To the students (but not only students) who won’t read this

It’s time to grow up. You are not the final word on righteousness no matter how fervently you hold your beliefs. Not any of you (and, yes, that’s a universal claim).

And universities exist for other purposes than your temper tantrums. Yes, you are entitled to invite speakers. That also means your fellow students—oh, here’s a news flash—are entitled to invite speakers. No, you are not entitled to throw a shit fit, let alone commit acts of violence, when they accept. Continue reading “To the students (but not only students) who won’t read this”

Women’s lives are still expendable

I was driving in Berkeley last night, which is a terrible mistake following a Bears (the university football team) game, because traffic is simply gridlocked with too many pedestrians (a common Berkeley malady) but lots more cars. The weather was cool but the young women, almost without exception, wore short, short pants and otherwise skimpy outfits.

I noticed one walking down the street alone. She was wearing a gold (okay, yellow) tube top with the blue “Cal” lettering. She was awkwardly—as if grace were possible in such a situation—pulling it up, as such tops are wont to slip down. She didn’t look like she was having a good time.

Continue reading “Women’s lives are still expendable”

On idealism

I suppose I should preface this by explaining that, no, I’m not speaking of a philosophical doubt of external reality as possibly nothing more than a perverse fragment of one’s imagination.

No, I speak of idealism in a possible perversion of Plato,[1] one I’m surely guilty of myself, of insisting that a thing can and must be the best that it can possibly be. As a notion, idealism is placed in opposition to realism, which itself lies in opposition to fantasy. And so it is that idealism and fantasy are often conflated.

But even in that conflation, what is a fantasy? Is it an unrealized potential? Or is it a nonexistent one? And if it is the latter, who determines what is ‘nonexistent?’ Continue reading “On idealism”

  1. [1]Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View (New York: Harmony, 1991).

Failing the test, again

Let this paleoconservative writing sink in for a moment: “‘Thirty years from now, the black and brown coalition plans to pit its new brown majority against aging whites,’ targeting Social Security benefits unless whites support their efforts to compel ‘the younger generation of whites to pay the future bills for welfare and education for America’s new Third-World majority.’”[1]

I want you to let this notion of racial conflict explicitly between whites and people of color sink in real hard because at the opposite end of the political spectrum, Rabbi Michael Lerner has repeatedly warned against demonizing all those (largely working class whites) who supported Donald Trump. He notes that many whites have economic grievances, are not racist, did not create systemic discrimination, but have felt abandoned by the Left and by Democrats, who now speak increasingly for just about every subaltern group imaginable except for folks who suffer various forms of economic injustice. The Rabbi’s warning stands on its own virtue; I do not know if he realizes he is also warning the Left against making a paleoconservative prediction true. Continue reading “Failing the test, again”

  1. [1]Yggdrasil [pseud.], “Republican Immigration Fantasies,” Occidental Quarterly, November 10, 2011,, as quoted in David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).

What’s the end game?

The question came up for me in seeing coverage of the much-too-frequent police violence against Occupy Wall Street and again in the Ferguson riots: What’s the end game?

Really, now, I imagine I might have asked police, what’s your fucking end game? Do you really want these kids, who will eventually go back to their neighborhoods and have kids of their own, to forever distrust you? To forever remember your actions in this case with absolute contempt? Why would you even consider taking the risk of worsening community relations? How can you ever hope to ever have civilian cooperation when we see scenes like this? What kind of a country do you even want this to be when you treat it like occupied territory and us like a hostile population?

Now that seems to me to be an insanely rich topic for inquiry and maybe critical analysis. But that’s not the direction I’m following today. Continue reading “What’s the end game?”

