amor mundi

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

Friday, February 12, 2016

So Grumpy (A Bernie Hillary Fucks To Give Rant)

I like how when Bernie Sanders isn't complaining about how awful President Obama is he likes to try to steal his moves.

He has a new vapid ad out about bringing the country "together." His last vapid ad seemed to me hard to distinguish from a car commercial.

No words, open faces.

You may vaguely remember it. People seemed to like it.  Like sweet ice cream, already it is melting away...

I happen to think Sanders should maybe inflect his old-school class analysis with an intersectionality that foregrounds white supremacy if he really wants to deal with the forces that are tearing this country apart at the moment. But, whatevs.

"Together." Ah, yes.

Maybe he should have supported the president rather than calling for someone to primary him last time around?

Honestly. You know, grandstanding isn't fighting. You do know that, people, right?

It's actually a bit of a scam, when it comes to it. Nobody who actually knows anything about revolutions or cares anything about the revolutionary thinks voting for a president of all things is a revolutionary activity -- any more than buying a new cellphone or a different soda pop is revolutionary. That doesn't keep PR assholes from saying otherwise, but presumably we are all savvy about that sort of nonsense.

Right? Sanders voters like to think of themselves as savvy, isn't that right?

You know, I have always liked Senator Sanders and I think he is very fine as the very progressive Senator of a very progressive, homogeneous white postage-stamp of a state, Vermont.

Sure, even Vermont couldn't get the single payer he is claiming he will magically somehow get for the whole nation which is why Hillary Clinton who fought so arduously and publicly for universal healthcare and then got the S-CHIP program that became the bridge to the passage of the ACA is supposedly evil compared to him and so on and so forth blah blah blah, but, oh hell, why bother? Who needs facts or context? Time to demagogue the mostly but not entirely terrible 1994 Crime Bill (which included an assault weapons ban and the Violence Against Women Act, which is why so many Republicans fought it at the time) that Sanders voted for but Hillary Clinton did not. That makes sense.

It's a funny thing, but it occurs to me that President Obama accomplished more in two years than Senator Sanders accomplished in over two decades in Congress. I guess we aren't supposed to notice things like that, or the fact that all the people who actually know Bernie Sanders the politician best are all endorsing... Hillary Clinton.

And I do mean pretty much ALL of them. I mean, by a flabbergasting disproportionate extent, but, hell, I guess they are all the Establishment... the establishment of that awful Democratic party that Bernie Sanders never deigned to be a part of until the day he decided he should be THE LEADER of it. If only it were possible to accomplish let alone maintain progressive achievements without sustainable fighting organizations that constitute "establishments," wouldn't that be swell?

And who even knows if Sanders will continue to consider the Democratic Party worthy of his membership as Senator if he happens not to win its nomination for the Presidency. It would seem that that is a question the answer to which can be neither asked nor answered.

It's funny. I'm a democratic socialist just like Senator Sanders says he is -- not always, mind you, but often enough for Republicans to put it in devastating ads that will help Trump or Cruz or "moderate" (he's not -- AT ALL) Kasich ascend to the White House to demolish the Obama legacy and create a reactionary Supreme Court that outlives me.

Anyway, as I was saying, I am a democratic socialist, too, hell, I'm an eco-socialist feminist queer, and I have plenty of friends and colleagues who agree with me on many political questions with which majorities of Americans would not when it comes to it, and against their best interests as I understand them. As it happens, none of those democratic socialist friends and colleagues seem to me more any electable when it comes to it than I think the grumpy disheveled superannuated avowed tax-raising socialist Senator Sanders is (all of whose traits I share in this, more or less, let it be known) -- but of course you wouldn't notice this, since Republicans are refraining from actually attack him on these obvious grounds in the wild hope that idiots on our side actually nominate him instead of Hillary Clinton. And quite apart from electability issues I happen to think none of my friends or colleagues would make good Presidents either.

It's a curious thing, I guess, but I don't think making lectures about how good single-payer healthcare would be in a world disconnected from the institutional terrain and stakeholders of actually-existing healthcare provision is the sort of thing that makes a good President. I am impressed instead by things like Hillary Clinton's years if experience, respect from all the relevant stakeholders in the policy-making domain, command of complex details on disparate issues, calm demeanor in the face of stress and distraction, organizational ties to a host of stakeholders and players inevitably at the table when the deals relevant to policy outcomes I care about are under discussion. I don't see Bernie Sanders offering up even a smidge of any of these things. At all. 

I'm embarrassed for the people of good sense and good will who are pretending to see things differently on this score at the moment.

Truly. Embarrassed.

Whatever my disagreements and occasional disappointments with the administration of president Barack Obama, he has been the most progressive President in this country since FDR and the most consequential President since Ronald Reagan. That may be an indictment of our history but that doesn't change any of the realities at hand. If you want to disagree or pretend to disagree with that you are stoo stupid to talk to me on this subject. That won't stop anybody of course, but fuck you.

