Poem: "We"

Oct. 1st, 2013 03:59 pm
"We got our asses kicked yesterday."

Monday morning at a diner in the suburbs,
the words spiral over from the next table.
The men have been talking about work,
and at first I think they mean on the job site.

But of course by "we" they mean the Bears,
and the ass-kickers are Detroit, I realize,
as the sentence stutter-steps around the offense,
drops through an alternate parsing route, and scores.

This "we" that makes such strange linguistic sense,
I still can't wrap my hands around it and tuck it under my arm.
I'm not a part of this "we," this synecdoche,
the "we" meaning "they" meaning "us all."

My ass suffered no kicking on that gridiron,
nor did the asses of my two neighbors,
and Chicago's still intact, as far as I can tell,
her buildings straight, her storefronts unsacked.

This allegiance, this adhesion, it's all Greek to me,
an apostate, an infidel to the geography of devotion.
Betrayed by congregations of "we," cast out,
I stand apart. No border could make "we" of "they" and "me."

Until this morning's news intrudes. Dateline: The Capitol.

We got our asses kicked yesterday.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Maggie Thatcher's dead,
but so is Roger Ebert.
Always a trade-off.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
On December 14th, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, I popped off with a quick, frustrated, angry tweet that seemed to me to be the simplest way to express the political situation in this country when it comes to gun laws:

shunn:  Can we just come out and say that the NRA, when its position is stripped down to basics, favors civilian shootings?


This didn't excite much comment on Twitter, but when the tweet reached Facebook it was a different story. The first comment, right out of the blocks, from a friend, was this:

Loved M. Gunns:  We could say that but we'd be stupid assholes for saying it.


A lot of very smart people (including some very smart, very wrong people) waded into the fray over the next 24 hours or so. I stayed out of it as long as I could, leaving the defense of sanity in the capable hands of my like-minded friends. But finally, after my own cousin called my initial comment "wrong and silly," I had to jump in and defend it.

Bill Shunn:  The NRA wants us to have more guns. (We already have 300,000,000 in this country, up 50% in the last 30 years.) More guns, the statistics show, leads to more shootings.


I suppose I was using a lot of words that were easy to pick on, verbs like "favors" and "wants" that imputed volition to an organization. This response was typical of what we saw in the exchanges:

Loved M. Gunns:  It's inaccurate to characterize the NRA as wanting us "to have more guns." Come on, you're smart as hell, Bill. You can argue a good case without making stuff up.


This is a typical response not just from my Facebook debate but from the gun-control debate at large. "You don't know what you're talking about," say gun advocates to opponents. "All your stats and science are so much nonsense."

Look, the NRA is a political-action group that has spent the past thirty years doing nothing but fighting to roll back every last sensible gun-control measure, to oppose every new gun-control effort, to crush every political candidate who talks about gun control, and to expand the accepted constitutional definition of the right to bear arms.

The NRA has created the conditions that have allowed firearms sales in U.S. to proliferate to ridiculous levels, and that in turn has created the conditions that have turned mass shootings into a regular feature on our television screens. In the same way that the resurgence of the American economy created conditions that favored an Obama victory in November, NRA lobbying efforts favor an atmosphere conducive to civilian shootings.

The NRA claims to be an organization representing the interests of gun owners, an organization that promotes gun safety and responsible gun use. If they truly favored safety, though, it seems to me that they'd support policies that ensured that guns would end up only in the hands of responsible owners. Instead, their opposition to any attempts to limit access to semiautomatic weapons or to impose background checks on gun buyers results in millions of gun sales that would never happen if saner policies were in force.

Particularly at a time when polls show that even the vast majority of NRA members are in favor of more background checks and limits on semiautomatic weapons, it becomes increasingly difficult to defend the idea that the NRA doesn't want us to have more guns. This seems so self-evident to me, in fact, that claims to the contrary (like that of my friend "Loved M. Gunns" above) strike me as willfully naive and, yes, stupid.

And why would an organization like the NRA want us to have more guns? There can only be one reason, and that reason has to be money. As I said to a different friend at the end of one of the saner exchanges in that Facebook thread:

Bill Shunn:  I suspect—will need to research—that the ultimate positive correlation with NRA lobbying efforts is the fortunes of the arms industry.


In other words, my guess—without having looked into the question at all—was that the NRA has become a tool of the firearms industry. Last week, the proof of this assumption landed on my doorstep.

