De rien

Saturday, 22 July 2017

I’ve lived in Cleveland for near­ly 15 years now, & in all of that time, the city & its peo­ple have been, through ex­is­ten­tial tri­al & er­ror, try­ing to tax­on­o­mize what it means to be Cleveland. All of them should have vis­it­ed Steve’s Lunch be­fore it burned.

There are a few who have me beat, but, for the most part, I’ve been to more places in more neigh­bor­hoods than peo­ple who’ve lived here their whole lives. The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor, when you wipe away all the brand­ing & in­ter­net-era pos­tur­ing to re­veal the rust­ed heart at our core, is a mod­er­ate­ly ex­as­per­at­ed po­litesse. Clevelanders are busy, we’re in a hur­ry, we know what we’re do­ing, we don’t have time for your shit, but we aren’t gonna be jerks about it.

We’ll hold the door just long enough for it to not close in your face; we’ll throw up our hands at a se­nior cit­i­zen who prob­a­bly shouldn’t be on the road, and im­pa­tient­ly give them the right of way. We’ll serve up a com­plete­ly un­pre­ten­tious hot dog, on a cheap plas­tic plate that’s been cur­so­ri­ly washed 10,000 times in 15 years, that changes your life when the sta­di­um mus­tard smears across your tongue.

Steve’s Lunch is where I went when I had $20 to spend on a night out & could buy a hot dog with my last two dol­lars at 3AM. It burned be­fore I could in­tro­duce my son to the place, but we’re reg­u­lar enough at Steve’s Diner that the staff knows us on sight & the Pepsi is wait­ing for us when we sit down. We grouse with the staff about weath­er & home­work & bills & split a plate of fries. Steve’s is where I go when I’m lone­ly or in need of com­fort, & where I head when all I have time for is a hot dog.

That hot dog could be dim sum; or piero­gi; or ribs bar­be­cued in a con­vert­ed 50-gal­lon drum & served up with­out a per­mit at an aban­doned gas sta­tion. The core of Cleveland, that no amount of lux­u­ry con­dos or new coats of paint can ob­scure, is a lack of pre­ten­sion. Dandelions like Steve’s are in every neigh­bor­hood; lift­ing their yel­low heads & growl­ing at what­ev­er Cleveland sup­pos­ed­ly is this week.

We’ve seen so many grand ges­tures & prophets of pros­per­i­ty de­scend from the clouds to save Cleveland, us­ing mon­ey & in­flu­ence to change en­tire swathes of our neigh­bor­hoods. The loud­est sto­ry is that we need to be saved. We do our best to ob­scure the fact that we serve up lit­tle bits of sal­va­tion every day.

You want an­oth­er hot dog?

A Short List of Things I’ve Failed

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

  • Developing con­sis­tent­ly healthy eat­ing habits
  • Figuring out a reg­u­lar ex­er­cise sched­ule
  • Driving be­low the speed lim­it
  • Patience
  • Home own­er­ship
  • Long-term ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships
  • Investing
  • Weight loss
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Good pos­ture
  • Beating the orig­i­nal Super Mario Brothers
  • Going on va­ca­tion
  • Not be­ing weird
  • Publishing my writ­ing
  • Being re­spect­ed in my com­mu­ni­ty
  • Learning gui­tar
  • Being qui­et
  • Expressing emo­tion
  • Listening
  • Having con­fi­dence
  • Ancient Greek 103
  • Making bis­cuits from scratch
  • Writing reg­u­lar­ly
  • Maintaining friend­ships
  • Doing dish­es in a time­ly man­ner
  • My son
  • My mom
  • My dog
  • You

Excuses

Sunday, 5 March 2017

My grand­pa used to say to me: “You have more ex­cus­es than Wrigley has chew­ing gum”. He grew up dur­ing the Great Depression, fought in World War II, sup­port­ed 4 kids and a wife run­ning a postal route, was a city coun­cil­man, et cetera, et cetera.

I can’t think of one time that I ever heard him com­plain or of­fer an ex­cuse or fail to take re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for some­thing that was brought to his at­ten­tion — whether or not if it was his prob­lem to be­gin with.

My life has been ex­trav­a­gant­ly deca­dent com­pared to his, but when I’ve been faced with ad­ver­si­ty or failed at some­thing I’ve al­ways kept that say­ing of his in mind, and his ex­am­ple.