Fuck. You.

Senator Sanders is no Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton will support and extend President Obama's legacy. She has that capacity and she says she will, and I strongly doubt Sanders does have that capacity -- if you forgive me for saying so -- and he doesn't even consistently say he will either, which is worse. That's more than enough for me

Clinton had a pretty good debate tonight. The nominating contest is (at last!) about to enter states that better the reflect the demographic realities of the nation and the Democratic base. Sanders voters are about to see, I think, that votes matter more than decibels -- as they have also already seen that responsible people in the organizational apparatus they are so eager to take over actually have some say in the nominating process that will direct so much of their investments and careers. I do  think Hillary Clinton will win the nomination -- though it may take longer and cost more than I would like now before she can turn her attention to defeating the white-supremacist patriarchal greedhead gun-nut crazytown GOP. I will be very glad she wins when she does.

If you think I feel this way because you are more righteous or informed or intelligent than I am, well, so be it. I hope the weather is nice on your planet. As a democratic eco-socialist feminist queer vegetarian teacher of critical theory I am to Hillary Clinton's left, as I am to any electable president in this country, and as such I will disagree with and fight against many things that she says and does... but welcome to the American left, children, that's how it is. Who the hell are you to preptend fightingor anything worthwhile would be otherwise? Do you even know what fucking country you are living in? What kind of privileged assholes are you people? You wanted to vote for your DreamPrez and then hit the dancefloor? Well, fuck you. Your radicalism is a consumer fandom, you are lazy and stupid and I am not impressed by you.

You need to be sucking it up and readying yourself to vote for the woman you idiotically demonized all this time when Sanders loses. The sooner, the better. That is my advice for you. If you are up to do more I welcome it, but start there.

Also, fuck you.

Did I say that already?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thought Hillary's Debate Closing Was Fire

Wonder Why?

By overwhelming majorities the Democrats in Congress who know Bernie best are endorsing.... Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Supporters Are Smearing Civil Rights Hero John Lewis Today Because He Supports Hillary Clinton

I doubt he finds this surprising, after having experienced this from Occupy:

When you hear the guy at the end shout "John Lewis is not better than anyone! Democracy won!" I suspect a baby Bernie Bro found his voice.

Still Waiting.....................

I still await an answer or link answering the simple question will Sanders be a DEMOCRATIC senator if he loses the Presidential nomination?

Why is this such a difficult question to find an answer for?

Of course it is a little uncomfortable as questions go. After all, if Sanders won't agree to be a Democrat as a Senator in the future it seems as though he is unwilling to be a member of a party he nonetheless feels perfectly entitled to be the leader of. And if he does agree, one wonders what exactly he was waiting for up to now? But uncomfortable or not, I don't think it is an unfair question. I think it is in fact an obvious question to ask. Sanders is on the record saying he won't run in a third party bid if he loses the nomination. That is not an answer to my question, but it seems the sort of question inspired by awareness that Sanders has not been a member of the Party the nomination of which he now seeks. That is to say, it is a question related to mine. It seems a legitimate question. It is a question that should have been asked and answered by now. Why can I not find the answer to this simple question?

Betrayal And Selective Memory

Many Sanders supporters are now declaring the Congressional Black Caucus endorsement of Hillary Clinton a "betrayal" because she supported the 1994 Crime Bill. Setting aside the complexities of the politics of that moment -- that the Crime Bill was fought by many Republicans at the time because it included an assault weapons ban and the Violence Against Women Act -- it is worth noting that half the Congressional Black Caucus at the time voted FOR the Crime Bill themselves. Hillary Clinton, who did not hold elected office at the time as First Lady, of course did not vote for it but did support her husband's efforts, sometimes using language which we now rightly regard as reprehensible. Bernie Sanders also voted FOR the Crime Bill. Hillary Clinton has proposed as part of her presidential campaign a number of policies to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, the racist war on drugs, and the mass incarceration crisis exacerbated by the worst provisions of the Crimes Bill, which Bill Clinton himself has recently decried as failures. It is easy to pretend politics is a child's cartoon with pure superheros and evil villains. It is easy to cry "Betrayal" about complex compromises. Stupidity is always easy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Teaching Day

Today in the City in my undergraduate Greek and Roman Patriarchy course we are tackling Gorgias' "Encomium of Helen" and then the Melian Dialogue. Here in the Bay Area it is like spring already in early February. Looks like it will be another year of record breaking temperatures. On the train home, I'm reading Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy.

High Times

Now, as I ponder the long primary and election season ahead I find I am saddened that recreational cannabis legalization in California happens only at its end.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Teaching Day

In my graduate Biopunk seminar in the City today we will pick up our unfinished discussion of Almodovar with a delicious digression into Judith Butler, and then turn to Foucault's Docile Bodies and Mia Mingus' shattering science fiction story "Hollow."

