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

Monday, July 22, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Today's Random Wilde

Be happy, be happy; you shall have your red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart's-blood. All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though she is wise, and mightier than Power, though he is mighty.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

From Wendy Brown's "In the Ruins of Neoliberalism"

Just finished Wendy Brown's new book, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism, the last chapter of which, "No Future For White Men" is a real corker. Here's an excerpt:
The white male supremacism in contemporary traditional values politics becomes explicit, then, not only because nihilism pulls the moral drapery off those values and makes them contractual or instrumentalizable, but also because this supremacy is wounded without being destroyed. Its subject abhors the democracy it holds responsible for its wounds and seeks to pull democracy down as it goes down. Perhaps we are also witnessing how nihilism goes when futurity itself is in doubt... If white men cannot own democracy, there will be no democracy. If while men cannot rule the planet, there will be no planet. Nietzsche was immensely curious about what would come after the two centuries of the intensifying nihilism he expected. But what if there is no "after"?

...[Those] for whom attachments to nation, family, property, and whiteness are mobilized as a political reactionary formation... the toxic mix of nihilism, fatalism, and ressentiment with neoliberal assaults on the social and the political and valorization of markets and morals... this population rages against secular cosmopolitans oriented toward use in place of ownership and embracing racial indeterminacy, gender fluidity, "families we choose," godlessness, open borders, speculation, virtual sociality, and the rootlessness of everyday life. [They] cling to the soil, even if it is planted in suburban lawn devastated by droughts and floods from global warming, littered with the paraphernalia of addictive painkillers, and adjacent to crumbling schools, abandoned factories, terminal futures. Families become shells, ownership and savings vanish, marriages teeter and break, depression, anxiety, and other forms of illness are ubiquitous, religion is commercialized and weaponized, and patriotism is reduced to xenophobic support for troops in aimless, endless wars and useless, but spectacular border barricades. Nation, family, property, and the traditions reproducing racial and gender privilege, mortally wounded by deindustrialization, neoliberal reason, globalization, digital technologies, and nihilism... have been activated mostly by the Right. What kinds of Left political critique and vision might reach and transform them?

Friday, July 19, 2019

Where I'm At When It Comes To The Transhumanists

Today's Random Wilde

Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

"The Fragile Project"

Another indispensable contribution by Adam Serwer (The Cruelty Is The Point is, of course, another recent one), describing what was new for America in Trump's latest racist rally. I was born in 1965 and hope something like the fulfillment of the "fragile project" of equitable, sustainable, democratic polyculture might arrive before I leave this earth -- even as the festival of genocidal cruelty and suicidal denial now threatens to prevail. These passages really struck me:
White nationalism was a formal or informal governing doctrine of the United States until 1965, or for most of its existence as a country. Racist demagogues, from Andrew Johnson to Woodrow Wilson, have occupied the White House. Trump has predecessors, like Calvin Coolidge, who imposed racist immigration restrictions designed to preserve a white demographic majority. Prior presidents, like Richard Nixon, have exploited racial division for political gain. But we have never seen an American president make a U.S. representative, a refugee, an American citizen, a woman of color, and a religious minority an object of hate for the political masses, in a deliberate attempt to turn the country against his fellow Americans who share any of those traits. Trump is assailing the moral foundations of the multiracial democracy Americans have struggled to bring into existence since 1965, and unless Trumpism is defeated, that fragile project will fail... [M]ost of Trump’s predecessors had something he does not yet have: the support of a majority of the electorate. Ilhan Omar’s prominence as a Republican target comes not, as conservatives might argue, simply because her policy views are left-wing... She has emerged as an Emmanuel Goldstein for the Trumpist right because as a black woman, a Muslim, an immigrant, and a progressive member of Congress, she represents in vivid terms a threat to the nation Trumpists fear they are losing. To attack Omar is to attack a symbol of the demographic change that is eroding white cultural and political hegemony, the defense of which is Trumpism’s only sincere political purpose. Many of the president’s most outrageous comments have been delivered extemporaneously, when he departs from his prepared remarks. Last night, though, his attacks on Omar were carefully scripted, written out by his staff and then read off a teleprompter. To defend the remarks as politically shrewd is to confess that the president is deliberately campaigning on the claim that only white people can truly, irrevocably be American. Still, a plurality of Americans in 2016 and 2018 voted against defining American citizenship in racial terms, something that has perhaps never happened before in the history of the United States. There was no anti-racist majority at the dawn of Reconstruction, during the heydey of immigration restriction, or in the twilight of the civil-rights movement. The voters of this coalition may yet defeat Trumpism, if they can find leaders who are willing and able to confront it. That is not a given... The electoral coalition that gave Democrats the House represents perhaps the strongest resistance to the rising tide of right-wing ethnonationalism in the West, yet observe what the party has done with that mandate. The great victory of the House Democrats has been to halt the Republican legislative effort to deprive millions of health care coverage, a feat they accomplished simply by being elected [and even this is a premature declaration of victory given ongoing sabotage and the court cases still pending --d]. But over the past seven months, Democrats have proved unable to complete a single significant investigation, hold many memorable hearings, or pass a single piece of meaningful legislation that curtails Trump’s abuses of authority. Instead, they held their breath waiting for Robert Mueller to save them, and when he did not they, like their Republican predecessors, took to issuing sternly worded statements, tepid pleas for civility, and concerned tweets as their primary methods of imposing accountability.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Today's Random Wilde

[P]rivate property has really harmed Individualism, and obscured it, by confusing a man with what he possesses. It has led Individualism entirely astray. It has made gain not growth its aim. So that man thought that the important thing was to have, and did not know that the important thing is to be. The true perfection of man lies, not in what man has, but in what man is. Private property has crushed true Individualism, and set up an Individualism that is false. It has debarred one part of the community from being individual by starving them. It has debarred the other part of the community from being individual by putting them on the wrong road and encumbering them.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily



Happy belated birthday to my righteous Representative, by the way, I forgot to mention it yesterday!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, July 15, 2019

Today's Random Wilde

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sunday Walk And Brunch

Out and about in the molten blue of sun and sky, a little late to brunch and our diner was nicely emptied out (tho' an obnoxious straight white dude bragging about his world travels made more than enough noise to make up for the silence from the empty seats), then we had a little stroll through quiet sweet St. Mary's cemetery before returning home in time to evade the full afternoon blaze. It's vacation, so I'm trying to be lazy and badly failing at it, larding myself up with extra tasks and duties lest the true horror of actual relaxation manage to take place for the first time in years...

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, July 12, 2019

Vacation

The grades are in, Fall term doesn't begin for a month, and I plan to confine my consumption of Trumpstoopidnazi-epoch "news" to my Representative Barbara Lee's concise and righteous twitter feed. I feel better already.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (Big Picture Edition)

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, July 05, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Today's Random Wilde

To be good, according to the vulgar standard of goodness, is obviously quite easy. It merely requires a certain amount of sordid terror, a certain lack of imaginative thought, and a certain low passion for middle-class respectability.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

When Bigots Get Bored

Hard to imagine anything more pathetic than somebody still trying to troll this low-to-no-content blog.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Happy July 4th (Nazis With Guns And Tanks in the Street Edition)

“Your celebration is a sham. Your national greatness? Swelling vanity. Your sounds of rejoicing are empty, heartless. Your shouts of liberty and equality? Hollow mockery. A thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.“ -- Frederick Douglass "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?"

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Last Teaching Day

Finishing up Rob Nixon's "Slow Violence" on the temporality of environmental and structural violence and then taking up Carol Adams on vegetarianism and intersectional feminism. It's the last lecture, folks are bringing veggie treats for a final potluck/bacchanal while we talk vegetarian theory and practice. Not sure where people's heads will be at -- possibly in an advanced state of exhaustion from all-nighters spent completing their final papers for many of them. I don't mean to formally lecture more than a little bit, we'll see how the conversations unfold informally instead. Perhaps we'll conclude early. I could use a head start on my vacation. (Notice me pretending not to face an arduous grading marathon come tomorrow morning!)

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Teaching Day

Last week of my summer intensive at Berkeley begins today -- it's a week shortened by the holiday, and they are all deep in their final papers, so I'm expecting their reading to be patchy and their moods to be frayed and the class to be a bit ramshackle in consequence. We're shifting from epistemic violence and nonviolent resistence and abolition democracy to environmental violence as a kind of structural violence, reading Slow Violence (Rob Nixon) and a little eco-socialism (John Bellamy Foster) and environmental justice (Robert Bullard). But methodologically the day will be given over to ink-shedding (an in-class workshopping tool) and evals and some scattered notes. I could easily end up spending more time in office hours helping with last-minute panic about final grades and final papers than I do lecturing today...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Today's Random Wilde

Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Promote Supreme Court Justices to "Emeritus" Status at 70

Over at Electoral-Vote.com there was an interesting exchange this morning on the imbalance of the Supreme Court (filled with out-of-step reactionary judges appointed by popular vote losers advocating disenfranchisement exacerbating their unrepresentativeness and hence subverting their mandate and the very idea of the rule of law) proposed a different suggestion than the more usual implausible court-packing and judge-rotation schemes that feel more like click-bait and activist energy-sucks than plausibly actionable campaigns...
QUESTION: Can you think of any reason why Congress could not legislatively define a "senior status" for Supreme Court justices? For example, after age 70, justices could advise, research, write, and give speeches, but would no longer select cases or participate in hearings, case conferences, or decisions. The president would then fill the senior vacancies with additional, active justices. Old justices would not be forcibly retired (possibly in violation of the Constitution), and no Constitutional amendment would be necessary. G.A., Berkeley, CA

