Sunday, December 25, 2016


In looking at a photo done on infrared film recently, I remembered that I had done a little digital infrared work a long time ago using a Nikon Coolpix 5700 and a Hoya infrared filter. I searched back through my archive at photobucket and found a couple of the shots. The pictures were made thirteen years ago before I switched back to film photography.

Mexican Elders and the Robledos Mountains

Elephant Butte Dam

Friday, December 23, 2016

Free and Easy

Mostly, I'm still making photographs with my collection of ancient analog film cameras. Like everyone else, however, I ultimately end up with digital images and display them on line. I'm mostly happy with using the big image sharing sites like Google's Blogger and Yahoo's Flickr. Occasionally, I yearn for a way to have more control in how the images are displayed.

 I got interested recently in exploring the possibilities for on line slide shows and decided to see what kind of free web hosting might facilitate the endeavor. I googled up a ten-best list of current offerings and came across What distinguished that one from the rest was an apparent lack of any constraints on access or capabilities.

It took me about five minutes to create an account and do the initial setup for a basic web site that could host the simple scripts for creating on line slide shows. Had I the ambition, there is no reason the site could not have supported an elaborate web site, a big database application or a WordPress blog. The dashboard features excellent file management and editing utilities which makes script hosting and debugging very easy. The slideshow scripts I link to from my photography blog seem to be running faultlessly. (At least they were until my cat tipped over my keyboard and deleted everything from the server. I have restored most of the lost files.)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Photography in the Twenty-First Century

I performed an impromptu social experiment recently.  I want ot share some of the details and a bit of analysis as I think it provides a useful answer to the question of what to do with one's photographs.

We recently hosted an informal holiday get-together of neighbors at our home, scheduled to begin at 10:00 am.  While straightening up the house that morning I decided on something of a whim to incorporate a slide show into the proceedings.  I selected a show that was already prepared and on line, a group of pictures made in our neighborhood over the past eight years.

Click image to view the Old Town folder at Google Photos.  To view the images there as a slide show, click the three-dot "More Options" icon in the upper right and select "Slide Show".

Before our guests arrived, I started the slide show running on my laptop, and then broadcast it via wifi to our flat-screen television located between the pellet stove and the piano in our living room.

The slideshow was running when the first guests arrived.  I made no announcement or reference to the show and there was no sound from the tv receiver -- just the fifty or so pictures being displayed with about a five second delay for each shot.  I don't think anyone gave much thought to the changing photo display initially; it just seemed a part of the decor.  Eventually, someone asked if those were my pictures (yes).  Later, I was asked about the location of a shot showing some empty planters in a garden (the courtyard behind the art museum).  Additional comments were made about the photography over the next three hours the gathering lasted, but the display did not interfere in any significant way with the group's ongoing conversation.  Some people looked at the changing pictures often and other only occasionally, but I think most people saw most of the pictures as they were displayed in a continuous loop.

One of the salient features of my experiment was the contrast it provided to countless slideshows I sat through in my youth.  Most people whose personal history extends back into the era of film photography will have similar memories of sitting in the dark with a wheezing slide projector throwing images on a white screen, often accompanied by some narration about a recent vacation trip.  Sometimes the shows were entertaining; more often they were stoically endured.  If the audience was composed of family members or close friends, there might be some talk and banter about the pictures, but there were not many opportunities for deviations from the script.

The things that most distinguished the old-style slide shows was that they had a very linear character, and they demanded the undivided attention of the participants.  The same can be said, in fact, about most other ways in which still images are offered up for observation.  It takes some willful preparation, some time commitment, and possibly some money to go to a photography exhibit, to read a book or to watch a program about a photographer's work.  The informal exhibit I mounted in our living room required none of those things.  Rather, it allowed for multi-tasking and gave the choice for participation to each individual member of the assembled group.  In other words, it was a photography exhibit that was consistent with behavioral norms and expectations of the digital age, a Twenty-First Century slide show.

Although the slide show I presented was informal, it nevertheless required some preparation.  The subject or theme in this case was easy to relate to for the guests -- they all lived in the area and had at least some familiarity with the places depicted.  That contributed to the viability of the continuous, non-linear presentation; it really did not matter much if their attention strayed at times away from the flow of images.  I could have chosen other subjects for such an exhibit from among my collection of photos which includes thousands of images.  It would have been fairly easy to assemble forty or fifty portraits; pictures of cats, cars, color shots, black and white images, what-have-you.  I think the thing to keep in mind is that you are a photographer, but you can also choose in this streaming digital age to be an archivist, a curator, and an exhibitor.

I have used several photo sharing services over the years and some of them provided a way to assemble and display slide-show presentations on line.  I use as a place to display what I consider my best photos, but I don't like it as a general purpose image management tool.  For that reason, I chose in this instance to use Google Photos for assembling and presenting my on line exhibit.

I accessed my Google Photos slide-show with my laptop running the Chrome browser which can "cast" anything displayed in the browser via my home wifi network to my television receiver to which I have attached the little Google chromecast device.  The chromecast gadget plugs into one of the HDMI ports on the back of the receiver.  On mine, there is a button on the back of the set with allows changing the tv output to HDMI from the cable or antenna.  Some other sets will allow that change to be made through the setup menu.  At the moment, you can pick up one of these digital streaming devices for about $25.  All of this can be accomplished quite quickly and easily these days.  Large flat-screen tv receivers and home wifi networks are everywhere, and you can even do it all on the fly with a tablet, or even just a cell phone and a portable wifi hotspot.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

real news

Big Media continues to keep the country focused on the antics of the Trump circus.  There are, however, alternatives which provide perspective on real problems and point to real solutions.  One of these is the on-going work of Thomas Piketty in compiling comprehensive data on income inequality and drawing rational conclusions from that data about how to turn around the country's destructive trend lines which have been going in the wrong direction since the 1970s.

Piketty, along with colleagues Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman recently published a paper with a focus on those issues, “Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States”.  An overview of the paper is available at the web site of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

Here are a couple excerpts:

"...To understand how unequal the United States is today, consider the following fact. In 1980, adults in the top 1 percent earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50 percent of adults. Today they earn 81 times more. This ratio of 1 to 81 is similar to the gap between the average income in the United States and the average income in the world’s poorest countries, among them the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Burundi..."

"...Policies that could raise the pre-tax incomes of the bottom 50 percent of income earners could include:
  • Improved education and access to skills, which may require major changes in the system of education finance and admission
  • Reforms of labor market institutions to boost workers’ bargaining power and including a higher minimum wage
  • Corporate governance reforms and worker co-determination of the distribution of profits
  • Steeply progressive taxation that affects the determination of pay and salaries and the pre-tax distribution of income, particularly at the top end"
Update:  Some additional information on the trajectory of inequality in the U.S. is presented in an article by Ben Casselman at the 538 site.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Joining the Resistance

I recently read one of Jean-Paul Sartre's early novels, Troubled Sleep.  It is about the defeat of France by Germany in 1940.  The French were totally dispirited, and pessimistic about their future.  Many tried to escape the German onslaught by fleeing to the south.  Others simply surrendered to the events of the moment; some choosing death, others accommodation.  It all seems rather familiar.  Fortunately, however, we have the advantage of hindsight and are able to look beyond France's low moment to what transpired over the next five years.

Once past the initial period of shock and grief, many French people, including Sartre, were able to pull themselves together and begin to work toward the day of liberation, no matter how distant that goal may have seemed at the time.  Their efforts were certainly encouraged by the increasing resolve of the Allies to confront the German aggression, and the combination ultimately triumphed in what seems now a relatively short time, though not without great sacrifice.

So, what I am suggesting as a possibility is to follow the advice of Bernie Sanders: to band together and fight.  As he says, there really is no other choice, and there are many precedents which point to the power of the people to resist an oppressive regime, regardless of its perceived strength at the moment.

A consensus is developing rather quickly around the most effective ways to organize a response to an aberration of democracy in which the winning party falls short of a majority by over two-and-one-half million votes.  First, old alliances and their leadership must be rejected.  Second, whatever is going on at the national and international level, local initiatives can still prevail to produce progressive results.  A useful perspective on these possibilities appears in The Nation under the title,  ‘All Resistance Is Local’: A Plan of Progressive Action for the Trump Years. The implication of The Nation article is that people need to look closely at their own communities to see clearly what are the main obstacles and opportunities for effective citizen action.

