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

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

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

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

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

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

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.


And also, Vote.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, October 05, 2018

That Is All (PM Dawn Edition)

Completely unsolicited and unsupported opinion: PM Dawn's The Bliss Album...? (Vibrations of Love and Anger and the Ponderance of Life and Existence), has aged very well, remains lovely and playful and musically stirring, and my obsessive listening to it back in 1993-1994 still makes perfect sense to me.

Today's Nonrandom Wilde (Trump, Pence, Kavanaugh Impeachments Edition)

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Barbara Lee Gives Me Hope...

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Men become old, they never become good.

Barabara Lee Speaks For Me Daily