Category Archives: Government

John McCain

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If you’re looking for a Victor Hugo script in the 21st Century, the current Washington DC administration has plenty of fodder for your keyboard. Anger, controversy, foreign intrigue, indictments, convictions: this White House has it all and more. Good people everywhere are pushing back in their own ways to make their points. There doesn’t seem to be middle ground, as you’re either with the President or resisting. Along those lines, the Resistance has its martyr now, and it’s the same man who helped make his party into what it is today.

Unless you buried your head in the sand, you know John McCain was honored September 1st at the grandest meeting of the Resistance since 45 was inaugurated, as noted in the New Yorker. Former Presidents, the Senator’s daughter, and other speakers made pointed personal remarks about the character and behavior to the current White House occupant. Senator McCain found the President’s behavior repugnant to the point that Mr. Trump was not invited to the Washington National Cathedral, three and half miles from the Oval Office (Mr. Trump was at his Virginia golf club, anyway).

Also uninvited was Mr. McCain’s running mate from his 2008 presidential campaign, former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. Her rise to a national stage was one of the key factors in the rise of the Tea Party Republicans, though not certainly the first, last, or most important factor. Her nomination as her party’s standard bearer helped validate and empower thousands of Palins across the country. While some of their extremism is out of fashion, the impact of these vocal ultra-conservatives continues to resonate through the halls of Congress. From the cheap seats where I sit, the momentum created in 2008 played a key factor in Donald Trump’s election in 2016. This version of the Trump-oriented Grand Ol’ Party may not be of Mr. McCain’s choosing, but he certainly had a hand in its creation.

Whatever your opinion of Senator McCain, and it seems very few people sit in the center between the extremes between love and hate, his carefully orchestrated memorial service paid appropriate homage to a complex man who loved his country and helped make his party into the what it is today. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to you.

Out of My Groove

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You ever fall out of love with a work-in-progress, even after 60+K words? That’s my current rut after applying dozens of hours on The Sheriff of Jefferson County. Getting to this point was the usual pantser rodeo, the whirlwind of character and location development on the fly, but the energy is gone now. I’ve no real emotional desire to complete the book, though Maggie and crew will be a series. I’m more fascinated with the sequels than the first book.

It’s not that I didn’t try to get back in the groove: plotted out the previous chapters, did some on-the-fly editing, added the four S’s (sights, sounds, smells, sex), and rewrote a couple of chapters so they flowed better with the rest of the book. Yeah, no love, no luck.

Though they’re no excuse, Real World events jumped onto the dog pile, not the least of which were some health scares, a flooded basement, and the fact that my country’s leadership is bat-shit crazy. I hesitate to mention the RW because writers must be stronger than the distractions around them. I’ve published several books by overcoming reality, and I will publish again.

The best thing to do is to sit my wide butt down in front of the white box and finish the damn book without thinking about the damn book. A vacant brain can be both a good and bad thing in that the book’s destination is below the horizon, therefore I can’t be intimidated by something that doesn’t exist. I might wander off the reservation a little (that being the main plot), but, hey, that’s why we edit.

Have you been challenged by your incomplete works? What did you do to kick start your ass to the finish? Any and all words of wisdom welcomed!

Patriot

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[“Glances at History (suppressed.) Date, 9th century,” from a manuscript in the Mark Twain Papers at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, California. (second source)]

I pray you to pause and consider. Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object–robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused the change? Merely a politician’s trick–a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor–none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, “Our Country, right or wrong,” and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?

For in a republic, who is “the Country”? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant–merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is “the Country”? Is it the newspaper? is it the pulpit? is it the school superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn’t.

Who are the thousand–that is to say, who are “the Country”? In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country–hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Only when a republic’s life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is in the wrong. There is no other time.

This Republic’s life is not in peril. The nation has sold its honor for a phrase. It has swung itself loose from its safe anchorage and is drifting, its helm is in pirate hands. The stupid phrase needed help, and it got another one: “Even if the war be wrong we are in it and must fight it out: we cannot retire from it without dishonor.” Why, not even a burglar could have said it better. We cannot withdraw from this sordid raid because to grant peace to those little people on their terms–independence–would dishonor us. You have flung away Adam’s phrase–you should take it up and examine it again. He said, “An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.”

You have planted a seed, and it will grow.

