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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Excellent SF Qua Tweet

Thursday, March 29, 2018

From a letter --

Politics here are as usual beyond horror... but it is clear that the coming generations are primed for multicultural social democracy, the GOP is clinging to power by their fingernails, their criminality is a measure of their desperation, they feel the world that is coming will repudiate the lies against which we have struggled all our lives. They can do untold damage before they are through, of course, and are doing their worst all around us, but I am beginning to think once more that we will prevail... Our generation, generation X and X-ish, was a considerably smaller population cohort than the Boomers behind us or the Millennials after us and I now believe that quite a lot of our trouble is that we simply didn't have the numbers to defend ourselves against the worst selfish impulses of our human, all too human (and, not to put too fine a point on it, racist cis greedhead as hell), parents... but in rebuilding a world that works for the majority of the young people coming after us I suspect they will also join their numbers to our long ineffectual efforts to save ourselves... they will save and expand social security, expand medicare into single payer, and employ everybody building a sustainable agriculture and communication and energy infrastructure in the context of a less racist, less sexist, less toxic society...
It's taken a couple of years, but after my hospitalization, the Trump election, a union battle, the loss of Sarah, and a struggle with chronic insomnia it would appear that my inner Mouseketeer is beginning to re-assert herself...

Another Day, Another Dunce Cap

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism Requires Much More Than Internet Boosterism

Upgraded and adapted from a exchange in the Moot:
Lorraine said... 
"In my defense, I never believed e2e equals liberty. I do believe e2e to be a necessary-but-not-sufficient condition for freedom. Does that make me a bad person? BTW e2e entered my vocabulary via you. 
"In my defense, I never believed the Internet was edenic at any stage of its development. I have in fact been cognizant from the start of the fact that it has its origins in the military industrial complex. Nevertheless, I prefer the way online culture worked circa 1991 to the way it worked circa 1995 to the way it worked circa 2006 to the way it works today. Does that make me a bad person? 
"It seems there a lot of things today that can make one a bad person.

"I'm currently struggling hard with the hacker or gift economy ethos of my (and I assume your) generation vs. the FYPM ethos emerging today. I fully understand that doing open source development without pay comes from a place of privilege, but I'm having a hard time training myself not to think of DRM as a bug."
I replied...
"The primary force of my point is rhetorical -- It is the libertarian rationalization of deregulatory disruption and elite-incumbent (indicatively privileged young straight white male) upward-failure via "disruption" "innovation" "decentralization" faux-"democratization" etc. enabled by the e2e/negative liberty identification that I disapprove.

"I think one can grasp this point without becoming a booster for DRM in any particular construal, especially versions presently advocated by this or that industry over another. I'm all for p2p-gift economy participatory democracy utopianism (fully automated luxury gay space communism, y'all!) -- but I have never thought digi-spiritualist or corporate futurological discourses inevitably freighted with either left or right anarcho-vacuities were the route to deliver such an outcome. Probably neither did you -- in which case there is no need for you to feel defensive or targeted by the original comment in the first place.

"I think a universal employment guarantee at a living wage, with universal free healthcare, lifelong education, secure housing, reliable information, and equitable recourse to accountable law, franchise and civil rights in the context of prison abolition, community policing, and sustainable food, energy, and transportation systems is the way to that outcome.

"I once hoped online education, agitation, organization would facilitate that outcome, and maybe it has done -- even granting the misinformation, false advertising, conspiracy propagation, bad manners, harassment, hate-organizing, surveillance, financial fraud, wealth concentration, and reactionary deregulation facilitated online as well.

"As I've gotten older I have come to question the usefulness or correctness of identifying the critique of apparently bad ideas with the assertion that those who hold them are "bad people," especially given how many bad ideas I have held over the wayward course of my own explorations."

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Guaranteeing A Job With A Liveable Wage Is Better Than Guaranteeing A "Basic" Income

Ross Barkan, in The Guardian:
While every prior technological revolution created jobs to replace those that were phased out, the digital upheaval is only leaving more excess labor. The four tech giants which effectively control the American economy – Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon – employ relatively few people. Once thriving industries, from music to media to retail, are verging toward a form of extinction – existing, but only as spectral after-images of what they once were. When politicians typically nod toward this dire status quo, they talk nebulously about “retraining” workers for the jobs of the future, even if there really won’t be many jobs. There’s the hope that if only we teach enough kids to code, we will have a thriving economy on par with America’s golden years after the second world war. This, of course, is a fallacy...
[Here is a] proposal that animated Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and last saw life in the 1970s... The idea is simple. The government guarantees a job with livable wages and benefits to anyone who wants one. A national infrastructure bank could set a much-needed floor on wages and benefits. Imagine a Marshall plan for America. Spending to put people to work instead of sending them off to war...
[O]ne muscular vision: a bank to fund vital infrastructure projects and pay at least a national annual minimum wage of $24,600, with health benefits and opportunities to advance. This would go far beyond the universal basic income idea circulating in progressive and tech circles now. [Emphasis added: for my critique of libertechian Basic Income proposals see this piece.]
A jobs guarantee would likely boost wages in the private sector, where consolidation has killed competition and monopolies dominate the landscape. Competing with the government, the private sector would feel pressure to increase pay and benefits. In struggling cities and hollowed out towns, politicians hunt for answers. Local governments can only do so much. A robust federal jobs program would offer hope for the millions who want to work but can’t because the factory or the shopping mall or the local hardware store shuttered long ago. Working class and poorer people would have the dignity of a job, a place to go, people to see. A rising wage floor would mean the end of working poverty – people who have jobs but still can barely afford rent and food. If Democrats actually want to build a long-lasting majority and be the party that stands on the side of the vast number of people, a jobs guarantee offers a path forward...