Monday, February 08, 2016

Is It Really "Anti-Establishment" To Fight So Hard To Lead An Establishment?

If being anti-establishment means being opposed to corruption or unaccountable abusive plutocratic power, well that is one thing, but if being anti-establishment means being opposed to institutions as such then that is quite another thing, surely. If Sanders means by "anti-establishment" the former, then he and Clinton are actually both anti-establishment, since both are proposing reforms to limit corruption and undermine plutocratic power, just with different regulatory measures and in different degrees. These are differences that people of good faith can productively disagree about, but these differences do not justify the sweeping distinctions and denunciations too many Sanders supporters seem to be fond of making.

If instead Sanders means by "anti-establishment" the latter, then Sanders is expressing skepticism about organizations themselves. Now, it is a familiar critique that whatever an organization is brought into existence to do in the way of work, once it exists a layer of incumbent politics will emerge to maintain that organization in existence potentially at odds with its original purpose. This inherent conservatism of organizations demands vigilance to say the least from anyone of progressive sentiments, not least because even while that tug of incumbency freights all organizations, organizations remain not only necessary to accomplish progressive ends but also to maintain these accomplishments.

These are the sort of ambivalences that may have lead Bernie Sanders to declare Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign and the super-delegates of the Democratic Party are all parts of an establishment he opposes even while obviously he is not opposing the actual missions of any of these organizations and recognizes the reactionary and plutocratic forces against which these organizations have been struggling throughout their existence. The blanket dismissals Sanders sometimes levels at such fighting organizations symptomize a deep tension in the appealingly straightforward anti-plutocratic critique Sanders is propounding and the rather glibly sweeping solutions, if that is what we are calling them, he is proposing. It is, of course, useful to make the point that a politics of incumbency may bedevil even progressive organizations when they are not transparent and accountable, but to the extent that presidential politics is partisan politics and partisan politics is ineradicably organized it is a little bizarre to mount too ferocious an attack on a party establishment you are seeking to lead on the way to become President of the most powerful military-industrial establishment in the history of humankind.

I am a fan of Occupy and have always considered "it" (Occupy is really an umbrella term for a teeming ramifying complex of resistances and campaigns and viewpoints) both a fierce petitioning of public grievance and a beautiful expression of public happiness. Beyond that, Occupy was a great rhetorical success, changing the terms of the politically possible. I have said all this even as I have also worried over some of the avowedly anarchist adherents of Occupy for their spontaneism, and have wished Occupiers were more doctrinally committed to sustainable and scalable forms of progressive change... But the Sanders campaign, which in some key respects seems a subcultural sequel to Occupy, seems to me to lack the clarity of even the anarcho-occupiers at their worst. Occupy changed the public conversation and in so doing altered the co-ordinates within which the possible and the important are articulated. This is the second presidential campaign shaped by issues formulated by Occupy, and now even more by the Moral Mondays and BlackLivesMatter resistance that succeeded and supplanted Occupy, and far more effectively already in my view. Occupy may have left our movements and organizations to push for the progressive change they demand on terms they define themselves but in a discursive terrain transformed by Occupy's energies and illuminations. But a Presidential campaign is actually taking up tools, it is actually mobilizing organizations, it is actually assuming a position within an institutional terrain. You cannot pretend to be above the fray as you are reaching for the reins.

Bernie tells his supporters half the time that they are the Revolution simply for supporting him -- a claim as absurd as the pretense of many successful ad campaigns that buying a brand of soda or the latest handheld device is a revolution. The other half of the time he tells them he can accomplish none of his lofty ambitions unless there is a revolution in this country -- a claim which leaves one to wonder, if his campaign is not that revolution, then why he isn't devoting his energies to organizing the revolution he says we need instead? If the organizations of the establishment are the problem, is he seeking to lead them then only to command them to leap off a cliff? Not that they would, but were they to do so, what would happen then? And if none of that happens, if he seeks instead to work within the established/establishment terrain, why are we supposed to think he would be better at working with the figures and organizations he disdains than those who are explicitly committed to working within those terms to make change already? And if he miraculously managed that trick of working within those terms he always condemns, and amongst partisans who seem to disdain him even when they sympathize with his message, then why wouldn't all his supporters rightly denounce him as a traitor the moment he succeeded on those despised terms anyway?

