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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Near Majority Favors Impeaching Trump -- A new Public Policy Polling survey finds 49% of voters support impeaching President Trump, as compared to 41% who are opposed to doing so. Also interesting: Trump’s approval rating has declined by a net 7 points in the last month.

Monday, October 30, 2017


Andrew Tanenbaum:
A new NBC/WSJ poll puts Donald Trump's approval at 38%, the worst yet for that poll. Individual polls on Trump's approval rating go up and down, but the long-term trend is almost linearly down. Real Clear Politics has a table of all 223 public polls of Trump's approval/disapproval since he took office. We plotted them with least-squares regression lines and got the following graph:
From the data, it is clear that Trump's honeymoon lasted until about March 7. That's the last date any pollster had his net rating in positive territory. But even in February, 20 polls had him under water, and by double digits in seven of them. Even worse, the trend lines are unambiguous: Approval is dropping and disapproval is increasing. This could spell trouble for the Republicans in 2018, since how well the president's party does in the midterms is strongly correlated with the president's own popularity.

Draining the Swamp

The Daily Beast looked at the background of all 341 people President Trump has nominated for positions in the administration and found that 179 -- more than half -- have some sort of a conflict of interest: “One hundred and five nominees worked in the industries that they were being tasked with regulating; 63 lobbied for, were lawyers for, or otherwise represented industry members that they were being tasked with regulating; and 11 received payments or campaign donations from members of the industry that they were being tasked with regulating.”

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Card Carrying

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Christopher Bates:
A couple of weekly pollsters released their latest on Wednesday, and the numbers definitely won't be finding their way to Donald Trump's Twitter feed. First up is Fox News, which certainly tries to tote the President's water, but the numbers say what they say. They have him with the lowest approval rating ever for their poll, 38%. He's losing ground among key constituencies, including men without a college degree, working-class white men, and evangelicals. Politico/Morning Consult, meanwhile, has Trump with a slightly better overall approval rating, at 42%. But the rest of the numbers are pretty grim, as a majority of respondents find him untrustworthy (53%), dishonest (51%), reckless (56%), thin-skinned (52%), lacking in compassion (54%), unstable (54%), and sexist (50%)... These numbers represent a dip from last week; the obvious explanation is Trump's (mis-)handling of the La David Johnson phone call. Puerto Rico surely didn't help, either. While Trump's approval rating ebbs and flows depending on whatever the drama of the week is, it is clear that the overall trendline is downward, and pretty sharply so. Over the past nine months, he's bled about 6.5 points; from pulling numbers regularly in the mid-40s to numbers regularly in the high-30s. For a president who won office by the skin of his teeth, that's very concerning. It's also the case that no president has had such a bad first year on the approval-ratings front since the numbers were first tabulated during the Truman years. The only presidents who were even in the ballpark (see the data at the link) were Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford. Those two men saw their parties lose 54 and 49 seats in the House, and 8 and 4 seats in the Senate, respectively, in the midterm elections. So, to the extent that the numbers have predictive value, the conditions certainly appear to be building for the wave election of all wave elections.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Freedom Must Be Won In Every Generation

“Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation. That is what we have not taught young people, or older ones for that matter. You do not finally win a state of freedom that is protected forever. It doesn't work that way.” -- Coretta Scott King

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Walk

A truncated Sunday walk today -- our usual stroll down Piedmont Avenue, our usual brunch at our greasy spoon diner. Too busy for much more, unfortunately. I've been grading papers this weekend, finished half my stack yesterday and face the second half today. The great debate is whether I'll attempt to grade with a "Flea Market Flip" marathon in the background, or retreat to the silence of the back porch and grade with a spoiled old cat on my lap. No pink champagne once I'm done these days (my stupid platelet problem has more or less banished booze from my life for over a year by now), but a lovely bit of cannabis chocolate will make for an even better celebration once I'm done. I race the sun to finish off this day!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

No Bread All Circus

Race-baiting circus against the NFL fading? Conspiracy-baiting circus on JFK coming soon... Chaos, ladder, etc.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sunday Walk