The February 14th issue of Rolling Stone contains an excellent investigative article by Tim Dickinson called "The NRA vs. America" that delves into this very issue. I highly recommend you read the full piece, which is available online in its entirety, but let me just highlight a few salient passages.

Here's one about the composition of the NRA's board of directors:

Today's NRA is a completely top-down organization. It has been led since 1991 by LaPierre, its chief executive, who serves at the pleasure of a 76-member board that is all but self-perpetuating. Only one-third of the board's membership is up for re-election in any given year. Voting is limited to the NRA's honored "lifetime" members and to dues-payers with at least five consecutive years of being in good standing. Write-in candidates occasionally pepper the ballot, but in practice, the tiny slice of eligible members who bother to vote rubber-stamp a slate of candidates dictated by the NRA's 10-member nominating committee—one of whose members is George Kollitides II, CEO of Freedom Group, which manufactures the Bushmaster semiautomatic that Adam Lanza used to slaughter children in Newtown.


And another:

The NRA's board is stocked with industry brass. Pete Brownell, president of Brownells—an Internet arms superstore that features "ultrahigh-capacity magazines"—campaigned for his seat touting the importance for the NRA to have "directors who intimately understand and work in leadership positions within the firearms industry." Another board seat belongs to Ronnie Barrett, CEO of Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, whose company produces .50-caliber sniper rifles capable of piercing armor from nearly a mile away. Barrett's firm also sells scope-mounted ballistics computers that enable clueless civilians to hit targets like they were special-forces snipers. The ammunitions side of the industry finds a voice in board member Stephen Hornady, whose company peddles armor-piercing bullets and trades on the slogan "Accurate. Deadly. Dependable."


So that's the board of directors. Now here's a sobering passage about NRA funders:

The NRA insists in its publications that it is "not a trade organization" and that it is "not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers or with any businesses that deal in guns and ammunition." That is a lie. NRA's corporate patrons include 22 firearms manufacturers, 12 of which are makers of assault weapons with household names like Beretta and Ruger, according to a 2011 analysis by the Violence Policy Center. The report, drawn from the NRA's own disclosures, also identified gifts from dozens of firms that profit from high-capacity magazines, including Browning and Remington. Donors from the industry and other dark reaches of the corporate world—including Xe, the new name of the mercenary group Blackwater—had funneled up to $52 million to the NRA in recent years.

More disturbing, the NRA receives funds directly from the sales of arms and ammunition. The "Round-Up" program, launched by arms retailer Midway USA, encourages customers to increase their purchases to the nearest dollar and sends the extra coin to the association. Midway customers alone have contributed nearly $8 million in this way to support NRA's lobbying division, the Institute for Legislative Action.



And finally, this passage about the NRA's allegiances:

Top corporate patrons are treated like royalty. Those whose giving to the NRA reaches $1 million or more are inaugurated into an elite NRA society called the "Golden Ring of Freedom" in a ceremony where they're presented with a silk-lined golden blazer with a hand-embroidered crest. Industry honchos seen in "the million-dollar jacket" include the heads of Ruger, Beretta, Midway and Cabela's, an outfitter that sells 12 models of semiautomatic rifles.

Much like elite funders of a major political party, these Golden Ringers enjoy top access to decision-makers at the NRA. Their interests, not the interest of the $35-a-year member, rule the roost. "They've got this base of true believers that they mail their magazines out to," says policy analyst [Tom] Diaz. "But the NRA is really about serving this elite."



Like I said, I highly recommend that you read the entire article (though I'd suggest you take your blood-pressure medication first), but I think it's obvious from these selections that the NRA could care less about the opinions or the well-being of the average hunter or sportsman. The NRA may not actively wish any given civilian to be shot by a gun-wielding lunatic (though in my opinion that's still open to debate), but as long as the firearms industry is pulling their strings, they seem perfectly happy to ignore all the collateral damage they're enabling.

In other words, the NRA favors civilian shootings. Q.E.D.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
So, over on Facebook I opined that it's now time for Mr. Obama to get his ass in gear about global warming. I further opined that it was time to stop referring to it by the namby-pamby term "climate change" and get back to calling it "global warming." Boy, did that incite some strong responses!

