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After some production struggles, my novella The Bourgeois Anarchist, featuring 66-year-old militant Susie Alioto, is on track to be released this fall by Finishing Line Press. You can order the book at the publisher’s site, and it will soon be available on Amazon, Bookshop.org, and elsewhere.

Oddly, I haven’t yet boasted about what my distinguished writerly acquaintances have said about the book. I’ll make up for that right now. Here’s the advance praise that’s come in so far (and if you’d like to add to it, feel free, especially if you have a million Twitter followers):

The Bourgeois Anarchist is an engrossing tale of an aging pacifist’s struggle to live her ideals as she’s enveloped by the dangers of anarchic activism and the violence of big city capitalism.
—Alan Drew, author of Shadow Man and Gardens of Water

If you’ve ever wondered what you would do in a time of crisis … you’re doing it right now. Susie Alioto is doing her thing too … marching, banner-waving and trying to reconcile her anarchic principles with her non-violent beliefs, in an America where non-violence seems to be increasingly impossible. As tensions rise in her rapidly gentrifying district of Philadelphia, a motley crew of cops, mobsters, pacifists and pseudo-anarchists invade Susie’s quiet existence. No wonder she’s feeling dizzy. A thoroughly enjoyable, and surprisingly gentle, story of love, duty and politics.
—Orla McAlinden, author of The Accidental Wife and The Flight of the Wren

When it comes to political convictions, our younger selves are bound to judge our older selves, and harshly. The charm of this novella is the way it presents this subject with such a light touch, such generosity, and such affection for its characters.
—Simone Zelitch, author of Judenstaat, Waveland, and Louisa

It’s antifa vs artisanal coffee in this absorbing and timely Philadelphia story about the difficulties of living out one’s radical principles in the most orderly way possible.
—Elisabeth Cohen, author of The Glitch

An earlier post included an image of a poster Susie keeps on her refrigerator: a portrait of her special anarchist hero, Errico Malatesta (a real historical figure), with his most famous saying, “Impossibility never prevented anything from happening.” When I wrote the book, this poster did not actually exist, so I created it. Anyone who requests it via the Contact page can have a high-res JPEG or PDF copy for free, to post in the kitchen (to puzzle friends) or on the front door (to attract police scrutiny).

Susie Finds a Home

March 25, 2021

Some years ago, I wrote a silly novel-length mystery spoof that, thanks to the wisdom of the publishing industry, has never seen the light of day. The characters, though, have begged to come back in a more serious effort, especially Susie Alioto, a 66-year-old anarchist and single mother.

At last Susie is getting her due. Her new venue, a novella called The Bourgeois Anarchist, is coming out in July from Finishing Line Press.

After college Susie spent two decades in a radical commune, and her beliefs haven’t wavered. She marches for gun control, for Black Lives Matter, for action against climate change. She’s a leader in local groups that fight for justice and human rights.

You may wonder how the image on this post relates. Well, Susie’s special hero is the late Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta (1853–1932). For inspiration, Susie keeps this poster on the side of her refrigerator, where she communes with it every day. But her son Eric, an apolitical math nerd—named, to his chagrin, after Malatesta—thinks her politics ridiculous, especially since his mother’s current lifestyle is so middle-class. Privately he calls her the “bourgeois anarchist.”

The plot focuses on conflicts that develop when Susie gets involved with some young militants. It seems that her lifetime principles don’t match up with her intuitive sense of justice, and she faces a kind of existential crisis. The story also includes cops, capitalists, arsonists, mobsters, and a coffee shop (because we all need coffee shops). And of course there’s romance (because we all need romance). Along the way, Eric provides a skeptical perspective and some nerdy humor.

The book is now available for presale. Since my royalty rate for the life of the book depends on the presale volume, I’ll be extremely grateful to anyone who gives Susie a good home.

If you’re not sure you want to read Susie’s tale, here’s another incentive: A paperback novella is the perfect tool for domestic disagreements. When launched at your significant other, it’s big enough to show you mean business but not dangerous enough to hurt anyone. Don’t you need one today?

The original Gerry-mander: 1812 cartoon of a district in Massachusetts, a salamander-like shape that the artist named after Governor Elbridge Gerry

Regular readers of this blog (both of you) may have noticed that it’s become increasingly political over the years. Like almost all sentient Americans, I’ve been sucked into the partisan fray. Even my recent fiction, such as The Bourgeois Anarchist (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press), tends to have political themes.

In real life, I’ve become involved with the Philadelphia branch of Fair Districts PA (FDPA), a nonprofit, nonpartisan, all-volunteer organization aimed at ending gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. It’s a spinoff of the state’s chapter of the League of Women Voters, and like the League, it’s very polite and well-behaved, sometimes to the frustration of our more ardent activists who’d like to get up in the faces of our idiot legislators.

The mantra of FDPA goes like this: Gerrymandering—the drawing of legislative district maps to favor one party or the other—fosters the extreme partisanship we see today, which leads to gridlock in the legislature, which means no progress on dozens of major issues. Why is this true? Gerrymandering creates safe seats, that is, seats that will always be won by a particular party. A politician in a safe seat has no incentive to listen to voters in the other party or to compromise with colleagues across the aisle. The only threat to that legislator’s job is a primary, and to make sure he doesn’t face a strong primary challenge, he’ll cozy up to his party’s leaders, to the “core” voters of the party, and to the big donors. You can see why this process pushes Republicans to the right and Democrats to the left. You can also see why it discourages people from voting—if the outcome is predetermined, why bother?

By the way, if I use male pronouns to refer to our state legislators, it’s not just addiction to outdated convention. Our state’s lawmakers are overwhelming male. And white. And middle-aged. They look a lot like the U.S. Senate, which in purely aesthetic terms is not an attractive sight.

In every state, new district maps are drawn every ten years, after the Census. For the last two decades, with each set of maps, Pennsylvania has been one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation. And therefore our legislature—the largest paid one in the country—does very little. It passes few bills. It takes lots of recesses. It even avoids matters that seemingly ought to be bipartisan, such as lead in drinking water. (We have 18 cities with more lead than Flint, Michigan, but that statistic can’t get the lead out of the legislature.)

Though gerrymandering has been around since 1812, it’s worse than ever because of two tools that have come into play in this century: Big Data, which allows map drawers to pinpoint the locations of each party’s voters, and inexpensive mapping software, which makes it easy to output a map that meets whatever biased criteria you input. In 2011 an obscure GOP strategist named Thomas Hofeller helped Republicans draw maps that would ensure their domination of both the Pennsylvania legislature and the state’s congressional seats. Unfortunately, they got so greedy that the state Supreme Court—after it turned Democratic in 2015—threw out the congressional maps, though the warped districts for state House and state Senate remained.

When maps are redrawn this year, Pennsylvania will face an odd situation. For the congressional maps, Republicans still have an initial advantage. Re-elected in their gerrymandered districts, they still control both houses of the state legislature, and the new maps will be drawn by their caucus leaders, presumably in secret. However, the legislation establishing the new maps has to be signed by the governor, a Democrat. Standoff? You bet. Though compromise has been anathema to both sides lately, that seems to be the only possible outcome.

For state House and state Senate maps, the process is entirely different. A five-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) draws up the maps, and the governor has no say in the matter. The LRC is composed of the majority and minority leaders of both House and Senate, or their designates—that’s two Democrats and two Republicans—plus a fifth member, the chair. The fifth member can be chosen by agreement among the first four. Of course they won’t agree, and in that case the fifth member, the deciding vote, is appointed by the state Supreme Court, which is now—as noted above—dominated by Democrats. Thus we’re poised for a Democratic gerrymander, vengeance for what the Republicans did in 2011.

For years now, Fair Districts has backed legislation to stop gerrymandering by either party. So far, the majority Republicans in Harrisburg have resisted, even though their own seats will be subject to Democrats’ revenge. It seems like pure stupidity, doesn’t it? Sometimes I think it’s an Alamo mentality. These old white guys see themselves as Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie defending the Alamo. The place is surrounded by Santa Anna’s troops, but will they negotiate? No way! They’ll go down in glory, six-guns blazing, coonskin caps perched jauntily on their bloodied skulls.

If Republicans are being so obstinate, what about the Democrats? Some progressive Dems do agree that redistricting ought to be fair, but many of the leaders hesitate to embrace such a radical idea. Reportedly, one Democratic lawmaker has stated, “We bought the Supreme Court [via big political contributions in the 2015 judicial elections], and now we’re going to get our money’s worth.” Another, who represents a high-poverty, mostly African American district, has told FDPA folks that he can’t afford to worry about fairness when his constituents are dying.

