs they actually have come to be, come what may. If you really care about the Imperial Presidency you should probably be focusing on electing a Congress that will push back against it to regain a measure of its own authority, and if you really care about militarism you should probably be focusing on shifting State Department priorities to multilateral diplomacy (often in ways that will lead you into coalition with people who advocate as "Realism" things you rightly and ferociously disapprove) and budgetary priorities toward sustainable infrastructure (often through stealth Defense spending that makes you feel queasy).

As I have said time and time again, every presidential political campaign in my lifetime has been an occasion for me to choose which privileged megalomaniac to my right I will be complaining about for the next four to eight years. I think some people don't believe me when I say this sort of thing because I tend to support my chosen candidate so intensively once I've made my choice despite their inevitable distance from my ideals. This is simply because I grasp the real stakes of the result here and now even if my political vision is animated by ideals that are often remote from realization.While the lesser of two evils is still evil from a moral or aesthetic standpoint, when the lesser evil represents a difference that makes even a marginal difference for the better in vulnerable people's lives or in the direction of progress toward sustainable equity-in-diversity then it should be regarded, from a political and ethical standpoint, as the greater good.

If you feel rage or disgust seeing the rather professional whip of blandly inspirational content I have posted here, I honestly think you should probably check out of partisan politics for a while and devote yourself to making a difference (if that is honestly what you want to do, make a difference, rather than, say, indulging in purity cabaret in order to attract attention and praise while indulging in demoralizing anti-pragmatism, mis-informational false equivalencies, tantrums mis-identifying compromise with bad-faith, and so on) in some more purity-enabling space like organizing very particular issue campaigns or doing performance art -- neither of which I denigrate in so saying, I consider these indispensable to progress, and have supported and participated in both sorts of efforts myself.

Progressive and democratic politics requires a certain amount of walking and chewing gum at the same time -- recognizing that elections have consequences that demand our attention even when all the candidates and proposals are flawed in ways that reflect the diverse reality of stakeholders to the present world, recognizing that political parties and reform legislation are inevitably compromised but also inescapable instruments for change-making for good or ill, recognizing that the terrain of the possible and important must often be shifted by radical political intervention but that it is through partisan politics that change is usually then implemented on that terrain.

Noticing that this piece is propaganda doesn't impress me -- it's obvious. Noticing that campaigns are compromised doesn't impress me -- it's obvious. Noticing that compromises are not ideal outcomes doesn't impress me -- it's obvious. I am interested in what is signaled by such propaganda (in the instance posted above: expressing inspiration rather than fear about diversity in power, emphasizing patient hard work to make change over time rather than offering up sloganeering flashiness and empty promises, insisting on the importance of listening to true leadership, eg), I am interested in the specifics of proposals given the actually-available alternatives and actually-real stakeholders on hand, I am interested in the way piecemeal reforms solve shared problems and create conditions for next steps along a road to ideal outcomes. Disdaining these emphases actually is not a sign of superior insight or greater righteousness in my eyes -- it is more often a confession of ignorance, unreliability, parochialism, or self-importance.

Cars, Guns, and Crypto: A Twitter Exchange On Tech Discourse As Reactionary Rugged Individualization

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Bought Thought

I don't know where tech's Thought Leaders are leading us... but I do know it isn't to thought.

Oligarchic Outsiders

Funny, I never noticed before that the pitchfork in "American Gothic" had a face.

But Their Antics, You Can Be Sure, Will Be Televised.

No revolutionary change will be fought or lead by people who want most to be thought of as revolutionaries.

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Prism of Crowds

One thing both the fauxvolutionaries I disagree with and the tech-talkers I disagree with have in common is that so many of them mistake crowds for organizations.

"The Sky's The Limit"

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Shorten The Silly Season

After over a year of reality tee vee campaigning, it could not be any clearer that the health of critical political discourse requires much shorter campaign seasons as legitimate, even urgent, political critique is undermined when it happens in the context of arguments over necessary choices of the best among often wrong candidates for office. The Clinton campaign is taking up what seem to me to be reactionary "tech" formulations on key economic issues -- no surprise, really, after the futurological seduction of her husband and especially Al Gore, or Obama's ed tech follies -- but writing about this simply seems a demoralizing distraction from the flabbergasting threat represented by Trump, by this moment in the white-supremacist science-denialist death-dealing GOP, by the too likely prospect of obstruction and breakdown in the face of otherwise solvable problems if Democrats fail to win back the Senate and make a real dent in the House...