I’m Baaaack (Whoa, it’s the 21st Century)

Hello people!

Run for cover. I have a blog.

After 10 years hiding my light behind organizations, I’m baaaack as a writer.

Never heard of me before? Your life just got better.

I’m putting finishing touches on my new book:

PLEASE DON’T BOMB THE SUBURBS: A mid-term report on my generation, the search for true love, and the future of our movement (Akashic Books, July 2010)

I am also organizing a six state Senate operation called VOTE AGAIN 2010, an all-hands-on-deck effort to organize pissed-off angry disillusioned militantly skeptical young three-jobs-having / wish-they-even-had-one-job broke ass voters in six key Senate Battlegrounds: NV, MO, OH, NH, CT, DE.

These six states will help determine whether Obama has 61, 62, 63 or 64 votes going into 2011 (enough to pass any policy he wants), or less than 60 votes (everything we worked for = dead in the water).

Contact me if you can help.

Invite me to speak at your college or event. See About page for my bio.

Billywimsatt@gmail.com 646-346-0248 cell

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11 responses to “I’m Baaaack (Whoa, it’s the 21st Century)

  1. Wow! Its about time.

    PEACE
    Mikhail

  2. i met you at NBTSC when i was 12 in 1996. you are someone who taught me how to just be myself and see that it’s okay to follow your heart and dreams no matter what they are. it makes me happy to see you are still out there doing what you love. i hope you know how many people you’ve touched in your life.

  3. Militantly skeptical broke-ass people aren’t stupid enough to vote for either Republicans or Democrats any longer. Witness the travesty of the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to openly buy elections.

    It’s nice to see you’ve found your niche producing more and better democrats. Why should I have Obama’s back? He doesn’t have mine, and he doesn’t have the back of people of color unfortunate enough to be swept up in his war on terror. Mr. Obama thinks the people at Gitmo are NOT PERSONS. Tell me sir, why should I vote for him? Are you going to help pay the health insurance premium he’s shoving down my throat with your trust fund?

    It will be interesting to see if your merciful decision to spare the suburbs includes the admission that rich boys talking down to working class white people helps to create an audience for people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

    • WHOA!! Controversy! I love it.

      I didn’t even know people were looking at my blog yet. Wow. Ok, let the blogging begin!! So… hi there RoseRed. Thank you for writing in. You said a lot, and you’re all over the map politically, but it seems like you actually care so I will respond as best I can:

      1. The recent Supreme Court decision was absolutely TERRIBLE, but it doesn’t illustrate your point at all. It was a 5-4 decision on partisan lines. The 5 Republicans voted for the crazy decision to give corporations unlimited spending power over elections. The 4 Dems voted and argued strongly against it. If more people like us had understood the power of voting back in 2000, we could have potentially stopped Bush from getting elected in the first place. Then he wouldn’t have been able to appoint Alito and Roberts. And we’d likely have a 6-3 Supreme Court decision against buying elections.

      2. Similarly, there would have been no Iraq war and no Gitmo in the first place. And we wouldn’t have gone from a surplus under Clinton to trillions of dollars in debt.

      3. There are a lot of things I wish Obama and the Democrats would do better. Like health care. I’m confused what your view is on health care is. Personally, I wish we had free universal health care like in every other industrialized country. I don’t have health insurance right now and it’s scary every time I get in a car to think I could have a car accident and be in debt for life.

      But the fact is if we could elect a bunch more progressive Democrats to the Senate (or even 3 or 4 more ordinary Democrats) we could have passed a strong public option which is what 70% of the public originally wanted. That would have helped 30 million Americans without health insurance including me. So yeah, I care about electing Democrats, ideally progressive ones. They’re far from perfect, but they at least attempt to help working class Americans get a fair wage and health care. They at least try to help working class Americans not get fired for trying to organize a union. They at least make half-hearted efforts to regulate crazy financial institutions. Which is more than I can say for the Republicans who just try to cut Obama off at the knees. And if we had a few more progressive Dems in office, we could do it a little bit better. That might not seem like revolutionary change. But it is the biggest little change I feel like I can personally contribute to as a random American who cares about my country.

