Sunday, December 22, 2019


Every time I see my eye doctor, the first thing they do is to examine my basic vision.  I sit there hoping for something close to 20-20. OK, it never hits 20-20 any longer, but still I am coming close.  But now, we are entering a new world, the world of 2020. Maybe this will be like an eye exam for the world.  In the US, we will be casting ballots for a new president, Number 46.  Regardless of what happens in the Senate trial of Trump, we know for near certain that Mitch will not allow anything close to an actual fair trial. He will cook the proverbial books and produce the result he has already announced—Innocent of the charges.  He has already announced that Trump is innocent of all charges.

And then the real games begin.  We will proceed to the voting places assigned to us, and cast our ballots for President and for a variety of other folks and issues.  So, 20-20??? But what does that mean, actually? A person with 20/20 vision can see what an average individual can see on an eye chart when they are standing 20 feet away,”  And in the context of voting??? Well, I think that 20-20 means that we would see the world for what it is. In the case of Trump, we would see that he is a deeply flawed human, who has devoted most of his life to cheating people with whom he comes into contact.  He is immoral, unethical, incompetent in virtually every endeavor he has attempted. He ignores his responsibilities to people he has contracted to help him in some way, and he lies almost every time he utters language out of his mouth.  Whenever he accuses someone of doing something unethical, it is almost a certainty that he is either already engaging in such conduct, or is planning to do so.

We know those things for a certainty about Trump, because his behavior has been well documented.  His multiple marriages, his multiple bankruptcies, his fake enterprises, his casual approach to charitable giving are all well documented and he has been caught out in each of these issues.  These are not “deep state” thoughts, provided by unsavory characters seeking to undermine our government. They are well documented facts on the public record.  So, if you refuse to acknowledge the facts about Trump, then we would have to conclude that your mental “eyesight” is deeply flawed.
But the central question of our age, indeed THE QUESTION for 2020 is, “Why would you not reject Trump for President in 2020?”

1.       Racism: I always thought that Ronald Reagan had made it ok again to be a racist, with his chanting about “welfare queens”. But Reagan never had so many opportunities as Trump to demonstrate his racism. Trump and his family, going back to his father, have practiced racism in their apartment ownership for decades, mainly in the “who can and cannot occupy their dwellings?’ But his border mania perhaps reveals his racism best. He sees only one side to the border—people of color seeking to gain access to our country without his permission. The fact that they are fleeing homicidal gangs is irrelevant to him. He sees only poor folk of a different color, trying to ruin his image of a pure white America. Now, to be fair, his entire approach to our border seems to be dictated heavily by Stephen Miller who is a classic Neo-Nazi.  We have almost literal concentration camps on our southern border, in which children and others are held captive, and some of whom are dying at our hand.
F     Fraud: Trump University has been held to be a fake university, meaning it is a Trump initiated institution of higher learning that is not real and is intended to cheat its students. Similarly, the Trump Foundation seems to be a front for Trump’s personal financing.  He recently had to pay a fine of several million dollars for fraudulently using the charity’s funds for his own personal use.

3.       Marriage Failures: We all are aware of marriage failures. Many of our friends have been in failed marriages. But in Trump’s case, he has been involved in three marriages, all of which he has managed to trash by cheating on his wives with other women.  So, when he said that “Till death us do part”, he must have been suppressing a laugh.  He even had to pay off another porn star, so she wouldn’t spill the beans to Melania.  So, he cannot be believed even at level of a marital vow, or numerous marital vows. He even bragged on TV about how he liked to “grab’m by the pussy”, just cuz he was famous.

4.       Lying: Trump has been documented by numerous independent sources of lying publically, while occupying the White House Office of the President.  We may have lost count, but I stopped looking at the count of over 13,000 lies, just since he has been in Office.  So, his supporters don’t care that he lies as a matter of normal discourse?  The problem with his lying is that, in transactions with Congress, with policy officials, and, most importantly, with other foreign dignitaries, no one can or should believe anything he says. Now, if that is true, then how/why would anyone engage in serious policy discussions with him?  If you truly cannot rely on anything he says, then how/why would you ever agree to anything he proposes?  Now, if you’re a banker, that poses one kind of problem. But if you are engaged in discussions of nuclear disarmament, you are left with a more serious problem.  So, as a serial liar, he is totally useless in any policy discussion.

5.       Ignorance: Much has been made of Trump’s essential ignorance of almost any subject. His six bankruptcies even testify to his ignorance about how to run a business. He failed to make money operating a gambling casino for God’s sake. Apparently, he has engaged in a very large fraud case regarding his education, claiming degrees and graduations from places from which he did not graduate. But what actual education he received seems very far from clear. Because he seems so ignorant about so many subjects, one can only wonder whether he received any actual formal education at all.  Did daddy pay for someone to sit in classrooms in his name?? Surely not, we would like to think. But????

