• Spartan Considerations

“Your everlasting summer

And you can see it fading fast

So you grab a piece of something

That you think is gonna last

Well, you wouldn’t even know a diamond

If you held it in your hand

The things you think are precious

I can’t understand” – Walter Becker and Donald Fagan

Q. What Maryland County comes to mind when you read these lyrics? Hint: not Kent.

Yes, I remain, as always, a herald of good tidings (or should I say, “Tydings”). Chuckling knowingly yet?

2022 is going to be an ugly election cycle in our adorable corner of the world, most likely the most rancid in living memory, and this includes both primary and general elections.

So, outside of checking out, how does one cope with the near certitude of heavily comparative campaigning? Here are three strategies, for your consideration:

Emotional detachment. My therapists tell me this approach is a bad thing, but most of them would make terrible political operatives. Support your candidates, sure. But instead of leaning into the emotions invoked/provoked by many negative communications, try dispassionate forensic analysis. What is being said? What is the context? Subtext? Why is it being said? What is the point – and purpose – of the statements in question? You can even grid this out, you know, for funsies. This helps you think through what is going on and why as opposed to embracing your immediate visceral reaction(s), which leads me to:

Doubling down. Feel your anger and allow it to give you focus, this is a quote from either Sun Tzu or Emperor Palpatine. Make your righteous rage spur you to positive action (e.g., spending more time volunteering for your candidate(s)/cause(s), donating more, thinking about creative ways to push back against counter-narratives). On the plus side, you will have less pent-up rage. On the negative side (?!), you will receive fewer party invitations.

DIY: make your own reality. String theory postulates the existence of a multiverse, where all possibilities can and will occur. So why not borrow a cup of their reality for your purposes? After all, it is, in a way, true. Your candidate has a vulnerability? Attack your opponent for possessing that same weakness. Never respond to questions, only make assertions, preferably loudly and confidently. And keep repeating them ad infinitum. Eventually, you will make yourself believe it. Remember: two + two equals five in some universe. Go with it. The 2020 election results did not fundamentally change what is, sadly, an effective strategy. Don’t kid yourself into believing otherwise.

Anyway, back to other assignments.

In solidarity.

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  • Spartan Considerations

As Terri Gibbs majestic voice was echoing around my home office, surely enough, there was a knock, nay, more like a tapping, a tapping at my chamber door.

Upon lurching over to the door and flinging it open I saw there, as slouched as one can be while still standing, my old mentor, nemesis, and erstwhile confidant: Slats MacCune.

“Merry Christmas!” he bellowed. Lowering his voice every so slightly, he smiled and said, “I got you this tree.” He motioned behind him at the green shrub forlornly shirking its tree-ly duties on my living room floor.

“I don’t know what to say Slats.” I paused for a second. “Let’s start with: how did you get a key to my house?”

He replied, one part indignation to two parts bemusement, “Well isn’t that gratitude for ‘ya. I went to great lengths to acquire this conifer most fair.”

I looked at it closer. “This is from my neighbor’s yard, innit?” From the hedge?”

“So, it’s true, you are getting paranoid. I was hearing stories…” Slats stopped when he saw me peering out the window, looking at the new gap in my neighbor’s natural privacy screen. “Well, like they say good fences…”

“It’s a hedge, Slats. And this is Columbia, there are HOAs here you know.”

He flopped onto my davenport without acknowledging the disapproving glares I was firing off in his direction.

“Speaking of, what’s new on the local scene?” he asked, seemingly genuinely interested.

I replied cautiously, suspicious at this newfound earnestness in his voice. As an Xer, the generation that perfected both irony and nostalgia, I was wondering why this Boomer, dripping pine needles on my sofa, would care.

I shrugged. “Taking a bit of a respite there. Looking to focus more on the national scene. I want to direct my anger more productively.”

He looked up, with an expression both wan and wry, “I hear you. I’ve been sending out a bunch of rage-filled emails of late. And, get this, people are actually getting pissed off at me for it!”

“Say it ain’t so, Slats.”

He continued, “Oh yeah. And for the favor of letting them know how wrong they are and how questionable their parentage is, they are giving me a bunch of guff!”

“A damn shame.”

Slats was glancing about the room, looking for any shiny red object that could amuse him for a few minutes. Remembering that I was standing there, in my own house, and that we were having a conversation, he quickly re-focused to make it appear as though he was at least trying to pay attention.

“So yeah, let me tell you Jason, there was a time when people would kill to receive one of my letters of reprobation. It used to be a sign that they made it. A badge of honor! Why, I don’t know how many times one of these fortunate recipients would come up to me…”

“…at a bar?”

“Sh. Don’t interrupt. Yeah, a bar. And they would say, tears bursting across their cheeks, ‘Slats,’ they would say ‘Slats, I didn’t think people were noticing my efforts. That I was really getting something done, making a difference in the community you know. Head down, toiling in silence. And then I got your note calling me a…’ and they would pull out the letter or print-out, Jason, sometimes the paper was practically dust it had been folded and unfolded so many times…”

“…you called them a…”

“Yeah, they would read, 'calling me a pusillanimous dirtbag whose only saving grace was a well-honed penchant for saying the perfectly stupid thing at the perfectly worst time.’ Let me tell you, once they had that confirmation in their grubby little hands, they knew something.”

“What did they know?”

“That they arrived. They were at least worthy of contempt. And they appreciated my noticing their efforts, as communicated in my own, what do you call it…”


“Yes, that’s it,” he pointed. That’s the word inimitable fashion.”

