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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Deep Bench, Creaky Bench

“I have nothing against any of the people my age who will run, but I really do believe that if we’re going to appeal to the younger generation, we’ve got to change the party.” -- Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean

Howard Dean is 68.

Bernie Sanders is 75.
Joe Biden is 74.
Hillary Clinton is 69.
Elizabeth Warren is 68.
Al Franken is 65.
Sherrod Brown and Claire McCaskill are both 64.

One is reminded of Harry Reid's infamous recent comment that Democratic hopefuls for 2020 look like an "old folks home." I fully expect Sanders to run again, catastrophic though that would be. I wonder if he would run as a Democrat again. That would be hilarious. (I truly hope I am wrong and can return grudgingly to the respect I had for Sanders prior to 2016.) Biden seems nearly as vain as Sanders and so might try a run for 2020, though I somewhat doubt it. Of course, Hillary Clinton will not run again (nor should she) -- though once again she would be better qualified than Sanders, among other reasons because she is too responsible to run again given the debacle of her last run -- and also she would be more progressive than Biden, not that you would think so listening to brogressives who act as if a white penis is the key that unlocks true progress, all recorded history to the contrary notwithstanding. Franken and Brown look to me to be mulling runs, probably with their eyes on the vice-presidency. I rather doubt that either Warren or McCaskill will do the same.

It is worth noting that Senator Kamala Harris is 52, Cory Booker is 48, Mayor Eric Garcetti is 46, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is 50, and Senator Amy Klobuchar is 57. I guess I should add that Andrew Cuomo is 59 (please, God, if you listen to atheists, no). If Klobuchar goes, I think Franken will not -- and vice versa. Gillibrand has ruled out a 2020 bid, for what that is worth. Booker is being coy on the subject, which is worth even less. But all the rest are clearly mulling serious bids and even seem to be running scarcely stealthed early campaigns already. Cory Booker is a rhetorician's dream but I cannot say I am thrilled with some of the company he keeps. Kamala Harris is making all the right moves but the way brogressives already have their knives out for her worries me about another divisive dishonest demoralizing primary contest depressing turnout enough to bring authoritarian bigot Republicans back to their sweet spot of "close enough" to game the result in their favor -- with consequences too hideous to contemplate (that is to say, a continuation and even amplification of the hideousness with which we are presently grappling). Harris' co-sponsorship with Sanders of medicare-for-all demonstrates her awareness of the political problem at hand (and, oh yes, it would also be an incomparable healthcare policy improvement, for what that is worth), but it carries political risks and one wonders if the fauxvolutionaries who like to treat presidential primary contests as opportunities for purity cabaret rather than building organizational capacity will be assuaged by such efforts. Harris and Brown would be an interesting ticket, as would Booker and Klobuchar.

It's too early to tell in any case, and probably worse than foolish to try to foretell this early -- but such tale-telling is rather more edifying than contemplating the gross spectacle of the present, or even the more proximate (and I fear perilous) prospect of the mid-terms, which will probably be bad news in the Senate given the math and disappointing in the House given the gerrymandering. Terrible tho' things are, I fully expect things to get much worse before they get any better. I hope I am wrong. Stay focused, keep resisting, help out, don't give up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Teaching Resumes...

I return to the City for Fall term tomorrow. Straining my poor printer making copies of the syllabus and creating sign-up sheets and that sort of thing. As always, I'm a bundle of nerves. I'm hoping teaching queer theory and pressuring the history nonviolent resistance will turn out to be fortuitous topics, and help me find ways past the emotional and conceptual impasses of this year rather than simply exacerbating them. Earnest, creative, critical students are always a spur. I'm hoping and even expecting this to be a good term.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Automatic Voter Registration Reaches One-Fifth of the United States

Encouraging news in an era of all-too-effective Republican mass-disenfranchisement, a countervailing democratizing force, Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), is briefly discussed by Steve Benen:
As recently as early 2015, a grant total of zero states had automatic voter registration. As of this morning, however, AVR is now the law of the land in one-fifth of the states... Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) signed his state’s measure this morning... with implementation scheduled to be completed in time for the 2018 elections... According to the group Common Cause Illinois, which was one of the biggest proponents of the new legislation, there are up to two million eligible voters who have not registered in the state of Illinois. Rauner [note the "R" next to his name --ndc] vetoed a previous version of the bill last year –- but the Democratic-led legislature unanimously approved changes sought by the governor, clearing the way for today’s bill signing in Chicago... [T]here may soon be additional good news: AVR will be on the statewide ballot in Nevada next year, and it appears likely to pass... When it comes to registering to vote in the United States, the burden has traditionally been on the individual: if you’re eligible to vote, it’s up to you to take the proactive steps needed to register. Automatic voter registration, which already exists in many of the world’s democracies, flips that model. The idea is exactly what it sounds like: under the policy, states automatically register eligible voters, shifting the burden away from the individual. Those who want to withdraw from the system can do so voluntarily without penalty, but otherwise, Americans would simply be added to the voters rolls as a matter of course. At the federal level, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) has taken the lead on sponsoring a national AVR bill, and his proposal has 108 co-sponsors. At this point, however, literally all 108 are Democrats, and in a House led by a far-right Republican majority, the bill has no realistic chance of getting a vote, at least in this Congress. That said, the scale of the Democratic supports suggests the next time control of Capitol Hill changes hands, we may see some real movement on this.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday's Walk

