Tag Archives: politics

Letter to City Council

February 24, 2017

Today, I wrote a letter to my local city council requesting they pass a resolution calling for President Trump’s impeachment. You can read it below. Sorry for the bad scanning.

If you’re curious, Richmond CA’s resolution can be found here.

I hope you’ll consider sending a similar letter to your local government.

It’s OK to Lose

January 25, 2017

There’s a troubling myth being propagated in our national culture. It says winning — success — is everything. That if you lose a fight or other contest, you’re worthless. We saw this in the juvenile commentary after the Dec. 31 UFC women’s bantamweight bout between Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey, and we’ve continually heard this from our president and his sycophants.

I’m coming up on four years now as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on the mat applies to life in general. It’s that it’s okay to lose. It’s how we learn.

There’s a spirtual aspect to this if you’re a fan of Taoism. The yin-yang symbol is one of motion: the white and black halves tumble over each other, propelling each through the cycle of development. The Tao Te Ching says, “Yield and overcome; bend and be straight.” Because when I accept defeat, I release my ego. I acknowledge that someone else might be better than I am at a particular task, that someone might even be stronger or more intelligent. When I accept the Socratic paradox that wisdom begins with knowing that I know nothing, then I am ready to learn from others.

The opposite of this is someone ruled by ego. He whines and lies if he thinks he’s going to lose, and he swaggers and taunts when he wins. He gaslights when objective truths don’t serve his popularity. And he learns nothing. When this person is an average Joe, it’s a tragedy. When this person is a national leader, it’s a catastrophe.

There’s probably nothing I can do to solve the problems at the top of our government. All I can do is ride the storm out, spending that time teaching the next generation the equanimity it will need for actual success. In the meantime, I entertain the fantasy that Ronda Rousey and Hillary Clinton will set their sails in these winds of fate. So, you’re not a world-champion mixed martial artist, and you’re not a president. So what? It doesn’t matter anymore. Ride the sailboat to where you should be now.

The Masque of the Red Death

November 11, 2016

“The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe. Just a short review.

Read it.

If you need help interpreting it, let me know.

A Meditation from the Dark of Night

November 9, 2016

I woke up at 3 a.m. to use the bathroom but resisted the impulse to check the election results. What if Trump won? sober thinking said. There’s nothing you can do about it, and you won’t be able to go back to sleep. That lasted for an hour until I finally checked my phone’s browser on the bedside table.

At that point, I got up to do dishes.

I have a feeling that keeping my small corner of the world clean is all I’m going to be able to do for the next four to eight years, as the United States of America lurches toward its ignominious end. I’ve done all I can for the world outside my house.

On the up side, I predict a resurgence of the horror genre.

Don’t Let the News Beat You Up

November 4, 2016

Let your kid do it instead!

Nah, it didn't hurt.

Nah, it didn’t hurt.

How are Bill Clinton’s Affairs Relevant?

September 30, 2016

Trump & ClintonWith Donald Trump threatening to bring up Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs in his next presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, we’re sensibly asking why he’d even go there. How is it relevant?

In the interests of fairness, let’s take a couple minutes to examine the subject. (Make sure to place the half of your brain into neutral that’s screaming about Trump’s supreme hypocrisy. Why yes, he did cheat on his first wife. Why yes, he’s been accused multiple times of sexual assault, even child rape.)

If I understand correctly, the critique of Hillary’s behavior falls along two main themes.

First, Hillary supposedly wanted to cover up these affairs because they threatened her political career. Linda Tripp, former White House aide and Monica Lewinsky confidant, alleged Bill had “thousands” of affairs. She said Hillary “is someone who had no real personal problem with any of this behavior. The problem was in it becoming public. They had to continue to become electable… She was the more aggressive one in ensuring that the political viability was not endangered in any way.” Buying into this line of reasoning, of course, requires forgetting that Tripp, in saying these things, continues to have a compelling self-preservationist motive of her own.

Second, this critique states, Hillary’s public support of her husband and initial dismissal of the sexual misconduct allegations violated her own feminist positions. She should have immediately smelled Bill’s bullshit, some have said. She should have stood up for women like Monica Lewinsky who’d been victimized by Bill’s abuse of his position. This is the criticism that most resonates with millennial women.

Here’s what I think. I don’t have the necessary psychic retro-cognitive omniscience to prove or disprove these allegations, and neither does anyone else. But since we’re in the spirit of speculation, I would like to raise a couple other possible explanations for her behavior.

The first is, as the aggrieved spouse, she may have been in psychologically self-protective denial for years. Maybe it was too painful for her to face the truth, so she did her best to malign any woman who accused her husband of misconduct. She desperately needed these women to be attention-seeking liars, because to admit otherwise meant admitting Bill had cheated on her. I know, from having ridden shotgun through others’ divorces, that one of the worst things a cheated-on wife must face is self-doubt: “Did I drive him to this because I’m not beautiful/intelligent/supportive/what-have-you enough?” If this explanation is true, it’s not a ringing endorsement of Hillary’s emotional toughness, but it’s definitely human, understandable, and forgivable.

Secondly, what if, as a loving wife, she simply believed her husband’s inevitable denials? Sure, Bill had a few affairs in the past (she might have thought), but this time, these accusers are only seeking attention.

And third, perhaps Hillary just bought into the increasingly rare American myth of the good marriage, that spouses stick by each other through thick and thin. She said as much during a 1999 interview in the LA Times. “Everybody has some dysfunction in their families,” she said. “They have to deal with it. You don’t walk away if you love someone. You help the person.”

Personally, the explanation I most identify with is anger. Yes, Monica Lewinsky was exploited by her boss, one of the most powerful people in the world. But no paramour is blameless. Monica was an adult who knowingly had an affair with a married man. So was Gennifer Flowers. An extramarital affair is an act of violence against the aggrieved spouse and any affected children. I wouldn’t blame Hillary one bit for being furious with these women at the same time as she was furious at Bill. For her to instantly walk out of her marriage to defend Monica Lewinsky — in the interests of feminism, no less — is simply ridiculous. If she’d done that, then she really would have been a political opportunist.

I cannot reasonably hold Hillary accountable for her husband’s behavior. Sure, in her shoes, I would have dumped his ass years ago, but she comes from a generation that believes in walking through hell for the sake of a marriage, even a rocky one, especially if that marriage produced children.

Bill Clinton, not Hillary Clinton, is responsible for his behavior. Let’s not lose sight of that truth as Mr. Drumpf attempts to twist it to his self-serving ends.

Every Tragedy Isn’t a Sales Opportunity

June 15, 2016

Let me paint a what-if scenario.

Let’s say you’re the parent of one of those fifty people killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Today is your son or daughter’s funeral. You look to the edge of the graveyard to see a carnival being set up. Merchants lay out their usual wares of artwork, rugs, and chotchkes. Several new products display your child’s face: hastily designed T-shirts and mugs decry this senseless death. A billboard announces all sales proceeds will benefit your family.

How do you feel about that? Are you flattered and grateful? Or is it too soon?

It’s only been three days, and this is already happening in the publishing world. Except it’s not as a carnival next to freshly dug graves. I’ve seen several announcements for new anthologies of short stories and poetry where the sales proceeds will benefit an organized charity or the victims directly. This repeats a well-established pattern: something bad happens, and immediately there’s a new charity anthology.

I hope these are just good people who want to help — who want to do something, anything, to relieve the suffering. Most writers are good people. If wanting to help is their sole motive, then more power to them.

My worry, however, is every time a charity anthology pops up in the wake of disaster, writers risk engaging in opportunism and self-glorification. Every tragedy isn’t a sales opportunity. And charity should never call attention to the giver. I’m not alone in saying so.

I realize this isn’t a black-and-white issue. A commemorative product, aside from raising money for the victims, might raise awareness of the tragedy’s causes, or help process the black tar of grief. And I confess to being a hyprocrite about my qualms; once I organized and participated in a book signing benefiting a charity. Was I being totally selfless? No.

So, I have to wonder: wouldn’t it be more effective to pay a direct donation to the charity instead of making that donation contingent on commercial success? Wouldn’t it be better to quietly give support without publicly exhibiting oneself as a good person or advancing a political agenda or career? This isn’t about me, after all. This is about them.

I’m not going to tell writers and publishers not to create these products. I only caution them not to be vultures. If your motives are pure and your timing is right, then sally forth.

China’s Organ Trade

February 25, 2016

Matthew Robertson of the Epoch Times sent me the link to his thorough investigative report on the current state of the organ trade in the People’s Republic of China. It seems the practice of harvesting human organs for transplant from questionable sources shows no signs of letting up.

The practice of harvesting organs from executed prisoners for transplant, in contravention of human rights and medicolegal ethics, inspired my first novel, The Organ Donor. In particular, my research was into the conditions in Tianjin, which Mr. Robertson’s article is about.

Being able to grow kidneys in petri dishes can’t get here soon enough. . . .

Trump and 9/11

November 25, 2015

For somebody who has managed so many billions of dollars in his career, Donald Trump has a remarkably underdeveloped sense of what “thousands” mean.

I’m referring to his claim that on September 11, 2001, he witnessed “thousands” and “thousands and thousands” of people in Jersey City, NJ, celebrating the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in tailgate-party fashion. Fact checkers from several major media organizations, plus the New Jersey police(!), have debunked this ludicrous claim. Thousands of people did not have a death-to-America parade in Jersey City on 9/11. But that doesn’t stop him from declaring massive victory in his version of history.

Since Trump and his supporters are unburdened by historical fact, let’s examine this outrageous fairy tale from a commonsense perspective. Let’s be charitable and assume that by “thousands and thousands,” what he means is no more than 2,000. (And let’s set aside the obvious question of Trump’s convenient presence in Jersey City on that day). So, a tailgate party of 2,000 people.

In case anyone is unfamiliar with what a 2,000-person gathering would look like, I’ve prepared a little computer simulation. Click on the below graphic:

Click to see what a parade of 2,000 people would look like.

Click to see what a parade of 2,000 people would look like. Scroll down for the full effect.

If you have any doubt whether that’s indeed 2,000 simulated people, hover your mouse over any of them to see the counter at work.

That is a fuck-ton of people.

I lived through 9/11, as did anyone else over the age of 14. And while I wasn’t in Jersey City on that day, here is what I remember:

A lot of frightened people. The sense that something apocalyptic had happened. We’d been attacked, on our own soil — an unthinkable event in America. We hadn’t been attacked here since Pearl Harbor, and even that wasn’t the continental United States. Those bastards had flown our airliners into our sky scrapers, plus the Pentagon, plus a field in Pennsylvania, and murdered thousands of innocent people. They slaughtered children. And they secondarily murdered and maimed the thousands of people who died afterward from environmental poisoning at the crash sites.

September 11, 2001 was a turning point in modern American history, and in that first 24 hours, what I personally saw, aside from smoke billowing up from the Pentagon, were people with deer-in-the-headlights fear.

What I also saw was a fierce patriotism. People were so, so angry. They remained angry, and justifiably so. They were also charitable: they lined up around the block at the local blood bank, wanting to donate to the victims.

So, in that kind of stunned, patriotic, Book of Revelations raw horror, how do you think our gun-totin’ culture in the ole U.S. of A. would have reacted to a crowd of 2,000 people, minimum, having a fucking tailgate party in New Jersey, celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers? It would have been a battle for the history books. There is no way, none, that could have possibly happened.

In fact, it didn’t.

Donald Trump should be excoriated for his blatant and shameful remarks. He disrespects everyone who died, and he dishonors himself. In particular, he deserves to be raked over the coals by the people of New Jersey, who have been slandered by his words.

This presidential campaign season already promises to be a depressing chapter of American history. False and pandering remarks like these should have no place in it.

Success Doesn’t Mean Making Enemies

October 14, 2015

At the end of last night’s Democratic presidential debate, the moderator quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt’s adage, “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made,” before asking the candidates to name the enemies they’ve made during their careers.

Iterations of the quote abound, such as from Sidney Sheldon (“To be successful you need friends, and to be very successful you need enemies”) and The Social Network movie’s tagline (“You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”). It’s repeated by self-help gurus.

That doesn’t mean it’s true.

It would have been refreshing to hear somebody challenge the basic premise of the claim. It’s a tantalizing mantra because it excuses our interpersonal failures as virtues. To say that success means making enemies is to believe that life is a zero-sum game, that every success is achieved at the expense of someone else’s failure. That everything is a fight. And it’s crap. People are confusing enemy-making with courage, with standing up for one’s beliefs, and that’s a false equivalency.

I posit that one can advocate for a position without making enemies of those who oppose you. Be courageous and assertive, but be humble. Call a spade a spade when you have to, but be respectful. This is particularly imperative for the next U.S. president, who ideally should be leading, building consensus, and forging alliances.

I’m not going to judge you by your enemies. I would rather judge you by your friends.