REPLY: This is, of course, an alternate way of solving the two problems Bernie Sanders was trying to solve with his "court rotation" scheme, namely: (1) that the composition of the Court has become problematic and highly politicized, and (2) judges can't be terminated unless they are impeached. We think your approach is probably more likely to fly than Sanders' is. As we've pointed out before, there is already precedent for Congress to set a mandatory retirement age: federal law enforcement officers and firefighters must retire at 57, unless given special dispensation. Though it is not well known, there is also precedent for Congress to establish a "you're still active, but with reduced duties" status. Namely, five-star officers are not legally able to retire, and remain on active duty for the remainder of their lives, even if they have no command. We haven't had a five-star officer in a long time, of course, but the precedent is still there. (Note: Dwight D. Eisenhower's commission was suspended while he was president, and then restored the moment he left office). Sanders' proposal would, in the end, result in a demotion for SCOTUS justices. On the other hand, the "senior status" proposal would result in a promotion (albeit a symbolic one) to something like "Justice Emeritus" status. Hard to say how it would play out in court, when the inevitable lawsuits were filed, but this does not seem to automatically run afoul of the terms set by the Constitution or the various Judiciary Acts.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday Walk and Brunch

Lots of Pride flags and smiling faces out and about today. The Rose Garden was more crowded than usual, the breeze coming off the Bay was sweet, shriveled brown-paper roses enrich the vibrant new blooms now that Spring's first long delirium has faded a bit. Just one more week of teaching in prospect, and late summer freedom beckons. All rather lovely. Too bad, you know, about all the Nazis.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, June 28, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily


Barbara Lee endorsed Kamala Harris on day one and I paid attention -- since Barbara Lee is the rarest of beings, a politician I actually respect and trust somewhat -- how lucky she is actually my Representative! As of now, I'm inclining toward favoring Elizabeth Warren. I appreciate her plans and also the fact that she has them and also the fact that she makes a point of having them. But I am glad that Harris had a good debate last night and is now on the rise in the public eye against stale, pale, male mediocrities Biden and Bernie (and the rest). I hope she makes an impressive and compelling case in the space opened up by her performance. She has disappointed me on the trail so far (and there are things in her history that don't thrill me, as is true of them all, honestly, some more than others), but I've been waiting and open for her to change my mind. I do think the debates have also revealed that Castro has been the candidate who has suffered most unfairly from the media infatuation with Beto and Buttgieg. Here's hoping the more stringent requirements for the third debate round cull the also-rans and nudge at least some of them into actually useful Senate runs.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (Twofer Edition)

Teaching Day

I handed back their graded mid-terms Tuesday (that's a one-week turnaround, things move fast in a summer intensive). Yesterday's Debate (their in-class debate, that is, not last night's Democratic scrum overstuffed as it was with pale, stale, male also-rans interrupting Elizabeth Warren) was lively and fun, today they are workshopping their final papers to strengthen their theses and anticipate objections. Next week ends the course and it's a shortened week given the July 4 holiday (can't have any distractions from Dear Leader's tantrum amongst his brass-plated pee-pee guns). Evaluations Tuesday, handing in papers Wednesday and likely early out. So strange, but the last two weeks scarcely feel like they even have time to happen at all.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Teaching Day

Octavia Butler's Kindred and handing back mid-terms this afternoon at Berkeley, circling back to Fanon if there's enough time.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, June 24, 2019

Today's Random Wilde

Lady Hunstanton: But do you believe all that is written in the newspapers?
Lord Illingworth: I do. Nowadays it is only the unreadable that occurs.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday Walk and Brunch

Summer day, grading behind me, we had a lovely lazy brunch at our cafe and then scaled the top of the hill at Mountain View cemetery to look at Oakland and San Francisco spread like a splendid diorama under the blue blaze of cloudless sky. Just a couple weeks remain of my Berkeley intensive. I should spend the rest of the day preparing for it, but I'm inclining toward watching some sfnal schlock while putting a puzzle together instead -- like languid afternoons in summer break when I was a kid. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, June 21, 2019

Grading

Spent this lovely Friday grading mid-term exams for my summer intensives -- they run the gamut this time round, so far a couple of perfect scores as well as a couple in the 50s. Not sure what that is about. Will probably devote much of tomorrow to grading as well. Thank heavens we're doing debate and a writing workshop for their final papers next week -- I only need to prep for one full lecture, which gives me time to get all this grading back to them in a timely fashion. I'll tell you what tho': summer intensives, man. Busy, busy, busy!

