On The Matter Of My Vote


I have, as a rule, avoided discussing how I’ll vote because I generally see that as a distraction from much more important things. My vote isn’t going to decide the election, and is itself a less than minuscule factor in the contest.

That said, as anyone who follows my blog already knows, I have a lot of issues with Hillary Clinton that will make casting a vote for her extremely difficult. The DNC collusion (particularly the unethical use of state parties to bypass campaign finance donation limits allegedly to support down-ballot candidates while actually funneling almost all the money to Clinton’s campaign while the DNC was, according to its own bylaws, supposed to be neutral), the swiftboating of Sanders’s civil rights activism, the bullying and rigging that went on right before the cameras in places like Las Vegas, the Clintons illegally (and arrogantly) campaigning in polling stations because they knew their local lackeys wouldn’t prosecute them, ordering poll workers to give the wrong ballots to independent voters in California, the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters in multiple states like New York, the utter disrespect shown to Sanders’s duly elected delegates and volunteers at the convention…

Jesus, I could go on and on, and I haven’t even started on her record or policies. The DNC money laundering/collusion, which is a matter of public record and not just conspiracy theory, is all by itself compelling enough reason not to support Clinton or the Democrats at all. A vote for Clinton sends the message that all of that bullshit was exactly the right thing to do because it gets them what they want. It rewards electoral villainy. And I have some strong issues with doing that.

Should Trump lose? Yes. But my hope remains that Clinton wins by a very tight margin so that she knows she’s going into that office on probationary status, not with the mandate to continue doing as she and the DNC have been doing. I want her to know she cannot just take progressives for granted and treat them like shit and expect to win again. Odds are, she’ll have a more formidable challenger next time and she’s gonna need our votes. If a voter doesn’t vote for her, she’s likely still going to win, but that vote doesn’t add to her mandate. If any voter opts to go that way, I completely grok that. Clinton already has the gift of Donald Trump (though even so, she’s oddly weak against him), so perhaps she doesn’t need that one vote, and perhaps the lack of support contributes to her doing more progressive things in office because it makes her afraid of losing next time.

And the risk that Trump wins? Well, as I’ve pointed out, that risk was just fine for Clinton supporters who were “with her” when they put aside the math which showed that maybe running the least popular Democratic nominee in history might be a bad idea. If she can’t even beat Trump of all people because she was already unpopular and her actions in conspiring with the DNC lost her even more support, that’s on her and the DNC and all her supporters, just as much, or more, than it’ll be on folks who don’t choose to vote for her in November.

The entire case for Hillary Clinton tends to boil down to a handful of words: Woman. Trump. Nader. History. Democrat.

The only one of those words that isn’t entirely a plea to emotion or tribalism is “Trump.” And most of the folks who are tearing their hair out and screaming apocalypse when other folks say they might have to risk Trump because of silly things like “ethics” were more than willing to take the risk of Trump when they determinedly followed the DNC into the electoral pit by choosing the candidate with the demonstrably far worse chance of beating Trump. It was fine for them to risk Trump to get their preferred nominee, but now it’s just crazy to risk Trump for other reasons.

Me, I think it was crazier to bring a Clinton to a Sanders fight. And I’m tired of hearing simplistic hyper-emotional rhetoric and canned spin from the very people who put us in this situation.

My point boils down to: whether I vote for her or not, the election will turn out the way it’s going to turn out. She will win, or she won’t, and it will not be based on my vote. Another reason I won’t say how I’m voting is because by doing so I’m implying at least a bit of endorsement I can’t give, but however I vote, it ain’t coming down to me. In fact, a logical case could be made that my individual vote is of such statistical unimportance that demanding I violate my personal integrity for the sake of what is, effectively, a non-effect is absurd. That aside, again, what’s gonna happen is gonna happen, and if she loses, it will be because she was the worst choice for the fight and because she and hers screwed over a huge segment of leftward voters. If one individual chooses not to vote for her, for whatever reasons, their complicity in her loss will be infinitesimally smaller than her own, or than the DNC’s.

I don’t support Clinton, but I hope Trump loses. That’s all the endorsement she’s earned from me.

