Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Friday, December 30, 2016

Delegitimation

The content of the Russian-hacked emails was actually remarkably unexplosive. Probably the biggest news was that Hillary Clinton had expressed herself in favor of a hemispheric common market in speeches to Wall Street executives. Otherwise, we learned from them that some people at the Democratic National Committee favored a lifelong Democrat for their party’s nomination over a socialist interloper who had joined the party for his own convenience. We learned that many Democrats, including Chelsea Clinton, disapproved of the ethical shortcomings of some of the people in Bill Clinton’s inner circle. We learned that Hillary Clinton acknowledged differences between her “public and private” positions on some issues. None of this even remotely corroborated Donald Trump’s wild characterizations of the Russian-hacked, Wikileaks-published material.

“These Wikileaks emails confirm what those of us here today have known all along: Hillary Clinton is the vessel for a corrupt global establishment that is raiding our country and surrendering our sovereignty. This criminal government cartel doesn’t recognize borders, but believes in global governance, unlimited immigration, and rule by corporations.” [Trump]

Or:

“The more emails WikiLeaks releases, the more lines between the Clinton Foundation, the secretary of state's office and the Clintons' personal finances—they all get blurred … I mean, at what point—at what point do we say it? Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the office of the presidency.” [Trump]

Without Trump’s own willingness to make false claims and misuse Russian-provided information, the Wikileaks material would have deflated of its own boringness. The Russian-hacked material did damage because, and only because, Russia found a willing accomplice in the person of Donald J. Trump.
Many questions remain about how the Russian spy services did what they did. That includes Putin’s motives for ordering the operation. But on issues from Crimea to Syria to NATO to the breakup of the European Union, Trump’s publicly expressed views align with Putin’s wishes.

Over Trump’s motives for collaborating so full-throatedly with Russian espionage, there hangs a greater and more disturbing mystery—a mystery that Trump seems in no hurry to dispel. And maybe he is wise to leave the mystery in place: as delegitimizing as it is, it’s very possible the truth would be even worse.---David Frum

Call Your Representative and Demand that Obamacare Not be Scrapped

If James Comey, the F.B.I. director, hadn’t tipped the scales in the campaign’s final days with that grotesquely misleading letter, right now an incoming Clinton administration would be celebrating some very good news. Because health reform, President Obama’s signature achievement, is stabilizing after a bumpy year.

This means that the huge gains achieved so far — tens of millions of newly insured Americans and dramatic reductions in the number of people skipping treatment or facing financial hardship because of cost — look as if they’re here to stay.

Or they would be here to stay if the man who squeaked into power thanks to Mr. Comey and Vladimir Putin wasn’t determined to betray his supporters, and snatch away the health care they need.

To appreciate the good news about Obamacare you need to understand where the earlier bad news came from. Premiums on the exchanges, the insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, did indeed rise sharply this year, because insurers were losing money. But this wasn’t because of a surge in overall medical costs, which have risen much more slowly since the act was passed than they did before. It reflected, instead, the mix of people signing up — fewer healthy, low-cost people than expected, more people with chronic health issues.

The question was whether this was a one-time adjustment or the start of a “death spiral,” in which higher premiums would drive healthy Americans out of the market, further worsening the mix, leading to even higher premiums, and so on.

And the answer is that it looks like a one-shot affair. Despite higher premiums, enrollments in the exchanges are running ahead of their levels a year ago; no death spiral here. Meanwhile, analysts are reporting substantial financial improvement for insurers: The premium hikes are doing the job, ending their losses.

In other words, Obamacare hit a bump in the road, but appears to be back on track.

But will it be killed anyway?

In a way, Democrats should hope that Republicans follow through on their promises to repeal health reform. After all, they don’t have a replacement, and never will. They’ve spent seven years promising something very different from yet better than Obamacare, but keep failing to deliver, because they can’t; the logic of broad coverage, especially for those with pre-existing conditions, requires either an Obamacare-like system or single-payer, which Republicans like even less. That won’t change.

As a result, repeal would have devastating effects, with people who voted Trump among the biggest losers. Independent estimates suggest that Republican plans would cause 30 million Americans to lose coverage, with about half the losers coming from the Trump-supporting white working class. At least some of those Trump supporters would probably conclude that they were the victims of a political scam — which they were.

Republican congressional leaders like Paul Ryan nonetheless seem eager to push ahead with repeal. In fact, they seem to be in a great rush, probably because they’re afraid that if they don’t unravel health reform in the very first weeks of the Trump era, rank-and-file members of Congress will start hearing from constituents who really, really don’t want to lose their insurance.

Why do the Republicans hate health reform? Some of the answer is that Obamacare was paid for in part with taxes on the wealthy, who will reap a huge windfall if it’s repealed, even as many middle-income families face tax hikes.

More broadly, Obamacare must die precisely because it’s working, showing that government action really can improve people’s lives — a truth they don’t want anyone to know.

How will Republicans try to contain the political fallout if they go ahead with repeal, and tens of millions lose access to health care? No doubt they’ll try to distract the public — and the all-too-compliant news media — with shiny objects of various kinds.

But surely a central aspect of their damage control will be an attempt to push a false narrative about Obamacare’s past. Health reform, they’ll claim, was always a failure, and it was already collapsing on the eve of the G.O.P. takeover. When the number of uninsured Americans skyrockets on their watch, they’ll claim that it’s not their fault — like everything, it’s the fault of liberal elites.

So let’s refute that narrative in advance. Obamacare has, in fact, been a big success — imperfect, yes, but it has greatly improved (and saved) many lives. And all indications are that this success is sustainable, that the teething problems of health reform weren’t fatal and were well on their way to being solved at the end of 2016.

If, as seems all too likely, a health care debacle is imminent, blame must be placed where it belongs: on Donald Trump and the people who put him over the top.---Paul Krugman

Monday, December 26, 2016

Nice New Journal on Hyperobjects

It's Q15: Hyperobjects! Edited by Meghan Moe Beitiks, lovely pictures, and it'll cost you only $2 for an electronic copy. Little bit of something me in it.

Reviewing the Year

UPDATE: 27 essays! Some of these I had totally forgotten until this morning lol, because I've been so busy.

I realized this was the second most intense year for lectures. I did 27. 2012 was the most intense, with 31. And I published 25 essays; 2015 was the most intense but only just (26). And I finished 2 books, accumulated 350 000 air miles, taught 5 classes (one extra), regular Ph.D students and regular university business. No wonder I've been doing a lot of resting in the last few days.

Actually I have no idea whether 25 is the final essay tally. I've been so busy that today and yesterday I found out that I'd completely forgotten about two of them!

So I'm uploading quite a few versions of recent essays to academia.edu if you're interested.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 18: Nihilism Upgrade (mp3)

Sorry about the sound quality. This was done in the Fine Arts Academy in Munich as part of the Hybrid Ecologies series. Thanks to my wonderful hosts there, especially Susanne Witzgall and Maria Muhle.




Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 17: Perforated Worlds (mp3) (Korean and English)

Simultaneous Korean translation! Wow. This was part of an electronic music festival in Seoul run by Hankil Ryu, called Continuous Verb. It was at MMCA, the contemporary art museum, and it was on October 29.




Talking with Jeff VanderMeer in the LA Review of Books

They excerpted some great parts of a longer interview hosted by the fantastic Andrew Hageman. Jeff was attracted to the hyperobjects, which seems intuitive when you read his amazing prose. The odd thing is how incredibly similar our recent book covers have been.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 16: Avant What? (video)

This is me and Cary Wolfe in dialogue at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, on the occasion of the Avant Museology conference (e-flux). Lively and at one point intense--always getting the no vibes from the Hegelians...Also, there's a fun animation I made.

What you can't hear is all the laughing in the audience!



Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 15: Things Just Got Weird (video)

Oh this was so nice. I'm so grateful to Solveig Ovstebo and Karsten Lund for their incredible hosting. What a lovely occasion. And I met an old friend I hadn't seen for ages, David Pantos. The space was really big and fun too, and packed.

The occasion was an exhibition of the work of my new friend Ben Rivers, including the film Urth, which was inspired by my book Dark Ecology.


Timothy Morton: Things Just Got Weird from The Renaissance Society on Vimeo.

Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 14: Use the Force (video)

Now this is cool. Yale archived this architecture conference so well, and this is one of the panels. Along with me you'll hear Keller Easterling and Catherine Ingraham, and there's a really excellent dialogue and q&a afterwards. Loved it. Thank you thank you thank you to Mark Foster Gage for organizing this happy occasion.


Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 13: Nature Isn't Real (video)

This was something I did in a forest in a park in Brussels on September 6 of 2016. It was magical being  in that space. The organizers, Aleppo, had designed the lit pathway to the space so well. Thanks so much to Daniel Blanga-Gubbay.




Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 12: Where Are All the Megacities? (mp3)

This was a lecture I gave in Singapore at the Future Cities conference, Singapore, September 14, 2016. Some engineers might have been upset by how I characterized science (quite accurately), because one of them, a really heavy spokesperson for neoliberalism, had a bit of a go at me the next day. He expressed, in front of several people, concern that my job was funded by taxpayer money. I think in part that was because I told him quite honestly that I hadn't paid attention when he said something about me in his paper. It was one of those moments when you could say something witty and cutting but you just feel so relaxed and happy, nothing is bothering you.

The conference was about urban planning and I think I was there to provide a different perspective than the usual efficiency and “sustainability” talk.

Thanks so much to Stephen Cairns, whose voice you'll hear.


Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 11: Solidarity with Nonhuman People (mp3)

Oh dear this was a real tragedy. The q&a for this lecture at York University in Canada on May 19 was the best best best of the whole year. But as you'll hear, my battery ran out a little way into my lecture. It gives you a good idea of the outline of my book for Verso, however. And you'll hear Marcus Boon, who's awesome, and Sabrina Scott cheering (and she is also awesome).

I've spent months and months reconstructing that q&a in my head in order to write my book...




Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 10: Bugging Marx (mp3)

This is a q&a concerning my paper given at the Cultures of Energy annual seminar at Rice University on April 22, 2016. You'll hear various voices including that of Dominic Boyer, the anthropologist.


Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 9: From Hyperlocal to Hyperobject: Art, Ecology, and OOO (Marfa Dialogues) (mp3)

This was part of the wonderful Marfa Dialogues presented by Ballroom Marfa at the Museum of Fine Art in Houston on March 26, 2016. Thanks so much to the whole Ballroom crew and in particular, Susan Sutton and Laura Copelin. You are so so so good.

You'll also hear Mandy Barker, whose photographs I was really really keen to talk about. I said they looked like the covers of some of the later Cocteau Twins albums (in particular Four Calendar Café), then she told me she'd worked for 4AD!!!

Then we played Rachel Rose's Sitting Feeding Sleeping, one of the most powerful ecological awareness films I've ever seen, ever.








Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 8: When Frogs will Cross the Street You've Designed (mp3)

This was a lecture I gave at a design symposium, Façoner l' Avenir, in Paris, on February 8 2016. I was hosted by the fantastic Anna Bernagozzi.


Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 7: X-Existence

This was the annual history of art lecture at the College of William and Mary and I gave it on January 28 of this year. Thanks to the fantastic Alan Braddock for his kindness before, during and after this. He's been such a helpful influence, and he's one of those people who go beyond the call of duty on a regular basis.

You'll hear something like a part of my book Humankind here. This year I devoted all my lectures another engagements to working through issues having to do with the books I've been working on, one for Verso and the other for Penguin.




Distance to Progress is Now 10 to the Power of 3 Further

This epic bait-and-switch, this betrayal of supporters, certainly offers Democrats a political opportunity. But you know that there will be huge efforts to shift the blame. These will include claims that the collapse of health care is really President Obama’s fault; claims that the failure of alternatives is somehow the fault of recalcitrant Democrats; and an endless series of attempts to distract the public.

Expect more Carrier-style stunts that don’t actually help workers but dominate a news cycle. Expect lots of fulmination against minorities. And it’s worth remembering what authoritarian regimes traditionally do to shift attention from failing policies, namely, find some foreigners to confront. Maybe it will be a trade war with China, maybe something worse.

Opponents need to do all they can to defeat such strategies of distraction. Above all, they shouldn’t let themselves be sucked into cooperation that leaves them sharing part of the blame. The perpetrators of this scam should be forced to own it.---Paul Krugman

No, this isn't galvanizing progress. This is a torrent of cockroaches you have to deal with before you can walk across the kitchen floor to the burning pasta sauce. 

Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 6: Art Objects (mp3)

This was a long seminar I taught at the Glassell school of art here in Houston, when I did the evaluations earlier this year. You can see how we work through some issues that I've been thinking about regarding object-oriented ontology and all kinds of art (but in particular, visual). It's four hours long (!) so there's a lot in there.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 5: And You May Find Yourself Living in an Age of Mass Extinction (mp3)

This was the lecture I gave on January12 at the ICSP, in New York, the first ever place to have air conditioning. Haim Steinbach was there, thank you Haim! 

It was one of several lectures this year where the atmosphere at the end became very quiet  and mind-meldy. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"This was the sexiest crowd I’ve ever seen at a philosophy lecture" (plus a mixtape!)

Wonder what I'd take to a desert island? POSTmatter had me compile a list, then they stream it for you. And you can read a really nice interview me by Dean Kissick, who wrote a really really nice thing about me. That's my favorite line from it: “this was the sexiest crowd I’ve ever seen at a philosophy lecture. A young woman sat in the row in front of me ate an entire cucumber.”

Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 4: Rock Your Body (mp3)

This is the seminar I gave at the wonderful Rock/Body seminar on performance and geology, run by João Florencio at the University Exeter (UK) on September 9, 2016. The participants are listed here.




Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 3: Haunted Houses

I say it myself, but this has a really dope ass interpretation of a wonderful 12" remix of Björk's “Hyperballad.” I gave it at SCI_Arc in March of this year, March 14 to be precise. It was such a good occasion. I love that place and its people. Spent many days there and gave hours and hours of seminar, which was really really educational for me myself, and also another lecture (coming right up). Los Angeles is my favorite Californian town.


Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 2: The Halting Problem

My love poem to SonicActs. This group of lovely people spent three whole years exploring dark ecology in the most physical and often risky way, making all kinds of stunning art in Arctic Russia and Norway, presenting work in Amsterdam and elsewhere, and involving me all over the place.

The talk followed an amazing, intense piece by Jana Winderen, who records underwater sound. Imagine the first movement of a gigantic Mahler symphony, only using live mixed fish and water and boat sounds...I'll never forget how she pushed the bass frequencies during that.

People were crying after my one, me included. The "q&a" was a 40 minute mind meld that just went on and on and on...pure solidarity.


Tim's Holiday Lectures Gift 1: Dark Ecological Chocolate

Everyone likes chocolate?! Anyway here's the first one. They aren't in chronological order...This is the one I gave in June at the SonicActs Dark Ecology Journey (the third one), in Kirkenes in far far north arctic Norway, Finnmark to be precise. Annette Wolfsberger and Arie Altena are the main other speakers. Thanks so much for everyone who attended!


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ending False Equivalency

“Did Republican politicians, so big on flag waving and impugning their rivals’ patriotism, reject this foreign aid to their cause? No, they didn’t. In fact, as far as I can tell, no major Republican figure was even willing to criticize Mr. Trump when he directly asked Russia to hack Mrs. Clinton.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. It has long been obvious — except, apparently, to the news media — that the modern G.O.P. is a radical institution that is ready to violate democratic norms in the pursuit of power. Why should the norm of not accepting foreign assistance be any different?” ---Paul Krugman

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tell It, Chomsky

You really do need to curtail your beautiful soul syndrome that seeks to establish how impure everyone else is, and check the realism of this. Best phrase from the vid: "The threat of survival to survival," which is exactly what my Verso book is all about.

The Paris conference had the goal of establishing verifiable commitments to do something about the worst problem that humans have ever faced—the likely destruction of the possibility for organized human life. They couldn’t do that. They could only reach a nonverifiable commitment—promises, but not fixed by treaty and a real commitment. And the reason was that the Republican Congress in the United States would not accept binding commitments. So they were left with something much weaker and looser.

The Morocco conference intended to carry this forward by putting teeth in that loose, vague agreement. The conference opened on November 7th, normal way. November 8th, the World Meteorological Organization presented an assessment of the current state of what’s called the Anthropocene, the new geological epoch that is marked by radical human modification, destruction of the environment that sustains life. November 9th, the conference basically ceased. The question that was left was whether it would be possible to carry forward this global effort to deal with the highly critical problem of environmental catastrophe, if the leader of the free world, the richest and most powerful country in history, would pull out completely, as appeared to be the case. That’s the stated goal of the president-elect, who regards climate change as a hoax and whose policy, if he pursues it, is to maximize the use of fossil fuels, end environmental regulations, dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency—established by Richard Nixon, which is a measure of where politics has shifted to the right in the past generation—and, in other ways, accelerate the race to destruction. Well, that was essentially the end of the Marrakech conference. It terminated without any issue. So that might signal the end of the world, even if not quite in the intended sense. --from Democracy Now

Monday, December 5, 2016

I've Heard David Brock for Years and He's Not to Be Messed With

I’m angry at FBI Director Jim Comey. There was a wide consensus among pollsters that on October 26 Hillary Clinton had an electoral majority. While Hillary aimed to turn out the Obama coalition, she had also made impressive inroads with college-educated whites, a cohort Democrats historically lose. And she was running strong with them, up by 12 points, until Comey’s reckless and unprecedented intrusion into the election.

The email story followed a familiar pattern. Hillary’s support dipped whenever the email controversy was in the news. As soon as the story faded from the headlines, people dismissed it, and she recovered.

We built up a strong immune system to the email nothingburger, but, in the end, Hillary was unable to fight off the Comey virus, given all the other pathogens of the cycle. There was simply no time to recover, especially among late-deciding college-educated women. The Comey letter also depressed turnout with the Demoratic base.

In short, the late-stage release of the Comey letter cost Hillary the election. Independent analysts from Nate Silver to Mike Podhorzer of the AFL-CIO have reached the same conclusion.

...

I’m angry at the mainstream media, which framed the election as a choice between two detestable people – one an aspiring banana republican ― and the other, one of the most qualified, dedicated, forward-thinking and honorable candidates ever to seek the office of the presidency. ---"Why I'm Angry"

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Why the US Congress Sucks: Exactly What to Do About It

In 2012, the year after the new lines were drawn, Republican candidates for the Wisconsin Assembly won less than half of the statewide vote — but 60 of the Assembly’s 99 seats. That pattern persisted in 2014, as well as in federal and state races elsewhere around the country. In North Carolina, Democrats got 51 percent of the 2012 vote for the United States House of Representatives, which translated to only four of the state’s 13 congressional seats. The skew was roughly the same in Pennsylvania: Democrats won a little more than a quarter of the House seats, even though they got a majority of the votes cast in congressional races in the state that year. --New York Times