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Teaching Day

Another gray Bay day. Nervous since it feels I have two lectures' worth of material on Arendt and Fanon to cover in a single lecture. Dropping an in-class exercise they would enjoy which I had planned would help me manage the time crunch but I have to resist this temptation as I would not have done in the past. In the past I would have just firehosed them with two lectures' worth of material and stunned them with my breadth of knowledge and left them gasping with a series of rapid-fire illuminations with lots of dramatic entertainment value but perhaps less likelihood of abiding understanding and usefulness of application in their own lives... In-class work is crucial to the community of the classroom, I have come to realize; it provides a context for students to process ideas in small groups together rather than just having me drone on and on at them for three hours... I used to really resist group work and even brief silences would be enough to send me out of discussion mode into fully-controlled lecturing. I liked to feel I was working harder than my students were -- I guess because that felt like earning my keep or looking like I know what I'm doing by keeping everything under control. Although Chatty Cathy remains my default lecture setting -- ask any of my students -- with each passing year I realize more and more how wrongheaded I have been -- that students learn best when they're working harder than me, that students learn more by working their way to their own compromises than hearing my luminously polished arguments, that a silence isn't a reproach but a communication of discomfort or difficulty that it is useful to dwell in, nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. It's not that I don't have things to say that they need to hear and some of which they won't hear if they are doing in-class work instead, all of that's as true as it ever was. But it's no less true that there are things they can only bring themselves to hear after they process them together through in-class work and discussions and I just need to set aside the ego that used to make me think my job was to fill every second of time with the sound of my voice rather than to facilitate learning for a diversity of students with a diversity of histories, aims, learning styles via a diversity of pedagogical strategies...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Teaching Day

Cool and gray, outside the sleeves are long and some are donning light jackets. We're screening and discussing Cronenberg's film "A History of Violence" today, a post-9/11 allegory with new resonances (for me at any rate) post-Ferguson. Usually the discussion is pretty lively and I'm looking forward to it. Teaching is feeling a bit less like an ordeal, whatever its intensity this summer, which makes for a nice change. Perhaps it all comes down to the brutal basic fact of the matter that I've gotten seven or more hours of sleep every night in a row for a whole week -- a feat I've managed only a couple of times this last few years since that damn health-scare hospitalization and then the, er, ongoing grotesque Trump episode we're living through.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (Juneteenth Edition With A Warren Chaser)



Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Teaching Day

Mid-terms, so a light load today, a grading marathon tomorrow. Summer intensives move fast!

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, June 17, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sunday Walk and Brunch

A lovely, lazy day... long, languid summer shadows, sweet cool breezes, nothing like so purgatorial as last week's blaze. My summer intensive is halfway through, and the upcoming week is a little less frenetic for me. I've already finished crafting the mid-term exam I'll be administering Tuesday, on Wednesday we're screening and discussing Cronenberg's "A History of Violence," which I've taught many times by now. Only Thursday's lecture on Arendt and Fanon looks demanding, really. Things are truly racing along now -- this time next week I'll be grading mid-terms, prepping an Octavia Butler novel, and getting ready for them to workshop their final papers. By then, it's like accelerating to the finish line. A nice distraction from the grotesque enraging demoralizing endless illegalities and immoralities and inanities of Trumpmerica, I must say.

Barbara Lee Speaks for Me Daily

Early Buzz

BBC Science:
Researchers have uncovered the earliest known evidence of cannabis use, from tombs in western China. The study suggests cannabis was being smoked at least 2,500 years ago, and that it may have been associated with ritual or religious activities... The cannabis had high levels of the psychoactive compound THC, suggesting people at the time were well aware of its effects. Cannabis plants have been cultivated in East Asia for their oily seeds and fibre from at least 4,000 BC. But the early cultivated varieties of cannabis, as well as most wild populations, had low levels of THC and other psychoactive compounds. The burners, or braziers, were found at Jirzankal Cemetery, high up in the Pamir Mountains. The scientists think ancient people put cannabis leaves and hot stones in the braziers and inhaled the resulting smoke. It's possible the high altitude environment caused the cannabis plants in this region to naturally produce higher levels of THC. There's evidence this can happen in response to low temperatures, low nutrient levels and other conditions associated with high elevations. But people could have deliberately bred plants with higher levels of THC than wild varieties. It's the earliest clear evidence of cannabis being used for its psychoactive properties. The plants appear to have been burnt as part of funerary rituals... The findings tally with other early evidence for the presence of cannabis from burials further north, in the Xinjiang region of China and in the Altai Mountains of Russia... Nicole Boivin, director at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, said: "The findings support the idea that cannabis plants were first used for their psychoactive compounds in the mountainous regions of eastern Central Asia, thereafter spreading to other regions of the world."

