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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Always Coming Home

Last night I finished the last of Le Guin's Hainish novels collected in the two-volume Library of America anthology, The Telling. After Left Hand of Darkness and Five Ways to Forgiveness I think it is my third favorite. Those were the three Hainish novels that made me cry, that may have something to do with it. Of course, I have less time for pleasure reading during summer intensive teaching time, and so I expect I will be reading the Le Guin novel next up, Always Coming Home, for quite a while to come. It may well take me to the year's end to read everything she wrote (a task I began a few weeks before her death firmed my conviction that reading everything she wrote was just a great idea).

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Stakes of the Midterms

Everybody knows the House is up for grabs this November (the Senate much less so) and that winning the House is the first real chance we have to check some of the the criminal abuses and destructive madness of the Trump administration (tho' Impeachment, a political process, seems to me unlikely even if Democrats manage the longshot of gaining control of that chamber despite the insanely bad math -- which is not to deny either that Trump's corruption and likely treasonable recklessness is impeachable in principle or that Democratic control of the Senate would be a good thing for the country even without impeachment, if only to halt ongoing Trump-Republican damage to the courts). But if you step back and contemplate the future of Republican election rigging and abuse, the stakes of the midterm elections, for the House, Senate, but also state offices and Governorships, if anything, grow far larger still. The future responsiveness of our system of government to the reality of a diversifying secularizing population coping with the amplifying stresses of climate change against the entrenched power of concentrated petro-chemical and digi-financial wealth and white supremacy is on the ballot this November. Via
In 43 states, the legislature draws the congressional district map. If one party controls the... governor's mansion and both houses of the legislature... it can draw a map that gives it far more House seats than the raw vote would suggest. The Supreme Court will announce decisions on two gerrymandering cases in the next few weeks, but unless it declares that partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution, this year's elections will have a huge impact on which party controls the House from 2022 to 2032. The reason is simple: Governors will be elected in 36 states in November, 34 of whom will be in office in 2020 and can veto congressional maps. Furthermore, in 22 states, state senators serve staggered 4-year terms, so half the state senators elected this year in those states will vote on the congressional maps after the 2020 census. But in all states, dislodging an incumbent state legislator is tough, so even those with 2-year terms will have the advantage in 2020. In short, the battle for the House for the next decade is starting right now. While it didn't get much publicity, during the Obama administration Republicans picked up 1,000 seats in the state legislatures. This gave them the ability to gerrymander districts in about half the states... during the 2010 redistricting year. Many Democrats are unaware of this, but Republicans are very much aware of it. In fact, the GOP's operation REDMAP has a goal of raising and spending $125 million simply to hold or get control of the nation's 99 state legislative chambers for the purpose of controlling the map-drawing process in 2020. The Democrats don't have any comparable program, though the matter is a focus of Obama and his former AG Eric Holder.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

No Shit, Sherlock

A new study finds a correlation “between white American’s intolerance, and support for authoritarian rule. In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy... The World Values Survey data used is from the period 1995 to 2011 -- well before Donald Trump’s 2016 run for president. It suggests, though, that Trump’s bigotry and his authoritarianism are not separate problems, but are intertwined. When Trump calls Mexicans 'rapists,' and when he praises authoritarian leaders, he is appealing to the same voters.”

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Coming Week

After a week of dreary gray damp, yesterday the skies cleared, the temperatures soared and Eric and I had brunch and our long walk in the blazing sun. Another week of teaching ahead, but preparations are not too daunting for now. The texts are familiar (The US Declaration, Arundhati Roy, MLK) and the skill sets I've taught a million times over: creating a precis, four habits of argumentative writing, the Toulmin schema, Rogerian synthesis. Hoping for a good, productive second week. You know, I'm coming off of the best sleep in a couple years -- two nights with more than nine hours' sleep, two nights with more than eight hours. The struggle with insomnia is ongoing, and I'm sure the next three nights will be more difficult without cannabis to help me along (I never dose before teaching days, to keep my head clear) and with my usual stage-fright jitters to contend with.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Speaks for Itself

