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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Decelerationist Grumblings

If futurologists were really progressive they would be celebrating struggle not speed.

Social justice is built at the speed of life, not the speed of light.

Beware the one who peddles violence via velocity.

Freedom happens at the speed of consent.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Still Having Occasional Thoughts

Utopia and dystopia are futurological variations on satire and panegyric in which criticism is blunted by prediction for marketing purposes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ten Theses On Taxes And Democracy


An Amor Mundi Tax Day tradition:
One 
Hostility to taxes is commonplace among anarchists, as well as for right-wing "conservatives" whose advocacy of "smaller" or "more limited" government amounts to anarchism -- since advocacy of ever smaller, ever more limited government without indicating what good government actually is and alone can accomplish is substantially equivalent to anti-governmentality. Exploitation of discontent over taxes is also commonplace among neoliberal/neoconservative right-wing politicians and thinkers who want to ensure taxes subsidize primarily the fortunes of incumbent elites through extractive-industrial-financial corporate-militarism backed by complacent consumerism and organized violence. I for one do not want to smash states, but to democratize them. And an understanding and championing of taxes should be no less indispensable to the work of democratization as its obfuscation and demonization is indispensable to the work of anti-democratization.
Two 
Taxes are not really the price we pay for a civilized society -- in Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s, influential phrase -- for civilization is priceless. This is just to say that commonwealth is not a private commodity but a public good. Taxes are not, for example, fees for discrete services that might be provided otherwise, nor are taxes a price for which there might be discount alternatives. Perhaps the true spirit of Holmes' phrase is captured best in a negative formulation: anti-tax zealots would appear to believe that civilization is the only free lunch.
Three 
Certainly taxes are not theft, as anarchists of the right and the left are so pleased to declare, since taxation is a precondition for the constitution and ongoing intelligibility of the claim to ownership on which notions of theft depend in the first place.
Four 
Neither should taxes be mischaracterized as forced contributions to what might instead be charitable causes, since the basic rights secured through taxation cannot be regarded as matters of charity else they are not truly rights but mere favors bestowed by privileged elites.
Five 
Taxes are not, however annoying they may seem, burdens on our freedom so much as essential enablers of freedom. Taxes, government bonds, and public fees support the public investments maintaining the legal, infrastructural, and administrative material conditions alone within which political freedom can abide.
Six 
Taxes ameliorate undemocratic concentrations of wealth and authority to secure sufficient equity among citizens of diverse fortune. The equity valued by democracy ensures that the diversity also valued by democracy does not disable the demanding and costly democratic processes facilitating collective responsibility, expression, criticism, problem-solving and the interminable reconciliation of the aspirations of all the people with whom we share and contest the present world.
Seven 
Taxes pay for the maintenance of institutions providing nonviolent alternatives for the adjudication of disputes. Taxes pay to secure basic needs to ensure that the scene of consent to everyday association is reliably informed and is non-duressed by the threat of deprivation, inequity, or insecurity. And taxes pay for the accountable administration of commons and public goods without which they are inevitably violated and exploited for short-term profit-taking by minorities to the cost and risk of majorities. Far from representing quintessential state violence, taxes are the enabling condition of a democratic state facilitating nonviolence.
Eight 
Taxes coupled to representation itself ("No Taxation Without Representation") tie the maintenance of government as such -- an organization invested with legitimate recourse to force with all the clear dangers inhering in that state of affairs -- inextricably to public accountability and democratic legitimacy.
Nine 
Taxing more those who profit more by their personal recourse to the shared inheritance of human knowledge and culture, to the shared substance of precarious environmental resources on which we all depend for our survival and flourishing, and to the ongoing benefits of collaboratively maintained infrastructure, institutions, norms, trust, legitimacy, and security is not unfair in the least. Progressive taxation follows quite simply from a recognition of the indisputable fact of our radical inter-dependence as both productive and vulnerable beings in the world. This same recognition, of course, is also the foundation for fairness.
Ten 
Whenever a right wing politician declares all government wasteful, criminal, or corrupt you should pay close attention, because he is revealing his intentions. Wherever government is meant to be of by and for the people, to be anti-government always means to be against the great majority of the people.

Monday, April 10, 2017

They Call It The Cloud

"The Internet" is the buzzsaw into which the genius of already more than one generation has been poured and sprayed out as a bloody mist.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

Contract Ratified!

Our first union negotiated contract was overwhelmingly ratified by the membership yesterday.

Come what may, I have acquired a host of benefits and guarantees at school that really turn things around for me. I will now get paid to perform professional functions, like advisement and committee work. I have gained the right to a week's paid bereavement should a loved one die. If the school cancels a class at the last minute, there is now a few hundred dollars' fee I would get to defray all the costs of designing the course (not to mention the cost of turning down possible alternate courses elsewhere). I have gained good faith consideration to re-teach successful classes if they are offered again later. Perhaps you will be shocked to discover that I have not had these benefits before.

Speaking of such little shocks, since I have been teaching at SFAI as a member of the "Visiting Faculty" full time since 2004 and since past service is being respected or "grandfathered" in the calculation of new positions and salaries it is actually conceivable that the result of our labor struggle for me personally will be a shift from thirteen years of single-semester appointments with at-will contracts (that is a "contract" you can be fired from at any time, for any reason, and even without a reason) at the bottom of the school's pay scale, I could now suddenly find myself re-designated a "Senior Lecturer" with a three-year renewable contract, a 20% raise or more, grievance procedures and representatives securing my job position, and a host of new protections and supports.

These days of Trump Republicanism have been deranging and demoralizing, but this labor struggle at SFAI has been years ongoing and it bears remembering that there is always so much more than one thing going on at once in politics.

I was one of the "founders" of SFAI's Visiting Faculty Association in (I think it was) 2012, back when we had to pretend to be a social club to find a space to air grievances and organize under the eyes of a suspicious administration (we're on our third President since then!) that was obsessed about keeping us from ever assembling, organizing, even communicating... You know, not a single colleague with whom I participated in those very first few Visiting Club Association events is still at SFAI with me -- one found a marginally better adjunct job for which she uprooted her whole life, another left adjunct teaching altogether as a no-win situation. They were not wrong to leave, we are not wrong to long to live better lives. It's just that these struggles take forever. They have vicissitudes -- there are many false victories and also false dead-ends. Everything feels like it is going to hell, and then something you've been fighting forever for suddenly goes well. This is true of all politics, but I must say that the lesson of the political struggles I have not simply followed but in which I put my ass out there in the world in a real way for a real length of time (union stuff in middle age, say, Queer Nation stuff in my youth) is that eventually you win much more than seems possible when things seem worst.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Union!

I voted today to ratify the first contract negotiated by a committee of my colleagues and representatives of my union at SFAI. You may remember our struggle to be represented by SEIU 1021 in the first place, documented in a series of posts here, mostly a few years back, especially in 2013 and 2014. All these years in between, a handful of dedicated adjuncts just as precarious and exhausted as me have been going round after round after round with the administration on my behalf. There have been stretches months long during which I all but gave up hope that this day would come -- I can only imagine the demoralization and rage folks on the committee in the very belly of the beast have been living through all these years... Years! If the contract is ratified, as I expect it to be, it may well be a life-changing event for me. After the dust settles in upcoming weeks I'll report on the aftermath, and perhaps gather all the posts narrating this mini saga together.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Proposed

Capitalism as the system that destroys the world so straight guys can pretend they are working when they are playing golf.

Defying Gravity

PoliticalWire: The latest Gallup daily tracking poll shows President Trump’s approval rate crashing to 36% to 57%. [This is another plummet from the number, already unprecedented enough to get a post, last week!] "Trump’s current 36% is two percentage points below Barack Obama’s low point of 38%, recorded in 2011 and 2014. Trump has also edged below Bill Clinton’s all-time low of 37%, recorded in the summer of 1993, his first year in office, as well as Gerald Ford’s 37% low point in January and March 1975. John F. Kennedy’s lowest approval rating was 56%; Dwight Eisenhower’s was 48%."