That last comment gave me pause. In many ways he’s right: Democratic priorities often involve a fight for life itself. Cops killing young black men. Rampant gun violence. Industries spewing deadly pollutants in minority districts. The opioid epidemic. Not to mention food insecurity in what is supposedly the richest nation on earth. Crummy education because of underfunded schools. Climate change, which will cripple us all if we don’t do something fast.

It’s very tempting, then, to say, “Let’s accept a Democratic gerrymander so we can fix these problems. Once we get that done, we can worry about ‘fairness.’”

But there’s a flaw in that reasoning. The big issues that concern Democrats don’t lend themselves to easy fixes. We can’t pass one bill, or even a dozen, that will end poverty, repair the schools, get guns off the streets, reform the police, etc. etc. These problems require long-term, sustained action, and to accomplish that we need buy-in from both parties, which is not likely until we give politicians a motive to actually do their jobs by making them accountable once more to the people at large rather than to their party leaders.

Take school funding as one example. Our Democratic governor has proposed a budget with additional money for struggling public schools like those in Philadelphia. Our Republican legislature has already dismissed the idea. With a Democratic gerrymander we’d change the balance of power in House and Senate. We’d be able to pass an education-friendly budget for the next ten years—and wouldn’t that represent long-term progress? A full decade to fix the schools! Only problem: the state will elect a new governor next year. Since PA has a habit of alternating parties in the statehouse, there’s a good chance that the next governor will be a Republican who’ll veto any Democratic initiatives. Controlling the legislature will be a hollow victory for Democrats. Moreover, as we’ve seen on a national level with Obamacare, extreme partisanship means that any substantive action by one party gets “weaponized” by the other. Can you imagine the Republican rhetoric if Democrats raise taxes to benefit public schools? You don’t have to be a high-paid political consultant to write the attack ads.

In the end, I come back to the idea of fairness on which Fair Districts was founded. The best road for progress is the high road. Or, as the adage puts it, honesty is the best policy. For the Democrats—my party, dammit—what’s most right is also most practical.

Will the Democrats listen to this complicated reasoning or opt for the easy, short-term advantage? Will Republicans realize that, instead of dying in the Alamo, they could mosey out the back door?

Stay tuned for the exciting news from the state where the USA was born.

The Fear Election

July 27, 2020

The Scream by Edvard Munch

Reading dozens, maybe hundreds, of articles and surveys and projections about the 2020 presidential election, I’ve been battered by waves of hope, apprehension, suspicion, confusion. It feels like trying to surf in a hurricane.

For better or worse (mostly the latter), I have a simplifying type of mind, the kind that searches for a small number of principles to explain a giant mess. This inclination points me to one basic force behind this year’s politics.

Fear.

The 2020 election will turn, I believe, on what the voters, or those in swing states, are most afraid of.

For some, it’s an amorphous but overriding panic that those people—those who differ from traditional Americans—are taking over the country: i.e., non-whites, non-Christians, non-straights, non-English-speakers, non-male-supremacists, non-rugged-individualists. To liberals, that fear seems so absurd as to be unfathomable, and yet it keeps growing like a poisonous mushroom.

As for the liberals, they (or we, for I’m clearly one) believe the country is on the verge of a fascist dictatorship, even though the president and his cronies have proved massively incompetent at pursuing their agenda. We fear they will intensify the destruction of the rights, and the very lives, of people of color, immigrants, gays, and all other historically marginalized groups (and maybe some new ones they invent). Conversely, we fear their incompetence and stupidity will help the coronavirus kill us all. We can’t decide which is scarier, their actions or their inaction.

1968 was a fear election, at least for Nixon voters, but this year seems even more intense. As anxieties on both sides build, there’s talk—and more fear—of a violent takeover by the other guys, a revolution by the left or a coup from the right. The result is a much fiercer test of our institutions than Nixon ever managed.

George Will just published a column contending that 1942 was just as disruptive as 2020. Perhaps luckily for FDR, that wasn’t a presidential election year. America was hardly unified then, Will points out, even with Hitler and Tojo as looming external threats. “In 1942’s off-year elections, the president’s party took a drubbing.”

Still, this year seems worse in at least one respect: Americans can scarcely agree on a single common enemy. My hero is your enemy—and don’t you dare tear down my statue!