As I said there and will reiterate here, "climate change" may be a descriptive term in a bland way, but it's way too soft and weaselly. "Climate" as a scientific term is just not understood well enough (or at all) by most of us, and "change" is just, well, change. It says nothing about the degree or direction of the change, about whether it's good or bad, and it even leaves some dangerously stupid pundits enough wiggle room to say, "Hey, change is no problem. We'll just adapt."

"Global warming," on the other hand, is direct and scary, and we need to be scared by it. We need to be shitting our pants because of it. "Global"—it affects all of us, everywhere. "Warming"—this identifies the most direct effect of the most critical element of the climate-change equation, to wit that if we keep dumping more and more carbon into the atmosphere, the average global temperature will keep going up faster and faster, leading to every other bad outcome, like increased sea levels, decreased permafrost, increased ocean acidity, increased extreme weather events, and so on. The most important thing we can and must do to stop climate change is to stop that temperature rise.

Now let's all change our underwear and call Congress (202-224-3121) and the White House (202-456-1111) and tell them now is the time to get very serious about halting global warming.





Don't believe me? You cannot possibly be informed about the urgency of this matter unless you're reading journalists like Elizabeth Kolbert and Bill McKibben. Go back and read Kolbert's "The Climate of Man" series from The New Yorker seven and a half years ago, then read McKibben's recent Rolling Stone article "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" and reflect on how damn fast climate change is changing for the worse, and how little time we have to ameliorate its effects. And then change your underwear again.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
shunn: (Elder Shunn)
To follow up on my post from Friday, the latest issue of Rolling Stone features an article by Mikal Gilmore called "Mitt Romney and the Ghosts of Mormon History." It provides an excellent overview of how the Mormon Church has drifted away and distanced itself from its founding philosophical ideals, and how Romney has done the same with his own family's legacy. Here's a great passage:

When Romney veers from liberal to conservative to moderate stands, what he makes plain is that the world he is in, but not truly part of, is the political world. The shifting is a sleight of hand, like Joseph Smith's magic, a means to an end. That end is higher attainment in the big payoff, the eternal world. As a result, expecting Romney to be accountable to a secular morality is to misunderstand him. That's part of the Mormon hubris, and it's what grants him the right to withhold specifics about both his political vision and his deeper beliefs. But if you hold yourself apart from the world, how can you understand those who do not? And how can they ever understand you?
Gilmore was born into a troubled Mormon famly, and his grasp of the church's history is incisive. I'll link to the article if it ever appears online, which I hope it will in the next couple of weeks.

Mikal Gilmore also wrote the excellent memoir Shot in the Heart, about his relationship with his brother Gary, the executed murderer, and their relationship with the church and its murky doctrine of blood atonement. Dark, dark, dark, but highly recommended.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
shunn: (Elder Shunn)
Referring to his fluid political positions, a number of commentators of late have been making statements to the effect that the only thing Mitt Romney seems to believe in is that he should be president. That got me thinking about how such a belief might have arisen, and how it might explain all the shifty flip-flopping we've seen over the course of the presidential campaign—and, in fact, the whole of Romney's political career.

Mormons believe that God has an individual plan for every one of us. This is not to say that they believe in predestination, an idea that would play havoc with their crucial belief in free will. Mormons instead believe in the doctrine of foreordination, in which God has specific tasks in mind for each of us to accomplish in this life, but with the actual accomplishment of them being dependent upon our own faith and diligence.

romney-cross.jpg Another thing Mormons believe in is personal revelation. This means that if we have a problem or a question or a goal, we can turn to God in prayer after sincere consideration and ask for direction. God, we are told, will answer either by causing a confusion to come upon us that makes us forget the thing that is wrong or by affirming through a burning in the bosom that the thing is right. (See Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-9.) No good Latter-day Saint should undertake any major pursuit without having gone through this process of spiritual confirmation.

But this is a tricky doctrine. When I was growing up, I myself was able to convince myself that God approved of many different courses of action that probably weren't so good for me, simply by praying about them persistently and feverishly enough. And this is where Romney's belief that he should be president comes in. I have no doubt that, being a faithful Mormon and in fact a Mormon leader, he prayed long and hard about whether or not to pursue this office. The fact that he threw his hat so firmly into the ring is proof that he received his spiritual confirmation.

In other words, Romney must believe that running for president is what God wants him to do, that it is in fact God's plan for him. This belief could trump any need to have a detailed and specific policy plan. He'll say whatever it takes to get into office because that is where God needs him to be.