On the naked display of sovereignty

Unintentionally, I’m sure, but in support of one of my grander claims, Catalonia held—or attempted to hold—a referendum on independence. Spain’s central government, citing the “the [constitutional] indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation,”[1] deployed violence to repress this vote.[2]

Which is to say, in Spain at least, but I’m pretty sure most countries as well, that a question of secession—not even the act, but the question itself—rationalizes hundreds (at least) of injuries at the hands of police.[3] Continue reading “On the naked display of sovereignty”

  1. [1]Mariano Rajoy, quoted in British Broadcasting Corporation, “Catalan referendum: ‘Hundreds hurt’ as police try to stop voters,” October 1, 2017,
  2. [2]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Catalan referendum: ‘Hundreds hurt’ as police try to stop voters,” October 1, 2017,; Peter Geoghegan, “Catalonia votes amid violent clashes,” Deutschewelle, October 1, 2017,; Jon Sindreu, Pietro Lombardi, and Marina Force, “Hundreds Hurt as Catalans, Spanish Police Clash Amid Independence Referendum,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017,
  3. [3]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Catalan referendum: ‘Hundreds hurt’ as police try to stop voters,” October 1, 2017,; Peter Geoghegan, “Catalonia votes amid violent clashes,” Deutschewelle, October 1, 2017,; Jon Sindreu, Pietro Lombardi, and Marina Force, “Hundreds Hurt as Catalans, Spanish Police Clash Amid Independence Referendum,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017,

San Francisco’s war on Uber and Lyft drivers

I got started driving for a living in the wake of a relationship that ended with her leaving for a mental hospital in Washington. That wasn’t entirely my fault.

But a lesson I drew from that experience was that, while there certainly had been problems with the relationship, which were certainly compounded by her depression, graveyard shift had made everything else worse.

When I left school the first time, with an Associates degree in Business Data Processing, I was a computer programmer. But what I didn’t realize at the time—or really even for many years afterward—was that this was the wrong career for me. It requires an intensely sequential and binary way of thinking to organize tasks to be performed by the computer, a way of thinking that I could sustain only at great personal cost. And by 1985, I had, in fact, burned out. Continue reading “San Francisco’s war on Uber and Lyft drivers”

MADness and North Korea

“I told myself I won’t be the cause of World War III,” recounted Stanislav Petrov, a Russian hero of the Cold War, of an incident in which “Soviet early warning satellites had detected the long-feared American nuclear strike” but “he came to the conclusion that something wasn’t right. Instead of notifying the chain of command of impending doom, he recorded the moment as a system malfunction.” He was right, of course,[1] and his story joins a few others that I have been accumulating in which somebody in the right place at the right time made the right call, saving the world from nuclear Armageddon.[2] Continue reading “MADness and North Korea”

  1. [1]Public Radio International, “The unsung Soviet officer who averted nuclear war,” September 21, 2017,
  2. [2]I assume there are many more stories like these: Michael Dobbs, “The Photographs That Prevented World War III,” Smithsonian, October, 2012,; Robert Farley, “How the Soviet Union and China Almost Started World War III,” National Interest, February 9, 2016,; Geoffrey Forden, “False Alarms in the Nuclear Age,” Nova, November 6, 2001,; Sébastien Roblin, “The Terrifying Tale of How One Russian Submarine Almost Started World War III over Cuba,” National Interest, June 22, 2017,; Edward Wilson, “Thank you Vasili Arkhipov, the man who stopped nuclear war,” Guardian, October 27, 2012,

My generation

I was eight years old for the Summer of Love, and geographically, not even all that far away, living in an apartment in San Francisco’s Richmond district on the north side of Golden Gate Park, just a block or so south of the Presidio which was then still an army base.

The Summer of Love centered in the Haight-Ashbury, to the east of Golden Gate Park and south of the “panhandle.” Other social movements, including the Black Panthers and anti-war movements, whose legacies are all but lost, arose in the East Bay. Continue reading “My generation”

The corruption of the Left

Signs such as in the photograph are less common now but, for a time, were ubiquitous throughout many neighborhoods in Berkeley and Oakland. The signs are meant as a rebuke to Donald Trump and to those who voted for him and they are part of a #Resist movement against his presidency.

I have no disagreement with any of the sentences in themselves. As a critical theorist, however, I have other reservations. Continue reading “The corruption of the Left”