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

Monday, December 10, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

The Wait For the Eight

Eight stragglers, grading deadline looms, we'll see...

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Sunday Walk

We took our long walk through Mountain View after our weekly brunch at the Piedmont Avenue Cafe under a brisk blue bowl of sky, red maple and yellow ginkgo leaves shimmering in the light cold autumnal breath like elven magic. Nearly fifty final papers and projects and reading notebooks and peer editing workshop worksheets are done, stacked in piles like the monolith from 2001... Ten students have yet to hand in their final projects and so it is the usual fraught waiting game -- do they submit before my grading deadline and pass or nah? Fingers crossed: I want every single student to do well this year, for once! As happens most years I've got a bit of a cold, and was probably deferring it the last few weeks through by means of straight-up dumb grim grit-teethed denial, and so have spent no small part of my grading marathon sessions these last few days under blankets and amidst mounds of wadded kleenix.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (All The Best People Edition)

Friday, December 07, 2018

Grading Grading

...the goal is to get one-third through today... ...looks like I just may make it... ...on and on it goes...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, December 06, 2018

This Is Us

Grading Grading Grading...

...and the late papers are still pouring in!

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

...Le Deluge

Fall's last lecture took place yesterday, another wonderful symposium of student work, quite uplifting and even fun I must say. And now I contemplate a stack of papers, workshop worksheets, peer edits, late midterms, reading notebooks, for sixty students or so. This stack will be my constant companion for many days to come, growing only larger as students with extensions add their contributions to the pile. Here goes!

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, December 03, 2018

Last Day First

Last lectures today in my critical theory undergraduate survey and my digital anti-democracy courses -- lots of loose ends in the one, not sure how everything will tie together all told, symposium of student work in the other, should be more fun. Feel as though I have been teaching on fumes for weeks, raw and ready for a little time off once the grading avalanche is behind me.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For (Us All) Daily -- Congratulations Edition

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Calm Before The Storm

Cool, gray, wet afternoon. Winter in the Bay Area. Swept the patio and drank in the blanket of pine needles and strips of eucalyptus bark scattered across the damp aggregate concrete like a fragrant resin tea waking me into a dreamworld, as I sweep sweep sweep the rough embedded pebbles and shells beneath my feet. For the rest of the day I'm trying to fit lecture notes for all the texts left over from my syllabus after all the expurgations imposed by holidays and wildfire days and the rest, some of my most cherished texts in fact, Audre Lorde, Combahee, Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, Aldo Leopold... It's a lot to expect students to have read anything for the final day, what with all the writing I am asking them to be doing at this point, and I am going to be bombarding them with new material on the last day, just to tie up all the loose threads that remain. Not that my students are likely to feel the need for this major cleanup operation, not that they are likely to thank me when after all-nighters and ramifying deadlines in other classes I drone on and on the last day through while other instructors will be letting them out early no doubt. But the class has an argument to complete and I am going to do my best to complete it, whether they are alive to it or not. Three courses means sixty unique students this term, give or take, and that's a hell of a lot of papers and reading journals and peer-edits to slog through in not so very much time given my own deadlines. And I have yet to begin the fraught season of missed deadlines, facile excuses (all of which I accept, recalling once being a student myself after all), cheerleading and cajoling them past the finish line at the last possible second, some of them.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

And, a reminder:

Friday, November 30, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Green New Deal

A lot of people are talking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal -- mostly in the loose way they are talking about everything related to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez these days -- so maybe they should read it. Very commendable if preliminary, captures the urgency and the promise of climate change reasonably well (especially loving those ten-year deadlines).

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (A Day And A Vote Short Edition)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, November 26, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Where We Are

Sunday Walk And What Comes After...

Mid-term grading and then a couple of weeks of toxic wildfire smoke kept us from our weekly Sunday walk nearly a month... Today, tho', we went to our favorite diner on Piedmont Avenue for brunch for the first time in weeks and then walked to the Morcom Amphitheater of Roses to see if any blooms remain after a long month of fall weekends away. It was a miracle of fading but splendid flowers in the place, especially reds and yellows, and all the fountains spilling their songs... The gray fog burned away in the early afternoon light, the sky a blazing blue bowl stirring sweet autumnal breezes. There were children screaming cheerfully like sleigh-bells and playing tag among the paths this afternoon. Next week I've got a writing workshop on schedule, then symposia of student presentations of work on their final projects, then I'll be jurying submissions for next term in the Diego Rivera gallery -- none of this requires very much prep from me, but it's a bit of a roulette spin: unless the students are energetic and collegial and prepared these workshopping and peer-participation events can get pretty frustrating and grim, but when the students are even the least bit in the spirit of the thing it can be a string of stunning revelations leaving everybody feeling great about their work, the course, even the world. Fingers crossed!

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily... Let's Speak Up For Her For Caucus Chair

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Holding Out Hope But Not Holding My Breath...

Since everybody knows the Trump administration cynically released a catastrophic report on climate change the day after Thanksgiving to limit exposure to its contents, wouldn't it be great if the media trumpeted the report wall to wall on Monday to demonstrate they won't be manipulated so obviously about matters of grave important informing the public of which is literally their primary mission as an embattled institution attacked daily by the very same administration indulging in these Orwellian shenanigans in the first place?

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, November 23, 2018

So, A Day Off

Took my first complete day off in ages... slept, grazed on snacks, polished off some fun recent sf by Kim Stanley Robinson and Aliette de Bodard, didn't look at e-mail, and generally loved life. Tonight we'll probably watch LOTR and/or holiday baking shows on Demand and get high while Penny strives for our attention with cat antics. This year began as bleakly as any I can remember, but I am beginning to hope it may be ending, ascending.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"A Thanksgiving Prayer"

As every year (less thrilled about this than in years past, I must say, but the anti'murcan vitriol is still stirring to the heart)...

Every Year I Do These Things...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Thanksgiving Day

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

I have grown tired of the articulate utterances of men and things.

Teaching Day

Back into the City today, smoke or no smoke. Not sure how many students will make it given the proximity of the holiday and the atmospheric excuse available to all, but we'll be screening Otomo's "Roujin Z" which should be enormous fun, while also tying up loose ends, student presentations, and such. The last two weeks of the term look to be a slog, glad to have taken in a deep if poisonous breath yesterday because I'm a burned out husk running on fumes and ready to sleep for a week...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, November 19, 2018


We are breathing human tragedies. Classes cancelled due to the smoke. Suddenly scrapping my lesson plans for errands. Weird energy in the air.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, November 18, 2018


For the second week in a row, smoke from nearby wildfires has kept us from our Sunday brunch and stroll. The afternoon is an orange haze burning away a thin white morning fog of dust. I've been coughing all week, but given my, er, history it's the nosebleeds that are the most terrorizing. The smoke keeps Eric at the edge of his migraine on top of everything else. The air we are breathing is a poisonous cloud of human tragedies... My class could conceivably be canceled Monday (school shut down both Thursday and Friday but those are not teaching days for me), but we are approaching the chaos of end of term and students are already falling off the edges of the map and deadlines are getting plucked like violin strings. Thanksgiving is the furthest thing from my mind, hoping the holiday break in three weeks will bring a measure of relief...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, November 16, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Mundi Muster! Extinguish the Slavery of Incarcerated Firefighters in California

Sign This Color of Change Petition:
Wildfires are raging across northern and southern California, and have killed at least 44 people since the most recent wildfires started. Over the past year, the fires have caused over $1 billion in damage to property and nearly 7,000 homes and buildings have been destroyed. These wildfires have also had a big impact on California's incarcerated population who have risked their lives fighting wildfires-- two inmates have already been killed this year in the line of duty.And the incarcerated workers fighting these fires are making as little as $1/hour.

Incarcerated firefighters, not protected under any work safety regulations, often return from fighting fires with broken ankles, arms, burns, and suffering from extreme exhaustion. Fighting fires is backbreaking labor and in the state of California, many people who are doing this work have been forced. The common refrain from proponents of the program is that it is completely voluntary--but inmates often face disciplinary action if they refuse to participate. To make matters worse, many of the prisoners doing this work are women, most of whom are mothers, and children. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) boasted in July that over 2,000 incarcerated adults and 58 incarcerated youth were fighting fires. Mothers and children often choose to take on this dangerous work because they are told that it could accelerate their release date and get them back with their families by earning “good behavior, ” but it usually results in just a mere two days off a sentence. On top of all of this, incarcerated firefighters can't even get jobs as firefighters once they are released from prison--because they have felony records.

The CalFire program is not a mutually beneficial exchange, it's a ruthless exploitation of forced, deadly, and essentially unpaid labor. That's why we're calling on the CDCR to end the practice of employing children to fight fires, ensure that incarcerated firefighters receive the same wage as firefighters who aren't incarcerated and that a pathway is created for them to have a real job on the outside.

This is the message we'll send to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Governor Jerry Brown: Here is the Petition:
We're calling on you to end the practice of employing children to fight fires, ensure that incarcerated workers in the CalFire firefighter program receive the same wage as firefighters who aren't incarcerated, and that a pathway is created for prisoners working as firefighters while in prison to be able to to do the same job once they are free.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Psycholog­y is in its infancy, as a science. I hope in the interests of Art, it will always remain so.

