A Pragmatic Idealist’s Guide to Caucus/Primary Season

Call me liberal, progressive, whatever you like. Parse it how you will, I occupy somewhere most of the way to the leftwards end of the political spectrum. If I had to self-label, I’d probably call myself a Social Democrat. My ideal economic arrangement would be using the productive capabilities of capitalism to achieve socialist-style ends (something along the lines of Iain Banks’ notions about the Culture in his novels, which can be summed up at the organizational level as ‘socialism within, capitalism without.’). Politically, I’d like to see a strong democracy in which participation by an informed citizenry with a liberal education, historical and scientific knowledge, and critical thinking skills ran the show. I’m in favor of single-payer universal healthcare, a guaranteed basic income, and top marginal tax rates approaching ninety percent (I’m also in favor of allowing folks to assign how their tax monies are spent, at least within a set of broad categories). I’m not against people becoming wealthy, but I think that option should only open up once the floor has been raised and guaranteed, for everybody.

So that’s where I’m coming from, in case any of the ten or fifteen people who read this blog didn’t already know. And I think there are lots of folks who’d agree with me, though the kinds of views I espouse don’t get a lot of play in the mainstream media.

So, given the rapid approach of primary and caucus season, what’s a pragmatic idealist to do? Continue reading “A Pragmatic Idealist’s Guide to Caucus/Primary Season”

You Don’t Have to Attend Clarion to Be a Real Writer

But it helps.

For those not in the know, the Clarion and Clarion West Writers’ Workshops are intensive six-week residential programs where aspiring, semi-professional, and early-career professional writers are exposed to and connected with accomplished working professionals in the speculative fiction field. The focus is on writing short fiction, and critiquing it (building a less-shitty first draft, if you will). But as much as that, it’s about learning what it is to be a professional or at least serious writer, both in terms of lifestyle and in terms of the business of speculative fiction and the people and standards within it. I have, for many years, described it as a provisional membership in the kool-kids club (please note the tongue planted firmly in cheek).

Both are currently accepting applications.

As you’ve likely guessed, or knew already, I attended Clarion in 2010. It was, in many ways, a watershed experience. I met and studied under some of my personal heroes. I made friends I expect to keep for the rest of my life (many of whom have gone on to do amazing things). I got the aforementioned provisional membership in the kool-kids club. But more than anything, I had the incredible privilege and luxury of six whole weeks where writing, critiquing, and talking about writing and critiquing with seventeen peers and six bad-ass instructors was all I had to do and to worry about. For someone who was insistent on toiling away in solitude and obscurity until he applied on a whim six months after his mother died, it was a life-changing event.

Then, today, this happened:

Gaiman.jpg

And, this being the internet, outrage ensued. Continue reading “You Don’t Have to Attend Clarion to Be a Real Writer”

Death and My Birthday, or What I Learned from David Bowie and Brent McDonald

As some of you may know, it was my birthday yesterday. My forty-third, to be exact. So I was already in a contemplative mood, thinking about where I’m at and where I’m going, and whether or not any course corrections are called for.

Death was already on my mind. See, a friend I’d lost touch with was murdered not long before Christmas, and his memorial service was scheduled for yesterday. His partner was someone I was once close with, so of course I had to go. I missed the service (seating was limited, and I didn’t think it appropriate to take up a spot), but I went to the reception after, which was a lovely, well-attended affair. Sad though the reason for it was, it was good to reconnect with my friend, and to see her daughter, who I’d known since she was an infant and who has grown into a quite impressive young lady.

I had dinner after with my girlfriend and father, and swung by a party not held in my honor, and both were quite lovely. Later, on my own, I went round the corner to my favorite watering hole, and sipped on some single malt and did some thinking.

That’s where I was when I heard about David Bowie. Continue reading “Death and My Birthday, or What I Learned from David Bowie and Brent McDonald”

A Strategy of Containment in Oregon

So a bunch of domestic terrorists have seized a wildlife refuge in rural Oregon. They say they’re peaceful but armed (and willing to kill and die), have provisions enough to last a couple of years, and they’ve invited like-minded “patriots” from across the country to join them. They are, by any sane definition, engaged in sedition, and attempting to undermine the political and philosophical underpinnings that make the United States of America possible.

So what do we as a political commonwealth do about that?

It’s very tempting, even from where I sit, to say “Well, if a fight’s what they want, we should give them one. They got away with it last time, and now they’re doing it again. If we don’t slap them down now, they’ll just keep doing it.” After all, the notion that a company-sized force of irregulars could hold their own against a determined assault by the Oregon National Guard or pretty much any branch of the US military is laughable on its face. And while I’m sure the soi-disant patriots involved genuinely believe in their hearts that their long guns and the Second Amendment guarantee their liberty, it’s actually the social compact and the tenets of our political commonwealth that do that, as they would no doubt discover to their brief but lifelong chagrin should it come to any sort of violent confrontation.

The problem is that that’s what their leaders probably want. They want to be martyrs, like the Branch Davidians before them, the spark that will ignite the revolution of long oppressed yet heavily armed Christian White Men who’re frightened to death of long-term demographic trends that will undermine their assumed and inherited hegemony of the US of A. Should the National Guard or the BATFE or any federal agency whatsoever engage, they’ll win the battle decisively and quickly, and start a war that’ll last lifetimes.

That’s why the Bundy brothers’ father Cliven got away with it last time. And thank whatever divinity you pray to we have a President whose prudence outweighs his pride for that.

No, it’s not really an option to storm the gates, satisfying though it would be in the short run, and easily as it might be accomplished. In that sense, they’re like Daesh: fighting them on their own terms only strengthens them.

So what’s to be done?

My answer is there in the title of this post. Let them have their occupied visitors’ center. Let anyone who wants to come join them in their white Libertarian Patriot Paradise do so. Let them prove the workability of their social model and survive as they can off the land. Let 100+ men share a single bathroom (ok, two, since I’m guessing they aren’t going to need to set one aside for ladies), and eat canned beans everyday for a year or two. Let them show us how the land can sustain them, all by itself, without a social compact or government to allocate its fruits.

Just don’t let any of them back out. Not until they’ve learned their lesson, and voluntarily surrender.

I’m betting that it won’t take more than a couple of months before a stint in federal prison starts to look right appealing in comparison.