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

Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday Walk

Eric was feeling sick yesterday and we postponed our long walk and brunch to today, had a great breakfast and spent some time in Chapel of the Chimes. Spent the afternoon reading Mary Beard's new book, an unobjectionable diversion derived from episodes she wrote for the recent "Civilizations" series (I haven't seen it). Also reading Ursula Le Guin's Lavinia, which I'm aiming to finish by this week with my last lecture of the term (I begin the term reading one of her earliest novels, Rocannon's World), and as always with her work, it's beautiful and provocative and utterly engrossing. Listening to Janelle Monae's Dirty Computer over and over and over again. I'm not sure I'll be listening to this one more than ArchAndroid and Electric Lady a year from now, but it's all I'm listening to now, and I do so loooooove it. Ready for the end of Spring, less ready for the beginning of Summer. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

MundiMuster! Support Kevin De León Over Dianne Feinstein

Markos Moulitsas has published an editorial endorsing Kevin De León over Dianne Feinstein in the upcoming California primary and I agree with him. I'm excerpting the gist, but follow the link to read it all:
By all measures, California is one of the most liberal states in the country. It was a state that Hillary Clinton won 62-32. (The 3-million vote advantage in the state was the same as Clinton’s national popular-vote victory margin.) Democrats hold every statewide elected position, plus supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature. This complete governmental dominance (and ballot initiatives) has delivered a steady stream of progressive legislation -- environmental protections, sanctuary state status, $15 minimum wage, legalized pot, increased gun restrictions -- while maintaining the state’s status as one of the world’s economic powerhouses. Indeed, if California were a country, it would be the sixth-largest economy in the world. Thus, the GOP fantasy that liberal governance is bad for business is, well, bunk. And as a minority-majority state, it’s showing that America’s demographic future is a strength, not something to be feared by the shrinking white majority.
Shepherding that progressive renaissance in the state legislature? Senate Majority Leader Kevin de León, who we are now endorsing in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate against incumbent Dianne Feinstein...  Feinstein may have been a breath of fresh air when first elected in 1992... an era when California still elected ideologically odious Republican governors like Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson... Unfortunately, Feinstein has failed to evolve with her state, making her a relic of a bygone era. She should’ve retired to accolades; instead, she’s trying to hang on to a state she no longer reflects.  California is the vanguard of the Resistance. Yet Feinstein continues to act as though her state is Indiana, or Nebraska....
According to FiveThirtyEight, Feinstein is the second most Trump-friendly Democrat when factoring the ideology of her state. In fact, she votes with Trump twice as much as her fellow California Democrat Kamala Harris... That shouldn’t come as a surprise, since she’s been urging that people be “patient” with Trump, since he could still turn out to be a “great president.”  Note that California [--] liberal capital of America! [--] is still represented in the Senate by someone who voted to deregulate the banks in 1999 (leading to the financial crisis nearly a decade later). She voted for George W. Bush’s tax cuts, one of just 12 Democrats to do so (which benefited her greatly, with a net worth in the hundreds of millions). She voted for the Iraq War, co-sponsored the extension of the Patriot Act, is a big proponent of FISA secret courts, and wants the government to have access to your encrypted cell phone data. She sponsored a Constitutional Amendment to ban flag burning. [S]he has opposed single-payer healthcare, saying, “If single-payer healthcare is going to mean complete takeover by the government of all healthcare, I’m not there yet.” De León supports it, and Kamala Harris has actually co-sponsored Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All bill. Weirdly, for someone who has had a strong record of gun control throughout her career, Feinstein recently said that no law could’ve stopped the Las Vegas gunman, feeding into the NRA’s narrative. Obviously, that’s utter bunk, as it would’ve been much harder to kill 58 people if the gunman didn’t have easy access to assault rifles, guns, and ammunition...
Support Kevin de León for Senate, and if you’re in California (and lots of you are!), please consider volunteering for his campaign. It’s an uphill climb, but if there’s anything we’ve learned this cycle, it’s that the impossible keeps happening over and over again.
And one last benefit to this primary challenge, even more so than her releasing the Fusion GPS documents (an uncharacteristically aggressive move by her, spurred no doubt by the primary challenge): California has a b.s. “jungle primary” system, in which all candidates run together in one ballot, irrespective of party affiliation. The top two advance to the general in the fall. Currently, it’s entirely possible that the governor’s race will feature two Democrats in the fall. A strong showing by de León would mean two Democrats in the Senate general election in November. That would mean ZERO Republicans anywhere near the top of the ballot. Why does this matter, since no Republican stands a chance in either of those two races in the fall? Because California Democrats could win up to 10 Republican-held House seats this year. Without any top-of-the-ballot representation, Republicans would have even less reason to turn out and vote, while Republican candidates in those competitive districts would have to shoulder their entire GOTV on their own, without any up-ballot support. (Meanwhile, FOUR Democrats would be doing GOTV to get out their own votes.)
This primary isn’t just important for ideological reasons, to fight for a party that better represents its base and is in line with the Resistance. It’s important for practical reasons as well! The stronger de León runs, the stronger the chance of that all-Democratic top-of-the-ballot lineup making the GOP’s grip on the U.S. House that much more tenuous.
So contribute today to Kevin de León! Where California goes, the country will eventually follow. And it’s looking pretty awesome in California these days, in huge part thanks to Kevin de León.