Barbara Lee Speaks for Me Daily

And while we're on the subject of Barbara Lee, I ferociously endorse this sentiment as well:

Mundi Muster! Demand House Democrats Investigate Voter Suppression

I'm telling House Democrats to investigate voter suppression and save Black political power! I'm joining Color Of Change to demand Democrats use their new majority in the House of Representatives to open investigations into voter suppression. This year we saw widespread suppression of voters in Black communities and other communities of color, and it's time we fight back! Color of Change Petition

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mundi Muster! Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Good Question for Governor-Elect Newsom:

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, November 09, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Yes We Cannabis

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Le mystère de l'amour est plus grand que le mystère de la mort.

Ned to Beto...

Not a prediction, inasmuch as the mode of prophesy, popular tho' it may be, is even more idiotic in the field of long-term political prognostication than it is in the field of futurological flim-flammery -- still, it seems to me entirely as plausible to imagine Beto O'Rourke as the governor of a Texas as purplish as Virginia presently is twelve years from his impressively close loss this week as to observe Ned Lamont become governor-elect of the Connecticut that did not elect him over the vile "Independent" Joe Lieberman in a comparably high-profile election twelve years ago. That "twelve years ago" feels like a literal eye-blink to me, by the way.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

MundiMuster! Sign SPLC's Petition

November 07, 2018
Last night, Americans shifted the balance of power in the House of Representatives, creating a Democratic majority. The new Congress now holds the responsibility to take a stand for civil and human rights. Here are four immediate steps Congress must take to put America back on the right track. Add your name in support.
1. Reauthorize and Strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Congress must enact a new Voting Rights Act to ensure fair elections and unfettered access to the ballot for everyone.
2. Investigate America’s resurgent white supremacist movement. President Trump’s role in electrifying the white supremacist movement cannot be ignored. Congress must hold hearings to investigate the rise in hate and extremism in this country and on possible solutions.
3. Stop the Trump deportation machine. The Trump administration is operating an inhumane deportation machine that rips families apart, terrorizes communities, and flouts due process and American values. Congress must hold the administration accountable for its abuses and enact sensible reforms to our broken immigration system.
4. Stop the Census from being rigged. By including a question about citizenship, the Trump administration wants to use the decennial Census as a weapon of intimidation against immigrants, one that would distort the results. Congress must take steps to stop this scheme.

Hot Take-O-Matic Redux

This yields the impression -- and I think this squares with the feelings many are experiencing this morning -- of a divided result, almost a wash, and hence a disappointment. That the highest-profile contests, Abrams, Gillum, and O'Rourke seem to have gone the Republicans' way may buttress that sense of disappointment especially here and now, as the results remain raw, and the criminality in Georgia (and elsewhere) and the megaphoned racism in Florida and Georgia (and elsewhere) are especially demoralizing and enraging. The brutal Senate result this cycle (which I have been worrying about since well before 2016) is enormously consequential since Trump will use it to continue his ongoing reactionary dismantlement of the courts on which we will depend so much in the next years to implement voting reforms and maintain tattered but vital environmental and healthcare regulations and supports. But Democrats won the House, the repudiation was geographically widespread in ways that suggest the 2016 Presidential result did not portend the loss of a nationally viable electoral coalition even as it also confirmed (to those who needed such confirmation) that the white supremacy that has shaped the entire history of this nation continues to do so in ways that always undermine and now imperil our notionally and yet aspirationally democratic tendency. Democrats now can put a check on the worst impulses of Trump-era Republicans, and will also provide a foil for Trump to demagogue in his run for re-election -- which he would have done anyway, but don't doubt for a second he can win re-election in this racist country with such methods. Like W, Trump's election was something of a fluke, but his re-election would not be. Notice that even in the terms of the hot take-o-matic, Democratic House gains are actually on the cusp between a good result and a wave, suggesting the better night for Democrats than Republicans this mid-term actually represented. A lot of truly vile figures went down and others felt vulnerable as they have not before. Medicaid expansion, felon re-enfranchisement, medical and recreational cannabis legalization, protections for queers, minimum wage increases, progressive voter reforms won across many states, making life a bit better for many here and now and setting virtuous forces loose to redress anti-democratic gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement schemes. Because Democrats won, government is coming to better reflect the diverse reality of our lived nation, with historic victories for women, black folks, queers, native Americans, young people and others. This night was not a mixed result, but an overall victory amidst real defeats. We can fight on from here, when with a worse result we might not have done. Too many of those who seem utterly demoralized must have formed unrealistic expectations about the structural disadvantages the Resistance overcame to win last night, and too many seem to me to underestimate just how entrenched white supremacy is -- perhaps it is a good thing that the result was mixed enough and ugly enough that privileged straight white "progressives" couldn't just retreat back into their comfortable shells and idiotic "post-racial" America and "lean in" white feminist stasis narratives. Here's hoping the stealth-reactionary tech-fetishization that has so long undermined left discourse is truly on the wane in the aftermath of facebook and google and amazon shenanigans. Here's hoping fewer people will fall for berniebrocialist purity-cabaret next time around (and that people of genuine socialist conviction will organize with environmentalist BDS work and prison abolition work and gun regulation work and union organizing work and on-the-ground disability activism and real support for undocumented folks and asylum seekers rather than pretend sniping at voting on social media is some kind of revolutionary activity), and people of and adjacent to the Resistance will vote and do more than vote through the next couple of years and the next few hundred crises soon to come. Trump is already behaving like he is fully aware that he is in a fight for his life... and the democratizing, diversifying, secularizing, planetizing majority must understand that we are in a fight for our lives too. We are all we have. I, for one, am much more encouraged than not and feel ready to rumble.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Take Octavia Butler into the Voting Booth