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Okay. Love.



Yeah, otherwise, still grading midterms, reading sf, watching Buffy high with Eric -- the first hundred days.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Grading

Grading mid-term papers this weekend, which should pretty much park a truck in the middle of my brain for the next couple of days.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Your crappy product isn't "New" and "Improved" because you slapped those words on it.

Your AI theory is stupid and slapping the word "super" in front of the word AI doesn't help.

Your anarchism is facile and slapping the word "deep" in front of the word "state" doesn't help.


Be a revolutionary if you want to be a revolutionary...

...but you shouldn't confuse whining about Democrats as the same thing as being a revolutionary because it is not.

Could Be Useful



In case the throwaway character of this post leads to the wrong impression, I really do quite love this beautiful and funny and forceful work.

Monday, March 20, 2017

No computer has ever won a game of chess.

No computer has ever even played a game of chess.

No computer has ever played anything.

No computer has ever played.

All survival has style.

Survival radically underdetermines style, but all survival has style.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

How Low Can He Go?

Not fifty days in, and the execrable Trump has already managed approval numbers lower than Obama ever had in eight years. Will Nixonian depths have been plumbed prior to the end of the first hundred days? And what would that even mean under current conditions?

Spring Break

Papers to grade and lecture prep for the back end aside, my plans for Spring Break (well underway) are to read Nnedi Okorafor's Binti: Home, Becky Chambers' A Closed And Common Orbit, Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140, and Kameron Hurley's The Stars Are Legion.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Here In California, The Numbers Are Much The Same

Friday, March 17, 2017

Memories

This is the first CD I ever bought. I still own it -- and listen to it! Something magical happens during her rendition of "Fascinating Rhythm" and Sassy is seized by her genius and the concert just never lets up after that. I got this on the the same day I got my first CD player back in 1983 as a first-year undergraduate at IU Bloomington. I bought it at a record store called The Glass Harmonica, where a jolly couple like two gray acorns in thick gray sweaters sold mostly classical music and Broadway cast albums. My best friend Kathleen and I got a second musical education sampling music at Glass Harmonica Saturday afternoons, Sondheim, Shostokovich, and so on, and then to Mother Bear's pizza and then to the movies... Good gods, this was thirty four years ago!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Don't Count On It

I mean, sure, hold out hope, cheer even brief successes, call your Congress critters, give to the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and the Immigration Law Center and so on... but understand that it is ongoing education, messaging, organizing, protesting, campaigning that will resist Trump and repair the damage done by Republicans and make a world that works for the majority who have to work for a living. I'm happy the Courts are dealing the Republicans some early blows, but we're not a hundred days in yet and I daresay the Courts will no more save us from Trump than they saved us from W.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It Pays To Advertize

Until Democrats insistently and consistently celebrate government doing well what only government can (that is, to maintain the public and common goods of which political freedom is made), Republicans will continue to decry and dismantle as "waste" everything government does that doesn't simply protect and expand the wealth of the richest.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Rhet Vet

I am perplexed by the preference of many for the opaque term "single payer" over the (to me) much clearer and usefully stakes-foregrounding "Medicare for All." It's oddly counterintuitive to persist in crafting a rallying discourse around a form of the word "pay," for one thing. And the intrusion of the isolating individuating figure "single" here is discursively deranging. The point of dem-left healthcare politics in the American context, surely, is to emphasize the collective nature of public health, healthcare as a universal right and public investment and source of commonwealth: Whatever the wonky reference of "single" in "single payer" in the insurance policy imaginary, as a slogan it is pushing buttons, making connections, opening up possibilities for action in different ways once it is no longer a phrase in an educational lecture about optimal outcomes to students, an organizational shorthand about ideal outcomes among activists, but a phrase that is activating the diversity of hopes and histories of a working coalition capable of electing enough legislators to enact a longer-term agenda while accountably solving the shared problems in real time of an even greater diversity of stakeholders. Part of this is the difference between discussing engineering and discussing politics, part of this is the difference between discussing ethics and discussing politics, part of this is the difference between movement politics and partisan politics, part of this is the difference between expertise and commonsense and hegemonization...   

Saturday, March 11, 2017

And then you're caught.

The assimilation of Platonic doxa to Marxist ideology is an easy hook to bite down on.

Friday, March 10, 2017

So Useful

Every word you use is a scientific hypothesis.
Every word you use is a magic spell.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Reader

These last few months I have drawn sense and solace from reading much more than from writing (or, heaven help me, my teaching) and that has made this blog an even more than usually slipshod affair lately. Obviously, the volume of my writing here has waxed and waned over the years, but it occurs to me that as a general matter the life of this blog has co-incided with an unusually long stretch in which I have drawn my sense and solace instead mostly from my own writing. Nowadays, though, it seems I prefer to mull. Thinking back to a childhood spent hiding with books I'd say my hunger for reading these days but distaste for saying much of anything myself is pretty familiar. Even if I spent well over a decade unceasingly over-confidently blathering several Tolstoy novels' worth of words onto this blog, for instance, the comparative recent reticence feels like a return to form. Probably this change has been a gradual thing, but the dramatic blows to my confidence represented by last year's unexpected medical emergency and then the catastrophic Presidential election have left me floundering in ways that exposed what otherwise I wasn't paying too much attention to. This blog began years ago in an effort to produce an extended piece of writing, my dissertation, and this blog has testified since to my sense of myself as a writer more than anything else, not because my writing here has been especially good or anything but simply because my writing here has been writing I had to do, that I figured things out with, that would remain unchanged if it never attracted a reader. These days, I'm feeling much more like a reader than a writer. Not saying I'm not going to blog anymore, I'm just reading and listening is all, and probably something is changing.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Blogged

When every tweet feels like the ritual exorcism of an essay you didn't write that also will never be read...

Saturday, March 04, 2017

What Is Happening?

My working theory is that Scalia's passage into hell seems to have deranged the timeline for us all ever since...

Monday, February 27, 2017

Reading...

Should be prepping for my lecture tomorrow in "For Futurity" but a search through Jameson's Archaeologies of the Future to confirm a point I was going to make has turned into an all-day re-immersion in that book about a decade after I read it last. I appreciate the book a lot, and it seems to muck around with the very associations -- between satire, utopia, modernity, reduction, construction, revolution, administration, reform, sub-culture -- we're teasing at in the class, and which I spend so much of my time teasing at more generally. It's not that I hate the book or anything, or even know how I would frame my critique yet, but I can't shake the feeling that I have disagreements with Jameson's take at a level that would help me clarify the anti-futurological (or maybe anti-marketing) critique I have been engaged in for years now. Can't put my finger on it yet...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

No App For You!

An enormously high proportion of "Tech" innovation and progress is just marketing and repackaging, so when you read breathless articles about new activist apps and tech-mediated organizing activity springing up be aware: Wherever there is "Tech" there will be vaporware, skimming and scamming collective efforts, credit-stealing wheel reinventions, wasteful duplications of effort, repackaging of failure and stasis as progress and novelty, manifestos without movements, etc.

Ated It!

I feel like most of my gay life has been over-legislated over-educated and over-masturbated.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Monday, February 20, 2017

Say Something

If you want to demonstrate you understand the value of debate in a free society don't just tolerate disagreeable speech -- disagree with it.

Oh Yes They Call Him The Streak

Like all who are known only for their shortcomings, this by-the-numbers Republican bigot-contrarian Milo whatever-his-name-is will be entirely forgotten for them soon enough.

Not My President's Day


And, yes, that's right, proud card-carrying member of the ACLU for years.  Never more important to support their work, Join.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Door Number One For Trump's GOP

Since the choices seem to be Trump destroying the Republican Party, the United States or the planet I'm going to push for the first outcome.