Saturday, April 28, 2018


“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” -- James Baldwin

Friday, April 27, 2018

Dirty Computer

Amahzing. So very.

Libertarians Do Not Promote Liberty

US-style libertarianism is a marketing exercise, a self-promotion exercise, rebranding ugly aspirations and sad delusions of individual control as liberty. There is no real liberty without democracy. No libertarian has ever valued the substance of liberty. PS: There are few things less democratic than what libertarians and especially libertechbrotarians advocate in the name of "democratization" (that is to say, usually disruptive deregulation, status quo amplification, and elite-incumbent upward failure).

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Trumpproval (Blue Wave World Saved? Edition)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Penny Gnaws Wires

She has already rendered one mouse unoperational. We are scrambling to cover and disconnect cords and trundle them off into drawers and such but some things seem permanently exposed to her eager little kitten fangs, perfect kitten-proofing looks to be an unattainable ideal. Hoping she'll outgrow this, but will gratefully take any advice any fellow kitty lovers out there may have about felines who adore gnawing wires.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Satire Versus Bullying

"Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it is not satire, it is bullying." -- Terry Pratchett
All you need to understand Republican "humor" and neoreactionary/libertopian lulz.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Bigger, Smaller

Hard to believe, but Penny is undeniably, visibly larger already than she was when we got her two weeks ago. Also hard to believe, but I've lost so much weight by now this year that I have to replace my shoes because they keep flying off my apparently shrunken feet when I walk.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Walk

Such a lovely day -- Eric and I had brunch at our favorite diner (our favorite staff person greeted us with a smile and a "Happy Earth Day, my friends!" which was awesome) then we walked to the Morcom Rose Garden to find hundreds and hundreds of varieties newly in bloom since our last walk there just a couple weeks ago. Stunning, and it's sure to be even more beautiful in a couple more weeks, just impossibly stuffed with blooms. Strange how citrussy rose blooms can be, not stuffy and florid like awful "rosy" air fresheners at all, but lightly sweetening the air with a scent like chewy fruit candy. Bought our Penny a new brush and an elaborate toy to preoccupy her when night falls and she loses her damn mind. I plan to take it easy the rest of this lazy Sunday, maybe a bath and a book, tonight a movie with Eric. Next week Spring term enters its final couple of weeks, and then final grades, final grading, final student sagas are all about to begin... and then just a couple more weeks of frantic preparation before summer intensives begin at Berkeley!

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me!

Every. Day.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Kitten Farts Are Truly Something Else

Penny continues to delight. She fought epic battles with my prone sleeping form last night on several occasions. Who needs insomnia when there is a new kitten in the house? Waking at two-thirty in the morning to a kitten sneezing in your face the night before a long lecture is pretty adorable, actually, more than you might think. Teaching day in the City today. Combahee River Collective Statement, Donna Haraway, Judith Butler, Carol Adams. Real inspirations after months of crusty postmarxist philosophical mansplaining. But feeling rather tired after a night of sporadic sleep nearing the tail end of a long term in the long dark night of the Trumpmerican garbage epoch.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Penny Miscellany

Not prepping for my lectures as I should this week -- can report instead that our new baby kitten Penny (who is, let me assure you, an adorababy, a grayby, a playby, and a purrby) is very much her own creation. She plays fetch like an indefatigable puppy, she tumbles crazily in the bathtub, she doesn't talk much but she sees everything, she can sleep through anything when she is sleeping, she will wake me incessantly when I am sleeping, and Eric and I are utterly obsessed with her.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Good Riddance To Doll-Eyed Dolt Randroid Ryan

A lying, incompetent, cruel, cowardly, hypocritical, fraudulent, utter embarrassment, just get the fuck off the public stage...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Trumpproval: Yes, Virginia, Racist White People Are The Problem

Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It's also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his first 100 days in office... Over half, 56 percent, disapprove of Trump.... Overall, Trump has gained ground in approval among several demographic groups that were important in his 2016 campaign. For one, 59 percent of Americans living in rural areas now approve of his job performance, up 17 points from January and a smaller seven points from last November. Among white rural Americans specifically, his approval is even higher: 65 percent approve, up from 50 percent in January. Trump garners above-water approval among whites, 53 percent of whom approve of the president, up seven points from January. He does even better among whites without college degrees (60 percent, up seven points) and white men without college degrees (70 percent, up six points). Almost three-quarters of conservatives approve of the president in the latest poll, 74 percent, up nine points from January. Trump continues to face overwhelming disapproval from an array of other groups, including 79 percent of racial and ethnic minorities, 67 percent of adults under age 30, and 64 percent of women. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and more than 8 in 10 liberals also disapprove of Trump.