“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”
― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, November 05, 2018

"These Are The Bad Time"

Daily inner monologue...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Long Teaching Day

Work kept Eric and I away from our brunch and stroll this weekend, and I miss the bolstering respite now, going in to my long teaching day today: William Burroughs and Valerie Solanas this afternoon in critical theory. In the past this has always been a fun lecture and often a freewheeling discussion, but I'm feeling burned out from mid-term grading marathons the last three weekends in a row and the imminently upcoming last-chance-to-stop-the-Nazis election stakes tomorrow, so my heart is really not at all in it today. Worksopping final papers in my digital anti-democratization course, final projects ramping up in all three courses, which tends to mean a bit less lecture prep time and far more one-on-one time with students veering from disengaged to desperate...

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Captain, My Captain!

Still Grading

Spent much of the day grading yesterday and today looks to be much the same. A bit of a drag, the way the papers keep coming on and on and on like that. Lovely, tho', to be out in the dappled autumnal light of the patio, a breeze rustling at the stack of papers. Also, a cup of echinacea and a florid curl of steam: A cough and a scratchy throat is worrying me a bit -- my long teaching day Monday is plenty tough already without a cold ladled out on top of it. Feeling sick with nervousness about the upcoming election and the baldness of the GOP Base bid to rancid bigotry and the way the deplorables are practically smacking their lips at the prospect of bloodletting. So so so many Nazis in this country, and it was ever so. Fingers crossed there's a turning of the tide sufficient to break past the disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, misinformation, shenanigans, and reflect the verdict of the rising secularizing diversifying planetizing majority... before, if it's not already, too late.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, November 02, 2018


Another day given over entirely to grading today. And I doubt I'll finish, even so. Lecture prep for next week is already a bit fraught with so much time given to slogging the swamp (as it were, actually the latest avalanche has some good papers in it): looking forward to the lessening lecture load next term (tho' I'll definitely miss the money), since the pace of fall has equaled the ferocity of the summer intensives preceding it I've been teaching so much for so long my nerves are truly fraying. (And of course the endless various trumpnomena aren't helping.)

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Democrats As The Party of Freedom

I like Mike Konczal quite a lot (a shared affinity for the late pragmatic theorist Richard Rorty may be part of that) and I appreciated this rhetorical program he had a hand in for a re-invigorated Democratic Party more equal to the peril and promise of our moment and the rising diversifying secularizing planetizing majority that needs a better partisan instrument to implement our vision of the common good and redress our many legitimate grievances. Quite a lot of the message here is yet another effort to articulate a "positive" conception of liberty against the facile "negative" conception beloved of libertarians (of the market and cyber varieties especially), a return to the New Deal vision of The Four Freedoms yet again. At least this time around, the familiar refrains (and they are not wrong for being familiar) are woven ever-more insistently into the emancipatory anti-white supremacist anti-patriarchal history and urgency of abolition democracy (prison-poverty-pollution abolition), even if even this more radical language is not yet as radical as my own would be, seeking as it does to mobilize a diverse diffuse continent-scaled nationally-viable electoral coalition. The whole piece is at TPM:
With the current political system in turmoil, we face a generational opportunity to redefine liberalism and the Democratic Party. Over the last decade, once-fringe arguments about how we organize our economy and society, and on whose behalf, have moved into the mainstream. Today, vocal and powerful progressive constituencies are pushing the spectrum of these debates well beyond the status quo...