So I wonder, is our democracy, which some say no longer deserves the name, resilient enough to survive, or is it already stretched to the snapping point? I admit to being a sucker for traditional American optimism, but this year, I just don’t know …

According to a news headline today, President Twitterman is breaking from “GOP orthodoxy,” adding a few progressive ideas to his agenda to bolster his chances for reelection. The Gridleyville Editorial Board would like to congratulate him for this evolution in his thought, and specifically for the following new policies he now advocates:

  • Ignoring, like other Republican presidents before him, the GOP mantra of a balanced budget, so that the nation’s deficit will soon set a record at over $1 trillion
  • Compromising with Congress on money to Build the Wall, instead of stealing it from military funds
  • Increasing air holes in children’s cages along the border, for greater comfort and less suffocation
  • Compensating property owners whose drinking water has been contaminated by fracking: at least 1 case of Pepsi per family of 4
  • Leniency for those who have witnessed war crimes by the U.S. military: they will not be executed for testifying

If the president continues at this rate, he will soon qualify as an ordinary, corrupt, lobbyist-bought politician, the sort with which we have grown quite comfortable. This is progress indeed.

The True Samaritans

December 22, 2019

During the holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, Americans give a lot of lip service to the values of charity, compassion and care for the less fortunate. A few shining exemplars of these virtues are held up by the media, with cheery pictures and sentimental language. Typically, though, we fail to recognize the most charitable of all, the true Samaritans among us.

Whom do I mean? Which people are the greatest self-sacrificers?

Actually, they are the people you’d least suspect: the white working- and middle-class straight Americans who support conservative politicians and a right-wing agenda. For short, since their current Great Leader in the White House is President Twitterman, I’ll call them the Lesser Twitters, or LTs.

What’s compassionate about their agenda? you may ask. How can people who favor holding immigrant children in cages be considered Samaritans?

Let’s look at what LTs are giving up and on whose behalf.

Obviously, by supporting policies aimed at benefiting the rich, LTs sacrifice their own prosperity, since the idea that wealth trickles down from top to middle to bottom has been proven a hoax. Nor is it possible that obsolescent, polluting industries like coal mining can ever make a comeback. The “jobs” that right-wing politicians claim to preserve or resurrect will never again be a major force in America. If such activities persist at all in the future, they’ll be done by robots.

On the surface many LTs refuse to accept these truths, but in their hearts they understand, and they realize they are making a sacrifice. They don’t believe, of course, that they are giving up their well-being for the sake of obscenely wealthy corporate leaders, hedge fund managers, and lobbyists. No, in their view they are acting to preserve important social values, such as the right to life and the sanctity of marriage, the issues that Republican politicians have played up for at least two generations, since Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew (both later disgraced and chased from office) began appealing to the “silent majority” in 1969.

What’s interesting is that these so-called family values do not generally affect LTs themselves. If you’re against gay marriage, for example, you won’t marry another person of the same sex, and probably your family members won’t either. Similarly, if you’re against abortion, you don’t have to have one, nor does your partner. These are issues that pertain to other people. By opposing liberal laxity on these matters, LTs are trying to save the rest of us from sin.

Arguably, this is true for even the hottest of hot-button issues, immigration and refugees. Most LTs have scant personal experience with immigrants. Maybe, speeding past in their SUVs, they’ll glimpse a Latino mowing a lawn, or on occasion, through a swinging kitchen door, they’ll catch sight of a swarthy person washing dishes in a restaurant. Hardly a threat in either case. Again, this is a matter that applies to other people, and in screaming their support for cruelty at the border, LTs are acting to save the rest of us who might actually need those jobs mowing lawns or washing dishes, at least until the robots move in.

Let’s take a moment, then, to recognize the LTs as the true Samaritans among us. Yes, they may be rewarded at Armageddon—and at that point they’ll certainly get to shout “I told you so”—but we should offer some appreciation in this life as well.

Let’s each light a holiday candle for the LTs. If you don’t celebrate a holiday involving candles, you can make a cross of two sticks, set it on fire and plant it on a suspicious person’s lawn. It’s the least we can do.

Democracy and Frogs

June 29, 2019

In my day job, I’ve recently had the pleasure of doing layout on a new translation of an ancient Greek mock-epic poem, “The Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice,” a spoof of heroic war sagas. The new translation by A. E. Stallings, with drawings by Grant Silverstein and an introduction by “A. Nony Mouse,” is due out later this year from Paul Dry Books. The text and illustrations are both gruesome and hilarious.

