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Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. ---- Harry Lime

Did Bill Clinton always look so much like Dick Van Dyke?

Jeeze.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the animal protein-free lifestyle. Watching him, I was seized with this overwhelming impulse to gnaw on a raw steak.

His speech was dull. Possibly it was the delivery: He looked like someone in the earliest stages of Parkinson’s or something. I'm sure the speech played well to those who are already in lockstep behind HRC; I'm sure it did little or nothing for independents who haven't made up their minds yet. The elephant at the podium, of course, was that here we have a famous horndog extolling the virtues of the woman who didn't divorce him. Maybe HRC's strategists thought this would play well to evangelists? It's hard to know.

That whole Will Rogers act may have played well in the 90s but now it’s kind of creepy.

I suspect it’s gonna backfire, too, and that every major news outlet is gonna feel compelled to lead with a Monica Lewinsky story this morning.

But I’m too lazy to look.

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Family Ties

Michelle Obama gave an amazing speech at the Democratic Convention – superbly written, exquisitely delivered. Cory Booker, rougher around the edges, was also really, really strong. Elizabeth Warren, reminded me of one of those librarians in an old Playboy cartoon – take off those glasses, fluff up that hair, put on some eyeliner, and she’s kinda hot for a sextugenarian. Also, of course, she’s a quintessential Larry McMurtry character. Last night, she was subdued. A serviceable but not particularly stirring endorsement for HRC.

Bernie Sanders was very, very sly! Essentially, he attached Hillary Clinton’s name to every single item on his agenda. She’s gonna have a hard time backing out of that although I don’t see her throwing her support behind dismantling Citizens United any time soon. And trust a Marxist to talk about wastewater management at a national nominating convention.

All in all, watching the Democratic Convention made me feel much happier and more sanguine about the political process than I have in months.

Am I gonna vote for HRC?

Not if the election were being held tomorrow.

I think the two-party system promulgates corruption. I think the most revolutionary and idealistic political act anybody can participate in right now is to aid in the rise of a strong third party.

But I’m open to changing my mind.

###

“So lemme ask you this,” Ed said yesterday. “Why do so many people hate Hillary Clinton? I mean, you hate her, don’t you? In a very personal, visceral way.”

“I dislike her,” I said. “And, yes, it does feel personal. And I'd be the first to tell you that it's ridiculous that I feel this way. But you feel what you feel.”

Why do you dislike her?”

I thought about this for a minute.

“As crazy as this might sound,” I said, “it goes back to her husband, Slick Willie, and his inability to keep his dick in his pants. In most cases when that happens and, for whatever reason, the husband decides he has to keep the marriage going, he goes out and buys the wife an expensive piece of jewelry, right? Bill Clinton promised his wife the Presidency. This is something that usually happens in corrupt South American countries, and I’m not a fan of political dynasties in general. To me, this is what Hillary Clinton thinks her biggest qualification is – that she was married to a President. And that they struck a bargain.”

“But she was a Senator!” Ed said. “And Secretary of State!”

“Was she a good Senator?” I asked. “I mean – I don’t know. I was living in California at the time. I didn’t pay attention. I know she voted for the Iraq War even though it was really obvious to me at the time that there were no 'weapons of mass destruction'. And I thought she was a horrible Secretary of State.”

If HRC does get elected – and I’m pretty certain she will; she doesn’t need my vote – she’ll be the one who makes it into the history books, and Bill will be relegated to an uninteresting sidenote. Irony in action!

###

I’m feeling psychologically fragile for reasons I can’t quite fathom. Had an unpleasant run-in with the client who couldn’t get it together to PayPal me my fee several weeks back: He was bullying and abusive about a small assignment that he’d given me absolutely no clear guidance on.

I won’t work with him again. In fact, I won’t communicate with him again in any way – in addition to editing assignments, he’d also taken to confiding intimate details of his life to me, which made his professional bullying all the more weird.

Dealing with people like him scares me, though.

In the second Godfather movie, a Senator offs a hooker in rough sex. And when Robert Duvall shows up to clean up the mess, he tells the Senator, Nobody cares about her. She has no family.

I often feel like that hooker.

No one really has my back.

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I’m finding the Democrats' attempts to play to antisemitism (as revealed in recent Wikileaks) every bit as troubling as I found Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric – which is cementing my determination to vote third party in the upcoming election.

You can see the gears at work: Jews – much smaller voting block than crackers, blacks or Hispanics.

There really is no substantiative difference between the two major political parties in the United States. You can be quite certain that if Hillary Clinton saw some major polling advantage in leaking the details of her torrid affair with David Duke, she would do so – leak being the operative word there, of course.

Process is the means that justifies any end so long as that end is winning, right?

Platforms come and go.

Michael Moore offers a surprisingly cogent analysis of just why Trump is going to win. (Although at the end of the article, he promises that next week he’s gonna reveal how “we” can defeat him! Who you callin’ first person plural there, hombre?)

In the end, I suppose, in this election, people are going to pause in that electoral booth – and vote for the person who scares them the least.

###

I will say that I like HRC’s vice-presidential pick. What I like about Kaine is his 20-year history as a poverty lawyer, his 10-month sojourn in Honduras doing missionary work, and the fact that while he personally opposes both abortion and capital punishment, as an elected official, he supports both of them – because serving the will of the people who elected you is a greater “moral obligation” than promoting one’s own convictions.

What I don’t like is his support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and his apparent support for more lax banking regulations.

Still. If HRC would only promise to drop dead at the end of one of her famous coughing fits, I’d vote for the Democratic ticket.

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In other news, I went out to exercise around 9:30 yesterday morning when it was 79° out but by the time I got back an hour and a half later, temps had hit 90°.

I think this was the reason why I spent the rest of the day in such a state – unable to concentrate on anything and feeling unaccountably sorry for myself: Nobody loves me; I’m a complete and total failure; in the history of mankind on this planet, there is no one who has ever been a more pathetic example of all that’s wrong with humanity than me-e-e-e-e-e. Etcetera. Heat exhaustion and electrolyte depletion.

Finally, I gave up on doing anything productive, and around 4:30 joined the rest of my household for an outing to Star Trek Beyond – a dull movie that seemed to have drawn its narrative structure from various first person shooter video games that I don’t play.

“Let’s go get something to eat,” L coaxed. She’s been trying to get me to this one restaurant for days, and after we got there, I could see why.

Lady K’s Southern Comfort is straight out of a James Lee Burke or Walter Mosley novel. A little hole in the wall with cheap vinyl tablecloths and the lingering smell of Lysol. But excellent food. I had the home-made empanadas and collard greens. Now. It is hard to make good greens; I can’t say I’ve ever mastered the task. These may have been the best I’ve ever had, and I wanted to fill a bathtub with the pot liquor so that I could lay down in it and get back up and be 20 years old again. ‘Cause that stuff was magic. Empanadas excellent, too – homemade dough, terrific filling.

At the table next to us were two delegates to the Democratic Convention who were slowly wending their way by car to Philadelphia from the northern hinterlands and had been waiting for their meal for something over an hour. They had slightly dazed expressions.

“You could get up and go,” I suggested. “Eat the loss. Figure what you paid was a small business grant.”

But then their food came.

The world’s best fried chicken. Candied yams. And more of those greens.

It hadn’t taken us an hour to be served, but it had taken us the better part of 40 minutes.

Afterwards, Lady K came over to talk to us. Yes, yes – a new business: They’d just opened on July 5th! She was doing all the cooking herself. She and her husband and their six kids had moved up here from the south Bronx in 2014: “And then, you know, I tried to commute – I was workin’ for [insert name of New York State bureaucracy here], and I’d put in for a transfer, and the transfer didn’t come, and I thought, I cannot commute those 100 miles to work every day! So I knew I could cook. So.” She shrugged and smiled at us anxiously.

And I just wanted to cry.

The food was so good, and the service was so bad, and I want her to make it so badly, but I don’t know if she will.

Why I Like Kitsch

Met up with Alan at the Museum of Art and Design (where I had never been before.) Rather fascinating exhibit from a furniture design firm called Studio Jobs – furniture built to look like iconic buildings:

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That’s King Kong clambering up the Burj Khalifa and the Chartres Cathedral underneath that desk.

I would buy this Eiffel Tower lamp in a heartbeat:

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‘Course I gotta say that I do not have what others might call particularly good taste. I love kitsch!

Alan who has extremely good taste and whose Westchester country home is charming and well appointed in all respects was less impressed by the whimsicality of these objets than I was.

“I don’t actually get it,” he said. “It’s like the opposite of good design to me! They’re making these objects less utilitarian.”