I believe that partisan politics are indispensable but also that they are radically inadequate. I believe movement politics on the ground educate, agitate, organize and so push compromised partisan politics to legislate solutions to shared problems. I think both political registers make the substance of change, but that neither manages to do so alone, at least not for long. It seems to me naive to disdain partisan politics for the purity of movement politics -- but I can certainly understand the impulse, the distaste with compromise, the exhaustion of struggle against inertia and ignorance, the heartbreak of witness to avoidable suffering. And it seems to me cynical to disdain the transformative force of movement politics for partisan skirmishing -- but, once again, I can certainly understand the impulse, the thrill of visibility, the compelling contest, the challenge of real-time praxis, the immediate feedback, the palpable rush of victories however few. People who lodge their political investment in either register can do work indispensable to progress, but so too they can lose sight of the reality of progress either by ascending to an Olympian height of moral or aesthetic beauty that they never connect to real change on the ground or by embedding so deeply into the terms of present limits that they come to resist real change in history.

All of these are very familiar quandaries, and I am saying nothing new in all this but only repeating truths that need repeating because they are hard lessons everyone would rather forget and so we often do. In politics you have to walk and chew gum at the same time. I am not sure I am saying much more than that when it comes to it. But the Sanders campaign seems to me an especially confused and chimeric being -- ascending to the heights... but in the form of the usual spinning and skirmishing in the depths of campaigning muck, promising revolution... not by eschewing the partisan but through the pretense that the partisan is revolutionary, disdaining institutions... while at once scrambling to rule them. I think a lot of people who know the world needs more change than a Presidential campaign could ever provide have decided to indulge in the romance of a Presidential campaign anyway, and I know that people who could be agitating and organizing against banks that still hold their money and police that still do violence in their names are instead fighting with people online over a Presidential nominee. No doubt this is easier and more enjoyable than the alternatives, which are after all quite terrible, and heartbreaking, and exhausting. But I don't know that people should seem so very pleased with themselves for making such choices as they often appear to be, to be honest.

I also have a preferred candidate in the present contest, as all my readers know by now, the ones who are still reading me at any rate, but I am supporting a widely respected, brilliant, capable individual, connected to the partisan and organizational apparatus she would wield as President to make such change as the Constitutional executive may do in our system of government, confronted with the actually-existing realities of our day. I think what many decry as Hillary Clinton's deceptions and hypocrisies reflect instead the realities of a lifetime fighting for progressive causes in a scrum of diverse stakeholders and in the midst of intense forces that require contingent alliances, ugly compromises, and tactical retreats on the way to slow-arriving, fragile, imperfect, hard-won achievements. I think it is comparatively easy to seem progressively pure when you govern a postage stamp of a state with a homogeneous population already more liberal in conviction than the average. I think Hillary Clinton is a lifelong participant in partisan politics because she found herself in the belly of the beast, partnered with an ambitious husband, and then realized once she had arrived there that she had a talent to make progress through partisan politics herself, and so there she has remained. Not everybody has the stomach, the patience, the determination to endure such efforts and I honor those who do, even if I share in the distaste for the process that most other non-participants in that arena like me are likely to do. I can tell you one thing, I do not expect a Revolution from the Presidency and I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton will not disappoint me in that expectation. As far as it goes, that seems about right to me. If you think that is because you are more knowledgeable, righteous, honorable, or committed than I am -- well, live it up.

Such radical change as we need will depend on the mass movements we deploy to press our partisan politics with, and also on the election to Congress and to state political offices and to local positions democratically minded people who are interested and capable of solving shared problems and hence contributing their measure to progress in the world. I support Hillary Clinton because I think she will do her part in such work. I support movement politics to the left of Clinton because I have no illusions about what Presidents can accomplish under the best circumstances. I support and supported President Obama on much the same grounds. I think he is the most progressive President since FDR -- and I can salute him for that even while recognizing that this is at once something of an indictment of the unbearable injustice and inertia of American history. I do appreciate that Clinton is not making or implying promises that she could not keep as President. You know, I have also always liked and admired Bernie Sanders. I'll support him and vote for him if he becomes the nominee of the Democratic party, but I do not think he will and if he doesn't I will be glad he doesn't. I think he makes a much better and more competent progressive Senator for Vermont than he would make a President. It is fair to disagree with that assessment, but I do not think that is the disagreement most people are really adjudicating through their championing of Sanders' candidacy. I think working through a philosophical disagreement about the pragmatics of historical change in the face of white-supremacy, patriarchy, plutocracy and pollution by means of a battle over the Democratic party presidential nomination between two utterly idealized celebrity candidates -- one an heroicized caricature the other an anti-heroicized caricature -- is utterly frivolous, deranging of sense, and a waste of energy and resources that would be better devoted elsewhere. Precisely because I take the urgency of radical change so seriously I find the Sanders campaign as the educational, agitational, and heaven help us all, organizational vehicle for such change the most arrant nonsense imaginable.

Commemorating the Twentieth Anniversary of the Cyberspace Manifesto

From a few years back, a wee Valentine, "I Tweet From Basement, Home of Mom": Time For A Cyberspace Manifesto 2.0?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Saturday, February 06, 2016


You Want To Make Revolution?