To summarize the poem’s narrative: After committing a selfish and deadly error, the Frog King concocts lies to evade responsibility, and as part of his cover-up he leads his subjects into a war on false pretenses. Things go badly for the amphibians, and the entire race will be wiped out—until the gods intervene to stave off genocide.

Could there be parallels to the current day?

After pondering this matter, I’ve decided conditions are very different in our democratic era. Because we no longer believe the gods will intervene.

Time to Get Crazy

October 22, 2018

November approaches, and it’s time for one of my periodic screeds about voting. Few things perturb me more than Americans who don’t vote.

Well, President Twitterman gets top rank among bugbears, of course. And there’s the Saudi autocrat who’s finally being bashed in the press for murdering one journalist while his mass slaughter of Yemeni civilians continues to be ignored. Yet I don’t know that princely thug called MBS, he’s never bought me a beer, and my outrage at him merges with my general disgust for the fat-cat gangsters swarming the White House and other seats of government.

In comparison, my displeasure with nonvoters is much more personal. You know the truism that sibling feuds are the worst of all? Americans who don’t bother to vote—especially college-educated, middle-class types like myself—those people are family, and so I get really mad at them. There’s no excuse for their behavior. Voting is so simple—how can they not do it?

Do I sound like somebody’s grumpy old uncle?

I am.

Let’s survey some apparent reasons people don’t vote. I’m excusing, of course, those who are blocked from voting by electoral machinations (“you put a period after your middle initial on one form but not on another; therefore we can’t verify your identity”), and those who juggle three jobs and three children and have no time in between, and those whose polling place is conveniently located 153 miles away. Etc. (Although in the latter cases people might use absentee ballots.) I’m aiming this diatribe at people who could vote easily but somehow don’t. The people who elected Twitterman by abstaining. The people who make the United States notorious as a nonparticipative so-called democracy.

Reason for Not Voting #1: “I don’t like any of the candidates. They’re all flawed.”

My response: I hope you believe in a Messiah. Because your perfect political candidate will come along sometime after the Messiah.

Reason for Not Voting #2: “I’m sick of voting for the lesser evil. I can’t compromise like that anymore. From now on, I’ll stand on principle.”

My response: Congratulations on your moral purity. Have you considered moving to a place where none of your principles will be compromised, such as Antarctica?

Reason for Not Voting #3: “None of the candidates talk about issues important to me.”

My response: If you like that situation, keep on not voting. By not expressing your opinion at the polls, you make certain that candidates will disregard it.

Reason for Not Voting #4: “It makes no difference anyway. In my gerrymandered district, people with my views are so outnumbered that my candidate can never win.”

My response: Gerrymandering is a big, big problem. But the canny politicians who divvy up voters for their own advantage are counting on the continuation of established political patterns, including the pattern of people not voting. A sudden swell in ballots from groups they are trying to marginalize could upset their calculations—and maybe set the stage for legislative action to end gerrymandering.

Reason for Not Voting #5: “Votes change nothing. Politicians do whatever nasty things they like regardless of what the public thinks.”

My response: Um, politicians can’t do that nefarious stuff if they’re not in office. Vote them out and they’ll be reduced to making millions as lobbyists. That’s not quite as bad for the rest of us.

I’ve said all this before, in one way or another. But the other day, inspired by a conversation with a politically involved friend, I turned the problem around in my mind, reflecting on what it takes to become a committed voter, someone who turns out in every election:

  • A sense of morality or justice. People are said to vote their pocketbooks, and many do, but in our divided times what seems to drive citizens to the polls is a belief that certain actions and policies are right and others are disastrously wrong.
  • Faith. Not religious belief necessarily, but a conviction that there’s some hope left for the world and that human actions—our actions—can make a difference. Admittedly, if science says the Earth is likely to be uninhabitable in a few decades, faith stretches thin; but there have been Doomsday scenarios in the past that we managed to escape, and it wasn’t by hiding under our school desks to avert the atomic bomb. We must believe that our flawed and compromised democracy can be salvaged and that its fate is important to the world.
  • Irrationality. In the most local of elections, one vote can actually matter. In a 2017 contest Phillip Garcia won the post of judge of election in a Philly precinct because he wrote in his own name—the only vote cast for that office. Still, I have to admit that one vote, which is all each person can control, will change nothing in a statewide or national election. Making a point of casting a ballot is therefore irrational, or at best a stroking of one’s own moral sensibilities (cf. Reason #2 above).

