TESS FOWLER Cons, Mistreats, and Steals From A Dying Man

Artist Tess Fowler is a bad person.

I’ve been sitting on this post for nearly a year because I hate having Fowler in my head and couldn’t bring myself to get around to it. I’ve posted a good bit previously about how she took money from me to do art for one of my books and then did not deliver, instead opting to gaslight me and claim that I was a misogynistic stalker who made her afraid to open her door. I’ve posted about other victims she has conned and stolen money from. And I’ve posted about the toxic relationship she created working with her collaborator on Rat Queens, a popular comic book.

Artist Tess Fowler is a bad, terrible person.

All that I’ve written about Fowler on this blog, I wrote in order to get the word out as well as I could so that others wouldn’t fall prey to her. I’ve had quite a few people contact me with their own horror stories who wouldn’t go public for various reasons. I’ve had professionals contact me and say they’ve heard bad things about her, and thank me for sharing my story. And I’ve had Fowler partisans contact me and malign and even threaten me.

Artist Tess Fowler is a bad, terrible, horrible person.

I want to forget this poisonous waste of human flesh ever existed. I want to forget the damage she did to me, and the damage she keeps doing to others. Unless I’m given a really good reason, I hope to never soil this blog with her name again after today. But I have to share this account, have to add it to the record, because it, even more than my dismal experience with her, even more than the other accounts of folks she’s fucked over, shows just how reprehensible a creature she is.

Artist Tess Fowler is a bad, terrible, horrible, pathetic person. And a thief.

The following was originally posted on Change.org as a petition. It was brought to my attention by another of Tess Fowler’s victims, and I immediately copied the full text and grabbed a screenshot because I figured it wouldn’t be up long before Fowler yelled at Change.org and they took it down. And, indeed, a few days later, it was gone.

Please help right a wrong.

Stuart Chapin, a gifted high school teacher, writer, and performer, is dying of cancer.  One of his last remaining bucket list items is to pass on to the next generation, bedtime stories he made up for his children: to share a legacy of creativity, independence, and inspiration for the next generation of his family, and children everywhere. His book is his chosen way to do that, and all that remains is to have it professionally illustrated.  He’s asking for your assistance to make that dream a reality.

Here’s the story:

Tess Fowler Guttierez (tessfowler7@gmail.com), a sometime Los Angeles comic book artist, turns out to be a world-class con artist, and her artistic license should be revoked. She offered commissioned artwork to a dying man, accepted gifts and money, made him wait for over a year (he has Stage IV colorectal cancer), and ultimately reneged on everything she promised, spurning him nastily without cause and delivering nothing but grief.

Here are the facts, you decide. 

My friend Stuart created bedtime stories for his little children. I reached out to Tess, who had done fine commissioned artwork for me previously. Tess and my friend hit it off.  Moved by his story and his writing, she agreed to create the 32 desired pictures for free. That was in February 2014.

By April, her ardor for the project cooled. Her financial needs mounted. She had shared only rough sketch work, but promised that the entire book had been inked. My friend Stuart begged her to send whatever work had been completed, since he was running out of time, and that he would have it colored elsewhere. She ignored him. In November, she again shared more details about her personal and financial difficulties, never offering to help find another artist to complete the project. She simply intimated the project would be forestalled indefinitely.

Again, my friend asked for her to send her whatever work she had done. He further offered her $500, practically cleaning out his savings. After initially demurring, Tess accepted his money. Then, again, silence.

Now January 2015. My friend implored her to send the pictures. She snapped that he was rude and pushy, and that the work had not been sent because she was sick (of which he had no knowledge). He apologized. February 3 of 2015 Tess curtly e-mailed him that the pictures had in fact been sent. After waiting patiently for weeks, they never arrived, she stated that she packaged them USPS with NO tracking data, and she had not bothered to make even a single digital copy of all her year’s work on the project.

In the two and a half months since, she has never once asked if the package arrived.  She clearly never sent it.  In late March, she said she would return the $500 and asked for Stuart’s home address (which she apparently didn’t need on February 3 to send the art as promised).  That check, needless to say, never arrived.  She obviously never finished the project, and kept my friend’s money.

As I had introduced them, I felt a responsibility to see it honorably carried through.  I told Tess that I was aghast she would clear out $500 from a dying man’s savings under any circumstances.  Tess replied that Stuart “made her” take the money.  She filed a harassment complaint with the LAPD. My dying friend simply wanted artwork for his children’s storybook. Instead, he was fleeced and spurned and accused without the slightest justification.  Please help me raise the $1000 needed to secure another artist to illustrate his book soon, while he’s still alive.  His book is wonderful, it’s about being different, and not fitting in, and accepting yourself for who you are.  It’s an important message for kids.  His is a worthwhile and selfless cause.  Thank you for your consideration.

Donate to help Stuarts family remember him.

Artist Tess Fowler is a bad, terrible, horrible, pathetic person. And a thief. And, I suspect, a sociopath.

Stuart Chapin died on August 27, 2016. Before he did, he wrote his own obituary:

Please feel free to spread the word.

Liberal Lockstep: Why I March To The Beat Of My Own Damned Drummer

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To some degree, this is my Facebook feed:

“It was Russia’s fault!”

“It was Comey’s fault!”

“It was the Millennials’ fault!”

“It was Bernie’s fault!”

“It was Jill Stein’s fault!”

ME: “It was also because of poor choices by the candidate and her campaign, and because of systemic failures over the years by the Democratic party.”

“Tim, why are you still talking about this? We have to unite against Trump!”

And we do. And I am.

But I am a progressive and I want not just to beat the bad guys, I want to improve the world. I see what has happened to the Democratic party since 1992, since the rise of the corporate-friendly Democratic Leadership Council (funded by, among other big business interests, the freaking Koch brothers) and the Clintons with their “Third Way” politics of embracing right-wing policies in order to court voters on the right rather than on the left. I see how the left lost Congress during Bill Clinton’s terms after controlling it for decades, and through neoliberal policies and bad strategy has steadily lost more and more power ever since. I see how Donald Trump is not just the inevitable result of years of Republican degradation and capitulation to their worst elements, he is also the result of Democrats abandoning their traditional principles and essentially becoming socially liberal Republicans.

And I see how the corruption and cronyism and arrogance of the Democratic party went full-tilt-bozo this election and they ignored all the data and all the signs that they were making bad choices and they lost to the single most unpopular candidate in history, a man who did damn near everything possible to make himself absolutely unelectable. It’s not just a matter of forcing the choice of their own incredibly unpopular candidate on voters from the very start and violating their own regulations to make sure she won, it’s a matter of the strategies chosen after that, like never bothering to campaign in Wisconsin or maligning progressives and Millennials while pursuing Republican crossover votes.

These are things worth talking about. These are things that shouldn’t be ignored, lest we keep making the same mistakes and keep losing elections. Even big money Democratic donors are apparently angry that the party hasn’t pursued an honest postmortem to determine the real reasons for its devastating failures at every level this year. It’s a conversation that they think we should have, and the Democratic party’s frantic finger-pointing everywhere but in the mirror is pissing them off so much they’re saying they’re going to start withholding the cash.

Yet when I post about these things, or even when I praise progressives like Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard for their current acts of principled leadership, I get called out by some of my liberal friends. They really don’t want the party, or its chosen candidate, to be criticized or to be held accountable for their mistakes, or for the negative impact of their policies. When I criticize Democratic leaders for specific failures — say, Barack Obama’s failure to prosecute Wall Street criminals or his record-breaking deportation of immigrants — I’m accused of being a “purist,” naively wedded to my progressive ideals while in the real world we have to apparently just settle for terrible acts when they’re done by our side. Again, I am accused of being a purist because I want to hold our leaders accountable and encourage them to be better in the future.

Folks, I don’t have a “purity test.” I have standards.

I also get a lot of flack about posting what I’m posting rather than what everyone else is posting. “Why are you talking about Hillary Clinton’s campaigning failures when you should be talking about how Russia hacked our election? Why are you complaining about the Democratic establishment’s complete lack of accountability and myopic defense of the status quo when you should be complaining about Trump because Trump is bad?” Sometimes it boils down to a simpleminded accusation like “You’re criticizing Clinton, you must support Trump.”

Well, no. But thanks for playing.

Even putting aside the fact that I do criticize the terrible orange shitnuke, which I am amazingly able to do even while talking about other things, does anyone really need me, personally, to tell them how shitty Donald Trump is? Is it really vitally important that I replicate what everyone else is saying, that I surrender my voice to the group voice?

Because you know what that is? That’s authoritarian message control. That’s an insistence that we should all not just be working together, we should be marching in lockstep. And you know what? I’m not really a lockstep kind of guy.

On the individual level, I know that some of my friends say these things out of annoyance because they’re sick of seeing some of my posts, and that’s fair. I’m sick of some of their posts, too, but I don’t let that turn personal. They can post what they want to post. They don’t have to cater to my concerns.

And I know that some of them are sincerely concerned that criticism of Democrats at a time like this is counterproductive, that it hurts the party and scatters our energies and will limit our effectiveness in the fights ahead. I’m less sympathetic to that viewpoint because I think the left will only beat the right if it, well, moves left again. And sweeping its failures under the rug of temporary expediency, to be forgotten and later dismissed as “old news,” does not contribute to that happening. Only open eyes and open discussion will help us do what we need to do in order to beat back the forces of darkness.

The most insidious reason that some argue for this messaging lockstep is because they are trying to control the narrative in order to protect the entrenched Powers That Be. They want us to think that Russia’s alleged involvement in revealing to us the reality behind the DNC’s “neutrality,” or James Comey’s nebulous letter a week before the election, brought us to this point. They want us to think that a tiny percentage of disillusioned third-party voters betrayed us, not a party and candidate who ran a contest so badly that those tiny numbers mattered even when they had the gift of a buffoon as an opponent. They want us to think that those who didn’t support their candidate are all misogynists and racists and “deplorables,” not folks with legitimate concerns they no longer trust the Democrats to address, who went for the crazy Hail Mary pass of a Trump or third-party vote because the ‘safer’ option, to them, offered no perceived hope or respite from the trials they face.

They want us to support the narrative that it wasn’t their fault because they want to maintain their power and wealth. And they want us to suppress criticism of the establishment, to push us into lockstep with a consistent message that keeps them from being held accountable, allows them to avoid change, protects them from progressive challenges to their control. This narrative is driven from the top and absorbed by those below, and whatever the personal motives of each person insisting we stick to it might be, they all wind up serving that overarching purpose and acting as a shield against accountability and necessary change.

This isn’t just the case now, with President Trump about to occur. This has been the relationship between the Democratic establishment and progressives for a quarter of a century. Progressives are always expected to fall in line, to accept the malignant fiscal policies, the kowtowing to corporate interests, the diminished concern for working people and the poor, the embrace of war as a defining principle. They’re told they have to march lockstep, to be realists not idealists, to shut up about bad things like draconian trade policies and focus instead on good things like gay weddings. They’re told to shrug off the failures of the Democrats because the Republicans are monsters (and they are) and they have nowhere to go. They’re told not to criticize now, during the election, because they might hurt the nominee, and they’re told not to criticize after the election because that stuff’s in the past. (I had one friend literally say, “It’s been nearly two weeks since the election, why are you still talking about this stuff?” Nearly two weeks.)

And progressives, largely, submit. Because a little good is, undeniably, better than all bad. And they surrender their voices to the group voice, to the narrative that the Democrats are doing as well as they can be expected to do, and we can’t do great things, we can only do little good things here and there as we go, and you gotta be a team player and you gotta stop trying to do more. Because you have nowhere else to go. So sit down and shut the fuck up and vote when we tell you to.

No more. Not for me. This year, my  lifelong progressivism became weaponized because (a) I saw that significant change for the better was actually possible because millions of people are yearning for it and willing to work for it, and (b) I saw how utterly resistant to that change the party I’d always supported truly is. Resistant to the point of total disaster.

I’m on your side. But I’m not your monkey. I will fight for what I believe in, and I will always, always point out the Emperor’s lack of garments whether you want me to or not. You pick your fights, I’ll pick mine, and hopefully along the way we’ll wind up with a party strong enough to take our country back and compassionate and ethical enough to make it something worth having.

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

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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:

angry_elf

“…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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Lifestyles of the Witch and Not Famous

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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.

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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…

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TESS FOWLER: Her Rampage Against Rat Queens, aka “Here She Goes Again”

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If you read my blog regularly, you’re probably aware of how I hired comic book artist Tess Fowler to illustrate and paint a cover for my next Doc Wilde novel, of how that turned out to be a very expensive mistake when Tess utterly flaked on the job and kept my money, and of how she publicly (and privately) libeled me after the fact.

This was what she told one editor who asked her about the matter:

“You’re referencing a disturbed man who fired me from a job and then went out of his way to tell a string of lies about me on the internet. He stalked me by phone and internet even as he was about to be committed. I am afraid of him.

“This is a person I have called the police about on more than one occasion. And I am deeply fearful of his lack of stability.

“Thank you for completely wrecking my day by bringing up a person who I look over my shoulder for when I leave the house. If you choose to pursue anything involving him don’t come to me.

“This is a person who had every opportunity to rectify a situation he created. And chose to torture me. Please do not ever write me again.”

This is such complete bullshit that it’s comical. I have chronic depression, and have fought a terrible battle with it for years. She tries to use that to gaslight me, to cast me as unhinged and dangerous. I did not stalk her, I barely even tried to convince her to return to work once it became plain she wasn’t willing to do so. I have never been “committed.” And she never called the police on me, or, if she did, she’s clearly the crazy person here. (To see more of her nonsense about me, check out this post.)

I offered a full account of working with Tess here, built from our actual correspondence, in order to show exactly how the project fell apart and just how difficult she was to work with. My primary motive was to try to help others avoid being victimized as I was. And, indeed, over time, I’ve been approached by others who have also been ripped off by Tess Fowler, some professional, some just fans who commissioned her to do some art for them that they never received.

The latest victims I’ve heard from are Kurtis Wiebe, the creator of the esteemed comic book Rat Queens, and his wife, Shannon. Kurtis hired Tess Fowler to replace the original artist on the book and apparently had an experience that was agonizingly similar to my own. Eventually, they had a very public falling out, and Tess went on the warpath to slander and libel and gaslight both Kurtis and Shannon, threatening to ruin Kurtis’s career by  showing him to be “the worst man in comic books.”

Kurtis hasn’t chosen to share his full account publicly yet (I hope he does at some point), but Shannon shared her side of the sordid tale in a lengthy comment on one of my previous postsHere’s that comment in full because I felt it needed more sunlight than it was getting lost as it was in a comment section under an old post. Much of it is all too familiar… Continue reading

Hillary’s Lying: The Truth About Bernie Sanders & Women’s Issues

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In the very week that she complained about Bernie Sanders’s campaign’s “tone” and its attack ads against her (existence of which her campaign subsequently was unable to prove), Hillary Clinton has reached…well, not a new low, because she’s gone just as low before, but another despicable low. She is using a carefully chosen segment of video from Rachel Maddow’s interview with him this week to portray Bernie Sanders as dismissive of women’s issues.

At a campaign stop yesterday, she said:

“Last night, Sen. Sanders agreed Donald Trump’s comments were shameful, but then he said they were a distraction from the, and I quote, ‘serious discussion about serious issues facing America.’ To me, this is a serious issue, and it is a serious discussion. We need a president who is passionate about this, seeing it as a top priority because women’s health is under assault.”

Bullshit. Clinton is shamelessly smearing Bernie again, misrepresenting a man with perfect 100% lifetime scores with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America regarding support for women’s issues, a man who has always voted the right way to help American women and who has himself championed legislation on these issues.

Not shown in the video they’re circulating was this exchange:

MADDOW: “After, uh, the word spread that Donald Trump had made those remarks today about abortion, that a woman needs to be punished, uh, if she seeks an abortion and abortion should be banned, you said today that was shameful. What is shameful about it?”

SANDERS: “Well, I think it is — shameful is probably understating that position. First of all, to me, and I think to most Americans, women have the right to control their own bodies and they have the right to make those personal decisions themselves. But to punish a woman for having an abortion is beyond comprehension. I — I just — you know, one would say what is in Donald Trump’s mind except we’re tired of saying that? I don’t know what world this person lives in. So obviously, from my perspective, and if elected president, I will do everybody that I can to allow women to make that choice and have access to clinics all over this country so that if they choose to have an abortion, they will be able to do so. The idea of punishing a woman, that is just, you know, beyond comprehension.”