Eric and I had breakfast over at the Piedmont Cafe and Bakery, one of our favorite haunts these days, then walked through the nearby Mountain View cemetery a bit. We had planned to scale the hill to "Millionaire's Row" (which Eric and I refer to as "Numenor" between ourselves) for the breathtaking view of the City it affords -- for which I suppose the cemetery was named. But it turned out to be a hotter day than expected so we made our wilted way home before long.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"We Cannot Stand By On The Sidelines"

A Recommendation

I believe I started reading back in 2004, following its analyses of the polls and other vicissitudes of the John Kerry campaign to unseat the war criminal and incompetent oaf George W. Bush. I continued to read it in subsequent elections, both presidential and mid-term, and for the most part found its analyses congenial, illuminating and admirably concise. In the past, the site has seemed to shut down a bit between silly seasons, but the ever-earlier, verging-on-permanent election cycle has by now pressed the site into incessant publication. In the era of Trump, I have found that their daily roundup of the news is by now one of the better ones out there. (Jezebel's Barf Bag is another, more aptly named if not quite so useful, compendium)

I am one who considers the Trump administration and GOP's gerrymandered/disenfranchised control of Congress an aspirational and now-incipient authoritarian formation in what has long been at best an only notionally representative white-supremacist corporate-military plutocracy. Therefore, I think it is absolutely essential that fair-minded civic-spirited people of good will be ferociously aware of current events (the consolidation of the police state, the amplification of hate, the deregulatory disruption, the disenfranchisement of voters, the demolition of professional norms) and ever prepared to protest abuses and provide support for the vulnerable in the face of the advances of this evil-minded death-dealing movement.

I also understand how soul-destroying it is to slog the swamp of pointless stupid disgusting daily atrocities in Trump's America. Just dwelling deep in the morass is ultimately demoralizing and I think risks disempowering us, rendering us indifferent to real outrages as we drown in them. Nobody needs further confirmation that Donald Trump is a racist sexist brainless bigot utterly unfit for the Presidency, nobody has been the least bit surprised by any of his recent atrocities or their ongoing enablement by the hucksters and hypocrites of the Republican Party.

Nothing matters but mass protest to make these killer clowns think twice about doing their worst (which will only sometimes be successful, and which has so far been the only thing that has sometimes been successful) before mid-term elections give progressive people the chance to vote Republicans out of office, to truly limit the damage Trump and Republican ideologues can do, and perhaps open the door to the impeachment of Trump for his violations of the emoluments clause (among other potentially impeachable offenses, like abusing the executive pardon power to obstruct justice).

Striking the balance between remaining informed but not burning out is not easy in the best of times, and for now I recommend concise overviews of the daily atrocities like the one at and just then focus on activist sites in your areas of keenest interest. I follow a few sites where prison abolitionists, immigration lawyers, queer feminists and environmental/food justice activists/scholars write about the things worrying and inspiring them most on a day to day basis -- and of course I still follow critics of the so-called "tech sector" and its "technoprogressive" thought-leaders futurological-apologists and other assorted reactionary robocultic advertorial fantasists. Your balance will differ. But balanced we must be, if we are going to make it for as long as it will take to turn the tide.

Friday, August 25, 2017

For What It's Worth

Via AP:
Trump is setting records with his dismally low approval ratings, including the lowest mark ever for a president in his first year. In fact, with four months left in the year, Trump has already spent more time under 40 percent than any other first-year president. At 34 percent, his current approval rating is worse than former President Barack Obama's ever was.
This would matter a lot if anybody else was in the White House. It is hard to know if this historically low approval means more than the polls suggesting a Trump electoral defeat meant last year, however. Also, it is unclear what force such disapproval numbers can have in a time of Republican control, when only (rather than just mostly) corporate lobbyists and loudmouthed bigots call the tune.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Practice Run

Fall term begins a week from today, and I did a trial run of my new commute into the City. The graduate campus for SFAI has moved from the dark, dusty, musty warehouse where I've been teaching in Dogpatch for over ten years years now to stunning new digs at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture. Looks like my commute via BART and MUNI will be a bit longer, over an hour and a half each direction for sure, but pretty straightforward and convenient still, so nothing to worry about....


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I Didn't Watch the Eclipse

I've been watching the American eclipse since November (since Reagan really) which is more than enough.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Syllabus for "Queer Manifestations" This Fall

Queer Manifestations

Wednesdays, 1-3.45 FM130, August 30-December 6, 2017
Dale Carrico; e-mail: Wednesdays, 1-3.45pm Room: FM 130; August 30-December 6, 2017
Course Blog:
Office Hours: Before and after class, and by appointment. (I will also be available on Chestnut Street on Thursdays)
Required Texts: David J. Getsy, ed., Queer Documents in Contemporary Art, MIT/Whitechapel Gallery, 2016 ISBN: 9780262528672 (Purchase book). All other texts are available online or will be handouts.

Course Requirements: Attendance/Participation, 20%; Co-Facilitation, 20%; In-Class Report (15 minutes), 20%, Seminar Paper, 18-25pp., 40% (subject to contingencies)
Attendance Policy:  Attendance and punctuality are expected. Necessary absences should be discussed in advance whenever possible.

Course Description: There is something queer about the manifesto form as such, in its bringing to voice and vision a derangement in our sense of what is politically possible and important. In the deadening epoch of the closet the queer manifesto is an interruption of silence, but like every manifesto it is above all an unembarrassed and emancipatory eruption of desire into the collective work of historical and political worldmaking. Into the prosaic efforts of partisan organization and legislative reform, the ranting and raving of the manifesto is an invigorating and interfering infusion of political poetry. We will read radical manifestos flung from the scrum of insurrection and frustration across continents and through generations of lgbtq civil rights and liberation struggles and we will contemplate hallucinations of promise and formulations of protest from visionaries in the belly of the beast, from Plato's Symposium to Solanas's SCUM.

Provisional Schedule

Week One | Wednesday, August 30 


Week Two | Wednesday, September 6 

Plato, Symposium
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Three | Wednesday, September 13 

Oscar Wilde The Soul of Man Under Socialism
Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young
Preface for The Picture of Dorian Gray
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from Wilde
In Class Report:  ____________________________________

Week Four | Wednesday, September 20 

Susan Sontag, Notes On Camp
Bruce La Bruce, Anti-Camp
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": RECOGNIZING BACKWARD
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Five | Wednesday, September 27 

Harry Hay, Mattachine (handout)
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": RECOGNIZING BACKWARD
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Six | Wednesday, October 4 

Valarie Solanas, SCUM Manifesto
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": PUBLIC RAGE
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Seven | Wednesday, October 11 

Sandy Stone, The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttransexual Manifesto
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": PUBLIC RAGE
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Eight | Wednesday, October 18 

Eve Sedgwick, Axiomatic
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": QUEER WORLDING/DEFIANT FLOURISHING
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Nine | Wednesday, October 25 

Judith Butler, Undoing Gender
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": QUEER WORLDING/DEFIANT FLOURISHING
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Ten | Wednesday, November 1 

Sarah Lamble, Queer Necropolitics
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": QUEER WORLDING/DEFIANT FLOURISHING
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Eleven | Wednesday, November 8 

Alison Kafer, Feminist Queer Crip
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": AGAINST HOMONORMATIVITY
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Twelve | Wednesday, November 15 

Sara Ahmed, Feminist Killjoy
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": AGAINST HOMONORMATIVITY
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Thirteen | Wednesday, November 22 Thanksgiving Holiday

Week Fourteen | Wednesday, November 29 Our Symposium

Week Fifteen | Wednesday, December 6 MFA Reviews

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Barbara Lee Speaks for Me

Sunday's Walk

Eric and I took a short walk (just down the hill and around the corner from our apartment building, probably half a mile or so) to Chapel of the Chimes this morning, the magical columbarium designed by Julia Morgan. I love these spaces -- of which there are a few in the neighborhood, bordering on a couple of stunning and famous cemeteries -- which inevitably seem impossibly vast compared to their exteriors, as interlocking interior chapels unfold into one another one after the other, like pavilions inside a pup-tent in the Harry Potter universe. This will be a nice place for us to revisit later in the year when it is colder and wetter out. Oakland is a truly wonderful place to live in.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Syllabus for Peace In Pieces This Fall at SFAI