Voting for some dude to be President ain't it.

War As THE Judgment Question

House Joint Resolution 64: "Authorization for Use of Military Force," Sept 14, 2001:

There was one and only ONE "Nay" that day, and it was my Representative, Democrat Barbara Lee who voiced it. Bernie Sanders was in that chamber and he voted "Yea." The record is right here.

Here, voice trembling a bit at first, is Lee's prescient speech, making her case against authorizing war in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. She is ALONE:

Friday, February 05, 2016

Thursday, February 04, 2016

"A Good Day for Progressives"

This Is the Monster Supporters of Sanders and the GOP Love To Hate

I'm an atheist who was moved by Hillary's discussion in last night's New Hampshire Town Hall of the role of spiritual counseling to balance ego and service and practice gratitude.

Is An Answer To This Question Available Anywhere Online?

If Senator Bernie Sanders loses the Democratic Party nomination for President he is now seeking has he said whether he will continue to be a Democrat as Senator or will he become an "Independent" again?

Meme Is Just "Me" Two Times In A Row

once upon a time,

"I come from Cyberspace,
Home of Mind,"
said a material man
in a material land,
sitting on his material behind.

Telling me what you want isn't a plan.

Well, it isn't, you know.


In the future, we must tickle all candidates in advance to vet their laughter for congeniality to misogynists as key leadership test.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Teaching Day

Baby, it's cold outside. We have the heat on in our apartment this morning for what can't be more than the third time in as many years here. Of course, growing up in Indiana this weather in February would have seemed like spring, frisbees on the lawn. Now, I'll bundle up like a babushka as I shamble to the BART for the City. Today we'll be screening Almodovar's All About My Mother and then discussing it with Donna Haraway's "Biopolitics of Postmodern Bodies." Should be fun.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Brief

The Future's so trite I have to give shade.

Born Every Minute

Amazing how many headlines featuring the name Elon Musk would be clarified by switching the name to P.T. Barnum.

Fandom As Movement?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Silly Season

My twitter feed definitely has a follow for the anti-techbro-critique unfollow for the anti-berniebro-critique thing going on.

Imagined Interlocutors and the Critical Temper

Do The Hustle

Writing checks your ass can't cash is a hustle, not a revolution.

Friday, January 29, 2016

But Is He So Sure She Didn't Mean Michelle?

The President has indicated he doesn't much want the Supreme Court appointment Hillary hinted could be offered Obama in a coming Clinton administration a few days back.


After years of being told this or that consumer product was "revolutionary" we are now being sold that voting for somebody to be President is, too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Minsky Thensky

Teaching Day

In my grad Biopunk seminar today in the City we are taking up C.S. Lewis' "Abolition of Man" and the "Prologue" to Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition, then talking through Greg Bear's short story "Blood Music." Baby steps to start with, should be fun.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Obama's "Almost" Endorsement

My Amazing Support of the Hillary Monster

A bravely "Anonymous" interlocutor in the Moot is amazed:
It's amazing how you will only support Hillary and wear blinders to her current and past corruption. And yes, I am a Demo but not a Marxist collectivist such as yourself.
Since I have repeatedly expressed my admiration for Sanders as a Senator and since I have repeatedly said I will both support and vote for Sanders if he is the eventual nominee -- though with great trepidation about his electability in an election the stakes of which are raised enormously both by the fragility of Obama's accomplishments and the present surreal debasement of the GOP field -- your statement that I only support Clinton is plainly wrong.

I do prefer Clinton as nominee. In this I am like millions of other Democrats who are impressed by Clinton's knowledge, experience, dedication to causes many Democrats hold dear, and who want a woman in the White House fighting in public ways to protect women's access to healthcare, equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, an exposure and end of rape culture, and an emphasis on the indispensability of supporting women and girls in the development of a flourishing planetary society.

Like Sanders I identify as someone on the social democratic to democratic socialist spectrum, and most construals of "Marxist collectivist" don't accurately convey my positions. I teach Marx in critical theory classes at the University level and I actually know what he said, after all. I can't know exactly what you mean by that designation -- it is true that I advocate for universal healthcare, education, and income payed for by steeply progressive taxation and that I believe many key common and public goods should be administered by and for the public rather than for parochial profit-taking. I also know that there is much more to actually accomplishing these ideal ends or even arriving nearer to them or even enabling the terrain in which they might eventually be achieved through struggle than simply knowing and saying that is what one ideally wants to achieve.