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Today's Random Wilde

Nowadays we are all of us so hard up that the only pleasant things to pay are compliments. They're the only things we can pay.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Let Them Eat Disruption

After a generation of Reagan Republican neo-feudalist Randroidal asshole "Idea Guys" dismantled the New Deal and Great Society for short term-cash, the next generation of neo-feudalist techbro VC "thought leader" hustlers dismantled what was left of society for short-term cash again. We praise and coddle them to this day, as they kill us day after day after day after day. It isn't exactly a mystery how we got here or where this is all going.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Hot Summer Nights

Not the insomniac's friend.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Wilde on Impeachment

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

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, June 10, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Intensive

This week we finish our discussion of King, begin a discussion of Foucault, continue to a discussion of Angela Davis, and then move on to discuss Nietzsche. As if that weren't enough, Wednesday introduces propositional analysis (and enthymemes, formal and informal fallacies), Thursday digs deeper into figures, tropes, and schemes. You'd think I would be a bit daunted, but honestly we're covering so much so quickly I don't really have time to worry about getting behind or making mistakes, it's just three hours of theoretical ideas and critical tools firehosed relentlessly at them day after day after day till we're done for the weekend. Exhausting tho' it can be, my favorite part is just how useful and provocative all this stuff is. One really feels oneself making a difference, providing practical reading and writing tools, stunning people with abolitionist and Nietzschean provocations.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday Walk And Brunch

Summer! Basking in blazing light, strolled to the Rose Garden again... it's always beautiful, but these early summer weekends it's an avalanche of blooms, I just want to keep coming back week after week just to see the technicolor spectacle caper along the color wheel. Our diner was bustling, the Pride t-shirts are coming out, people seem rather cheery -- one almost forgets Trump is President and millions of our fellow citizens are fucking Nazis and Nazi collaborators. My summer intensive is already one third through and next week we'll be barreling toward the mid-term. Time flies when you're skidding feet first into the grave! Feeling comparatively cheerful amidst the gathering smouldering ruins this lovely day.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (Impeach The Bigot Idiot Con Man Who Lost The Popular Vote And Loves Nazis Edition)

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Winning the Senate Through DC and PR Statehood: From Your Lips To Goddess' Ears

Geoffrey Skelley:
It’s been 60 years since a new state entered the union, but now Democrats and liberals are accelerating efforts to gain statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. One of their motivations is the future of the U.S. Senate, which is currently biased toward the Republican Party. The logic goes that if Democrats can get unified control of the federal government after the 2020 election, they could push through statehood for both, adding four more seats to the Senate, and all four would likely be Democratic leaning. That might seem far-fetched, but the U.S. has a rich history of partisan state-making.
Like the ruinously entrenched conservative court, ending the anti-democratic skew of sparsely populated States in Congressional representation and the Electoral College requires a kind of hardball from Democrats I find it hard to imagine (the long shot of winning the Senate in 2020 despite GOP shenanigans followed by ending the Senate filibuster would surely be required at a minimum), but perhaps Trumpism will have steeled sufficient spines if and when the time comes to act...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

The Solution To Homelessness Is Housing the Homeless

Watch it work in Helsinki, or simply continue to mutilate your soul hopelessly observing the ubiquity of human suffering everywhere around you while fearing the day it comes stalking for you...

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, June 03, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

DC Statehood

Electoral-vote.com:
In every term since 1991, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has introduced a statehood bill for the District. These have gotten nowhere, but she isn't giving up. At a Memorial Day event at the D.C. War Memorial, Norton pointed out that 30,000 D.C. residents are veterans, yet the 700,000 people who live there have no vote in whether the country goes to war. Norton is a member of several House committees, but she can't vote on bills. And, of course, D.C. has no senators. This time might be different. Her bill, dubbed H.R. 51 (since D.C. would be the 51st state), has a chance to at least pass the House, since House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) now supports it. The bill also has over 200 Democratic cosponsors, If it passes the House, it will die in the Senate because Mitch McConnell will never let a vote come up. He knows very well that if D.C. becomes a state, it would elect two black Democrats to the Senate (and one black Democrat—probably Norton—to the House). Although D.C. has more residents than Wyoming or Vermont, when it comes to votes in Congress, it has none. Nevertheless, if the House does pass the bill, the fight for "no taxation without representation" could come back again and it could play a role in the 2020 election. If the Democrats capture the House and Senate in 2020 and the Republicans filibuster the same bill in 2021, it will be embarrassing explaining why over 700,000 Americans (of which 63% are minorities) shouldn't have senators or a voting representative. One (weak) defense is that Art. 1 Sec. 9 of the Constitution states that states shall cede land (not exceeding ten miles square) for the seat of government. However, the boundaries of the new state could easily be drawn to exclude the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court, which would remain in the District.
PR and DC Statehood is straightforward enfranchisement, basic decency, plain good sense, and amounts to Democratic partisan hardball against Nazi Republicans, there is nothing but upside in pushing for it every day till we die.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday Walk and Brunch

Summertime walks between summer intensives... the grey morning gave way to a lazy afternoon on Piedmont Avenue, not too many folks about, billions of bugs and fragrant petals to keep us company tho'. The first week's teaching went well, it's a smaller class than usual but fortunately lots of bright voices and curiosity and enthusiasm make in-class workshops and discussions buzz along nicely. Now I've got a little cookie-jar shaped cat purring between my arms as I tap away at the keyboard and contemplate next week's lesson plans...

