Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Thanks for checking in with The Traveling Now. Got those holiday blues? Me too.

Another extremely short post. But I wanted to post this because it underscores a theme that has been on my mind of late: to wit, we need to improve our vocabulary and breadth of knowledge, as a society, if we want to move forward.

Extremely interesting article on the conservative view of the Affordable Healthcare Act from educator Bryan Henry.

Friday, October 11, 2013

GOP Kool-Aid

This is an interesting article from consertive blogger Jennifer Rubin.

20 Signs you've drunk the Kool-Aid

May you NOT live in interesting times,

The Traveling Now

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Un-Sexy Truths

Hello folks. Welcome back to The Traveling Now.

Traveling Now? Was That The Blog about Twerking, or what?

After another amazingly long absence the Traveling Now is back. Chide me for my idleness! It can't be any worse than the grief I give myself.

But I will give you what I feel is a reasonable excuse for my slack: The Traveling Now is my place to post what I think of as my public outrage - my anger at the world at large. It’s all stuff I am willing to share.

These days, however, my public outrage takes a way back seat to my private outrage, and I'm not so keen on sharing that. It’s hard for me to talk about myself in a public forum: like, chillingly hard. Some months ago, a good buddy of mine asked me to get up and talk to his political group about how student loans were fucking up my life (full disclosure: they were and are, but I'm not going to talk about them here). I am perfectly comfortable, nay, at home, speaking in front of groups, but my heart raced when he asked me about it.

Anyway, here is me talking about the public bits of my private outrage. 

The Un-Sexy Truth Blues

I am a centrist. I believe that moderation and balance are key to a happy life, a happy community, a happy society. Extremes, while exciting and sexy and easy to get caught up in, generally lead to unhappiness and so I am against them.

But being a true ideological moderate is a bitch. Nobody sees centrism as anything but a milquetoast retreat from more exciting world views, a kind of retreat from being confrontational. 

But the true centrist has to embrace some difficult truths, the kind of truths that take some courage to accept. I argue that it’s more difficult and more courageous to be a political centrist, because the centrist must forgo the easy and natural path of self-exultation and embrace the difficult truths about society, and about themselves.

Ready for this?

First Un-Sexy Truth: The World is Complicated. 

One of the charms of every flavor of extremism is that it embraces an easy to read, cookie cutout of a world view. We are RIGHT and NORMAL and GOOD! They are WRONG and WEIRD and BAD!  We have to stop THEM no matter WHAT THE COST!

See how sexy that is? Wahoo! Whatever extreme point of view you believe, the notion of canonizing your own position and allies while demonizing the position and adherents of any other point of view is as natural and satisfying as masturbation. And, as it turns out, is just as effective at resolving out world's problems.

If it was effective this movie would have brought peace to the Middle East

The truth is that with the exception of the odd moron, lunatic, and sociopath, nearly everyone's politics have some good and valid points. And some bad points, and some insane points.

Part of the problem is that political issues are extremely complicated - almost unfathomably so, I imagine, if you could somehow see it all from some omniscient point of view.  Imagine the politicking that has to take place for even a simple decision.

For example, certain folks in Town X believe that a traffic signal should go up at a certain cross roads which is getting busier and busier. Sounds simple, right?

Nope. Is this crossroad the one in Town X in most dire need of a new traffic signal, or would the majority of the public be better served by putting one up elsewhere? How long will the instillation of the traffic signal disrupt traffic, and what businesses or family homes will be affected by it? And for how long? How do you decide which of the many groups of contractors should be given the contract to put up the traffic light? If the contracting company is minority owned, woman owned, beholden to some higher environmental standard – should that weigh in on the town’s decision of who to hire to put the light up? Is putting a traffic signal up the best use of the town’s money? Would more lives be saved if that money was used to hire more policemen, or firemen, or more prisons? All of the money used to put the signal up will be taxpayer money – is this what will best please the taxpayers? Should taxpayers have a direct voice in where their money is spent, or should they trust their elected representatives to make those decisions for them. Some taxpayers don’t want money spent on anything, they want as little government and government regulation as possible – what about their needs? I could go on and on.

And that's just the practical issues. The real bullshit begins with politics. I am the mayor of Town X - it this light going to hurt, or help, my chances of being re-elected? Is this going to piss off any of my cronies, the powerful ones that really make sure shit gets done in town? The ugly reality is that politics is a system and the system begins and ends with people. And I don't care who you are, if you get faced with choosing making the best decision for your town, and making the decision that will help you keep your job and paycheck so you can keep feeding your family . . . I am sure you see my point.

Clearly these are all questions that can be answered – perhaps not ultimately answered, but answered enough for a given value of practicality. Mind you, each answer will likely change the answer of the next question you have to ask.

Apply this kind of thinking to decisions like whether or not the United States should bomb Syria – and you must -  and you see politics for the unfathomably complicated business it is. And there is no getting around that. People who tells you that they are just a simple man with simple solutions for what need to happen in the world are lying to you, well intentioned or not.

Second Unsexy Truth: Some of Your Beliefs are Assuredly Wrong

There is a very good reason to consider the point of view of the people who stand in opposition to your beliefs. They are not wrong about everything, and you are not right about everything.

Now, here is some paradox for your ass: the truth is that you must be wrong about something, otherwise you would be, what? The Smartest Person in the World? God?

But if you go around doubting yourself all the time, you become an ineffective person who can’t make decisions. 

Most folks solve this paradox by assuming that they are right all the time, and then adjusting their expectations or their beliefs when they catch themselves out being wrong about something. 
(My personal advice? Don’t try to solve the paradox, recognize that it is a paradox and work with it. Accept that sometimes you are wrong; go forth boldly like you aren’t. Realize that it’s okay to be wrong, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s definitely okay to change your mind when presented with better facts. Ta daa!)

Now go walk on the rice paper! 

Anyway, unless you are God or the Smartest Person in the World, other folks have a point of view and often facts that, if you can truly internalize them, can either moderate your views, or (gasp! can it be?) change your mind completely.

And in seeing things from the point of view of somebody who is just dead wrong, you will gain greater insight into humanity, as well as into yourself and your beliefs. Win-win baby!

Third Un-Sexy Truth – Meaningful Change Takes Time

And I’ve said it here again and again

For example, let’s talk Gay Marriage. Excuse me . . . Marriage Equality.

Public Opinion on Marriage Equality (and just the fact that the phrase "marriage equality" is now in the public consciousness shows how far we have come) has changed more rapidly than any other divisive social issue that I can think of.

But if you think about it, it is also going incredibly slowly. Homosexuality has been a part of our world since forever. We see again and again that some people are simply born gay – it’s not a perversion, it’s not a choice . . . it’s just something that happens.

Except that there are people willing to use every means necessary, every dirty political trick, every false argument, every heresy, to fight not only against Marriage Equality, but to allow them to keep treating homosexuality as anything other than a perversion on a level with child molestation.

To change the world, you need to change hearts and minds. But what about those who dig their heels in, the people whose very identity is wrapped up in their old mode of thought? Well, you have to change the next generation. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. 

So what happens is if you work your whole life to change the world, you might . . . might! see some small change before you die. But the real change might not be seen for three, or thirteen, or thirty generations. And you have to do the work anyway, even though you probably will not be able to appreciate the changes you bring about. How's that for some un-sexy?

The big mistakes have to be unlearned, and sometimes that takes generation. Patience, Padawans! 
Okay that’s enough ugly, non-sexy truth for one day. 
Go forth cooler, Friends! 

In My Life

So I just moved to Salem MA! That means no more pawn shop stories, and hopefully less stories about the racists I meet every day. Hopefully, it also means more stories about lobster, cool people, North Shore music and culture, and tourism. Watch this space!

In Conclusion . . .

My buddy just started a very hip blog on politics and culture. Check him out and see what the brother has to say!

Currently Digging: 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Political Harassment

Political Harassment

Hey there hi there ho there. Welcome back.

My sister came by for the final leg of my three week long birthday celebration. We sat in my kitchen, ate up some of my famous hybrid pancakes, caught each other up on our lives.

Our talk turned to harassment - political harassment, specifically. She and my mother work together at a major real estate agency. And of late, there is has been a lot of hate leveled towards Obama, who the two of them support. That's to be expected this close to a hotly contested election where one side has declared total war against the other.

But what do you do when you can't get away from the hate? When the constant barrage of political jabs becomes a distraction from your job?

Full disclosure: As pissed off as I am at the NDAA I'm supporting Obama in the upcoming election as well.

My sister says that she and my mother are the subject of a steady barrage of Tea Party style anti-Democrat jokes and comments. They receive unsolicited mass emails, are subject to jokes (most of which are terribly tasteless, all of which are way off base), are the subject of derision for their political beliefs.

Is that okay?

I say no, not in the work place.

Its uncool anywhere - who wants to be badgered about their convictions? Would you feel okay if every day I tried to convince you that your religion was wrong, and that you should join mine? - but I feel that its inexcusable in the workplace.Work should be about work - you don't go to your job to have all-day confrontations  about your personable beliefs. You are there to do a job, and unpleasant behavior that makes it harder to do your job should be eliminated. Obviously there are grey areas that need to be worked out.

You can forgive the heat that people have about their political opinions. Many modern media organizations run on the fear and hatred of their viewers. If you were a visitor from another planet who tuned into the news for a few nights you might leave earth with the conviction that whoever wins the upcoming Presidential election, the loosing side will all be executed and buried in some massive sacrificial ziggurat. The inflammatory rhetoric comes at you twenty-four seven and after a while you get swept up. That's how brain washing works - you just keep yelling something at someone, and eventually they start believing whatever you say.

The Traveling Now Saves The Workplace, Part 1 

You should be able to talk politics with your co-workers. You should be able to work free of harassment. How do we reconcile these two axioms, so often at loggerheads? 

Why, you do it by following the Traveling Now's simple rules for Politics in the workplace.

Be Respectful: Really, all workplace harassment issues come down to a lack of respect. Simple flirtation or the pursuit of a relationship becomes sexual harassment when the object of your affection says no and you do not respect that no. Likewise, its possible to have a conversation about politics, but if you are just trying to score points, show your disdain, or out yell someone you have crossed that line. No one is obliged to let you cross-examine their beliefs on any sort of casual basis. If someone isn't into hearing about politics (or fishing, or sports, or whatever!), then you should respect that.

Respect also means you use a respectful mode of discourse. That hilarious cartoon you found of Obama dressed like Hitler might say exactly what you want to say, but emailing it to someone who you know is an Obama supporter is an attack. Period. Political cartoons are what they are, no one expects them to be Fair and Balanced, but loading your co-workers inbox with the ugliest stuff you can find on the internet is not cool.

One last thing - respect rarely, if ever, has to raise its voice.

Don't Monologue: Dialog!: That means you listen as well as speak. If you  want to talk politics, don't just spit out everything you heard from Rush Limbaugh or Terry Grosse in the car that morning. Try to engage, rather than harangue, and you are on the path of the Cool Office Friend. Disagreement is healthy and necessary and if engage the people you disagree with rather than just trumpeting your beliefs you might find your way to that most rare of discussions, the Productive Discussion. Hooray!

By the way, monologue is the only way to change anyone's opinion. Right or wrong, people hang on to their beliefs with an iron grip when those beliefs are assaulted. Want to change someone's mind? Keep asking questions, and pay attention to the answers. You can not change anyone's mind - they have to change their own minds. If they put their beliefs, or their defense of their beliefs, into words they will eventually hear what they are saying and might just find themselves at odds with their own beliefs. That's soil that change can grow in.