Bernie said that in the very interview Hillary is trying to cite as evidence that  he’s dismissive of the issue.

What Bernie was actually dismissive of was anything said by Donald Trump. He, correctly, pointed out that the media drools over every stupid thing Trump says and he said rather than spending so much time talking about whatever stupid things Trump said on any particular day, the media should consider covering issues that matter. All of which he said after first very clearly making the statements I quote above in unequivocal support of women’s abortion rights.

This is simply dirty politics at its worst, and Hillary Clinton should be ashamed of herself. This is as bad as the time in 2008 her campaign released an image of Barack Obama in traditional African wear including a turban (taken while he was visiting his father’s homeland in 2006, the clothes proffered to him as a gift) so that it would scare white voters into thinking Obama was a Muslim. That whole “Birther” thing, where stupid people think Obama’s a Muslim from Kenya? Clinton started that. The Republicans just took the ball and ran with it.

Beyond the objective facts of his previous record, the truth is that during this campaign Bernie has been even more supportive of  abortion rights than Hillary. After several debates in which the issue was never raised, the candidates were finally asked about it by Bret Baier at the Fox News debate in March. As Mother Jones reported, “Bernie Sanders opposes all abortion restrictions. Hillary Clinton’s stance is murkier.”

BAIER: “Can you name a single circumstance at any point in a pregnancy in which you would be okay with abortion being illegal?”

SANDERS: “It’s not a question of me being okay. Let me be very clear about it. I know not everybody here will agree with me. I happen to believe that it is wrong for the government to be telling a woman what to do with her own body. I think, I believe, and I understand there are honest people. I mean, I have a lot of friends, some supporters, some disagree. They hold a different point of view, and I respect that. But that is my view.

“I’ll tell you something which I don’t like in this debate. There are a whole lot of people out there who tell me the government is terrible, government is awful, get government off our backs. My Republican friends want to cut Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, education. But somehow on this issue, they want to tell every woman in America what she should do with her body.”

BAIER: “I guess the genesis of the question is that there are some Democrats who say after five months, with the exception of the life of the mother or the health of the baby, that perhaps that’s something to look at. You’re saying no.”

SANDERS: “I am very strongly pro-choice. That is a decision to be made by the woman, her physician and her family. That’s my view.”

So, no ifs, ands, or buts. No equivocation. Bernie Sanders supports a woman’s right to choose absolutely.

How about Hillary Clinton?

BAIER: “Do you think a child should have any legal rights or protections before it’s born? Or do you think there should not be any restrictions on any abortions at any stage in a pregnancy?”

CLINTON: “…Under Roe v. Wade, which is rooted in the Constitution, women have this right to make this highly personal decision with their family in accordance with their faith, with their doctor. It’s not much of a right if it is totally limited and constrained. So I think we have to continue to stand up for a woman’s right to make these decisions…”

BAIER: “Just to be clear, there’s no — without any exceptions?”

CLINTON: “No. I have been on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother. I object to the recent effort in Congress to pass a law saying after 20 weeks, you know, no such exceptions, because although these are rare, Bret, they sometimes arise in the most complex, difficult medical situation…And so I think it is — under Roe v. Wade, it is appropriate to say, in these circumstances [we can have exceptions], so long as there’s an exception for the life and health of the mother.”

So, while Bernie stands against any restrictions to a woman’s right to choose, Clinton is open to late-term restrictions as long as exceptions are allowed if the woman’s health or life are endangered. That’s consistent with the stance she stated last September on MSNBC:

“I am where I have been, which is that if there’s a way to structure some kind of constitutional restriction that takes into account the life of the mother and her health, then I’m open to that. But I have yet to see the Republicans willing to actually do that, and that would be an area, where if they included health, you could see constitutional action.”

Constitutional actionConstitutional restriction. So, basically, if the Republicans are willing to allow some abortions in cases where the mother is endangered, she is willing to restrict, at least somewhat, women’s right to choose. And whether you agree with her on that or not, she certainly is in no position to claim the high ground over Sanders on this issue, and she is simply lying to the American people when she disparages him in this way.

You know how much of a warrior for women’s rights Bernie Sanders is? You know how much a warrior for all of our peoples’ rights Bernie Sanders is? Read this account about how domestic violence issues and legal entanglements on Native American reservations inspired him to fight for legislation that would help these women:

“The Native struggle also owes its marginalization to the complexity of the laws that govern it. For example, the tangled web of tribal and federal law nominally gives tribes the right to govern themselves. However, until recently, tribes had no authority to prosecute violent crimes that happen within their reservation boundaries. For years, whites could commit violent crimes on reservations and remain untouchable to tribal police.

“This legal nightmare extended even over marriage. It prevented Diane Millich, an Ute woman living on a southern Colorado reservation, from seeking any protection against her white husband, who beat her regularly. The Southern Ute Tribal Police could not arrest him and, because the couple lived on the Ute reservation, the husband resided outside the jurisdiction of the La Plata County sheriff. Millich went to the federal authorities for help and received none. In fact, Millich’s domestic nightmare would likely have continued had her husband not shown up to her office one day and shot her co-worker.

It is this absurd and dangerous state of affairs that led Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to co-sponsor the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which expanded tribal governments’ jurisdiction over domestic violence crimes and provided funds for tribal criminal justice systems and victim services.

“It is Sen. Sanders’ recognition of the deplorable conditions on tribal reservations that has led him to become the first presidential candidate to actively involve Native Americans in his campaign. The most promising sign of that involvement arrived on February 22, when Sanders appointed Tara Houska, an attorney and member of Couchiching First Nation, as the Native American advisor to his campaign.”

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Bernie Sanders with Native elders before his rally in Seattle

Bernie Sanders cares deeply for women. He cares deeply for children. He cares so deeply for all of us that he even reaches out to those who are traditionally mostly ignored by our government and our politicians on the campaign trail. Bernie’s the first candidate to EVER actively involve Native Americans and their issues in his campaign. In addition to appointing Tara Houska as his campaign’s Native American advisor, this was reported in February:

“[Sanders advisor] Nicole Willis announced that presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders was creating a policy advisory committee on Native American issues. She said the committee’s membership will be announced soon.

“She said Sanders has already announced that he will continue President Obama’s tribal nations conference, keep a senior Native American advisor on staff at the White House, and work to restore tribal jurisdiction to improve local decision-making. He also pledged to expand the Violence Against Women Act and find additional funding for the Generation Indigenous initiative.

“Willis said that Sen. Sanders pledged to have a climate change summit within the first 100 days of his administration and that tribes would be included as full participants…”

And if you need more evidence, watch this short video from when Bernie went to speak at evangelical Liberty University and was asked about abortion. He not only addresses the extremely conservative crowd with respect, he earns their respect in turn though they disagree, and even gets some cheers. And throughout, he stands firm in his dedication to the right to choose.

Don’t let Hillary Clinton lie to you: Bernie Sanders fights for women, and he always has.

Please share this post. Let’s keep the lies from taking root.

 

When Bernie Sanders Throws His Mighty Shield…

 

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I just returned from visiting Nydia,  my amazing inamorata, in Brazil for a couple of months where, among other more psychologically healthy activities, we spent a great deal of time tracking the American election. Last week, as we sat eating airport food, drearily counting the minutes before I had to depart, I noticed the latest of many Captain America t-shirts I’d seen worn by Brazilians during the visit.

I told Nyd I was heartened to see the shirts, and the popularity of the character, who I see as a true symbol of the American ideal, not the jingoistic symbol of American imperialism seen by some. And I credited that popularity to the Marvel films, and Chris Evans’s very human, very decent, very noble portrayal of Steve Rogers. Captain America isn’t propagandistic, he’s aspirational.

“Captain America is Bernie Sanders,” I told her. “They’re both old guys from Brooklyn with superhuman stamina, dedicated to New Deal policies, still fighting to protect the weak from the powerful, unflinching in their belief in the American dream.”

Later, back home in the states, I saw author Catherynne Valente tweet, “Clinton is Black Widow (troubled past, does the right thing eventually) Sanders is Hulk, always angry, no one is Cap.” I have a lot of respect for Ms. Valente, but I disagree.

First off, Clinton ain’t much like the Black Widow. She lacks the Widow’s metaphorical agility as a campaigner, and when she takes aim at her opponent, her shots almost always miss or ricochet back and hit her. I’ll grant she has a “troubled past,” if you really want to undersell the problems with Clinton’s record, but that very record shows she actually doesn’t really do the right thing eventually unless it’s politically expedient or she has to because she’s forced to “walk back” a stance or action because of political damage. She does have a great deal of “red in her ledger,” blood on her hands, in places like Haiti and Iraq and Libya and Honduras, places that have suffered terribly because of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton’s ruthless political calculus. But the Widow owns up to her acts, and, in The Winter Soldier, even released the transcripts records to the internet, taking full responsibility for her misdeeds and working to redeem herself for them.

Hillary won’t even share the content of a few speeches she made to Wall Street, much less acknowledge the terrible human impact of her decisions over the years.

And Bernie as the Hulk? No. The Hulk’s anger is unreasoning, destructive rage. Bernie is angry, yes, as he should be, but he is not destructive. He is protective, nurturing, and constructive. And he is anything but unreasoning; just watch the video of him speaking to the students at evangelical Liberty University, where he engages them with respect and gets respect in return though their philosophies are radically opposed.

I’d say Donald Trump is the Hulk, but he lacks the Hulk’s dignity and compassion. Hell, he lacks the Hulk’s intellect.

But no, Bernie is definitely Captain America.

One of the best pieces I’ve ever read on Captain America is by Steven Attewell, and in it he addresses Steve Rogers’s political identity:

“Steve Rogers isn’t a jingoistic conservative asshole…Unlike many other patriotic characters who derive their virtues from the American heartlands, Steve Rogers grew up in the cosmopolitan multi-cultural world of New York City. He came of age in New York City at a time when the New Deal was in full swing, Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor, the American Labor Party was a major force in city politics, labor unions were on the move, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was organizing to fight fascism in Spain in the name of the Popular Front, and a militant anti-racist movement was growing that equated segregation at home with Nazism abroad that will eventually feed into the ‘Double V’ campaign.

“Then he became a fine arts student. To be an artist in New York City in the 1930s was to be surrounded by the ‘Cultural Front.’ We’re talking the WPA Arts and Theater Projects, Diego Rivera painting socialist murals in Rockefeller Center, Orson Welles turning Julius Caesar into an anti-fascist play and running an all-black Macbeth and ‘The Cradle Will Rock,’ Paul Robeson was a major star, and so on. You couldn’t really be an artist and have escaped left-wing politics. And if a poor kid like Steve Rogers was going to college as a fine arts student, odds are very good that he was going to the City College of New York at a time when an 80% Jewish student body is organizing student trade unions, anti-fascist rallies, and the ‘New York Intellectuals’ were busily debating Trotskyism vs. Stalinism vs. Norman Thomas Socialism vs. the New Deal in the dining halls and study carrels.

“And this Steve Rogers, who’s been exposed to all of what New York City has to offer, becomes an explicit anti-fascist. In the fall of 1940, over a year before Pearl Harbor, he first volunteers to join the army to fight the Nazis specifically. This isn’t an apolitical patriotism forged out of a sense that the U.S has been attacked; rather, Steve Rogers had come to believe that Nazism posed an existential threat to the America he believed in. New Deal America.

“Captain America didn’t ‘share 40’s values’ – a reductive label assuming that everyone alive in 1940 was either a racial bigot, a misogynist, a homophobe, and an unthinking militarist, and handily ignores the people of color, women, gays, and left-wing activists who were hard at work to change American society for the better – he exemplified from the beginning the ideal that America could be. Thus Steve Rogers led the Invaders (a multispecies and multinational Allied superhero force) into Europe to fight fascism, he fought with Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos, a racially integrated fighting force from the beginning, and fought with the French Resistance rather than snidely repeating anachronistic cheese-eating surrender monkey jokes.

“Thus when Captain America is unfrozen in the 1960s, he’s not freaked out by the changes in racial progress – instead, he forms an instant partnership with one of the first black superheroes, the Falcon, who movie audiences just met for the first time, and the two of them go toe to toe against an insane imposter Captain America who’s obsessed about communists under the bed. The analogy cannot be more pointed: the real Captain America stands for racial equality and civil liberties, the Captain America who believes that the government needs to ‘smash’ reds by any means necessary is a fraud. In the 1980s, Steve Rogers runs into a childhood friend, Arnold Roth, who happens to be gay – and Steve Rogers defends his friend from bigoted violence, because Steve Rogers is a good man.

“In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when Steve Rogers is unfrozen in the ice in 2011, he’s not here to be startled by our progressive values. He’s here to judge us for falling short of his – and that’s the entire crux of the plot of Winter Soldier. When Steve Rogers wakes up in post ‘New York’ America and sees SHIELD preparing a giant fleet of sniper drones that’s going to be used to cull the human race based on meta-data that supposedly predicts the bad things people might do in the future, he immediately calls this out as inherently incompatible with the Constitution and the ideals that Steve Rogers fought and essentially died for. He puts his faith on ordinary soldiers and rank-and-file officers to do what’s right, not the corrupt or blinded authorities personified respectively by Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson. And his solution to SHIELD/HYDRA’s plan for world domination through mass murder is not only to sacrifice himself to save the world (again), but also to release all of SHIELD’s secrets to the world.”

Did I say that Bernie Sanders is Captain America? Bernie Sanders is Captain America.

 

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A few years ago, writer J. Michael Straczynski put these words in Steve Rogers’s dialogue balloon:

“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world: No, YOU move.”

That is exactly what Bernie Sanders is doing. He’s telling the Democratic establishment and the GOP and the media and the big money special interests, No, YOU move.

And the people of America are hearing him. And they’re starting to plant their feet as well.

(NOTE: A while back, I had a really interesting discussion about Captain America and his place in America’s political psyche. I posted it here.)

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Art by Danny Kelly

Maybe It’s Not The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Maybe It’s Just Your Candidate.

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I’m still seeing many people clinging to the argument that a lot of the stuff we see online that is critical of Hillary Clinton is either from sinister right-wing operatives or from gullible left-wingers who have been tricked by those operatives into not supporting the party-ordained candidate. Someone just posted a mini-rant (inspired by a New York Times piece) about Republicans posting anti-Hillary tweets so that liberals will repost them and be turned against Hillary…

Wait, what?

If the liberals are reposting these insidious tweets, they’re doing so because they agree with them already. They’re not being hypnotized by the totemic power of 140 well-chosen characters to achieve a sudden right-wing epiphany that Clinton doesn’t represent their views. If a GOP agent provocateur tweets “I love chocolate,” even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if some chocolate-loving Democrats agreed and retweeted.

Are there right-wing operatives out there in social media trying to manipulate voters? Of course. There are also confirmed accounts of the Clinton campaign using Karl Rovian tactics like push polls to try to dishonestly manipulate Democratic voters into believing false things about Bernie Sanders and his policies. That was the same tactic Rove used for Bush in South Carolina when the pollsters were telling racist voters John McCain had a little black baby. The Clinton camp and its surrogates have also, for months, tried tactics varying from implying that Bernie Sanders is just like Hugo Chavez, the ex- strongman dictator of Venezuela, to having the candidate herself lie straight in voters’ faces over and over again that Sanders plans to completely abolish Obamacare and then start all over on the healthcare issue. That simple lie — used constantly, the classic political “Big Lie” — has gone mostly unchallenged by the media and has misled many voters into thinking that their coverage is in danger if they vote for the guy who is actually trying to get them better, more affordable coverage.

This is, of course, the same Hillary whose campaign in 2008 released a picture of Barack Obama wearing traditional Kenyan garments, including a turban, in order to frighten voters into thinking he was a muslim, as well as resorting to other underhanded tactics designed to capitalize on white people’s base ignorance and xenophobia about foreigners and black people in general.

Which is worse? Republicans dishonestly trying to manipulate Democrats, or Democratic politicians cynically lying to manipulate their own voters?

How about when you see a liberal friend criticizing Hillary, or supporting Bernie, just give them the benefit of a doubt. Maybe, like you, they’ve come to their decision on their own terms, according to their own experience and values, and they have reached different conclusions than you have. Respect them, and engage them, and change their minds by reasonable sharing of information and ideas if you can. But stop projecting all this nonsense that if people disagree with you, it’s the Republicans’ fault.

