Quite the World, Isn't It?

The shutdown, and some other bits

October 1, 2013

Tags: current events, books

I know, I know, the blog's been quiet for too long. But I have the usual excuse firmly in grasp: I've been busy. Today I could be busier, but a certain faction of political loons (yes, I mean you, Tea Partiers) seems to have shut down the federal government right as I'm researching a new book topic.

So work I was planning to do today I now can't because the Library of Congress website is shut down, one of many bits of evidence that puts the lie to right-wing claims that a federal government shutdown doesn't have much effect. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers out of work indefinitely - and likely now hoarding cash amid the uncertainty - is a big deal for a sputtering economy, not to mention family budgets. Bureaucracy, as much as we might hate it, keeps the country moving. But now that's stalled.

And researchers like me find ourselves at loose ends. So yeah, there's an effect.

One of the reasons posting has been light here is that I've recently signed on as a contributor to the Truthdig online news site, where, not coincidentally, I blogged this morning about the shutdown, and the failed political system that made it possible. Who's really to blame? We all are, for putting up with this garbage:
And this is where the real blame lies—in ourselves, and in our failure as a body politic to end gerrymandering. With the major political parties setting the ground rules for the geographical shape of congressional districts (the process follows each decennial census), they ensure that incumbents face easy re-election by gaming the system through amoeba-shaped districts that collect the optimum number of voters for each respective party. So the only real elections at the congressional level are often the party primary, in which very few people vote. Which means minority extremists like the tea party, with some organization and the help of a compliant media that fails to call out lunacy when it sees it, can seize control of the U.S. Congress. Or at least enough of it to shut down the U.S. government.
So why do we put up with this?
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About me

A third-generation journalist, I was born in Scarborough, Maine, and grew up there and in Wellsville, New York, about two hours south of Buffalo. My first newspaper job came at age 16, writing a high school sports column for the Wellsville Patriot, a weekly (defunct), then covering local news part-time for the Wellsville Daily Reporter.

After attending Fredonia State, where I was editor of The Leader newspaper and news director for WCVF campus radio, I worked in succession for the Jamestown Post-Journal, Rochester Times-Union (defunct), The Detroit News and the Los Angeles Times, where I covered presidential and other political campaigns, books, local news and features, including several Sunday magazine pieces.

An active freelancer, my work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Sierra Magazine, Los Angeles magazine, Orange Coast magazine, New York Times Book Review (books in brief), Buffalo News, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Teaching Tolerance (Southern Poverty Law Center), Solidarity (United Auto Workers) and elsewhere. I teach or have taught journalism courses at Chapman University and UC Irvine, and speak occasionally at school and college classes about journalism, politics and writing. I've appeared on panels at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and the Literary Orange festival, moderated panels at the Nieman Conference in Narrative Journalism and the North American Labor History Conference, among others, and been featured on C-SPAN's Book TV.

I'm also a co-founder of The Journalism Shop, a group of journalists (most fellow former Los Angeles Times staffers) available for freelance assignments.

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