New Mexico is a good case study; the economy is in shambles and the State ranks near the bottom among the States on nearly every important metric including employment, health and education.  The Republican governor has lost all credibility and the Dems have retaken a congressional majority, though they have not really shown an awareness or the determination to take the kind of initiatives needed to turn around the state's sorry condition.  There are, however, great and obvious opportunities available.

For starters, New Mexico has a lot of sunny days.  A right-of-way for power lines to support renewable energy distribution has recently been established, and there is no good reason not to move away from fossil fuel production which has kept the state riding a boom and bust rollercoaster.  A move away from corporate favoritism in the taxation regime may have to wait for the governor's exit in two years, but her failed education secretary will be jumping ship before year's end, and local school districts will have a clear opportunity to assert their authority.  Minimum wage initiatives have had some success already, and more progress in that direction seems very likely.  New Mexico is one of the states that has benefited most from health care reform, and its citizens are not likely to easily accept the destruction of Obamacare.  New Mexicans currently have access to medical cannabis, and the tax and entrepreneurial advantages of recreational approval are easy to see just across the northern border.  So, no shortage of things to do, and no time like the present to start.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

How Trump Happened

Today's NY Times editorial opinion section has an article worth reading by
Luigi Zingales who foresaw Trump's rise to an election win five years ago.  He based his prediction then on his own experience in Italy of enduring nine years of Silvio Berlusconi.  Zingales saw a couple parallels in the rise of the two popular demagogues.  In both cases he observed that the opposition spent way too much time attacking the character of their opponent and expended far to little energy in developing and communicating a vision for the future based on issues of importance to the voters.  In both cases, the opposition underestimated the desire of the voters to expel what they perceived to be a corrupt, elite establishment.

I think Zingales' analysis is pretty good, though I also think he gets on shaky ground starting with his title of "The Right Way to Resist Trump" and going on to suggest that Democrats should look for opportunities to work with Trump to undercut some of the Republican agenda.  His idea that Democrats need to look for new, younger leaders does seem like wise counsel.

In spite of the ongoing disaster of the elections, I think it is not at all certain that the leaders of the Democratic Party are going to be able to admit the fundamental errors that Zingales points to and to take the appropriate actions.  There are clearly going to be some changes in the top levels of leadership, but some of the likely replacement leaders look a lot like what came before them.

What Democrats need to acknowledge, I think, is that Trump and Obama got into office for some of the same reasons.  Both men were seen initially as outsiders who would shake up the establishment.  Obama seemed to make some progress in a few areas like health care, but he undercut his own strength by relying on appointees like Clinton who voters saw as representing an establishment who talked a better game than they delivered.  Republicans are certainly not immune to the same mistakes, but Trump's choices for Cabinet members and advisors -- however disgusting they may be to many -- may actually give him enough credibility with his current followers to condemn the country to two terms of Trumpism.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Margaret's Hospice Career

Below is an excerpt from the recently published book about Mesilla Valley Hospice written by Dr. Terry Meyer, one of the organization's founders and currently the Associate Medical Director of Mesilla Valley Hospice.  The book, Safe Passage, may be ordered directly from the hospice office at (575) 523-4700. (All proceeds benefit Mesilla Valley Hospice.)