No Need To Choose

I don't know which is the more facile and reactionary, market pieties from right-anarchists or mutualist pieties from left-anarchists.

Pass

Futurists are what pass for public intellectuals when marketing is what passes for truth.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sensible Prediction

I predict that people who confuse making predictions with making sense will make little sense.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Almost

I love to be told something almost as much as I hate to be sold something.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Venus Flew

It's been well over a year since I directed people to the Grimes/Monae collaboration "Venus Fly" -- but a video has come out rather unexpectedly (I guess the renewed excitement over Monae's star turns in Moonlight and Hidden Figures and on the usual red carpets in far from usual gowns may have something to do with the timing) and even if it didn't look so goddamn stunning fabulous any Janelle Monae video is news here at Amor Mundi, as you know!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Post-Clinton But Not Post-Obama?

New York Post:
[F]ormer President Barack Obama... isn’t just staying behind in Washington. He’s working behind the scenes to set up what will effectively be a shadow government to not only protect his threatened legacy, but to sabotage the incoming administration... He’s doing it through a network of leftist nonprofits led by Organizing for Action... with a growing war chest and more than 250 offices across the country. Since Donald Trump’s election, this little-known but well-funded protesting arm has beefed up staff and ramped up recruitment of young liberal activists, declaring on its website, “We’re not backing down.” Determined to salvage Obama’s legacy, it’s drawing battle lines on immigration, ObamaCare, race relations and climate change. Obama is intimately involved in OFA operations and even tweets from the group’s account... Far from sulking, OFA activists helped organize anti-Trump marches across US cities... After Trump issued a temporary ban on immigration from seven terror-prone Muslim nations, the demonstrators jammed airports, chanting: “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all!” Run by old Obama aides and campaign workers, federal tax records show “nonpartisan” OFA marshals 32,525 volunteers nationwide. Registered as a 501(c)(4), it doesn’t have to disclose its donors, but they’ve been generous. OFA has raised more than $40 million in contributions and grants since evolving from Obama’s campaign organization Obama for America in 2013. OFA, in IRS filings, says it trains young activists to develop “organizing skills.” Armed with Obama’s 2012 campaign database, OFA plans to get out the vote for Democratic candidates it’s grooming to win back Congress and erect a wall of resistance to Trump at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. It will be aided in that effort by the Obama Foundation, run by Obama’s former political director, and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, launched last month by Obama pal Eric Holder to end what he and Obama call GOP “gerrymandering” of congressional districts. Obama will be overseeing it all from a shadow White House located within two miles of Trump. It features a mansion, which he’s fortifying with construction of a tall brick perimeter, and a nearby taxpayer-funded office with his own chief of staff and press secretary. Michelle Obama will also open an office there, along with the Obama Foundation. Critical to the fight is rebuilding the ravaged Democrat Party. Obama hopes to install his former civil-rights chief Tom Perez at the helm of the Democratic National Committee. Perez is running for the vacant DNC chairmanship, vowing “It’s time to organize and fight... We must stand up to protect President Obama’s accomplishments;” while also promising, “We’re going to build the strongest grass-roots organizing force this country has ever seen.” The 55-year-old Obama is not content to go quietly into the night like other ex-presidents. “You’re going to see me early next year,” he said after the election, “and we’re going to be in a position where we can start cooking up all kinds of great stuff.” Added the ex-president: “Point is, I’m still fired up and ready to go.”
The insinuation that Obama is behind the scenes with a hand in organizing the hearteningly massive street protests after Election Day and the powerfully effective airport protests after the unconstitutional and racist first attempted Trump-Republican Muslim Ban is enormously interesting. I suspect this claim is a bit overblown, but I also suspect that it is getting at something otherwise overlooked.

There are all sorts of interesting crosscurrents blowing in the background of this reporting. The reference to the Obama preference for Perez for DNC Chair is one of them for sure, since it seems to side Obama with Clinton loyalists against Ellison as standard bearer of a Sanders-affiliated wing of the party. Since the Sanders-fandom is also prominent in post-election organizing, OFA's credit-claiming here feels like skirmishing along the same lines. (I think Ellison is a fine Senator, and I regarded him and Perez both as good solid progressive candidates for chair -- but now that this contest is re-litigating the primary yet again I incline to Perez knowing full well any result, including my preference, will be divisive and demoralizing at a time when we should be united and righteous.)

Nevertheless, one also gets a distinct impression from these initiatives that Obamaworld is more than a little disappointed, perhaps even a bit disgusted, by the missteps of the Clinton campaign and the pretty pass to which we have now come, and in taking up the Resistance to Trump Obama is rebuking Clinton politics. Given the embrace by HRC of the diverse Obama coalition and the most progressive platform in generation, I am personally inclined to say this rebuke was already the substance of HRC's Democratic campaign itself.

Denial of this very insight was necessary in order for Sanders to demonize HRC -- which he disastrously chose to do once he delusively shifted from a protest campaign to what he thought was a winnable campaign -- the original sin of the primary campaign that yoked her high negatives to unanswerable (because insinuated rather than asserted and impressionistic rather than factual) character and corruption attacks that would be re-iterated by Trump to balance his own unfavorables and reach otherwise unreliable white resentment voters in suburbs in the context of Republican disenfranchisement of Democratic base voters in just enough states Democrats have counted on as a firewall to pull an electoral college upset.

Given the "shellacking" Democrats received at all levels of government in both of the mid-term elections of the Obama era, it is reasonable to ask if any OFA distancing from Clintonworld doesn't involve some small shirking of critical self-assessment and responsibility on the part of Obama's adherents. Before taking too much heart from the suggestion that President Obama is still the head of the Democratic Party and OFA is busy behind the scenes planning a stunning come-back and recapturing of progressive momentum in the face of climate catastrophe, weapons proliferation, and social injustice... do remember that OFA had that 2012 database and activists and the full power of the White House and yet the losses piled up in 2014 on top of the losses preceding it. What push against jerrymandering and disenfranchisement will work better now for 2018 than it would have done in 2012 for 2014 or 2008 for 2010?

Of course, those who "Feel the Bern" will have easy answers to all of this: Obama era Democrats lost seats because Obama is a corporatist/warcriminal, Obama and Clinton skirmishing is irrelevant because Obama and Clinton are both corporatists/warcriminals. Of course, the President is commander-in-chief of the American military and executive of the wealthiest capitalist country in history -- something describable as "corporatist" and "warcriminal" is going to characterize any American Presidency. Grasping this is indispensable to exposing, resisting, ameliorating the atrocities these facts imply. Sanders' fandom in offering up their loose abstractions -- everything is rigged by the 1% -- lose the capacity to distinguish Republican from Democrat (Gore vs. W., Obama vs. Romney -- Sanders wanted Obama primaries, recall -- HRC vs. Trump), Democrat from Democrat (Bill vs. FDR, Bill vs Hillary, Hillary vs Obama), or Sanders as... another exactly equally inevitably disappointing politician (his war funding, gun, ethanol votes all reveal a compromising politician distinguished from others mostly by getting much less done than most of his colleagues and in haappening to live in such a homogeneous boring postage stamp of a state he simply rarely is called upon to compromise because nobody wants anything from Vermont).

Needless to say, as a lifelong hippy faggot socialist art school teacher in San Francisco I am far from disdaining the politics of those who would condemn and resist plutocracy and militarism. My point of contention with the Sanders fandom in the Democratic Party has always been with what I regard as their preference for a politics of purity-tests and symbolic protests over a politics of real-time problem solving and piecemeal progressive policy reform. I am an advocate of the Kingian model of the "revolution of conscience" and the ongoing struggle toward and of the Beloved Society of sustainable democratic equity-in-diversity. I am neither contemptuous nor afraid of those who call for Revolution in this nation of white-supremacy and patriarchy and plutocracy -- but I must say I do disdain those who label themselves "Revolutionary" without a substantial diagnosis of the actionable terrain and a program for change. I would never be so foolish to pretend there was anything Revolutionary about campaigning for HRC for President. This isn't because HRC was less "revolutionary" than Bernie -- indeed, I preferred HRC over Bernie as a candidate (I don't know her as a person, and don't judge candidates as potential friends, dream dates, or parent surrogates) because I regarded her experience, temperament, and connections as more capable of the kinds of progress in the direction of my own more "revolutionary" aspirations -- but because election campaigns and partisan politics, even at their best, are not revolutionary activities. Saying otherwise is a deranging error, it actively mis-educates citizens as to the nature of political change and substantial radicalism.

