Thursday, February 26, 2009

Please join us on Wednesday, March 4 for an ENGLISH FACULTY AND GRADUATE STUDENT COLLOQUIUM on Poetry, Entropy and Information.

Presentations by

JASPER BERNES: "Hannah Weiner, Dan Graham and the Use and Abuse of Cybernetics at the End of the Postwar Boom"


CELESTE LANGAN: "Precipitation: Poetry and the Rain of Information"

Wednesday, March 4 * 5 pm * Wheeler 300
*Reception to follow in the lounge*

Hope to see you all there!

De quoi Obama est-il le nom?

[This is my contribution to Starting Today: Poems for the First 100 Days, Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker's attempt to give new force to our thinking about the extension of the Ideological State Apparatus today--JB]

It was said by the statistically lawful personalities and charismatic slimes in the Treasury Department as they crafted
$2 trillion dollars of new giveaways for the banking industry. . . Yes we can!

It was said by Lt. Something Something Something as he maneuvered his predator drone into position and unloosed a quiver of rockets on the probably terrorist morphologies of the villagers below. . . Yes we can!

It was said backchannel by the Obama administration to the Israeli government in advance of the massacre, in Gaza, of a thousand people. . . Sure, why not!

It was said by the Justice Department when it formally announced that it would continue the Bush administration’s extra-legal detentions of Afghanis at Bagram Airforce Base. . . You betcha!

And by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement as it continued terrorizing immigrants at their places of work. . . Yes we can!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Undergoing stress test. . . please standby.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


The Interdisciplinary Marxism Working Group


Crisis, Contradiction, Contestation: Postwar Economy and Culture

March 6th-7th Wheeler Hall

Friday, March 6th

Panels 9:00--4:00, 300 Wheeler

Keynote 5:00, Maude Fife Room

“Knowing Finance, Being Risk”

Randy Martin, Art and Public Policy, NYU, Tisch School of the Arts

Saturday, March 7th

Panels 10:005:30, 300 Wheeler

Poetry Reading 6:308:00, Maude Fife Room

Craig Santos Perez Geoffrey G. O’Brien

Juliana Spahr Joshua Clover & hate socialist collective

Co-sponsored by The Critical Theory Program, Critical Sense: a Journal of Cultural and Political Theory, The Department of English, The Department of History, Global Metropolitan Studies, The Townsend Center for the Humanities, and The Katherine Bixby Hotchkis Chair.

A program with panel titles and abstracts will be available at the IMWG website:

Please direct questions to or

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Home Defense Campaign

[I'm going to have to miss this event tomorrow, but I was at the action in front of Martha and Eddie Daniels's house earlier this month. It was a good time. Sometimes (ok, mostly) marches and rallies and such things are just baldly depressing. One goes around and around in front of the enormity of the thing, its awfulness, and the bad slogans and bad signs persevere in their badness, against all odds. I can't go, I'll go on, whatever. But the ACORN thing was exhilarating, largely because it seemed like it could start to have immediate effects, that it consisted of a small, pragmatic, not-necessarily-radical demand that hit upon the core violence of the present. Or maybe that's just me. I don't know. We'll see what happens.

In any case, I'm hoping there will be a lot more actions like this, and that ACORN will be able to summon large, surly crowds with very short notice. Whatever you think about their (frankly tepid) politics, they seem to be handling this campaign quite well. There's an excellent article about their work here. I'm particularly fond of the idea of moving potential evictees into the bank lobby. Detailed here .]

Come join us as we kick off our Home Defense Campaign!

Thursday, February 19th 11a.m.-1p.m.
2525 Ritchie Street, Oakland Ca.

On Feb. 19, Oakland ACORN will join six other cities across the country in announcing its "Home Staying" Campaign, a national foreclosure-prevention project in which families facing eviction for foreclosure will refuse to leave their homes. Read about it in the New York Times!

Families like Rosa Gonzalez, her husband and 10-year-old daughter, who are facing an imminent eviction from their East Oakland home sometime this month, will announce that they are staying in their homes! Come and join us to support them and defend their home!!!

"There are so many families in this same situation, losing their homes, and it isn't fair," said Rosa Gonzales. "We have income, we want to keep our home. We want the bank to negotiate with us, work something out, and let us stay in our community." Gonzalez and her family live in an East Oakland neighborhood where vacancy and abandonment has been a grim reminder of the crisis sweeping the nation.

As part of ACORN's comprehensive foreclosure campaign, foreclosure victims and community activists are building Home Defender Teams to mobilize peacefully to defend a family's right to stay in their home until a fair solution to this crisis is put into place by the new Administration.

Oakland ACORN is at the front edge of this fight, after successfully defending the home of Martha and Eddie Daniels from eviction on February 3rd. While ACORN members, neighbors, and allies gathered outside their home waiting for the sheriff to come, ACORN Housing counselors continued negotiating with the bank to reach an agreement and combined efforts led to the cancellation of the eviction.

