And So It Begins

Campaign season seems to begin earlier and earlier every time it comes around, but this time it’s starting up almost two years before?  Well, in many ways it began in 2008 and has continued almost nonstop since.

Ted Cruz has announced his candidacy.

I have two reactions to this.  The first is, perhaps predictably, “You have to be kidding.”  But the other is an unpleasant chill running through my entire nervous system.  I have come finally to embrace the maxim “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.”  There are and will be fervent supporters for this demagogue and over the last couple of decades it has disturbed me how such thoughtless, anti-intellectual, entrenched ideologues seem to creep ever closer to the White House.  On the one hand, Romney lost because he really did not understand the mood of the nation.  On the other, those who mourn his loss have, at least in part, put enough of their kind in congress to effectively cripple national government.

I feel this would all be solved by the simple expedient of a 95% voter turnout.

No, I do not support any suggestion of mandatory voting.  Freedom does not thrive where choice is limited, and choosing not to vote is as viable a freedom as choosing to vote.

It would be less troubling if I believed that this was the case, that people were choosing not to vote.  I think for many people it’s just too much trouble, low down on the list of priorities behind shopping and yard work.  For many others, whether we wish to accept it or not, obstructions effectively dissuade voting.  And for still more, a deep pessimism that voting does no good keeps them from even knowing who the candidates are or what the issues may be.  Throw in a thick broth of lazy and there you have it.

So Ted Cruz may get and keep support from people who will find it easier to vote slogans than to actually find out something about their candidates.  He mouths the appropriate small-minded palaver about government overreach and too much regulation and the loss of American prestige.  Some people nod knowingly, as if they actually understand what he’s talking about.  If they did, they would know him for the political half-wit he seems to be.  He’s going to know how to get out the vote among those who think, when they do, in terms of feelings and disapprovals rather than by issues, so he may run a solid campaign by such metrics, but he would not know how to be a president if he won.

To wit, there may well be government overreach, but it’s not a single thing liable to a simple solution.  There is no cabal to which you can just say No and stop the problem.  And frankly, as with most things in America, one person’s overreach is another’s necessary program.  Likewise with regulation. Sure, there may well be—and assuredly are—too many inappropriate regulations imposed upon us by government.  Just as surely, my list will be different than your list, so exactly how do we come to some agreement about which should go and which should stay?  And, just to make matters worse, which government?  Municipal, county, state, or federal?  Not all regulations are from the same source.  This is why democracy, whether we like it or not, is an ongoing process, a conversation, requiring engagement by the citizenry.  It doesn’t run on its own.  We can’t just elect someone and then ignore everything afterward.

As for American prestige, that’s one of those noble-sounding but useless phrases that can mean anything.  The decline of American prestige?  In what way and for whom?  It’s not quantifiable, for one thing.  For another, it’s as personal as the other two points.  For some, having the world afraid of us is evidence of “ascendancy” and “prestige.”  Like we’re all of us school kids in the playground, throwing our machismo around to count coup.  For others, respect is what we want, and that’s something you earn by cooperation.  Working with other nations, more to help them with their problems than ours, but getting in return some help with ours, and then knowing when their problems are caused by us and being willing to do something about it.  Not sexy, but in the long run more effective.

I recall seeing one of the last big conferences Bush attended before he left office, and all these prominent leaders of other countries mounting the stage, many of them putatively allies, and it was obvious that none of them respected Bush.  He was all but snubbed.  They saw him as a rube.  A clueless tool of his handlers.  Whether that assessment was correct is immaterial, that was the perception, and let’s be honest, in politics perception is more than half the game.

That is not the case with Obama.  Again, whether you like it or not.

Or perhaps people just don’t recognize respect when they see it.  Respect is a voluntary thing, not something you can demand, and certainly not something frightened people give.

Cruz is a demagogue.  He also doesn’t seem to give a damn about anything other than his career.  His people are perhaps aware of his deficits.  He made his announcement to run for office in a packed auditorium—filled with students who were required to be there.  Many of them may well have shown up for him anyway, but not all, and it was little more than some opportunistic stage craft.

