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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sunday Walk

Yesterday was Eric's forty-fourth birthday and we spent it much as it we usually do Sundays: we had breakfast at our diner on Piedmont Avenue then hiked deep into a cemetery for a couple of hours, talking and walking in the sun. Yesterday was clear and fine, the first morning waking without a scratchy throat or wondering whether the scattered ashes darting like snowflakes onto the patio were bits of somebody's home or some other tragedy from the North Bay fires. Sarah has returned from her hidey-hole beneath the bed to nap in the breeze outside as well. Watched an enormously fun Agatha Christie adaptation last night with Margaret Rutherford playing Miss Marple, and then an episode of "Pie in the Sky" for good measure, a smart and engrossing British detective series we're rather loving at the moment. I took Saturday off for a change and spent much of it reading Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Warrior. It's a rambunctious plot-drenched romp. That was lovely, but it probably means my undergraduates get their midterms back in two weeks rather than one. (Since so many are getting their papers to me late, that is only fair after all.) This week's lectures zero in on Eve Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet for Wednesday's "Queer Manifestations" seminar and Frantz Fanon's "Concerning Violence" for Thursday's "Peace in Pieces." These are works I adore, so I'm hoping this week's teaching will be a pleasure. Wouldn't that be nice?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Moore No More?

Will the execrable bigot bully Roy Moore lose his Senate race to a Democrat in deep red Louisiana or will he win and find himself under indictment for massive tax evasion and unable to assume his seat anyway? Chances are, he will win and Louisiana will lose. But, then, that's the GOP.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Mass Incarceration of LGBTQ Youth


Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

The stench of the North Bay wildfires singes the breeze for the second day in a row. Walking to and from the grocery store with our little metal cart Eric and I returned with red, runny eyes, coughing in the acrid haze. I've finished the third novel in Tariq Ali's Islam Quintet. I was moved by this novel as well, but found it a bit less gripping than the first two. I think I will remember it at least as fondly as the others anyway. Reviews describe the tone as Chekhovian, but I suspect Mahfouz is a more apt comparison. I think I will take a bit of a break and read Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Warrior before resuming A Sultan in Palermo. For now, it's time to work up some lecture notes for tomorrow's discussion of Sandy Stone in my graduate Queer Manifestations seminar.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Trumpproval

Upon Waking

The stench of smoke from the Napa fires woke ma and Eric quite early this morning, hours before sunrise, and the day is still blustery and smokey, the patio blanketed with branches and eucalyptus bark and pine needles. Feeding our little kitty Sarah soft food from a dish in my lap these days, she's well into her sixteenth year and has to be coaxed into eating enough. Also reading Sandy Stone's formative and canonical response to TERFs and genderqueer manifesto The Empire Strikes Back for my queer manifestations graduate seminar and Gene Sharp on nonviolent strategies for my Peace in Pieces undergraduate survey. I've read this material so many times before, but it remains inspiring and provocative. Despite the despair and rage of this terribly demanding year, I find myself, almost in spite of myself, connecting through teaching and everyday care back to life, ideas, commitment, even hope... Strange... Good...

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sunday Walk

Eric and I had a late breakfast at the Piedmont Cafe and Bakery and then strolled through St. Mary's cemetery for an hour or so before the afternoon heat became more fierce. Still feeling a bit bleary after a long cannabis-fueled full night's sleep. It's been a lazy, lovely weekend, all in all -- Jules, one of my very best friends in the whole world, made a rare visit from Switzerland, which was wonderful, and I also heard from UC Berkeley that I am wanted for teaching again next summer, so that is good news. All told this has been a relaxing and satisfying few days, with Trumpmerican dread pushed off at arm's length for a welcome while.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Trump Disapproval Unprecedented

Christopher Bates:
Donald Trump's approval rating... has cratered again, to its lowest point since he took office. The AP, which does its measurements on a weekly basis, now has him at 32%. The 20s are uncomfortably close, and with them Richard Nixon's record-low Watergate-level approval ratings (around 25%). That is not good for any president, particularly one who is in his first term and is overseeing a generally solid economy (the September jobs report notwithstanding...)... [I]s he being punished for his ham-fisted handling of Puerto Rico? For his cabinet dysfunction? His handling of North Korea and/or Iran? Something else? Could be because Saturday Night Live is back, with Alec Baldwin's devastating impersonation. Maybe it's because of Las Vegas... Whatever the case may be, it is pretty clear that Trump's ceiling is somewhere around 40%, and that he's only going to achieve that under the best of circumstances. This means that we're presumably headed into brand new territory—since approval ratings have been compiled (the Truman years), no president has gone into the midterms (or a possible re-election campaign) with so many Americans unhappy with their performance.
More signs of a Democratic wave to come, perhaps, if enough of us can make it through these months of GOP-domination to vote them out in the mid-terms, though it is hard to know if things like polling approval which have always mattered in the past still matter quite the same way in Trumpmerica with its GOP-safe gerrymandered districts and voter disenfranchisement and ubiquitous algorithmically-mediated deceptions and frauds afoot.