Mostly, it’s Hillary Clinton’s fault.

In Matters of Principle, Stand Like a Rock: A Plea To Your Better Angels

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Beautiful.

This is why I support Bernie Sanders. He’s a Hail Mary pass against all the entropy and corruption and business-as-usual. His roots are in New Deal America, and his roots are strong. He is running because he wants better for us, for ALL of us, and for our children, and he is willing, has always been willing, to fight like hell to get it for us. He represents a nearly impossibly rare opportunity to do great things, to reach for goals that elevate us as a people, to work for an America that truly belongs to us all.

A vote for Bernie is a vote for our people, our land, our country.

Please vote.

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
Thomas Jefferson

A Special Place In Hell: Hillary Clinton vs. The Women Who Don’t Support Her

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Gloria Steinem looking for boys, 1996

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Thus spake Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State to Bill Clinton, with Hillary Clinton laughing gleefully by her side. The “women who don’t help each other” she was talking about were the very, very many women supporting Senator Bernie Sanders for the presidency instead of Mrs. Clinton. Essentially, Albright’s (and presumably Hillary’s) message was that if a woman dares to not vote for Clinton, she can go to hell.

Meanwhile, Gloria Steinem made comments on behalf of Clinton in which she said that the main reason young women are supporting Bernie Sanders is to meet boys. How disappointing it is to hear that sort of condescending bullshit from one of the guiding lights of feminism. In a single breath, she denies the political agency of millions of women to make their own informed decisions, and infantilizes them as acting emotionally rather than rationally simply because they aren’t falling in line and showing the proper obeisance to her candidate.

After an online shitstorm of outrage over her comments, Steinem is backpedaling in a clumsy bit of damage control and trying to play it off as a joke. But this isn’t the first time she’s made such condescending (matronizing?) comments about women who don’t support Hillary. A while back, she implied that women weren’t supporting Clinton because when they looked at the Clintons, it subconsciously reminded them of issues they had in their own marriages and that made them uncomfortable.

So, to Gloria Steinem, if you’re a woman and you don’t support her friend Hillary, it absolutely must be because you’re either immature and horny (if you’re one of the women under 45 who support Bernie Sanders 2:1) or driven to neurotic distraction by your marital difficulties (presumably if you’re a woman old enough to be assumed immune to your glandular drives). It can’t possibly be because you’re intelligent and have looked at the candidates, their policies, and their comportment as leaders and come to your own rational conclusions.

It’s an odd form of empowerment that demands obeisance and subservience.

Mother Jones recently ran an article titled “That Time Bernie Sanders Said He Was a Bigger Feminist Than His Female Opponent,” referring to the 1986 gubernatorial election in which Sanders was running against the incumbent, Madeleine Kunin. The writer plays on the reflexive outrage of such male presumption, and Sanders lost that race, but ironically ten years later in a congressional race against another female candidate:

“…feminist writer Gloria Steinem traveled to Vermont to endorse Sanders, joking that she’d come to make the congressman ‘an honorary woman.’ Another speaker, a female state senator, emphasized Sanders’ feminist credentials. ‘As we know, to be a feminist a person does not have to be a woman,’ she said. ‘A feminist is a person who challenges the power structure of this country…Bernie Sanders is that kind of feminist.'”

That senator, her decisions no doubt driven by neurosis or puberty, is surely going to hell.

Recently, I saw a woman post this in a discussion on Facebook:

“Don’t let anybody – ANYBODY – tell you not to vote based on gender. We’ve elected presidents of this country for 250 years based on gender. The white men (and women with Stockholm Syndrome) telling you otherwise, are guilty of supporting yet another white man because, whether they are conscious of their internalized biases or not, they aren’t truly ready for a women in charge. It is clear as day that Hillary is vastly more qualified for the job. Period. Truth be told: there will never be the ‘right’ women for these people.”

Now, first thing, I’m not going to tell you not to vote based on gender, or whatever other criteria you choose. That’s your right, and frankly, all things being equal, I’d vote for the female candidate in a heartbeat because I do, genuinely, think having a woman president is a damned important milestone we need to hit, and soon. If I thought, based on their records and policy and what I’ve been able to gauge of their character, that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were roughly equivalent, the gender factor would probably be the factor that swung me to vote for Hillary. But I don’t see them as equal at all, so I can’t commit to her just because she’s sort of okay in the usual corporate Democrat way, and also a woman.

And that’s me. You may be different, that’s fine, that’s the very nature of our sort-of-in-a-way democratic system. You decide based on what you want to decide on, I’ll do likewise, and we’ll argue about it and then settle it at the polls.

But read that quote up there again. This is, actually, from a professional writer,* a very smart woman, but a woman so blinded by her own viewpoint that she’s not even capable of granting respect to other women who decide to support the opposing candidate based on whatever criteria they decide. If you don’t support Hillary as a male voter, plainly that’s just sexism, of course, but if you’re a woman and don’t support her, it’s because you’re a victim of Stockholm Syndrome and “internalized biases” you’re not conscious of. If you aren’t willing to support the woman candidate JUST BECAUSE, then she is willing to deny you the very agency of your own thoughts and observations and decisions.

I find that fairly despicable.

Vote how you want. If gender is the only thing that matters to you, knock yourself out. But really, do you have to be such an asshole about it?

*( WHOOPS: I was wrong, she’s not a writer. She’s — get this — an actual Wall Street executive who used to be with Morgan Stanley. Consider the source…?)

Then there’s this, from the very smart and gifted Rebecca Traister in an article in Elle:
“[Hillary’s]…been tepid in her support of abortion rights; she has cozied up to Wall Street and big banks, drawing huge speaking fees and donations from the financial institutions that the next president should aggressively regulate. In the Senate, she deployed dismaying rhetoric against immigration rights, once describing herself as ‘adamantly against illegal immigrants,’ and it took her…way too long to support gay marriage.”
Yet the entire article is about how Traister, despite huge reservations about Hillary, will vote for Hillary anyway because Hillary is a woman.

I’m sympathetic. I look forward to seeing the first female POTUS, too, and as a white guy I’m forced to admit that such a milestone is by definition much more important to many women than it is to me. That doesn’t mean, however, that it is not important to me, nor that I am a misogynist for not supporting Clinton (an accusation I’ve suffered through already from devout Clinton supporters). What it means is that I’m aware of the big flaws in Clinton that the writer herself acknowledges, as well as others, and I’m able to rationally compare what she has to offer to what Bernie Sanders has to offer.

Again, if I were doing a “Plus-side/Minus-side” chart of the two candidates, I’d put “Is a woman” on the plus side for Hillary, and “Is a white guy” on the minus side for Bernie just because I do want our culture to hit that milestone. Unfortunately for Hillary, my chart wouldn’t stop there, though it seems to for many of her supporters.

“There will be sexism, veiled and direct, from the right and the left,” Traister writes. “Democratic women will feel screwed by their friends all over again, as I did in August when I saw a poll showing Clinton ahead of her Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders by a mere 6 points with the party’s men and 44 points with its women: a 38-percentage-point gender gap that seemed to speak volumes about how much men on the left care about women’s leadership…”

I’d say that it speaks more to the fact of how much some women on the left care more about having a woman in office than they do about actual policy. Yet even with women, Clinton isn’t an overwhelming choice: her support among Democratic women, which was nearly universal when she started this campaign, has plummeted to ridiculous levels; twice as many women under 45 support Bernie Sanders as support her, and even a third of women her own age support him. So the strong majority of Democratic women clearly aren’t ignoring matters of candidate history and policy in the name of gender, and it’s a lot harder to accuse them of veiled misogyny. (Which is why they’re resorting to accusations of neurosis and immaturity.)

There’s a woman in my Facebook feed who I don’t know personally but whose work as a writer I have great respect for, and I see her post often about how great Hillary is, about how progressive she is, about how naive it is to think that Bernie (or anybody) can stand up to the wonderful Hillary Clinton. But, for me, everything she posts is tainted by the first comment on the matter I saw her post in which she showed anger at Sanders supporters and said something to the effect of “If these assholes keep us from getting a woman president and we just get another fucking white guy, I’m going to kick some asses.”

I support Bernie Sanders not just because he has been an unmatched progressive warrior for decades, not just because he is a man of unflinching integrity, not just because he stands solidly against the corrupt power of huge corporations and Wall Street rather than coddling them and taking their money, not just because he doesn’t coldly calculate every stance he takes based on polling and focus groups, not just because he’s not the safe choice of entrenched party power, and most definitely not at all because he’s a man. I support Bernie Sanders because I see in him an opportunity all-too-rare to actually make a huge difference in our government and our country. An opportunity for positive change on a New Deal scale.

Fortunately, more and more of my fellow voters, men and women, are seeing that in him too. Some may proclaim they’ll see us in hell…I see it more as we’re trying to get to America.

How The Democrats Can Give Us A Republican President

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We hear a lot of nonsense spin about not voting for Bernie Sanders because he’s “not electable.”

When you point out that in pretty much all the polls, for months, Sanders has outperformed Clinton (often by a large margin) when matched up against any specific GOP candidate, the data is handwavingly dismissed because “Hillary has low numbers because she’s been under attack for decades, but Sanders is untested.”

Other than the fact that the entire corporate power structure of the Democratic party is trying to squash him, of course.

And never mind the fact that in the past year, as both candidates have shown the people who they are and what they stand for, Sanders’s favorability numbers have soared from the low 30s to nearly 90% while Clinton’s have plummeted from the mid-70s to 39%. It can literally be said that most voters, whether they support him or not, genuinely like Bernie Sanders. The same is not true of Hillary Clinton.

All the same, while the polls consistently show Sanders beating GOP candidates by a larger margin than her, they do (usually) also show Clinton beating them. So if things continue along this track, it appears that either of them is actually electable, though Bernie would be the more certain bet.

Part of Bernie’s strength is that he has enormous blocs of voters who are incredibly passionate about his candidacy. Within the Democratic party, he has a two-to-one edge over Hillary among all voters under 45. Let me say that again: ALL DEMOCRATS UNDER 45 prefer Bernie by a two-to-one margin. And anyone who tells you that young people won’t turn out to vote hasn’t been paying attention to the tens of thousands of people who show up to see Bernie speak, or who spontaneously marched in support of him in cities coast to coast recently. The young people will be there for Bernie. He doesn’t do as well among older, longtime Democrats, though he still has a lot of support; even a third of Baby Boomer women, Hillary’s core demographic, support Bernie.

And many polls don’t even count independent voters, most of whom support Bernie, or the surprising number of crossover Republican voters who can’t stand their own candidates but see in Bernie a man of integrity they can get behind.

So much for the “electability” nonsense.

We also often see folks saying “whoever you support in the primaries, just be sure to support the winner in the general election.” And that’s a reasonable and rational request. There’s not a man or woman who has stood on a Republican debate stage who is qualified for the presidency, and some of them (the frontrunners, naturally) are simply monstrous and would be total disasters for our country and the world. Most sapient people would prefer either Clinton or Sanders to any of the snarling buffoons of the GOP, so the principle of supporting whoever ultimately winds up opposing them is obvious. And most people will do exactly that.

Except…

Except, young voters are pretty notorious for their lack of participation, and while many of those now fired up about Bernie Sanders will remain engaged even if he loses the nomination, the unfortunate likelihood is that many of them won’t. There will be anger, yes, but I don’t think that’s what will lead them to stay away on election day. I think it will be the nihilistic feeling that their vote doesn’t count after all. Bernie will have given them hope that an establishment they see as hidebound and corrupt could be successfully challenged and changed, and that hope will have been crushed. To a demographic that is already tragically, even stupidly, disengaged, that loss of hope will prove enough to keep many from bothering to cast a vote for anybody.

I’m not supporting that attitude even a little bit. But I do recognize it as a political reality. Many more people will turn out to vote if Bernie Sanders is the nominee, and they will support the Democratic candidates in other races when they do. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, she, and all the other Dems on the ballots, will lose those disillusioned young voters.

That, in itself, may not be enough to tilt the election to Trump or whichever other malignant pustule the Republicans nominate. Hopefully not. But let me tell you what almost certainly will:

If Bernie Sanders wins the nomination by popular vote but Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment steal it from him, and buck the will of the majority of voters, through process maneuvers.

As someone commented today on Facebook, “If there’s a cabal of Democratic Party insiders who will choose the candidate no matter who the Democratic voters want, then I am not a Democrat. If the majority of voters go with Clinton, then I’ll vote Clinton. If more of them want Sanders and the party chooses Clinton anyway then I will do everything I can to turn the Democratic Party into an irrelevant third party.”

Today’s the day of the Iowa caucus, and it’s being reported that the Clinton camp has been training their supporters to game the caucus results wherever possible to keep Martin O’Malley’s delegates from going to Bernie Sanders. The fact that this is possible is one of many terrible things about the caucusing system (and the primary system in general, and our electoral system at large), and the fact that Clinton is falling back on it shows just how desperate, and ruthless, she is. Though she can game the caucuses, the fact that she will is troubling, especially after months of obvious unethical favoritism shown her by the Democratic National Committee and its unfortunate head, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

At the same time, while Bernie endures an avalanche of attacks from the establishment media and pundits and Democratic party insiders, much of it disingenuous and a lot of it verging on character assassination (compare Chris Cuomo’s loaded questions to Sanders to the fanboy bootlicking he gave Clinton) Nancy Pelosi herself is making a point of saying that many of the great things Bernie Sanders wants to do for the American people will not happen, not because of Republican intransigence but because her Democrats won’t work with him to make needed change. That’s right: Nancy Fucking Pelosi, the absolute mascot of the Democratic corporate establishment, basically just threatened to stamp her feet and pull a Mitch McConnell if Democratic voters don’t choose the candidate that she wants them to.

How dare the voters think they have the right to decide who wins an election?

And then, ahead, we have the existential threat to democracy that is the superdelegates. Another of the bugs in our electoral system, the superdelegates are the very essence of the establishment looking out for the establishment:

A “superdelegate” or an “unpledged delegate” is a delegate to the Democratic National Convention or Republican National Convention that is seated automatically, based on their status as current (Republican and Democratic) or former (Democratic only) party leader or elected official. (From Wikipedia)

Superdelegates are unelected, they have significant power (especially in a close election like this one), and they are the political party’s way of saying “No, no, never mind, we’ve got this” to the voters.

For months, hundreds of superdelegates have been already pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton. Why wait to see what the people want? The establishment has chosen, after all.

So, what happens if Bernie Sanders wins the primaries according to the will of the Democratic voters, but then the party sics the superdelegates on him and manages to give the nomination to Hillary Clinton? I’ll tell you:

All those Bernie Sanders voters get really, really fucking pissed.

Then, you know, voters are human, and voters are emotional, and voters don’t always do the “reasonable” thing. I think, combined with the lower turnout among younger voters, the backlash among angry voters who actually won the vote for the nomination only to have it stolen from them could well sink what is otherwise a very good chance for the next president to be a Democrat.

Bernie’s supporters will almost all vote for Hillary if she wins the nomination fair and square. But if she, and her longtime cronies and pals, insist on stealing it?

Get ready for President The Donald, or something just as bad.

Captain America And The Real Myths Told By Superheroes (A Discussion)

A few years ago, when the first Captain America film came out, I was visiting my friend Phil Rockstroh. Phil is “a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City,” so leftist he makes me look like Ronald Reagan, and he watched the film with me. To him, of course, Steve Rogers was the very major model of a modern jingoistic character designed to arouse fascistic and nationalistic feelings in the weak-minded.

I tried pointing out that Cap had been created by a couple of Jewish kids trying to encourage Americans to stand against the Nazi threat in Europe before America was even in the war. I tried to delineate the progressive values Captain America has shown over the decades, and how at every point in the film, the creators subverted the potential jingoism that can, indeed, be a part of such a character. I predicted that in future films we would see a very strong anti-authoritarian theme at work in not just the Captain America films but in Marvel films in general. And I’m happy to say I was right.

Recently, while discussing the Joss Whedon/Black Widow foofaraw, we revisited the topic and the discussion got interesting, so I’m sharing it here. Making an occasional contribution is my friend Ed Hall,  a writer and the co-editor of Mothership: Tales From Afrofuturism and Beyond. Continue reading

I’m Not Your Dummy — And Neither Is Joss Whedon (Part 2 of 2) (UPDATED 10/2017)

Art by Cliff Chiang

[Read Part 1, “I’m Not Your Dummy — Why No One Should Have To Be “The Right Kind of Ally,” here.]

Joss Whedon is a feminist.

He claims the term as a central pillar of his identity. He exerts a great deal of his creative energy on crafting narratives which focus on complex, strong female characters, and behind the scenes he goes out of his way to create opportunities for female creatives. He is a persistent activist in feminist causes like Equality Now, and has been an outspoken supporter of feminist targets of misogynistic harassment like (the awesome) Anita Sarkeesian.

But Joss is not the “right kind of ally.”

Last week, after Avengers: Age of Ultron opened (the film from my dream in part 1), there was a vicious shitstorm of online invective against him because of his treatment of the Black Widow in the film. He also left Twitter, without saying why, and many assumed it was because of the abuse. Or, as one blogger derisively put it, “Feminist and female writers take issue with black widow depiction. A lot of them do. Joss gets saddy pants and leaves Twitter.”

That same blogger was full of scorn for Joss and admiration for “what these intelligent and brilliant women wrote about their concerns with avengers 2…” And what sort of intelligent, brilliant commentary did we see?

Continue reading

I’m Not Your Dummy — Why No One Should Have To Be “The Right Kind of Ally” (Part 1 of 2)

So I woke up one morning way too fucking early, with a dream dying in my head…

I’m at a huge theater with my girlfriend and my son, waiting to see the first showing of the new Avengers movie, and a nasty racial brawl is about to break out over a stupid misunderstanding. Something annoying was said, someone replied with annoyance, and several others took that as deliberate insult. A spark of irritation falls toward a volatile pool of abiding resentment. Huge violence is about to happen.

I just want to watch the movie, but am also naturally concerned about the fact that we’re smack in the middle of a crowd about to run riot. So I foolishly interject, redirecting the ringleader’s anger my way, focusing the conflict down to me and him rather than everybody. He rushes me and I back away, drawing him from the group. I don’t fight him, I don’t submit to his violence, I try to placate him, to calm him, to help him see that I was just trying to get his attention and there’s no reason to fight. This being a dream, it works. We laugh awkwardly and return to our seats. Everybody gets to see the movie, nobody’s going to bleed or die.

And I awoke. It was still dark, and I’d gotten maybe four or five hours sleep, but I was wide awake. I found myself ruminating about a recent blog post I wrote, and about the reaction it got (and didn’t get). Only after I gave in to the inevitable and got up, while I steeped some hot tea, did I make the connection between that rumination and the dream which preceded it. Continue reading

TESS FOWLER Rips Off Another Fan

Soul Eater

Artist Tess Fowler’s dishonesty and lack of integrity are no secret to those who follow my blog, or to those who were looking forward to the book she took a lot of my money to do art for and then did not deliver. And I’m not the only poor, unfortunate soul who has fallen victim to her; as I’ve reported before, I’ve heard from several others whom she’s ripped off. Those folks chose not to go public with their accounts, for which they have their reasons, but it’s unfortunate because it contributes to the vulnerability of others who may hire her and be likewise victimized.

But another of her marks has finally come forward, eager to share his story.

I don’t know Wayne Bertrand, Jr. He lives in Texas, and is apparently into tattoos and motorcycles. He is also an avid activist for child welfare, and a member of BACA, Bikers Against Child Abuse.

Wayne was a big fan of Tess Fowler’s art, which is why he commissioned her to do a special painting for him, for which he paid her $300. Months passed and no painting was forthcoming. When Wayne contacted her, she deflected his queries saying she was working on it.

Ultimately, Wayne complained to PayPal to try to get his money back, but a lot of time had passed, and Tess promised the service she would honor the deal and throw in a couple of extra pieces for Wayne’s trouble.

Then she blocked Wayne on social media and ignored all further attempts at communication.

That was over two years ago. Wayne has never received any artwork, nor any of his money back.

Toward the end of his message to me, Wayne summed Tess up as well as anyone ever could:

She is a crook. Sad thing is I like her artwork.

It’s a shame that someone with Tess’s gifts chooses to use them as bait to steal money from her fans.

UPDATE: Tess victimizes the creator of the comic Rat Queens and his wife. Read it here.

Writers Who Kill Kittens

Don't lets the mean writer killz me...

Don’t lets the mean writer killz me…

So, I’m reading a discussion about how we should or shouldn’t let a writer’s politics affect our enjoyment of their fiction, and I see this:

“I don’t give the yuck cut of a rat for any writer’s politics. Can they tell a story that I’m going to enjoy and read over and over? Then I’ll damn well read them despite their politics. The only reason I won’t read Pournelle isn’t political, he stapled a kitten to a door. Once you start torturing cats…we’re done.”

Holy shit. Jerry Pournelle stapled a kitten to a door? That’s a horrible thing to do. What an asshole.

Oh, someone clarifies that the poor kitten was actually just in a story. Whew.

Then, the original commenter digs in: “Anyone tortures a cat in their fiction and I won’t read them again. Yeah, it was in one of Pournelle’s novels. But for it to be in one of his novels, he had to think of it.”

Good grief. I just had this argument (again) with people who think that George RR Martin is a monstrous woman-hater because terrible things happen to his female characters in books in which terrible things happen to everybody. (Never mind the fact that the women in Martin’s books are strong and fierce and smart and competent and complex…)

People, fiction is fiction. It is not real life. Depiction of terrible things is not endorsement of terrible things. Depiction of terrible things is drama. It is the fuel of fiction. The first rule of good drama is to mistreat your characters. And maybe even the occasional kitten.

Hating on a writer for what happens in their story is stupid. It’s no better than hating an actor as a person because she played a terrible person in that movie you saw and therefore must be a terrible person.

This isn’t to say that awful people don’t sometimes lace their awfulness into their work, or that they shouldn’t be taken to task over it. Some writers are racists and sexists and nazis and maybe even kitten killers. I’m not gonna defend The Turner Diaries for its very clear agenda (though I will fiercely defend its author’s right to write it any damn way he wanted to).

And if an author states vile opinions outside of their fiction which resonate with themes in their fiction, they’re inviting criticism on those terms so they’re fair game. If you want to peek inside the brains of some truly awful folks, read the blogs written by the “Sad Puppies” and “Rabid Puppies” groups who’ve hijacked science fiction’s Hugo Awards this year. Writers like Theodore Beale aka “Vox Day”, Tom Kratman, and John C. Wright are writers you can comfortably read knowing that they’re the very worst sort of person. Here’s some reasoned debate I saw from Kratman, on Sad Puppy Brad Torgersen’s blog, when some guy mildly disagreed with him:

Kratman

He went on like this for a while, threatening to track the guy down and hurt him. So yeah, douchebag. Sling all the brickbats.

But, in general, assuming that a writer condones terrible things because those things happen in their stories is not just simple-minded, it’s anti-art. Have some goddamned perspective, for pity’s sake. Fight the good fight, not just any possible fight. Don’t like an author’s work? That’s fine, don’t read it. But leave the poor author alone.

No kittens were harmed in the writing of this post.

The Creature from the Blog Lagoon (ABC Wednesday, 1/29/14)

C is for Creature

We all know the creature.

The monster. The dangerous thing, stalking, creeping, hunting in the silence of the night. Hairy, clawed, savage. Less than human…or is it?

For me, and many others who grew up with Universal monster movies, the word creature evokes the Creature From The Black Lagoon. Who, when you get down to it, is clawed and savage, but not so hairy. The Creature stalks and kidnaps the gorgeous Julie Adams, mesmerized by her preternatural beauty, no doubt with thoughts of ichthyological rape and scaly little spawn cavorting in the lagoon’s dark waters. The movie he’s in is undeniably a “monster movie,” but is he a monster? No. But he is, obviously, a beast, an animal, an inhuman thing. A creature. He operates on instinct more than thought, and in his case, because he comes into conflict with anti-instinctual man, it proves his undoing. Had he stayed hidden, not tried to woo, in his way, the beauty (a common failing among beasts), he would never have been harpooned, brought to man’s world, had his gills sliced off (a clumsy attempt to make a man of him), and ultimately killed.

Stories often warn us that this is what will happen if we let our creature side out. Our instinct. Our wild. Our Id. We aren’t animals, right? Never mind the blood and bile, our often maddening emotional lives, our wonderfully messy means of procreation. The fangs in our mouths, the hair on our pelts.