There is more, but I tire of reciting these known flaws in a deeply flawed individual.  Even his supporters know these things. But somehow, somehow . . . they are able to ignore those known flaws, and known corrupt character and still cheer for him.  I am not sure why/how this is possible. Thinking about Nixon and Clinton, both impeached, I was always able to at least understand why and how folks were able to reconcile the known flaws and still go on to support them. But Trump is so awful, his positives so few, startlingly few actually, that I am drawn to explanations that themselves border on evil. His supporters include surely, all the membership of the KKK, and the entire membership of the various Neo-Nazi cults. But then I begin to run out of gas.  Oddly, I assume that he gets some support from people he despises—the working poor. This is a group of folks who play out life in what is known colloquially as the “under classes”, people who lack the education or the training to get the nicer paying jobs our economy offers. They tend to be angry, because life is passing them by, and they resent those who did get an education or training. Trump has no use for such people, since his entire life has placed him in the very upper classes they hate.  So, why do they seem drawn to Trump? I think because he lies to them. He tells them he will make them Great Again. He makes fun of the people who represent the middle classes up above them, and so these unhappy people love him for that.  I remain unclear whether any Democrat can appeal successfully to such folks.

But all this is a part of our upcoming eye exam. Will we collectively test out in November at 20-20, or will we send Trump back into the White House, thereby displaying a vision of perhaps 20-100, near blind.

The entire future of America rests in the hands of our people come November, 2020.  If our vision fails, then America fails along with it. Think of our upcoming test at the polls as a driving test, in which the Nation is careening down a very curvy and steep hill, with a sharp curve next to a precipitous cliffside at the bottom, one we cannot see adequately until we arrive at the curve’s beginning. Whether we slow down, think more carefully about what we are about on this scary highway, or just plunge ahead, we will see. Our future is to be determined.

Look, Think. Facts matter, so read the facts. Skip the talking head-idiot malenfants (think Fox News) who want us to careen ahead.

Oh, and have a Merry Christmas, and a safe and Happy New Year celebration.  We plan to stay home, and dine on:
Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, Swedish meatballs, and sautéed clams on the half shell. We will pop open a bottle of nice Champagne, and we will turn on our DVD so we can again (50th time??) watch Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman play out Casablanca, in the most romantic movie ever made.  Maybe we’ll even watch the ball drop in Times Square.

Happy happy . . .

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Photoshopping the World

I use Adobe Photoshop. I have used Adobe products for several decades now and love them.  In the olden days, I owned a Nikon 35 mm camera that used actual film. Remember what 35 mm film was??? I bought a camera just prior to our move to New Delhi, India.  For a kid born in Brooklyn, and raised in Manhattan, India was an exotic land, and called out to me to record our lives there. I began by using both 35 mm slide film and black and white film.  I would have the film processed back in the US of A. I would send the film back via the APO to Kodak and receive from Kodak my slides, which we looked at in awe in New Delhi.  With the black and white, I would again send on the film and receive back a contact sheet showing the B&W pictures in slide size on a sheet of glossy paper.

It was all great fun and defined what I now know as “photography”.  Because I had no dark room, and digital systems did not yet exist, what you took with your camera was pretty much what you got on film.  Now, lest you scoff at our primitive approach to photography, I got a lot of really fine pictures, both in color and black and white.  See a few below. The first is my take on that iconic Taj Mahal at full moon and at first light. For the full moon, I had my camera on a tripod and took a ten-minute time exposure. Yep ten minutes. A few people who wandered by actually looked into the camera, and they said, “oh, you’re taking a picture”. But, because it was a ten minute exposure, they didn’t even show up.  

And then there is the Taj at first light. Another amazing sight.

And then, as noted, I would periodically use black and white film to record scenes I encountered. Here is one of my favorites, recorded in an Indian village in the mid-1960s. A little child, sitting on a charpoy bed, with a hookah nearby.  That child is now in his mid-50s, assuming he made it that far.

And then the digital world arrived, way after my return to America.  By then I had probably taken 3,000 to 4,000 pictures and had a nice collection—remember the 1960s rebellion here about the Vietnam War, continuing well into the 1970s? That was the stuff of pictures. Here’s a war protest group outside the White House, followed by a group protesting the indecency of poverty and racial injustice.