Clinton is a competent and connected progressive pragmatist with a voting record not much less liberal than Sanders' own, and like the politics of the Democratic Party in general Clinton's public positions have shifted leftward and I hope will continue to do so under pressure from organized movements from her left in which I, and perhaps you too, will participate. I do not know or think knowable or, hence, much care what is supposed to be in her "heart" any more than I do any other celebrity's, including Obama or Sanders or Beyonce. I am to Clinton's left as I am to the left of the country and to any electable president in my country, and I supported Obama over Clinton in 2008 as I would support a third Obama term over a first Clinton one now if that were an option. It is not; or more to the point, a Clinton administration looks to me like the best defense of the legacy of the Obama administration available to us.

I can't say that I have been thrilled with everything Clinton has done in her career, and I was not a great fan of her husband's administration. I take election and partisan politics seriously -- though I believe extra-partisan grass-roots movement education, agitation, organization are just as necessary to achieve necessary reform in the direction of sustainable equity-in-diversity from partisan legislation -- and whatever our disagreements you will find it hard to sustain your insinuation that my preferences are ignorant, uninformed, or reflect conspicuous blinders. Disagreement with you isn't the same thing as blindness, I daresay you will forced to concede even in the fullest froth of berniebuzz. Quite a lot of what is being called Clinton's "corruption" in the current silly season is (if you'll forgive me) patently idiotic hyperbolic nonsense from pampered narcissists whose purity politics play out in a symbolic field rather insulated from the real consequences in real lives of election defeats to white-supremacist patriarchal plutocrats in the GOP. If you are not one of these yourself -- and certainly not all Sanders supporters are, even if it sometimes seems all the loud ones are -- you know what I mean and are probably as annoyed by the phenomenon as I am.

You are of course free to differ with my calculation as to the electability of the superannuated, grumpy, disheveled avowed socialist (all of which I am too) Sanders vis-a-vis Clinton in the America we actually live in, or the feasibility of his implementation of single payer healthcare and breakup of the big banks as head of a party he has never hitherto been a member of and almost all the super-delegates of which are not supporting him, with little prospect of majorities let alone super-majorities in congress, and a host of enormously powerful rich stakeholders he won't even talk to arrayed against him. Be all that as it may, I wish your candidate the best of luck, and disagree though we may, I daresay you need no longer at any rate be "amazed" that an intelligent committed person of the left disagrees with you on the matter of a partisan presidential election.

Sorry To Upset You All

But, yes, I do support Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders as the inevitably disappointing sociopath I hope to be to the left of for the next four to eight years in the White House.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Transhumanism Now Shapes the Conventional Unwisdom of "Thought Leaders" at Davos

Last week I recommended Richard Jones' excellent short free e-book Against Transhumanism: The Delusion of Human Transcendence.

Today I want to recommend a follow-up post from Jones' blog ridiculing what I have called "accelerationalism" in current tech-discourses in which metaphors of speed re-frame and rationalize disastrous policy proposals and the dreary history that results from them. And so, for example, very longstanding and completely familiar right-wing efforts to loot, privatize, and deregulate public goods are now described as "disruption," as though it is the fierce innovative energies unleashed by entrepreneurial techbro brains are subliming away pesky barriers to progress through the sheer force of their momentum. And as I put the point in The Unbearable Stasis of Accelerating Change, "the 'accelerating change' crowed about for the last two decades by futurologists in pop religious cadences and by more mainstream and academic New Media commentators in pop sociology cadences has never had any substantial reference apart from the increasing precarity produced by neoliberal looting and destabilization of domestic welfare and global economies -- often facilitated, it is true, by the exploitation of digital trading, marketing, and surveillance networks -- a precarity usually seen and experienced from the vantage of privileged people who either benefit from neoliberal destabilization or who (rightly or wrongly) identify with the beneficiaries of that destabilization."

There is nothing more commonplace than marketing firms that re-package failed and stale products and features as "exciting" and "new" via ad-copy in order to invest them with phony excitement and seductiveness. What consumer has not learned to be leery at the sticker slapped on some tired commodity declaring it "New And Improved"? It is in this spirit that I think we should apprehend the paradoxical emergence of a narrative of "accelerating change" and even "acceleration of acceleration" at a time when the furniture of everyday life and the quality of life more generally has been more static than not. As Eduardo Porter put the point in a recent review in the New York Times:
Take a look back at some of the most popular TV programs of the mid-1960s -- “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Bewitched,” even “The Beverly Hillbillies” -- and what do you see? Like today, middle-class Americans typically had washing machines and air-conditioning, telephones and cars. The Internet and video games were not yet invented. But life, over all, did not look that different. There were TVs and radios in most homes. Millions of people worked in downtown offices and lived in suburbs, connected by multilane highways. Americans’ average life expectancy at birth was 70, only eight years less than it is today [and the lived experience of life expectancy at retirement age was even less different, inasmuch as these statistics reflect most dramatically changes in survival in infancy and from childhood diseases -- I must remind, d].