      4. On another note, why the personal attacks brother, sister, whoever you are? Is that just what people do on the Internet because you can hide behind anonymity? I think it’s rude. You don’t even know me. I’m not rich. I don’t have a trust fund. I don’t have heath insurance. I work my ass off to stay above water with my bills every month. I don’t talk down to anybody and I don’t think I’m better than anybody so don’t talk down to me and don’t think you’re better than me. I believe we’re all God’s children and I completely agree with you that arrogant liberal elites are a huge part of what drives people to LGBP (Limbaugh, Gingrich, Beck, Palin). So don’t hate me, RoseRed, whoever you are. I’m sincerely trying to do my part to make things better.

      It sounds like you are someone who cares deeply as well. Maybe you’re a kindred spirit. We don’t need to agree on everything or have the same strategy or politics to respect each other and work for common purposes. So tell me, what solutions do you think will make things better? Are you just an anonymous internet bomb thrower, or are you about creating real solutions? Where do you live? Where do you situate yourself politically? How old are you? What do you do? How did you find my blog? What is your view of the best way we can use our energy for good in this crazy world?

      I sincerely want to know.

      Billy

  4. Hi Billy,
    I apologize for lashing out at you yesterday. It’s true, I don’t know you; perhaps I have been misinformed about where you’re coming from. I have been so angry and frustrated over the administration ramping up the terror war, the health care debacle, and that supreme court decision that when I saw your YouTube about having Obama’s back I lost my temper. Again, I’m sorry for the personal attack.

    I feel Obama has betrayed the promises he made in his campaign. Every one of his cabinet posts has been a shill for corporations like Goldman Sachs and Monsanto. He flat out lied when he said recently that he did not campaign for the public option. Do you read Chris Floyd? I have to agree with him that Obama’s administration has chosen to continue the Bush doctrine regarding Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Guantanamo case I referred to above. The fact that it was Bush that started the war does not justify Obama’s continuation of his imperial ambitions. I just don’t believe Obama is as progressive as you think he is.

    As a working class person from a blue collar suburb, I have sometimes been put off by some of your suburbs vs. city writing. You can be a bit broad in your characterizations. However, I’ll check out your book when it comes out.

    You seem like a good guy, and I respect you for your thoughtful response. I just have no faith that the Democratic party can be reformed at this point. I am not sure where to go from here.

  5. Thanks RoseRed –I feel you.

    You have a right to be angry! I appreciate your response. I think you speak for a LOT of people. I understand why you are upset with Obama and the Dems for not being more progressive. I’m with you. I guess I just have low expectations in the first place. So big baby steps are what I have resigned myself to fighting for. History shows that if we plug away long enough, every once in awhile, we win something more. But it takes decades of consistent work.

    When you say: “I am not sure where to go from here,” I hear you, but I want more!

    I actually want to challenge you a little bit: You’re clearly a super smart person who cares deeply about real progressive change. We need your talents, energy, insight and commitment!

    What are you doing or planning to do about the situation we’re in?

    It IS hard to know where to go from here. And no path we choose will be perfect. But too many good people get stuck in despair, disillusionment, and perfectionism. And to me that’s when we really lose.

    Personally I believe the entire survival of our species (and most others) is at risk over the coming century or so. For me it’s not about having faith or not having faith in any leader or party. It’s about fighting for survival no matter what, using every tool in the toolbox. Change is not impossible, but it requires a lot of people like you and me to fight for it over a period of decades.

    How do you see things? Are you someone who was actively involved in working for change and got discouraged? My thing is if we could get more smart, angry discouraged people off the sidelines –especially angry white suburban working class folks– we might be able to actually change some things!

    I realize people probably don’t usually do this on blogs, but where do you live (which suburb near which city?) and if you were going to get more involved, hypothetically, what type of stuff would you see yourself wanting to do or getting involved in? I’m asking you personally, but it’s also a broader question. I want this blog to be a place where people come to figure out the best way to get involved, so I’m hoping you’ll be willing to explore this more. We can go back and forth and maybe we’ll both learn something and others will too.

    What do you think?