The Way We Live Now

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Hump Day

Back to teaching. We'll begin with the ultimate ethos move, students introducing themselves to the class, a collective trauma to knit a classroom community together in a flash and get everybody accustomed to talking and putting names to faces. Then today's practical workshopping: audience and intentions... What is the text's audience? How do you know? Are you part of it? Does your answer impact the way you read the text? Do you think the author imagined her audience as sympathetic, unsympathetic, or apathetic? What signs lead you to think so? What are the intentions of the piece? What claims are being made? Is there a conspicuous thesis? Do authors really know their intentions? How do texts argue differently when they seek to question conventions, change minds, change conduct, reconcile intractable conflict? Finally, we'll talk about Euripides tragedy Hecuba. A woman at point zero redeems herself through an agentic practice of rhetoric (at the height of which a queen reduced to slavery declares her conqueror the slave), or an almost pornographic spectacle of suffering revealing there is to be no redemption from finitude for anyone, and rhetoric a space of infinite rationalization and cynicism. Yesterday's class went well enough, I find myself in a windowless classroom in a sub-basement of a library building on campus, feeling much more than usually cut off from the world down there. Weird. Students asked questions about the syllabus and course policies so I'm hoping that means I've got a group of talkers this time around. Conversation is so much livelier than lecturing. We'll see how Euripides grabbed them. Tomorrow there will be some group work on Kant and that should be the true test of classroom dynamic this time around.    

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Teaching Day

Teaching day at Berkeley, the first lecture of summer intensives. We'll be going over the syllabus and preliminary definitions (rhetoric, argument, textuality, and so on), and they'll get a first bite at the apple of the premise of the course: that rhetoric/persuasion is not an "outside" or "alternative" to violence, that testament to violence is rendered possible only through a discursive circumscription that is itself a violence, and that the rhetorical tradition is relevant to the work of nonviolence instead because of the rhetorical preoccupation with the traffic between literal and figurative language, which operates in much the same way as (very possibly because it is one and the same as) navigating among alternate regimes of testimony to violence. Class could get out early today -- that would be nice, it would be good to give them extra time to read for tomorrow already -- but it very well might not after all, even on the first day, since there is an awful lot to cover.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Summer Schedule

It's summer and everything is now more intense as summer intensives begin... groceries, exercise, and lecture prep make what would have been a lazy Monday in spring term a fairly frenetic Monday in summer term. Enrollments are pretty high this week, and the schedule is densely demanding, we'll see what the community of the classroom will be like soon enough. Here we go.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Brunch with Eric this morning at Piedmont Cafe, back to our routine now that summer school is starting back. We walked to the Morcom Amphitheater of Roses again, and two weeks after our last jaunt the place is miraculously twice as stuffed with roses as before. I hadn't thought it possible to top the splendor of the place our last visit. Unbelievable, such a local treasure. Nice to find the place crawling with couples (and we weren't the only queer ones, nicely enough) and lots of singletons and retirees reading newspapers and potboilers. For once it didn't feel like we're the only ones who know about this stunning, quiet, beautiful place.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


Finished Le Guin's last novel Lavinia last night. It was a weird and wonderful read, beautifully written as always and filled with gentle insights. It makes Lest Darkness Fall feel like reading a cereal box. I've still got a final Hainish and Earthsea novels to read, and several others. I started reading and re-reading all her work a few weeks before she died, and I'm sticking with that endlessly rewarding tribute as this summer wears on. I would be hard pressed to pick my favorite of her works, but Left Hand of Darkness and Five Ways to Forgiveness are definitely in the running. I've got the Orsinian novel and tales to wallow around in still, but may go first with Always Coming Home. What a treasure she was, how I treasure her still!

Friday, May 18, 2018

And Just Like That... summer break is up. Handed in final grades for Spring last week. Prepping next week's Berkeley lectures this afternoon. Euripides, Aristotle, Kant, pragmatism, defining the basics: rhetoric, argument, textuality. This course moves swiftly, I've taught it for years and years by now, we'll see if grandpa can still keep up...

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Organizing texts and lecture notes in preparation for twelve weeks of intensives at Berkeley this summer. "What Is Compelling?" (on argument, persuasion, and obligation) and Green Rhetoric (on environmentalist discourses, identity formations, and theories) are both courses I have taught many times before, and yet all teaching feels different to me post health-crisis and post Trump, my confidence is different, my focus is different, my sense of what teaching theory is good for is different. Still feels rather fraught I must say.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Deadline to Register to Vote in the California Primary Is Looming

Monday, May 14, 2018

Syllabus for My First Berkeley Summer Intensive

This time next week I'll be making last minute preparations for teaching this course. My second intensive at Berkeley starts in July, right after this one concludes. That syllabus is coming right up...

Rhetoric 10: The Rhetoric of Argument 
"What Is Compelling? Argument, Reconciliation, Obligation"

Summer 2018, Session A, 2-4.30pm., Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 150 D Moffit Library

Instructor, Dale Carrico: dcarrico@sfai.edy;;
Course Blog:

Participation/Attendance/In-Class Activities, 25%; Reading Notebook, 15%; Mid-Term Exam, 30%; Final Paper, 5-6pp., 30%. (Rough Basis for Final Grade, subject to contingencies)

Course Description

The arc of the moral universe is a longing... and it bends from just us.

This course provides students with tools they can use to make better, more compelling, arguments and also to read arguments in better, more critical, ways. We will draw the tools for our argumentative toolboxes from the long history of rhetoric, from sophistical dissoi logoi, to the Aristotelian appeals, to Quintilian's four master tropes, to the rich archive of formal and informal fallacies, to argument modeled on litigation via Toulmin's schema, to argument modeled on mediation via Rogerian synthesis, to the pragmatism of the ends of argument. All the while we are workshopping these technical skills we will also be reading and discussing a range of texts that tackle questions of the reach and forms of violence and nonviolence in historical struggle and in everyday life. These texts will likewise draw from a long history, from Immanuel Kant, Martin Luther King, Jr., Frantz Fanon and Hannah Arendt to Arundhati Roy, Judith Butler, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. We will also talk through a play by Euripides, an essay by Nietzsche, a novel by Octavia Butler, a film by Cronenberg… The crucial thing to understand about the course is that we will not be taking on two separate projects, one practical and another theoretical. This course proposes that there is an indispensable relation between the traditional focus of rhetoric as instruction in the art of making compelling arguments and the theoretical preoccupation of many rhetoricians with questions of what violence or compulsion ultimately consists. It is commonplace to see Persuasion offered up as an alternative to the violent adjudication of disputes or hear Argument idealized as a space "outside" of violence. But the truth is that many arguments rely on the acceptance of a violent status quo or depend on conventional assumptions that deny marginal testimonies to violation. Also, many arguments stealthily threaten violence while at once congratulating themselves on their peacefulness. Ultimately, the course proposes that it is rhetoric's definitive concern with the traffic between the literal and figurative dimensions of language and its situated understanding of truth-telling that connects the work of rhetoric with a project of reconciliation that resists violence even as we cannot help but risk it.

A Provisional Schedule of Meetings

Week One

May 22 SKILL SET: Key Definitions
[1] Rhetoric is the facilitation of efficacious discourse as well as an ongoing inquiry into the terms on the basis of which discourse comes to seem efficacious or not.
[2] A text is an event experienced as arising from intention, offered up to the hearing of an audience, and obligating a responsiveness equal to it.
[3] An argument is a claim supported by reasons and/or evidence.
Introductions: Rhetoric as occasional, interested, figurative; The literal as conventional, the figurative as deviant.
May 23 SKILL SET: Reading Critically/Writing Critically; Audience/Intentions -- Audiences: Sympathetic, Unsympathetic, Apathetic; Intentions: Interrogation, Conviction, Persuasion, Reconciliation
Euripides: Hecuba (Here is a link to the last few lines of the play, cut off from the online version for some reason)
May 24 SKILL SET: Aristotelian rhetoric; Ethos, Pathos, Logos; Writing A Precis
Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose

Week Two

May 29 SKILL SET: Four Habits of Argumentative Writing: 1. Formulate a Strong Thesis, 2. Define Your Terms, 3, Substantiate/Contextualize, 4, Anticipate Objections; Performativity
Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
May 30 SKILL SET: The Toulmin Schema
William May, "Rising to the Occasion of Our Death" (In-Class Handout)
Arundhati Roy, War Is Peace
May 31 SKILL SET: Rogerian Rhetoric
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
Logan Rimel, My "Nonviolent" Stance Was Met With Heavily Armed Men

Week Three

June 5 SKILL SET: Logoi Dissoi
Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
Angela Davis, selections from Are Prisons Obsolete? Chapters 1, 2, 6
June 6 SKILL SET: Propositional Analysis; Enthymemes, Syllogisms, Formal Fallacies, Informal Fallacies
June 7 SKILL SET: Literal/Figurative Language; Figures, Tropes, Schemes; Four Master Tropes
Nietzsche, On Truth and the Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense

Week Four

June 12 Mid-Term Examination
June 13 Screening and Discussion of the Film, "A History of Violence," dir. Cronenberg
June 14 SKILL SET: Debate
Correspondence of Tolstoy and Gandhi
Jane Addams, New Ideals of Peace: Passing of the War Virtues

Week Five

June 19 Frantz Fanon, Concerning Violence from The Wretched of the Earth
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, The Case for Reparations
June 20 Hannah Arendt, Reflections On Violence and "Must Eichmann Hang?" (In-Class Handout)
June 21 SKILL SET: Workshopping Final Paper: Producing a Strong Thesis; Anticipating Objections; Providing Textual Support

Week Six

June 26 Octavia Butler, Kindred (Purchase in time for class.)
June 27 Judith Butler, from Undoing Gender, Ch. 1, "Beside Oneself," pp. 17-26, roughly, and the concluding chapter of Precarious Life, pp. 128-151.
June 28 Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Final Paper Due

Friday, May 11, 2018

"Unintended Consequences" In Tech Discourse

I thought this exchange was a useful one:

Yep, That's About The Size of It

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Legalize Recreational Cannabis Everywhere

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

No, You're Not The Only One Thinking It...

Sunday, May 06, 2018


Brunch at the neighborhood Piedmont Cafe as usual with Eric -- delicious! Then a nice walk to the Morcom Rose Garden, one of our favorite places; in the two weeks since our last visit what was a delirious profusion of blooms has exploded into magical madness, four times the roses as before, every imaginable color, and a sweet, citrussy scent you can actually smell well before the garden is even in view... Spending the rest of the day grading, grading, grading... Pleased I have just three papers still awaiting arrival and that all three students are in contact with me and promising the papers are on their way within hours. Famous last words, but maybe this will be a term without undue drama for once. Penny is playing fetch with a new chewy string ball we bought her at the pet store out on the road today. What a fine day!

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Brexiters, Ask Not...

Marvelously graceful and concise, this is Spanish MEP Esteban González Pons on April 24, 2018.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

A Bazillion Times This

Final Prep

Spending the day prepping for tomorrow's final lecture of the term. We're running behind, I spent more time on the Combahee River Collective statement (intersectionality and reparation), Judith Butler (queer performativity and occupation qua democracy), and Carol Adams (vegetarianism and feminism) than expected (which I should have expected) -- tech and ecology and planetarity are all left and that makes for a big bang finale -- of course, most of them are swamped with final projects and will not have done the reading and will just be aching to be released from the classroom as soon as possible. As always, some of the time will be given over to evaluations (a process made much worse by every measure, as is usual, by its recent migration online) and I also like to end early to make time for the long and painful session of excuse-giving and appeals-for-extensions few of which I'll believe but all of which I'll pretend to believe for everybody's sake. Summer intensives are a couple weeks away, onboarding (how I hate that term and all the burgeoning administrivial cruft its appearance testifies to) happens early next week already, then it's time to print syllabi and start prepping readings. No rest for the weary...

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Great Headlines, Asshole, Must Be Infrastructure Week

A market isn't a community.

Markets are not where you find citizens, but mostly marks.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

May Day!

Langston Hughes -- "A Chant for May Day"