Monday, March 26, 2018

This Thread Is Flames

Facebook In the News. A Teachable Moment.

Dig beneath the headlines and learn the lessons for once. Here are three foundational mis-identifications enabling technolibertarian rhetoric:

1. The mis-identification of negative liberty with liberty as such coupled with the mis-identification of e2e/net-tech "neutrality" with such negative liberty.

2. The mis-identification of instrumental force with political power coupled with the mis-identification of amplified capacitation for incumbents with progress-in-general.

3. The mis-identification of opportunistic norm disruption and deregulation for incumbents with "decentralization" coupled with the mid-identification of its consequent destabilizations with democratization.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Thursday, March 22, 2018

In Case You Needed Reminding Trump And Republicans Can Always Make It Even Worse Still

Warmongering... Nuke-happy... John... Fucking... Bolton!

e2e Was Never Liberty


Upgraded and adapted from a comment in the Moot:
Yes, it is important to emphasize that facebook's "business model" is the same logic governing the algorithmic surveillance and extraction that now passes for "social media" and/or "the internet" across the board (since the very late 90s or so) and hence the fall of even so grand and terrible a bad actor as facebook -- which I far from expect to happen in any case, much though I would like it to -- will not put an end to the problem facebook so poignantly symptomizes and symbolizes in this moment. Platform monopolization, algorithmic targeting/profiling and disruptive deregulation of public goods defines this phase of corporate-militarism (er, capitalism), unfortunately for us all. Online search, publication, exchange, funding, organizing, expression platforms should be nationalized as indispensable public utilities and made absolutely accountable to the public (or at any rate the monopolies broken up by renewed antitrust, and non-profit public options made available to all). Implementing legible regimes to protect people from fraud, misinformation, and nonconsensual exploitation of personal information (consent is not clicking a button after scrolling through legal boilerplate you don't read and which you wouldn't understand if you read it anyway) will also be necessary -- which would require not only a radical re-orientation of digital media but of the whole suffusion of our public sphere with the deceptive and hyperbolic norms and forms of marketing (including the legal deceptions of consumer advertising, self-promotional branding norms, and the think-tankification of intellectual life).

That said, while I understand and sympathize with your efforts to remain anonymous and autonomous online (I stopped using facebook YEARS ago, for example) I would warn you not to imagine there are rugged individualist strategies to elude these structural problems -- facebook for one thing creates profiles of non-users as well as its users and profiles aggregated with and without our knowledge and understanding from public and private databases frame us all, however we seek to evade them (though taking security measures remains prudent as far as that goes of course), and only organized democratic resistance and governance can get us out of this stupid predictable (and predicted) mess. I think everybody should be reading Frank Pasquale, Zeynep Tufekci, David Golumbia, Chris Gilliard, Safiya Noble, and Audrey Watters, among many others (not including me) right now for guidance on these questions.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Patriotism Is the Virtue of the Vicious -- Unless and Until It Is the Participatory Work of Abolition Democracy

Monday, March 19, 2018

Friday News Dumpster Fire?

A bit worried it might occur to Trump to fire Mueller and bring us closer to the brink on Friday, just to distract some attention from the March on Saturday and Stormy interview on Sunday...

Facebook Fraudsters

"Just A Reminder"

...and the Muslim bans ...and the wall ...and ending DACA ...and ACA sabotage ...and Charlottesville ...and Puerto Rico ...and "shithole" countries ...and the escalation of the racist war on drugs ...and on and on and on....

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Whole Lot of Firings Can Happen Between Now and November, But...

Reminder, via PoliticalWire: "As a reminder, the Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to retake the House. If they were to split Cook's competitive races 50/50 with the GOP, they would gain 28."

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Storm And The Bad News

Will Sommer's expose or explainer or whatever such things are called these days, of the ongoing still-amplifying right-wing conspiracy super-convergence denominated "The Storm" was not amusing to me as I suspect I am meant to be amused by it: Deplorables being deplorable are too predictable and gross to be anything but demoralizing to me at this point, and I am far from denying the damage reactionary ("neo" and otherwise) conspiracists can do online even with the most obviously outlandish and disgusting nonsense in the terrain of libertechbrotarian attention-hoarding platform monopolists... But, still, it is intriguing indeed to see that the catastrophe of Trumpism is clearly sufficiently palpable even to many Trump boosters at this point that they are indulging in frankly undeniable wish-fulfillment fantasizing at this point. This passage from the piece is pretty typical: "After months, the conspiracy theory has come to encompass Pizzagate, the Seth Rich murder, the Clinton Foundation, MS-13, and many more right-wing touchstones. Despite The Storm’s vastness, though, the message is simple: Trump is pulling off a string of victories over his enemies, but in secret; and everything that looks like it’s bad news for Trump is actually, secretly, good news." I suppose the realization that queers like me aren't just going back into the closet and a nation of immigrants isn't going to transform instantly and spontaneously into the grinning-skull cishet whiteness of a 1950s Micky Mouse Club episode and climate change denialism isn't going to dis-invent the reality of climate change itself and so on is yielding something like a freakout in certain stale, pale, male, deplorable circles of the country gamed by dis-enfranchisement and mis-education and corporate fraud into the lethal but unstable reactionary force that keeps electing Republicans to public offices they abuse to the ruin of us all. For the conspiracists of the Storm all the bad news of Trump disapproval rates, unprecedented turmoil and firings and recriminations, court decisions against ill-thought bans and policy sabotage, incoherent and inevitably broken campaign promises, special election set-backs and retirements and signs of upcoming blue waves, accumulating indictments and guilty pleas, plummeting international relations and respect, and on and on and on may be evidence of good news, reeeally, seeecretly, eveeentually, suuurely, but, well, soon enough the bad news is going to be bad news for somebody for real you know...

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Spending Spring Break With Le Guin

Spring Break is nearly over... I've spent it pleasure reading Ursula Le Guin (lately, reading the Earthsea books and excerpts from her blog anthologized in No Time to Spare) as I have done all term long. Mid-March, by the way, and I'm sleeping between five and eight hours a night, I venture to say the insomnia crisis is behind me, thank heavens.

The Story Is the Genius of Universal Healthcare Not Individual Genius

By the way, his drift late in life into futurological nonsense about AI risks and lifeboats to Mars was all terrible.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Two Blocks Away...


All that said, do remember:


In Like A Lamb, Etc.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The NRA / GOP Just Wants More Dead Black Kids

Sunday, March 11, 2018


A brand new blu-ray edition of "Colossus: The Forbin Project" arrived during the week and I watched it yesterday afternoon. The Star Trek era colors, the electronic score, the sweeping visuals were all stunning on the new edition. It's a film I've been teaching for fifteen years but this is the first time I've watched a version that wasn't pan and scan for all but the credit sequence! With the arrival of this edition into my collection I believe Forbin is probably the film I have now purchased more than any other, as it happens, as I have owned it on a VHS tape back in the Stone Age and then purchased at least three DVD versions over the years since, as older discs were damaged or vanished as loans over the years of teaching it over and over. I do truly still love this movie, among the better singularitarian high camp staples. (The only films I may have repurchased as many copies of over the years are "Xanadu" and "Desk Set," take that for what it's worth!)

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Good News in the Crystal Ball

Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball has more good news for those us of counting on Democratic congressional gains to put some brakes on the ongoing demolition efforts of the Trump-Republican wrecking crew come November:
— With less than a week to go, the PA-18 special election moves from Leans Republican to Toss-up.
— In addition to that ratings change, we are making 25 other changes in the House, all in favor of Democrats.
— No Democratic incumbent is now rated worse than Likely Democratic, a nod to the reality that in a Democratic-leaning environment it will be difficult for Republicans to dislodge many or perhaps even any Democratic incumbents, though there are a handful of Democratic open seats that are more viable Republican targets.
— After these ratings changes, for the first time this cycle we have fewer than 218 seats (the number needed for a majority) at least leaning to the Republicans.
— Making his debut in our competitive House ratings is the chamber’s most powerful member, Speaker Paul Ryan (R, WI-1). While his district is competitive but clearly Republican-leaning on paper, this shift mostly reflects uncertainty surrounding his future.
(NB: This "good news" is not the prediction of a sure thing, it is not an excuse for complacency, it is not a guarantee against disenfranchisement schemes or digital/media manipulation shenanigans, nor is any of this a shorthand for saying Democrats, even at their best and certainly not at their worst, are love's young dream even if they are clearly preferable to Republicans in ways that matter more than pretty much anything else at a time like this.) 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Nixon --> Reagan --> Gingrich --> W. --> Trump --> It's Vile Criminal Bigot Idiot Con Artistry All the Way Down

Monday, March 05, 2018

Sounds Right

Sunday, March 04, 2018


Friday, March 02, 2018