In the closing months of the campaign, Obama sometimes seemed to rebuke the unreliability of Democratic voters who seem all too eager to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, who forget that voting for a lesser evil that makes a real difference for the better can still be a way of voting for the greater good, who cannot be counted on to promote progressive accomplishments and remind majorities they have something to root and vote for. Whatever their frustrations with the Clinton defeat, the trustees of the Obama administration's legacy and living representatives of the REAL real diversifying secularizing planetizing America of the Obama coalition will, I both think and hope, ally with the architects of the Clinton campaign's move to the left, the professionalism of its policy shop, its embrace of intersectional analyses and harm reduction policy aims, its celebration of the diversity of America and the Democratic base. A return to Dean's 50 state strategy and ACORN-style voter registration drives coupled with legal challenges to disenfranchisement schemes is clearly the order for the day. Presumably, since this is something pretty much everybody always says one can assume eventually some party muckety-mucks will get around to doing it in earnest.

However indispensable the mass protests of Trump Republican authoritarianism and individual support of the vulnerable, organizing to win elections (at the City and State level and in the House of Representatives for 2018 -- even to hold in the Senate is a dauntingly big task, I'm afraid, given the math) is the most useful thing we can all do in coming months. More, and Better, Democrats is a virtuous circle making everything else we need to do that much easier. Bernie Sanders isn't even a Democrat and too many who take him as their champion are simply Greens and Naderites and anarchists who want to piss on the Democratic Party and/or take it over because they cannot build or maintain their own. But not all politics are partisan. There is a lot of education, agitation, and organization at the local level, in the streets, in classrooms, in culture. This work is not to be dismissed but celebrated. It is no less indispensable to progress than partisan reform also is. But a stump speech isn't the same thing as an academic lecture and a party platform isn't the same thing as a revolutionary manifesto and a party isn't the same thing as a fandom and a slogan isn't the same thing as a policy and a vote isn't the same thing as performance art.

Like Howard Dean, I am from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party: I want a Democratic Party that stands with and for the majority of Americans who work for a living. And I believe that Obama and HRC both worked to re-orient the Party to that work after the long night of the Southern Strategy and the Republican dismantlement of the New Deal and Great Society (very much including the distress of the Clinton administration in the immediate aftermath of the Reagan years during the Gingrich "Contract [On] America"). I have no trouble with those who prefer more conspicuously progressive candidates for this or that office (I was a fan of Tsongas against the first Clinton, and a fan of Obama against the second Clinton the first time, and might have been a fan of a Biden/Warren ticket over Clinton a third time too given the chance), once a solid case can be made for the path to their actual election. But I prefer my Democrats to be... Democrats, with real accomplishments and solid relationships and a detailed understanding of current events. Bernie wasn't, in my view, and it matters to me that he still isn't.

The Democratic Party is signaling that it is NOT post-Obama in the Moment of Trump. This is a good thing in my view. I think the Party is also signaling that it IS post-Clinton, as I believe it has been doing since the Party's purge of DLCers and Blue Dogs, mostly in 2010. In the past I would have described that development as a good thing as well, because I regarded it as the conclusion of the Great Sort of the parties on questions of civil rights which I imagined would eventually force the GOP to adapt wholesomely to reality to become a viable opposition Party again, but I cannot say I am quite so confident of those assumptions at the moment given recent events. Is Trump the last gasp of white supremacy as the Southern Strategy blows its wad and America turns into a majority minority country -- or is a "Southernification" of white suburban/"rural" voters coupled with disenfranchisement of Democratic base voters in mid-western states extending the electorally useful life of the heinous Southern Strategy? The concentration of Democratic voters in cities in a system that ultimately allocates representation in ways that skew to geographic rather than demographic realities is a deep problem, as the example of how small a minority subjugated how great a majority so terribly so long in South Africa, for example, is an important reminder.

Be all that as it may, I think it is more important to get past Bernie Sanders than to get past HRC in this post-[Bill]Clintonian Democratic Party. I believe, the Democratic Party is the most indispensable but at once inadequate tool in the struggle for freedom and justice in the United States. I don't personally expect to like the process in which the progressive vegi-sausage is slowly made. I don't expect actual policies to resemble my own ideal versions of them, since they will always also reflects the needs, facts, and ends of stakeholders who differ from me but share the world in which and for which legislation is made. In the long term, despite our current Trump-Republican catastrophe, I have to think it is a sign of greater long-term health for the Democratic Party that it was able to fend off a takeover by an extra-party insurgency while the Republican Party was not. While it is true that you don't get to govern if you don't win elections, the converse is not necessarily true with Republicans who may win and yet are incapable of or opposed to actual governance. Again, while I am pretty far to HRC's left politically myself, I think her greatest flaw as a candidate was actually not her policy positions, even the ones I disagreed with, but her awkwardness and discomfort as a public communicator in an era irretrievably mass-mediated -- this is a flaw that recurs catastrophically as a Democratic tic from Adlai Stevenson, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry to Hillary Clinton. I daresay if the people of the Democratic Party took rhetoric seriously neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders would have been the frontrunning candidate in our primary.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

What If They Started A People's Party And No People Showed Up?

I just noticed this only too typical quixotic indulgence is afoot: Draft Bernie For A People's Party I do wonder if the handful of fauxvolutionary Greens, Naderites, and techbros who make the most noise about this will re-think calling it the "People's Party" when they realize there are no people in it. Hey, they might not ever get anybody elected Dog Catcher let alone President, any more than the Greens do here, but I'm sure a breathless online manifesto is forthcoming.


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Monday, February 06, 2017

Is Willie Brown Blowing Smoke Or Is California Flexing Its Muscles?

The politics here are fast moving, so many are focused on the unpopularity, infeasibility, unconstitutionality of Trump's authoritarian edicts or trial balloons or gas attacks or whatever these are it is easy to miss the significance of moves that are made in the scrum. Willie Brown's threat that California -- as a rare "donor state" giving more money to the Federal government than the government provides back in services -- might respond to Trump-Republican suspensions of federal funds to sanctuary states/cities/spaces with suspensions of our own payments seems an extraordinary move to have been made so soon. The anchors of this news segment follow the story with additional talking points, notice, and if language and strategy and policy are already being confidently offered up in this way I am inclined to think this is not just Willie Brown blowing smoke but Willie Brown sending a signal California Democrats want to be heard. I am all for playing hardball with Trumpism, and all for the thriving diverse progressive REAL real America of California (and Cascadian states more generally) demanding a country that better reflects the our values than those of insulated ignorant dispersed rural racists. But I must say the long-term consequences of such a form of resistance to the Constitutional system of checks and balances, federalism, subsidiarity, such as they are, are hard to fathom.

Here's a link, since the video doesn't seem to want to play here for everybody.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Random Wilde...

I need to go back to posting my Today's Random Wilde posts as I used to do, I think.

Today's Random Wilde

Football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but is hardly suitable for delicate boys.