Ten Theses On Taxes And Democracy

An Amor Mundi Tax Day tradition:
Hostility to taxes is commonplace among anarchists, as well as for right-wing "conservatives" whose advocacy of "smaller" or "more limited" government might as well be anarchism, since always only advocating ever smaller, ever more limited government without ever indicating what good government actually should be and alone can accomplish is substantially equivalent to blanket anti-governmentality in principle. Exploitation of discontent over taxes is also commonplace among neoliberal/neoconservative right-wing politicians and thinkers who want to ensure taxes subsidize primarily the fortunes of incumbent elites through extractive-industrial-financial corporate-militarism backed by complacent consumerism and organized violence. I for one do not want to smash states, but to democratize them. And an understanding and championing of taxes should be no less indispensable to the work of democratization as its obfuscation and demonization is indispensable to the work of anti-democratization.
Taxes are not really the price we pay for a civilized society -- in Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s, influential phrase -- for civilization is priceless. This is just to say that commonwealth is not a private commodity but a public good. Taxes are not, for example, fees for discrete services that might be provided otherwise, nor are taxes a price for which there might be discount alternatives. Perhaps the true spirit of Holmes' phrase is captured best in a negative formulation: anti-tax zealots would appear to believe that civilization is the only free lunch.
Certainly taxes are not theft, as anarchists of the right and the left are so pleased to declare, since taxation is a precondition for the constitution and ongoing intelligibility of the claim to ownership on which notions of theft depend in the first place.
Neither should taxes be mischaracterized as forced contributions to what might instead be charitable causes, since the basic rights secured through taxation cannot be regarded as matters of charity else they are not truly rights but mere favors bestowed by privileged elites.
Taxes are not, however annoying they may seem, burdens on our freedom so much as essential enablers of freedom. Taxes, government bonds, and public fees support the public investments maintaining the legal, infrastructural, and administrative material conditions alone within which political freedom can abide.
Taxes ameliorate undemocratic concentrations of wealth and authority to secure sufficient equity among citizens of diverse fortune. The equity valued by democracy ensures that the diversity also valued by democracy does not disable the demanding and costly democratic processes facilitating collective responsibility, expression, criticism, problem-solving and the interminable reconciliation of the aspirations of all the people with whom we share and contest the present world.
Taxes pay for the maintenance of institutions providing nonviolent alternatives for the adjudication of disputes. Taxes pay to secure basic needs to ensure that the scene of consent to everyday association is reliably informed and is non-duressed by the threat of deprivation, inequity, or insecurity. And taxes pay for the accountable administration of commons and public goods without which they are inevitably violated and exploited for short-term profit-taking by minorities to the cost and risk of majorities. Far from representing quintessential state violence, taxes are the enabling condition of a democratic state facilitating nonviolence.
Taxes coupled to representation itself ("No Taxation Without Representation") tie the maintenance of government as such -- an organization invested with legitimate recourse to force with all the clear dangers inhering in that state of affairs -- inextricably to public accountability and democratic legitimacy.
Taxing more those who profit more by their personal recourse to the shared inheritance of human knowledge and culture, to the shared substance of precarious environmental resources on which we all depend for our survival and flourishing, and to the ongoing benefits of collaboratively maintained infrastructure, institutions, norms, trust, legitimacy, and security is not unfair in the least. Progressive taxation follows quite simply from a recognition of the indisputable fact of our radical inter-dependence as both productive and vulnerable beings in the world. This same recognition, of course, is also the foundation for fairness.
Whenever a right wing politician declares all government wasteful, criminal, or corrupt you should pay close attention, because he is revealing his intentions. Wherever government is meant to be of by and for the people, to be anti-government always means to be against the great majority of the people.

