Category Archives: Politics

What? Me Worry?

Somewhere Along the Gulf Coast (Alabama or Mississipi.)

Well, I worry some, because, well, after all, what if I’m wrong? But, in general I worry less than many about the current state of the Nation, Politics, and the Effects on My Creativity. As a public service, since I know many writers tend to be sensitive new-age liberal type people, here is why I’m not overly worried.

For more detail, a lot more, check out the book, Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1594 to 2069.  (The link goes to Amazon.) The authors make a reasonably compelling case that in a free society, history proceeds in a cyclical fashion. It might interest you to know that the book predicts that Boomers will be very conservative these days. No one can predict exact events or behaviors, but a pattern of attitudes and behaviors, especially when dealing with millions of individuals, is solidly predictable. It’s basic probability. The number of Americans is large enough that things truly will chug along the regression line of arithmetic average (mean) in terms of general zeitgeist.

As you can imagine from the title of the book, the history covers a number of total cycles. Not to scoop them, but there are four basic types of generation, two dominant, two, um, not dominant. Boomers are Idealists. The other dominant type is represented by Millennials, who are Civic. In between Civic and Idealist are the Reactives (Generation X,) almost always a cynical bunch (which doesn’t help things much.) In between the Idealist and the Civic are the Adaptives. The upcoming “Generation Z” or whatever they’ll be called is an example, but maybe if you consider the “Silent” generation of the 20th century you’ll understand them better. Think of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, rebelling, but, in the end, wearing his father’s coat. I pity the non-dominant generations. The “Silent” generation fought for, and gained, civil rights legislation, invented rock and roll, changed the very nature of our society, and who gets the credit? (If you’re screaming at that, you’re part of their problem — a Boomer.)

Every generation, of course, thinks that the world is as it seems to them when they come of age. Sigh. You’re a writer. You know better. The world is a lot of things, but not whatever a cohort of 10-year old kids think it is, and that’s for certain.

Now to the point: Every cycle, roughly every 80 years or so, something happens that makes society question its very existence. Something comes up that threatens the very fabric of society, to the extent that survival of the world as we know it is, frankly, not a certainty. And every time, in a free society, what seems afterwards to be an obvious reorganization and realignment of society results in a world that everyone, especially the Civic generation (who take the credit for what the Reactive generation before them actually accomplished,) thinks is a whole lot better than the world as it was before the crisis. So far at least, every time. Some examples of crises would include (this is not an inclusive list) The American Revolution, the Civil War, World War Two, and what is happening, or about to happen, now.

The new world will need stories from the old, stories from the struggle, and stories from the aftermath, and you and I are the ones to tell those stories. You hear that? Harbingers of a new world! Because we’re humans, and that’s how we roll. Sure, politically there has been some damage, maybe. And the planet needs some quick attention or we’ll be up the well known polluted estuary, (thank you Professor Hurst) but we’ll do what we need to do and things will be so much better when it’s over that nobody in their right mind will want to return to those old, dull days.

And that’s why I don’t worry so much as some people.

Politics

Yucca Mountain. North of Las Vegas Nevada

The picture this week is relevant to the topic. Yucca Mountain is politically controversial in Nevada. Google it if you want to know more. Short story is that this is the place where it was decided to store the nation’s low level nuclear waste. Since it’s just 75 miles from downtown Las Vegas, some folks are worried about what might happen. Nevada is an active earthquake state, so you can imagine the sort of scenario that is being proposed. There are counter arguments, also, and frankly, they may be right. I have seen video of various things being tried to break one of the containers that the waste is  stored in, and I’m not sure the average earthquake has the energy to do that. But, I’m not arguing a position on Yucca Mountain. I am using both sides as an example of how politics can skew the view of a situation.

“Good God, we’re all gonna die!” True.
“Not from Yucca Mountain because that stuff is safer than you’d think.” Also true.

So, I just managed to slip in my position without saying so, which is the point of this essay. No matter what you believe, no matter what your politics are, YOUR POSITION AND POLITICS ARE GOING TO COME OUT IN WHATEVER YOU WRITE. Mark Twain never gets on the nose with his commentary on racism in Huckleberry Finn. But, he does have Huck volunteer to go to a literal Hell rather than be a racist dick toward his friend Jim. That is a much stronger statement than saying “Racists are ignorant and undeserving of respect.” I doubt that Twain believed that statement in the raw form I’ve presented above. But maybe he did. Either way, Huck volunteering to go to Hell is a lot stronger way to make a statement about racism and social norms than any essay could ever be. So, okay, you say, but you’re writing an essay right now, aren’t you?

Well, yes, but that’s because I have a need to write something at frequent intervals. I just finished the first draft of a middle-grader, and I’m working on structural editing of a YA. Neither of those things involve much writing per se at this point, so I crank out the occasional (every Wednesday, I hope) essay, to keep my “write something” Jones down to a mild roar.

And my point, then, is that, if you, as a writer, are upset about politics on any level, if you truly want to do your bit to make the world a better place, then the thing you should do is write your stories. Maybe you’re like me, and you need to produce a few essays in between editing. Okay, fine. But write that damn story right now! It doesn’t matter what the story is, it will, without you being at all pedantic, be a better illustration of your world view than any essay (or Facebook post) could ever be. I’m serious, bucko! Stop reading this and writing something now!

There. I feel better, and you should, too!

Happy 5th of July!

It’s a Marathon

Yesterday was a holiday, so I took the day off. Also yesterday I published the following on Facebook:

It amazes me that we, as a nation, have gotten away with the incredible nerve shown 242 years ago, and continue to do so! I think that those poor, overheated souls in Philly would be absolutely amazed to see what the place has become!

I meant that to be optimistic. After all, we are a nation where weight loss is a major industry. Think about that: if your biggest problem is that you’re too fat, you’re doing okay, you know? I also saw a post of a list of various milestones of progress for the United States, which said in each case that conservatives had opposed it, but that liberals had won. This, I believe, is probably true. Over the long haul, politics is cyclical, with waves of conservativism and liberalism alternating, and, amazingly, reasonably predictable patterns of zeitgeist. This means that those patterns can be predicted with a fair amount of certainty, even if the exact timing varies from cycle to cycle. One cycle, by the way, runs roughly eighty years. Roughly. Put all that together, and count decades, and it won’t be long, it seems, before there is quite the overwhelming wave of progressivism in America. Because that’s what’s due up next.

One of the comments that post received was of a sad emoji. I don’t see anything sad in that post, and in fact I am quite upbeat about the next ten years. In the end. It is going to be difficult. People may die. But, in the end, the liberals will win again, because that’s how the cycle goes. Every. Single. Time.

So, what does all of this political rambling have to do with writing? Are you pessimistic about your work? Do you imagine yourself dying completely unpublished, forgotten by the entire literary world? Alone? Sad? Deprived of companionship other than a few insects who live on the crumbs of gruel you spill during your daily meagre meal? You know you do. But, so did Hemmingway. So did Twain. So did Shakespeare. So did Bob Freaking Dylan, to name a recent Nobel laureate. But the truth is, if you persevere, and continue to learn from your mistakes, you will not die in that way at all (probably — I have to hedge my bet just a little here.) There is, not liberalism, not progressivism, nothing political at all, but a successful career publishing your books(!) at the other end of what is, for certain, a struggle. That is what all of this political rambling has to do with writing!

There’s an old philosophical division (really) about whether it is “as above, so below,” or “as below, so above.” It provides quite the schism between Eastern and Western traditions of religious belief. Politically, it results in top-down or bottom-up power distribution. (Don’t strain this metaphor too far, or you’ll hurt something.) In writing, this amounts to whether your writing will reflect the current zeitgeist, or contribute to developing the next one. It actually makes no difference to sales, unless it does. In the end, it’s up to you which you choose to believe. But, as I like to say about many things, you can laugh at it or you can cry about it, and laughing feels a lot better!

I guess you know now which side I’m on, huh?

Carry on!

It’s Not The Bad Words!

republican-party-logo-designdemocratic-party-logo-design I’ll admit that I’m glad to see Mr. Trump destroying his campaign. But I’m not happy at what I see some of his supporters saying in defense of him. I’ve seen comments like “That’s the way real men talk,” and “it’s just locker room talk!” Oh? I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms with other men, and I’ve never heard anyone talk like that. I’ve heard “I wish I could get in bed with her!” Or, “I wouldn’t toss her out of bed for eating crackers!” But never anything like what Trump says about women, and for that matter, everybody else. What Trump fails to grasp is the simple idea that we all need to respect each other.

I’m stealing this idea from Kurt Vonnegut: we don’t need to love each other, or even like each other, but we do need to respect each other. And that respect is due just because we are all human beings. The world is way too small and interdependent for a return to isolationist, racist, misogynistic behavior. Which is what is wrong with what Trump, and some of his supporters, have said. “Grab her pussy” is not respectful to the person getting groped. Neither is wearing an ape mask and offering a black guy a banana. You don’t have to like blacks, you don’t have to like latinos (you may call them all “Mexicans,” I know,) you don’t have to like liberals, you don’t have to like me. But, you have to respect all of us as human beings.

Black Lives matter is a result of people being disrespected for generations simply because their skin is brown. And there are more examples, of which here are some.

Our drug laws are the result of disrespect. Cocaine is illegal because of a perceived need (in the early 20th century) to protect people whom the New York Times referred to as “Our Negro Brethren” from the evils of a South American Plant. Opium is illegal because of the perceived threat of Chinese immigrants. It was the “Yellow Menace,” you see. Got to wonder what today’s many Asian immigrants think of that one, huh? And weed, that is marijuana, is illegal because of disrespect to Mexican (really were this time) migrant laborers. Got to keep them spics in line, you know!

So, out of a failure to respect various groups as human beings who are as smart and capable of taking care of themselves as anyone else, we have distorted the social fabric to the point where it is normal for DEA agents to get into shooting wars with employees of rich cartels. Swell, huh? And consider that most illegal drugs begin as weeds. By which I mean that they are cheap.

Racism, sexism, misogyny, drug laws, unequal enforcement of laws, all are examples of not respecting each other. Vonnegut was right: what we need is a lot more respect. So, sure, as I’ve also read, Hilary has a potty mouth. I have a potty mouth, too! But, I don’t aim my mouth at entire classes of humans, and, maybe more importantly, I’m not trying to become President of the United States while being disrespectful to most of society.

I may make one exception and say something about a group. Frankly, if you can still support Trump, knowing all that we know about his character, I think maybe you do belong in Hilary’s basket. You know the one.

Politics and Stuff

The ceiling of the Pantheon of Rome Photo by Steve Fey
The ceiling of the Pantheon of Rome
Photo by Steve Fey 2015

And stuff. The stuff is what I’m writing about. You want the politics, turn on your, well, almost any device that receives information. You got it. But stuff? Well . . .

I have started using Twitter as my primary social media account. (Go on, read the advice for writers on using social media. You need a primary one, and one or more supporting ones.) I’ve been using Facebook for years, starting when I was a Realtor ™. (I’m not any more but I’m still using that ™. You’re welcome, NAR.) It works pretty well, but it got so I couldn’t log onto Facebook without seeing something upsetting. And I don’t mean just political positions that I disagree with, ’cause, Hell’s Bells, I tend to disagree with most everyone. But I mean dirty, personal, trolling in advance, obviously untrue, horrible things said about candidates. I don’t like Trump, okay? But I don’t badmouth the man. I just say flatly that most of what he says is made up, so I’m voting for Hilary, ’cause she only massages the truth like a politician tends to do. I don’t call him evil, I don’t talk about his, um, equipment, and I don’t think that those naked effigies are all that funny. Gadzooks, there’s enough ugly in the world, isn’t there?

So I moved over to Twitter. Of course, my Facebook account automatically tweets for me, and my Twitter account automatically posts to Facebook for me, so the net amount of stuff I’m putting up stays about the same. And, outside of the usual incredibly awful ads about every candidate, I don’t see a lot of politics beyond a couple of commentators whom I follow. It’s much easier.

I did try adjusting Facebook. It seems that it is possible, most of the time, to click on the little caret in the upper right-hand corner of a post and choose to block the original poster but not your friend. Not that I think much of my friends for posting shit, but they are my friends, and people are more important than politics, even dumb politics. But, alas, that doesn’t always work, and sludge keeps getting through anyway. On Twitter, though, not so much. I dunno, maybe I’ll get trolled once the assholes figure out that I’m there, but I don’t think so. Most of the trollery I see on Facebook is of the first-strike variety, which is pretty execrable in its own right, innit?

So, if you use social media to promote your writing, maybe you can try a trick like this to make your day less stressful. I know who I’m voting for, I try methods that have a chance to work to tell others why, and I don’t give a rats ass what anyone’s grandma thinks about Hilary or Donald.

I do, however, still like kittens. Gotta love them kittens . . .

Hot Stuff

Morning in Las Vegas
Morning in Las Vegas

It was 10:52 AM on 28 June 2016 when I grabbed that image from my screen. That’s right about the long-term average high for the date, maybe a degree above, so this will officially be a hot day in the Mojave desert.

But I will be getting steadily cooler. My drama for the past week:

Our very old heat pump condenser on the roof finally was diagnosed as terminal. Replacement is scheduled for today. But since about a week ago, it’s been mostly refusing to operate. We do have another unit that takes care of half of the house, but it was running full-tilt for days on end, so it broke. Then I had trouble getting anyone to fix it, although our home warranty company assigned someone. This morning, though, another tech assigned by them came by and now half the house is cooling down as I key this in. The crew to replace the rooftop unit is almost an hour late (by their own schedule) but at least we have a cool half a house to which to retreat. I do hope that the broken unit gets replaced before we burn out another condenser on the ground unit.

That’s the hot stuff. The only connection to writing is that it has been 93 degrees in my studio, so my writing schedule has been sporadic at best. I know, professional work and all that, but seriously, 93 degrees? Sorry, muse, but I’m back now!

So I think I’ll just rant about trust. It seems to me that we all have to trust other people. A lot of the political complaints I hear these days seem to boil down to people not trusting experts, politicians, police officers, immigrants, street sweepers, newspaper dispensers, dishwashers, brooms, Pez dispensers, or anything else. This is unfortunate, and it tends to build on itself. Someone who doesn’t trust isn’t seen as trustworthy, so the examples multiply.

In truth, I think these people have forgotten rule number one of human interaction: The way the world treats you is the way you treat the world. That’s not a religious teaching for me, but rather just the way things work.

The beauty of our republic is that the government is the people’s business. That’s what the word republic means. And, yes, I’m sure that there’s too much big corporate money being fed to congress. And don’t even ask me about that NRA thing! But at the bottom of it all, we apparently need a government. Nobody forced those rebels who founded this country to start a government. They did it because it seemed to them to be necessary. Whatever else you may think about our founders, that is certain. So, we are going to have a government. And at some point, we have to trust it.

But if you don’t? Then don’t bitch, or do stupid things like the British did recently. (We removed ourselves from their sphere of influence, if you’ll recall.) Instead, if you don’t like your representative, run for that office! Why not? You have a better idea, let’s see you put your actions where your mouth is! Think politicians are all self-serving assholes? Be one that isn’t! I don’t think that’s too much to ask from a patriotic American.

Hey! The crew to replace the failed unit just arrived! See, I trusted them, and it paid off!

 

 

Predictions

I mostly stay literary or comedic on this blog these days. In fact, I’ll be getting more into comedy again in the next few weeks (I hope.) But in the past I have made predictions that have, on occasion, proved to be accurate. And on occasion not, to be fair about it. I’ve stayed out of this year’s presidential campaign because it has been too dratted messy to see any real pattern emerge. But, now, in a spirit of knowing full well that I could be wrong, I’m going to make some general predictions about the outcome of this year’s race. I’ll keep it short.

I expect Hillary to be nominated by the Democrats. I like Bernie, but I don’t think he can pull off a nomination. However, he’s doing well enough that his supporters will have some real influence over the platform, and maybe the choice of a running mate.

For the Republicans, Trump is looking good. If you’re a Democrat, this is great news, because Trump is supported, in fact, by perhaps one-eighth of the electorate. But that really doesn’t matter, because the Republican party seems determined to destroy itself. So, whomever the Republicans nominate will lose to Hillary in November.

There. I’m writing this on March 6, 2016, for the  record. Now we’ll see how well I do come November.

Oops!

I vastly underestimated the degree of apathy in the Democratic base. Ah, well, I better not hear any of them bitching about the government for the next couple of years. Their loss.

There’s always next cycle!

My First Prediction Redux

Here, quoted from my post of January 29th, is my first prediction for the year 2014 in its most succinct form:

“Just that the Republicans will not take over the Senate, and may lose some seats in the House.” 

I copied and pasted that line. I’m repeating it so I can either look especially good or especially loopy tomorrow evening. We’ll see, I guess. Popular sentiment now seems to suggest the opposite, but I’ve never been one for believing what the media says popular sentiment is. So . . .

Margins Tax? Better than Lies!

In Nevada there is a proposal on the ballot in November to institute a margins tax on Nevada businesses. The proceeds will, according to the proposed statute, be deposited in the State general fund and used for K-12 education. One can argue against (or for) such a tax, but that’s not why I think I probably will vote for it. I am a Realtor, and today at our monthly agency business meeting someone brought up this tax. It is, the person said, to be a tax on entire gross business income, and further will not necessarily be used for education. So, unlike most people, including, I’m sure, those who signed the petition to have it enacted, I read the entire proposed act. It isn’t easy, but I really did do that. And I learned a thing or two.

The first thing that I learned was that, in fact, under the proposed statute, a business will be taxes on the exact same income which is taxed by the Federal government. yes, the first line of Section 24 does indicate that the lesser of 70% of total gross receipts reported to the IRS or the results of a formula (it doesn’t matter what the formula is for this argument) will be used as the starting point of computing taxes owed. Well, first off, 70% isn’t 100%, but that isn’t the big lie. As I read through Section 24 I discovered that any allowable deductions on a Federal level will also be allowable deductions for purposes of the proposed tax. Anyone who can read can find out the same thing by simply reading the proposed statute. Or, put simply, the notion that we will be taxing small businesses to death is simply a lie. There is also a provision, right up at the top of the statute, that any business with gross revenue under one million dollars is exempt. So if you gross $999,999.99, you pay zero margins tax, even if half of that is profit. That sounds like the sort of argument made against this proposal, and logically it is. However, my statement has the virtue of being verifiably true. As to where the proceeds go, well, the act says to education. If people fight to redirect other general fund monies away from education, then this proposed statute can’t stop them. So, hey, that statement from this morning is true.

The person who made the statements also made a point about being cynical and bitter. Cynical and bitter enough to believe things that aren’t true? The fact is that our government is just about exactly as greedy as we are, which says a lot about those people who think that the government is nothing but a bunch of greedy income snatchers, in my not so humble opinion. But, who cares about education anyway? Hell, Bugsy Siegel didn’t go to college, and he’s a local hero! (Hey, Steve Wynn did, and look at him, huh?) Here’s my answer:

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics for February 2014, here are the unemployment rates for various levels of educational attainment:

  • Not a High School Graduate — 9.8%
  • High School Graduate, no college — 6.4%
  • Associate’s Degree, or at least some college — 6.2%
  • Bachelor’s Degree or higher — 3.4%

Just finishing High School makes you 1/3 less likely to be unemployed. And if you’re employed, you’re paying taxes, buying things, and generally keeping the economy moving along. You are not collecting unemployment, and probably not on food stamps or other type of public assistance. Paying for education is a great investment for a society to make, and a business owner should be more aware of that than anyone, since unemployed people make lousy customers, what with their general lack of disposable income. Want to cut your chances of unemployment by another third? See above and finish college. All four years worth, that is. But that’s another argument for another day.

For today, barring some true reasons to oppose the margins tax popping up, I’m likely to vote for it if only in revenge for being lied to. I just can’t stand being lied to.

Later,

Steve

By the way, you can read the proposed statute yourself right here.