But flash back 50 years earlier. Then, less than half the population lived in cities. Though Ford Model T’s were starting to roll off the assembly line, Americans typically moved around on horse-drawn buggies on dirt or cobblestone roads. Refrigerators or TVs? Most homes weren’t even wired for electricity. And average life expectancy was only 53... Has technological progress slowed for good? The idea that America’s best days are behind us sits in sharp tension with the high-tech optimism radiating from the offices of the technology start-ups and venture capital firms of Silicon Valley...
In a post published today at Soft Machines, Richard Jones derides Davos discourse promoting a so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution" and the "Exponential" technology-driven change presumably "disrupting" the linear history preceding it. Jones writes:
The World Economic Forum at Davos provides a reliable barometer of conventional wisdom amongst the globalised elite, so it’s interesting this year that, amidst all the sage thoughts on refugee crises, collapsing commodity prices and world stock market gyrations, there’s concern about the economic potential and possible dislocations from the fourth industrial revolution we are currently, it seems widely agreed, at the cusp of. This is believed to arise from the coupling of the digital and material worlds, through robotics, the “Internet of Things”, 3-d printing, and so on, together with the development of artificial intelligence to the point where it can replace the skill and judgement of highly educated and trained workers... all that this illustrates is the bleeding of transhumanist rhetoric into the mainstream that I criticise in my ebook Against Transhumanism: the delusion of technological transcendence. It’s a wish that some people have, that technologies will allow them to transcend the limitations of their human nature (and most notably, the limitation of mortality).
Jones concludes that he is "optimistic about the potential of technology" and distinguishes his view from that of pessimistic writers like Tyler Cowen "that slow technological progress is inevitable because we’ve already taken the 'low hanging fruit.'" I must say that I am ambivalent about these prospects myself. This will surprise critics who are quick to deride my critiques as "negative" "pessimistic" "anti-imagination" "deathist" and "luddism" and the rest -- but needless to say I reject the premise that there is anything the least bit positive, optimistic, productive, life-affirming, or techscientifically realistic about wish-fulfillment fantasizing, con-artistry, or pseudo-science. I will say this: Innovation arises from ongoing public investments in education, infrastructural affordances, specific programs of research, attention to bottlenecks that offer up no immediately profitable applications. Progress -- and since progress is a moral and political concept I must actually specify, as few who extol progress ever do, that, for example, as a advocate of democracy and ecology I personally define progress as progress in the direction of ever more sustainable, consensual, flourishing equity-in-diversity -- arises from the ongoing struggle to ensure that the costs, risks, and benefits of technoscientific changes are equitably distributed to all the stakeholders of that change by their lights. This matters, because it reminds us that both innovation and progress are social and political in their substance, far from determined by the technical specifications of a particular scientific discovery or instrumental application. Being "optimistic about the potential of [this or that] technology" is neither here nor there -- flourishing requires democracy quite as much as it does discovery, emancipation is a matter of equitable distribution quite as much as it does technical delivery.

Given the current state of plutocratic wealth concentration, the resulting disintegration of democratic participation and accountability, and the disastrous and destabilizing neoliberal precarization of the lives of the overabundant majority of people on the planet I am not sure that it is responsible to be too optimistic about our potential to invest in innovation and ensure progressive equity-in-diversity whatever the genius of our collective problem-solving genius. Optimism too readily invites acquiescence, especially in an epoch in which techoscience is invested with the reactionary imperial cadences of manifest destiny. To ensure innovation and progress the last thing we need to be doing is celebrating celebrity tech CEOs who are little more than skim-and-scam artists or indulging in uncritical consumer lifestyles and commodity fandoms expecting to purchase our way to Tech Heaven as wage slaves without rights or hope assemble our gizmos as our aquifers dry, our soil shatters into sand, our shorelines and skylines are smashed by angry waves, our atmosphere shrieks and swells with greenhouse storms and landfills rise like mountains of toxic smoking sludge leaching poisons into the dying land.

On the other hand, the ruins of neoliberal feudalism are evident everywhere, and organized resistances to the self-serving free market and austerian pieties of incumbent elites keep emerging in country after country, election after election, uprising after uprising. As the shocks of climate catastrophe imperil urban enclaves, devastate private insurance, destabilize nation-states it may be that the circumstances may be ripe for a turning of the anti-democratizing tide, our polities may rediscover the indispensability of commonwealth and our intelligence may be provoked from complacency into ardor just as public investment in that intelligence rises to meet us where we are. I certainly do not agree any more than Jones does with those who posit there is some structural phenomenon that made discovery long seem too easy and now too hard. Although there is some justice in the suggestion that superiority of so-called Western modernity was little more than a vast bubble blown up by non-renewable energy extraction and waste within which economic history was a sequence of convulsive bubble-chapters and recovery-chapters within that bubble culminating in the bubble-bursting chaos of anthropogenic climate catastrophe, the truth is that the building of sustainable energy, communication, and transportation infrastructure could readily be the incubator of new innovation, new employment, new flourishing, new progress. A host of dis-eases and dis-abilities likewise seem susceptible of therapeutic remedy given sufficient investment in research and the political will to ensure universal access. What will pass as "low hanging fruit" for technological progress is determined less by physics than by social and political preparation. I daresay Tyler Cowen may suggest otherwise not least because he is an apologist for and therefore needs an alibi for the neoliberal economic policies which seem to me the likelier culprit for our current technoscientific malaise.