Slats paused again, before looking back up. His eyes were a little cloudy, betraying something more than a simple lapse in focus, perhaps even a hint of fear as he briefly struggled to concentrate on the conversation taking place in his old friend’s living room.



“Two questions for you.”

“Yes, Slats?”

He desperately tried to slap the devilish grin back onto his own face but could only do so after a couple halting attempts failed.

“How much of what I just said to you is actually true and how much do you think I believe is actually true?”

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  • Spartan Considerations

As I approach a milestone birthday, I have been thinking quite a bit about time management.

Frankly, the past 20 months have provided ample opportunities for reflections on life and how we can best spend our days. Loss can, and should, remind us of impermanence as well as grant us a heightened ability to appreciate what we had and what we have.

It is through this lens that I have come to realize that I need to get smarter on how to use the game clock. I have long since passed the stage in life where hubris, snark, and a middling talent for expressing myself via written word are enough. Granted, I am a white male, so I could probably coast on fumes for another decade. But, in my heart of hearts, I would know that I could do better. And as I continue this “aging” thing, I would like to look into a mirror when I am in my 50s and 60s with an ounce of respect for the person gazing back at me.

It is with that introduction that I am announcing two things.

First, I am stepping aside as a co-host of Forward Maryland. I would like to thank my good friend Bill Woodcock for allowing me the opportunity to join the podcast. I hope the listeners and viewers enjoyed the content we jointly created since the “Before Times” of 2019.

That said, I still don’t trust my mood swings to cooperate; and in a hot medium such as a podcast, which is either live or (most often) recorded “live-to-tape” with no or minimal editing, this is just asking for trouble. Guests are not coming on the show to be grilled; yet my tolerance for hogwash and a lack of critical thinking have been exhausted. Also, bourgeois sensibilities and political stances are to me, at best, boring and at worst corrosive to the cause of expanding democracy, in our politics and in the workplace.

And I remain, by nature, a solo act. Related to that, I work best when I can edit my own work at my own pace. This often requires time for research, reflection, and finding not just “good words” but the perfect ones. Which leads me to the second point:

I am wrapping up the Spartan Considerations blog. I know I have, at times, gone on extended hiatuses. Sometimes I have teased (usually in jest) plans to launch a Spinal Tap-esque rebirth of the site. The reality is that I simply don’t enjoy writing a strictly “local” political blog. I have always enjoyed reading about and analyzing international and national politics and public affairs. However, the numbers tell me you don’t want that sort of content from that site. The analytics also inform me that while you decry negative campaigning, you LOVE my candidate-centric critiques. Oh, our dirty little secrets and hypocrisies.

I write for myself, but I would like an audience to consume my work. Otherwise, I am keeping an open-air diary. Again, time being precious and with our “democratic republic” at another tipping point, I would rather spend my energies writing and pitching articles for publication in various Left media outlets.

Finally, just as President Eisenhower warned us regarding the potential for a growing influence of the military-industrial complex in his Farewell Address, I want to highlight some unfortunate, and even dangerous, local political developments:

· A nascent and highly disturbing “Red-Brown” alliance (note: I am referring to ideologies and their associated colors) over issues such as housing and the role of developers. It is unnerving to see folks – many of whom have never personally experienced housing insecurity and who belong to what could be called the “privileged white left” – allying themselves with hard right interests because some capitalists in an inherently exploitative capitalist economy will make a few bucks building homes for people. They are focused on the chess pieces and not changing the game.

· Progressives who, rather than work to enact polices that extract the most money possible out of developer pockets for community investment purposes, instead accept their campaign contributions and/or partner with them in transparency-impaired projects. It calls into question the true loyalties of such progressives. Are they in it to bring affordable housing to Howard County, or to pursue a narrow self-interest related to, for example, political influence or financial compensation in one form or another?

· “Democratic” activists who demand that the party veer right and abandon their principles every time a Democrat, somewhere, loses an election. Terry McAuliffe has been a New Democrat tool for decades, an Efferdent-besotted fossil, and a tired retread in a purple state in a non-presidential election year. You were expecting a D blowout? You must be asinine, an amateur, and/or an a—hat to believe that McAuliffe was going to pirouette his way back into the Virginia Executive Mansion for another four years.

· Liberals who constantly go after those on the Left and Leftists who reserve their fury for liberals. Can liberals be annoying, naïve, bought off, controlled opposition, “diet deregulators,” and neoliberals with a friendly face? Yes. Can Leftists be dogmatic, schismatic, holier-than-thou moralists who spend too much time in their history books and debating societies and not enough time organizing or popularizing their ideas? Also, yes. That said, I remain a big believer in the promise of the Popular Front. During times of crisis in western democracies – particularly in the 20th Century, we have seen what happens when the Left (e.g., socialists of varying stripes, communists) and liberals (e.g., liberals, social democrats) cannot find their way to work together to fight against our common enemy: fascists.

· Class-first-and-only obsessed socialists who do not understand, or choose to ignore, the histories, needs, interests, and struggles of other groups based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, religion, and other attributes which help define tens of millions of Americans. Or self-proclaimed “moderates” who express similar sentiments regarding so-called “identity politics.” Both can sound like MAGA-ists and they drive people away from the Left and the Democratic Party.

So that wraps up those two big items. Look for me to provide shorter written commentaries via Twitter and other platforms from time to time. Until then, In Solidarity!

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