Saturday, September 29, 2012

Another something for your calendars

It has been just over a month since Atheist Voices of Minnesota hit the bookshelves, and in that time my 35 fellow authors and I have been pounding the pavement to get the word out about this groundbreaking and eye-opening anthology. A couple of weeks ago nearly half of us were the main event at the Minnesota Atheists' September public meeting, reading excerpts from our essays and signing books for those in attendance. But if you happened to miss that, never fear. In just under two weeks I will again be reading from my piece "The Best Thing I Do All Year" and be part of a panel discussion with five other contributors at the Har Mar Barnes & Noble in Roseville. The event is on Wednesday, Oct. 10th and starts at 7 PM. Since there are only six of us, we will be able to talk more in depth about the experiences that inspired our essays as well as answer questions from the audience, so it will be well worth your while to attend. Click here for more info, and I hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's not the man (ok, some of it is), it's the ideas.

Like most people, I was thoroughly disgusted by the video leaked earlier this week by Mother Jones which showed Mitt Romney speaking at a private fundraiser and disparaging nearly half of the American population as "dependent on government" and "think they're entitled to food, housing, and health care". Specifically, he referred to the 47% of Americans who did not pay any federal income tax last year. As many have pointed out, this 47% is a pretty diverse group, and most of them, whether they are seniors collecting Social Security payments, disabled veterans who need health care and other support after serving our country with distinction, or working families that are paid such a pittance by their employers that they qualify for the EITC and other credits so they can at least put food on the table, are neither dependent nor entitled and actually exemplify the American work ethic much more than Romney and his silver-spoon contributors.

But for better or worse, much of American domestic political coverage fits into the "horse race" model. It is fed by near-constant polling and focuses mainly on whether or not a candidate is up or down. Movements can be attributed to news events, statements made by candidates, or even just by what stage it is in the campaign, but while many viewers find it exciting or interesting (otherwise they would just switch to something else) it has a huge flaw in that it tends to be very narrowly focused on the personalities of the candidates, with their ideas rarely if ever coming into the picture. As a result, much of the coverage of the video has centered on how badly it hurts Romney's electoral chances, how it showed fatal flaws in his ability to relate to the "average American", and speculation about how he might try to pick up the pieces and mount something resembling a competent campaign. While I certainly love how all this is exposing Romney for what he is, it will likely now also give the GOP a convenient excuse when he loses in a few weeks. Once again they will be able to focus on the fact that they picked a bad candidate to be their standard-bearer, without once asking themselves whether or not that standard is one that even should be borne. And that is a shame, because while Romney certainly is a bad candidate, everything he is saying is pretty much on script with the GOP platform.

If there is one thing I have learned about observing the GOP over the past several years, as it has gone from a respectable political party that intelligent people could support to one that is now dominated by the most extreme partisans and is on the verge of both moral and intellectual bankruptcy, is that introspection does not appear to be its strong point. Whenever something does not go its way, the GOP will always search for explanations outside of itself and its ideas, because even broaching the possibility that those ideas might be wrong is now heresy to the highest degree. More thoughtful conservatives, such as David Frum, who have tried to make the party have this internal discussion now have little influence among the faithful, even if they appear respectable to the rest of the world, and those faithful continue to remain in their evidence-proof echo chamber. Will another electoral defeat jolt some sense into the few GOP-ers who have some, and lead them to the conclusion that maybe it isn't bad candidates or non-existent voter fraud that makes them lose, but the fact that their policy ideas from 12 years ago were disastrous when actually implemented and they haven't offered anything substantial since? Maybe, but I'm not counting on it. In fact, the GOP pushing themselves further into irrelevancy is probably just what this country needs. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Shameless plug

So you all remember the new book right? Well if you are interested in seeing some of the fabulous contributors to it (myself included), or getting any of your hard copies signed, please attend the Minnesota Atheists monthly membership meeting on Sunday, Sept. 16th at the Southdale library in Edina. I and 15 of my fellow authors will be reading short excerpts from our essays and answering questions about our experiences. Naturally, you will also be able to purchase copies of the book, with all profits going to support Minnesota Atheists. We are anticipating a packed house, so arrive early to get a good seat.