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Intensity

Summer intensives have begun at Berkeley. As I told my students yesterday, each class covers a week of the material I'd teach in the regular term, each week we cover about three weeks of material. Intensives are, in a word, intense. Good thing I'm not a tense person (guffaws all around). Today it's Euripides' Hecuba, also we're workshopping audiences/intentions, at once deploying and pressuring these notions, and the pragmatic "aims of argument", interrogation, conviction, persuasion, reconciliation. Tomorrow, it's Kant's "Sketch of History With A Cosmopolitan Purpose" and an overview of Aristotelian rhetoric, his propositional account of emotion (precursor to CBT and reductive AI discourse?), his fear of the disruptive force of refiguration (hence, metaphors as shortened similes), his rhetorical accounting of political time (forensic/past, deliberative/future, epideictic/present), the registers of the logical, the tropological, and the topical and the ways they correspond to the Aristotelian biggies: logos, pathos, ethos... Feeling tired already.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, May 27, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Back To School

First week of Berkeley summer intensives begins tomorrow -- prepping like mad, already in the weeds!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

No War With Iran!

Things are going to get worse before they get better, people:
Vice President Mike Pence warned West Point graduates on Saturday to expect combat at some point during their service in a “dangerous” world... “It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen,” Pence said. “Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region.” He warned: “Some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere ... When that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns.” Pence’s words were particularly ominous [you think?!?--d] amid rising tensions in U.S. relations with some other nations. President Donald Trump has vowed to back a coup in Venezuela. He has adopted a more bellicose tone toward Iran and announced the deployment of an additional 1,500 troops to the Mideast. Ignoring objections from some lawmakers, he’s also bypassing congressional review and allowing the sale of billions of dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. military remains in Afghanistan in the longest war in U.S. history, and 4,400 troops are now stationed at the border with Mexico. Trump has tried to broker a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea ― bending over backward to praise that nation’s brutal dictator, Kim Jing Un -- but so far the president has little to show for his efforts. Pence in his speech touted increases in defense spending under Trump and aid the U.S. “is once again embracing our role as the leader of the free world.” He also called Trump the “best friend the men and women of our armed forces will ever have.” That praise came as the president has been slammed in recent days by former top military leaders for reportedly planning to pardon several service members accused of war crimes.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Presidential Mediocrity Pile-Up

I know this Dan Zak piece has been doing the rounds, so you've probably already read it, but it's doing the rounds for a reason: we all sense the stupid icky truth of it all:
Steve Bullock is not John Hickenlooper, and John Hickenlooper is not Jay Inslee, but they do blend seamlessly into a haze of slight jowls and ruddy whiteness, such that if you puree their chromosomes in a laboratory, you might get Michael Bennet, who is also running for president, even though you can’t remember who he is or what he looks like. It is also important to note that Seth Moulton is not Tim Ryan, and Tim Ryan is not Eric Swalwell -- but they might as well be, because each of them is an avatar of ish-ness: young-ish, handsome-ish and nonexistent-ish, with each polling close to zero in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, which feels like it started a generation ago and will probably continue until your uncle declares, too, sometime during Thanksgiving dinner later this year. Now add Bill de Blasio to the mix, because Bill de Blasio added himself to the mix Thursday, because what we need right now is Bill de Blasio in the mix, running for president...
This expresses at the tonal level of contemporary punditry-qua-celebrity-gossip a comparable and far more serious mediocrity of policy substance or imaginative heft across the sprawl of these pale, stale, male also-rans. A feeling of eerie unequalness to the urgent tasks we truly and collectively face. Now, I'm still personally quite impressed by Elizabeth Warren's campaign and I'm still keeping my eyes on Kamala Harris' superior organization, and I guess it is edifying that they are both settling into the middle of the pack of Democratic contenders for now, well beneath Biden and Bernie (neither of whom excite me at all, except my occasional disgust, tho' of course I will instantly vote for either against the execrable authoritarian bigot Trump), but well within contention as campaign vicissitudes begin to tell. The Republicans are terrifying me, the Democrats are disappointing me (in ways that are also a bit terrifying): this has been true since I came into political awareness in the 80s, of course, but like everything in Trump-stage, that is to say probably terminal stage, America everything is just that much more surreally worse.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Compostable

via BBC:
Washington has become the first state in the US to legalise human composting. Under the new law, people there can now choose to have their body turned into soil after their death. The process is seen as an alternative to cremations and burials, and as a practical option in cities where land for graveyards is scarce. At the end of the composting, loved ones are given the soil, which they can use in planting flowers, vegetables or trees. The bill was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on Tuesday...  Katrina Spade, who lobbied for the law to be introduced, founded a company that could be the first to provide the service. "Recomposition offers an alternative to embalming and burial or cremation that is natural, safe, sustainable, and will result in significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage[.]"
Sign me up the minute it is legal in California. Feed me to a plum, ginkgo, apple-pear, or maple tree, and I might manage to facilitate after death some small beauty in and healing of the world. Would go some way to compensate my many ineptitudes trying the same in life.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday Walk and Brunch