With Trump’s ascendance to the head of their party, Republicans moved towards the past, the jingoistic, and the nativist. But liberals need to move left not only to match the Right. They need to move because the ideological assumptions controlling liberalism over the past decade have collapsed, as we’ll outline in this essay, leaving people searching for new alternatives, which we’ll also describe. Progressives now have an opportunity to propose not just a new set of policies, but a new set of values... [W]e believe there is a clear organizing principle that provides a path forward: freedom. And history provides a guide.

From abolition to the fight against segregation and Jim Crow, from women’s suffrage to the fight for women’s liberation, from the establishment of the minimum wage to the push for democracy in the workplace and greater protection from economic insecurity, a vibrant and critical element of progressive movements has always been freedom. Throughout our nation’s history, we have fought both ideological and actual battles over the definition of freedom, how it is achieved, and for whom it is offered. These have gone hand-in-hand with fights over how we structure our economy and who it serves.

We can take this moment to expand the idea of what what it means to be truly free. Progressives can reclaim a long history of American political thought that ties economic power to political and personal freedom. We can demonstrate that progressive economic policy is essential to creating the conditions in which individuals can have agency and power over their lives.

To accomplish this, liberals need to embrace three key ideas and goals:

Guarantee the public provisioning of truly universal goods.

Ensure a level and quality of jobs that provide autonomy and dignity.

Curb corporate power.

These three commitments, we believe, are essential to structuring an economy in which Americans across gender, geography, race and class can thrive. Our vision is rooted in the idea that our economy should indeed entitle individuals to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. It harkens back to an older version of the Democratic Party, lead by such presidents as Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, that recognized that the government can be used as a tool that secures this freedom.

This essay is not meant to give the specific agenda, full of bullet points and specific budgetary projections. It instead sets boundaries and provides a compass.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Rachel Maddow Has A Word For Our Fellow Californians

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Hot Take-O-Matic for Next Week

If the title seems entirely snarky, the truth is I will indeed use this, or something much like it, as a horizon within the terms of which to initially assess the result.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, October 29, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Walk

Fitful night's sleep left me exhausted today -- after our brunch at the Piedmont Cafe we decided on a shorter less demanding stroll through St. Mary's Cemetery this time around, a smaller, quieter space with fewer steep hills to scale or grand monuments to goggle at. Dappled light, rustling green, a late flurry of balloon-red blooms. Devoting the rest of the afternoon to lecture prep. We'll be screening John Carpenter's "They Live" in my undergraduate critical theory survey tomorrow, then we'll be finishing up last week's singularity discussion, leading into neoreactionary accelerationism, platform co-ops (and a little Mondragon), antitrust and public options for publishing, access, rating, and search, and finally the season of "regrets" from tech-leaders this last few months or so. The movie is usually fun to discuss and I have lots to say on the tech-topics coming up afterward, so everything should go well enough. I've been grading papers this weekend, and another load of them arrive this week to swamp me under again -- no days off last week, none this week either, it's a bit relentless, but next term will be more relaxed so I suppose I am paying for that now. A few more weeks and it'll be end of term symposia and workshops and less prep for me, thank goodness. For now, I'm really wading the waters. Distracts me a bit from the headlines, though, which is a mercy.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Quite So

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Voting Rights Are on the Ballot in Thirteen States

Your Lips, Goddess' Ears

Hope springs eternal.

Midterms Are A Referendum on Trump

All these gross fascist rallies made it plain what he wanted, but only now with Trump's outrageous response these last few days to the bombs sent by an online-radicalized MAGAminion to high-profile Trump critics and now his "bad hair day" joking in the face of an anti-semitic mass-murder have finally ensured the result he wanted: the midterms will be read as a referendum on Trumpism. They always were and he knew it and that's why he wanted it this way. But Goddess help us all if he comes to see the result as a "win" on these terms. Hell, heaven help us if he loses and defies the result who knows how...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

"The Stakes Are Dire"