Friday, February 03, 2017

We're In For A Whole Lot of Losing Before We Win Anything Again

Do even the people who expect this really expect this? I can scarcely imagine how exhausted I'll feel from the rage and worry and waste in even two years' time...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

From W to Trump, from Mayberry Machiavellis to Killer Bigot Clowns

One thing the usual "Republicans, stupid OR evil?" conundrum misses is the extent to which evil pushes away the majority of competent people who are also decent people. Quite apart from the scandal and the danger of handing executive powers in one of the richest most belligerent nations in history of the world over to people lacking a moral compass (do unto others as you would have others do onto you; from those to whom much is given much is expected; don't squander long-term flourishing for short-term satisfaction; don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good; be wary of the human capacity for rationalization and the human tendency to feel irrationally threatened by difference; etc.) are the endless practical problems caused when loyalty trumps competence, experience, temperament, qualifications in assigning responsibilities across the organizational archipelago of partisan, activist, and administrative roles leading to actually-real problems that would otherwise be avoided. At least, I think this true. Is this true? Does one eventually pay a price for making avoidable mistake after mistake after mistake? That really does cause incompetents to drop the ball, get bogged down in distractions, lose the narrative, lose party discipline and cohesion, hemorrhage support, get the short end of the stick in negotiations, all those worries that endlessly bedevil and preoccupy Democrats will apply to Republicans, too, it's not going to be IOKIYAAR on the stupid AND evil...?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Reach Reachables

You don't reason with fascists or bullies, you expose them, prevail over them, and then marginalize them before they can hurt other people.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

When will it end with the "so it begins" tweets?

We lost an election we shouldn't have lost -- that was the beginning -- and now we confront a series of increasingly terrible battles we have to win, almost every single one of which is harder than and in part harder because we lost the election we shouldn't have lost.

I agree it is important to highlight white-nationalist and authoritarian tendencies in Trump Republicanism -- if only to draw on the available archive of effective resistance to such tendencies for those who are most vulnerable and those who are our allies -- but it is also important to recognize historical disanalogies in the American situation (the richness of US physical resources, the advantage of US geopolitical and historical positioning, the diversity of US stakeholders, the affordances shaped by legal, infrastructural, and professional norms, forms and legacies, and so on) to other fascist and authoritarian formations in which we might lodge equally necessary hopes and fears in our present circumstances.

But another thing that bugs me about the hundred or so daily "and so it begins" posts that scroll by me these days is that they seem to be written from a weirdly high orbit, as if surveying the historical scene from an Olympian cloudlet perch while munching popcorn. And yet every tweet seems to be accompanied by the same portentous sigh, in each the same diagnosis is being offered up for our appreciation. Not doing much of anything is not the new doing something... there is nothing new about well-educated armchair quarterbacking (not above this myself) and all-protest-no-policies fauxvolutionaries and purity cabaret among privileged Beautiful Losers. As always, it seems, many lefties and liberals online are falling over themselves to signal to one another how very cool and not surprised they are by all this, how very nonplussed they are as Trump's dangerous ineptitudes and dizzying corruptions and demonstrable crimes multiply. But who cares if you are surprised or not?

We Democrats (and this includes many people to the left of most Democrats, like me, who nonetheless recognize the Democratic Party as the nationally-viable party organization and diverse stakeholder coalition to which we must all of us in the US indispensably turn as the available pragmatic and reformist tool to implement policies in the service of sustainable equity-in-diversity, even if we know that educational, agitational, organizational work to transform the terrain of the possible and the important in which parties function is also indispensable and sometimes pressures the party to its annoyance even while mostly it enables the party to remain relevant and effective, such as it is) must do the following:   
[one] identify what is actually happening, we must not overestimate the nature or extent of our failure (we won the popular vote by millions, Democrats gained seats in both the House and the Senate, living wage and drug legalization and other liberal policies won support across the country, eg) nor underestimate the unprecedented violations of the Trump administration (it is still early days, but Trump's violation of the emoluments clause is grounds for impeachment, as may be his incitement of executive officials to carry out policies Courts have stayed, but his attacks on citizens, legal residents, people seeking asylum, American families with undocumented members, the press, whole agencies and departments of government and the life-long dedicated public service professionals who undertake their work, eg), since both overestimating our defeat and underestimating their victories leads us to mis-assess the realities at hand;
[two] put a face on those who suffer from urgent problems and bad policies, and provide narrative(s) (some carefully targeted regionally and demographically, some evoking a more general democratic and social justice ethos) that will solicit identification with the sufferer and blame Republicans as the villains prolonging this suffering against the efforts of Democrats;
[three] provide (and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat) concise catchphrases that provide a Democratic vision of good accountable government of a people made happier and stronger by their diversity, a government that provides public investments, social welfare and equal recourse to law as preconditions for freedom as an alternative to the failed and unfair Republican vision that divides, isolates, and neglects individuals ("individualism") the better for incumbent-elite minorities to conquer, exploit, concentrate, and accumulate wealth and authority;
[four] give majorities something to root for: no, this doesn't mean pissing on Democrats singly or as a party every chance you get, but celebrating our good ideas (read the Democratic Party platform) and accomplishments at least as much as we criticize their compromises and before we relentlessly, thanklessly move on to the next problem the solution to which we disdain as imperfect to useless before cracking the whip yet again;
[five] while it is good for Democratic elected representatives to be as progressive as is compatible with their actually-existing constituency, it is never good for a moderate Democrat in a moderate district to be replaced by a Republican (whether you want to call him moderate for a Republican or not in this epoch of Republican extremity) who threatens Democratic majorities in Local or State or Federal and so undermine the effectiveness of the best Democrats in those bodies who are empowered when they are part of a governing majority -- so, if a Democrat is doing something wrong or not doing enough good, pitch your righteous criticisms in a way that strengthens, never weakens, the candidate or the Party, find a Democrat who is doing the right thing or doing better and spotlight the alternative they represent and find out how that Democrat might use your support, connect you to networks and resources to make a difference on the issue more than you realized possible, help to educate the erring Democrat, strive to craft the arguments to make the issue more a Party priority or change platform language or craft specific policy language.
 .
"And so it begins..." Trump the Killer Clown is a very old story -- to the extent that it isn't a completely idiosyncratic and unprecedented one. Politics is always happening, history is already underway. It cannot be politics that "so... begins," for politics doesn't "begin" or "end." Politics is the ongoing, and indeed interminable, reconciliation of the diversity of aspirations of the diversity of sharers of our place and time, including reconciling our sense of which shared problems are the most urgent ones we face. Trump isn't a re-run on cable you already know the story to. Although Trump is in many ways an unprecedented figure (Jacksonian, Nixonian, Reaganomic, Gingrichian, W-esque resonances notwithstanding), it is also true that his rhetoric is a kind of reductio ad absurdum of movement conservative themes, especially as these were ground down to their rhetoric essences in the crucible of a quarter-century of Hate Radio and now circulating virally on social media ("virality" like "AI" or "robotic" or "automated" is a metaphor, much of the work of which seems to me to disavow personal responsibility for decisions made by authors, coders, curators, designers, owners, executives of the techs, apps, platforms invested with figurative agency).

Anyway, we don't know what is going to happen. Many truly terrible things that did not have to happen are going to happen -- beautiful and encouraging things will also happen. We don't know how many vulnerable people we can save from harm, we don't how much damage we can prevent to the unsung compromised fragile indispensable social welfare programs and public investments on which we depend to survive and flourish. To win we are going to have to count on the work of a lot of people who tend to get disdained as "Establishment" types -- lawyers, social workers, teachers, administrators, members of venerable civil rights and social support organizations -- and in less than two years' time we need above all else to do that most Establishment sort of thing of all: to try to get Democrats elected in greater numbers to the House of Representatives, in State legislatures, in Governors' mansions, in Mayors' offices and School Boards and City Councils.

Things Are In Motion

Be very wary of the American tendency to appreciate "getting things done" even when they are mostly objectively terrible...

Don't stop with uber!

Shar(ecropp)ing economy and deregulatory disruption apps generally facilitate right-wing politics re-branded as "techno-progressive."