Friday, October 06, 2017

MundiMuster! SwingLeft Is Ready To Boot Doll-Eyed Dolt Paul Ryan From His District and His Speaker's Perch




pleasepleasepleaseplease Make. It. So.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Lighter

I've mentioned here a couple of times that I've been exercising with Eric lately and have lost some weight this last year. I weighed in at 198 lbs. this morning, the third time I've weighed under 200 lbs. this week. I guess it's real then. This is the first time I've weighed less than 200 lbs. since 2004. (The body I have in my 50s is, needless to say, not the same body I had in my 30s, alas, even at the same weight.) Last year when I found myself in the emergency room nearly bleeding to death I weighed 285 lbs. Soon after, last New Year's Eve I weighed 271 lbs. I've lost over 70 lbs. in nine months! It's hard to account for the profundity of this change, silly though it may seem to mention such details. Just the way my body fits differently in the crowded public buses and trains I use to get to and from work is a transformation, has become so much easier in a minute to minute way I can scarcely communicate what it has been like...

Teaching Days

Friends visiting from Europe this week. In my graduate Queer Manifestations seminar we're taking up Valerie Solanas (among others) today and in my undergraduate survey of "nonviolent" politics tomorrow we're working on models of argument from Stephen Toulmin and Carl Rogers. These are topics I've taught many times before and which require less preparation time than usual. That's good, because I want all the time I can get to gab with my friend Jules and his partner and his sister -- who I have not seen since we were next door neighbors in Atlanta a quarter century ago!

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Unintelligent

Monday, October 02, 2017

Thoughts And Prayers Since Columbine Have Accomplished Nothing...

...maybe it's time to actually DO something. Ban military weapons, track ammunition, make gun manufacturers liable for damages, require training and mental health and criminal screening for licenses, circumscribe recreational use and require safe storage in households near children. The second amendment should be understood as a Constitutional guarantee that armed forces and police (eg, militias) protecting communities be representative (eg, right to bear arms) and accountable (eg, well-regulated). That the second amendment is not a blanket license to own just any weapon is revealed by the fact that nobody thinks the second amendment gives anybody the right to nuclear or biological weapons. Principle grasped and conceded, what remains is the empirical determination just which regulations increase safety and diminish harm. Of course, that can't be the process or the conversation because Republicans -- as with climate policy, healthcare policy, economic policy, education policy...

MundiMuster! Call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Tell them to pass gun safety laws NOW!

Uber, But For The TeeVee...

James Poniewozik on "Wisdom of the Crowd"
If you follow the tech business, you may have heard the formulation, “It’s Uber, but for ...” The idea is that there’s no human endeavor that can’t be transformed by a little coding, as Uber did for taxis... This philosophy now describes an entire genre of TV... It’s Uber, but for formulaic drama. The formula, roughly: Rich jerk invents technology. Rich jerk suffers personal tragedy. Rich jerk suddenly has a reason to care about the outside world. Rich jerk applies his technology to solve a problem related to aforementioned tragedy. Rich jerk gets pushback from the establishment. But rich jerk’s technology works! Thanks, rich jerk! ...
--h/t Jim Fehlinger

It's Never "Too Soon" To Talk About Real Political Solutions To Gun Violence

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Whatever The Odds, Democrats Should Be Fired Up, Ready To Go This December in Alabama

Andrew Tanenbaum:
Many Democrats think that the chance of a Democrat winning a special election for the Senate in Alabama is about as big as the chance of a Republican winning one in Massachusetts. Except that in 2010, Republican Scott Brown did exactly that. An Opinion Savvy poll just out shows Roy Moore (R) ahead of Doug Jones (D) by just 5 points, 50% to 45%. With more than 2 months to go and Moore a constant source of outrageous comments, Jones could possibly win this one, at least if the DNC decides to put some real money into the race. Of course, Republicans who supported primary loser Sen. Luther Strange may be angry now and say they will vote for Jones, but come December they may come and support Moore while holding their noses. On the other hand, it's not impossible that a Moore was a "lesser of two evils" vote, given the shady way in which Strange acquired his office (an apparent quid pro quo for helping quash the prosecution of then-governor Robert Bentley). There could be a segment of voters who were just waiting for the chance to vote for someone who is not Moore or Strange.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Uneven Democratic Recruitment for 2018 Bears Watching:

Andrew Tanenbaum:
The enthusiasm on the Democratic side for congressional races is enormous, but it is not uniform across the map. For example, eight Democrats are already running against Rep. John Faso (R-NY) in NY-19, which is in the Hudson Valley, mostly south of Albany. Another district in which eight Democrats have already announced is VA-10, currently represented in the House by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA). Her district includes all of Clarke, Frederick, and Loudoun Counties, plus parts of Fairfax and Prince William Counties. It is a highly educated district and could easily flip, hence all the interest from Democrats. However, there are also holes in the map. For example, Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) in NJ-02 doesn't have a credible Democratic opponent yet. NY-24 looks like a dream pick-up opportunity for the Democrats. Hillary Clinton won it by 4 points and Barack Obama won it twice by double digits. But so far, no serious Democrat has stepped up to take on Rep. John Katko (R-NY). Likewise, FL-18 is devoid of a strong Democrat despite its being a district that Trump carried by less than 2 points and the incumbent, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), having a 100% voting record in support of Donald Trump. Part of the reason is clear, though. FL-27, just south of FL-18, is going to be an open seat because Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is retiring, so local Democrats see that as an easier race than going after an eight-term congressman. The Democrats' problem is that candidates who might run for Congress, such as state senators and representatives, often look at a district and say it is too tough, so they decide to stay put. What they don't realize is that if 2018 is a wave election -- and it might be given what has happened in the special elections already this year -- a plausible but unknown state senator could be swept in on the tide. But that can happen only if the potential candidate becomes an actual candidate. It is an old saying, but it is still true: "You can't beat somebody with nobody." (V)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Teaching Days This Week

Harry Hay and Audre Lorde in "Queer Manifestations" tomorrow. The selections from Lorde's Sister Outsider are especially inspiring, I read them first as an undergraduate myself in a women's studies course I took in the Philosophy Department back in Atlanta back in the late 1980s. For Thursday in "Peace in Pieces" we're reading King (Letter from Birmingham City Jail and A Declaration of Independence from the Vietnam War) and Ella Baker. I've taught King so many times over the years, but I am still impressed by the grace and concision of his writing, the courage and care of his truly radical thinking. Selective misreadings of King to justify complacency, moderation and assimilation are especially enraging once one actually reads King with any attention...

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Walk

Just a short walk today with Eric, through tree-lined neighborhoods and then down the dog-walking trail next to Piedmont Avenue after a late lunch at our favorite diner. A lazy day, outside on the porch reading Harry Hay and Audre Lorde for my "Queer Manifestations" seminar this week, with skinny little Sarah sleeping on my lap.

#TakeTheKnee


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Jason Isaacs Is Ready To Sit In The Captain's Seat


Everybody is already talking about Star Trek Discovery's upcoming captain Jason Isaac's righteous repudiation of the normalizing of Trump spokesliar Spicer at last night's Emmy awards...

Hoping to forget politics for one night and bask in other people’s glory at the #Netflix#Emmys party and who do I spot at the bar late at night but the poisonous purveyor of lies #SeanSpicer. What were the Emmys thinking celebrating this modern day Goebbels, who was the thuggish face of Orwellian doublespeak just moments ago?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday's Walk

Low muss, low fuss this morning. Eric and I walked to our favorite greasy spoon diner for a late breakfast, then Eric got a nice haircut, and then we browsed bookstores and walked a few bucolic neighborhood blocks in the cool blue sunshine. Saw a VHS tape for a documentary on the exciting imminent nanotechnology future in a dusty discard bin in a used book shop. That was good for a laugh.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

For Eric


Ending Trump's Tax Evasions

Inspired by President Donald Trump’s refusal to provide tax returns before the 2016 election, Democratic Sens. Mike McGuire of Healdsburg and Scott Wiener of San Francisco drafted Senate Bill 149, which declares that tax returns provide “voters with essential information regarding the candidate’s potential conflicts of interest, business dealings, financial status, and charitable donations.
It prohibits the secretary of state from putting a candidate’s name on the ballot in California if he or she has not complied with the tax return requirement. The Legislature’s own lawyers have said the bill is legally questionable, issuing an opinion suggesting it would likely violate the qualifications clause of the U.S. Constitution. According the Assembly analysis of the bill, nearly half the states are considering similar legislation....

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Lie of the Tech Sector

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Relief

Another teaching day today, so I don't have much to say, but I did want to post a reassuring word to any readers worried over my worry over my teaching prospects for next term... It turns out my graduate critical theory seminar is still happening, it's just my undergrad survey course that is on hold pending enrollment numbers. Not great, but not so bad. Crisis momentarily averted, at any rate.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reading Today (Redux)

Prepping Oscar Wilde's Soul of Man Under Socialism -- the first and still one of the best arguments for fully automated luxury gay space communism out there -- for my graduate seminar "Queer Manifestations" tomorrow. Also reading Tolstoy and Gandhi for my undergraduate survey of nonviolent resistance politics and problems, "Peace In Pieces" the next day. So, it's mostly reading today, then. All this would be quite a pleasure if it weren't for my nerves, which always do a number on me prior to teaching, especially these days when Trump/Republican cruel stupid racist cishet greedhead authoritarian America always has me on edge, and especially in light of the fresh exposure yesterday of the precarity of my upcoming teaching and livelihood. As is, the hour or so I take off to walk with Eric and our little black metal cart over to the Safeway to buy groceries for the week will probably be the most sane and content I will feel all damn day.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Reading Today


The Lot of the Adjunct Is Precarious

Next spring's teaching is suddenly up in the air, and next summer has not yet come through... You can work full time, get great evaluations, maintain good professional relationships, and yet it can all fall apart in no time flat after years and years of solid, steady, full time work... Things may still work out, but my prospects are far from secure at the moment and quite scary. 

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Friday, September 08, 2017

Happy Star Trek Day!



Yes, Please!


Thursday, September 07, 2017

What Has Changed Here

Adapted and Upgraded from a comment in the Moot:
Robot Gods, genetic enhancement and longevity, artificial meat, immersive virtuality, techno-abundance nano robo digi bio blah blah blah blah, the terms never changing, the greedhead promises and skeery sfnal threats never happening, but always oh so very important to talk about, year after year after year after year, as privileged mediocrities game the economy and political system in the most boring serially failed utterly predictably idiotic ways (the very real threats being the social ones mediated by and distracted from via tech, natch). You know, I could re-run the first ten years of this blog, just changing the names of the latest tech soopergeniuses as they make exactly identically stupid claims I railed against before and I would presumably resume my place as go-to incendiary tech critic. I definitely hear you when you say you'll choke the latest Very Serious AI-qua-existential-threat drivel down. My righteous rage, and the pleasure I once took in ridiculing tech hucksters, has long since been eclipsed by demoralization. Trump's America is the futurological future we've been waiting for, a shriveled white dick with a megaphone peddling late-nite infomercials promising easy cash and sexy youth to ignorant rubes over a stinking landfill under a gray snowfall of cremated ashes.

Reading for Myself

I always re-read all the texts I've assigned to my students, whether I've taught them before (even many times) or not, along with them. It helps to be aware of just where the students are along the trajectory of the syllabus, not to get ahead of them (especially since my courses are organized as long argumentative trajectories, and I always know where I'm going by the end since I'm the one who has set the narrative in the first place), not to lose sight of the changing reading load they are dealing with, and so on. I find that I teach texts differently every time I re-read, sometimes because I am influenced by day to day events in the world with which students are also grappling, sometimes because my mood or experience has changed in other ways. Anyway, teaching keeps me reading constantly, and this term is no different. I also read for pure pleasure, of course. If there is any constant in my life, it would probably be that I have always felt most free when I was reading. For a long time, I think I truly felt most free not only when I was reading, but more perversely when I was reading precisely while I know I should be doing something else instead. During my summer intensives I read most of Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140 in ten minute snatches on bus seats and toilet seats interspersed within the torrent of hours and hours of lectures, prepping, grading I devoted to teaching in July and August. I had just short of a two week reprieve between terms, and in that delirious stretch was able to read N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, which I found engrossing and impressive (her worldbuilding grapples analogically with so much that is politically fraught and urgent right now -- climate catastrophe, sexual diversity, institutional racism -- and her characters live these quandaries in such emotionally raw ways). This week I have begun Tariq Ali's Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, the first novel in his "Islam Quintet" about the history of Islam in Europe, a doubly heretical exposure of appalling Western ignorance in wartime as well as a skewering of fundamentalist pieties Christian, Islamic, political, and otherwise. I purchased the beautiful Verso set of all five and mean to read them through fall term, time permitting. So far the writing is rich, witty, brilliant really. Teaching is not quite so all encompassing during the regular term and so I have more time to read as I would, so I don't know how long I'll be at it. Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch sequel Akata Warrior is coming out in a few weeks, as is, I believe, Daniel Jose Older's second Shadowshaper book -- and I may break into Ali's long cycle to read them.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Touched By An Angel

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

There Is No AI

Nothing that is being called "AI" these days is actual AI -- which is not to deny how dangerous what passes for AI these days happens to be. The threat of "AI" today is entirely the threat of intelligent designers, owners, and users abusing computers in predictably unscrupulous and reckless ways. Elon Musk and his ilk are not so much warning us of the dangers of AI as they are profitably indulging in them while distracting the marks with shiny sfnal objects. It may be useful to recall "AI" discourse has its (1) robocultic True Believers and ideologues for whom AI cannot fail, only be failed; its (2) opportunistic evangelical hucksters/VC tech-types out to rationalize parochial tech profits with hyped promises and threats; and its (3) many ignorant, opportunistic tech-infotainment fluffers in the advertorial press and in various consumer fandoms. These constituencies overlap, supplement, complement one another, provide wiggle room and contexts for one another (most discourses and organized movements exhibit this sort of complexity and dynamism, AI discourse is no different).

What A Coincidence!


Monday, September 04, 2017

Good To Remember Today (And Every Day)

Sunday, September 03, 2017

No Walk This Sunday

It feels a bit cooler than it has the last couple of days, when the whole Bay has seemed a bit stunned, spread breathlessly beneath an angry bluewhite sky pulsing past a hundred degrees, but it was still too hot for one of our longer walks into the neighborhood today, still headache weather... Here's hoping next week is closer to normal.

Deadline?

via PoliticalWire:
“In a potential death knell for efforts to repeal Obamacare -- at least this year -- the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that Republicans face a Sept. 30 deadline to kill or overhaul the law with only 50 votes... In search of a badly needed legislative victory, McConnell and other Senate Republicans have shifted their focus instead to tax reform. Yet President Donald Trump -- who has repeatedly predicted Obamacare is about to implode -- has called for another repeal vote in the Senate, as have GOP conservative hard-liners in both the House and Senate.”
There is no respect for norms to keep McConnell from replacing this parliamentarian with a more congenial one (sure, it would be "shocking" and scarcely precedented, but McConnell is a flagrant serial disruptor of such norms -- Gorsuch, anyone?), so I cannot draw much comfort from this deadline, though we must all take our minor and provisional victories where we can in the face of Trump/Republican bigot idiot greedhead authoritarianism. If McConnell abides by this recommendation I can only assume it is because he wants an excuse to take the healthcare repeal debacle off the board for now.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Deep Bench, Creaky Bench

“I have nothing against any of the people my age who will run, but I really do believe that if we’re going to appeal to the younger generation, we’ve got to change the party.” -- Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean

Howard Dean is 68.

Bernie Sanders is 75.
Joe Biden is 74.
Hillary Clinton is 69.
Elizabeth Warren is 68.
Al Franken is 65.
Sherrod Brown and Claire McCaskill are both 64.

One is reminded of Harry Reid's infamous recent comment that Democratic hopefuls for 2020 look like an "old folks home." I fully expect Sanders to run again, catastrophic though that would be. I wonder if he would run as a Democrat again. That would be hilarious. (I truly hope I am wrong and can return grudgingly to the respect I had for Sanders prior to 2016.) Biden seems nearly as vain as Sanders and so might try a run for 2020, though I somewhat doubt it. Of course, Hillary Clinton will not run again (nor should she) -- though once again she would be better qualified than Sanders, among other reasons because she is too responsible to run again given the debacle of her last run -- and also she would be more progressive than Biden, not that you would think so listening to brogressives who act as if a white penis is the key that unlocks true progress, all recorded history to the contrary notwithstanding. Franken and Brown look to me to be mulling runs, probably with their eyes on the vice-presidency. I rather doubt that either Warren or McCaskill will do the same.

It is worth noting that Senator Kamala Harris is 52, Cory Booker is 48, Mayor Eric Garcetti is 46, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is 50, and Senator Amy Klobuchar is 57. I guess I should add that Andrew Cuomo is 59 (please, God, if you listen to atheists, no). If Klobuchar goes, I think Franken will not -- and vice versa. Gillibrand has ruled out a 2020 bid, for what that is worth. Booker is being coy on the subject, which is worth even less. But all the rest are clearly mulling serious bids and even seem to be running scarcely stealthed early campaigns already. Cory Booker is a rhetorician's dream but I cannot say I am thrilled with some of the company he keeps. Kamala Harris is making all the right moves but the way brogressives already have their knives out for her worries me about another divisive dishonest demoralizing primary contest depressing turnout enough to bring authoritarian bigot Republicans back to their sweet spot of "close enough" to game the result in their favor -- with consequences too hideous to contemplate (that is to say, a continuation and even amplification of the hideousness with which we are presently grappling). Harris' co-sponsorship with Sanders of medicare-for-all demonstrates her awareness of the political problem at hand (and, oh yes, it would also be an incomparable healthcare policy improvement, for what that is worth), but it carries political risks and one wonders if the fauxvolutionaries who like to treat presidential primary contests as opportunities for purity cabaret rather than building organizational capacity will be assuaged by such efforts. Harris and Brown would be an interesting ticket, as would Booker and Klobuchar.

It's too early to tell in any case, and probably worse than foolish to try to foretell this early -- but such tale-telling is rather more edifying than contemplating the gross spectacle of the present, or even the more proximate (and I fear perilous) prospect of the mid-terms, which will probably be bad news in the Senate given the math and disappointing in the House given the gerrymandering. Terrible tho' things are, I fully expect things to get much worse before they get any better. I hope I am wrong. Stay focused, keep resisting, help out, don't give up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Teaching Resumes...

I return to the City for Fall term tomorrow. Straining my poor printer making copies of the syllabus and creating sign-up sheets and that sort of thing. As always, I'm a bundle of nerves. I'm hoping teaching queer theory and pressuring the history nonviolent resistance will turn out to be fortuitous topics, and help me find ways past the emotional and conceptual impasses of this year rather than simply exacerbating them. Earnest, creative, critical students are always a spur. I'm hoping and even expecting this to be a good term.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Automatic Voter Registration Reaches One-Fifth of the United States

Encouraging news in an era of all-too-effective Republican mass-disenfranchisement, a countervailing democratizing force, Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), is briefly discussed by Steve Benen:
As recently as early 2015, a grant total of zero states had automatic voter registration. As of this morning, however, AVR is now the law of the land in one-fifth of the states... Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) signed his state’s measure this morning... with implementation scheduled to be completed in time for the 2018 elections... According to the group Common Cause Illinois, which was one of the biggest proponents of the new legislation, there are up to two million eligible voters who have not registered in the state of Illinois. Rauner [note the "R" next to his name --ndc] vetoed a previous version of the bill last year –- but the Democratic-led legislature unanimously approved changes sought by the governor, clearing the way for today’s bill signing in Chicago... [T]here may soon be additional good news: AVR will be on the statewide ballot in Nevada next year, and it appears likely to pass... When it comes to registering to vote in the United States, the burden has traditionally been on the individual: if you’re eligible to vote, it’s up to you to take the proactive steps needed to register. Automatic voter registration, which already exists in many of the world’s democracies, flips that model. The idea is exactly what it sounds like: under the policy, states automatically register eligible voters, shifting the burden away from the individual. Those who want to withdraw from the system can do so voluntarily without penalty, but otherwise, Americans would simply be added to the voters rolls as a matter of course. At the federal level, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) has taken the lead on sponsoring a national AVR bill, and his proposal has 108 co-sponsors. At this point, however, literally all 108 are Democrats, and in a House led by a far-right Republican majority, the bill has no realistic chance of getting a vote, at least in this Congress. That said, the scale of the Democratic supports suggests the next time control of Capitol Hill changes hands, we may see some real movement on this.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday's Walk

Eric and I had breakfast over at the Piedmont Cafe and Bakery, one of our favorite haunts these days, then walked through the nearby Mountain View cemetery a bit. We had planned to scale the hill to "Millionaire's Row" (which Eric and I refer to as "Numenor" between ourselves) for the breathtaking view of the City it affords -- for which I suppose the cemetery was named. But it turned out to be a hotter day than expected so we made our wilted way home before long.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"We Cannot Stand By On The Sidelines"

A Recommendation

I believe I started reading electoral-vote.com back in 2004, following its analyses of the polls and other vicissitudes of the John Kerry campaign to unseat the war criminal and incompetent oaf George W. Bush. I continued to read it in subsequent elections, both presidential and mid-term, and for the most part found its analyses congenial, illuminating and admirably concise. In the past, the site has seemed to shut down a bit between silly seasons, but the ever-earlier, verging-on-permanent election cycle has by now pressed the site into incessant publication. In the era of Trump, I have found that their daily roundup of the news is by now one of the better ones out there. (Jezebel's Barf Bag is another, more aptly named if not quite so useful, compendium)

I am one who considers the Trump administration and GOP's gerrymandered/disenfranchised control of Congress an aspirational and now-incipient authoritarian formation in what has long been at best an only notionally representative white-supremacist corporate-military plutocracy. Therefore, I think it is absolutely essential that fair-minded civic-spirited people of good will be ferociously aware of current events (the consolidation of the police state, the amplification of hate, the deregulatory disruption, the disenfranchisement of voters, the demolition of professional norms) and ever prepared to protest abuses and provide support for the vulnerable in the face of the advances of this evil-minded death-dealing movement.

I also understand how soul-destroying it is to slog the swamp of pointless stupid disgusting daily atrocities in Trump's America. Just dwelling deep in the morass is ultimately demoralizing and I think risks disempowering us, rendering us indifferent to real outrages as we drown in them. Nobody needs further confirmation that Donald Trump is a racist sexist brainless bigot utterly unfit for the Presidency, nobody has been the least bit surprised by any of his recent atrocities or their ongoing enablement by the hucksters and hypocrites of the Republican Party.

Nothing matters but mass protest to make these killer clowns think twice about doing their worst (which will only sometimes be successful, and which has so far been the only thing that has sometimes been successful) before mid-term elections give progressive people the chance to vote Republicans out of office, to truly limit the damage Trump and Republican ideologues can do, and perhaps open the door to the impeachment of Trump for his violations of the emoluments clause (among other potentially impeachable offenses, like abusing the executive pardon power to obstruct justice).

Striking the balance between remaining informed but not burning out is not easy in the best of times, and for now I recommend concise overviews of the daily atrocities like the one at electoral-vote.com and just then focus on activist sites in your areas of keenest interest. I follow a few sites where prison abolitionists, immigration lawyers, queer feminists and environmental/food justice activists/scholars write about the things worrying and inspiring them most on a day to day basis -- and of course I still follow critics of the so-called "tech sector" and its "technoprogressive" thought-leaders futurological-apologists and other assorted reactionary robocultic advertorial fantasists. Your balance will differ. But balanced we must be, if we are going to make it for as long as it will take to turn the tide.

Friday, August 25, 2017

For What It's Worth

Via AP:
Trump is setting records with his dismally low approval ratings, including the lowest mark ever for a president in his first year. In fact, with four months left in the year, Trump has already spent more time under 40 percent than any other first-year president. At 34 percent, his current approval rating is worse than former President Barack Obama's ever was.
This would matter a lot if anybody else was in the White House. It is hard to know if this historically low approval means more than the polls suggesting a Trump electoral defeat meant last year, however. Also, it is unclear what force such disapproval numbers can have in a time of Republican control, when only (rather than just mostly) corporate lobbyists and loudmouthed bigots call the tune.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Practice Run

Fall term begins a week from today, and I did a trial run of my new commute into the City. The graduate campus for SFAI has moved from the dark, dusty, musty warehouse where I've been teaching in Dogpatch for over ten years years now to stunning new digs at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture. Looks like my commute via BART and MUNI will be a bit longer, over an hour and a half each direction for sure, but pretty straightforward and convenient still, so nothing to worry about....

 
 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I Didn't Watch the Eclipse

I've been watching the American eclipse since November (since Reagan really) which is more than enough.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Syllabus for "Queer Manifestations" This Fall

Queer Manifestations

Wednesdays, 1-3.45 FM130, August 30-December 6, 2017
Dale Carrico; e-mail: dcarrico@sfai.edu Wednesdays, 1-3.45pm Room: FM 130; August 30-December 6, 2017
Course Blog: https://queermanifestations.blogspot.com/
Office Hours: Before and after class, and by appointment. (I will also be available on Chestnut Street on Thursdays)
Required Texts: David J. Getsy, ed., Queer Documents in Contemporary Art, MIT/Whitechapel Gallery, 2016 ISBN: 9780262528672 (Purchase book). All other texts are available online or will be handouts.

Course Requirements: Attendance/Participation, 20%; Co-Facilitation, 20%; In-Class Report (15 minutes), 20%, Seminar Paper, 18-25pp., 40% (subject to contingencies)
Attendance Policy:  Attendance and punctuality are expected. Necessary absences should be discussed in advance whenever possible.

Course Description: There is something queer about the manifesto form as such, in its bringing to voice and vision a derangement in our sense of what is politically possible and important. In the deadening epoch of the closet the queer manifesto is an interruption of silence, but like every manifesto it is above all an unembarrassed and emancipatory eruption of desire into the collective work of historical and political worldmaking. Into the prosaic efforts of partisan organization and legislative reform, the ranting and raving of the manifesto is an invigorating and interfering infusion of political poetry. We will read radical manifestos flung from the scrum of insurrection and frustration across continents and through generations of lgbtq civil rights and liberation struggles and we will contemplate hallucinations of promise and formulations of protest from visionaries in the belly of the beast, from Plato's Symposium to Solanas's SCUM.

Provisional Schedule

Week One | Wednesday, August 30 

Introduction

Week Two | Wednesday, September 6 

Plato, Symposium
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Three | Wednesday, September 13 

Oscar Wilde The Soul of Man Under Socialism
Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young
Preface for The Picture of Dorian Gray
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from Wilde
___________________________________
In Class Report:  ____________________________________

Week Four | Wednesday, September 20 

Susan Sontag, Notes On Camp
Bruce La Bruce, Anti-Camp
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": RECOGNIZING BACKWARD
___________________________________
___________________________________
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Five | Wednesday, September 27 

Harry Hay, Mattachine (handout)
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": RECOGNIZING BACKWARD
___________________________________
___________________________________
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Six | Wednesday, October 4 

Valarie Solanas, SCUM Manifesto
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": PUBLIC RAGE
___________________________________
___________________________________
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Seven | Wednesday, October 11 

Sandy Stone, The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttransexual Manifesto
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": PUBLIC RAGE
___________________________________
___________________________________
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Eight | Wednesday, October 18 

Eve Sedgwick, Axiomatic
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": QUEER WORLDING/DEFIANT FLOURISHING
___________________________________
___________________________________
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Nine | Wednesday, October 25 

Judith Butler, Undoing Gender
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": QUEER WORLDING/DEFIANT FLOURISHING
___________________________________
___________________________________
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Ten | Wednesday, November 1 

Sarah Lamble, Queer Necropolitics
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": QUEER WORLDING/DEFIANT FLOURISHING
___________________________________
___________________________________
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Eleven | Wednesday, November 8 

Alison Kafer, Feminist Queer Crip
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": AGAINST HOMONORMATIVITY
___________________________________
___________________________________
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Twelve | Wednesday, November 15 

Sara Ahmed, Feminist Killjoy
Co-Facilitation: Three selections from "Queer": AGAINST HOMONORMATIVITY
___________________________________
___________________________________
In Class Report: ____________________________________