What he represents, if in fact he represents anything other than himself, is a laundry list of regressive ideas that are everything we’ve come to expect from reactionary coalitions of malcontents who don’t like the idea that America has to be shared with people they don’t like.  That he is one of the poster boys for a Tea Party that still won’t let go the idea that Obama is not a citizen is profoundly ironic.

To be clear, the charges that Cruz is ineligible to run for the presidency are as groundless as they were for Obama.  His mother was born in Wilmington, Delaware.  End of argument.  He’s a “natural born” American.

Still, that some people are throwing the charge at him already carries a small schadenfreude about it.

As far as I know, no one in recent memory who began their active campaign this early has made it through the primaries.  I could be wrong about that, but I think it’s so.  Which means he’s being poorly advised OR this is part of a larger Party strategy to set him up to take all the flack while another candidate, more moderate, more “electable” is positioned for a later announcement closer to time.  If so, I have to wonder if Cruz knows.

It’s going to be an interesting season.

At Play With Landscape

This started out as a fairly straightforward image in need of some attention. I scanned it from a negative this morning, a shot taken back in 2002 or ’03 in New Mexico when we were visiting a friend. Difficult conditions at the best of times, shooting more or less directly into the sun, with the consequent flares and subdued contrast and obscured detail.  So I started playing.  It went some places I didn’t expect and pretty soon became less a photograph than a painting, and a not bad one, if I do say so myself.  I like it, anyway.  I think I’ll put this one in the Archon art show next October.  A bit Maxfield Parrish going on in this.  In any event, enjoy.

New Mexican Sun and Mountain as Maxfield Parish, April 2002


As a comparison, here’s an unmodified shot from the same day, in good old black & white”


Crags, New Mexico, b&w, 2002

It’s March 9th. Time For Another Photograph

This one was taken on the campus of MSU, East Lansing, Michigan, in the summer of 1988. When needing a break from the workshopping and writing that was Clarion, I’d go for walks with my cameras and find things.


Down the Shallow River, b&w, July 1988


Okay, make that two photographs.


Ducks Against the Fall, b&w, July 1988



Ducks-Go-Round, b&w, July 1988

Okay, I’m done for now.  It really was a lovely campus in places.  Speaking of writing, I’m going to do more now.  Enjoy.

It’s Been How long?

A bit of nostalgia.  Reminiscing on happy times.  I’ve been pretty fortunate.  I think there’ve been more smiles than frowns.  Me On Snowy Bleachers, b&w, January 1991

Even when the ground has been covered with nasty white snowy stuff, which is not my favorite thing anymore.  But, you know, the fact is I don’t really like being in a bad mood.  I very much prefer being happy, or at least content, and I suspect I’ve had more of that than the alternative.

So going through some old negatives this past week or so I found a couple of images I’d forgotten about, but which, once seen, brought back the whole day on which they were taken.  Good days.

This one, for instance, was ostensibly for possible author photo use.  Never used any of them for that, but Donna and I had fun taking them.

And then there’s this one, which is of usDonna and Me, b&w, 1986.  A studio portrait, done at Shaw Camera in about 1986 or so.  Me and my sweetie.

Which she still is.  Soon—this weekend, in fact—it will be 35 years since our fist date.

35 Years.

For a guy who once thought he’d spend his life as a bachelor due to an inability to have a relationship, this comes as no small surprise.  But you should never second-guess yourself.  Or third-guess.  Whatever.

35 years ago I took Donna out on our first date.  I took her to see 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was playing at a theater that no longer exists.  Afterward we went to a nearby Chinese restaurant which also no longer exists.  In fact, pretty much the only thing that still exists, albeit in much altered form, from when we met is the McDonald’s where we met, on Kingshighway.

Look at that picture.  Am I not fortunate?  I’m still amazed by her.  She has made my life worth having.

Damn.  35 years….