So We’ve Got THAT Going For Us… (A Bit of Good News For Election 2016)


In June, polling agencies stopped including Bernie Sanders in their questions. At that time, he led Donald Trump by an average of 10.4%. This was the culmination of a campaign which always led Trump (and, indeed, all of the other GOP contenders), every step of the way, usually by double digits. Sanders, one of the most popular politicians in the country, a man drawing tens of thousands of excited voters to his rallies all over America, was the only candidate on either side with net positive favorability ratings.

Hillary Clinton’s numbers were never remotely as good. She often lost to Republican candidates (even John Kasich usually beat her by 8-12%), and Trump was the only candidate she could almost always beat, though always by a very small margin. And she shared with Trump the worst favorability scores of any candidates in history.

No candidate has ever won the presidency with negative favorability scores. This year that will no longer be the case, as both major candidates are enormously unpopular. Recent polls show that a majority of each of their committed voters say they are voting for their chosen candidate primarily to vote against the other candidate.

The standard spin about Sanders’s better polling results was always that he was “untested,” and if he became the nominee then he would be tested and maybe his numbers would drop. But the spinners never seemed to see that their argument also basically acknowledged that Clinton’s numbers were terrible because she had been tested, and failed, and her numbers were therefore unlikely to get any better if she became the nominee.

We were also told that “polls don’t matter this far out.” Only polls after the convention are accurate, only polls closer to election day prone to reflect pertinent trends.

Hillary Clinton currently leads Donald Trump by a paltry 1%. Both continue to have net negative favorability, with 55% of voters disliking her and 57% disliking him.

We have only 47 days till election day.

As Sanders supporters said for months, only to be met with spin and derision from Clintonites and establishment loyalists (I saw one person say that “clinging” to Bernie’s superior poll numbers was, you guessed it, misogynistic), we’d have been better off going to fight with the nominee who at least started with superlative favorability numbers and far better numbers against all GOP possibilities than the nominee whose numbers started in, and would likely remain in, the toilet.

But at least we can say that the Democratic nominee isn’t quite as hated as Donald Trump, one of the most hated men in the world.

So we’ve got that going for us.

The Pragmatic Truth Behind Bernie Sanders’s Endorsement of Hillary Clinton


Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders also endorsed Bill Clinton in 1996, and I think we can read his words then and gain a great deal of insight into his present endorsement:

“In terms of who to support for president, the choice is really not difficult. I am certainly not a big fan of Bill Clinton’s politics. As a strong advocate of a single-payer health care system, I opposed his convoluted health care reform package. I have helped lead the opposition to his trade policies, which represent the interests of corporate America and which are virtually indistinguishable from the views of George Bush and Newt Gingrich. I opposed his bloated military budget, the welfare reform bill that he signed, and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which he supported. He has been weak on campaign finance reform and has caved in far too often on the environment. Bill Clinton is a moderate Democrat. I’m a democratic socialist.

“Yet, without enthusiasm, I’ve decided to support Bill Clinton for president. Perhaps ‘support’ is too strong a word. I’m planning no press conferences to push his candidacy, and will do no campaigning for him. I will vote for him, and make that public. Why?
“I think that many people do not perceive how truly dangerous the political situation in this country is today. If Bob Dole were to be elected president and Gingrich and the Republicans were to maintain control of Congress, we would see a legislative agenda unlike any in the modern history of this country. There would be an unparalleled war against working people and the poor, and political decisions would be made that could very well be irreversible.

Medicare and Medicaid would certainly be destroyed, and tens of millions more Americans would lose their health insurance. Steps would be taken to privatize Social Security, and the very existence of public education in America would be threatened. Serious efforts would be made to pass a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, affirmative action would be wiped out, and gay bashing would intensify. A flat tax would be passed, resulting in a massive shift in income from the working class to the rich, and all of our major environmental legislation would be eviscerated.

“The Motor Voter bill would be repealed, and legislation making it harder for people to vote would be passed. Union-busting legislation would become law, the minimum wage would be abolished, and child labor would increase. Adults and kids in America would be competing for $3.00-an-hour jobs.

“You think I’m kidding. You think I’m exaggerating. Well, I’m not. I work in Congress. I listen to these guys every day. They are very serious people. And the folks behind them, the Christian Coalition, the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, and others, are even crazier than they are. My old friend Dick Armey is not some wacko member of Congress laughed at by his colleagues. He is the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Check out his views. No. I do not want Bob Dole to be president. I’m voting for Bill Clinton.
“Do I have confidence that Clinton will stand up for the working people of this country—for children, for the elderly, for the folks who are hurting? No, I do not. But a Clinton victory could give us some time to build a movement, to develop a political infrastructure to protect what needs protecting, and to change the direction of the country.”

That was when the Democratic Party took its rightward turn and disavowed its traditional progressive ways. Bernie knew it at the time, and he spoke out against it, even while acting pragmatically in the face of the Republican threat.

Time is a circle.

Trump People (And The Terrible Moment I Was One Of Them)


Cliff Caldwell was a splintered twig of a kid, short and gangly, a twitchy scarecrow without enough stuffing. His hair was blond and dirty, but always combed down with a troubling precision. He stared at the world through glasses with big thick frames, and his clothes were ratty and didn’t fit right.

Cliff wasn’t very smart, and he moved from grade to grade largely out of an embarrassing agreement by teachers to pass him rather than actually help him in any meaningful way. Teachers even allowed him to grade his own tests because his handwriting was incomprehensible.

Outside of school, you’d sometimes see Cliff walking along the roadside, stomping swiftly along, his gaze fixed straight ahead as if he were racing obsessively toward some definite goal. He was going where he was going, and he seemed oblivious to everything around him.

I don’t know how old we were when I met Cliff, I just remember him always being around when I was a teenager. He was one of those unfortunate kids who was born broken, who can’t function properly, and who thereby becomes the target of derision and abuse from most of his peers.

The last I heard about Cliff was in 2009, when this happened:

“The holidays can cause stress for all of us. This must particularly apply to those slaving in Santa’s workshop. One case in point: 45 year old William C. Caldwell, III, surely the frontrunner for 2009 Angry Elf of the Year.

“It may come as no surprise to anyone that your local mall Santa receives excellent security training these days. And a good thing, too. On Wednesday evening, the mall Santa on duty at Southlake Mall in Morrow, Georgia came face to face with a potentially explosive situation. The 45 year old Mr. Caldwell, in full elfin attire, wanted his picture taken with Santa. When his turn came, he informed Santa that he had in fact brought some of his own tools from the workshop… specifically, a bag of dynamite.

“It probably should have raised a few eyebrows that a 45 year-old man, dressed as an elf, was standing in line with a bunch of kids waiting to speak with Santa… particularly when he’s got this look in his eyes:


“…The quick thinking Santa immediately informed the Southlake Mall security team of the potentially dangerous elf. Authorities contacted local police who evacuated the mall, blocked off streets and cordoned off the area. Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers arrived along with the Morrow Police. They completed an exhaustive search of the mall. Three suspicious bags were discovered near Santa, but no explosives. Fear that Caldwell would actually drop an elf bomb subsided after the ‘all clear’ was given at 10 p.m., local time…”

Fortunately, this was at worst a crazy whim of Cliff’s tormented mind, at best an actual cry for help. No one was hurt. I have no idea what happened with Cliff after he was arrested, but I hope he found some badly needed help and some happiness and peace.

The reason I’m telling you about Cliff is that he was instrumental in my learning a lesson about myself that has stuck with me for years, a lesson that makes me all too able to understand some of the dark impulses that drive many of the people who support Donald Trump (and, frankly, the Republicans in general).

I’m already quite familiar with the basic unenlightened and racist mindset we see flying its Confederate flag at Trump rallies. I’m from Georgia and was raised by those people. But the lesson I learned through Cliff Caldwell is about something deeper and more intimate than that, about the very nature of self and how it can turn rotten.

As I said, Cliff was often a target of abuse from our peers, from cruel insults and mockery to outright violence. I remember sitting nearby in one class as a group of popular kids (the oft stereotyped jocks and cheerleaders, acting according to stereotype) clustered around Cliff’s desk alternately teasing him and acting like they were his friends. Everyone would laugh. Why not? It was just Cliff Caldwell.

One day, in tenth or eleventh grade, a group of bullies started pushing Cliff around in the locker room, shouting in his face, yanking at his clothes, shoving him into the wall. Laughing at him. To my lifelong shame, I joined them.

Why did I do that? I was a kindhearted kid, a gentle kid, a smart kid who had somehow never absorbed the racism or bigotry I’d been raised in. I had not only always treated Cliff with kindness, I’d stood up for him at times. And here I was,  clawing at his arm, laughing in his face.