One of the great heroes of Mormonism is the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi (either a fictional character or a real human being, depending on your point of view on these things), who was charged by God with obtaining certain scriptural records from the keeping of a bad old fellow named Laban. God needed Nephi to get those records, and anything Nephi had to do to accomplish this was fine—up to an including lying and murder. (See The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 3 & 4, and specifically this passage.) (By the way, the same sort of anything-is-okay-because-I'm-righteous philosophy justifies every horrible action committed by another fictional character created by a prominent Mormon—Ender Wiggin of Ender's Game.)

Mormonism is steeped in this idea. What I really worry about, to get right down to it, is that Romney believes not only that God wants him to be president, but that there is some specific crisis coming which he is the only leader capable of meeting. It doesn't matter what this crisis may be. Mitt himself probably has no inkling yet of that. But when the time comes he will recognize it, or will think he does, and he will do what he thinks God wills.

That's what really scares me—that where Mitt Romney himself may have no plan, his God surely does. And there's no way for us as voters to know what that may turn out to be.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
shunn: (Elder Shunn)
Mitt Romney's comment about "binders full of women" during the debate the other night could not have been more unfortunate, especially considering his family's history of polygamy. Anything that inadvertently conjures up images of the young women in Roman Grant's "joy books" on Big Love is probably not a place Mittens wanted to go...




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
shunn: (Elder Shunn)
As the Republican National Convention gets into full swing today, one of the topics that probably won't be talked about very much is Mitt Romney's religion. It's odd that this has become such a non-issue during the campaign, given that a) Romney is the first Mormon ever to receive a major-party presidential nomination, and b) the Mormon Church is the fourth largest church in America.

mitt-romney.jpg Wait, what? The fourth largest?

Yes, I too was startled by that statistic, which I've been hearing time and again from various outlets—for instance, in an "On the Media" story from late last year about the LDS Church's "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign. I was catching up on that episode via podcast when this statement from LDS Internet and Advertising Senior Manager Ron Wilson caught my ear:

"Even though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the fourth largest church, fifty percent of the population didn't really know who we were."
The fourth largest church. I was raised Mormon, which means I was raised with the Mormon inferiority complex. Somehow that assertion didn't strike me as quite right. It sounded like a small man reporting his height in inches, not feet. I decided to do some digging.

In the strictest sense, I discovered, the statistic turns out to be absolutely true. The Mormon Church is the fourth largest church in America. Thing is, that number on its own doesn't mean quite what it seems to imply. Calling something the fourth largest of anything is a good way to make it sound significant, but of course its significance depends entirely on a) the sizes of the larger somethings, and b) the method you use for counting.

So let's examine the numbers. You'd expect the fourth largest church in the country to represent a significant fraction of the population. According to the 2012 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, the Mormon Church reported a total of 6,157,238 members in the United States in the year 2011. That's a lot of people, no doubt, but out of an estimated 311,800,000 Americans, that's just a hair under 2% of the population, or about 1 in every 50.

By contrast, the largest church in the country, the Catholic Church, reported 68,202,492 members. That's nearly 22% of the population, and more than 11 times the American membership of the Mormon Church. Running a distant second is the Southern Baptist Convention, with 16,136,044 members (5.2%), followed by the United Methodist Church at 7,679,850 members (2.5%).

But this begs the question of how a "church" is defined. In the case of the 2012 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, what we're talking about is organized religions. This means that the Southern Baptist Convention is counted separately from the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. (5,197,512), which is itself counted separately from the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. (3,500,000), and from the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America (2,500,000).

In all, there are six different Baptist denominations listed in the Yearbook's top 25, with a combined membership of 29,651,610 (over 9.5% of U.S. population). Similarly, the three Methodist denominations listed in the top 25 total 11,579,850 members (3.7%).

Moving on down the list, we realize that when we ask which has the larger membership, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (4,274,855), the answer is the LDS Church. But if we ask whether there are more Mormons or Lutherans (6,553,441) in the country, the answer is Lutherans. And mind you, I'm only looking at the top 25 denominations, which account for a little under half the population of the country!

(And yes, I know there are other Mormon sects—notably the Community of Christ, with about 250,000 members worldwide. It's hard to get an accurate count, but altogether these sects would appear to number less than 350,000 throughout the entire world, so they don't really change the math by much.)

slctemple.jpg So far, our analysis has dropped Mormons down to fifth place, if we're talking about broad families of denominations. But what about the Evangelical movement? According to a 2008 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 26.3% of Americans, or more than a quarter of the population, identified themselves as Evangelical. Though countless small churches make up that number, taken as a whole the Evangelicals form the largest religious movement in the country, larger even than Catholicism. This drops Mormons to an ever more distant sixth place in the national standings.

