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

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

Well, Maybe Not The Only Thing...

The only thing Republicans like better than defunding education is funding miseducation.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017


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 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

Days In, Years To Go

But a good day, today, and the years to go may be many... or they may be few.

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


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.

Monday, March 13, 2017

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

McCarthy --> Nixon --> Reagan --> Quayle --> Gingrich --> W --> Palin --> Trump -->

Never doubt for a second these guys can ALWAYS get worse -->

This begins with yourself.

You can try to understand a thing or you can try to promote a thing, but you have to choose which.


There has never been a sentence in the English language with the word "technology" in it that wasn't a sales pitch.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017


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


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...

Thursday, March 02, 2017