It seems I’ve put myself in the position of urging people to be irrational. Okay, I’ll own up to that. I’ll double down, as Twitterman always does.

Get out there and go crazy, people! Against all reason, act like it makes a difference what you do. Vote for somebody! If necessary, embrace the lesser evil, the best of the bad choices.

Maybe there’s some hidden good there after all.

Bold Predictions

September 7, 2018

In such unprecedented (or unpresidented) times as ours, it’s difficult to imagine what comes next. But as concerned citizens it’s incumbent upon us to plan for the future. In that vein, here are my carefully reasoned predictions about likely trends in the next decade.

  • When the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and states are once again free to ban abortion, women will migrate en masse from pro-life to pro-choice locales. Mississippi, for example, will empty out and Massachusetts will burgeon.
  • In Boston violent fights will erupt over parking spaces, and the city’s parking clerk will have to dodge irate commuters armed with tire irons. Electric bike-sharing companies will make a fortune. So will lawyers.
  • As women abandon pro-life states, property values there will plummet—increasingly so as the despondent remaining men litter their yards with empty pizza boxes. Country music will reach new heights of popularity as songwriters exploit the rhyming potential of lonely pepperoni.
  • Once property values have tanked in pro-life states, adventurous young gay couples (realizing abortion bans are irrelevant for them) will seize on the opportunity to homestead. They’ll buy houses on the cheap and settle in. They’ll need to acquire weapons to fend off the Klan, but being younger and smarter and unencumbered by clumsy hoods, they are bound to prevail. Within ten years, Mississippi will be the coolest place to live in America.

If any of this comes true, you can count on me to say “I told you so.”

Meanwhile, people who don’t want such things to happen can consider a radical alternative: voting.

Martin Armstrong, “U.S. Voter Turnout In Perspective,” Statistica, Nov. 11, 2016.

In the midst of America’s absurd, untenable political situation, my wife’s refuge is to watch MSNBC every night, where the anchors tell her over and over again how absurd and untenable the situation has become. That has a certain reassuring quality, she finds. For me, it’s just too repetitive and depressing.

One of my own escapes is to read books that have nothing to do with the present-day USA or its foibles. For instance, I just finished Joyce Cary’s novel-cum-memoir A House of Children (1941), in which he describes vacation stays with relatives in Donegal. Lots of scenes about boating on the water, gossip about the older girls’ suitors, night-time swims in the lough, donkey-cart rides with a hired hand.… A fine respite from the 21st century—until I come upon passages like this one, which describes the children’s reaction after a play they have produced proves hilariously inept:

There was great applause, and Frances came to congratulate us. But we had lost heart. We were not only ashamed and disappointed; we had suffered a shock. Deeper than the sense of failure, there was the feeling that we had misunderstood the situation; that plays were not so easy as they seemed. With this went, as always, the feeling that life, too, was not so easy as it seemed. Like most children when they fail in a grown-up enterprise, we were subdued and secretly frightened; we wanted to get away by ourselves, preferably out of the grown-up world and back into our own refuges, the school-room or the kitchen. [Chapter 48]

Immediately, on reading that, I was back in the USA, wondering how much of our present state could be characterized as shock and shame at the failure of our self-conceived, long-running play called “American Democracy.” Are we frightened that it’s not as easy as we thought? Would we rather retreat to our refuges, like the couch and TV?

Actually, despite time spent on old British novels, I’ve been doing something useful lately, namely, volunteering for Fair Districts PA, an attempt to stop gerrymandering in my fair state of Pennsyltucky. After ranting for years about people who don’t bother to vote, I’ve decided to help address one of the conditions that discourage voting. This does require certain compromises on my part. I’ve always been annoyed with the inefficiency of volunteer organizations. Also, any cause that counts Arnold Schwarzenoodle among its supporters is inherently suspicious to me. But I do believe that if we can do away with legislative districts that look like this—

PA's 7th Congressional District

—we’ll have less need to run away from the grown-up world and hide in our refuges.

By the way, that district shown above, PA’s 7th Congressional District—known as “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck”—is served (if that’s the right word) by the estimable Pat Meehan, who has voted to repeal Obamacare, to defund National Public Radio, and to ignore requests for President Twitterman’s tax returns. With borders drawn so well to suit their needs, he and his fellow Goofies can be re-elected forever.