Okay, that's enough about etiquette today. Best of luck to all of you in all your endeavors.

Currently Digging: The Waterboys, The Diamond Age, Juan of the Dead

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"9/11 Wasn't About You."

Excuses Are Like Metaphors . . . 

Everybody has one, and they all wither in the light of careful scrutiny. Sorry its been so long since my last post.

"9/11 wasn't about  you."

" 9/11 wasn't about you. Nobody cares where you were." - Facebook post from Sept 11, 2012

And here I was thinking it was the day that my country was attacked by terrorists.

The anniversary of the day that our economy went into a tailspin that it never recovered from, which made my last decade a spiral of lay-offs and financial stress.

The kick off of a war that sent two of my good friends to the Middle East, both of whom returned but were never the same.

I was thinking it was the day that we decided as a nation to sacrifice privacy and civil liberties for the illusion of safety at any cost.

The day that a ride on an airplane went from being something to look forward to to an exercise in humiliation to be avoided whenever possible.

The event that fueled the rise of the most radical right wing  policies and politicians I have ever seen in my lifetime.

My bad.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Been a long time, been a long time, been a long . . .

lonely, lonely, lonely time . . .

But Not Really

Hey all. Thank you for checking in with the old Traveling Now. Remember - no matter where you are, what you are doing, and when you are doing it - the time is Now, the place is Here, and we are all of us Traveling.

And if you have had a lonely, lonely, lonely time waiting on a new post from Yours Truly may I apologize? What can I say? Time takes Time.

So . . What Shall We Call This New Country?

New America? The Former United States? Voting non enabled I'm afraid.

From the ACLU website:

December 31, 2011


WASHINGTON – President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law today. The statute contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision.  While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA, and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations.  The White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill.

 Just let that sink in for a minute. Indefinite detention without charges.

I am going to do my best to accurately paraphrase a friend of mine, speaking from his front porch over iced tea a few weeks back.

"Choose your nightmare scenario," he said. "A hardline conservative gets in office and he decides to detain everyone who participated in Occupy Wall Street for a few years to teach them that activism does not pay. A radical Christian becomes President and just rounds up all the Muslims and holds them on suspicion of terrorism - forever. An ultra liberal administration comes to power and they decide that everyone who voted to invade Iraq is a war criminal, and sends them to Guantanamo Bay."

And he's right. And just because its not likely to happen that way doesn't meant that we shouldn't fight against it. Fight against NDAA because America with indefinite detention without charges is no longer America. 

The Fantasy Theory That Lets Me Sleep At Night

Our current President conceding to the Right on NDAA is a crafty strategy. He knows that once challenged the Supreme Court NDAA will be found unconstitutional and put to bed, and whatever political capitol the Right spent on making it happen is flushed down the toilet. In my fantasy President Obama is like a chess master, thinking three moves ahead of his opponents.

But the probable truth is that it was just the easiest way for him to get what he needed to get to help him get re-elected in 2012.

How Do We Fight This

Raise awareness, sign the petition, and never stop fighting for justice. And just to sweeten the pot . . . see down below that wacky old comment section? Chime in and let me know that you signed up and you will be the recipient of a Traveling Now WHOOOOOOOOO! prize, complete with a phone and personalized WHOOOOOOOOO!

Do it. Help America!

Back To The Mephitic Workday

Okay, that has to be it for this afternoon. Work might not be a delightful romp into political particulars but it has to get done. You be well.

Last one out from under oppression hit the lights!

Currently Digging

Alabama Shakes, pasta with broccoli, Breaking Bad, getting back into shape

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Occupy the Traveling Now

Hello all.

Thanks for tuning in.

Traveling Now to Politics: NUTS!