Yesterday was Eric's forty-fourth birthday and we spent it much as it we usually do Sundays: we had breakfast at our diner on Piedmont Avenue then hiked deep into a cemetery for a couple of hours, talking and walking in the sun. Yesterday was clear and fine, the first morning waking without a scratchy throat or wondering whether the scattered ashes darting like snowflakes onto the patio were bits of somebody's home or some other tragedy from the North Bay fires. Sarah has returned from her hidey-hole beneath the bed to nap in the breeze outside as well. Watched an enormously fun Agatha Christie adaptation last night with Margaret Rutherford playing Miss Marple, and then an episode of "Pie in the Sky" for good measure, a smart and engrossing British detective series we're rather loving at the moment. I took Saturday off for a change and spent much of it reading Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Warrior. It's a rambunctious plot-drenched romp. That was lovely, but it probably means my undergraduates get their midterms back in two weeks rather than one. (Since so many are getting their papers to me late, that is only fair after all.) This week's lectures zero in on Eve Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet for Wednesday's "Queer Manifestations" seminar and Frantz Fanon's "Concerning Violence" for Thursday's "Peace in Pieces." These are works I adore, so I'm hoping this week's teaching will be a pleasure. Wouldn't that be nice?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Moore No More?

Will the execrable bigot bully Roy Moore lose his Senate race to a Democrat in deep red Louisiana or will he win and find himself under indictment for massive tax evasion and unable to assume his seat anyway? Chances are, he will win and Louisiana will lose. But, then, that's the GOP.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Mass Incarceration of LGBTQ Youth

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

The stench of the North Bay wildfires singes the breeze for the second day in a row. Walking to and from the grocery store with our little metal cart Eric and I returned with red, runny eyes, coughing in the acrid haze. I've finished the third novel in Tariq Ali's Islam Quintet. I was moved by this novel as well, but found it a bit less gripping than the first two. I think I will remember it at least as fondly as the others anyway. Reviews describe the tone as Chekhovian, but I suspect Mahfouz is a more apt comparison. I think I will take a bit of a break and read Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Warrior before resuming A Sultan in Palermo. For now, it's time to work up some lecture notes for tomorrow's discussion of Sandy Stone in my graduate Queer Manifestations seminar.

Monday, October 09, 2017


Upon Waking

The stench of smoke from the Napa fires woke ma and Eric quite early this morning, hours before sunrise, and the day is still blustery and smokey, the patio blanketed with branches and eucalyptus bark and pine needles. Feeding our little kitty Sarah soft food from a dish in my lap these days, she's well into her sixteenth year and has to be coaxed into eating enough. Also reading Sandy Stone's formative and canonical response to TERFs and genderqueer manifesto The Empire Strikes Back for my queer manifestations graduate seminar and Gene Sharp on nonviolent strategies for my Peace in Pieces undergraduate survey. I've read this material so many times before, but it remains inspiring and provocative. Despite the despair and rage of this terribly demanding year, I find myself, almost in spite of myself, connecting through teaching and everyday care back to life, ideas, commitment, even hope... Strange... Good...

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sunday Walk

Eric and I had a late breakfast at the Piedmont Cafe and Bakery and then strolled through St. Mary's cemetery for an hour or so before the afternoon heat became more fierce. Still feeling a bit bleary after a long cannabis-fueled full night's sleep. It's been a lazy, lovely weekend, all in all -- Jules, one of my very best friends in the whole world, made a rare visit from Switzerland, which was wonderful, and I also heard from UC Berkeley that I am wanted for teaching again next summer, so that is good news. All told this has been a relaxing and satisfying few days, with Trumpmerican dread pushed off at arm's length for a welcome while.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Trump Disapproval Unprecedented