The point is, simply saying that the Mormon Church is the fourth largest in the country, while technically true, implies that it's far more significant a player than it actually is. Out of every 100 people in the United States, 26 are Evangelical, 22 are Catholic, nearly 10 are Baptist, almost 4 are Methodist, more than 2 are Lutheran, and a bit fewer than 2 are Mormon.

By pointing this out, I'm not saying there aren't a lot of Mormons in America. Six million is clearly a large number. It's just not nearly as large as you might expect from the oft-repeated statistic. In fact, the figure of one Mormon in every 50 Americans pretty much implies that, out of 50 states, we have exactly one state's worth of Mormons in the country. Which we all pretty much knew anyway.

So let the Mormon Church continue to aggrandize itself with a misleading statistic. We've had a Quaker president in the past, and Quakers don't even come close to making the top 25. The truth is, maybe Mitt Romney's religion isn't all that big a story after all.


UPDATE: Thanks to Eleanor Lang for pointing out that Herbert Hoover was also a Quaker. That's two past U.S. presidents from a denomination that's about 18 times smaller than Mormonism.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jeff Lang sent me a link to Studio 360's listener cocktail challenge—create a cocktail inspired by and named after a classic work of literature.

I wanted to give it a try, but I wasn't able to work on it before the August 12th deadline. Last night I had some spare time, though, so I cobbled together a drink I'm calling the Quiet American. I combined 1.5 oz. of Laird's Applejack, 0.75 oz. of Créole Shrubb liqueur, and 1.5 oz. of blood orange martini mix (blood orange, key lime and cane sugar), stirred with ice, and strained.

The result was not bad—sweet and orange-y with a slightly bitter undertaste. It gets that name because of the distinctly American spirit (the applejack) getting all into the poor tropical country's business (in this case, Martinique). Of course, it was Vietnam in the novel, so my cocktail inhabits the entirely wrong part of the world, but hey, it was the best I could do.

Laura thought it needed more of something tart, like lime juice or a twist. I'll keep meddling with it, like a good American.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Here's a Daily Show story from last week that just about made me spit a tooth across the room. It's about the amendment State Senator Constance Johnson attempted to add to Oklahoma's odious "personhood" bill. The amendment would have tacked this language onto the bill:

[A]ny action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman's vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.
This video segment was the first I'd heard about the proposed amendment, and I'm embarrassed to say that it took me until partway through to realize that Sen. Johnson was making an absurdist pro-choice statement with her amendment. Then the story was twice as funny as it had been before.

Video link: "Bro-Choice" from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart




Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Let's keep Horan around! The other day Laura and I were out walking the dog when we spotted a campaign ad on top of a taxi:

Elect Judge Kevin Horan

Yes, our minds went there almost immediately. We imagined his future reelection campaign:

Let's Keep Horan Around!

Or maybe his opponent would want to flip that:

Don't Keep Horan Around!

And then there's the thought of that dream ticket with the renowned sheriff of Aiken, South Carolina, Mike Hunt:

Keep Horan Around with Mike Hunt!

Oh, if only. If only.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
shunn: (Elder Shunn)
Mitt Romney is used to being called "President Romney." From 1986 until 1994, he served as what's called a stake president in the LDS Church. A stake president is the lay ecclesiastical leader who oversees a local group of Mormon congregations (wards) and their bishops. Mitt led the Boston Stake, comprising about 4,000 Mormons at the time, all of whom would properly have referred to him as "President Romney" and addressed him as "President." Not only that, but once released from the calling he would still have been called "President" by his flock, as a courtesy, in recognition of his past service. Once a president, always a president.

(One wonders whether, once Mitt became governor of Massachusetts, church members started addressing him as "Governor" or continued addressing him as "President." Hmm. I could see it going either way.)

mittbot.jpg I don't want to sound prejudiced, but that past as part of the LDS hierarchy is one of the reasons I instinctively dislike Mitt Romney. I don't know if it's chicken or egg, but there's a certain demeanor that men at the level of stake president and above seem to bring to the calling. Not all of them, but certainly a majority of them. There's a bland kind of handsomeness. There's an aura of being not quite present, of being above everything and everyone around them. There's a core of certainty to everything they say, backed up as it is by the full weight of a highly centralized doctrinal structure. Their delivery is usually grave, as if they're delivering difficult news straight from the mouth of God himself, except when there's a forced, cheesy jokiness that seems calculated to soften the rest of this authoritarian, patriarchal baggage. And there is never, ever a sense of the real person underneath. The role inhabits the man, not vice versa.

