The 8th of November, eh?

With my passport fail now in the process of being corrected, I have decided that I will indeed make my autumn excursion to Canada, even though it will be later in the season than I prefer, resulting in a cooler and darker journey than usual.

It will also mean I will be outside the country on Election Day, which seems like a really safe and sane option.

Of course I will vote before I leave. But I will avoid the whole American scene the day and night of the election, and that makes me really happy. I can hear about the winner on the CBC, which makes things seem much more civilized. (You can rest assured that the Canadian media will cover the U.S. election far more completely than the U.S. media have ever covered a Canadian one.) And if the fires start, I’ll sit them out at a shawarma joint on Bloor Street somewhere.

Better still, if I’m in Canada and the unthinkable occurs, I will be better positioned to decide whether or not to come home.

So look for me in a Canada near you come early November.

Hard choices

The upcoming U.S. Presidential election is probably the most important vote most of us have faced in our lifetimes. The two candidates–and let’s be honest and admit that there are only two viable candidates–represent vastly different future paths for our country. If you want to have your say in which path we choose, making your choice is essential.

It is tempting for some people to vote for one of the alternate candidates (which in most states means Jill Stein or Gary Johnson) as a “protest” vote, or because of a sincere belief in their message. This is everyone’s right, but I would ask those of you who choose to exercise this right to be honest with yourselves. You are essentially choosing to abstain from the process. You are choosing not to make a choice at all until there is a “perfect” choice for you.

Let’s be honest here. Neither Gary Johnson nor Jill Stein will ever be elected President. Period. No matter how much you want it, no matter how much you complain about the structural inequities of the two-party system, no matter how much you blame the media, and no matter how unfair you think it is, it is not going to happen. If a third party ever emerges as a significant force in American politics, it will be because its builds support from the ground up through local and state elections, and not because it insists on pushing a spoiler Presidential candidate every four years. Do I hope this eventually happens? Yes. Has it happened yet? Clearly not.

Don’t want to limit yourself to a choice between the lesser or two evils? Tough. We all do it every day. We are all faced with choices where neither option is ideal. We either choose one or we don’t choose at all. The former requires some front-loaded effort and also carries the risk of being the wrong choice. The latter requires much less front-loaded effort and in most cases is always the wrong choice. “Benign neglect” is generally not the best option for most situations, and I argue that voting for a candidate with no chance of being elected is more or less a form of benign neglect. Except that it isn’t always so benign–by not making the choice between two electable candidates, you also cause damage to the one of these two who might be the best match for you.

A few years ago when my mom developed dementia and my dad was unable to care for her, we had several choices. The two realistic ones were that we could move her to a facility where she would be cared for or that we could get him some help to care for her at home. Neither choice was particularly palatable, both for financial and emotional reasons. But they were really the only two options that would effect any sort of result. That’s not to say there were no other options. We could, for example, have prayed and “put it in God’s hands.” A lot of people choose this option, and while it makes them feel morally satisfied that they’re “making a statement” of their faith, it generally does not produce any result at all, because it is a decision not to make a realistic choice.

We realized, however, that refusing to choose one of the viable options and waiting until there was some theoretical option we liked better would make things exponentially worse and would be a danger to all parties involved. So we chose from among two options that we didn’t like. We had to. We were not happy about it. But abstaining from this difficult decision was not a luxury we had.

If you’re being honest with yourself, a vote for Stein or Johnson is at best a statement that you are not satisfied with a flawed  process. Unfortunately, it is also a statement that you refuse to be a part of that flawed process by supporting whichever of the two electable candidates best matches your values. You essentially have chosen not to decide. Again, it’s your right, but I would argue that it is neither particularly courageous nor particularly principled. And it’s maybe just a little lazy because it involves making the easy choice that will have no effect rather than making the difficult choice that will have an effect one way or the other.

My perspective is, admittedly, that of someone who has made a choice between the two candidates and does not consider my choice “the lesser of two evils” in any way. Is my candidate a perfect match for me? No. Is any candidate ever a perfect match for anyone? Probably not, because that would pretty much require as many candidates as there are voters for each office. But I am happy with my choice and I know that my candidate also has a chance of actually being elected.

If you sincerely believe in you candidate, that’s great. It is your right to vote for whichever candidate you choose. But at least be honest enough to recognize and acknowledge the end result of your choice. Or lack thereof…

Calm the fuck down

Let me start by making it clear that I am absolutely terrified by the political climate in the US right now and by the fact that we are edging precariously close to electing a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic sociopath to the highest office in the land. I fully “get it” and recognize that this is probably the most important election of my lifetime…at all levels.

I also recognize that the whole country is on the verge of having a stroke. That worries me a little bit too.

There was a time when I spent the bigger part of my life being perpetually outraged and angry. Some people who knew me at the time might suggest that it was one of my defining characteristics. I had an opinion on everything and was not hesitant about sharing it, no matter how irrelevant or inappropriate the venue nor how serious the overreaction. If you’d tell me you were going for a beer, I’d make sure you knew just how much I hoped it wouldn’t be a Coors. If you were casually listening to Axl Rose or Donna Summer, I’d make damned sure you knew exactly what awful things either had said (or was believed to have said) in the past ten years. I’m sure I was pretty annoying. I’m also sure I changed vere few viewpoints.

I really began to recognize this behavior in others when I lived in San Francisco in the 1990s, where even the most innocuous comments (e.g. “I’m off to lunch” or “It’s nice out today”) would often elicit a shrill and politically programmed response on the evils of anything from factory farming to global warming to corporatism and average wages in the restaurant industry. If I mentioned I was hungry, I might get a lecture about world hunger and how Americans were fact, lazy, and overfed. A comment about my small apartment might get me very quickly schooled on homelessness or conspicuous consumption. Yes, I’m exaggerating–though not as much as you might imagine–and yes, I was guilty of doing some of the same things, albeit with what I thought was a little more humor.

The point, though, is that at some point I realized that it’s really fucking exhausting–both for me and for everyone around me–to be perpetually outraged and angry and complaining about everything all the time. I also realized it was making people tune out a lot of what I was saying.

Is there a lot to be angry and outraged about? Of course there is.

Will this fact change if you constantly make yourself and everyone else miserable because of it? Probably not.

Things have gotten a lot worse in the past few years with social media and the rise of clickbait journalism whose purpose is not to inform but to grab audience share by whipping everyone–left or right–into a frothy, outraged frenzy by appealing to emotion and righteous anger (and adding a “share this if you agree” chaser). That’s why I’ve been doing a judicious amount of social media muting and pruning lately.

I think I it’s pretty clear that I value irony, sarcasm, and snark, and that I have a pretty low tolerance for stupidity and injustice. But I don’t feel the need to talk about what’s wrong with the world every fucking minute of my life. That doesn’t mean that i don’t care. I do. I stay awake some nights caring so much. But being outraged and morally indignant is now how I want to spend my life.

I believe the key term here is “perspective.”

This weekend I did a semi-humorous Facebook post about how sometimes I think my life might better be lived in a 1950s film noir. Most of my friends took it for what it was. One relative seemed not quite to get it. And one friend followed up completely out of left field with a response about how horrible life would actually have been for me as a gay man in the 1950s. It was not just an overreaction that missed the point of a very lighthearted comment. It was also really condescending, suggesting that I don’t understand history, which really pissed me off, considering history is pretty much what I do.

This was an old friend so I held my tongue even though it really bugged me. The whole tone of the post just reminded me of that whole shrill, strident tendency to respond to everything with a political rant that made me hate initiating a conversation with some people in San Francisco. It’s like the “angry vegan” meme where there’s a vein popping in the guy’s neck because it’s been more than five minutes since he’s had the chance to tell anyone he’s a vegan.

If I ever become that person–vegan, carnivore, or otherwise–please smack me upside the head. Thanks.

Still alive…

I’ve just been saying more on Twitter than anywhere else because I’ve been really busy. A lot going on at work, plus I made a weekend run to Baltimore a few weeks ago.

And I’ve been spending a lot of my free time working on Groceteria, both on research and on the site itself. It feels really good actually having the time and inclination to do that again. I didn’t realize quite how much Id been missing it. I’ve been doing things here and there over the past couple of years, particularly for the past six months or so, but my activity level is way up now. And it really helped keep my mind occupied this weekend while all the shit was happening in Orlando…all of which just gets weirder and weirder.

And speaking of surreal: Der Fuhrer is in town tomorrow night. I’ve already planned ahead so I can avoid leaving the house till all the buildings stop burning and the street fights end.

Sigh. Should’ve emigrated when I had the chance…

NC GOP vs. urban

My “angry activist” side has mellowed considerably over the past twenty years or so, but this makes me boiling mad. And it makes me even angrier that so few people seem to realize all the implications of what’s happening here.

For those of you who don’t see what the “bathroom ordnance” means to you:

Let’s be clear about what’s really going on. It’s not about “bathroom etiquette” nor is it even specifically about LGBT rights (though it would be evil enough if it WERE about either of these two things). It’s about a gerrymandered state legislature telling the cities of North Carolina that even though they are responsible for basically all the population and economic growth in the state, they are unfit to govern themselves in a very wide range of areas. And if they step out of line, the legislature will make life miserable for them. 

Cities in North Carolina (and their residents) are basically being punished for being insufficiently deferential to the party in power. HB2 is the next logical step after the Charlotte airport controversy, the Greensboro redistricting controversy, the sales tax grab, and any number of smaller initiatives designed to minimize the impact of cities in an increasingly urban state. Urban growth, of course, also means “urban values” which may not be compatible with “traditional North Carolina Republican values.” Therefore, urban growth and economic development it brings are viewed as threats.

If you live in an urban area, this nasty brand of politics will affect you sooner or later, regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Most of these legislators couldn’t care less about who uses which bathroom. Like so many other non-issues in the past century or so, it’s merely a convenient distraction. Stay focused. Don’t fall for it.

Pardon me for sharing what is essentially another Facebook rant. I will try to avoid additional sermons over the weekend. I cannot promise this, however. Like I said, I’m really mad. And I’m also really sad that a state I love is letting something like this happen.

The obsession with bathrooms

Conservatives have been using public restrooms as a ridiculous tool for building opposition to progressive legislation at least since the dawn of the civil rights movement. Potty panic was first used to scare while people who were afraid to pee next to black people. Later, the threat of “unisex bathrooms” was used to help defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.

And now, North Carolina has passed legislation that is ostensibly based on making sure that people use the appropriate restroom based on their “biological sex.”

But it ain’t about bathrooms. Not by a long shot.

In addition to the bathroom regulations, which are a small part of the package, the ironically named Equal Access to Public Accommodations Act will:

  • Prohibit cities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances that do not match the state law, which excludes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as protections based on veteran status, etc.
  • Impede or eliminate the right to sue based on discrimination categories that still are protected.
  • Supersede any local regulations on hiring contractors that do not mirror state law.
  • Prohibit any local ordinance that would raise the local minimum wage (of which, to date, there have been exactly…none).

See what they did with that last one? Not sure how it fits into all this? No, neither is anyone else.

Once again, this is not about the fucking bathrooms. The sponsors of this legislation couldn’t care less about the bathrooms, but they know that their base will, by and large, not take the time to pay attention to what the law is really about.

This is a power grab passed in the dark of night by a rural, conservative legislature that, thanks to gerrymandering, no longer reflects the increasingly urban, moderate population of the state. it’s the next logical step by a legislature that has usurped local authority in setting city council districts, attempted a hostile takeover of a major urban airport, and engaged in unconstitutional redistricting.

We’re engaged in a war here.



What I know about Bernie because of social media:

  • He is the salvation of the planet.
  • The media, the Democratic Party, and the cosmos just aren’t being fair to him.
  • He still has a chance to be nominated. Really.
  • He is a democratic socialist, which is (of course) the exact same thing as a communist.

What I know about Hilary because of social media:

  • She is (of course) the only electable candidate.
  • Unless, that is, “Bernie’s kids” think Donald Trump is a better option than she is, which many of them apparently do.
  • She is also the antichrist and eats adorable puppies for dinner on dishes paid for exclusively by large corporations.
  • She then uses her personal email servers to send pictures of the dead puppies to Nancy Reagan’s ghost.

What I need to be reminded of constantly via misspelled and oversimplified social media memes or by stupid fucking clickbait “journalism” links originating from the followers of either:

  • None of the above.

I miss media with editors. 

While sitting in the hospital with my mom this morning, I’ve been doing lots of Facebook and Twitter pruning.  

Spring cleaning is fun. 

Respectfully sumbitted


Raymond Burr for SCOTUS. Why?

  1. He’s a gay Californian, which would make the left happy.
  2. He’s not a lawyer but he played one on TV, which would appeal to the Trump contingent.
  3. He’s dead, which would satisfy all the people who despise “activist judges.”

Just a thought…

Otherstream at 20: 2015


It’s kind of hard to curate posts that are less than a year old, but I tried. This is the final year to be covered in my “twenty years” retrospective. I may talk about the actual anniversary tomorrow and try to draw some broad conclusions. Or I may not. You’ll have to check back by to see which it is.













Otherstream at 20: 2014


Only two more years to cover before Wednesday’s big anniversary.