  • If you’re held re­spon­si­ble for some­thing that isn’t your fault; there’s no point whin­ing about it — you’re al­ready blamed. Clarify the sit­u­a­tion and help solve it. Take steps to en­sure it doesn’t hap­pen again.
  • If you’re in any po­si­tion of lead­er­ship, the fail­ures of any part of your team are your fail­ures. The in­stant you shift blame, you’re a whin­er, not a leader. Spreading blame is worse than a waste of time, it is counter-pro­duc­tive. Are you here to find a scape-goat or get some work done?
  • Don’t com­plain that re­al­i­ty gets in the way of your goals. Don’t in­vent re­al­i­ties that jus­ti­fy your fail­ures. Be hum­ble, be hon­est, work hard, and know your ca­pa­bil­i­ties.
  • Admit your mis­takes but don’t give up; have an­oth­er idea ready at hand. Ask for help, guid­ance, or feed­back.
  • It’s okay to ex­press frus­tra­tion, but it should be done in pri­vate; and the next step af­ter that is called “get­ting back to work.”
  • The dif­fer­ence be­tween an ex­cuse and an ex­pla­na­tion boils down to re­spon­si­bil­i­ty. An ex­cuse avoids it, an ex­pla­na­tion owns it.

When I have in­ter­ac­tions with peo­ple who do not seem ca­pa­ble be­hav­ing in the man­ners de­scribed above, I feel pret­ty safe in as­sum­ing that they’ve nev­er tru­ly been held ac­count­able to oth­ers & prob­a­bly won’t be able to hack it when they fi­nal­ly are.

State Capture

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

I keep read­ing ar­ti­cles & news posts about how the Trump Administration is do­ing a bad job of com­mu­ni­cat­ing its poli­cies & gov­er­nance. This pre­sup­pos­es two things:

  1. That the Trump Administration has ob­jec­tive­ly and holis­ti­cal­ly com­pre­hen­si­ble poli­cies and gov­er­nance strate­gies
  2. That they have the de­sire to com­mu­ni­cate them clear­ly to the pub­lic via the me­dia

I think the press is still do­ing a bad job at un­der­stand­ing what’s go­ing on here. The eas­i­est way to #DrainTheSwamp is through ne­glect. Shut down what­ev­er you can, fill key po­si­tions with ad­min­is­tra­tors who will fur­ther ham­string the bu­reau­cra­cy, and leave the rest to dry rot.

This is the kind of state/​reg­u­la­to­ry cap­ture you learn about in an in­tro­duc­to­ry pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion course.

Sincerity

Sunday, 22 January 2017

In the apoth­e­o­sis of post­moder­ni­ty that we are cur­rent­ly sub­ject­ed to sin­cer­i­ty is hard to find. The alt-fact (pro­pa­gan­da) & alt-right (white su­prema­cist) are un­scrupu­lous­ly disin­gen­u­ous at dis­sem­bling. The so­cial jus­tice left has balka­nized due to self-in­flict­ed “No True Scotsman”-ship. Hipster irony in the ear­ly aughts was at least per­for­ma­tive — a joke that every­one was in on; and even if you didn’t think it was fun­ny, you at least knew it was a joke. Now, just about every­body is a re­van­chist.

The tools used to make noth­ing mean any­thing, and any­thing mean noth­ing have been so re­fined that 140 char­ac­ters can take 10,000 of analy­sis to un­pack. Speed, vol­ume, and anonymi­ty cre­ate so much noise that there might as well be no sig­nal.

I used to think hip­ster irony was the prob­lem & that sin­cer­i­ty was the an­swer. I was wrong. Postmodernity is the prob­lem.

I still think sin­cer­i­ty is the an­swer.

My General Political Philosophy

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Ethics

In gen­er­al I sup­port can­di­dates, leg­is­la­tion, and civ­il be­hav­iors that most close­ly meet my eth­i­cal and moral stan­dards. The dis­cern­ment process be­comes pro­gres­sive­ly more re­fined as nec­es­sary, which, it turns out, isn’t very of­ten. I was raised Catholic, so my moral and eth­i­cal foun­da­tions are Judeo-Christian. Core tenets:

…Thou shalt love thy neigh­bour as thy­self. There is none oth­er com­mand­ment greater than these.
Mark 12:31

But he, will­ing to jus­ti­fy him­self, said un­to Jesus, And who is my neigh­bour? And Jesus an­swer­ing said, A cer­tain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his rai­ment, and wound­ed him, and de­part­ed, leav­ing him half dead. And by chance there came down a cer­tain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the oth­er side. And like­wise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the oth­er side. But a cer­tain Samaritan, as he jour­neyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had com­pas­sion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pour­ing in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the mor­row when he de­part­ed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said un­to him, Take care of him; and what­so­ev­er thou spend­est more, when I come again, I will re­pay thee. Which now of these three, think­est thou, was neigh­bour un­to him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mer­cy on him. Then said Jesus un­to him, Go, and do thou like­wise.
Luke 10:29 – 37

And the King shall an­swer and say un­to them, Verily I say un­to you, Inasmuch as ye have done it un­to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it un­to me.
Matthew 25:40

Reiterating: Meet those stan­dards and get my sup­port. Oppose them and I’m an op­po­nent.