As Jones puts the point in his own conclusion,
Technological progress continues, in some areas it moves fast, in other areas it moves much more slowly, despite our society’s most pressing needs. Which technologies move fast, and which we neglect and allow to stagnate, are the results of the political and social choices we make, often tacitly. We might make better choices if our discussions of technology weren’t conducted entirely in terms of tired clichés.
I am not sure we can avoid all the cliches when we seek to narrativize the quandaries of our historical moment as we must -- after all, all the talk of accelerating acceleration of acceleration notwithstanding, there is really nothing new under the sun where questions of the human condition are concerned, including the contingency of history and the shock of the unexpected that mock our expectations and our plans and keep things so very interesting while we are alive together in the living world --  but I would rephrase Jones' point in a way that retains its spirit by simply proposing instead that we take care our discussions of technology (or more to the point the politics that enable and shape its vicissitudes) aren't conducted in terms of inapt frames: chief among these I would note are narratives of autonomous artifacts, historical determination, scientistic reduction, manifest destiny, and the pining after certainty, absolute control, overcoming finitude or, in Jones' own phrase, delusions of transcendence.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


On twitter "a shill" is a supporter of anything you criticize.
On twitter "the shrill" is criticism of anything you support.


A celebrated billionaire
Put lots of stolen money down
To watch into the empty air
His rocket going up and down.

Sarah's Cookies

Sarah sits like a cookie jar,
Purring, plump, our household star,
But the cookies she dispenses are smelly,
All having ripened in her belly.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Bernie Twitter Rant

Some exchanges occasioned by this twitter rant:

Revolution of the White Feels

After Bernie is through with his New Hampshire ad, Coke can always re-use it to sell soda pop.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Truly Horrible Thingularity

Although kittens and other infant woodland creatures are adorable, I have always found human babies utterly repellent. Leave it to the roboticists to come up with something actually worse:

Found this via a link in a boingboing tweet declaring, "Gazing at this cute little skinless animatronic baby is delightful." Cute?!?! Delightful?!?!


The Future Is A Fraud

I am presently expanding my Futurological Discourse and Posthuman Terrains essay into a short book-length piece. By short, I mean just a little over a hundred pages for now, more than doubling it, but not by too much. All of the sections are getting plumped up a bit, and I think the third section on the flaws and fashions of futurological methodologies requires the most original thinking and writing work I face from the project.

One of the pleasures I am finding is offering up lots of amplification and backup on various points from the tradition of critical theory I have been teaching for years (Marx, Benjamin, Adorno, Barthes, Debord, Lyotard, Haraway) and from texts from the history and best contemporary technology criticism (Ellul, Mumford, Winner, Noble, Morozov, Pasquale, Golumbia), which I think enriches the intellectual heft of the piece. But if you are worried all this citational supplementation will render what was a fairly concise formulation (at least for me) into a ponderous cloudbank of academese, I am happy to report that there are a surprising number of deliciously polemical zingers getting sprinkled in via this material.

The other real difference is that I am adding in a large historical survey of transhumanoid precursors, fellow-travelers, and organized sects (Extropians, Singularitarians, Techno-Immortalists, Nano-Cornucopiasts, Digi-Utopians, Geo-Engineers, etc) and charting -- the often stealthy -- ties connecting their memberships, funding, canons, and so on. These are things only hinted at in the essay but quite important in my critique -- connections I scarcely hinted at in the shorter piece.

The title of the essay (which remains the published writing of which I am most proud) would become the subtitle of the book. The title I am inclining to is: The Future Is A Fraud. Before you accuse me of sensationalism, the title actually refers to a central contention of the essay and of my critique, but one which has gotten little attention. From the original essay:

Successful mainstream futurology amplifies irrational consumption through marketing hyperbole and makes profitable short term predictions for the benefit of investors, the only finally reliable source for which is insider information. Successful superlative futurism amplifies irrational terror of finitude and mortality through the conjuration of a techno-transcendent vision of "The Future" peddled as long-term predictions the faithful in which provide unearned attention and money for the benefit of gurus and pseudo-experts, the source for which is science fiction mistaken for science practice and science policy. Something suspiciously akin to fraud would appear to be the common denominator of futurology in both its mainstream and superlative modes.