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

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, May 29, 2019


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


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;;
Course Blog:

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

Course Description

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

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

A Provisional Schedule of Meetings

Week One

May 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, 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.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Onboarding Offputting

With each passing year the process of "onboarding" to teach my summer intensive at Berkeley has required more and more and more steps, taken more and more and more of my time, has become more complicated, more opaque, more belligerent. During this time the process has been "automated" (which just means already overstressed overburdened underpaid adjuncts doing more and more stuff we used to get support for) while also an explosion of officers and counselors and support staff have been hired none of whom can be reached, none of whom can do anything to help but smile blandly while you fume. The hostility to teachers in teaching settings by corporatized-administrators is almost as surreal as the general proposition that enslaving a generation to student loan debt then throwing them into insecure unbenefited low-paying work is giving them "tools for a bright future" in the first place -- something I was sold myself and then sold to a generation of promising, righteous, brilliant, beautiful students. Higher education is becoming (to the extent that it wasn't always already) a vast slaughterhouse in which I am being chewed up into hamburger meat while collaborating in the chewing up of my students into hamburger meat. I sincerely cannot recommend this way of life to anybody anymore.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (With Bonus Gratuitous Oakland Love)

Gack! Redux

Looks like Eric's caught the bug that tormented me the long week through, and from which I am now gratefully recovering at long last, so Sunday's brunch and walk are canceled -- more's the pity, this Sunday looks to be a breezing buzzing confusion of lively wide-eyed blooms and gyring leaf-stuffed branches. Prepping last week's lectures, both likely to be truncated to the relief of my students, saucer-eyed from all-nighters and scarcely receptive to my usual three-hour firehosing of high theory. For my undergraduates Monday afternoon I mean to reprise themes from last Friday's lecture on Combahee, Lorde, and Donna Haraway with a little genuflection to environmental justice at the end. Friday's grad seminar at week's end will culminate with Judith Butler and Gayatri Spivak, more or less as I have done for six years or so now. That's a lecture that could use some pruning and polishing by now, and I'll probably tinker with it over the week before Friday. Final papers and notebooks and late assignments all begin avalanching into my world tomorrow and the start-up date for summer intensives at Berkeley gives me a narrow window between completion of grades and resumption of teaching, so it's looking like no rest for the weary, at least until I hang up my hat after June and manage a delirious six weeks' restorative summer vacation! As you see, I'm already counting the days.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Today's Random Wilde (Precious Prescience Edition)

God knows; I won't be an Oxford don anyhow. I'll be a poet, a writer, a dramatist. Somehow or other I'll be famous, and if not famous, I'll be notorious. Or perhaps I'll lead the life of pleasure for a time and then -- who knows? -- rest and do nothing. What does Plato say is the highest end that man can attain here below? To sit down and contemplate the good. Perhaps that will be the end of me too...

Friday, May 03, 2019

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, May 02, 2019


For the second time this month I've got some kind of bug, so I'm prepping my lecture for Friday with a stuffy nose, sore throat, muzzy head, a grizzled cough, and the exhaustion of a nearly sleepless night behind me (always the struggle). It's end of term and I'm just going to have to brute force my way through this and hope to rest and recuperate in a week while I'm grading finals somehow before my Berkeley intensive cranks up. Would love to sleep all day, instead I'm crafting a few hours on Haraway as a link to Lorde and the Combahee River Collective on the one hand and to STS on the other via Harvey (on techno-fetishism), Leopold (Land Ethic as ANT precursor) and Latour, natch, making his later ecological noises. I've taught all this many time before, but never quite in this combination and never at quite this historical moment and it is feeling especially daunting in the face of this cold-borne wooziness.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Happy May Day!

Go raise Hell. Make something sublime. Be in the sunshine. But go raise Hell.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily