4 May 2014 ·


I posted this last night on Facebook and have had a couple people ask if I could repost it somewhere more “shareable” (that is to say, where it can be more easily viewed by people without Facebook accounts). So at the risk of coming off like I’m really impressed with myself (I’m not; I have not even put on clothes yet today and need a haircut very badly), HERE IT IS.

Summary for anyone who is interested and who wants to more fully understand what is happening with our federal government right now:

1. This shutdown is not happening because both parties won’t compromise. This shutdown is happening because Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to pass a budget bill without a bunch of amendments tacked on to it, chiefly amendments nullifying Obamacare.

2. Obamacare is not directly tied to this budget bill in any way. It is a separate piece of legislation, already passed and signed into law back in 2010. The House Republicans are just saying, “We don’t like this law, Obamacare, that was already passed, and because we do not have the votes to repeal it in the manner laid out in the Constitution” — they don’t; they’ve already tried to repeal it 42 times, yes, that is true, 42 times — “we’re going to instead DEMAND that the law be repealed or delayed, or else we won’t pass this budget legislation necessary to keep the country running.”

3. Again, Obamacare was signed into law, in the fashion laid out in the Constitution of the United States, in 2010. It was not, like, laid down by martial law, unless you think a bunch of congresspeople and senators voting for a bill counts as martial law.

4. Also, the president behind Obamacare was reelected in 2012. Also also, in 2012 the Democrats retained control of the Senate, and House Republicans actually lost the popular vote, but stayed in control of their chamber because of shrewd gerrymandering. All of which is to say: If Americans hate Obamacare so much, how come they reelected Obama and voted so strongly for Democrats.

5. Remember that in 2012, the Supreme Court, led by a conservative chief justice and majority, upheld Obamacare’s constitutionality, except for one part. (And that part is kaput. The president is not trying to enforce it with UN troops and black helicopters. It’s why we don’t have a state-run health exchange here in Wisconsin.) So, to sum up: Obamacare was not only enacted according to the rule of law in this country, it also survived scrutiny by the highest judiciary body in the land, which is in the hands of the opposition party.

6. The point being: None of this is to say whether Obamacare will be good or bad for the country! It is only to say that it was passed according to the rules, and it’s been legitimized by our top court and implicitly by citizens who voted to reelect the president whose name it bears. Socialist tyranny, it’s just not.

7. What the House GOP is pulling right now — “Get rid of Obamacare or we’ll shut down important services and risk a global financial catastrophe by not raising the debt ceiling” — this is not politics as usual. This is extortion. They are a minority; even plenty of other Republican legislators think that what these guys are doing is absurd and dangerous (and this will likely become more clear the longer the shutdown goes on). If these guys want to get rid of Obamacare, they should go out and campaign and get more senators and a president elected. That is how democracy works. AMERICA, Y’ALL.

8. A note on the debt ceiling: Voting to raise the debt ceiling is not voting to spend money that the U.S. doesn’t have. Congress *already voted* to spend that money. The debt ceiling is a bizarre, redundant device, and we are basically the only country that has one. (Denmark has one, but it’s just a formality and has never been a point of controversy or contention.) Essentially, it’s like if your dad went out and bought a lot of stuff with his credit card, but then he had to ask your mom if it was OK for him to pay the credit card off. The money is already spent. If your mom says no, then your dad is failing to honor his obligations, and his credit rating (and your mom’s!) is going to be trashed. The difference on the larger scale is that if the U.S.’s credit rating is trashed, the whole planet’s economy could take a massive hit, because we are, you know, a global super-power.

9. Again, this is not about a lack of compromise on both sides. The House GOP is demanding that the president and congressional Democrats just undo their chief legislative victory. And it was a legitimate victory! And frankly, Obamacare is something that a lot of Americans *want*. Those Americans are real citizens, too. So this is like if your dad and your mom and you and your sister all vote to go to Olive Garden one Thursday evening, but your little brother wants to go to Applebee’s, and so instead of just accepting that he won’t always get his way and planning a stronger case for Applebee’s for next Thursday, he flips out and runs outside and slashes all the tires on the car so you guys can’t go anywhere. Except, again, much crazier, because instead of just one family it affects millions of people and could also set off an economic calamity of titanic proportions.

10. Let me be clear: I do not hate Republicans. My dad is a Republican! I am a small businessperson! I go to church! I LOVE CHRISTMAS. This is not about name-calling or hating on anyone, and frankly, I do not expect to change anyone’s mind about any of the proceeding details. But I am tired of the notion that both parties are equally to blame for our troubles; it has surely been true in the past, but it’s not right now. (And it is entirely possible for ALL POLITICIANS TO BE AWFUL and for ONE OF THE TWO PARTIES TO STILL BE CONSIDERABLY WORSE.) Believe me, I would love nothing more than to see a revitalized Republican party, with views that I might disagree with but which were not straight-up lunacy. IT WOULD MAKE MY DUMB INTERNET FIGHTS A LOT MORE INTERESTING.

I can’t believe I’m posting this. I am a fool. I don’t know if I will even respond to comments. I have a headache already. Maybe it would not be so bad if we all downloaded our consciousnesses into computers after all.

1 October 2013 ·

—Lew Welch, inscription from Ring of Bone
(Reprinted in The Twilight of American Culture, by Morris Berman)

—Lew Welch, inscription from Ring of Bone

(Reprinted in The Twilight of American Culture, by Morris Berman)

22 August 2012 ·

"So stated, these points appear harmless enough. Over the last decade and a half, however, a notion of safety has arisen, a notion that runs from safe sex (once it becomes anything more than making sure your partner uses a condom when you are anally penetrated by males of unknown HIV status, whether you are male or female) to safe neighborhoods, safe cities, and committed (i.e., safe) relationships, a notion that currently functions much the way the notion of "security" and "conformity" did in the fifties. As, in the name of "safety," society dismantles the various institutions that promote interclass communication, attempts to critique the way such institutions functioned in the past to promote their happier sides are often seen as, at best, nostalgia for an outmoded past and, at worst, a pernicious glorification of everything dangerous: unsafe sex, neighborhoods filled with undesirables (read "unsafe characters"), promiscuity, an attack on the family and the stable social structure, and dangerous, noncommitted, "unsafe" relationships—that is, psychologically "dangerous" relations, though the danger is rarely specified in any way other than to suggest its failure to conform to the ideal bourgeois marriage.

Such critiques are imperative, however, if we are ever to establish new institutions that will promote similar ends.”

—Samuel R. Delany, Times Square Red Times Square Blue (§1.8 of “Times Square Red”)

18 August 2012 ·

"Given the mode of capitalism under which we live, life is at its most rewarding, productive, and pleasant when large numbers of people understand, appreciate, and seek out interclass contact and communication conducted in a mode of good will.

The class war raging constantly and often silently in the comparatively stabilized societies of the developed world perpetually works for the erosion of the social practices through which interclass communication takes place and of the institutions holding those practices stable, so that new institutions must always be conceived and set in place to take over the jobs of those that are battered again and again till they are destroyed.

While the establishment and utilization of those institutions always involve social practices, the effects of my primary and secondary theses are regularly perceived at the level of discourse. Therefore, it is only by a constant renovation of the concept of discourse that society can maintain the most conscientious and informed field for both the establishment of such institutions and practices and, by extension, the necessary critique of those institutions and practices—a critique necessary if new institutions of any efficacy are to be established. At this level, in its largely stabilizing/destabilizing role, superstructure (and superstructure at its most oppositional) <em>can</em> impinge on infrastructure.”

—Samuel R. Delany, Times Square Red Times Square Blue (§1.7 of “Times Square Red”)

18 August 2012 ·

The time I stood up to accept an award I had not won

Pretty much all I wanted when I was in junior high was to have a newspaper column. I started reading Ann Landers at age eleven, and I devoured my mom’s Erma Bombeck books (it was a long time before I understood why this was a hilarious title), and eventually I moved on to Mike Royko. Probably I was the only eighth grader in Fargo, North Dakota, who knew who Slats Grobnik was.

Then I got to high school and took Journalism 1 my sophomore year, which meant I could start working on the school paper my junior year. And when I did, lo and behold—they gave me my own column. I called it “Running Wild,” because I was on the cross-country and track teams and because I spent way too much time listening to the new Soup Dragons album that year.

Being a newspaper columnist was everything I’d dreamed it would be. Whenever the paper came out, people complimented me on my “article.” (I eventually devoted a couple paragraphs to explaining the difference between a column and an article; it seemed really important at the time, because I was sixteen.) Women veritably threw themselves at me; my high school crush even invited me over to her house. (Nothing came of any of this, because I somehow had less game then as a healthy teenager who lifted weights every day than I do now as a middle-aged pudgy dad who is presently still wearing pajama pants.) The powers that be took notice of me, inasmuch as I once wrote a critical thing about the student council and the adviser (my Spanish teacher) said her feelings were kind of hurt.*

And then there were the awards. I had been convinced of my own brilliance for a long time (ever since I penned a disco tune called “All’s Well That Ends Well” when I was about four). But then our journalism adviser, R.D., included some of my columns in his annual packet of submissions to whatever organization it was or is that judges the quality of high school journalists in North Dakota. I’m pretty sure I missed the actual trip up to Grand Forks where they handed out plaques—I must have had a track meet or something, where I promise you I did not win any awards—but when our delegation returned to Fargo, they bore with them some sort of marker indicating that I WAS THE BEST HIGH SCHOOL OPINION COLUMNIST IN THE ENTIRE GODDAMN STATE.

At long last, validation.

Well, the next year I got to write my column again. (This time I named it after a Jesus and Mary Chain song. As names of newspaper columns go, it was probably a downgrade, though I like how “Fargo” is right there in the first five letters. Musically, however, a definite improvement.)

And again there were fame and recognition, and ladies I was too scared to try to put my hands or mouth on. In a moment of hubris, I used the column to try to persuade everyone to elect me Sadie Hawkins King, and that totally bombed. I mean, I don’t know how close the vote was (I vaguely remember someone telling me: “Not close”), but what really sunk the whole experience was how, right before they announced the winner—on a microphone—in the gym—at a pep rally in front of the entire school—I stepped forward to accept the honors and then they called somebody else’s name. (You deserved it, Ryan. I shouldn’t have tried to exert my tremendous influence as a member of the Fourth Estate to sway the voters. Plus, you were quite a bit cooler than I was.)

Anyway, that was the most embarrassing experience of my life (finally eclipsing the “mooned the principal” thing from first grade), so you’d think I would have learned something from it. But.

When they gave out the journalism awards that second year, once again my column had been submitted, and since it was still, in my eyes, objectively the best opinion column to appear in a Class A or any high school newspaper in the entire state, I figured I was a shoo-in. Also, I did get to go to Grand Forks for the awards that year, which also featured on-the-spot writing contests, and I think right before they did the ceremony I found out I’d won Best Editorial (different from an opinion column, because, you know, unsigned, and totally different from an “article”) for my take on the big caning in Singapore. Oh—and, I swear to God, I heard some kid from another school actually point me out as I walked by and say something like, “Wimmer’s gonna win it again” to his friend. So I was rather amped up. Perhaps even more impressed with myself than usual.

I was pretty much on the edge of my chair waiting for them to get to the award for Best Opinion Column. I mean, I was literally trembling as my moment drew near. I must have had a speech planned, because I always had a speech planned.

Needless to say, I shot up out of my seat and started for the podium just as they announced the winner—who was a guy named Jay Enyart from Bismarck. He wrote a column called “My Little Corner” for his paper, and every single installment ended with something like “…I’ll see you in my little corner.” It was so unbearably twee. Also, our adviser was sure their adviser laid out their whole paper for them.

So I still think I should have won. Not only was I robbed, but I totally made an ass of myself, too. If I see you, Enyart, you better watch the hell out. YOU WATCH THE HELL OUT.

*Also, I once wrote something mildly anti-Semitic, and I am really, really sorry about that, Mr. Bernath. That was a totally nice letter you wrote me explaining why it wasn’t funny, and in response I just made another stupid joke in the next column, and I’m pretty sure I called you Mrs. Bernath. (That was because I didn’t look closely enough at your cursive until later.)

19 January 2012 ·

This is not a very good blog

I won’t deny it: This is not a very good blog. It veers wildly from overly, obsequiously professional (and, I think, boring) to randomly goofy (but probably not in an entertaining enough way to justify any clients it might cost me).

Well, I’m working on it.

Here’s something I think is true about the blog medium: It’s as much about practice as it is about professionalism. This is simply inherent to blogging—the cost of entry is so low, the compensation so minimal, and the window of time you can expect your audience to spend on your blog so short, that it just doesn’t make sense to polish and edit and revise blog posts. At least not the same way you’d polish and edit and revise a newspaper or magazine article.

And while that doesn’t mean you should just put out crap, it does mean that the only way to improve is by doing it, by blogging often and in public, so you can figure out what works.

It can be hard, because, yeah, it’s embarrassing when you’ve blogged something you wish were better-written, or when someone calls you out for not knowing something. It dismays me to think of all the stuff I’ve posted online that makes me sound like a total (as opposed to a partial) fool. I kind of wish I could wipe it all out and start fresh and sound like a genius from square one.

But there is also comfort in knowing that all the foolish stuff is out there and that, you know, by putting it out there and leaving it there, I’m owning it. Yup, sometimes I am dumb, or boring, or lame. But that’s because I’m a person. And maybe the best thing blogs and the rest of the internet will do for us will be to make it undeniably obvious how integral dumbness, boringness, and lameness are to the human condition, so that we can get comfortable with them. That would be good for everybody, right?

18 January 2012 ·


Cat pictures. Music. Marshall McLuhan. Science fiction. Other stuff. I once wrote an internet law, totally by accident! I have a real blog too.

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