My Brain On Trump

Right now I am finding it exactly equally impossible to believe Trump will or will not be impeached before the end of his term.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Give People Something To Root For

If Democrats won't tout their own accomplishments, nobody will. Worse, soon enough Republicans and others will claim credit for them.
If Democrats won't expose Republican incompetence, corruption and lies, nobody will. Worse, soon enough Republicans will blame "government."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Republicans don't believe in good government because they know themselves to be incapable of it.

Never criticize "government" when what you are criticizing is Republicans in government. General expressions of anti-governmentality actually reward the GOP for its lies, crimes, corruption, misconduct, and incompetence. So, when Republicans do wrong, please take that extra little second to specify: "Republican" President, "Republican" run State Legislature, Republican led Congress, Republican appointee... Not "government" -- but "Republicans." 

Democrats believe in the possibility of good government. Always propose the contrast, always attack the Republicans, always make the case for the Democratic alternative, always give enough people something to root for, fight for, build on that you have a winning electoral majority coalition.  

Rhet Tips for Dems

Yes, Republican zombie lies live on because Republicans repeat and repeat them.

Did you know Democrats can repeat and repeat truths, too?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What If They Gave An Inauguration And Nobody Came?

(Unfortunately, the answer to the question asked by this post's title is: the inauguration happens anyway.)

Since the Trump administration apparently has banned (within hours of its first day in office) the National Park Agency from tweeting because of the following image, it is the least we can do to ensure the image circulates as widely as possible nonetheless. Perhaps the thin skinned tyrant will get in such a snit about being upstaged by the Women's March (like his loss by unprecedented millions and millions in the popular vote) he will devote a few days to a freakout about it that will postpone Republican efforts to destroy healthcare, diplomacy, education, public goods, the economy, the environment by those few days and hence save lives.

Of course, the Trump choice to devote the resources of the administration in its first official press conference to peddling a patently and even hilariously false account of "historical unprecedented crowds" reveals terrifying things -- the priority given to glorification of the Leader above all other issues, public declaration that certain citizens are "enemies" and Constitutionally protected activities like journalism and protest are dangerous or possibly even treasonous, threatening the press and citizens with unspecified reprisals, exhibiting from the first a complete disregard for the regulative power of verifiable truths, even quite obvious truths, and so on -- to those who have been warning for months by now that Trump is an authoritarian figure rather than merely the conventionally stupid evil sort of candidate Republicans usually offer up.

Terrible things are about to happen, but Trump is an unpopular figure with terrible approval numbers with an agenda and attached to Republican majorities with agendas that directly and obviously harm majorities of Americans. Obstruct everything. Don't give an inch. Keep Trump reacting to slights and humiliations. Tear his fragile ego down and tie the Republican Party to his as he falls. Keep the Republicans in disarray. Let those timorous males in the House calculate what loyalty to an historically unpopular White House or what a vote to privatize Social Security or raise the retirement age for working class citizens (and not multimillionaire Senators with guaranteed healthcare, for instance) might mean to their prospects for re-election in two years. Keep them on the defensive: Who compensates those who lose healthcare access or reliable retirement? Who pays for your billionaire tax cuts? Who pays for an erratic belligerent foreign policy? Plaster the faces of sympathetic people suffering from Republican policies -- broken families, scared kids, bullied vulnerable people, treatable conditions wreaking havoc, bankruptcies, foreclosures, suicides, police violence, wreckage demolished by greenhouse storms described as such. Undermine the confidence of these bullies, make them think twice before harming vulnerable people or closing off our investments in our shared futures, let them know they face immediate exposure, ridicule, and eventual recall.


The Great Sort Is Now Complete

At last, every Republican is now an awful bully and every Democrat (me included) is an awful know-it-all.

How "AI" Doesn't Matter

Thinking about the world is the world mattering to the thinker. So long as nothing matters to robots and algorithms, to speak of "AI" is always to lie. There are no, nor have there ever been, nor can we be sure there ever will be any AIs in the world. Indeed, as it is presently constituted the very idea of "AI" is simply a kind of error. The closest "AI" comes to material reality is as a discourse, that is to say, as an ideological framework. It is apt, that so much of the reactionary work of this ideology is a matter of not-mattering, of denial and disavowal: "AI" is the denial, without evidence but with reasons, of the indispensability of biological brains and also lived struggles in which intelligence as a personal and historical force is incarnated in the world, denials at once facilitating the disavowal of our collective responsibilities to support the lives and dignity of our intelligent companions as a general matter as well as the disavowal by owners, users, coders of machines of specific responsibilities for the costs, risks, disruptions and inequities mediated by their machines.

Friday, January 20, 2017

On A Day of Darkness, California Strives To Be A Light To The Nation

Proud to be Californian!



You know the expression, "As Goes California, So Goes the Country." It doesn't hurt to recall some history in this connection.

After all, California elevated that asshole Reagan into power and prominence years before the rest of America did. And we had our own idiotic anti-governmental tax revolts a whole decade before everybody else. And then we let Republican reactionaries whip up a draconian racist crackdown on precarious immigrants and recreational drug use in which the State Republican Party doubled down on white resentment politics rather than adapt to the needs of a rapidly diversifying electorate to the ruin of the party's viability in the State. Hell, we even already elected our own stupid stunt reality tee vee star to our highest office after a ridiculous substance-free killer clown special election spectacle with the Governator.

And do you know what else?

We saw through Reagan's anti-government anti-democratic anti-civilizational gimcrackery before the rest of the country did. We reaped the ruinous harvest of debt and crumbling infrastructure and normative breakdown with which anti-tax revolts inevitably must be paid. The richly diversifying and secularizing reality of California's population soon overwhelmed the procedural tricks through which an entrenched minority of Republicans sought for years to obstruct the will of the people in the State legislature.

And now our State is run from top to bottom by Democrats. We run Sacramento with supermajorities. We are far from perfect or even reliably perfectionist. Of course, there are Democrats who are terrible, or corrupt, or corporatist, or who knows what -- and some are politically to the right of the constituencies they represent and one might well want them primaried while others might be vulnerable to Republican takeovers which would weaken the Democratic majority's power even if the individual Republican replacement were not, in the abstract, more than marginally worse than the imperfect Democrat. As I never cease reminding my fellow Democratic lefties (whether liberal, sustainable, social democratic, democratic socialist, anti-racist, queer-feminist, or all of the above like me), partisan politics is all about diverse winning coalitions that do better as coalitions than the alternatives actually on offer, organizing campaigns for best policy proposals and candidates actually on offer, given the diversity of stakeholders with whom we actually share our world, our time, our problems, and our possibilities. Partisan politics is a contingent, convulsive, compromised, costly effort -- there are no certain victories, there are no secure accomplishments, there is never total and lasting consensus, there is no occasion for purity of choice or conduct, only best compromises to build on, and there is no justification for self-congratulation, only battles won together for now to be celebrated briefly together before the next building effort.

But here in California there are strong women, people of color, queers, differently enabled people conspicuous among our public servants, and they reflect (though not yet enough) the knowledge, needs, strength, skills, creativity inhering in the real diversity of our people. We celebrate our diversity and are now working to secure the well-being of us all. In what less than a decade ago under a Republican governor and in the face of Republican obstruction was often called "a failed state," we have implemented Keynesian macroeconomics, harm-reduction policy models, and climate science to transform our priorities and our practices. (Republicans have as little patience for these disciplines as they do for evolutionary theory or women's healthcare decisions.)

We are now solvent and prosperous and growing. (How much of that is another round of irrational exuberance whomped up by the robo-feudalist VC con-artists of Silicon Valley I leave to the side for once.) We are struggling to get closer and closer to a living wage paid for by ever more and more progressive taxes. We are investing in public education, we are building vast sustainable public works in energy and transportation.

We are working to contain climate catastrophe through regulations that will extend across the country since California on its own is the sixth largest economy on earth and it is easier to treat us as the national standard

We are modeling best practices and creative new legislation to make voting easier for every citizen as is our fundamental right, to ensure trustworthy elections, to regulate the ownership and use of guns, to end the racist war on drugs. (As we can and must still turn the tide from jails to homes and schools, from incarceration to care, from military occupation to accountable and representative community policing.)