It was because, as strong as my sense of self was, as deep my compassion, I was broken too. I was horribly abused at home, so depressed I came close to suicide several times, and of uncertain social value among my peers. I felt small. I felt threatened. And on another day, it might have been me under attack instead of Cliff, though I was at least able to fight. Cliff wasn’t.

I joined that hateful little mob because I desperately wanted to belong. I desperately wanted to be one of the popular kids. And I wanted them to know I was one of them, not a pitiful wimpy target like Cliff, so they would leave me alone.

I thought I was showing strength. But I was really showing the depths of my own despair and weakness.

Then, I really lost it and did something that degraded me far more than it degraded Cliff.

I spat on him.

I actually fucking spat on him.

And this other kid, I can’t remember his name, looked me right in the face with such a look of disgust that it burned me to the quick. “You spit on him?” he shouted, and pulled me back.

And that, my friends, was the moment of epiphany. Through that guy’s eyes, I saw what a craven piece of shit I had allowed myself to become in my desire to belong and to be on top.

I lashed out because I was weak and afraid, and I went too far. I’m pretty sure I’d have walked away ashamed of myself anyway because, as I said, I was a good kid. This was an aberration. But good kid or not, it was me attacking and spitting on a kid whose only sin was that he couldn’t function in the world, a kid fighting his own battles who didn’t need me adding to them.

That other kid, that hero, didn’t become a part of the mob, didn’t give in to those dark petty drives. And he jerked me back into the right, painfully and swiftly, and I am forever in his debt. His disgust with me taught me this necessary lesson much more powerfully than I’d have learned it on my own. I had allowed myself to be drawn into terrible dark waters, and he helped me back to shore.

Trump people swim in those dark waters. They ignore the shore. They thrive out there, making themselves feel strong by tearing others down. The poor, the lost, the weak, the Others…all targets of chthonic rage that can’t find a healthy outlet because the members of the mob don’t bother looking for one. They scream at the light because, like that hero kid’s eyes on me, it makes them see themselves. But they never learn the lesson I learned in that horrible moment.

They are more comfortable in the dark, with their own kind.

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I am thrilled, at long last, to reveal to you oh so patient readers the cover design for Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull, the long-delayed second Wilde adventure novel. The art is, naturally, by the great Gary Chaloner. This is in grayscale, of course. The final version will be in glorious color.

In this book, my long-awaited follow-up to Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom (KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures…”) the Wildes face a sinister mystery and a truly bizarre villain in a battle that rages from New York City to a scorching wasteland and maybe into the realms of death itself…

The book is suitable for all ages. Publication planned for the Christmas season.

Also, those snakes? Fire snakes. As in snakes made of fire.

Get ready to Go Wilde again!

As Above, So Below (aka Art & Science & The Stars Like Dust…)


                                                                                                  Image by Kim D. French

I’ve always liked Jackson Pollock’s work, but it wasn’t until I saw one of his pieces in person at MOMA a few years ago that I realized how electrically alive his paintings really are. It was, I thought, like looking into a human brain and seeing the crazy branched lightning of synapses firing.


The image below, created by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), is a flattened representation of a 3D map showing 650 cubic billion light years, just a quarter of the known universe. Each speck isn’t a single star but an entire galaxy. Peering into it, I now realize that Pollock was painting more than just the mind. He was painting reality itself, the myriad blaze of infinite suns, as well as the swirling quantum dance deep within.


Lifestyles of the Witch and Not Famous


Since my Carioca witch Nydia and her son Lucas joined me here in the Byrdcave, we’ve been making the place nicer in multifarious ways ranging from adopting an insane new kitten, Castiel, to buying new sheets that actually fit my king-sized bed (and thereby don’t constantly come undone every damn night) to actually vacuuming sometimes. Life with a functional non-depressive is revelatory, let me tell you.

The latest addition are a couple of limited edition art prints I’d been drooling to buy for months. I missed my chance while they were for sale because they sold out quickly, but I did manage to ultimately find them for a reasonable price on eBay. The two are my favorite pieces in a gorgeous set of seven Universal monster pieces by artist Nicolas Delort,  Frankenstein and The Creature From The Black Lagoon.


We framed them and hung them together in the living room, but they demanded special treatment so we added the decals around the edges you can see in the image up top. The effect is beautiful.

Cue the Addams Family theme.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Nyd has taken over…