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We Are Living in the Age of Stupidity and Cowardice

Here we are again. Three mass shootings in the course of a week, 251 in the last year. We are no longer entitled to feel shocked. We should feel shocked when a week passes without one.

If the murder of over 20 six-year-olds at Sandy Hook did not change the course of the country, we are foolish to think recent events will be any different. That was almost nine years ago. The shooting up of a Walmart or a night club district or a food festival is scarcely more shocking than Sandy Hook.

Thoughts and prayers. Wash, rinse, repeat.

We believe what we want to believe and damn the facts. And some of our beliefs are so outlandishly stupid that they approach comedy.

Ohio Repressive Candice Keller posted on social media just after the Dayton attack that the fault lay with drag queens, open borders and even Obama. She then went on to accuse liberals of playing the blame game. Really.

And there is the Lt. Governor of Texas who said these events are the result of not allowing students to pray in schools. Really.

I could fill this post with hundreds of pages of politicians and their cowardly deflections–playing to the stupidity of the people who keep electing them. It’s mental illness. It’s video games. It’s open borders. It’s gun-free zones. It’s Obama. It’s drag queens. It’s preventing students from praying in schools. (Note: there will be prayer in schools as long as there is algebra.)

But you know what it’s not? It’s not the rise of white nationalism/supremacy/terrorism. It’s not easy access to lethality that the Founders could not even imagine in the late 18th century when they drafted Amendment Number Two. It’s not racism. It’s not unbridled and irrational fear of “the other”.

And it’s certainly not the rancid elephant in the room…Donald J. Trump.

There is no need in this post to go into his long history of racism (1973 Consent Decree, Central Park Five, birtherism, etc.). That record is clear and thoroughly documented. What is also clear, for those supporters who have the intelligence and courage to look, is his record as President:

  • Encourages violence at his rallies
  • Gives a wink and a nod to right wing violent extremists after Charlottesville
  • Labels asylum seekers as “invaders”
  • Incites hateful and un-American chants of “lock her up” and “send her back”
  • Tells duly elected members of Congress to “go back to the countries from which they came” (all citizens, all women of color, and three of which were born here)
  • Cancels, by executive order, an Obama era regulation making it difficult for  mentally ill to buy a firearms
  • Makes a joke of a supporter’s shout of “shoot them” (immigrants, that is) at a
    MAGA rally

And for those who need to be convinced of Trump’s complicity—read the El Paso shooter’s manifesto. See if you can tell the difference between that and one of Trump’s rally speeches.

Teleprompter Trump lumbers out to the microphone–looking like someone who has a gun to his head–and attempts to say something Presidential. He says:

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.

These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul…”

To which I say—you first, Mr. President. How about some personal responsibility? Responsibility for your divisiveness, your hatred, your racism. Your intentional playing to the fears and bigotry of the stupid.

This is not leadership. This is cowardice. We will see how Twitter Trump aligns with Teleprompter Trump. We will see how your next MAGA rally goes. We will watch what you do, not what you say.

And to the supporters who get ramped up by this behavior…that’s not intelligence. That’s stupidity. And to the supporters of these antics: you are not just complicit in the problem. You are the problem.

And You May Ask Yourself

And you may ask yourself

What is that beautiful house?

And you may ask yourself

Where does that highway go?

And you may ask yourself

Am I right?…Am I wrong?

And you may tell yourself

MY GOD!…WHAT HAVE I DONE?                  ­­­

–“Once in a Lifetime”, Talking Heads

Making sense of the 2016 Presidential election has been a challenge. This goes beyond the normal ebb and flow of American politics. This is a genuine point of inflection where the American experience changes direction in a dramatic way.

We have elected a man based on fevered populist rhetoric and visceral, irrational hatred of the opposing candidate. The Electoral College was designed to prevent a demagogue like Trump from becoming president. What was designed to be an emergency brake turned out, in 21st Century America, to be an accelerator.

Anything resembling principle has been replaced by partisanship and naked lust for power. The Republicans could not get enough of Clinton’s email mishap but Lt. Gen. David Petraeus was on the short list for Secretary of State, who, one would assume, had to notify his probation officer that he was leaving the state to go interview for the job. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has had his own “classified material” problem, will be our new National Security Advisor.

Mishandling classified material is not such a big deal after all, unless, of course, it was done by Hillary Clinton. Down the rabbit hole we go.

Trump promised he would “drain the swamp”, bring manufacturing jobs back and be the voice of the “little guy”.