It is to be hoped that somehow California will find a way to protect the Affordable Care Act here while we await the end of the Trump-interruption, perhaps in concert with other Cascadian states like Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and an Arizona full of seniors dependent on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security ready to flip blue. Certainly California State lawsuits and deep-pocketed California insurance company lobbyists can muck up dismantlement of the ACA long enough to give Democrats a chance to make the unqualified, unfit, unpopular, unacceptable Trump a one-term president, one hopes still leaving enough ACA intact by the end to repair and then build on.

We are even beginning to implement the formalization of long-standing professional norms (for example, the expectation that presidential candidates release their taxes to the public to ensure that they have no conflicts of interest nor have engaged in illegal or inappropriate conduct) the violation of which by Trump (also Sanders, by the way) has endangered the Republic of which our State is a part. If Trump wants to be re-elected, he will have to submit his taxes if he is to have his name on the ballot in this State the population of which is too large for any candidate to dismiss, even if they have no expectation of winning it.

California has been here already and points the way forward.

California is the Resistance. Trump lost here by millions, he will never be our President.

California is the Living Alternative. You can be California or you can be Kansas. You decide.

California is building better shared futures, here and now and together, for all Americans.

During the Trump interruption, California will be America's greatest laboratory of democracy.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Trek Prefs

Given how much I loved Next Generation when it came out and hated Enterprise when it came out I must say, in retrospect, with a longer run I'm pretty sure Enterprise would have accumulated as many tolerable and even good episodes as Next Generation. Enterprise seemed at first a craven capitulation of Trek to a W. ethos profoundly antithetical to it and I couldn't forgive it that -- it was only the Battlestar Galactica reboot that seemed to read what American science fiction needed to be doing in W.'s America.

Anyway, now that Bush isn't the raw wound he remained for six years or so I find I can enjoy Enterprise the way I would Dark Matter or Killjoys now, as an entertaining show with occasionally interesting conceits and engaging character developments. Definitely Enterprise was a show that got better with each season. Although I will admit the casting for the show endlessly annoyed me (I essentially only really liked Phlox, T'Pol, and Hoshi in an abiding way), the early temporal war and  terrorism plots were clumsy, the dramatic story of the supplanting of an earlier human spacer culture was neglected, and the show deferred for no good reason the much more gripping story (especially to diehard fans) filling in details and dwelling in the dramatic politics of the birth of the Federation from the perspective of a comparatively backward eventually indispensable bit player, Earth, in that tale.

Of course, a new and different hopelessness has now gripped the land... Time for another Trek series: Here's hoping Discovery sticks to the Trek ethos and acts as resistance and alternative to Trumpism as it should. (Or must we rely on The Expanse?) My wish for a non-Star Fleet human-minority series on a Federation cruise ship (to Risa?) sfnal-melodrama-sexfarce directed by Pedro Almodovar will probably not be fulfilled. 

Take what I say with a grain of salt, of course. Voyager and Deep Space Nine are my favorite Star Treks, which I understand is an unpopular opinion, and I for one find the original series still compulsively watchable but Next Generation mostly unwatchable now. Essentially if it's Will episode I am grossed out, if it's a Barclay episode I am creeped out, if it's a Data episode I am rolling my eyes already, and if it's a Wesley episode I want to slap somebody. If it weren't for Picard, Guinin, Q, Beverly, and Ensign Ro, Next Generation would be a near complete bust for me, with a handful of standout episodes. As it is, Next Generation is the only Trek I don't have on DVD.

The original series actually seems more interesting from an sfnal point of view, it is an aesthetically unmatched show (none of the subsequent series has come close to the beauty and iconicity of its art direction, all the more astonishing given the limitations the first series was working with), and nothing comes close to the camp pleasures of the original series when it... goes there.

All that said, love the original series though I do, I must say the boy-man "badassery" of Captain Kirk the fanboys claim to love so much has been replaced in my own DVDs of the series with a diplomatic and rather sensitive if emotionally dramatic Kirk who avoids stupid fights and illiberal opinions. It's funny, Kirk seems far more like Picard than like Janeway, who in the stress of being torn from the Federation often finds she must actually behave rather more as the fanboys pretend Kirk behaved in order to fulfill her responsibilities as Captain. Of course, the fanboys who love Kirk for who he wasn't don't always also seem to love Janeway for who she was. And be all that as it may, Sisko is the craziest badass in the Federation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Club That Would Have Me As A Member?

It seems I have more regular readers now that, in my estimation, I am saying far less that deserves to be read.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

I know how Democrats are just sure to win back State legislatures and more House seats in 2018... use the mid-terms to re-litigate the 2016 primary!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

One Week Left

One week before teaching begins again... The course is called "For Futurity: A Clash of Futurisms" and I really have to put a syllabus together. I worry that the shocking Trump victory and Republican prevalence across all levels of government (despite majorities voting for Democrats for President, Senate, House...) will steal futurity from the present and most immediate futures better than the present and that makes putting this class together incredibly difficult. Of course, the bulk of the class is a critique of futurology (which is, I guess, my thing), but I had meant to contextualize my usual anti-futurological dog and pony show with various modernisms, utopianism/dystopianism, Italian Futurism, left/right eugenicisms, queers and punks repudiating "The Future," accelerationism, and then to conclude with a celebration of Afro-Futurism. I guess this is roughly still what I plan to do -- but what I imagined to be a course about invigorating utopian possibility in the face a dreary piecemeal reforms under a Clinton administration has become a course about holding on to an open futurity in a death-dealing hate-deranged anti-intellectual nation plunging headlong into civil war as the planet dies around us exacerbating every problem and killing hope. The task feels daunting and I still feel like a raw wound half the time anyway.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

When Will Reality Kick In?

I truly hope the actual Trump inauguration will be real enough finally to nudge the left from its still ongoing freakout, grief, rage, recrimination.

The left has to move on from endlessly re-litigating the primary: transforming the current contest between Ellison and Perez for DNC party chair from an edifying debate between two strong progressives who reveal a party refusing to back down from the left turn it took in this campaign into yet another divisive uninformative clash of celebrity fandoms from which nobody will emerge stronger, and now pissing in advance on Cory Booker who has great political and communicative skills -- precisely what Hillary Clinton lacked most conspicuously as a candidate -- because he lacks the purity of a vapid ineffectual mediocrity of a Senator from a homogeneous white postage stamp of state with few powerful countervailing stakeholders to contend with.

But also we need to move on from these embarrassing indulgences in magical thinking -- Can you actually remember when people were seriously pretending that "Never Trump!" Republicans would replace Trump at the GOP convention! People thought that just a few months ago. Just days ago, people were pretending Republicans would "put country before party" and refuse to vote for Trump in the Electoral College. Almost daily, ongoing revelations of Trump scandals, conflicts of interest, lack of preparation, exhibitions of dangerous unfitness for office and so on yield another chorus of voices declaring Trump must face impeachment on day one.

But the terrible truth is that Trump said out loud and crudely the racist, cruel, resentful, belligerent things Republicans are always genuflecting toward and the mobilization of which has long been their explicit strategy (the Southern Strategy, yes, but it is important to realize that the repudiation of the Autopsy Report which recommended rejection of the Southern Strategy in the face of demographic changes lead to a contrary amplification of the Southern Strategy seeking to "Southernify" Democratic bastions and swing states of the North and Midwest through white-supremacist politics of fear and resentment, with a little garnish of queer bashing feeding the inevitable backlash accompanying any achievement of modest equality gains). The southern strategy and culture war is about whomping up fear, resentment, and anger in the face of multicultural diversification and economic precarization.