Woman with a Vision

Once the fledging Mesilla Valley Hospice had been successfully launched by the original group of passionate volunteers and the decision was made to accept Medicare funding, Margaret Connealy, M.S.W. was hired in 1985 to serve as the organzation's Executive Director.  Margaret was a social worker by training, so during her initial years of service as Executive Director, she also provided social work services to the patients that MVH served.  It quickly became apparent that Margaret had found her calling in hospice, as she advocated for patient choice and dignity for patients at the end of their lives.  This was revolutionary during a period when hospice care was largely unheard of and most physicians felt their terminally ill patients should remain in a hospital.
     She worked with Gilbert Perez, then head of the Doña Ana County Indigent Funds Division, and lobbied at the state level to enact a law that would allow New Mexico counties to utilize funds for what became known as nonprofit "safety net providers."  This ensured that health care services of all varieties were available to all New Mexico residents.  Before the passage of that bill, these funds were only available to hospitals.  As a result of the passage of the bill, providers like MVH, Ben Archer, La Clinica de Familia, St. Luke's and other non-profits could qualify to receive funding to provide care for the county's low income population.  This particular accomplishment by Margaret and Gilbert has impacted the lives of countless residents of Doña Ana County in incalculable ways.
     Along with championing the cause of health care services for all, Margaret's great passion became ensuring that all people had access to quality end-of-life care.  During her years of service, Margaret became the voice and face of hospice in our community.  One thing was always clear—Margaret always deeply cared about those who were dying.  She had an incredible gift to ignite passion for the cause in others, and was well known for her dynamic speaking ability.
     As time went on, it became apparent that a place was needed for those patients who could no longer safely remain in their home during their last days.  Margaret spoke to the board and others in the community about the need for a hospice house.  A major fundraising campaign was planned and eventually the donation of the land and building by three local physicians jump-started what has now become known as La Posada.
     Margaret originally retired in December of 1994 at the completion of the original capital campaign, as she felt it was time to focus on her health and spend time with her husband.  While she was away, construction of La Posada was finished and the first wing was opened in September 1998.  Donna Brown served as Executive Director.  Margaret had hired Donna as the financial manager for MVH in September of 1994 and the two had worked well together.  So, it made sense to Donna to approach Margaret in December of 1998 about returning to MVH so that Donna could spend time with her young family.  The Board of Directors agreed, and Margaret was persuaded to come out of retirement to reprise her role as head of the hospice.  Margaret returned on two conditions—first, that Donna would stay on as financial manager, and second, that after five years, Donna would agree to step back into the executive director position.  Margaret and Donna seemed to have a unique chemistry and mutual respect for each other that forged a tight bond.
     Margaret again brought her well-known passion to hospice.  During the next five years, she moved MVH forward.  It became apparent within the first year that La Posada would need to expand when the demand for patient rooms necessitated a waiting list.  Margaret launched a second capital campaign during her tenure, and the second wing of La Posada was added.  In addition, Margaret launched the Center for Grief Services, which provided grief counseling to the entire community regardless of whether the person had a family member that received hospice services.  This was yet another inroad to providing key services to the community that had never been offered before, including to those who did not have resources to pay for the services.
     Margaret retired for the second time in December of 2003, but Donna persuaded her to stay on as part-time development director.  Margaret worked in this capacity until she experienced a brain aneurysm, which forced her to retire for the final time.
     Many people have had an impact on the success of MVH, but one can argue that Margaret Connealy is the person who seemed to most embody the hospice cause.  With her selfless and tireless efforts, she grew the fledging non-profit to become an integral part of health care services in Doña Ana County.  Donna Brown often said that she stood on the shoulders of a giant during her years of service at MVH—that giant was Margaret Connealy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


These two fellows are regular visitors to the Plaza Vieja.  They park their restored classics in front of the church and sit across the street in the shade to admire them.  Both cars are faultless; they are mostly stock with a few embellishments.

The '57 convertible, with its red and white paint job and the dice hanging from the mirror, screams Rock 'n' Roll.

The coupe is nearer to The Jazz Age.  It rides closer to the pavement than it would have in 1938, and it is a lot shinier.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Margaret in Boston

I stayed home with the cats.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


The New Mexico Museum of Natural History is just a short walk from our home.  Cate and I went there today and stopped in at the Naturalist Center.

I was able to verify that the skull I found in the Rio Grande bosque was a beaver.  I could not get a picture of the mounted specimen at the same angle as the pictures I made at Valle de Oro, but the skull seems identical to the one in the display case.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Morning Walk

Most of my mornings start off with a walk to the Plaza Vieja.

This is a good time of the year to be an Albuquerque photographer.  The sun nearly always sneaks under the clouds to brightly illuminate the Old Town buildings against the dark sky.

Three or four street-savvy cats can usually be found toward the north end of San Felipe St. where they can count on a meal from a friendly shopkeeper.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bernie in New Mexico

There was a good turnout today for Bernie Sanders' speech in front of the Student Union Building at the University of New Mexico. (2000 attended according to the Albuquerque Journal report)

Bernie expressed his appreciation for how effectively Trump had illustrated the need for reform of the U.S. Tax system.  The rest of the presentation was pretty much the standard stump speech which we have now heard many times, but it was reassuring to hear the strength and clarity of Bernie's voice.  If Clinton can bring along a Senate majority, Bernie will have a significant say in what the Budget looks like for the next four years.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Wrong Message

Three weeks from the election it appears that Clinton is heading for a win.  Pundits and pollsters may disagree over whether the outcome will be a squeaker or a landslide, but it seems that it would take something of a cataclysm to move Trump into the lead.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, Republicans are faced with a daunting effort to rebuild the Republican brand and bring together a very divided party to regain viability.  In the short term, the Republicans in office are focused on holding onto their congressional majorities at the national and state levels.  A clear path to a winning long-term strategy is not in the offering at the moment, but it seems that most of the Republican leaders outside of the die-hard Trumpists have a pretty clear view of the future's challenges.