Friday, April 13, 2018


President Trump’s favorable rating, already low by historical standards, has dropped to 38% — while his unfavorable rating is at 59%.
Does it mean anything? Who knows? Most of the bedwetting bully bigot idiot deplorables still love him; gerrymandering, disenfranchisement, and the electoral college still empower them; consumer complacency and purity cabaret (not to mention underinterrogated racism and greed) still undermine the solidarity of the more "decent" majority; fear and fecklessness competes with the comparatively clearminded and righteous Democrats on whom so much depends, and I suspect only mass demonstrations will finally claw us back from the Weimar analogy we have been so haplessly re-enacting since W. stole a Presidency, McCain picked Palin as a viable Vice-President, and popular vote loser Trump got installed against the wishes of every sane and decent citizen. The Republican Party remains the most dangerous organized force on Earth and the climate change endgame is nigh anyway. Cherish life, hold your loved ones close, do your best, resist the bigots and the bullies, and maybe we'll pull through in time to build a diverse, equitable, consensual, sustainable democracy on the knife's edge. Young people and artists and activists still instill me with whatever measure of hope I manage in this disgusting and stupid epoch.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Any Day With A New Janelle Monae Video Is A Good Day

"Pink is the truth you can't hide, maybe/Pink like the folds of your brain, crazy/Pink as we all go insane," feels very true to the moment. Visually marvelous, lyrically outstanding, musically more 90s Janet than 80s Prince this time around, a sweet sweet sweet spot.

Sunday, April 08, 2018


After brunch at our usual greasy spoon on Piedmont Avenue and then a walk to the Morcome Amphitheater of Roses (one of my favorite places on earth), Eric and I went by Hopalong's pet rescue on the walk back home and ended up taking home a beautiful two and a half month old gray tabby kitten with an orange spot on her head. Hence, we have named her Penny. She is an adorababy and has already suffused this quiet apartment with avid life and joy. 

Thursday, April 05, 2018

BooMan Is Making Sense...

Though I am almost certainly located to his political left (I doubt he is a prison abolitionist or ecosocialist like I am and I know he is wishy-washy on the politics of any actually queer feminism) I used to read Booman all the time and do still appreciate his pragmatism about winning within party politics and then using party victories as a tool to deliver more progressive outcomes. As we move into a crucial midterm election in the midst of insecure voting systems, antisocial media, foreign meddling, and ever more brazenly authoritarian Trump-Republican partisan politics, this bit of practical advice for a more united front in support of Democratic gains (small d via big D, in this instance, tho' of course there is much more to real, sustainable, equitable, participatory, multicultural small d than anything that big D can ever provide) is worth repeating:
[T]he left is doing the most harm to itself by willingly participating in an effort to depress turnout by picking fights with people who are broadly on their own side. As the Russian effort to interfere in our elections is re- and deconstructed more and more each day, we’re learning how they feverishly worked to prevent reconciliation between Clinton and Sanders’ supporters. They took some of the more heated ideological battles on the left, like the Black Lives Matters movement, and weaponized them to pull socially conservative Democrats out of the coalition. They sought to depress black turnout, to prevent socialists from holding their nose and voting for more of the same, and looked to exploit leftist critiques of capitalism and American foreign policy to promote apathy and third-party voting.

These are weaknesses and fissures on the left that are to some degree always with us, but the best time to wage ideological battles is when you’re already in power and trying to decide what to do with it. When you’re out of power, these wars are a luxury the left cannot afford. That doesn’t mean that people can or should stop fighting for what they believe in, but they need to be self-aware about how their actions can be self-defeating and a great aid to the opposition...

Probably the easiest way to look at this is as a matter of using your energy and resources efficiently and avoiding doing the work of your adversaries for them. Why pick fights with people on your side of the broader fight to take back control of Congress from the Republicans? Is it the best use of your time to sling insults at Bernie Sanders supporters you encounter on social media, knowing that you’ll need them to turn out to vote? Or, if you are a Bernie Sanders supporter, do you really need to continue to bash Hillary Clinton and her supporters? What good does it do?

Likewise, if you’re trying to get a Democrat elected in a conservative district or state, why waste time and energy complaining that someone somewhere said something that’s going to be useful for the other side? If you’re an ideologically purist liberal, do you really need to police every Democratic candidate in the country for evidence of apostasy?

The other side (and the Russians) will once again spend much of their effort this year trying to get Democrats to pick fights with each other in an effort to hurt turnout. Why would you willingly do their work for free?

... The solution isn’t to hopelessly attempt to control what other people say. Look to yourself, first. You have control over what you do, so that’s where your focus should begin. Are you being helpful or are you creating a disincentive for someone to work with you on your common goals? Are you getting someone to vote or basically making yourself an uncompensated cog in the Republicans’ apathy campaign?

The left will always fight with itself, but it must do it in an intelligent way. And that’s starts with each individual making sure to focus their energies where they will help rather than hurt.

Monday, April 02, 2018


Funny, since I keep reading everywhere about how Trump's approval is rising, Rising, RISING, ermahgawdRISING, right?

Date(s)                % Approve    % Disapprove
03/25-31/2018     39%               55%
03/19-25/2018     39%               55%
03/12-18/2018     40%               56%
03/5-11/2018       39%               56%
02/26-03/4/2018  39%               55%
02/19-25/2018     39%               56%
02/12-18/2018     37%               59%
02/5-11/2018       40%               57%
01/29-02/4/2018  40%               57%
01/21-28/2018     38%               58%