Week Thirteen | Wednesday, November 22 Thanksgiving Holiday

Week Fourteen | Wednesday, November 29 Our Symposium

Week Fifteen | Wednesday, December 6 MFA Reviews

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Barbara Lee Speaks for Me

Sunday's Walk

Eric and I took a short walk (just down the hill and around the corner from our apartment building, probably half a mile or so) to Chapel of the Chimes this morning, the magical columbarium designed by Julia Morgan. I love these spaces -- of which there are a few in the neighborhood, bordering on a couple of stunning and famous cemeteries -- which inevitably seem impossibly vast compared to their exteriors, as interlocking interior chapels unfold into one another one after the other, like pavilions inside a pup-tent in the Harry Potter universe. This will be a nice place for us to revisit later in the year when it is colder and wetter out. Oakland is a truly wonderful place to live in.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Syllabus for Peace In Pieces This Fall at SFAI

HUMN-237-01 | Fall 2017
Peace in Pieces: Histories, Theories, and Practices of Nonviolent Politics

Instructor: Dale Carrico; e-mail: dcarrico@sfai.edu
Thursdays, 4:15-7pm Room: MCR; August 30-December 6, 2017
Course Blog: https://peaceinpiecessfai.blogspot.com/

Rough Basis for Grade: Attendance/Participation, 15%; Co-Facilitation, 15%; Reading Notebook, 15%, Midterm Precis/Toulmin, 3-4pp., 20%; Final Paper, 5-6pp., 35% (subject to contingencies)

Course Description:

The arc of the moral universe is a longing... and it bends from just us. In this course we will read canonical texts in the theory, history, and practice of nonviolent resistance and world-making. This course is provoked and inspired by stories and strategies of reconciliation connected to traditions of nonviolent politics. But is this "non-violence" simply an alternative, at hand, or another fraught artifact we are making under duress? We will take seriously and look critically at the subtle and structural violences that ineradicably shape everyday life. We will consider legible testimonies to violation, in a variety of textual forms, while simultaneously considering the cultural ideals of persuasion which often accompany definitions of violence and its limits. We will both take up and take on the many paradoxes of nonviolent activism and violent order that complicate the teaching of what passes for peace. The State as site of violence and alter-violence. Nonviolence, interfaith dialogue, and freethinking. Spontaneity and training. Assembly, occupation, Black Bloc. Prerequisite: ENGL-101 Satisfies: 3-Units of Humanities; Critical Studies Elective, Liberal Arts Elective

Week One | Thursday, August 31

Introductions

Week Two | Thursday, September 7
Howard Zinn, Introduction to Thoreau on Civil Disobedience and Reform
Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
Henry David Thoreau, A Plea for Captain John Brown

Week Three | Thursday, September 14

Karuna Mantena, The Power of Nonviolence
Correspondence of Count Leo Tolstoy with M. K. Gandhi

Week Four | Thursday, September 21

Screen film, "Iron-Jawed Angels,"dir. Katja von Garnier

Week Five | Thursday, September 28

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam
Ella J. Baker, Bigger Than A Hamburger 

Week Six | Thursday, October 5

A simplified Toulmin Schema
Also: Karl Rogers and Rogerian Synthesis

Week Seven | Thursday, October 12

Gene Sharp, selections From Dictatorship to Democracy
Arundhati Roy, War Is Peace
George Ciccariello-Maher, Planet of Slums, Age of Riots
[Midterm grading]

Week Eight | Thursday, October 19

Frantz Fanon, Concerning Violence
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, A Third Reconstruction

Week Nine | Thursday, October 26
Must Eichmann Hang? [In-class Handout]

Week Ten | Thursday, November 2

Angela Davis, selections from Are Prisons Obsolete? Chapters 1, 2, 6

Week Eleven | Thursday, November 9

Carol Adams, An Animal Manifesto

Week Twelve | Thursday, November 16

Final Paper Workshop

Week Thirteen | Thursday, November 23

Thanksgiving Holiday

Week Fourteen | Thursday, November 30

Judith Butler, Notes Toward A Performative Theory of Assembly, chapters 1-3 [purchase the book]

Week Fifteen | Thursday, December 7

Judith Butler, Notes Toward A Performative Theory of Assembly, chapters 4-6

Friday, August 18, 2017

Bannon May Be Out But White Supremacy Is Still In

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that obscenity is officially gone, but I honestly expect we'll discover in months to come that like Manafort and other rats who have been sacrificed to Trump's sinking stinking shit ship Bannon still has Trump's ear whenever he really wants it and may even still be on the payroll in some informal advisory capacity. Also, it pays to recall whenever the faces we put on structural evils fall to our resistance we cannot mistake their defeat for the defeat of the structural social evil they have symptomized. With the Trump administration (and America more generally) there are many more faces of white supremacist cishet patriarchal greedhead militarist evil who still need to go. Keep your eyes open, and keep up the fight.