“Well, it’s the opposite of industrial design, certainly,” I said. “It’s supposed to be humorous. I think.”

Alan rolled his eyes. “Humor is always such a cop out, don’t you think?”

“Well, no, actually, I don't,” I said. “I think humor is high level. When you get a joke, it’s kind of like an epiphany. The lightening strike that illuminates the dark attic. Satori, as it were.”

Alan and I spent the afternoon hanging out around Columbus Circle, people-watching. We were both old enough and had both lived in NYC long enough to remember places like the Coliseum Bookstore, the Cosmic Diner. We were both sad that the places we remembered were gone.

I’d actually come into the city to see the free-ee-ee Patty Smith show at Damrosch Park, but Ben had been too busy to come down and I hadn’t been able to interest any of the NYC peeps I know in coming with me to it. And by the time I got to Damrosch Park (5:30-ish), the line was already down Amsterdam all the way to 65th Street, snaking back three quarters of the way to Columbus. None of those people are actually gonna get in, I thought. And do I really want to stand in line for another hour and a half not to get in? I do not.

Though I might have if it had seemed like a fun crowd.

But it didn't seem like a fun crowd. Despite the gorgeous weather, despite the incredible wonderfulness of Patty Smith, despite the fact that everyone was all decked our in counterculture finery -- tattoos, leather, parrot-colored hair -- everybody seemed to be scowling, hugging their elbows.

Fuck this, I thought. You’ve had a fun day. Buy a ticket next time Patty Smith tours.

Had fun stalking Pokemon in Grand Central.

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This morning, I listened to NPR while driving. Never thought I would say this in a million years, but I admired Ted Cruz for his performance at the ReTrumpican Convention. His speech was very much, I come to bury Caesar not to praise him. What's amazing is that he wrote a speech sly enough so that the Trump camp approved it and failed to understand its context until Cruz spoke it aloud. Well played.
Had what amounted to a mini-meltdown yesterday about the grievous state of world affairs in general and the Republican Convention in particular.

Ben has apparently spent every moment of the past two days glued to the tube because he kept texting me ever more horrifying highlights from Triumph of the Trump, and since Ben is my bestest friend and obviously in the grips of some highly meaningful personal obsession, I did not want to say, Cool it with the Donald puleeeeeze – though I should have ‘cause by the time midnight rolled around, I was still awake with all the symptoms of an anxiety attack.

Humans, I thought. We all suck.

Did not fall asleep till the wee hours. Have places to go and people to see today. Sigh.

I’m really pissed off at the Democratic Party.

They couldn’t have given us a better candidate than Hillary Clinton?

Because despite my deep loathing for Trump and his minions, I recognize Trump’s riding the crest of a populist movement that’s tied to decades of income stagnation, the perverse incentives that give corporate stakeholders excessive weight over every other interest. The irony is that Trump is the antithesis of any kind of equitable redistribution, but he’s canny enough to ride that wave. It’s all about the branding.

And, too, there is Benghazi, a fuckup of monumental proportions that HRC attempted to shake off any accountability for in an extremely petulant manner.

Talk to any of HRC’s supporters, and they’ll shake off accountability, too, in exactly the same impatient, you’re-too-dumb-to-breathe manner.

But I’m not convinced.

HRC should have resigned as Secretary of State immediately when Benghazi happened. That would have been the honorable thing to do. It happened on her watch whatever her personal involvement. That’s why people get the perks of authority – because they bite the bullet when a fuckup happens.

For the record: I don’t give a fuck about HRC’s email.

###

The Republican Convention was like this fascist quinceañera.

But the Other Side is shoving someone down my throat who, while not quite as personally unpalatable, works the system like a cancer cell looking for something to metastasize.

UGH.

Just ugh.

###

Anyway, I couldn’t focus on anything yesterday and ended up going for a series of long hikes in the lovely forested marshlands along the Hudson:

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That helped a bit, but I’m still feeling as though I’m in the midst of a massive panic attack.

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Life has always been this scary here, and we have always been as vulnerable as kittens. Plagues and Visigoths, snakes and schizophrenia; Cain is still killing Abel and nature means that everyone dies, writes Anne Lamott, the wildly inconsistent, pretty darn flaky but still undeniably brilliant writer.

Yet in the meantime, I know that we MUST respond We must respond with a show of force equal to the violence and tragedies, with love force.

Sorry, but no. Just no.

I’ve reached full Public Tragedy saturation.

Unless ISIS terrorists show up at the FDR Presidential Library or there’s a major shootout in downtown Poughkeepsie, I really do not give a fuck.

I know exactly how horrible that sounds, and in my own defense, I can only point out that life goes on in wartime. Even Anne Frank focused more on the mundane circumstances of her life in hiding than she did on the inevitability of those Nazis at the door.

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Of course, Poughkeepsie is ripe for some kind of horrifying outbreak of violence being an enclave of urban poverty, a little slice of the South Bronx, right here in the scenic Hudson Valley. There have, in fact, been a number of shooting incidents in Poughkeepsie involving cops and members of the African American community, but angel dust is typically the mitigating factor.

Angel dust! Poughkeepsie is so retro in its drug abuse! When I was doing my AmeriCorps VISTA stint, leading my little youth group, it was a rare day when I didn’t stumble across at least one crack pipe on my walk to work. Crack pipes! Who smokes crack anymore? Every addict who’s anyone has moved on to meth, a much cheaper, more lethal high. Only in Poughkeepsie do people continue to celebrate the great drug epidemics of our past!

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Yesterday was the day I kept hearing from people that I will be quote-unquote throwing my vote away if I vote third party in the upcoming Presidential election.

I heard it from Trump supporters and HRC supporters alike.

It must be some meme that’s making the rounds.

I can only shake my head.

The two-party system has given us a ruling class of corporate stooges who are practically indistinguishable from one another. The only real difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is that HRC, a more seasoned politician, dissembles better when the cameras are rolling. Trump’s xenophobic racism and misogyny against Mexicans, Muslims, women et al is horrifying, but HRC’s record of global warmongering – Libya, anyone? – plus her “super-predator” justifications for the mass incarceration of a mostly black population calls and raises that bet. (Yes, yes – Hillary regrets those remarks now! As I’m sure all those victims of those “three strikes” laws regret the long prison sentences they served for relatively minor crimes under statutes that were eagerly abetted by the Clintons.)

Face it: Trump and Clinton both suck.

You know it; I know it.

“The lesser evil” is a false dichotomy.

True, it is unlikely that the two party system will change in the foreseeable future, but it takes time to build momentum. Like that wacky Lao Tzu sez: The longest journey begins with but a single step.

Casting a vote should be an expression of conscience, not a form of gambling (fivethirtyeight.com notwithstanding.)

Voting for the lesser of two evils only ever ensures that an evil candidate will win.

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If You're Voting for Trump, You're a RUBE

NPR carried Trump’s running mate announcement while I was out driving around yesterday, so I got to listen to it.

Der Donald on international relations: So many friends in Turkey. Great people, amazing people. We wish them well. A lot of anguish last night, but hopefully it will all work out.

Wait a minute, wait a minute… That’s it! Trump’s oratory style is really bad Catskills comedian.

Der Donald on unemployment: Indiana, their unemployment rate has fallen, when [Pence] was there, when he started, 8.4 percent when he was governor, when he took over, to less than 5 percent in May of 2016… You have to understand, I've gone around to all these states. I've gone to all of them. And every time, I have statisticians. I say give me the stats on a state. And it's always bad, down, down, down. Down 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent in some cases.

But – but – but… Every state in the union showed a decrease in unemployment from over eight percent to less than five percent! Those are national statistics! Textbook case of misusing statistics because you know your base is too stupid to understand numbers. And the unemployment rate has never been anywhere close to 40% in any state, not even at the height of the Great Depression in 1933.

It’s pretty obvious that Trump thinks his supporters are complete rubes.

And to be fair, they are complete rubes.

Because how could anyone believe he’s a “successful businessman?” The bulk of his “billions” are the properties he inherited from his successful businessman father; everything else is leveraged with huge amounts of debt.

There is simply no excuse for voting for Trump.

None.

###

I dimly remember my shock and horror in 1980 when Reagan was elected President. We survived that, so we should be able to survive Trump, right?

I’m not so sure.

Was the world a scarier place 36 years ago? The USSR was disintegrating; the world was on the verge of a massive economic recession; the usual unpleasantness was happening in the Middle East.

Things seem a lot scarier now. That’s because of terrorism, I suppose. Terrorism is stranger violence amplified logarithmically, and stranger violence is very, very frightening in the abstract because it can't be predicted. Never mind that statistically the chances that you will be personally involved in a terrorist incident if you live in the US are considerably less than the possibility that a drunken motorist will plough into you while you're making your morning Poké-stop rounds.

For all his clueless speeches, the scariest thing about Der Donald is that he’s running a campaign based on overt racism – and it’s winning over a significant portion of the electorate.

And now it's time for me to make the rounds of the local Poké-stops! Attention drunk drivers!

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Thtuff

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Watched this exciting new show on telly last night: Coup in Ankara.

It was spine-chilling!

But I hear it already got canceled?

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And Mike Pence? Wasn’t he the guy who once said all HIV research money should be redirected to curing homosexuality through Gay Conversion?

No matter what the 24/7 news cycle is telling you, The Donald is no longer a plausible threat.

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In other news, got to hold Mico for half an hour or so yesterday. First time I’d held a baby since Brandon was a newborn, seven years ago. With my own babies, more than 20 years ago, I hadn’t yet grokked the deep truth about transience, and so, I was deeply convinced that they would always be this utterly dependent little creatures with hummingbird hearts. Which spooked me. What a pity I can’t go back to those days with my present tense sensibilities and relive them.

Decided not to go to Albuquerque. I’d felt as though I really wanted to go, but oddly enough, just as soon as I decided not to go, it was as though someone had just lifted a thousand pounds off my heart. Liberating.

I’m finally a wee bit ahead of the financial equation and spending that money on this trip would have put me behind again. Plus it’s like 110 degrees in Albuquerque, and I really don't want to have to meet Jeanna’s Seventh Day Adventist boyfriend and pretend to like him.

The Scut Factory is overflowing with work.

I’m having loads of fun playing Pokemon Go.

I want to go to Iceland in October.

I’m reading Chris Offut’s memoir My Father, The Pornographer.

North African Lives Matter

Seems to me Americans are now officially sick of French terrorism incidents.

There was remarkably little blowback about yesterday’s big rig attack in Nice on the various social media outlets I inhabit. (Admittedly, I am not the Queen of All Social Media, so possibly all those deep protestations of grief and fervent expressions of solidarity with our French allies were taking place on Snapchat, Instagram, and Tumblr, places I do not go.) Nobody was superimposing the Tricolor over their Facebook profile photos. There was more discussion about the Emmy nominations than there was about Nice.

I’m not sure exactly what this means.

Compassion fatigue?

Or just general situational overload?

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The driver of the lethal big rig was a man named Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel. He was born in Tunisia.

This does make me wonder whether ISIS is really the proximal cause of what’s going on in France.

If you can imagine a Black Lives Matter movement here in the States with deep, deep roots in Africa and an indigenous religion in Africa, you might have a better idea of the French situation.

In the 1950s, Algeria fought a very bitter war for independence from France. Four hundred thousand people in all died on either side. Finally, Charles de Gaulle decreed, Enough is enough, and began negotiations with Algeria’s National Liberation Front. In 1962, the French occupation officially ended. (The move was incredibly unpopular with the French military, which began a civilian bombing campaign and launched several unsuccessful assassination attacks on de Gaulle, hoping to stage a coup.)

Large numbers of Algerians who’d collaborated in some measure with the occupiers fled to France. They joined huge numbers of Moroccans and Tunisians who had already fled to France when those two nations gained independence a decade or so earlier.

Today it’s estimated that approximately 25% of Paris’s population is North African.

When I was spending time in France – admittedly more than 40 years ago in the 70s – North Africans were very much second class citizens. I went to dinner parties where the North African "problem" was a popular topic of discussion. Certain neighborhoods were off limits because these were the places where North African men would hang out, pooling on the corners or in front of the smoke shops, hissing aggressive fuck words at Western women.

In the 1990s, the French government pursued an aggressive and successful campaign against the hijab in the public school system.

Today, we’re looking at the third generation of North African immigrants. Some of them, I’m sure, have assimilated. Many of them continue to live in predominantly North African neighborhoods, which would seem to argue against assimilation. The French unemployment rate continues to rise, and rising unemployment always sparks deep resentments and xenophobia.

It’s an explosive situation.

The question isn’t why there are so many of these incidents in France.

The question is really: Why have there been so few? Given the setup.

The French have always been remarkably quick to criticize the lack of civil rights in other countries and remarkably deficient in ensuring the civil rights of their own citizenry, so as long as North Africans remain second class citizens, I suspect we will see more incidents.

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