Republicans are fighting climate science as a culture war, they are fighting macroeconomics as a culture war, they are fighting policing violence as a culture war. Although Republicans usually lose culture wars in the end, they love fighting these wars because factual disputes displaced onto symbolic terrains profitably prolong them in ways elites are willing to pay big money for, and also because losing culture wars tends to leave behind an organizationally useful residue of injury, resentment, and demoralization that Republicans can draw a mob of dupes to vote against their best interests for, to fight for their masters with the ferocity of a existential final battle. Because Democrats live in a congenially communicative multicultural society (its racism, sexism, hetersexism, cissexism, abelish, ageism, waste/pollution notwithstanding) we tend to feel we can't lose even as we lose battles the loss of which imperil our lives, our community, our planet, because Republicans live in demonstratively multicultural society which they fear and resent, they tend to feel they can't and don't win even when they do, and hence they can always be counted up to come to attention when the billionaires and bigots start blaring their bugles, ready to win the battle that finally feels like winning, ready to exact revenge on vulnerable scapegoats because nothing ever feels like winning.

Know Your Enemy. Republicans have been lying and cheating to gain power and money (the meta-narrative rationale for these anti-social parochialism involves roll-back of the New Deal and Great Society programs in the service of the beneficiaries of white nationalism and patriarchal norms) for years: Donald Trump is the culmination of Hate Radio and Gingrich-era norm violations, a mediated-celebrity figurehead at the head of an ideological extreme coterie of administrators (Reagan, W. and Schwarzenegger were all successful precursors).

People, you need to understand this: Republicans aren't going to impeach Trump. They are far more likely be build airports with his name on them to hide his terrible unpopularity and legacy of catastrophes behind like they do for that demented destructive oaf actor Ronald Reagan. Trump has given them power (unexpected and unprecedented power at that) and they will use that power to dismantle what remains of the middle-class and civil rights legacies of Democratic ruling coalitions of the 30s and 60s. Doing this will garner them praise and attention and soon enough great gobs of money from everybody they care about. There will be be no "long-term" consequences to keep Republicans from repealing without replacing Obamacare, or dismantling social security for those who are not already its beneficiaries, or voucherizing public education and then turning it into television, or selling off public goods and stripping voting rights from Democrats and civil rights from the vulnerable, there won't even be consequences for denying and exacerbating climate change -- the short term profits will be large, and will be used to create fortresses to protect the thieves from the consequences of climate catastrophe, and the people who die will be the people always already dying while we look on indifferently in between the occasional useless but ego-bolstering donation or signed petition decrying the tragedy.

Whether retreating into the past of re-litigation or the utopian future of purity cabaret, Democrats are still too tender and sore and scared to face the present: it hurts too much and its demands are too terrifying. Trump and the Republicans have to be marginalized into comparative harmlessness by Democratic victories and the selling as successes of Democratic policies and alternative values (sustainability, equity, diversity, consent, shared problem solving, reliable laws and norms, virtuous circles). Right now, those victories are going to be highly symbolic. To be useful, we should already be thinking how to put faces on the suffering caused by Trump and Republican policies (hardworking families with undocumented members torn apart, deaths from treatable conditions once coverage is removed, everyday people defrauded of retirement by deregulation, vulnerable people bravely retaining self-respect in the face of Trump-style bigotry and bullying), we should already be beginning the narrative that will sell the candidates we put up for 2018 and 2020 (nobody left behind, everybody with a seat at the table). 2018 is looking like a terrible year for the Senate Democrats, a year for adding insult to injury, but the momentum in the House is more promising, and State legislatures and governor's mansions are available and represent an indispensable layer of governance to frustrate GOP rollbacks or set the stage for making the Trump a one-term disaster that destroyed the Republican party and forced it to change to accommodate the reality of a diversifying, secularizing, planetizing nation post-Obama.

Democrats need to nurture political leaders and talent -- right now our tendency is to lose interest in them after fifteen minutes of fame, or buzz-saw them into a million pieces for failing to live up to this or that pet issue. We need to defend universities and art schools (as well as to make them more accessible, accountable, affordable) as spaces in which political organizing and cultural experimentation are supported in ways that ultimately support the Democratic Party intellectual artist/activist/expert base and efforts. We need to remember that diverse coalitions need not be unanimous in order to be unified enough to co-ordinate. It is crucial that we have activists, artists, teachers, experts articulating our problems and proposing solutions to them. All of these people do crucial work -- as do professionals, intellectuals, managers, candidates holding and supporting those who hold office, who navigate diverse constituencies to help solve problems in real time and also build in reforms to create worlds in which certain problems are less likely to occur and shared values upheld. We need to respect the work done in all these domains, to be ready to communicate what we see as our role but also be open to learning why those with different talents and in different situations may see their role differently as well. We don't need -- and in fact are wrong to want -- representatives of diverse constituencies retreating to a level of abstraction in which they can exhibit a purity with which a fandom can identify rather than the judgment to navigate those constituencies opportunistically, to press for compromises that accomplish things that can be build on. It is crucial that the Democratic Party make a case for its members holding office at every layer of government, in every jurisdiction, in every region. We need to invest in every state, and devote ourselves to training activists for concrete local campaigns and as clear communicators of short term problems and long term visions wherever they are, even when they cannot yet win elective office.

In politics there are set-backs, heartbreaks, travesties. Given the incredibly incremental level of progress we fought for during the Obama years -- against headwinds of absolute GOP obstruction here at home, failed but utterly ruling austerity in Europe, rising right-wing ethno-nationalisms across the globe, ongoing digi-feudalization and deregulatory-disruption via "tech" everywhere -- the reversal rather than securing of even these laughably modest gains and faint intimations of a larger turning of the tide has been too demoralizing to say, however many words I say at it. That the Democratic left needs to refocus on organizing our diverse winning coalition, taking effective communication more seriously, and figuring out how to co-ordinate in the face of our differences depresses me unutterably because I see little sign of any of this, and if anything I perceive ever deeper entrenchment in divisiveness, disorganized responses, interminable and unhelpful blame-gaming, anti-pragmatism misconstrued as righteousness, utopian retreats misconstrued as interventions (I see these in myself not least).

The left can do what it needs to do, the diverse Obama coalition already won twice and has grown larger since, competent professionals and experts actually capable of governing are all almost entirely working together with or under the auspices of the Democratic Party and incompetence creates endless opportunities to change the political possibilities at hand, the Democratic Party can regain its electoral footing (majorities vote for Democrats everywhere -- this may not be enough to put them power but it is not a bad thing to build on, certainly it is better than the alternative), Moral Mondays and BlackLivesMatter and queer activism and environmental activism have transformed the landscape of the possible and the important in ways that may not be reflected in the law for a few years, but that transformations has occurred, and the Democratic Party in moving in its public communications and platform and hiring in the direction of that activism (yes, not enough, yes, too slowly, yes, hypocritically) is investing in the emerging and prevailing emancipatory movements of our time.

The Democratic Party can win, it deserves to win, it can be better, it is getting better. Republicans are the enemy, they are wrong, they destroy everything they touch, they always overreach. A continent scaled nation as privileged as our own will inertially resist some changes for the worse as readily as it resists other changes for the better. In the coming months, it will be for the courts to provide a sense of how much dismantlement the Republicans will get away with. We will see from mainstream media sources what the guiding narratives are going to be, and this will give us a sense of the clear-headedness or panic happening in the Party as a whole. If it goes badly, the mid-terms are probably going to be a bloodbath and Trump will have, for the first time in his administration, something he can message as a mandate. Things are already worse than bad, but that will be worse still. As I said, Democrats can win the battles we need to win. Early messaging and organizational battles are underway. The state of play is not encouraging. Again, maybe the collective apprehension of the Inauguration will be the reality check that moves us from understandable mourning (which can be a productive and provocative space, after all) into efficacious organizing and co-ordination and messaging. I will end on a sobering note. Although the battles ahead are winnable, and I feel sure that some at least will be won, I must say that I think it will be years and years before we fight a battle as consequential and also winnable as the election we just lost.