Josh Marshall:
I have mentioned several times in recent days my anxiety about the election less than two weeks from now, one that is caused less by my sense of the likely outcome than the gravity of the stakes involved.... 2016 can be seen as a fluke. A series of perfect storm factors coming together to make Donald Trump President with a minority of the popular vote and razor thin margins in three critical states. 2018, if it’s a winning election for the Republicans, will be a choice. A ratification of everything we’ve seen over the last two years. That will be a reality we’ll all have to contend with for what it says about the state of the country. It will send a signal abroad that this is now the American political reality and unquestionably accelerate all the geo-political processes Trump has spurred or which drove him to the White House in the first place. Domestically the impact will be worse. The political message will be simple: you can do all this stuff and suffer no political consequences. It goes without saying that the climate of violent incitement against the press will accelerate. The President’s ability and willingness to protect himself and his loyalists from the law will grow and be treated as normal. It is difficult to imagine he won’t find a way to end the Mueller probe. At the end of the day, the only real restraint on officeholders isn’t norms or even laws. It’s elections.
What we're seeing with Trump's GOP is white supremacy and white supremacy is the furthest thing from a "fluke": it defines American history as much as any other single factor and more than most. But, yeah, girl, I kinda sorta see what you mean and we're all there, feeling the stress strobing like a pulse as the days to the election grow short. HRC should have won and nearly did and won a sizable majority of the vote, and some of the worst excesses, the Court shenanigans and immigration crimes and abandonment of international agreements would not have taken place under HRC, tho' to be honest I'm not sure Republicans majorities would not have tried to impeach Clinton by now for who knows what kind of trumped up nonsense yielding something close to the same shit-show we now face soon enough. It's all true, though, what he says. If Dems don't regain the House and enough governnor's mansions to put a check on the latest white supremacist formation of the GOP (not to mention its cruelty, sexism, homophobia, climate-change denialism, macroeconomic illiteracy, belligerence, gun-nuttery, stubborn stupid parochial death-dealing greedhead anti-intellectualism) Trump will treat it as an endorsement, a mandate, an excuse to unleash his worst authoritarian impulses. The world will rightly abandon America as an unreliable partner and fascism's spread will accelerate under the amplifying pressures of climate change beyond help or hope. It remains to be seen what a best-case outcome and its break on this runaway anti-democratizing Trump train can accomplish even if we win... Trump will likely be brazen, Dems will likely be overcautious, the left base is prone to demoralization after an exhausting couple of years of rage and fear, and the stakes in two years will either be higher than they are even now... or by then the election won't quite matter at all and people will be wondering if it's years too late to make an escape plan. In the longer term, demographics suggest revolutionary possibilities, and the realities of climate catastrophe demand revolutionary adaptations. But it feels like this election tells me whether or not I get to live to see those changes or must live through and probably die in a pointless torment of fascist violence and social upheaval first instead as the clock winds down and the Greenhouse storms arise in earnest. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

One Book Leads To Another...

Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Moon arrived on my doorstep the very day I finished John Scalzi's The Consuming Fire (exactly the enjoyable romp I was hoping for, even if it feels a bit like reading the Binti novellas did, like reading a marvelous longer work in progress pretending to be stand-alones in real-time). Perfect timing for the new arrival, already a couple chapters in I sense the scope of the Robinsonian cathedral of characters and themes I have wandered into... Sad to say, paper grading and lecture prep are swallowing up almost all the free reading time I might set aside for myself these next few weeks.

The Phony "Caravan Crisis" Is Trump's (Latest) Reichstag Fire

Greg Sargent:
President Trump is now in the process of revealing to the country that his agenda on the signature issue that he believes got him elected is a complete and abject failure. This was inevitable, because — and this is also being unmasked for all to see right now — that agenda rests on a foundation of lies. We are now learning that Trump, who is in rage over the Central American migrants straggling their way through Mexico, may declare a national security emergency in order to completely close down the southern border to Central American asylum seekers. It is perfectly legal for people to present themselves at the border and seek asylum. [emphasis added. --d] But according to The Post, the White House is considering an “executive order” that “would suspend that provision and bar Central Americans as a matter of national security” ...  The idea that the migrant “caravan” represents an emergency for the U.S. is absurd. Estimates from Mexican authorities indicate that the caravan, which remains over 900 miles away, has already dramatically dwindled in size, and is now mostly made up of destitute families who are traveling with children and living off of food supplied by people along the way. Indeed, the very fact that Trump has had to lie relentlessly about the caravan’s makeup — he has claimed it is infiltrated by criminals and terrorists, which is utterly false — itself neatly illustrates that it does not present the emergency he and Republicans have hyped into existence. The backdrop to this is an even bigger lie — Trump’s constant suggestion that the border is overrun by undocumented immigrant invaders. In fact, illegal crossings are substantially lower than the levels in recent years. To turn this fake emergency into fodder for a closing campaign message, Trump and Republicans have layered additional lies on top of all those other ones: Democrats orchestrated the caravan; Democrats want to give undocumented immigrants cars and support open borders; and so on.... This is Trump’s Reichstag fire. Not in the sense that Trump is Hitler, but rather in the more general way this term is sometimes used: Trump is perverting imagery of a real event to create a false narrative about what is happening and why; to justify his chosen response to it; and to manipulate public opinion toward other ends...