A Clinton win will offer a sigh of relief and a brief respite from concerns about judicial  appointments and other liberal causes, but there is a serious danger of misinterpreting the results of the Presidential contest.  Democrats are aware of the fact that winning the Presidency will have little effective value if congressional majorities are not regained, and that picture remains very unclear at this point.  The less obvious internal threat long-term is from interpreting a Clinton win as an endorsement from the electorate of the status quo.

Bernie supporters won't have a hard time discerning that is the wrong message from a Clinton win.  However, the Democratic Party establishment is going to have a more difficult time coming to grips with that reality if their candidate takes office, regardless of Hillary's obvious vulnerabilities and the strong showing of the opposition in the primaries.

Looking at congressional races around the country it is pretty clear that most of the Democratic incumbents are playing the usual game with a focus on party loyalty and traditional fund raising tactics with acceptance of support from deep pocket contributors including banks and big energy.  What portion of the next generation leaders remain tied to those strategies is hard to gauge.  A second term for Clinton seems pretty iffy under even the best circumstances, and if the Democratic leadership does not effectively acknowledge the demand for significant change, it seems inevitable that the Democrats will face the same kind of meltdown in 2020 that the Republicans are going through now.

The second tier parties are also facing a moment of truth.  The Libertarians under Johnson do not have enough of a platform to sustain a serious assault on power.  Jill Stein is a more credible spokesperson for her Green Party, but pouring all of her energy into a quixotic run for the Presidency seems to lead nowhere.  Still, there are going to be some big prizes flapping in the wind including Trump's gang, Bernie's democratic socialists and the great, little understood mass of people called Independents.

Interesting times.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Road Trip

We drove north yesterday to spend the afternoon walking through three of the Anasazi Great House sites at Chaco Canyon.  The last five miles of the washboard road into the Park is a stern test for any vehicle, but the old Toyota held up pretty well.

A lot of people have discovered that this is the best time of the year to visit Chaco. The campground is reservation only now, and it was full up in the middle of the week.  Since I wasn't up to camping out this time anyway, we decided to head back to Cuba to get dinner and spend the night at the Frontier Motel.

Kiva at Chetro Ketl, Chaco Canyon

On the way home on 550 we made a little side trip at the turn-off to San Luis which leads to the Guadalupe Ruins, the southernmost Chaco outlier.  We did not drive that far in, but we did stop to enjoy the early Fall color along the Rio Puerco and some nice views of Cabezon Peak.

I shot a couple rolls of color in the Pentax, so hope to get those processed later today and will put anything worthwhile on my photo blog.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

3D On Line

I started playing around with 3D drawing nearly ten years ago using the SketchUp program when it still belonged to Google. I devoted about a year to learning the program and produced quite a few 3D models, some of which can be viewed by clicking the link to my 3D Warehouse folder over in the right column.

(Left click for 3D interaction.  Model loads slowly.  Hold down center mouse button to drag and move model.)

Trimble, Inc. took over the program and made quite a few additions and improvements to it.  Now, they have made an on line beta version available.  It is surprisingly responsive, and fun to play with.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Promise and Fulfillment

Playing with my little yard sale Lumix is a good reminder about how a simple digital camera brought me back to photography on the eve of the present century.

At the time, I was looking just for a way to add some graphic interest to my web design efforts.  The limited resolution of the 1.3 megapixel images I got from my Epson digital point-and-shoot was not a significant limitation given the modest requirements of on line presentation.  What really took me by surprise, however, was the versatility of the digital camera, particularly in regard to the effortless production of extreme close-ups.  The removal of any concern about the number of exposures which might be made in a single session was also a source of encouragement to explore and develop graphic design ideas.

While the 10-megapixel Lumix is quite a lot more sophisticated than my early Epson, its viewfinder display is similarly easily defeated by bright light reflections, and the shutter lag makes capturing any kind of action highly problematic.  All of which ultimately drove me back to using manually operated film cameras -- first, my Pentax Spotmatic, and then around a hundred other film cameras.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Fiesta 2016

The highlight for me of the Balloon Fiesta is always the afternoon of Flamenco performances in Albuquerque's Plaza Vieja.

Friday, October 7, 2016


We drove south from Albuquerque to visit the mission ruins at Quarai.  The church was built in one of three of the eastern-most Pueblo settlements in New Mexico.

 It is hard to believe that such massive structures could have been built in such a remote location with only the most basic tools.  Most of the labor was done under the direction of the Franciscan friars by Pueblo women.

Paul Horgan in Great River describes the church as it would have appeared when it was in use for a few decades of the 17th Century:
"...the nave at Quarai was one hundred two feet long and fifty-seven wide -- the churches were built with false perspective so that the nave would seem even greater.  White plaster with colored decorations made the interior brilliant.  Light fell upon the altar from a transverse clerestory window above the transept.  Wooden beams, alters and corbels were carved and painted and touched with gilt.  The ceiling was between thirty and forty feet above the floor."

Quarai today is ringed by many old cottonwoods which provide welcome shade for a quiet stroll through the site.  It seems unlikely they would have been part of the scenery when the Pueblo was inhabited as people dependent on wood for fuel tend to clear-cut their immediate surroundings.  The massive timbers over the doors, windows and roofs of the church were probably hewed from logs dragged down from the nearby Manzano Mountains.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Heavy Breathing

It is that time of year again when hordes of hot air balloons fill Albuquerque's sky.

12th St. and Mountain Rd NW

The balloons often skim quite close to the roofs in the residential districts surrounding downtown.  As the propane burners are pulsed to maintain altitude, they sound like asthmatic old men laboring up a steep stairway.  The movement and sounds leave a trail of barking dogs in their wake.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Shirt Pocket Digital

Lumix Dimensions: 3.74 x 2.1 x 0.89″
I paid ten bucks for this nice little Pansonic Lumix a couple weeks ago at a yard sale.  The camera came in a box with all the documentation and a couple of cables.  It was missing a memory card and the battery charger.  The card was no problem as I had several around the house.  I found a Hong Kong seller on ebay offering the charger for $4.59, shipping included.
    The camera yields 10 megapixel images and has a pretty nice lens which is nearly as sharp as the one on my Canon Powershot and without the pincushion aberration of that one.  A full set of control features is crammed into the tiny frame.  The view screen is good sized, but something of a challenge to use in full sun.  I also found that it is very difficult to keep the camera from jiggling off the target while the zoom is extended and the camera is being held at arm's length.

Since we are planning a brief road trip to Chaco Canyon soon I decided to take the camera for a walk along the West Mesa escarpment to see how it would handle petroglyphs and their environment.

The star figures are a common motif in the rock art of the Rio Grande north of Albuquerque.  They are said to represent Venus.  Some have bodies and are carrying bows and clubs.

This is a nice time of year to visit the Petroglyph National Monument.  The temps are comfortable and there are still quite a few wildflowers like this Datura.

The petroglyphs are located at the leading edge of an ancient volcanic flow from some small volcanoes to the west of Albuquerque.  This time of year, the sharp, ragged borders of the basalt boulders are softened by cushions of blooming rabbitbrush.

Monday, September 26, 2016

So, here we are...

The day of the first Presidential debate.  Going out a bit on a limb, I'm predicting that Trump will be widely seen as the debate winner.  The debate format works against a reasonable discussion about issues; it is all about one-liners and character attacks.  Hence, an environment favorable to a circus performer like Trump.  Of course, Hillary is a tough campaigner, and she will have around ninety minutes to rattle Trump's cage.  Judging by her past performances, however, it seems unlikely she will set the place on fire.

It was fun during the primaries to watch the Republican establishment try to come to grips with the Trump phenomenon.  I suggested then that the best strategy for Trump's Republican opponents was to back Hillary.  It seemed an obvious alternative.  If elected, Clinton is unlikely to rock the boat significantly.  And, with what would amount to an Obama third term and small Democratic congressional gains, the Republicans would be able to go on playing their same obstructionist game at the Federal level while further tightening their grip on State Houses.

Quite a few main-line Republicans adopted my suggested strategy to back Clinton.  However, as Trump's candidacy became increasingly viable, a strategic change got under way among the Republican leadership.  The big shots may not be singing praises to Trump, but the party machine is backing him.  The Republicans in office are seeing the possibility that Trump could take office, and speaking out against him at this point raises a clear risk of being out of the loop following a Trump victory.

Of course, nobody in their right mind thinks Trump would be a competent President.  He is wholly inexperienced in techniques of governance and ignorant about any of the important issues.  Being a bully with money got him the nomination, but that is not going to work for the daily challenge of running the country.  So, what is the Republican establishment thinking will happen with Trump in the oval office?

My guess is that they are preparing for two scenarios.  The first would be something along the lines of the Bush presidency.  People who have some experience and competence in governance will be moved into key positions, much as Cheney took over foreign affairs and energy policy.  Trump would then be free to occupy a largely ceremonial role as chief cheer leader -- provided, that is, that he could actually exercise some self control and not completely go off the rails.  Even without those not unlikely missteps Trump's mere presence as chief of state will create a world of uncertainty.  Other world leaders, reacting to Trump's unpredictability will take actions based on fears or perceived advantage which will create some truly terrifying international crises.  It is not hard to imagine, for instance, that Putin will see Trump's ascendancy as an opportunity to undertake an immediate invasion of Ukraine.

The other scenario likely envisioned by the Republican leadership is impeachment.  Even without the likely foreign policy or economic disasters to be expected from a Trump presidency, it will likely not be hard to find some pretext for kicking the clown out of office, and it certainly would not be hard to put together a bipartisan effort to do the deed.  The outcome of a successful impeachment would be a President Pence.  So, now the Republicans have someone in office who has the skills and experience to enact the Republican agenda -- moving the Supreme Court back to the right, stalling climate change action, supporting big energy, big pharma and big banks, and solidifying the blockade of women's rights.  Etc.


The next day:

Trump turned in a poor performance.  I don't know that will lose him any votes among his current supporters.  My sense is that they see Trump as what they might be if only they could win the lottery -- still ignorant and inarticulate, but insanely rich.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Picasso: Creator and Destroyer

The Weeping Woman - Picasso - 1937
I am about two-thirds of the way through the biography of Picasso written by Arianna Huffington which first appeared in 1988.  The author does a thorough job of documenting the artist's manipulative, sadistic personality.  His talent and fame enabled consistent and prolonged duplicitous behavior toward every friend as well as the severe mental and physical abuse of every woman with whom he had any prolonged relationship.  His long-time housekeeper, Inès Sassier, seemed one of very few able to withstand Picasso's cruelty, perhaps because of an unusual talent for isolating her relationship to him from the rest of her life.

Huffington presents a compelling, damning picture of the artist that seems unassailable in regard to the facts.  She does not, however, really explain the artist's outrageous personality and behavior.  Picasso is presented, instead, as a totally unique and essentially unexplainable phenomenon, cast in a mythological light.  It seems likely to me that Picasso's behavior toward others was not so unique as the author implies.

I think it more likely that much of Picasso's personality, attitudes and behavior represented expressions of learned behavior endemic in the French, Spanish and Catalan cultures from which he came.  Many in those societies clearly supported traditional gender roles which gave permission to men to abuse women and required the women to accept such treatment. Picasso may have been more extreme in his abusive behavior than the average, but the patterns and character of the abuse were part of a continuum, as were the submissive responses of the people he abused.

It is a little hard now to understand how someone with Huffington's education and European background could gloss over the societal context of Picasso's story.  It is likely relevant that in the 1970s she wrote a book expressing opposition to the growing Women's Lib movement.  In the 1980s she was married to a Republican who ran for the Senate, and she remained aligned with the Republicans through the 1990s.  Since then, Huffington has clearly drifted leftward, though how deeply that has really affected her world view is hard to judge.  It would be interesting to ask her now, nearly three decades later, if she would like to add anything to her portrait of the artist.

I picked up this paperback about Picasso for fifty cents at my local thrift shop.  That price and venue may be some reflection on the book's relevance and importance at this point, but I think that the issues raised in it are still very much with us.  The rightward swing of French society has been clearly expressed in the popular effort to dictate how Muslim women should dress in public, only thinly disguised as liberal secularism.  That current of misogyny and xenophobia, of course, is not confined to France.