 

Home Means Nevada

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Here in the Worldwide Headquarters, my thirty-five-year partner Cassidy Carson and I often joke about how hard we work on our “hobby,” that writing thing. I wager she works equally hard at her day job, and I know I certainly do. We’re always banging the keyboards, easily spending ten to fourteen hours a day working in one way or the other. This is by choice, as we are volunteers in our chosen professions and can quit at any time, though not without consequence.

Bellyaching is our birthright, and you can ignore our noise about writing. I find the act of literary creation to be a lot of fun, even though I get a tad grumpy around editing time. In the current WIP, I’m doubling the fun by dropping dozens of fun facts about my adopted state, Nevada. Though I was not born here (my parents had sex in Texas), I am a product of the Washoe County, Clark County, and Carson City School Districts, and received three of five degrees from the Nevada System of Higher Education. My favorite middle school class was Nevada History, with the textbook written by my grandfather’s colleague while they taught at the University of Nevada.

Plugging Nevada into my WIP is an opportunity to brag about the Silver State because we tend to hear about the dysfunction more often. Nevada receives a fair share of negative publicity as the Sin Center of the United States, deservedly so with the legal gambling and prostitution. The local economy is built around one industry vulnerable to recession and depression (gaming), while its most lucrative industry operates nearly in the dark and nearly tax-free (mining).

Having said that, I love Nevada. From the vast mountain ranges to Lake Tahoe, from the cantankerous veterans to the laughing kids, from the political games to the fact that hard work is always rewarded, there’s no place like the Battle Born State. The chance to express my feeling about this wonderful screwed-up state adds an extra layer of fun to the WIP, not to mention doing a Nevada-centric novel is a tribute to my teachers, in a way. They’ll probably be surprised someone was listening in class.

Blogging is a kind of procrastination for me, so back to work on the book. Let me know you’re contemplating a trip to the northern part of Nevada, or if you need some trivia or background information about Nevada gaming or something. Glad to help!

Civil Servant

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Today is my tenth anniversary with my State agency, the longest I’ve worked at one address in my career, and I’ve been a government worker at the federal and state level since I was twenty, aside from a couple of years in private industry. Like any job, there’s been an equal share of highs and lows, and I’ve been lucky to work with the very best at what they do. Here’s some perceptions from this civil servant that may get missed by the general public.

Everyone hates the government… I’m not judging because that’s human nature. Most of us hate being told what to do or being shoved in a cattle chute to pay our car registration fees. We don’t want The Man to tell us what not to do, and we certainly don’t want to pay taxes to have them misused. We Nevadans have this extra special feeling for Uncle Sam, being pinched between the Sagebrush Rebellion and the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository.

Until we need the government. Ah, yes. The Paradox of Governance. We want the government when it’s time to defend our family (the police and military), pave the roads (DMV and the highway department), protect and educate our children (CPS and schools), provide elder medical care (Medicare), and so on and so forth. This stuff ain’t cheap, so…

Taxes. Probably the biggest gripe is how the government misspends tax money, and it’s not an unfair perception. We all have our favorite stories (like the million-dollar toilet seat), but here’s the thing: the government doesn’t go out of its way to screw up like that. We know we’re protectors of someone else’s money. The reality is when we’re spending tax money, we’re doing what we’re told to do by the laws governing the program. If you don’t like what we’re doing, call your congressman or legislator.

We’re at our best when the shit hits the fan. I’ve seen dozens of crises of various levels, and we get through these emergencies because we are expert problem solvers with the minimum available resources. It’s not by accident. We’re always working to improve methodologies, procedures and laws so we’re ready the next time the flag goes up.

The single government office that can make or break an agency. Nope, it’s not the political leadership or the money people or those who set policy. It’s Human Resources. I’ve been fortunate to work for a government unit whose HR office was a positive force, using rules and regulations as tools to recruit and retain the best in the business. That’s an empowering feeling, knowing your HR works for you. When your HR department loses touch with common sense, and they prioritize regulations over everything else, offices cannot hire and keep good people. That’s a morale killer.

The old saying goes, “If I knew then what I know now…”. Would I do this government thing again? Depends on time of day you ask me, I suppose. I’ve been very lucky to work with some of the people that I’d not know otherwise, and have been enriched and blessed. For now, I know your government is actually working, and it’s working for you. We may not have the flash or the national spotlight like some industries, and I’m fine with that. I know we’ve done our job right when you don’t read about us in the newspaper.