Let’s think about bringing the manufacturing jobs back, including opening the coal mines. Trump and his supporters are peddling the false notion that the loss of American manufacturing jobs is due solely to unfair foreign trade. The fact is (to the extent that facts even matter anymore), automation, innovation and increased productivity has killed far more American manufacturing jobs than NAFTA, Mexican rapists sneaking across the border  or Chinese currency manipulation.

As a case in point, let’s turn to Trump’s first intervention into private enterprise to “save” jobs—the much-reported Carrier escapade. This was designed to be a PR stunt and to that extent, it was brilliant. But what about the substance and how did this stack up against Trump’s promises?

There are still more Carrier jobs leaving Indianapolis for Mexico than staying. The taxpayers of Indiana got shaken down to the tune of $7 million to save 850 jobs (for who knows how long?). Trump promised he would impose a 35% tariff on companies who shipped jobs overseas on those products coming back into the US markets. Does Carrier face such penalties?

Nope. And as a bonus, there is the cruel irony that even the people whose jobs the deal did not save will be paying taxes to subsidize the jobs that that were. This is not the Art of the Deal. This is Trump jangling the keys to distract the people who voted for him while he lines the pockets of the crony capitalists.

These jobs are not returning, no matter what Trump promised. Trump is not going to unplug the computers, disassemble the robots or make American manufacturing less efficient. The coal jobs are not coming back unless coal can become price-competitive with other sources of energy. Trump, for all his boasting, cannot turn back the tide of economic globalization or world commodity prices.

Turning now to “draining the swamp”, let’s see how that’s going so far.

The incoming Secretary of the Treasury made a fortune by foreclosing on people during the Republican-inspired financial collapse of 2008.

The incoming Secretary of Commerce made a fortune as a vulture capitalist closing plants and shipping jobs overseas.

The incoming Secretary of Labor made a fortune by marketing hamburger porn and wants to replace his workers with robots.

The incoming Secretary of Education has never had children in a public school, but is a billionaire and a major contributor to the Trump campaign.

And let’s not forget the incoming Secretary of State, who has no diplomatic experience, but does have experience cutting giant oil deals with Vladimir Putin.

Drain the swamp? Maybe when he said “drain” he meant “fill”. In the post-truth Age of Trump, anything is possible and language no longer has meaning.

As the oligarchs gather, who in their right minds think that this is good for the “little guy”? No, Trump is setting up a Putin-style kleptocracy that we can only presume will have Putin-style results. This crowd does not have the backs of white, blue-collar and frustrated workers.

“What is that beautiful house?” Something that we will soon not recognize.

“Where does that highway go?” Nowhere that the disenfranchised white blue collar workers think.

“Am I right?…Am I wrong?” The Trump supporters will answer this for themselves. Time will tell how long it will take them to realize they have been conned, especially when they will no longer have the jangling keys of Clinton’s email and other cheap tricks to distract them.

“MY GOD!…WHAT HAVE I DONE?” No more Obama to blame. No more Clinton to blame. No more evil libtards to blame. They will soon see that insults, falsehood and empty promises do not make for good policy.

Hawthorne Bridge, Portland Oregon

Portland Oregon may be unique among cities in the United States. Apart from having a section of the old airport carpet attaining a semi-cult following (it was the Grand marshal of their Starlight parade, after all), it is a weird and wonderful place, and filled with activists, pot users (now legal!), counterculturists, hipsters, artists and unemployed or underemployed young people. Occasionally, you can find Green-Peacers hanging off bridges.

Speaking of bridges, a visit to Portland will undoubtedly mean crossing one of 21 bridges. The Willamette River cuts through the city and the mighty Columbia flows past just to the north.

The Portland bridge that caught my eye was the Hawthorne. It is the oldest bridge in Portland,  built in 1910 replacing two prior bridges built on that spot in 1891 and 1902, respectively. A complete history and description can be found here.

It is a typical truss bridge with an atypical vertical lift draw. The towers and the counterweights of the draw mechanism makes this bridge visually attractive, to me anyway.

The Hawthorne Bridge at night:

Hawthorne Bridge, Portland OR,

Geeky Stuff:

Nikon d800e

Nikkor 70-200mm 2.8

ASA 200, f/16 30 seconds

Love and support of friends and family

Bodega CA and the Birds

Bodega CA is a small village near the Northern California coat in Sonoma County. Alfred Hitchcock set his avian nightmare  “The Birds” in this quaint and unassuming place and it does not appear to have changed much since it was the principal location of the movie.

Interestingly, the film does not have a musical score and the words “The End” do not appear at he end of the movie. More about the film, including interesting trivia can be found here.

The church where the characters sought refuge from the attacking birds looks exactly as it did in 1963. It is an existing parish and I have pictured it below (with the church’s marquee) to emphasize its continued contribution to this small community:

 

Bodega Church 2aBW

Church from “The Birds”

 

 

Camera: Nikon 800e

Lens: Nikkor 12-24 zoom, set at about 22mm

Exposure: f/11, 1/500

Black and White rendering: Silver efex Pro 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Point Bonita Lighthouse

At the entrance to the Golden Gate stands the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

On a recent outing with my wife, brother and my cousin I learned a lesson that I guess I need to keep leaning: don’t over-focus.

The mind, not the camera.

We we there in the last moments of daylight and it was a perfect West Coast sunset. The lighthouse is the only one in America that is accessible only by a suspension bridge, and while on the bridge I was hyer-focused on this:

Point Bonita Lighthouse

Point Bonita Lighthouse, Late Afternoon

 

While I was fussing with all of the doodads on my gear to get this image, my brother tapped me on the shoulder and said “You need to to turn around.”

And when I turned around, I saw this:

San Francisco Late Afternoon

San Francisco Late Afternoon

 

The lesson is that when in the field, always take the extra moment to just turn around. Now I have two photographs that make me happy instead of one.

Life is full of surprises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Garner—Tea Party Martyr?

What seems to be missing in all the noise and waste of the outrage over the death of Eric Garner in police custody is how Eric Garner had so much in common with the Tea Party. In his final moments he was standing by the ideals of the Tea Party, the militia soldier-boy wannabes (Praetorian Guard!!) and the rest of the extremist right wing nut-fest that has ruined our political discourse.

First, let’s revisit Mr. Garner’s last words:

Get away [garbled] … for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. Why would you…? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me (garbled) Selling cigarettes. I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. please please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me.

I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe…

These words could have been uttered Cliven Bundy, except, of course, the “I can’t breathe” business because Mr. Bundy is still alive. Sometimes heroes are not martyrs.

Mr. Garner was a man minding his own business, objecting to overreach by an oppressive State, harming no one and using non-compliance to protest unjust taxation.

Resisting evil government tyranny.

So why are Sean Hannity and the other right wing yackers not lionizing Mr. Garner as an American hero the way Hannity tried to sell Bundy as an
American hero?

In fact, the American right seems to have lined up with the evil government oppressors and some are quite vocal about shrieking that Mr. Garner had it coming. I doubt very much that would have been their reaction had Mr. Bundy been killed in his confrontation last summer. Hannity would have had a field day, nominating Cliven for the Presidential Medal of Freedom and pressing Congress for a national holiday to honer the fallen hero.

So what are the differences between Mr. Bundy and Mr. Garner?

Mr. Garner was unarmed. Mr. Bundy was not only well armed, but surrounded by the ever so self-important soldier boy militia (Praetorian Guard!!). Maybe the Tea Party/Militia crowd thinks Mr. Garner should have armed himself if he was going to sell loosies on the street corner.

I have not seen anyone from the Fever Swamp make that argument. It must be something else.

Mr. Garner was engaged in chump-change cigarette tax evasion. Mr. Bundy is engaged in the evasion of millions of dollars of legal grazing fees. Maybe the Tea Party/Militia crowd thinks that Mr. Garner should have upped his game and engaged in felony-level fraud.

I have not seen anyone from the Fever Swamp make this argument. It must be something else.

When Mr. Garner said “don’t mess with me”, that is the same as the Tea Party/Militia mantra of “Don’t tread on me”. But Mr. Garner did not have a yellow flag with a snake on it. Maybe the Tea Party/Militia crowd will not embrace someone who is so deficient in political symbolism.

I am not seen anyone from the Fever Swamp making this argument. It must be something else.

Lastly, Mr. Garner was black. Mr. Bundy is white. Yet the Tea Party/Militia crowd (along with the rest of the Fever Swamp) explodes in outrage like deranged howler monkeys at the mere suggestion that this could be a contributing factor.

It must be something else.

Joucas, Provence

Joucas, located in the Luberon area of Provence, is a quiet hilltop village. And I do mean quiet. It does not get much tourist traffic because it is between for more popular Provence destinations of Gordes and Roussillon. In fact when we were there, it seemed that we were the only tourists wandering the streets.

We were invited into the home of a resident for a tour of her 300 year old, four story residence. It may be that as tourists we were a rare sight, or maybe this lady invited every stranger she encountered into her home. Hard to say.

In any case, if you are ever in the region and need a quiet break from the tourist hustle and bustle of Provence, stop here and enjoy, even for a few moments, the quiet beauty of the region.

 

Steeple BW

Steeple of the Church Overlooking the vinyards

 

Narrow Sreets 3

Cobblestone Street