So many protests, so little time.  Right about this time, I also acquired a darkroom. What’s a darkroom, you might ask? Well, a darkroom was where I processed my film, producing black and white prints. No I couldn’t do color. For that, I still relied on good old Kodak.

And then, I acquired my first digital camera, spelling the end of 35 mm film. And, hard on the heels of digital cameras came digital software, spelling the end of my darkroom antics. Now the early versions of digital software photo manipulation were relatively crude. But I could process pictures on my recently acquired personal computer, and I could print out those pictures. All pretty amazing stuff.

And then, the software began its ascent (descent??) into the netherworld, where pictures began to no longer represent what the mind’s eye actually saw, but rather what the mind wanted you to Imagine.  Manipulation became the name of the game in digital photography. And there were no longer any limits on what one could pretend to have “photographed”.
How about a picture of two holy men, posing (NOT) on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan?

The ability to “photoshop” things that do not exist is now limitless, and the term itself has taken on a somewhat negative turn. I used to participate in things called Art Walks. Art Walks are events, where folks, patrons of the arts, can walk from shop to shop, or gallery to gallery and look at the artsy creations of local artists, sip some wine, maybe enjoy some food, and even perhaps, make a few artsy purchases of the observed art. I would display my digital art on a table or two in the gallery I was privileged to use, and folks would stroll by my table, admire some of my digital art, and often, inquire, “how did you do that?” See, I employed a combination of straight digital photography with Photoshop digital manipulation. I often placed an “oil painting” imagery on one of my pictures, so that the resulting image vaguely resembled one that had been oil painted. But as soon as I mentioned Photoshop, the response often came back, “Oh, you photoshopped it”. The intent of that comment was, “I see, you didn’t really create anything artistic. You let Photoshop do the work”.

I even got to the point that, when asked, I would reply, “well, I use the Adobe Magic Wand. I bring an image up onto my PC screen. Then I wave the Magic Wand at the image and the Adobe Wand creates something interesting on my screen, which I then print.” See, it’s all magic.

For one showing, I created an Image for fun, trying to promote the show in advance. I spliced the statue of Michelangelo’s David into a picture of the gallery we were using for the Art Walk. See what you will see if you attend our Art Walk???

All in the spirit of good fun.
So gradually, over time, the old concept of photography morphed into this newer world of Make Believe. Now what does any of this mean?

Well, in olden days, if we viewed a water color, or an oil painting, it was clear that we were viewing an image that had been created in the artist’s mind. That image might exist in real life, of course, but it did not need to so exist.

But if we viewed a photographic image, we knew that the image being shown actually existed somewhere in real life.  Photographs revealed reality.  Now, with digital manipulation, photographs have diverged from reality. If we see an image on screen or on paper or canvas, we can no longer be certain that image represents some reality somewhere.  That image is also in the mind of the “artist”. 
If we attend an Art Walk, it perhaps does not matter whether any of the pictures displayed there are real in any sense. It is only important that they are in some way pleasing, or entertaining.  But if see an image on TV, or in a book or newspaper, and we are asked to believe that image is reality, well, we can no longer be sure.  Now, we must examine who produced that image and ask whether the person is trustworthy.

And if the picture is accompanied by a written story, we can no longer accept that the story is true. Again, we must look to the source and validate.

And then we come to the written word itself. Can we believe what we read? Well, turns out, it depends . . . Depends on what precisely? Well, for one, it depends on who is saying/writing what we are reading. And it depends on the believability of the source material. If it is a newspaper, we might apply different standards for the New York Times, than for the Daily Mirror, or the Independent Tribune.  If it is TV, again different standards apply to “Fox News” than to the Public Broadcasting Companies, or even MSNBC, CBS, et al. We know TV “news’ is more opinion than “news”, but even there some opinion is more fact-based than others.  Listening to Hannity, et al, on the Faux News Network is akin to listening to Humpty-Trump Directly.

And so the world went on with its various sources of written, spoken words and imagery. And then came social media. First came Compuserve, a network where folks could send messages to one another without recourse to the telephone.  Then came the Internet and the World Wide Web. And rushing to fill the nonexistent vacuum came Social Media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all the media wannabees.  And suddenly, we were presented with a vast array of pictorial and written information, on topics covering the world at large.  And now the word has been “photoshopped”. No longer can we simply believe what we read, because it is on TV, or on our PC screens. Now, everything we read is up for grabs.  Even if the subject is a legitimate source of inquiry, Facebook, et al, do not even pretend to any standards of fact. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg does not even pretend to “truthiness”. He admits anyone and anything to coexist on his platform, because he has such high regard for the First Amendment, but even higher regard for the money he derives from companies and other moneyed sources wishing to lie to us on Facebook.  As a result, we can and should believe nothing we read on Facebook and others of that ilk, without first validating the sources, and the information being presented.