    Billy

    ps. I’m with you on the city/suburbs thing –they’re essentially becoming one big mush now. And thanks for saying you’ll check out my book. Tryna finish it now. And this conversation is helping me… so thanks!

  6. What happened to this blog? This is kind of weak… like Upski’s politics. I read Bomb the Suburbs and it changed my life. But to read that you are a hack for the Democratic Party is beyond disappointing. My goodness. Vote Obama and see more troops in Afghanistan. Continued presence in Iraq. A war extended into Pakistan. Nothing for card-check legislation. Utter contempt for LGBT rights (we wouldn’t even be talking about DADT without the 200000 people that marched in DC last fall). And the prison industrial complex which you once stood so strongly against, continues without fail. I think you’ve been hanging with “cool rich kids” waaaaay too long. The Democratic Party is part of the problem in this country: timid, pathetic, and wholly owned by corporate America. Your politics like this blog is honestly, a little sad. I’m not even trying to be some internet bomb thrower. Just someone who loved you back in the day who now thinks you need to seriously reassess where you put your talents. Right now they’re wasting away…

  7. Hi,

    I am excited about the opportunity to read your writing more regularly but also hope you don’t get too taken up in this blogosphere if it’s not really you’re thing. You seem to have been an effective organiser without much use of the internet. I am not from the US but was really inspired when I read your books. I could relate to so much of the hitch hiking tales and the race relations and particularly the fact that so many of the coolest people I met were weird and intelligent. Having said that I want to comment on what has already been said in these resposes so far. I can understand why you would want to encourage people to use the Democrats to stop the Republicans, but its a bit like “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” later the alliance may just bite you in the arse, so to speak. Obama has done very little to gain the confidence of the people who voted for him, but also the messiah like status that was conferred upon him makes him an easy target for people too. He did run with it though and promise alot of things that now seem empty. I was happy the day he was elected for the change of pace and race, but I still saw a warmonger, and feel he is undeserving of his Nobel Peace Prize. He is trying to inject some liberal judges into the circuit but this will be a lasting contribution but I don’t think it will be sweet enough to take away the sour taste of his other failings. It is sad that so many people mobilised to oust the republicans after realising that the lack mass voting efforts was partly responsible for the Bush era and that the leader they chose is now one of the most unpopular statistically in American history. But Obama has the odds stacked against him too. He has walked into an empire mid death roll and has to face a public who are suffering more than any other generation in recent years. And he must also face racist backlash too no matter how progressive America feels after having elected him. I see you efforts as being comparable to Billy Bragg’s when he joined the Labour party in order to get rid of the Thatcher regime. He felt that in order to remove the strong government of the day, one had to take sides with the most powerful opposition. I am not of fan of the illusion of bi partisan politics that so often grips democratic countries, but I can see what you’re trying to do with your work. Just be careful I say.

  8. Whoa! A new book, that is awesome.

    Let me know if you take a book tour through Nashville. I have spare room.

  9. Ok, still getting used to the idea that I have a blog. Reading your critique Lou Duva. Thinking about it. I know it’s from the heart. And your critiques of Obama and Dems are mostly fair. But I’m sorry to say that your overall thrust sounds way off base. Let’s delve into this. Back in the day, I was successful at writing clever stories and biting critiques of a lot of things. But what did I actually change institutionally? What did No More Prisons actually change? Did it even shut down one prison? No. Let me tell you a story. Back in 2000, after No More Prisons came out, I was living in Raleigh, NC and we tried to actually stop a jail. We tried to stop the Wake County jail from being expanded by 200 beds. There was a ballot initiative to pass a bond to expand the jail. We organized a campaign to fight it. And we lost by a few percentage points. Why? Because we didn’t understand how to do electoral politics. Why? Because we thought politics was dirty (it is) and that Democrats suck too (many of them do) so what was the point of voting? But guess what? If you want to actually stop real prisons from being built in the real world, you have to fight them at the ballot box. That means organizing people to vote and building a strong enough voting bloc that politicians listen to you when you tell them not to build more jails in the first place.