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Starvation, and not sin, is the parent of modern crime.

Grading, Grating

The inevitable headline, I know. Spent much of yesterday dealing with administrivia -- the forms I fill, the hoops I jump, the extra hours and meetings and tasks keep accumulating each year every year more and more and more the more administrators get hired to do what that isn't teaching in a school is quite something to experience. Papers pouring in past midterm, and I'll be grading in any spare pockets of time I can find in between my bouts of obsessive lecture prep (to compensate for the imposture syndrome I inevitably feel when I am not feeling my equally undermining burned out has-been husk syndrome instead). I'll be a bit dug under for the next couple three weeks, I fear. Nice distraction from the internal tea-kettle scream of anxiety occasioned by relentlessly rising-fascistic headlines as the last-chance midterm election draws, as it were, nigh.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

All charming people, I fancy, are spoiled. It is the secret of their attraction.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Uninspired, Uninspiring, Uninspiraling

Made it through my long teaching day intact, and I'm off to the City to lecture again today in a few minutes. Two weeks until the elections, two weeks before we know just how bad the next two years are going to be... Speaking in public feels like exposing a raw wound. I fear I am too anxious and depressed these days to be inspiring as I should, and I feel the cost of it in the teaching... Talking about potemkin AI, cybernetic totalism, and singularitarian nonsense in lecture today. It's been a long time since any of this felt particularly fresh, I must admit, though I readily concede teaching this stuff remains crucial at this time of rising tech skepticism and fledgling tech reckoning. Still, mostly looking forward to resuming Scalzi on the train for my long commute in the dark back home, then a fat burrito and holiday baking shows with Eric and Penny.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, October 22, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sunday Walk

The morning was cool and gray, autumnal, as we set off for brunch at our diner on Piedmont Avenue. By the time we had finished, the sun had burned all the gray away and bright blue daylight made us ambitious for a longer trek to the summit of Mountain View. The rest of my afternoon is given over to lecture prep: Situationism and Naomi Klein in my first lecture tomorrow and then AI and the Singularity (all the old anti-techno-triumphalist hits, Mechanical Turk, Lanier, Vinge, Kurzweil, Mechanical Turk again), then a reprise Tuesday in my grade seminar on design thinking. We're past the mid-term point and the rhythms are all shifting, workshops and film screenings take some pressure off of lecture prep in weeks to come, but writing deadlines and committee work all seem to intensify to ratchet the pressure right back up again. The election wind-up has everybody nervous and jangly, me not least of all, I can tell you.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Today's Random Wilde

You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

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Friday, October 19, 2018

A Day Off...?

Got Scalzi's The Consuming Fire in the mail yesterday -- a sequel to his The Collapsing Empire, which was a punchy little diversion for me last year -- and I've got half a mind to run a hot bath and read a few chapters and put off the lecture prep for once this damn term. Anything to avoid the disgusting cruelty and criminality endlessly unfolding in the headlines...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Today's Random Wilde

It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily


Mailed in our mid-term ballots yesterday, got an unexpected visit from some beloved former students, got ahead of my lecture prep for next week -- it's looking like I may be able to enjoy a weekend without too much working in it for the first time in quite a while. A torrent of paper grading begins pouring in from my two undergraduate courses next week, so this respite is well-timed and very welcome indeed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Reading a slim book called Libraries in the Ancient World on the BART from lecture tonight, then watching Dr. Who and the Halloween Baking Championship episode we've recorded when I finally get home deep in the dark with my burrito in hand. This is what sanity looks like for me in the unending unendurable horrorshow that is Trumpmerica.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, October 15, 2018

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Long Teaching Day

...long teaching day ahead... Barthes, then online privacy/publicity, six hours lecture, three hours commute... final prep on the train... Here we go!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday Walk

Back to brunch and a long lovely walk to the Rose Garden this afternoon, blue skies and a sweet crisp breeze for a quiet Sunday stroll. Lecture prep for tomorrow out on the patio should occupy me the rest of the day. Last week was a bit of a bear, and I'm frazzled still as I move into next week. Roland Barthes in crit theory should be a piece of cake, but my digital anti-democratization class is getting a bit wild and woolly. Public/private, publication/privation, publicity/privacy this week, a little intellectual property, a little hashtag resistance, a little fake news. Taking up the same themes in my design thinking class the next day. But I feel a bit surer of my grad students this term, my undergraduates still seem not to have quite taken to the material or to my teaching in the usual way -- perhaps I'm a bit tired coming right off an earlier three-hour lecture, perhaps the topic of tech talk has left me feeling a bit burned out, perhaps the lateness of the class and the onset of darkness has my students feeling restive, whatever it is, the class isn't yet working quite as I'd like, I'm feeling uninspired and so I'm being uninspiring and hence losing the charge of energy from inspired students to compensate the shyness and insecurity that always bedevils my teaching efforts. Prepping for a turnaround tomorrow.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Yer Evil Phone