The best way to get a look at the parade of blandness that is the LDS leadership is to tune in to a televised General Conference in early April or October. If you don't see a marked similarity between the way Mitt Romney comes across and the way most of the church leaders present themselves as they address the worldwide membership of the Church—well, let's just say I'll be surprised. There's a good reason Mitt comes off as such a robot to so many people. The Sanctibot-1850 is a proud Mormon tradition.

Like I say, not all Mormon leaders come across that way. I've known many of them, particularly down at the lowly level of ward bishop, who were warm and understanding and human—and also obviously not destined to rise far in the Church ranks. But on those occasions that I've met one-on-one, behind closed doors, with the Mitt-style leaders, I've always come away intimidated and not a little terrified by way they seem to channel the cold, wrathful, unshakable judgment of God in the counsel and censure they calmly and coolly offer. These are not men you negotiate with. These are men who tell you how it is, and how it's going to be.

Now that Mitt has won the Michigan primary and is that much closer to capturing the Republican nomination, I'm that much more terrified of a masked man like that, already accustomed to the title of president and with full confidence in the correctness of his calling, occupying the Oval Office.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
mayoremanuel-book.png Hugo Award nominations are now open, and that means it's time to make good on my threat promise to spearhead a campaign to get the @MayorEmanuel Twitter stream nominated.

As you may recall, Bob, @MayorEmanuel was the anonymous but highly popular tweeter who created a profane and fantastic alternate Chicago during the course of our 2010-11 mayoral election season. Though it started out as something of a lark, by the time it wound down on the night of the election the stream had grown into one of the most absorbing works of science fiction of the year.

The author soon revealed himself to be Chicago journalist and educator Dan Sinker, and late that summer the tweets appeared from Scribner in book form, collected and annotated, as The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel.

I think this innovative story is deserving of a Hugo. At the very least, a nomination for this most Chicago-centric of SF works would be appropriate in a year when Worldcon comes to our fair city. I've consulted with experts, and we agree that we're best off to nominate @MayorEmanuel in the Best Related Work category. If you're with us, then for consistency please fill out your nominating ballot in that category exactly as follows, including the asterisks:

TITLE: The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel
AUTHOR: Dan Sinker
PUBLISHER: Scribner

The book is essentially a work of non-fiction that describes and fully annotates the process of writing the original work, even though the tweets are included in full. For that reason, calling the book a Related Work seems to fit best. We think it would be dicey to attempt to nominate a Twitter stream in one of the fiction categories.

Anyway, if you're not familiar with @MayorEmanuel and want to catch up, the annotated book is a terrific place to start. And here are a few other relevant links to get you going:
@MayorEmanuel in 2012! Together we can make a difference.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
No politician more consistently makes me yell at my radio than Rick Santorum. Every time I hear him frothing at the ass mouth, I fly into an apoplectic rage which can only be vented by abusing the poor inanimate device that channeled his spew into my house. Now that he's come within a devil's whisker of winning the Iowa caucus, it's worth reminding ourselves that—just as we must remind ourselves that Newt Gingrich is crazy, and that Mitt Romney is a shapeshifter—that Rick Santorum is evil.

I'll say it again. Santorum is evil.

It's not just his determination to further cripple America's technological future by degrading our science curricula with more creationism. It's his insistence that morality can only be learned from an ancient, irrelevant book, and that rational thought can only lead us into disaster. It's the dangerous belief that we can do whatever we damn well please to the planet and it's all fine because Jesus will be coming soon anyway to establish his kingdom and roll the earth up like a happy scroll, so we may as well just go ahead and enshrine our Christian extremism in the Constitution.

And it's not just his frothing, kneejerk hatred of homosexuality. It's his desire to use America's irrational fear of gay sex to wedge his way into your home and your bedroom, to legislate against any type of consensual sex that makes him uncomfortable and even to roll back your right to contraception.

Make no mistake. Santorum's fight against gay rights is the opening salvo in a war on all pleasure, gay, straight, sexual, or otherwise—the opening salvo in a war on privacy itself. There's a reason, after all, that it was Santorum and not some other right-wingnut who was chosen by Dan Savage as the beneficiary of a hostile redefinition of his surname. It's because Rick Santorum is evil, and is a deadly danger to far more than just gay people. If he becomes president, he'll make George Bush look like a Unitarian.

After hearing him interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition back in 2005, I was so offended by his assertions that atheism leads to immorality that I had to vent my bile to the world at large. I said then, in part, in an open rant to Santorum:

Compassion and tolerance are so much more important when life on this tiny rock is the only life we'll ever have, but your only idea of compassion is to force the 14-year-old girls you've rendered ignorant into bringing more hungry, poverty-stricken babies into the world, and your only idea of tolerance is to slither your way into one of the most powerful posts in American government and then whinge endlessly about how so-called Christians like you aren't allowed a place in the public discourse. I may not believe in God, but I do believe in evil, and you're its simpering mug.  [read more]
I worry that I might give myself a stroke yelling at the radio during the rest of this election season. We're not stupid enough here to actually elect Santorum, right? Right?

Well, if his educational standards should become the norm, we sure will be.


Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
My first reaction this morning upon hearing the news that Osama bin Laden is dead was elation. I wasn't in Manhattan on 9/11, but Laura and I were in Queens, and we rode our bikes to the southern end of Roosevelt Island in the East River from where we could clearly see the smoke pouring from both towers of the World Trade Center a few miles away. Bin Laden being shot in the head by special forces feels like justice, though inadequate justice compared to all the death, suffering and hatred he ignited.

But at the same time, I have to wonder about the timing and importance of this event. I know the operation has been in the works for a very long time, but it comes as Al Qaeda seems to be fading into irrelevance. The Islamic world, as evidenced by the Arab Spring, seems to have taken to the idea that protest and civil disobedience are more effective at bringing down oppressive regimes than terrorism, which has been demonstrated as entirely useless in that regard. Al Qaeda will soldier on, no doubt, but it's not the power it once was.

All in all, with the election season starting up, the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, and the U.S. letting itself be drawn more and more into the Libyan conflict, the raid on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan seems almost like a distracting piece of theater.

But I do hope President Obama got George W. Bush on the phone and broke the news to him personally.
When a man like Donald Trump says that he's not sure whether or not the president is really a natural-born citizen, you should pay close attention. He's telling you something very important.

What he's telling you is that he thinks you're stupid.

Yes, Trump has conceded that Obama's birth certificate "checks out." But the man is smart enough to know that there was never any serious dispute about the president's citizenship. Any credible politician—not to mention The Donald—who has repeated and amplified any "birther" claims has done it for one reason: to undermine the president's credibility in your mind and to weaken him politically. After all, if you're frothing at the mouth and calling for the president to be impeached over a citizenship issue, it's that much easier for those same politicians to pick your pocket. And if they think they can whip you into that state by repeating statements with no more than a tenuous connection to reality, what does that say about their opinion of you?

So listen closely to Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann, and, yes, Donald Trump when they try to spin today's revelation to their advantage. Even now they think they've gotten away with something by forcing the president's hand, and every word they utter tells you they think you're as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Are you?
Dan Sinker, a/k/a @MayorEmanuel, appeared on The Colbert Report Tuesday night, and I have to say he hit it out of the park. Occasionally a guest will say something so funny or bizarre that Colbert has nothing to say in response. Sinker did it twice.

The first clip here sets up the interview in the second clip:

Dan Sinker on The Colbert Report )
By the way, I've also meant to point out that [livejournal.com profile] rjl20 captured the entire @MayorEmanuel feed in chronological order, together with most of the mentions to which he deigned to respond. Read the whole motherfucking thing at:

http://www.elsewhere.org/MayorEmanuel/
The man behind the curtain has been revealed. Well, really, he came out from behind the curtain himself. As reported by Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic, @MayorEmanuel is Dan Sinker, a journalism instructor at Columbia College in Chicago, Dan Sinker is @MayorEmanuel and one of the founders and editors of the zine Punk Planet.