Unfortunately, in this new world of make believe there is no “artistic” standard we can apply, as in “Oh yeah, what he says is pure bullshit, but he says it with such artistry . . . pure poetry." Nope. Instead, we are left with pure garbage to sift through, and we must . . . MUST verify everything we now read, independently of the source.

And as we approach a national election in 2020, the source of all the material about to be thrown at us is vital for us to understand.  We must vote in 2020, definitely. But we must vote intelligently. That is, we must obtain information from sources we trust, and we must try to validate even those sources. 

The entire future of our nation now rests in our hands. So, beware of this new world of Photoshopped words. Trust but verify are our new watchwords.  Maybe someday, we will be able to believe the written word again. But just not now. There are too many con men trying to deceive us. Be an intelligent guide to what you read.  Your grandchildren’s future depends on it.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Think Positively

So what is going on? I have been having serious trouble thinking of what to write about what I observe today in America. I am baffled, really totally baffled at how any thinking American can continue to support him.  And his Republican Party colleagues. What is going on with them? Would they actually support Satan? Would they just fob off Hitler’s actions? Who, aside from Democrats, would they condemn? Have they now shed even the semblance of humanity in order to support Donald Trump?

The impeachment hearings, perhaps less than perfect, but still fairly conclusive, reveal a President so lacking in any characteristics we want in a President, that perhaps he should be impeached for his lack of character. But, I know, I know, that’s not impeachable. And I know that, while the Mueller investigation would not formally indict him, the record still strongly concluded that Trump was in collusion with Russian agents to move the election in his favor. And it now seems  clear that Putin actively worked to corrupt our 2016 election, and favored Trump.

But the Ukraine thing is actually conclusive. Trump used his office and American resources to pressure our Ukraine ally to pursue an investigation of a political competitor, Joe Biden, if they desired our continued military assistance.  The evidence seems compelling on that score.
And yet, and yet, our republican congressmen will not yield. And they continue to act like Fox News cheerleaders to defend Trump. How can that be?

I am forced to conclude that power is the only rule in this game. Republicans, Evangels, racists and other folks who continue supporting him do so for purposes of power—either to retain actual power, or to somehow reduce the power base of another. Evangels want to eliminate family planning, and in the process, abortion. They want to disembowel all folks who identify as Gay (or LGBTQ). And they seem to want to reduce the power, real or imagined, of any folks out there of color, including those poor benighted souls trying to cross over our border down South.

Trump’s supporters are not going away, because they want to retain, or increase their power base. And that is what America now comes down to . . . a scramble for power at any cost.  And I find all that very sad.

The great difficulty here is that, unlike all past governments and all past presidencies, I see no ending to this pre-Civil War battle. In all past political clashes (and remember, I have been observing presidencies since Roosevelt’s) there always seemed a residue of goodwill towards America and Americans broadly.  Now that residue seems gone. Trump consistently operates so as to trash his opponents in the most savage, demeaning manner possible. He wants his supporters to be vicious in their opposition to his foes.  I imagine him finding words of support were his supporters to turn violent towards his Democrat opposition. He would/will find excuses for an actual Civil War. And his supporters will continue to cheer him on.  There seems no good will left in America. And for that I blame Donald Trump. I think the negative views of Evangels, American racists, and others in Trump’s Basket of Deplorables, have always been there. But he has encouraged and amplified those views, akin to letting Crazy Uncle Charlie out of the closet.

And I don’t now see how we will recover from all this. Even if Trump loses (fond hope springs eternal), these vicious negative mindsets will remain, and could grow larger. Normally, a new president, after the election, tries to gather everyone, supporters and opponents together into a coherent American crowd, and to begin anew to build on the American Dream. I don’t see how that will happen within our current National mindset. Maybe it will take a woman to achieve such a desirable but unlikely goal. Yes, perhaps only a woman might achieve that result. We can only hope.

But we really need to avoid that Civil War if that is to happen. We need actually to avoid shooting at one another.  We need to begin seeing each other as humans, as Americans, as desirable, caring, feeling human beings. We need to bring some reality to the message of Christ perhaps. We need to stop thinking about what to buy next at Amazon, and think instead of how to bring back the joy that is/was being an American.  

Think perhaps of how we all must have felt at the ending of World War II. It was over, and we were bringing back all the men and women who had fought evil and triumphed. America really was great. Now we need to smile at each other more, even if we disagree politically. Donald Trump is not worth destroying America folks.  Let’s start thinking positively.