Posted By: Michael Sweeney
Posted By: Michael Sweeney
Aug. 27, 2009
Hey, not to be TOO self-congratulatory, but yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the first appearance of my work here on The Stonecipher Report!
Much has gone on since I responded to head honcho Tyler "Ripp Stonecipher" Rippeteau’s ad (on Craigslist) seeking local political writers for his site…I am now his site’s semi-official "Political Director" (a la the much admired wonk coverage of the ’08 election for NBC and MSNBC by Chuck Todd) and Tyler’s co-host of The Stonecipher Report radio show (available on Chicago’s WHPK, 88.5 FM or online via whpk.org) (plug, plug!) – as well as a friend now to the all-around good guy who runs this site.
Starting with my coverage of Illinois and Chicago political figures late last August, I’ve had a great ride being able to provide you with fairly close-up and certainly opinionated coverage of the magical Obama ’08 journey (being there at Grant Park on Election Night is one of the most cherished memories of my life), as well as the (mostly; I assume, anyway) unintentional comedy of the Blago-and-Burris Capades, the other big names and big noise (i.e., the Madigans, the Daleys, Durbin, Emanuel, etc.) of local politics…plus, even some Cubs thoughts (mostly "oy vey!" lately), pop culture observations, and plenty o’ looks at items and individuals of national political interest.
So, I thought I’d take this reflective opportunity to present a little more background, info, and philosophy on myself – and maybe even a little future predicting about what I see coming down the road. Ego? Well, sure – but, heck, if I expect near-strangers to read my reports and opinions, perhaps it couldn’t hurt to provide them with a little more information about where I’m coming from, to help provide some perspective and context for my pieces. Therefore, what follows is a bit of a rambling – but completely honest – "self-interview." I gotta say, I know the subject at hand – Michael Sweeney – pretty damned well…so, I think I also know the best questions to ask him! So…away we go with that…
Q. What is your background, professionally and writing-wise?
A. I’ve been a professional writer for long before there was even an Internet (beyond its limited original college and defense-industry use). I’ve written, ghost-written, edited, or significantly contributed to 16 books (or book-length projects, in the case of work I did for others on large pieces that may not have ended up getting finally produced); these include travel guidebooks, business books, "how to"s, and even other’s personal stories. I was a nationally published poet when I was 16…and I have also written many pieces of short fiction and a couple of novels (but I’m still sorting those out).
I have also done a wide range of writing work for a variety of clients, from straightforward corporate communications to more engaging and lively consumer-oriented fare. I have written numerous newsletters, white papers, case studies, and credentials...as well as many newspaper, magazine, and Web articles. I was also a Contributing Writer (for most of the late ‘90s) for NewCity, a weekly Chicago news and arts publication. There, I wrote cover stories and feature items, including the establishment and ongoing production of a weekly humorous chart feature on current events.
Q. What is your political background and interests?
A. I am certainly NOT "fair and balanced" – but I am honest and truthful about what I call my political "philosophy" (and what people on the opposite side of what I believe might call my "biases"). I am a Democrat…a Progressive…a Liberal. No, that doesn’t mean that I (somehow) believe that bigger, more controlling government is the answer to EVERY problem or challenge in front of us – and, as opposed to what FOX Newsies might try to get people to perceive, THAT is NOT (not even close) to what defines our left-wing views.
We represent freedom. We value people – of all races, creeds, and beliefs (even those opposing us) – and seek to provide them with rights and equalities without exception…with help whenever needed…with opportunities when desired…and with rewards when and where appropriate. We are NOT anti-profit, -capitalism, or even -corporate business (heck, I made TONS of money in the late ‘90s / early part of this decade working for the largest professional services consulting business in the world)…as long as laws are being obeyed, taxes are being paid, and – especially – people are not being taken advantage of in the process.
I have voted religiously since I turned 18 back in 1980 (that’s 47 now, to save you doing the math)…and I MAY have voted for a Republican or two along the way (especially here in Illinois, where they were fairly moderate for years), but…frankly I can’t think of one for sure right now (and NEVER at the Presidential, Senatorial, or Congressional level). (So…as it goes for voting for Presidents over the last 28 years, I’ve got a record of 3 – 5…) And I have always closely followed politics, both locally and nationally – AND never hesitated to share my opinions and feelings with others.
Q. Who would you call your political heroes?
A. The first two names that come to mind – one a professional politician, the other a noted and historic activist – are Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. To me, RFK – after being reborn in a way following the tragic death of the President brother he was so devoted to – became a leading advocate against the pointlessness of unnecessary war AND for the boosting up of the underprivileged, be they black in Harlem, white in Appalachia, or brown in California valley fields. And Dr. King stood before those who pointlessly and thoughtlessly hated him and those he represented, turning away slaps and insults (and worse) with strong, peaceful, and brilliant words – as well as with perseverance against centuries of oppression. That both were taken from us (and from their families) too soon by evil actions makes their actions – and their memories – all the more dear and missed.