Having myself waxed rapturous over the @MayorEmanuel tweet stream, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that the mystery is no longer a mystery. I'm not nearly as disappointed as Jim DeRogatis is, because, hey, that Twitter account was a brilliant, engrossing, and uplifting example of a new form of literature, accidental as that might have been, and its author has every right to reap the benefits of his achievement. My disappointment is more that of a fan for whom part of the thrill was the not knowing, and the hope that we would never know. Did you honestly want to know for certain whether or not that top in Inception was ever going to stop spinning? I didn't.

But to be pragmatic, it was probably better that Dan Sinker control the revelation than that someone else out him, which no doubt would have happened sooner or later. And at least now we know whom to nominate for that Hugo next year in the Best Related Work category. (Hey, Chicago in 2012!)

Hats off, Mr. Sinker. As your character wrote: "Only things that fucking suck never end: look at laundry, or dishes."



I had been meaning to do this anyway, but here's a selection of some of my favorite @MayorEmanuel tweets, selected by the very scientific method of searching my own tweet stream for the nuggets I retweeted over the past few months. I've provided a bit of context where necessary.

My favorite @MayorEmanuel tweets )

This can only give a bit of the flavor of the feed, if you haven't followed it. For two good distillations of the story's climax, I still recommend you read Tim Carmody's "The Two Mayors" and "The Last Hours of @MayorEmanuel."
The most entertaining and rewarding piece of fiction of the past six months has been, without a doubt, the Twitter stream of @MayorEmanuel. (Sorry, Mongoliad.)

@MayorEmanuel @MayorEmanuel is, or was, a delightfully profane Rahm Emanuel impersonator whose tweets started appearing six months ago, after the real Emanuel expressed his intention to enter the Chicago mayoral race. (Tagline: Your next motherfucking mayor. Get used to it, assholes.) The tweets were drop-dead funny—so much so that I'm sure I retweeted them more frequently than I've retweeted anyone else's—but at first seemed like little more than an amusing and perceptive piss-take on the real Rahm and Chicago politics.

But then a surprising thing happened. Characters from @MayorEmanuel's entourage began to develop, some based on real people (David Axelrod), others fictional (Carl the Intern, Quaxelrod the mustachioed duck). Storylines began to emerge. Riffing off the real ups and downs of the Emanuel campaign, the daily news, and even the weather, the tweets led followers through the dark underbelly of a fantastical Chicago populated by celebrities and politicians, by the famous and the infamous, by the living and the dead alike, with the gang often tooling around town in Axelrod's beloved but increasingly damaged Honda Civic. (Even the real Rahm tried to insert himself into the story, famously offering a large donation to charity if the anonymous author would come forward.)

From Jane Byrne's secret dungeon to a harrowing ride through the flooded sewers beneath City Hall, from New Year's Eve bacchanalia with Kanye West to Mayor Daley's secret celery dome, the story blended an insider's knowledge of the minutiae of Chicago politics and an intimate familiarity with the geography of the city with a stew of pop-culture references and jaw-droppingly absurdist comic sensibility to create a prodigious, profane, and ultimately moving kaleidoscope world that nonetheless captured the essence of this city-like-no-other. Wilco and Gene Siskel, Groupon and Threadless, even celery salt, that key ingredient of the Chicago dog, all get their moment in the spotlight.

You'll note, I did say moving. The night before the election, the narrative took a cosmic and elegiac turn, with @MayorEmanuel snatched away for a tutorial in the secret powers of which Chicago mayors are custodians. I don't want to spoil the story, but let me just praise the brilliance with which the promise of that sequence was fulfilled last night. In an inspired feat of improvisation, the unknown author actually wove the real hailstorm taking place outside our windows into the climax of the story, and somehow managed to time the culmination of @MayorEmanuel's hero's quest with the single giant peal of real thunder that reverberated over the city (and that not to mention scared the crap out of my dog).

Timothy Carmody has compiled and annotated some of the key tweets from the past few days here and here, and I urge you to read through them if you haven't been following the story. But really, to experience the story properly, you had to be following it as it unfolded, and even more so, you had to be in Chicago at the end to properly appreciate that cathartic thunderclap of a conclusion. Sorry, everyone else.

In all seriousness, I want to nominate the @MayorEmanuel tweet stream for a Hugo. (Best Short Story? Best Dramatic Presentation? I don't know.) It's too bad the story had to wrap up in 2011, since that won't make it eligible until next year, if it's even eligible at all.

But moreso, now that the campaign season and the election and the story itself are over, I want to state for the record, a la those West Wing bumper stickers, that @MayorEmanuel will always be my motherfucking mayor.

April 2014

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