HUMN-237-01 | Fall 2017
Peace in Pieces: Histories, Theories, and Practices of Nonviolent Politics

Instructor: Dale Carrico; e-mail:
Thursdays, 4:15-7pm Room: MCR; August 30-December 6, 2017
Course Blog:

Rough Basis for Grade: Attendance/Participation, 15%; Co-Facilitation, 15%; Reading Notebook, 15%, Midterm Precis/Toulmin, 3-4pp., 20%; Final Paper, 5-6pp., 35% (subject to contingencies)

Course Description:

The arc of the moral universe is a longing... and it bends from just us. In this course we will read canonical texts in the theory, history, and practice of nonviolent resistance and world-making. This course is provoked and inspired by stories and strategies of reconciliation connected to traditions of nonviolent politics. But is this "non-violence" simply an alternative, at hand, or another fraught artifact we are making under duress? We will take seriously and look critically at the subtle and structural violences that ineradicably shape everyday life. We will consider legible testimonies to violation, in a variety of textual forms, while simultaneously considering the cultural ideals of persuasion which often accompany definitions of violence and its limits. We will both take up and take on the many paradoxes of nonviolent activism and violent order that complicate the teaching of what passes for peace. The State as site of violence and alter-violence. Nonviolence, interfaith dialogue, and freethinking. Spontaneity and training. Assembly, occupation, Black Bloc. Prerequisite: ENGL-101 Satisfies: 3-Units of Humanities; Critical Studies Elective, Liberal Arts Elective

Week One | Thursday, August 31


Week Two | Thursday, September 7
Howard Zinn, Introduction to Thoreau on Civil Disobedience and Reform
Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
Henry David Thoreau, A Plea for Captain John Brown

Week Three | Thursday, September 14

Karuna Mantena, The Power of Nonviolence
Correspondence of Count Leo Tolstoy with M. K. Gandhi

Week Four | Thursday, September 21

Screen film, "Iron-Jawed Angels,"dir. Katja von Garnier

Week Five | Thursday, September 28

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam
Ella J. Baker, Bigger Than A Hamburger 

Week Six | Thursday, October 5

A simplified Toulmin Schema
Also: Karl Rogers and Rogerian Synthesis

Week Seven | Thursday, October 12

Gene Sharp, selections From Dictatorship to Democracy
Arundhati Roy, War Is Peace
George Ciccariello-Maher, Planet of Slums, Age of Riots
[Midterm grading]

Week Eight | Thursday, October 19

Frantz Fanon, Concerning Violence
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, A Third Reconstruction

Week Nine | Thursday, October 26
Must Eichmann Hang? [In-class Handout]

Week Ten | Thursday, November 2

Angela Davis, selections from Are Prisons Obsolete? Chapters 1, 2, 6

Week Eleven | Thursday, November 9

Carol Adams, An Animal Manifesto

Week Twelve | Thursday, November 16

Final Paper Workshop

Week Thirteen | Thursday, November 23

Thanksgiving Holiday

Week Fourteen | Thursday, November 30

Judith Butler, Notes Toward A Performative Theory of Assembly, chapters 1-3 [purchase the book]

Week Fifteen | Thursday, December 7

Judith Butler, Notes Toward A Performative Theory of Assembly, chapters 4-6

Friday, August 18, 2017

Bannon May Be Out But White Supremacy Is Still In

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that obscenity is officially gone, but I honestly expect we'll discover in months to come that like Manafort and other rats who have been sacrificed to Trump's sinking stinking shit ship Bannon still has Trump's ear whenever he really wants it and may even still be on the payroll in some informal advisory capacity. Also, it pays to recall whenever the faces we put on structural evils fall to our resistance we cannot mistake their defeat for the defeat of the structural social evil they have symptomized. With the Trump administration (and America more generally) there are many more faces of white supremacist cishet patriarchal greedhead militarist evil who still need to go. Keep your eyes open, and keep up the fight.