So right now I am so sick of politics I could kick a stump. I could go full mountain man, live in a hut in the woods and trap muskrats for sustenance. I could quit every political origination I belong to, stop watching the news and reading blogs and putting an effort into forming my opinions.  I could find distractions, so many wonderful distractions that could keep me utterly divorced from what is going on my nation. I could watch reality shows about cooking, and art, and music. Music! I could utterly immerse myself in music (carefully avoiding overtly political bands) and live a very fulfilled life, just leave the greasy business of American politics behind and its attendant stress behind forever.

If it weren’t so goddamn important.

Right now I feel like there are extremists out there trying to make my country into something it isn’t by pretending that it used to be something it wasn’t. I feel like the response by the so-called centrists has been so timid and careful that absolutely nothing is being done. I feel like the leaders who I helped elect are utterly terrified to call bullshit on bullshit. I look from pigs to men, and men to pigs, and it’s harder and harder to convince myself that there is any difference.

I am not naive. I know that all your average citizen sees are the tiniest fraction of what is actually happening in our government. I am smart enough to know that I don’t have all the facts. But I am keenly aware of the trend that the weapons used to fight our current political battles – not the issues, mind you, but the tools used to wring support out of the American people – are getting uglier and more coarse. And I fear that these weapons set a standard and our national character follows.

You could almost despair . . . except for Occupy Wall Street.

Heroic Fanfare, Courageous Montage!


Real Americans

Full disclosure: I have barely participated in the Occupation. I did a little writing for a friend who is an organizer, and that was that. I haven’t stood for one minute with the Occupy folks. Have not been at risk, nor cold and uncomfortable, nor abused by the police, nor hectored by passers by.

There are lots of reasons why I didn’t participate directly in my local Occupy movement.  I certainly don’t really have time to participate – I work between fifty and sixty hours a week, and I write, and I spend time with my family and friends. My life does not leave much time for occupying. But I could have found some time, I am certain, found some way to make it work If I had really wanted to.

But I didn’t directly participate because I went to an early organizing meeting and was thoroughly freaked out by some of the participants. I just didn’t have the energy to make myself go on one of my rare and precious days off and deal with some of the folks, and some of the situations I would surely find myself in.

Getting that off my chest feels good.

The meeting was in my town and I showed up energized and hopeful. Occupy Wall Street really captured my imagination. I saw that there were people who shared my concerns about the corporatization of our government and values, people who shared my passion for democracy.

There were also anarchists at the meeting. I try to take people’s beliefs in stride, but I classify anarchists with conspiracy theorists, religious fundamentalists, luddites, and objectivists: people to whom you owe a duty to never allow their vision of society to materialize. As I walked in the door one fiery fellow was shouting about burning down the banks. Was he serious? Certainly not fully, but he was certainly more serious than I was comfortable with.

I walked through the room just listening to the conversations of people.  Folks were gleefully planning on being arrested, folks who were obviously there with a personal agenda that had little or nothing to do with politics. There were people there who seemed to me just wanted to be seen.   

Now hear me: the majority of the people there were progressives, politically minded responsible citizens who wanted to stand up for a better America. That was by far the majority. But they never seemed to be the loudest ones, and that freaked me out. Just listening to the conversations exhausted me.

Long story short, I dipped first chance I got. My friends who got involved and stayed involved are my heroes; they were strong where I was weak, they sacrificed where I was selfish.

Also they are cooler, and more attractive to the opposite sex.

But I went to that meeting and the passion drained out of me. Occupy Wall Street – any major public protest – calls for passion, and when I didn’t feel that any longer I absented myself. I won’t do anything like that half-assed, its not fair to the people who are in it 100%.

So I just want to say thank you to the people who did stand out there, who did put themselves at risk, who stood and withstood. Thank you to those of you I agreed with, thank you to those of you whom I did not, thank you to those of you I feel are a danger to yourself and society. To everyone who participated: Thank you, thank you, thank you.