Monthly Archives: November 2012

sign-up sheet for master debaters


It’s easy to wax fanatic over the progressive rout of conservative thought that happened last Tuesday; if you wanted to be a seriously dank blanket, there’s all kinds of olive-drab lining behind the silver clouds of Election 2012. Old white people seem to live forever, pickled in their own restorative hate vinegar, and they’ll be around for years to come, with their drones of “takers not makers” (which should be grunted with the same snarl as “get off my lawn!”).

But despite my own tempered excitement, one thing seems to be true: the nerds finally outnumber the football players.. I have long cast my lot with the spazzes, the weirdoes, and both gaywads AND dorkwads. I have proclaimed my stand with the chess club, the filmstrip operators, the twee, the fey, the queens, the fruits, the prissy, the mincing, the godless, the agnostics, the flaky, and the unsure. I will also add the not-entirely-symmetrical, those with imperfect skin, the poor swimmers, and the “possibly cute but not what you’d call handsome”.


your humble narrator, 3rd grade, already late for violin lesson

And this is the first election when I can truly say that the perennially-unpopular finally voted themselves as homecoming kings and queens. With gay marriage referendums passing in three states, pot becoming legal in others, and an African-American (hated by a sickening majority of white people) reëlected to the Presidency, the unpopular won the popular vote.

Say what you want about Romney – and fuck knows I have – but he was a BULLY. He strapped the family dog to the top of the car and went on a road trip despite dog diarrhea splurshing down on them. Bain was a logical extension of a bully’s mindset, and his days in high school show him to be a dick at best. He has that odd, uncanny valley-like lack of empathy that also beset George W. Bush, brought on by either thousands of milligrams of antidepressants or just plain hegemoniacal creepiness. And yes, I just made up “hegemoniacal”.

And now they’re both gone, beaten by the three big winning dorks of the 2012 Election: Barack Obama, Nate Silver, and the climate scientists who gave us Hurricane Sandy’s path a full week before she came. I share an affinity with Obama and Silver – both nerds who love to spaz out on their particular areas of expertise, and both having a not-so-secret passion for sports.

You’d be afraid of neither in a dark alley, but leave them to their own devices, and they will run the world. Assholes like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, the Senate Republican Rape All-Stars, Limbaugh, Nugent and their ilk, embodied perfectly by Kurt and Ram in “Heathers”…

…finally received payback. We’ve been told for years that the geek shall inherit the earth, but it always seemed like the lacrosse team kept getting anything it wanted. Only now did the country finally turn to the mathletes and Quiz Bowlers to keep them warm, safe and dry.


a dip into the pensive


I’m applying to a very fancy, very wonderful writer’s workshop in a country far, far away. If I get in, it’d mean spending a week on a beautiful cliffside, meeting other writers who are finishing their novels and non-fiction, and mustering all the criticism I can dish out or swallow. Which sounds like heaven to me; nothing was more perversely sweet than sitting in Doris Betts’ or Max Steele’s class at UNC, getting my stories brutalized by Ristin Cooks or Jenny Offill.

Part of the submission process involves proffering part of the big piece you plan on finishing, and for me, that meant writing samples of a book I’m doing with Tessa that concerns, well, stuff I’ve written about here. We’re contemplating a “he said/she said” memoir, and I’m here to tell you, diving back into that world has been surprisingly miserable.

A lot has happened since that entry exactly two years ago, and much of it rattled the very foundation of who I thought I was. I mentioned none of it on the blog, because that triptych of entries seemed like a good place to leave things, and I have to confess: this online journal been difficult to define of late.

Either way, I thought my perspective was worth putting out into the world, especially in a book about fertility and adoption, perhaps the last subject not overrun with dudes waiting to interrupt you. I know I felt tremendously alone during much of the process, and if I’d been able to commiserate with ONE GUY about the sheer krazypants of it, I might have fared better.