I've handed in my grades, dealt with the now-inevitable student e-mails complaining about these grades, written letters of recommendation, and now I have just under two weeks before my Queer Manifestations graduate seminar and an undergraduate course surveying (and pressuring) the canon of nonviolent politics begin at SFAI in the City. I've got syllabi to prune and polish and an optimal public transportation route to SFAI's new graduate campus at the Fort Mason Art Center to figure out in upcoming days. But despite that, I'm treating these days as a brief but welcome break from work. Just finished Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140 (which felt like a lovely coda after the six week "Green Rhetoric" intensive I just completed) and now starting N.K. Jemisin's much garlanded Broken Earth trilogy. Reading for pleasure again, what a concept! Anything to distract me from the dreadful deathly demoralizing drip drip drip of daily news is bolstering for my sanity.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Trump Is Indeed Presidential -- For Republicans

By far the majority of Republicans haven't stood for anything but white resentment and the infantile pleasure of reflexively pissing off liberals on every given issue whatever the merits for at least twenty years now, and Trump is precisely what looks "Presidential" from that vantage: He is the son of a Klansman and is a vulgar eugenicist reacting impulsively from moment to moment to perceived sleights while forever on the lookout for occasions to assert personal dominance, without anything like principles or a plan or even a sense of the day after tomorrow to guide him. His whole life and certainly his whole campaign modeled the Presidency with which we are now grappling: his voters have got what they wanted, though many of the worst of them clearly want even more of the worst of it. If you do not proceed on that understanding (and if that understanding isn't enough to get you out in protest now and into a voting booth as soon as possible) you probably cannot be reached or relied on as far as I'm concerned. The genocidal bigot and bully Andrew Jackson was similarly "Presidential." Trump Presidential is not so very far from war criminal W. Presidential less than a decade ago. None of this is the least bit surprising or unexpected.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wrapping the Present

Just ordered some new clothes for fall, something of an early birthday present to myself. At this point I've lost over sixty pounds this year and most of my shirts ensphere me like stadium domes and my trousers fall right down about my ankles without a belt clutching them tight. It all feels rather unreal, and distinctly strange spending hundreds of dollars on clothes I wouldn't have been able to wear for the last decade or even six months ago, really. I still superstitiously keep all my circus tent clothes folded in a drawer for the day when all that weight suddenly re-appears. Be all that as it may, I don't think I can maintain my professorial ethos while swimming in folds of fabric -- so a new wardrobe it needs must be. Of course, I'm still sticking to the changed eating and exercising habits that brought me to this pretty pass, and so there is the added perplexity that I might shrink still more in months to come, enough to render today's investment a bit moot. It's not like I'm skinny again yet -- as I was back in the days of the W. Bush administration, say. Man, these Republican assholes really wear me down to a nub.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Charlottesville Syllabus

Professor Walter Greason's Suggested Resources on Collective Racial Violence in the US Storified here. It is good this harrowing compendium of documentary video is made so handily and concisely available. Professor Greason says early on that a course he taught based on all the materials presented here was so traumatizing for students he subsequently separated the material into several different courses. Later in the thread, asked who should be taught this material he proposed: "Advanced students in junior high; most students in high school; everyone in higher education." Of course, far from everyone in higher education is confronted with this history. Traumatizing though it may be, in Trumpmerica conveying and processing this history with students is absolutely necessary work.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Wake Up And Smell the Nazis

Hard to believe, but some, it seems, are only just now sniffing the white aynrancid wind.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday's Walk

Took a break from end of term grading to walk with Eric to a diner on Piedmont Avenue for omelettes, then walked further along to the beautiful Morcom Rose Garden where the trickle of the stepped waterfall and the faint perfume of roses in the air had hardly anyone to compete with for our attention -- since there was almost nobody else with us there in that truly magical place, and on a warm sunny blue-skied Sunday yet.     

Tolkien Snubs the Nazis

This is doing the rounds today, but I guess I found it a heartening reminder too.

Friday, August 11, 2017


For every substantial innovation, a thousand repackagings of failure and stasis as "innovation."

Tech + Company =

Appending the word "tech" to "company" rarely says anything about technology but usually signals everything about irresponsibility.

Monday, August 07, 2017

All the intelligence in so-called AI is in the people coding and using it.

Artificial Intelligence as a discourse functions primarily to deny responsibility for and disavow knowledge of the crimes, frauds, and abuses enabled and mediated by algorithms.

It Shouldn't Work -- But It Does

Republicans break government when elected so they can declare government broken to get elected.

Sunday, August 06, 2017


One Week To Go...

My last week of instruction beckons... All their midterms are graded, all the works are read, my lecture notes are just sketches and I'm on my last legs, but I am as ready as I ever will be to take on a last, vast avalanche of papers and final projects... and scarcely two weeks ahead I begin two brand new courses for the Fall in the City, a course on queer manifestos and another on conceptions of political "nonviolence" at the Art Institute. It's been months since I gave these upcoming courses any thought, immersed as I have been in the daily scrum of lecturing- preparing- and-grading my way through these bonkers intensives, and the minute I do give them thought I am immediately in a hot strobing panic to prepare anew... but I honestly can't divert my energy into the next teaching tasks until these summer intensives are done. Onward, here we go...