The Guardian:
[C]obalt is found in every lithium-ion rechargeable battery on the planet -- from smartphones to tablets to laptops to electric vehicles. It is also used to fashion superalloys to manufacture jet engines, gas turbines and magnetic steel. You cannot send an email, check social media, drive an electric car or fly home for the holidays without using this cobalt... Such companies are collectively worth trillions of dollars. Yet according to Amnesty International in a report at the end of 2017, none of them are making sufficient efforts to ensure that their riches are not being built on the backs of the oppressed women, men and children of the Congo who toil in putrid conditions, endure pitiful wages, grave injury and risk death to mine their cobalt...[T]hey descend into darkness each day, spending up to 24 hours at a time in narrow tunnels unable to stand, hacking away for cobalt. Every minute is suffused with dread, because many tunnels have collapsed in Kasulo, burying alive everyone inside.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

"Crushing It"

From the Washington Post:
With cameras in the room for a prescription-drug bill signing Wednesday, Trump introduced “the great Larry Kudlow, whose voice is so beautiful. . . . The economy, Larry, how is it doing?”
“Couldn’t be better,” replied Kudlow.
And Kudlow’s message couldn’t be otherwise:
Oct. 7: “Right now, the American economy is crushing it.”
Sept. 28: “We’re crushing it, we’re absolutely crushing it.”
Sept. 17: “We’re crushing it.”
Sept. 6: “We’re crushing it.”
Aug. 28: “America today is just crushing it everywhere.”
Aug. 17: “We are crushing it. And people say this is not sustainable, it’s a one-quarter blip? It’s just nonsense.”
Also, from the article:
After the Dow Jones industrials plunged 832 points on Wednesday, Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s chief economic adviser, walked up the White House driveway and proclaimed that there was no cause for concern... “Our economy and the people and the workers and entrepreneurs, they’re killing it. We’re the hottest in the world,” Kudlow proclaimed in front of the CNBC camera. “We’re crushing it right now..." But the Pollyanna performance didn’t play well on Wall Street. The Dow lost another 546 points Thursday. The index had a partial recovery Friday but finished the week down 4.2 percent, the third straight weekly decline.
No doubt they'll get the numbers back up in time for the lies of November.

Friday, October 12, 2018

One Hundred Companies Are Killing Us All

The Guardian:
Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report. The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute... Compiled from a database of publicly available emissions figures, it is intended as the first in a series of publications to highlight the role companies and their investors could play in tackling climate change. The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Many Presidents have dipped below 50% Approval in their terms, but Trump is on track to being the first who has never managed to reach 50% Approval at any point in his term. More people have disapproved than approved of his performance every single day he has been in the White House. This unprecedently unpopular popular vote loser is the one destroying the country for parochial profit with the support of a party of desperate dwindling aging racist white greedhead ignoramuses in gerrymandered districts through a system of sweeping disenfranchisement under an electoral college that disproportionately empowers scattered rural citizens over the majorities who live in dense diverse cities. There is going to be a reckoning.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, October 08, 2018

Long Teaching Day, Long Teaching Week

Six hours of lecture back to back today in the City -- first up, Benjamin and Adorno in my critical theory survey, then privacy in my digital anti-democratization course: surveillance but also possessive individualism and IP. In my grad seminar tomorrow on "design thinking" we have arrived at cyberlibertarian ideology, so many manifestos will be scoffed at. Two of my grad thesis students are having their Intermediate Reviews this week as well... these hours of last minute writing samples, commuting, co-ordinating schedules among overclocked people take their toll. It's gonna be a rough week, I fear.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, October 07, 2018


It looks like no brunch and long walk this weekend -- Eric is swamped with work and my upcoming week demands extra prep as well, as my three lectures give way to intermediate reviews for my thesis students. It's sunny and briskly autumnal outside, quite lovely, so I'll do some lecture prep out on the porch at any rate... Politics are too grisly to comment on, the eager cruelty of the Trumpuglicans is on full display, and the stakes for the election just a month away feel fraught beyond belief. History is a hole we never dig out of in time, but sometimes this feels more bearable than others.

Today's Random Wilde

Dandyism is the assertion of the absolute modernity of Beauty.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily