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

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Trump Hump Day

If I am not mistaken, Donald Trump was inaugurated President of the United States two years ago today. Two years from now, the next President will be. Whether he gets impeached or voted out, this long nightmare must end, we must end Trump Republicanism before Trump Republicanism ends us. Things are looking a bit better than they did in the depths of two years ago, but these two years ahead of us still look like quite a scary slog.

Sunday Balk

Another Sunday too gray and drizzly for our weekly walk and brunch, looks like. Winter in the Bay Area, such as it is. Next week teaching resumes and my unwelcome companion, the butterflies of stagefright, have returned after leaving me in relative peace for the marvelously restorative weeks of this holiday break... Looking forward to seeing familiar student faces, getting back to walking the City streets for work, taking in married life I suppose.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Happy Birthday, Penny!

Although we scooped up our bright bold beautiful kitten in April last year, Penny is one year old today according to the papers she came with. She remains a devil and a delight.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, January 18, 2019

Married, Unburied

After seventeen years together, Eric and I got married this Wednesday afternoon at the Alameda County Clerk Recorder's Office. I still regard heterosexual marriage as a vestige of human trafficking and I still disapprove the commercial romance industry and its indoctrination of people through fantasies of dysfunctional completion via matrimonial control, etc etc etc. But I'm in my early-50s now, Eric's in his mid-40s and cobbling together taxes and scattered savings accounts and insurance policies and so on in the time of Trumpublican shenanigans seemed practically useful, more or less for the same reasons getting our domestic partnership made sense fifteen years ago when we did that. This was just a supplementation and clarification and expansion of that earlier status. That is what we have been telling each other. And yet. And yet.

And yet... Okay, so Eric and I have been together for nearly twenty years now (our 18th anniversary is just a few weeks away), we've been through a lot together, Eric matters to me in a way nobody else or anything else does. I don't even make sense as a person apart from the story of Eric and I and our years together at this point... And, okay, yes, there was indeed something more than administrivially and pragmatically useful in the marriage license and ceremony as it actually happened... It's hardly something I can recommend as a universally useful or relevant experience, certainly, there are lots of ways of making a sexual, romantic, social, personal life that makes every kind of sense than getting married (not to mention many ways of being married), but just being there with my best friend and holding his hands and saying the words in front of a judge, having my friend (and teaching colleague) Carolyn there as our witness -- she took the great photo you see at the end of the post! -- all the wonderful clerks and volunteer judges who walked us through the forms and ceremonies with their beaming smiles and professionalism, even just the very idea of this public affirmation of the reality of our shared love and our shared lives as a force the community is built of and building of was unexpectedly powerful... Eric and I both got misty-eyed holding hands and promising we'd support one another, it was hard not to think of recent illnesses, and breakdowns, and political fears, and economic struggles, and how strong we are together now, and just feeling that being recognized in an institutional way was weird and odd and powerful and moving...

Again, there are lots of reasons to be suspicious of marriage as an institution. Its history is patriarchal, the intergenerational transmission of power over the world by men through their possession of the world as property via their possession of women as property. To this day, marriage is suffused with reprosexual, cisheteronormative, possessive, paranoid, reductive, sentimental norms and forms that have done far more harm than good, been far more falsifying than truth-enabling. Maybe queering the institution renders it less harmful, more capacious. I don't know. Be all that as it may, however, it turns out marrying Eric was not just a handy lifehack. It was a wonderfully validating recognition of what matters most to us in a world we didn't expect that to matter to, a world that is, in this respect at least, a better world than the one we were born in and grew up in. It was bolstering. It was lovely. It was a good day. I love Eric. I got married to him this week. I love Oakland, California. That's where we live together and where we are loved together. Take that, all y'all Trumpmerican bullybigot greedhead knownothing motherfuckers!


Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

That Would Be So Nice

"This charge is different," declares Adam Serwer (and a million others today it seems): “While evidence that the Trump campaign sought to assist the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 election, and that the president then sought to hamper the federal investigation into that effort, has been in public view for some time, evidence that the president directed Cohen to lie to Congress would be something different entirely, a claim that the president conspired to commit a crime in pursuit of personal financial gain. Republicans have tried their best to set expectations so that only the clearest and most shocking of acts would qualify as criminal—and Trump’s reported actions not only meet but exceed them.... The report, if verified, provides a potentially simple narrative for a story that has often seemed complicated: Trump sought to profit from a real-estate deal in Moscow, and so defended Russia against accusations of interference, and then directed his personal attorney to commit perjury to cover up what he had done.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Listening to Blue...

....with a purring cat in my lap. So very nice.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, January 14, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Today's Random Wilde

To be really mediæval one should have no body. To be really modern one should have no soul. To be really Greek one should have no clothes.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Two Minute Warning

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Sure, I'd Consider Voting For A Straight White Man. Just Not That One...

...is something I plan to be saying a lot this Democratic primary season.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, January 11, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Highly (Bonus Daily)



Today's Random Wilde

There is no mode of action, no form of emotion, that we do not share with the lower animals.

I Stole The Tee Vee

Watching a lot of tee vee over this vacation, and I can feel sanity and strength restoring me show by show by show... Given the fact that one of the shows I'm enjoying most at the moment is "The Masked Singer" (which has spectacle to watch as your evil empire dies around you written all over it) demonstrates amply that sanity can be forged from the contemplation of the fever dreams of insanity. As a Doctor Who fan this comes as no great surprise.

Now that the season of holiday baking competitions is over, we are watching the tattered remains of the format left to us, for now, "Kids Baking Championship" and a Giada de Laurentiis gargoyle called "Winner Cake All." Speaking of gargoyles, we are giving Mama Ru her due this All-Stars as well. We are not young enough to declare the show has jumped the shark, tho' we do give it the occasional stink eye in between continued gaggings as our favorite queens never seem to win anymore. I'm also enjoying the last season of the turgid melodrama "Versailles," which I found OnDemand and binged in a few gory days.

Finished the most recent season of "Call the Midwife" a couple of days ago, a show which despite (oh, go ahead, admit it, because of) its cloying and clumsy sentimentality was probably my favorite show for a couple of its seasons -- an account of the emergence of the NHS and welfare state in 50s Britain, an earnest repudiation of the easy cynicism of Obama technocrats, Bernie fauxvolutionaries, and the trolls across the white supremacist/cisheteronormative GOP-to-libertechian right. The last two seasons haven't worked as well for me, as the many talented and wonderful actresses of the sprawling ensemble all seem too busy to actually assemble and the show scatters into isolated stories instead punctuated by sudden deaths and other weird vanishing acts that make the whole show more disrupted than bolstering. I was quite stunned however when the show ended with the cast gathered before the tube as we hear the announcement on the BBC of Kennedy's assassination and the sisters switched off the television right as the delayed opening broadcast of the premier episode of Doctor Who (I do believe?) was about to suffuse Nonnatus House with the hum of the TARDIS in the stunningly weird and wonderful opening of "An Unearthly Child," a collision of televisual narrative designed as it were especially for me, at exactly the time I would most benefit from the collision...

Anyway, I've got just one week before spring courses resume. Next week I've got syllabi to prune and print, links to burnish, thesis drafts to read, lectures to pull out of mothballs and rework, and much more. The lovely long relaxation in front of the tube with a cat on my lap under a faux-fur comforter popping strawberries and nonpareils in my mouth is, alas, nearly over...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Today's Random Wilde

It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.

I Don't Feed The Trolls Anymore

Oh, the sweet swift thrill I get deleting comments from trolls the moment I come upon even a smidge of Trump normalization, GOP and Dem false equivalency theses, or fauxvolutionary demoralization theatricals!

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (Shithole Shutdown Continues Idiotically On Edition)

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Drop In The Bucket

Electoral-Vote.com:
The observation has been made, quite a few times, that relative to the overall federal budget, the $5 billion Donald Trump wants for wall construction is a drop in the bucket... [A]nother way to look at it is to consider what $5 billion might pay for, and whether or not those things are more valuable than a wall. The National Priorities Project has put together such a list. Here are some other things the federal government could do with $5 billion:
  • Provide a year's worth of Medicaid for 1.4 million people
  • Increase federal spending on renewable energy by 250%
  • Increase the EPA's funding by 60%
  • Put 90,000 people to work for one year repairing America's infrastructure
  • Increase federal funding for K-12 public schools by 30%
  • Fund the National Endowment for the Arts until 2051
  • Double heating assistance for low-income households
  • Double federal funding for substance abuse and mental health treatment
  • Accept 11 times more refugees than in 2018
  • Double funding for citizenship and immigration services
Under the circumstances, none of those is likely to happen, particularly the last two. However, the next time someone says "It's only $5 billion," it's worth keeping this list in mind.
Also, it  pays to remember, well, you know, that there is no national emergency; that this is a facile media stunt that everybody knows is a facile media stunt whether they are admitting this or not; that Trump is a grotesque liar; that he lies on his signature issue of immigration, especially, given the relentlessly demonstrated racism of his straight white evangelical greedhead bigot base; that there is no real "wall" that could "work" on the terms its "advocates" declare (this advocacy is a cynical trolling exercise in any case, like most things most Republicans have said they care about for over a generation by now) and no legitimate "work" a "wall" would do even if it could work, which it can't; that America needs more immigration if we are to sustain our public services and payments in a demographically graying population; that America is and has always been a nation of immigrants; that American diversity is one of the few things this nation could actually be proud of if we could get our goddamned act together; that an America truly welcoming refugees from catastrophe, tyranny, bigotry, violence, and exploitation around the world would be truly worth celebration; that immigrants cause none of the problems for which racist Republicans (and their many enablers outside the GOP) scapegoat them and are a source of life, beauty, delight, intelligence, production, resilience, and progress in this country to be supported, encouraged, and celebrated. But, you know.

So Funny I Forgot To Laugh



For two years all conversations have sounded like this.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (National Emergency Edition)

Trump Is The Emergency

Greg Sargent:
President Trump appears to be moving closer to declaring a national emergency to build the wall he craves on the southern border. Whether or not he does this, the idea that we face such an emergency is his central public case for the wall, and so his commitment to this notion is a key reason we’re embroiled in a government shutdown, with all the damage it is doing. But... it is overwhelmingly clear that the real national emergency that Trump and his allies have discerned is an emergency that threatens him... Trump’s wall is his central unfilled campaign promise, but it’s also a talisman for everything that Trumpism embodies and a chief source of his bond with his base, which he will need as his legal and political travails mount. But Trump’s public case for the wall has collapsed entirely, and much of the rest of the political system has rejected it, boxing him into a political corner with no escape. That’s the emergency. The formal declaration of a national emergency, allowing him a shot at building it unilaterally, might end up being the only way of bailing out the wall -- and with it, bailing out himself. We know all of this to be the case, because the basic facts are all out there confirming it, but it’s all so saturated in madness and bad faith that we grope for ways to convey it faithfully. The big story, which is everywhere for all to see, is that Trump and his advisers cannot justify the wall as Trump envisions it in any remotely credible way; that this is becoming harder to mask with lies; and that for Trump Nation, this really is an emergency.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (Shithole Shutdown Edition)

HR1 Is Quite A Thing

Sunday, January 06, 2019

State of the Blog, State of the Blogger

In years past, I followed the usual custom of offering up in the first days of the new year a list of posts from the prior year that had either attracted the most attention or which I thought deserved more attention. But, again this year like last year, I haven't really used the blog to post longform reflections or polemical critiques as I once did here, so there seemed little point in all that.

While I still teach histories and philosophies of "technology" and devote quite a lot of my pedagogy to critiquing the bigotry and fraud of reactionary tech-talk, design-talk, innovation-talk, cyborg rugged-individualization, and all that, it is also true that I haven't felt like sparring with stoopid transhumanoids and futurologists hereabouts for a few years. As I already testified last year, the lies of the futurists are exposed in mainstream media publications on an hourly basis these days now that "the singularity" turns out to have been little more than the stupid refeudalization of the postwar economy while we were distracted by the spectacle of Jeff Bezos re-inventing the Sears catalogue and google/facebook turning cyberspace, "Home of Mind," back into broadcast television. Also, too, there are Nazis and racists and evangelicals and patriarchal pricks online. You may have noticed this. Books like Pasquale's Black Box Society and Safiya Noble's Algorithms of Oppression are the sorts of serious scholarship called for by this moment, not the sorts of jeremiads of satirical demolition and conceptual engagement I liked to specialize in.

Maybe the EU's GDPR is indeed a starting point rather than an end-point after all... maybe regulations, rights protections, nationalizations/public options, platform monopoly breakups, perhaps in no small part through California code of regs strong-arming, can turn the generational reactionary tech-tide of the venture-capitalists and austerian technocrats and bigot code that has driven me to distraction for a quarter century. But I don't know that symptomatic readings of futurological follies in their techno-transcendalizing and counter-revolutionary screeds of the kind I used to revel in here are really as useful as they might have been in that earlier moment -- certainly that sort of thing feels less enjoyable to me these days. The ideology of individualism, articulated in the context of white supremacy and patriarchy, expressed in a culture suffused by the deceptive, hyperbolic, toxic norms and forms of PR and advertising discourse seems to me the Big Bad at the root of so much that I used to rail against. A fatal tendency to scientism and reductionism misrecognizing instrumental rationality as political rationality, technological capacitation as political freedom is also a part of that story. Perhaps there is more for me to say elaborating these connections...

Meanwhile, twitter finds its way to all the obvious snark about the idiotic awfulness and obvious lies and ugly bigotry of Trump Republicans within seconds: As I have already said many times these long last couple of ugly awful frightful years through, I have nothing smart to say about any of it, and further, there is nothing smart to say about any of it, nor do I think finding one more smart thing to say about any of it is much help to anyone anyway when everybody capable of seeing anything already always sees everything anyway. It's obvious what people have to do -- just vote for Democrats, the better they are the better, but vote for them all whoever they are until the Republicans are diverted from their current conspicuously authoritarian path.

The midterm elections confirmed that this is as well understood as it is likely going to be in this country. It remains to be seen if Trump responds with the ruinous authoritarian instincts we have come to expect from him, exhorting his Base to further violence in his rallies and tweets, seeking illegal remedies through firings and firesales, erratic declarations, states of emergency, whether the whole GOP will continue to enable him in this criminal nonsense, and whether the "Resistance" will remain in force with sufficient coherence and energy to respond to all this in the streets if it comes to that, even with the distractions of a divisive presidential race and lots of newly elected Democratic scapegoats to pillory via the usual fauxvolutionary vs. mushymiddle cabaret. You don't need to read critical theory like I do to grasp these dangers and dynamics. If anything, my kind of theory is as distracting as clarifying of the stakes of partisan struggles on the ground, honestly.

Now, last year when I posted my year-end summary I was suffering from a crippling couple of months of insomnia in which I was sleeping less than three hours most nights and beginning to think I wasn't going to survive that. The crisis eventually sent me into a few months of therapy early last year, and though I remain a fitful sleeper to this day I am no longer struggling as I once was with insomnia. Last year when I posted that New Year's report I had lost ninety pounds since my hospitalization the year before, and now this year I weigh fifteen pounds fewer still, and have maintained that weight without difficulty most of the year, sticking to my diet and yoga and exercise and long weekend walks with Eric. I'd go so far as to describe myself these days as fit, after a decade of... not. Last year at this time I was still reeling from the raw recent loss of our beloved cat Sarah -- and yet in a few month's we'll be celebrating the first year of Penny's life with us here. Watching our bold and brilliant little gray and orange-spotted kitten grow into a full cookie-jar bellied adult cat has been a delight all this year. Teaching in the City with the comparative security of a hard-won better-paying three-year union contract has been an improvement in so many ways as well. We paid off the last of my student loans this year. Having few assets feels way better with no debts, I must say.

Although 2018 was a terrible year, full of terrible and terrorizing events, kids in cages, endless mass shootings, Brexit and Trumpian chaos, authoritarianism globally ascendant, gross crowing bigots, accelerating Greenhouse Earth derangements, I am heartened by the results of the election, the radicalism of proposals coming from elected Democrats and the discursive traction they are managing to receive in the face of so much awfulness. The language of raising the social security cap, a federal jobs guarantee at a livable wage, a Green New Deal, post office banking as a financial public option, a new and improved voting rights act, renewed antitrust applied to platform monopolies as well as financial institutions, all ideas I have pitched as ideals in essays and classes for years and years are becoming a chorus at last, especially among the rising generations, and are suddenly getting wide and respectful hearings from high-profile elected politicians. Again, this is a terrifying time, climate catastrophe is upon us and the planetary 1% are quite prepared to go full fascist to re-install their feudalist fantasies. But they're outnumbered and we're out-organizing them for now, even as time's up and there are no guarantees. So, 2018 was a bit better politically and a lot better personally. I'll take it.

All that said, I did post to Amor Mundi more this year than last year, hundreds more posts in fact, and I'm hoping to amplify that re-engagement this year still more. Maybe I'll manage to do more than re-post Barbara Lee tweets on the news of the day amidst a sprinkling of Wildean quotations, though the first couple of years of Amor Mundi weren't so very different from that, come to think of it. I enjoyed writing more here when I was -- I'd like to find my way back to that enjoyment in the coming year. Let's see.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, January 04, 2019

Today's Random Wilde

All trials are trials for one’s life, just as all sentences are sentences of death.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Pages Not Screens

It's been a lovely break so far, my first in a couple of years not haunted by the thresher of insomnia. I've spent much of the term reading pages, not screens. I was reading Vile Days for a bit, an anthology of Gary Indiana's art columns from the mid-80s, then turned to a recent anthology of his short stories, Fish That Only Want to Kiss, many of which were already collected in Scar Tissue and in the chapbook White Trash Boulevard which I read right after I discovered his first novel Horse Crazy back in the early 90s. I always loved Indiana's voice, a kind of campy yankee Thomas Bernhard. A random whim sent me back to re-read good ol' Lest Darkness Fall in the tub a couple of days ago. That nudged me to pull down Robert Graves' Count Belisarius from the shelf, which I mean to read next, tho' right now I'm fifty pages into Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year. After that, if my break isn't up, I think I may read Tales from Earthsea or N.K. Jemisin's new short story anthology. I haven't read in this spastic spontaneous sort of way in years, not since grad school, really. It is just as delightful as I remember.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (Your Lips To Goddess Ears Edition)

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

I Have Too Many Students Who Smoke Tobacco

And coming home I walk past yet another art school where students are smoking like stacks on the sidewalks as well, and in the sight of hundred of high school kids next door. I hate it! Every summer I am shocked to find bright Berkeley students fondly or convulsively fingering their packs in the breaks. And the "anti-smoking" ads I occasionally see on television seem like promotional flirtations as much as anything else. Smoking is stupid and gross in every way. It is singularly nasty, it is a surreal waste of your money, it is completely unpleasant and alienating to be around, it is grotesquely unhealthy. Stop doing it. Don't start.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Year's First Tweet