I’ve always been fascinated with werewolves, and themes of transformation often manifest in my writing. Often the transfiguration is into a wilder state, like the werewolf, rather than an “ascended” state. But is it therefore a devolution? Or is it an imperfect call toward wholeness? I believe we are at our best when we are comfortable with both sides of our nature, the primal and the thoughtful, the rational and the passionate. Be a creature and be a man. Be a creature and be a woman. Be complete.

Evolution isn’t a paved road away from the creature, it’s a forest path toward a better creature.

C

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter D. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

I’m Batman (ABC Wednesday, 1/22/14)

I'm Batman

I’m Batman.

That may seem a cocky statement. I am not the world’s greatest detective. I am not the most accomplished hand-to-hand combatant on the planet. I am not a scientist/inventor with an unending inventory of cool gadgetry to rival that of Doc Savage. I don’t battle the forces of evil night after night wearing an incredibly cool batsuit.

But there’s a deeper truth here. It’s not that I’m projecting some Mary Sue wish onto this comic book character, or that I’m patterning my life in any way after the life of Bruce Wayne (though his money would certainly be welcome). Rather, there are a set of resonances in the character of Batman which, you might say, send me a signal. This has been so since I was a little kid, watching Adam West on television, even though I despised that show, just because nothing else was on. I wanted Batman like he was in the comics. Dark, agile, clever. Drawn by Neal Adams with no laugh track. Not cheesy as hell. And haunted…as I was haunted.

I didn’t consciously realize that last bit then, and not for many years. But Batman and I share something besides blue eyes and square jaws: loss. Terrible, heart-rupturing loss.

Everyone knows about Bruce Wayne’s loss: the gunshots in the alley, the clatter of falling pearls, the bodies on the ground. Fewer know the less operatic tale of my loss: a teenaged mother, riding home from her restaurant job to see her baby, her life crushed out in a high velocity encounter with a careless driver.

Loss drives us like a poisonous fuel.

For years, I thought I’d recovered from whatever trauma I’d suffered when my mother died. I had been so young, I couldn’t remember her. She was just an ancestor, if a recent one, no more a part of my life, of me, than a great grandmother I’d never known. But that was naive. Over the years, as depression kept me from the life I wanted, I realized that many of the traumas I brought into my life were refractions of the loss. Somewhere deep inside me was that small child, screaming over my mother’s body. Is it any wonder I found it easy to identify with Batman?

I had no Alfred in my life to raise me, to look after me. My father was a half-step away from cotton mill white trash, and a mean ass drunk. Over the years, he brought in two stepmothers, both cruel. He and they weren’t my family, they were my rogues gallery, the sideshow villains who plotted my destruction in nefariously neurotic ways. Batman’s villains are archetypal, each reflecting something within. The Joker is his mania, his enjoyment of the pain he brings to bear. The Riddler is his compulsion for mental challenge, Bane and Killer Croc his drive for physical dominance. The Scarecrow is his fear and despair. And Catwoman is his playfulness and his libido, trying to break into (or, rather, out of) the adamantine safe that is his heart.

Batman — Bruce Wayne — is the sort of man I strive to be: a successful man, a productive man, a noble man. A man who helps. A man who uses his anger and pain and loss not to hide or lash out at the world, but to fight the darkness (within and without) and keep it at bay. You may really love the Dark Knight, and thrill to his adventures, as millions do. But I’ve lived his dark night, I’ve fought its overwhelming darkness.

Because I’m Batman.

Mourning

B

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter C. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

Authority: You’re Not The Boss Of Me (ABC Wednesday, 1/15/14)

A is for Authority

Let me tell you about this stupid thing I do.

When I’m driving at night, if a car coming from the opposite direction has its brights on, I stare intensely into that bright light, destroying my night vision even more than the light already was. Unless I remind myself that this is stupid, I glare into those rude fucking high beams until they’re past.

I used to do this without really being conscious of it, but some time in my twenties, I realized what I was doing. I was fighting the cars for dominance, staring into their eyes, refusing to look away and show weakness.

Of course, the cars — and their drivers — neither knew nor cared that I was clearly the alpha in the situation, and I was only hurting myself. I still catch myself doing this sometimes and it usually cracks me up.

An old friend of mine used to call me on the phone (an endeavor which, historically, already has a statistically insignificant chance of success), and when he reached the answering machine — which I did monitor — he would  loudly bark “Tim, pick up!” And my gut response, even if I was standing right by the phone, even if I wanted or needed to talk to him, was NO. Sometimes I would push that reaction away and answer the call. Sometimes I wouldn’t.

Again, I ultimately realized what I was doing, and I told my friend to change his approach, that he had a much better chance of reaching me with a calm “Tim, are you there?” than with a brisk command.

I don’t like being told what to do. I have what is often called “issues with authority.” Though I am willing to humbly and gracefully follow the guidance of someone trying to teach me something or guide me in doing a job, it’s my natural tendency to see us both as equals. I’ll honor hierarchy as much as I need to for practical reasons and no more. If you’re in a position of authority over me, I respect you no more than I do someone in a position under me. I respect you both, until someone earns my disrespect. Once that happens, it’s tough to get back on my good side.

I respect the authority of someone who knows things that I do not. I respect the authority of someone in a leadership position who is ostensibly the boss of me as long as they treat me with respect and make decisions that serve our shared goals.

Years ago, my commander in the Army told me pointblank that I had to respect him because of the bars on his collar. I told him that wasn’t going to happen, that the respect I showed him would be entirely based on the actions of the man inside the uniform.

My First Sergeant, who liked and respected me (and wound up running interference between me and the commander), once said, “Byrd, you’re a damn good soldier except for one thing. When you’re given an order, you think about it, which you’re not supposed to do. And even worse, if you don’t like the order, you ignore it.”

“You’re not the boss of me” could go on my coat of arms as a personal motto. I even used a variation on a bumper sticker I had custom-made to put on my truck when G.W. Bush was [allegedly] president: “You’re not the president of me.”

All of this comes from an essential, primal, animal place in me. I’m mostly self-guided, and I don’t have much will to power. It’s not that I want to be Alpha, it’s that I refuse to be Beta. Sometimes, in gracelessly-run organizations, this can lead to me being Omega, and even banished from the pack.

This is why I tend to run alone.

Α

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter B. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

Counting The Clock That Tells The Time

Clockwise

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night…

As far as I’m concerned, that’s William Shakespeare describing my 2013. For me, the year was a dark shawl of despair, laced with tiny threads of joy.

On the bright side of the equation, Gary Chaloner and I finally managed to release our deluxe, expanded, fully-illustrated edition of my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of DoomIf you’re new to our tale, I was originally contracted for three Doc Wilde books by Penguin/Putnam, with plans for the series to continue after those. They published Frogs in hardback in 2009, but I was disappointed  in various ways with the book and the publication process which produced it. During that time, I was watching the developments in self publishing with great interest, and I decided to regain the rights to my books and go indie. With the much appreciated help of a company of Kickstarter heroes, Gary and I started a process that was tougher and took more time than anticipated, but finally paid off with a gorgeous new book (written for all ages, available in both trade paperback and ebook; the hardback edition is still out there, mostly in used copies, but remember it’s nowhere near as nice a book as the new version).

Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom

Finally holding the deluxe Frogs of Doom was a relief and a delight. But dark times were coming for Doc Wilde, much more harrowing than any fight with world-threatening amphibians could ever be.

First, Gary Chaloner made the tough decision to resign as artist for the series. Working on Frogs had proved a hardship for him schedule-wise and he recognized that things were only going to get worse as he tried to balance his workload of other projects. To his incredible credit, and my even greater appreciation as both a fellow professional and a friend, he had finished the first book as he’d promised and, you might say, sort of spoiled me. As I hired a new artist for the second book, I expected a similar level of professionalism, and I paid what is for me some big bucks in advance to get it. Alas, I did not.

Hiring artist Tess Fowler was an enormous mistake. (The full craptastic tale can be read at this blog post).

Waiting for art that was just delayed and delayed and delayed only contributed to the weight of the depression I suffer, which was already rolling in like a tsunami on a night without stars, and the ultimate conflict with Tess Fowler when she produced nothing for the money she’d taken as a professional artist deepened my despair. I made repeated attempts to allow Tess to get back to work and live up to her promises, and she ignored every one of them. Continue reading