"If it hadn't been for the support of other ACORN members and the action we did, we would be on the street. It was something timely and much needed, not just for us but for everyone losing their homes," said Martha Daniels, who, along with members of ACORN defended her home from eviction on February 3rd. She offered advice to others in the same situation, "Stay in your home and fight for as long as you can. Use whatever tools you have and keep fighting, taking action, and exposing what the banks and brokers are doing to families and communities across the country."

For more information, contact Claire Haas at (510)434-3110 x241.

Monday, February 09, 2009

On Balance

I take as particularly auspicious (in a good way) the combustion of this hotel at the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. The hotel is a sibling building to the OMA's headquarters for China Central Television (bottom), one of the most famous recent architectural projects and a metonym for neoliberal globalization, for the wealth of the destroyers, awkwardly balanced in a weird mid-air jointure, like a game of Twister, straddling the rich countries and the industrializing ones, and looking as if, yes, it's about to topple over at any moment. I take as particularly illuminating the confusion regarding the meaning of the acronym CCTV. Some disambiguation is more difficult than others. And now that it appears no one was harmed in the fire, I can enjoy its destruction wholeheartedly.

Don't get me wrong: I like Rem Koolhaas's and OMA's writings and I think many of the OMA buildings are quite stunning, innovative, and perhaps even useful for people other than the rich. But the CCTV building is a gorgeous prison, and like all gorgeous prisons--the commodity first and foremost--it must burn. If it won't burn, we'll settle for the hotel next door.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bad Guys and Bad Banks

My son is a huge fan of the president. Indeed, Obama is incredibly popular among the pre-K set here in Berkeley. Obama has magical powers, and he's bad news for bad guys. This is one of the things you learn from your parents if you grow up in Berkeley.

Because Noah is five, and also adorable, he gets a pass from me: he's allowed to believe in Obama, Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, all that stuff.

But I wish that everybody over the age of consent would get real. I know that the election of Obama has provided a much-needed opportunity for middle-class white people to feel good about their own tolerant open-mindedness, and I know that the new meaning of "hope" is "I don't want to think about it," but I must now declare the post-inauguration grace period over.

For a while I felt ambivalent about the Obama election. I could understand its meaningfulness for many and I was happy for people's happiness and I wanted to affirm what I thought and still think are mostly benevolent aspirations on the part of the electorate. But ambivalence also ends, and I've been really almost too irritated and dispirited to write anything here--I can feel nothing now but antipathy for a president who stays silent while our immaculate ally in Israel massacres, starves and humiliates the people of Gaza.

It's a pretty lonely place, over here with the handful of haters, revolted by the crypto-Reaganite rhetoric of American exceptionalism and personal responsibility that apparently impressed people in his inauguration speech. As it seems to me, the true meaning of Obama's claims that the financial crisis was caused by people living beyond their means, or refusing to make "tough choices," is that people must now prepare to hand their wages over to the banks and take whatever shit jobs they can find.

I feel no special relief about Obama's economic stimulus package with its capitulation to the ideology of "tax breaks." The infrastructure programs that people think the bill contained, and which have provoked absurd comparisons with FDR, amount to pennies, really, less than $100 billion, all told, most of which will no doubt be sucked up by the creative accounting of contractors. I mean, there is $32 billion for clean energy: a figure that is guaranteed to make absolutely no difference for climate change. Looked at beside the $2-4 trillion that they're getting ready to dump into the banking system, and in light of the rate at which the economy is hemorraghing jobs, this is simply laughable.

But I am supposed to feel calmed by Obama's performance of "anger" last week after the news (which is no news) about banking bonuses finally percolated into the mainstream media. Sitting beside one of the engineers of the original bank giveaway in the person of his Treasury Secretary, Obama tells us he's going to have a serious "talk" with the bankers. A talk! About responsibility! Those bad bankers! They need a "bad" bank!

I do admit that I am intrigued by the resonances of the term "bad bank." I am reminded of the wide variety of pre-capitalist responses to crises of accumulation--many of them proactive--from the burying of excess precious metals (in order to preserve the value of holdings) to the Jewish practice of declaring a Jubilee year every fifty years, in which all debts were forgiven, all slaves freed, and all contracts anulled.

One wants, however, not merely to return the system to homeostasis but to end it once and for all. I propose, therefore, that we come up with our own proposal for a "bad" bank or sacrificial economy whereby we might zero out any and all debts, annul contracts we find injurious, print and distribute poetic monies of all flavors and colors, seize the means of production, throw parties, get divorced and/or married many times in the same day, make puppets, hold free concerts, etc. The purpose of this "bad bank" will be to lose money rather than make it. I nominate Anne Boyer for CEO.