Reason

I sup­port can­di­dates and leg­is­la­tion that make the cor­rect moral, eth­i­cal, and rea­son­able de­ci­sions, even when they are dif­fi­cult. Policies and po­si­tions based on sci­ence, em­pir­i­cal re­search, and long-term vi­a­bil­i­ty get my sup­port. I don’t be­lieve in quick fix­es. Government works best when it is evo­lu­tion­ary — a se­ries of very grad­ual changes we can be­lieve in. If a leg­is­la­tor or piece of leg­is­la­tion does not meet or im­pedes the progress of cor­rect moral, eth­i­cal, or ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion-mak­ing, I op­pose.

Anti-in­cum­ben­cy, Complacency, & Overton Windows

Barring dis­qual­i­fy­ing ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences, if a can­di­date or par­ty has been in of­fice or in pow­er in an area for a long time, I’m prob­a­bly go­ing to vote for their op­po­nent, es­pe­cial­ly in a pri­ma­ry. I blame this on 30 years of hear­ing the same names on the night­ly news. A Bush has been ei­ther President or Vice-President for 20 years of my life. Clintons have been in the spot­light for the same amount of time. The same names have been around in Cleveland for as long as I’ve been here. I’m not in­to dy­nas­ties — fa­mil­ial, eth­nic, or oth­er­wise. I thought it was hi­lar­i­ous that the best the Ohio Democratic Party could come up with for Senate this year was Ted Strickland, & the best they could do for the last Governor run was Ed Fitzgerald. Reheated, thin gru­el. Yum! ← This, by the way, is how I feel about most ma­jor can­di­dates that run for of­fice.

I al­so think that the longer a can­di­date is in­cum­bent — the longer they have to be­come com­fort­able, com­pla­cent, and like­ly to ig­nore their con­stituen­cy. You keep a knife sharp by hon­ing it. The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies to peo­ple. Comfortable peo­ple are dull. I think every in­cum­bent should be chal­lenged in a pri­ma­ry when up for re-elec­tion. No free pass­es.

I al­so vote to shift the Overton Window clos­er to­ward the Judeo-Christian eth­ic il­lus­trat­ed above.

Hoosier Libertarianism

I don’t want leg­is­la­tors or leg­is­la­tion to dic­tate to me or oth­ers how and in what way our pri­vate, per­son­al busi­ness is han­dled. All y’all de­serve the pro­tec­tions enu­mer­at­ed in our con­sti­tu­tion. And by all y’all I mean all y’all.

Whatever Remains

I re­al­ize that this de­scrip­tion of my po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy isn’t nailed down to the last shin­gle, but I don’t think it needs to be. That or­tho­doxy re­sults in the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate we cur­rent­ly loathe. When there were grey ar­eas to be had in a pol­i­tics, I wel­comed the chance to dis­cuss them, learn, and pos­si­bly have my mind changed. Those days seem to be long past, and not re­turn­ing any time soon.

7 Years of Political Silence

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

I stopped writ­ing about & voic­ing my po­lit­i­cal opin­ions back in 2008 or 2009 af­ter J. Kevin Kelley & Kevin Payne got bust­ed by the FBI for their cor­rup­tion. At the time I tweet­ed some­thing along the lines of “I can’t be­lieve I worked on a project with these scum­bags.” That project be­ing a re­design of the County Engineer’s web­site that had lan­guished for over a year, com­plete, but with­out sign-off to go live. The next day I got called in­to the Director’s of­fice with my boss and syn­tax was struc­tured that tan­gen­tial­ly im­plied that fur­ther pub­lic com­men­tary from me on any­thing job-re­lat­ed would af­fect my em­ploy­ment. That Director, Dan Weaver, lat­er got sen­tenced to 3 years in prison as part of the same gi­ant pile of cor­rup­tion that in­fect­ed the man­age­ment of the en­tire County. I think the FBI stopped fish­ing soon af­ter be­cause every­thing left was small fry.

They scared me. I had a brand new in­fant, a mort­gage, there were no job prospects in Cleveland, so I delet­ed the afore­men­tioned tweet and kept my head down for an­oth­er 5 years. The FBI burst in to my of­fice be­cause these crim­i­nals spat up­on the same civ­il re­spon­si­bil­i­ty that I was hon­ored to con­tribute to. Everyone at the County was im­pli­cat­ed. I know how louche it is to voice per­son­al opin­ions re­gard­ing one’s pro­fes­sion­al po­si­tion, but some shit needs to be un­equiv­o­cal­ly re­pu­di­at­ed. The fol­low­ing tweet is, as far as I can tell, the on­ly one left stand­ing from that time:

I’ve spent 7 years with my lips zipped — which is not an easy thing for me to do. I’ve tried to be as non-par­ti­san as pos­si­ble in my deal­ings with every­one. Going along to get along. I’ve avoid­ed en­gag­ing in any­thing that might be politi­cized, but what isn’t these days? Ain’t no­body play­ing for low stakes.

I can con­tin­ue to kib­itz, or I can throw my two cents on the pile & see if any­thing shifts.

Mainly, though, I’m tired of keep­ing my mouth shut.