As for other admired political figures, I strongly support President Obama – and easily call him my second-favorite actual politician of my lifetime. I think President Clinton did a fine job (and was the most naturally talented pol of his generation, by a mile)…but I was disappointed by his personal embroilments (although, they were NOWHERE CLOSE to impeachable offenses). Other favorite Presidents include Dems JFK, FDR (of course! I woulda been a fervent New Dealer), and Jefferson…and even Repubs (although – I swear – they both would’ve been modern big "D" Democrats today) Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. I was a fan of the compassion and smarts of the late Illinois Congressman and Senator (and fine, upstanding man) Paul Simon. And, I’d like to add a special (if quite sad) mention of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy – the great "Liberal Lion" of the US Senate who mightily served this country during my entire lifetime (except for only the first 170 days I was alive); I so strongly admired him and his long service…and I was deeply saddened by his passing.
Q. What have you got against conservatives and / or Republicans?
A. How much time you got? Just kidding…The short(ish) answer is that I simply disagree strongly and deeply with the selfish, often-racist and -classist, pro-business / anti-people, pro-gun policies enacted and supported by those on the right. Make that MANY of those (I suppose) – because, quite frankly, I am able to have respect for and see the reasons behind the philosophies of some of the more thoughtful righties, such as the late William F. Buckley, George Will, David Brooks, and even the often-harsh Charles Krauthammer (in his writing, though – NOT in his appearances on FOX News). But, as for the dim shouters – and the exaggerators, fabricators, and downright lying liars – such as Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Coulter, Savage, Malkin, etc., well, I have no use for those mostly-morons, nor for the hyped-up, mass-confusion, "Big Lie" beliefs they try to foist on the busy, usually-less-educated, too-often-easily-led masses of their viewers / listeners, who they attempt to influence AND make tons of money from.
And, as for right-wing political leaders, I used to at least sorta respect John McCain when he was a true, freely-speaking moderate "Maverick"…but I was mighty glad that the ’08 version lost big-time (and, of course, had he even been the 2000 GOP nominee, I would not have hesitated one nanosecond before voting – as I did anyway – for the great Al Gore). And – pure and simple – I think that Sarah Palin is a calculating idiot taking advantage of her sudden celebrity exposure who should be banished to hosting a trivial TV show or something equally semi-harmless. "President John McCain" would’ve been a major disappointment to me, but…eh, I woulda lived through it; however, "Vice President Sarah Palin" might’ve had me heading for an apartment in Toronto. Yikes!
I mainly suffered (usually not very quietly, either) through the Bush II, Bush I, Reagan, and – even when I was a kid – Nixon administrations. And I truly believe that former VP Dick Cheney is simply pure and smug evil incarnate; I cannot think of a single thing that I could possibly agree with him over. Ah, but I do truly believe that a pendulum has swung now – and we are now in the "Obama Evolution," a leftish sequel to the last-30-year "Reagan Revolution"…and thank god about that.
Q. Uh, shouldn’t that have been "God" at the end of that last answer?
A. Nah, not for me. People can believe in whatever they want – and I would never want to infringe on ANYONE’s rights to be as wrong as they could possibly be (just kidding there – I have NO idea what should be the "correct" religious choice). Personally, I am pretty much an atheist (gasp! but, but…nearly NO ONE admits something like that except for the over-zealous anti-religion advocates! (yeah, well, then…just them and ME, I suppose))…with maybe some uncertain traces of unsure agnosticism in me. I do not believe in anybody else’s god…but neither do I feel smugly certain that I know the unknowable at all – and I could give a rat’s ass whether US currency bears the phrase "In God We Trust" or whether Sunday ballgames start without a singing of "God Bless America." Religion does not really pertain to my life…but, hey, I would never try to stop anyone else from living whatever way they thought was most appropriate and helpful to them and their family. (And, of course, I would greatly appreciate it if believers kept their own preferred way of life to themselves, as well…)
Q. Do you blindly support Democratic politicians, no matter their behavior or attitudes?
A. I’ve got a two-word answer for that: Rod Blagojevich. What a moron my former Congressman and Governor was (and apparently still is)! (…But, of course – nice hair, B-Rod!) I stood outside of his house (on a very cold winter day) when the Illinois Legislature voted him out of office…and, as his suddenly-former guards and aides walked out of his place after his impeachment was concluded (and, thus, they were no longer working for him), I was glad to know that he – a smug, clueless, human turd – had been flushed away from running our state.
And – I suppose – I can also give you two other words: John Edwards…who, at one time, I would’ve liked to see perhaps become US Attorney General in the Obama administration – that is, until the rumors were confirmed that he had cheated on his dying – and beloved among Democrats – wife, Elizabeth, and lied about it multiple times (christ – there may even be a "love child" resulting from the affair). In my opinion, we – both Democrats AND Americans – dodged a potentially dangerous bullet had the now-revealed-to-be-sneaky-and-snakey Edwards succeeded in his run for the Presidency – OR even taken on a prominent role in the Obama administration. So, no – I don’t blindly support EVERY Democrat, all the time (just mostly, though, since it is the Dem candidate / officeholder who – 9,999 times out of 10,000 opportunities – represents the policies I wish for and the philosophies I believe in).