Christopher Bates:
Donald Trump's approval rating... has cratered again, to its lowest point since he took office. The AP, which does its measurements on a weekly basis, now has him at 32%. The 20s are uncomfortably close, and with them Richard Nixon's record-low Watergate-level approval ratings (around 25%). That is not good for any president, particularly one who is in his first term and is overseeing a generally solid economy (the September jobs report notwithstanding...)... [I]s he being punished for his ham-fisted handling of Puerto Rico? For his cabinet dysfunction? His handling of North Korea and/or Iran? Something else? Could be because Saturday Night Live is back, with Alec Baldwin's devastating impersonation. Maybe it's because of Las Vegas... Whatever the case may be, it is pretty clear that Trump's ceiling is somewhere around 40%, and that he's only going to achieve that under the best of circumstances. This means that we're presumably headed into brand new territory—since approval ratings have been compiled (the Truman years), no president has gone into the midterms (or a possible re-election campaign) with so many Americans unhappy with their performance.
More signs of a Democratic wave to come, perhaps, if enough of us can make it through these months of GOP-domination to vote them out in the mid-terms, though it is hard to know if things like polling approval which have always mattered in the past still matter quite the same way in Trumpmerica with its GOP-safe gerrymandered districts and voter disenfranchisement and ubiquitous algorithmically-mediated deceptions and frauds afoot.

Friday, October 06, 2017

MundiMuster! SwingLeft Is Ready To Boot Doll-Eyed Dolt Paul Ryan From His District and His Speaker's Perch

pleasepleasepleaseplease Make. It. So.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017


I've mentioned here a couple of times that I've been exercising with Eric lately and have lost some weight this last year. I weighed in at 198 lbs. this morning, the third time I've weighed under 200 lbs. this week. I guess it's real then. This is the first time I've weighed less than 200 lbs. since 2004. (The body I have in my 50s is, needless to say, not the same body I had in my 30s, alas, even at the same weight.) Last year when I found myself in the emergency room nearly bleeding to death I weighed 285 lbs. Soon after, last New Year's Eve I weighed 271 lbs. I've lost over 70 lbs. in nine months! It's hard to account for the profundity of this change, silly though it may seem to mention such details. Just the way my body fits differently in the crowded public buses and trains I use to get to and from work is a transformation, has become so much easier in a minute to minute way I can scarcely communicate what it has been like...

Teaching Days

Friends visiting from Europe this week. In my graduate Queer Manifestations seminar we're taking up Valerie Solanas (among others) today and in my undergraduate survey of "nonviolent" politics tomorrow we're working on models of argument from Stephen Toulmin and Carl Rogers. These are topics I've taught many times before and which require less preparation time than usual. That's good, because I want all the time I can get to gab with my friend Jules and his partner and his sister -- who I have not seen since we were next door neighbors in Atlanta a quarter century ago!

Tuesday, October 03, 2017


Monday, October 02, 2017

Thoughts And Prayers Since Columbine Have Accomplished Nothing...

...maybe it's time to actually DO something. Ban military weapons, track ammunition, make gun manufacturers liable for damages, require training and mental health and criminal screening for licenses, circumscribe recreational use and require safe storage in households near children. The second amendment should be understood as a Constitutional guarantee that armed forces and police (eg, militias) protecting communities be representative (eg, right to bear arms) and accountable (eg, well-regulated). That the second amendment is not a blanket license to own just any weapon is revealed by the fact that nobody thinks the second amendment gives anybody the right to nuclear or biological weapons. Principle grasped and conceded, what remains is the empirical determination just which regulations increase safety and diminish harm. Of course, that can't be the process or the conversation because Republicans -- as with climate policy, healthcare policy, economic policy, education policy...

MundiMuster! Call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Tell them to pass gun safety laws NOW!

Uber, But For The TeeVee...

James Poniewozik on "Wisdom of the Crowd"
If you follow the tech business, you may have heard the formulation, “It’s Uber, but for ...” The idea is that there’s no human endeavor that can’t be transformed by a little coding, as Uber did for taxis... This philosophy now describes an entire genre of TV... It’s Uber, but for formulaic drama. The formula, roughly: Rich jerk invents technology. Rich jerk suffers personal tragedy. Rich jerk suddenly has a reason to care about the outside world. Rich jerk applies his technology to solve a problem related to aforementioned tragedy. Rich jerk gets pushback from the establishment. But rich jerk’s technology works! Thanks, rich jerk! ...
--h/t Jim Fehlinger

It's Never "Too Soon" To Talk About Real Political Solutions To Gun Violence