This will all seem so insufferably quaint, or perhaps barbaric to future readers. The will hear these tales of fertility the way we react to stories of Georgian barbers bloodletting their Kings. Nature is cruel, then suddenly redemptive, and the meantime key is survival.


been down one time, been down two times



before the kids descended, Tessa blogged the election for HuffPo as Jeffrey Lieber did so for Twitter

Late last night, I was Facebook chatting with a frequent commenter here who was deeply, deeply miserable about last night’s results, being a steadfast Republican. Although I’d just come from a celebratory dinner where all our kids were leaping over the couches with unfettered joy, I confess my own feelings were of a decidedly muted contentment.

But my friend, he was having his 2004. The night when you look around at your country and wonder what the fuck is wrong with everybody, when you sink into a deep funk and decide the only way to survive is to stop ingesting politics entirely.

The 2004 election robbed me of the ability to take any political desire to a cellular level. It stuck with me through the historical 2008 victory, and it sticks with me now: that we are never more than a few thousand people away from making absolutely dreadful decisions based on fear and tribalism.

I still care deeply about certain elements: that we take the lead in capping CO2, that we kick alternative energy’s ass, that we empower the powerless, create strong women, and keep out of their vulvas unless asked. These things I feel into my marrow; but I don’t feel them politically. On a night like tonight, when a past version of me would have jumped on every bed in the house, put on “Atomic Dog” and filled a SuperSoaker with vodka, I can only pump a small fist.

I don’t care that my team won, for “team’s” sake or for “win’s” sake, I just want what I fucking want, and right now, the Republicans have an almost uncanny ability to stand in the way of all of them.

I genuinely adore Barack Obama, his love for his wife and his kids, his obvious dork-like desire to dive into policy, and his fairly effective drive down the lane for a lefty. I love the women that were elected this cycle, giving Lucy models for a limitless horizon and an endless stratosphere.

But I’ve given up on being on Team Democrat or even Team America First; I save my irrational brotherhood for the Tar Heels and the wonderful folks who have read thus far. And I do admit a deep empathy for some of my friends who were met with a country they didn’t recognize tonight – I’ve been there, and it changes a person. Hell is a passion denied, and then you get one of God’s quirks: he’ll give you anything you want once you stop caring.


when the hurlyburly’s done


My Three Scenarios for Tonight’s Election – Shakespeare, Marlowe and Yeats

WmShakespeare(bl).jpg CMarlowe(bl).jpg WBYeats(bl).jpg

1. The struts and frets, signifying nothing.

My personal prediction, this scenario states that the election result will be pretty much the same national story as it was in March: a comfy Obama win at 46.5% to 43.5% with a clear 307+ plurality in electoral votes. This validates the idea that all this drama was manufactured by a 24-hour news cycle slaking its thirst for a narrative. In the end, everyone just did what they were going to do anyway. I’ve been calling a 4.8 to 5.2 point win, despite the fair and foul.

2. Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it.

Romney wins the national vote by a bizarrely (at least to us) margin, like 51% to 49%, and also takes the Electoral College in the 290 range. Progressives are left wondering what the fuck just happened to the country they used to know, and a generation of kids gives up on politics before they even start. The Canadian maritime districts gear up for a lot of “visitors”.

3. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Romney wins by sub-atomically slim margins, even taking some states that hadn’t appeared that close. Lawyers descend, and the smell of shenanigans, “lost” votes, and voter suppression finally turns liberals into revolutionaries. Using an emotional infrastructure already established by the Occupy movement, and a social media network that was practically invented for this moment, people actually take to the streets. Civil unrest, constitutional crisis.

’cause i’ve heard so much about it


I’d like to ask a very simple question today. God knows we all live in our bubbles, and only really subject ourselves to people we already agree with – our friends, our TV channels, our gravitation toward others is largely a foregone conclusion. Opposing viewpoints only get into our headspace through the following ways:

• philosophically-divergent family member

• crazy in-laws

• Facebook feed from an old “friend” you haven’t hidden yet

• accidentally turning to the wrong TV channel

• guy with lawn signs you desperately want to set ablaze

• moronic co-worker you ignore

…and that’s about it. You can limit yourself to no more than 2 minutes of opposing viewpoints a day. But if us progressives are truly to claim the high ground, we must be able to take a fearless look at ourselves and ask if we are engaging in the same cognitive dissonance our Republican counterparts do.

For instance, Kent’s entry from Friday put one of many conservative logic fallacies into sharp relief: his Republican friend is voting for Romney because Obama didn’t make his economic situation better. But his Republican friend also believes that government is incapable of fixing the economy. That’s like firing your plumber because your car doesn’t start.

Their cognitive dissonance is probably even more sickening to liberals when it comes to plain ol’ factual numbers. 26% of Republicans believe that mankind contributes to global warming. A third of them believes Obama is Muslim. 68% of them believe in demonic possession.


we can all agree however, that “Exorcist III” was goddamn amazing

So yes, the vast majority of right-wing voters are clearly idiots, racists, or both. But are we?

I would love to be shown how I’m unbelievably wrong about some issue that is inalienably proven by factual numbers. I would relish – seriously, RELISH – the opportunity to see how us progressives are showing cognitive dissonance in the face of incontrovertible reality. Seriously.

Can anyone give me an example? ANYONE?

Here’s what DOESN’T count:

#1 – Character Flaws. “Liberals love their shiny iPads, but they are plastic and made in China by an enslaved workforce and are shipped here in huge tankers powered by gas.” No, that’s not cognitive dissonance, that’s hypocrisy. An offense, a crime of convenience, sure, but not a logical malfunction.

#2 – Philosophical Difference of Opinion. “Liberals want us to get rid of the death penalty, but have no problem killing unborn children.” No, that’s not cognitive dissonance, that’s a “bullshit framing of the argument”. We don’t necessarily believe life begins at conception, so the phrase “unborn children” is not correct. Also, our issue is not with abortion, it’s with YOU TELLING WOMEN WHAT THEY CAN DO WITH THEIR BODIES.

#3 – Malarkey. “Liberals believe X, but a study by the Heartland Institute…” STOP. STOP RIGHT THERE. You don’t get to prove liberal cognitive dissonance by quoting “facts” or “figures” from conservative thinktanks, the Heritage Foundation, or any other organization on a payroll that guarantees deviation from reality. Only science that is triple-checked and damn-near irrefutable will be allowed.

Anyone up to the challenge? Please, SHOW ME HOW I CONSISTENTLY AND WILLFULLY DISREGARD ACTUAL FACTS. I’m beggin’ ya!


the nonsensepeddlers of dissonanceland


Today I hand the blog over to my brother Kent, as sage and sanguine a fellow you’ll ever meet. His psychological wanderlust has always inspired me to go a step further and resist the easy conclusion, and he also bought me Rubber Soul when I was 12. Here’s Kent:


The Republican Paradox

I have been trying to get out of my ideological comfort zone and talk to people who are voting for Romney. This has happened on Facebook almost exclusively, because I live in Iowa City, and open Republicans are about as welcome as an Austrian wearing Lederhosen driving a Mercedes is in Tel Aviv.

It’s a shame. The sort of insulting partisan rancor that seems to pass for political discourse these days is terrible. The only way we know what we believe is if we critique our own beliefs, and try and understand what people who disagree with us are saying.

But what I’m hearing from Romney voters strikes me as curious. I’m going to quote one person who responded to my challenge without identifying him; since he posted on Facebook I don’t think it’s an invasion of his privacy.

“Well Kent all I can say to you is that this election is about far more than this narrow view point that you support.

I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Obama even if I was paid a million dollars to do so; I care too much about this great country to take the money and run as many have. I can only vote my conscience (which I already have), yes I voted for Romney.

Do I think he’s perfect; absolutely not but he got to be better than what we have. Due to the contraction of the economy especially in the building sector in which I work, I have seen four years of uncertainty and fear. People that have money to invest simply will not gamble in this market. It is those people that drive our economy not the labor unions or government as the left will have you believe.

I have seem my compensation plummet in the last four years to a mere 35% of what it was. That hurts a lot. No I didn’t load up on the toys and over extend myself like others but a cut that severe even over time hurts. I voted for Romney and I’m proud of it. Here’s to the coming years of prosperity.”

This is verbatim, except for paragraph breaks. I could quibble about many things in this statement, but not with its manifest sincerity. It does, however, crystallize a couple of things that to me are paradoxical.

“People that have money to invest simply will not gamble in this market. It is those people that drive our economy not the labor unions or government as the left will have you believe…”

I don’t know how he knows what the ‘left’ believes but it isn’t what I believe. What strikes me is how ready he is to trust rich people to take care of the economy.

“I have seem my compensation plummet in the last four years to a mere 35% of what it was…”

This is what I’m really hearing a lot from people I know who are voting Republican. People have been hurt by the recession. I feel deep sympathy for their plight. This guy sounds as though he doesn’t have it as bad as many do, but I’ve lived through my income taking a plummet. It is no fun. I have yet to get back to the salary I had when I lost my job during the recession during the first term of George W. Bush.

The recession continues, though things are slowly getting better. They blame Obama and the government for not fixing it fast enough. Their pain is real, and they think changing the President will make things better. They blame him. They blame the Democrats. They blame Health Care Reform.

Who do they not blame? Republicans, George W. Bush, and wealthy people. Even though to me (and to anyone following the ins and outs of the financial crisis) they caused the recession. This isn’t a right/left Democrat/Republican thing — it’s just a fact. Lax regulation and the greed of the wealthy have put the entire world into an economic crisis. And the federal deficit is almost entirely the result of two GOP wars and the Bush tax cuts.

My anonymous friend thinks that unleashing the “people with money” — who have somehow been kept from working their capitalistic magic somehow by the current president — is going to fix things. This to me is crazy. This is Stockholm Syndrome, this is the abused returning time and again to the abuser. This person thinks his best hope for solving his own personal economic crisis are the very people who caused it. He thinks that if somehow we could just make rich people’s lives easier, ours will get better.

There’s something even more sinister within this faith. He believes that the ‘Left’ always thinks government can fix things. He describes a narrative where liberals view Government as our savior, and if we just make government big enough everything will be fine. That’s a bunch of what Joe Biden termed ‘malarkey,’ but let that be for now.


Kent about to join family debate, Hawaii, Feb. 2012

Here’s the fundamental weakness in this guy’s narrative: The wealthy get wealthy — through luck, hard work, or inheritance — and they stay wealthy by putting their own well-being first. They are not accountable, except to pay taxes and follow the laws of the land. Beyond that, they do what they will. Looking to wealthy people to fix your problems is every bit as ridiculous as expecting the government to solve your problems.

The difference between rich people and the government is that government is transparent and accountable, to the extent we’ve been able to make it so. Every election is about accountability. But time and again, many of the wealthy have demonstrated that they don’t care who gets hurt in the pursuit of their wealth.

Of course Government isn’t the solution to all our problems. The minute you realize that you’re on your own and that you need to take care of yourself is when you might begin to succeed in life. That’s true no matter who you vote for. But there are things Government can do that individuals cannot, and that the “job creators” will not. In a democracy, we should find a consensus on the things government should do, and make sure it does those things.

The essential paradox of the Republican position is this: This man is saying “Obama didn’t fix the economy and improve my economic position. So I’m going to put the Republicans in charge.” He is admitting that he expected the government to solve his problems for him. He wanted this Federal Government to do something for him that ideologically he doesn’t believe it is capable of doing. He also thinks that the Government can’t solve his problems, but that rich people will.

This boggles my mind.