Q. OK, how about favorite writers, actors, musicians, sports teams – what sorta stuff in those areas do you like?
A. Ah, now we’re talking ‘bout something – I DEFINITELY have some opinions about those. My favorite writers include Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Updike, Roth, and Hunter S. Thompson. I greatly admire the writing – both film criticism AND all other topics he tackles – of the great Chicago newspaperman (AND proud Liberal) Roger Ebert. I eagerly watch Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart put perspective and humor on the day’s events nearly every night.
Some of the major entertainment influences on my life – on my tastes and opinions and senses of wonder, appreciation, and humor – include the Marx Brothers, the Beatles, Humphrey Bogart, Woody Allen, Monty Python, "Star Wars," and the works of directors Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino. Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Paul Newman were classic, ‘70s-on faves of mine…and work lately by DiCaprio, Clooney, Damon, and Winslet (sigh!) almost never fail to impress me. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, Lindsey Buckingham, Prince, Pete Townshend, and Joe Strummer are musical gods to me…and Robyn Hitchcock is my favorite musician (who I never miss live and have probably seen perform live nearly 20 times so far).
My favorite TV shows include "M*A*S*H," "thirtysomething," "The Sopranos," all three "Law & Order"s, "Rescue Me," and just about anything that Dennis Franz was in (yes, even "Bay City Blues" and "Beverly Hills Buntz") (well, OK…not NEARLY as much those two as "Hill St. Blues" and "NYPD Blue"). I am a lifelong, diehard, since Ernie-Billy-Fergie-and-Ronnie fan of the Chicago Cubs; I basically got cable television in the 1990s to be sure not to miss ANY games with Michael, Scottie, and the 6-time-champion Bulls; and I’m a Chicagoan, so – of course! – I enjoy following Da Bears! I could suggest separate movies, records, songs, and particular books that mean the most to me, but…hey, why get a little TOO self-indulgent here? (Anyway, stuff by those individuals listed above give you a good jumping off point on where I’m coming from on those sorts of things…)
Q. Beyond following politics, do you have any notable hobbies?
A. I love traveling (especially road trips; I never mind down-and-dirty driving, getting to see close-up views of new places and things) and reading and music and movies and watching baseball games (especially at Wrigley Field, one of my favorite spots on the planet). I enjoy gaming (whether it be cards, board, or SOME electronic play)…and am (if I must say so myself) a pretty OK poker player. I’m online a ton, both writing and reading – looking for new info (it’s like paging through infinite encyclopedias). I used to play guitar – and can pick one up and chord around pretty easily – but don’t practice much anymore. And I’m pretty damned good at trivia (mostly all that reading, plus a decent memory)…
Q. What about your personal life?
A. I have a 17-and-a-half year relationship with my love, Corinne; we currently have 4 lovely cats (2 of my beloved long-time felines passed away over the last 5 years). I have never been married and have no children – I figure dealing with my own ongoing, 40-year-plus childhood is more than enough. I have lived in the same building in Lincoln Park – across the street from the zoo – for nearly 20 years now. I was born in the city (on the South Side), grew up in the suburbs (Park Forest, mostly), came back to the city for college, and have stuck around Chicago for more than 25 years now. I have type 2 diabetes – but have been better controlling my health and my weight lately (especially since I quit drinking). I am fairly close to my siblings – and they (and my nieces and nephews) are spread around, mostly within a 6-hour drive or so. I can count more than half-a-dozen very close friendships that have already stretched more than 30 years – and I feel very lucky to have these…as well as some of the more recent (yet still very essential) relationships in my life. And that’s probably about enough about all of that personal stuff (just enough to give you a clue – without giving it all away to potential identity thieves)…
Q. Anything else?
A. Well, you certainly have my sincere thanks for plowing all the way through all of this (and, of course, I DO know that it all might have been a bit much)…and I hope it gives you some deeper insight to who I am and where my thoughts, philosophies, and takes on politics come from. As I’ve mentioned, I think we are in the dawning period of a more liberal and progressive age – and, as the often-more-closed-mind older voters supporting the Republicans (and their usually more narrow views) in small towns, the South, and the Mountain West age away, I only see things getting better, more open, and more equal here in the US. Multiple times during the campaign, I wrote that I thought the 2008 election was perhaps the third-most-important ever in this country – after those of 1860 and 1932. I still believe that, and, despite the tough economic times that we seem to be slowly recovering out of, I think the next 20 to 40 years could be a truly golden period.
…And you can be sure that I’ll keep on helping you stay informed about all the trends, facts and figures, and interesting personalities involved, both here on the site AND on our radio show…as well as in the twice-weekly e-mail newsletter I produce (check out the info below to contact me and start receiving those updates for free). I’m glad you found us and my words out here – and I want to continue to be a source you can rely on for the latest and greatest info and news, with an always-feisty (and – I sure hope! – smart) Liberal and Progressive spin on things.
To conclude – it’s been a fun year out here already…and let’s see where things can head next. Thanks again for reading! Be seeing you…
Look for my regular posts here on The Stonecipher Report. (And, for a free subscription to my twice-weekly e-mail column on politics and pop-culture, "And, in the News…" send a note to: email@example.com)