    The same day we lost that fight, November 7, 2000, George Bush won Florida by 537 votes (with help from the Republican-controlled Supreme Court). This was a double wake up call for me. Not only did we lose against the jail. I realized that if my friends and I had been paying attention to electoral politics, we could have gone to Florida, organized a few thousand more voters, and we could have conceivably stopped George Bush from becoming President. We could have prevented the Iraq war. Let me say that again. No matter what you think of Democrats, the fact is that IF WE HAD ORGANIZED A FEW THOUSAND MORE PEOPLE TO VOTE FOR DEMOCRATS BACK IN 2000, WE COULD HAVE PREVENTED THE IRAQ WAR. We could have prevented a trillion dollars and untold thousands of lives from being wasted. We could have prevented thousands from having PTSD and injuries. We could have prevented Alito and Roberts from being appointed to the Supreme Court. We could have prevented Citizen’s United. We could have prevented No Child Left Behind testing mania. We could have had a less incompetent FEMA director to respond to Katrina. We could have had a President who believes in global warming 10 years earlier. These are moral imperatives for any person with a conscience. They are a trillion times more important than writing witty, critical books and having “good” politics. Two years later, in 2002, I watched as Republicans took control of the Senate –all three branches of government– in a mid-term election, by winning just 95,000 votes spread across two states. The reality is that you never know how close any given election is going to be. And you never know when one or two votes is going to determine the balance of power over an important decision like health care or cutting the bloodsucking loan sharks out of the student aid racket.

    It is sad. It is sad that we are reduced to fighting for these crumbs of change, and that the system is so broken that this is the best way to make the biggest change. If you know a better way to make bigger changes, let me know. Shit, I don’t do electoral politics because I love to support candidates who I only half agree with. I do it because we don’t have the luxury to let the Tea Party and the right-wing take over again. Shit, you think Obama’s bad?

    And since you were provocative (which I appreciate and signed your real name, which I also appreciate) I want to be provocative right back with you: What are you working on that’s more important than stopping the right wing take over right now? I want to recruit you.

    It’s not about being a Democratic hack. The Democratic Party is diverse. It includes people like Raul Grijalva, Donna Edwards, Alan Greyson, Dennis Kucinich who stand up and fight for common people’s interests. The Democratic Party is a container. It is a vehicle, and it is a contested space that has changed a lot over the past decade and is poised to change more of the next decade if we play our cards right. This is not about a party or about Obama or any candidate. It’s about organizing a people’s movement powerful enough to help govern so that we are in a position to create public policy that truly reflects our values.

    I would love to hear your thoughts, journey and plans for the future. Maybe we can even collaborate somehow… In any case, thank you for writing and being honest.

    Billy

  10. Whoa, a new book. My wife gave me Bomb the Suburbs around the time it came out, before we were married and just getting to know each other. She thought it would be something I liked. She was right (and she must have understood something about me because I was a hardcore free market libertarian then – not an obvious choice of person to give that book to, but I dug BtS without reservation).

    My life has been a bit like settling for a shoe which doesn’t quite fit. You get used to having blisters all the time, and I mean this as a kind of metaphor for social movements and scenes, none of which fit me very well (though sadly it is also true of my 13-Wide feet – what an annoying foot size).

    I am your age. I remember buying Raising Hell on vinyl when it came out and my grandfather was with me and he kind of freaked out, asking, “What the hell are you listening to with those…” and you can guess the rest.

    And this is just based on the cover. At the time I guess I was a young Reaganite (oh no), but the only one I knew with rap and Billy Bragg ‘rekkids.

    But I was too nerdy and even self-consciously white and middle class to be part of any hip hop scene then (though I’d feel cool as hell now to have been part of it) but it’s just one example of how no shoe ever fits, even if, sometimes, the error is mine. Couldn’t work out being a punk, and couldn’t even really get on with any political movement, including my own. It’s been frustrating. It’s not even that I’m judgmental (of course I can be), but that I just find myself surrounded by any group of people who agree on something for too long (like ten minutes) and want to get the hell out. I remember listening to Al Sharpton once say something about how black churches were necessary because black people couldn’t ever feel comfortable in a room full of white people. I didn’t have any opinion on that except to think, “you know, I agree. I’m not comfortable in rooms full of just white people either.” And it wasn’t a political statement – just, pretty much the truth. It was maybe the most amusing thought I’d had that year. Diverse is good. People tend not to start mixing up kool-aid.