Sunnier skies allowed our postponed weekend jaunt -- Piedmont Avenue was a bit less laid back on a weekday but nothing can stopper the magic of our Rose Garden. Eric's been taking pictures on our walks lately. Perhaps I'll soon add a few to the mix here. It's the week break between my teaching terms -- handed in grades at the end of last week, start teaching at the beginning of the next -- but I've got an early-morning "onboarding" session to manage this week and there's a lot of prep happening, so the break feels a bit broken. Already trying to figure out how to cover a lot of ground in just a few weeks of this intensive...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Rain Check

A rainy morning and gray waterlogged stormclouds rolling slowly overhead have scared us off our usual Sunday brunch and stroll, but it's the break between terms so we can always postpone to tomorrow when the (oft-wrong) atmosfuturists forecast more sunny weather for us... Eric and I spent the night having cannabinoidally-inflected retro-fun in the year of my birth, 1965, with Doctor Who, the Avengers, and the Thunderbirds. Add in a Beatles soundtrack and D & D and it's a lot like my junior high experience.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Syllabus For My Upcoming Berkeley Intensive: "What Is Compelling?"

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

Summer 2019, Session A, 2-4.30pm., Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 88 Dwinelle Hall

Instructor, Dale Carrico: dcarrico@sfai.edy; ndaleca@gmail.com;
Course Blog: http://whatiscompelling.blogspot.com

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 28 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 29 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 30 SKILL SET: Aristotelian rhetoric; Ethos, Pathos, Logos; Writing A Precis
Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose

Week Two

June 4  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
June 5 SKILL SET: The Toulmin Schema
William May, "Rising to the Occasion of Our Death" (In-Class Handout)
Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
Arundhati Roy, War Is Peace
June 6 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

supplemental/referenced texts this week:

Henry David Thoreau, A Plea for Captain John Brown
Howard Zinn, On Henry David Thoreau and When To Resist An Immoral State 
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam
Ella Baker, Bigger Than A Hamburger
Combahee River Collective Statement

Week Three

June 11 SKILL SET: Logoi Dissoi
Michel Foucault, from Discipline and Punish The Body of the Condemned, Docile Bodies, Panoptism
Angela Davis, selections from Are Prisons Obsolete? Chapters 1, 2, 6
June 12 SKILL SET: Propositional Analysis; Enthymemes, Syllogisms, Formal Fallacies, Informal Fallacies (short day)
June 13 SKILL SET: Literal/Figurative Language; Figures, Tropes, Schemes; Four Master Tropes
Nietzsche, On Truth and the Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense

supplemental/referenced texts this week:

Angela Davis, Abolition Democracy
Nietzsche, selections from The Gay Science

Week Four

June 12 Mid-Term Examination
June 13 Screening and Discussion of the Film, "A History of Violence," dir. Cronenberg
June 14 Hannah Arendt, Reflections On Violence and "Must Eichmann Hang?" (In-Class Handout)
Frantz Fanon, Concerning Violence from The Wretched of the Earth
supplemental/referenced texts this week:
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, The Case for Reparations
Hannah Arendt on forgiveness from The Human Condition

Week Five

June 19 Octavia Butler, Kindred (Purchase in time for class. ISBN-10: 0807083690 ISBN-13: 978-0807083697)
June 20 SKILL SET: Debate
Correspondence of Tolstoy and Gandhi
Jane Addams, New Ideals of Peace: Passing of the War Virtues 
June 21 SKILL SET: Workshopping Final Paper: Producing a Strong Thesis; Anticipating Objections; Providing Textual Support

supplemental/referenced texts this week:

Mohandas K. Gandhi, The Meaning and Practice of Ahimsa
Karuna Matena, The Power of Nonviolence
Gene Sharp, How Nonviolent Struggle Works 
Rev. William Barber, The Third Reconstruction

Week Six

June 26 Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Introduction, pp. [1]-44.)
John Bellamy Foster, The Four Laws of Ecology and the Four Anti-Ecological Laws of Capitalism
June 27 Carol Adams, Preface from Neither Man Nor Beast and Manifesto {Bacchanal}
Final Paper Due

Friday, May 17, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily


Beyond Grading

Handed in final grades -- nobody failed, nobody super late, nobody phoned it in, marvelous! Now, the usual celebration:

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Grading, Grading

Second verse, same as the first.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Silly Season

I'll vote for Biden against Trump in a heartbeat, but I must say I find him nearly the most dismal of the contenders presently on offer. All these mediocre male also-rans making their bids at crafting a higher PR/$$$ profile by blowing millions on quixotic Presidential runs while indispensable Senate seats languish without serious candidates is rather disgusting and even a bit demoralizing. I've got a terrible feeling about the way 2020 is shaping up. In literally every way that matters, Biden is worse than HRC was, but, you know, patriarchy, so. Elizabeth Warren is by far the best candidate out there for now on the substance and Kamala Harris continues to be organizationally savvy and sharp (if less inspiring on the trail so far than I'd like). I guess people want to fight the last war as usual, and Biden offers the clearest way to a 2016 do-over (sure, Biden would likely have beat Trump -- because misogyny, mostly -- and for all I know might manage the trick in 2020 however dismal, and my god is it dismal, his track record on the campaign trail). Everything points to a Republican right-wing appeal to the basest instincts of its brainless bigot bully base coupled with utter ruthless lawlessness (with all the terrifying historical parallels in tow) against a Democratic "centrist" demobilization of its reliable base of black women and queers and liberal arts majors and disregard (and disenfranchisement) of the rising reachable coalition of secularizing diversifying precarizing nonvoters alienated by the quixotic chasing of mythical "Independents" and, worse, "Obama-Trump" voters. One side is playing kill or be killed, the other side wants to play let's all get along. In the background, climate change is the pressure cooker undermining reasonableness at every turn, storms and pandemic and resource descent and disruption send more and more scurrying into fight or flight with each passing year... with nice ruthless authoritarian strongmen ready in the wings to play "populist" scapegoating cards to abet world-historical thefts and frauds while the world burns. History is in the balance. The silly season (which was already little more than reality tv even before a real reality tv con-artist came to star in the thing) is not the proper space in which to adjudicate these stakes, but it's what we've got. Maybe things will turn out for the best. Rhetoric equal to the moment is on the tips of more tongues than ever, millions are mobilized. I can't see dismal figures like Biden, Bernie, Buttigieg, Beto, Bennett and the rest of the Boys doing much to direct that energy and knowledge into real change, but maybe we the people can do so with them or without them. Still have my fingers crossed that the debates may yield a Warren and/or Harris surge, or slap some sense into certain superannuated old straight white dudes that they've done enough damage already. But I'm not holding my breath. Oh, wait, I actually am. I should stop that, it's making me dizzy. Silly season.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Grading

Grading, grading, grading, grating, grading.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Good-Bye Doris Day

Catch a falling star. So damn good, her "Little Girl Blue" gives even Sarah Vaughan a run for her money.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (Mother's Day Edition)

Sunday Walk and Brunch

Our favorite spot, the Morcom Amphitheatre of Roses was a riot of fragrant blooms, and thronged for once with folks, lots of Moms and families and grandkids I imagine. After a lovely walk and brunch, the chatter of happy conversation was like the peal of chimes. You know, things are looking up. Friday's lecture went reasonably well, ended the Spring term, and then I was informed that a student organization voted me an Outstanding Instructor this year again. That's especially bolstering because I've really worried my teaching has been a bit dreary this year. Theory saved my life when I was a young queer without the words to explain why I deserved to take up space in a world that seemed to despise me, and part of the reason I have kept up teaching is to try to communicate the beauty and gratitude and provocation of theory for others... But in these last few years, what with my idiotic health emergency, then the hideous Trump election and its ruinous aftermath and the slimy realities it has exposed to the spotlight, and then my Dad's death from early rapid onset dementia a few months back on top of everything else have all undermined my faith in my choices (so many of which have come to seem precarious), my faith in the work of creative expressivity and critical thought to bring us forward together in spite of the ease of parochial short sighted greed and fear, my confidence in the power of my own words to be of some help to my students, to testify to the texture of our moment's distress, to clarify the stakes of our shared perplexity... I've been so depressed for so long by now that it has seemed hard to be interested in much of anything (thank heavens for Eric and Penny and the sfnal preoccupations I've made escapist recourse to all my life): and failing to be interested is unfailingly to be uninteresting. Anyway, it has turned out that teaching went well enough after all. The final papers are arriving more or less on time for once. And the papers really don't seem phoned in. They are making an effort, they are earnestly grappling with the texts and ideas. My students may have seemed bored out of their skulls quite a lot of the time, but clearly they were listening and reading after all. And this teaching award was something of a shock on top of that. A nice weird little flabbergasting shock. Maybe things are going to be all right after all.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, May 10, 2019

Last Teaching Day

More or less recovered from my cold, going into the City for my last lecture of the Spring term, a rather raggedy survey of texts we hadn't quite gotten to yet, a bit more ecology then Judith Butler and a little Gayatri Spivak. Hope it will manage to end up more coherent than that recapitulation suggests but what will be will be. I'm exhausted even before grading begins and I'm sure they are feeling much the same, pulling all-nighters to finish up papers and final projects, but I like to put some kind of bow on a course at the end come what may. It's been rather dismal and gray the last few days and today looks to be the same. I won't be sad to put this term behind me, but I'm hoping things start looking up soon. Trumpmerica is a gross demoralizing relentless drag.