    However, it is problematic again for the reasons of alienation. Way too many movements, scenes, whatever, are homogenous in a way which makes me nervous.

    What I liked about Bomb the Suburbs is it was de-alienating (if that’s a word). It made me feel like, okay, when you break it all down, people are really just people and the cultural and artistic expressions may be different but the motivations people have are fundamentally the same. So it made me think – is it just *me* that’s the problem?

    I’m thinking in particular about (it’s been awhile) the part of that book I most remember which was your bit about walking through “bad parts of town” and not having a problem, because you didn’t let off vibes like you thought you were walking into a warzone — really just a place where people, human beings – live. Sorry for paraphrasing and summarizing but I did with Bomb the Suburbs what I do with all books I like. I gave it away to a stranger. Don’t have it here anymore. As I always give instructions to pass books on, I would like to think that copy of BtS is worn-out and on the other side of the globe somewhere. But it wouldn’t be a terrible thing if it was in a used bookshop somewhere. A title like that is bound to draw attention.

    What I’m getting to is I’ve come around a bit on this and feel like, okay, maybe engaging with people makes the shoe fit better – and you seem to be about engagement.

    Maybe you can understand people and they can understand you behind appearances, language, education, mannerisms, that ultimately we all know that things like war sucks, even if one guy is making riot folk, and another is doing militant hip hop and another is writing an article for The Nation, and hell I’ll even through anti-war libertarians in Liberty in for good measure. The point is we should all be at the same events, and too often, we’re not. Maybe I’m part of the problem in that I’ve never been too comfortable around wound-up activists. I need to get past that. Especially as my own politics have evolved to better accommodate those people, or more to the point, to better viscerally understand why it’s so emotional for them.

    I live in Arizona now (grew up in New Jersey) and suddenly I know what it’s like to feel…embattled.

    My question to you is this: it’s hard enough to reach out to progressives and people who are – or say they are – on your same page. How do you do reach out to people who aren’t? How do you get people who want to dismiss you to listen and want to find common ground, and, then, hopefully, sign up in solidarity with some kind of project or goal? How do you make protests and movements and rallies multicolored? Where you might even find some people in business suits?

    I ask this from two directions: one, I don’t think my bought-and-sold white middle class ass (I can’t believe I’m still that after all these years) is going to be met with much openness, and two, it seems like you need numbers, so what about the people from my own demographic who think protesters are all a bunch of punks?

    We have identified the problems, I think. I kind of see more and more where I’m part of it. But strategically, how do you engage people in discussion and help them open up their hearts and re-engage with humanity at large?

    You’ve thought a lot about things, so I figure I’d might as well ask you while I have the chance: how do you motivate people to want to change the world, and maybe more importantly, to believe they can, and then to get off of their ass? We’re both reaching that age now where people expect us to be cynical and to give up and I feel like I’m just getting started. It’s easy to point out problems to people and even to get them to agree they’re problems – it’s everything else from that point to actually changing things which seems impossibly hard.

    Also, good to see you online. I somehow got into a Wikipedia “related links” frenzy which led me to Soft Skull Press’s entry, which listed you, and I thought, hrm, better click on that there Upski article, because I hadn’t thought about that guy or that book for awhile…

    Led me back to here. So much has changed since I read that book (which I recommend to anyone reading this who hasn’t read it). I will be interested to see what you say in your curiously titled new one.

    By the way, regularly contributing to a blog can be exhausting sometimes and requires a little discipline but I really think you should do what you can in that regard, because on most things, really, it’s not just that I think you’re right, but I think you have a way of communicating that makes people want to listen.

    That was kind of the deal with me, anyway.

    By the way, and I say this only to make the point that it is possible for people to change – or more specifically to evolve, I did the unthinkable in 2004 and voted for Kerry (well, against Bush) and voted for Obama in 2008 (which was a true first – voting *for* a Democrat, which I’d never done before.) If someone like me can change, I know it’s got to possible for others.

    Hence this very long comment.

    Sorry about that.

    Going now, seriously.

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