not worried about trump

I ain’t worried about no Trump.

He’s not going to be president. He’s just not. There’s no way. Let me say that again. There is absolutely no fucking way Donald J. Trump is going to become the President of These United States. I’m completely confident in saying that.

Well, I mean, I suppose it’s possible. It’s also possible that the supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park could erupt again later this week. After all, it’s been 650,000 years since its last eruption. So it’s within the realm of possibility. But is either of these massively calamitous events anywhere near likely to happen? Nope.

trump on stage

Here’s the thing: first off, Trump’s got no ground game. Sure, the guy’s pretty good at holding big rallies. Rallies are great visuals. All that spectacle — excited people waving signs and calling out the candidate’s name. That looks impressive on television and in news photos. But rallies don’t get voters to the polling stations on election day. You want to win an election, you’ve got to get voters to places where they can actually vote. You need a political infrastructure designed to both encourage voters and to shift their bodies from the sofa to the voting booth. Infrastructure is NOT flashy or exciting, so Trump and his crew of political remora haven’t devoted much time or effort to putting that infrastructure together.

Second, Trump hasn’t been tested against a Democratic candidate. He’s been ‘debating’ against dumplings who couldn’t really attack him because they mostly agree with him. And when they didn’t agree with him, they were afraid to alienate the Republican base (I almost said  the ‘lunatic fringe’, but now that IS the Republican base).

I mean, look — in the Republican debates Trump could rise up on his hind legs and say astonishingly stupid things like “We’re not winning. America doesn’t win anymore. We don’t win. We’re just not winning.” and his opponents couldn’t say “What the fuck are you talking about — winning what?” They couldn’t say something like “Well, sure we’re winning, of course we’re winning” because that would be seen as supporting President Hussein Bams of Muslim, Kenya. If you look at the order of the fuckwits who dropped out of the Republican race, you’ll see that the most rational candidates dropped out soonest. The Republican primary was never a contest to determine who was the best person to govern These United States. It was always a contest to see who was the biggest asshole.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Trump greets supporters after a campaign event in Bentonville Regional Airport near Bentonville

Which is why Trump’s biggest competition came from Ted Fuckin’ Cruz, the man whose own political party would vote him Most Likely To Be Left To Starve On An Ice Floe. Ted Fuckin’ Cruz is so actively disliked that if a plane carrying Republicans crashed in the Andes, they’d starve before they’d eat him. I don’t think anybody actually believed Ted Fuckin’ Cruz was the Zodiac Killer, but a lot of people wanted him to be. And that’s the guy Trump had to beat in the primaries. You put Trump on a debate stage with any Democrat not currently in a coma and Trump will explode like a popcorn fart. All it’ll take is somebody using a calm voice and saying “Well, no, building a wall along the border with Mexico is just a silly idea.”

But even if Trump had a ground game, and even if Trump was a competent conservative debater, he still couldn’t win the coming election. The math is against him — and math is a merciless sumbitch. Only about 23% of the electorate (those folks who are eligible to vote) are registered as Republicans. Democrats do a bit better (32% of the electorate) but the biggest voting bloc in the U.S. right now are Independents and unaffiliated voters (at 39% of the electorate). The remaining 6% are registered as Libertarians or Green Party or one of the whackadoodle political fringe groups.

So even if every registered Republican shows up at the pools and votes for Trump and if fully half of the unaffiliated and Independent voters experience a psychotic fugue state in the voting booth and go for Trump, that’s still only 42% of the electorate. That’s the most optimistic outcome for Trump.

The fact is, a lot of Republicans aren’t willing to vote for Trump. That’s especially true for women. Depending on which poll you look at, anywhere from 35-45% of women registered as Republicans have said they definitely won’t vote for Trump. Nor can Trump rely on many of those unaffiliated/Independent voters. Almost half of younger voters — those 18 to 35 — are unaffiliated/Independent voters. The same is true of Latino voters; nearly half are registered as unaffiliated/Independent.

trump violence

Trump’s not getting the women’s vote, he’s not getting the Latino vote, he’s not getting the vote of any minority group. Trump’s wheelhouse is mostly filled with angry/scared white guys. It sure seems like there’s a lot of them these days; they make a lot of noise and we see them on television all the goddamn time — but happily there’s just not enough of them to carry an election.

Trump’s not a serious candidate. The political party he represents is no longer a serious political party. He’s fucked — and with any luck, he’s fucked the entire Republican party. Trump’s defeat may force them to get serious again.

The only way Democrats can lose is by dividing the party and not showing up to vote. Which, now that I say it, is possible.

In other news, back in March of this year locals reported an area of the Shoshone River near Yellowstone National Park was boiling. That boiling has stopped. For the moment.

 

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practicing in public

I very much like the work of photographer William Gedney, but I admit I wasn’t terribly interested when I learned his journals were available online. Still, when I wrote about Gedney several years ago I took the opportunity to look at a few of them.

Most of the journal entries were pretty dull. Photography historians may be fascinated to know that on Friday, April 22nd, 1966 Gedney finished a roll of Tri-X in his Leica M3 by shooting a few frames of the Long Island University gym and the Paramount building (1/60 at f 2.8) and of a sleeping boy (1/10 at f 2.8). Me, I don’t really care. It’s mildly interesting to know Gedney stopped by Diane Arbus’s apartment in January of 1969 to fetch a couple of prints, and that her hair was very short at the time. Me, I don’t really care.

against the tide

I’m only slightly more interested in reading the quotations or song lyrics Gedney copied into his journals. I tend not to be inspired by ‘inspirational’ quotations. But I found myself reading a three page entry in Gedney’s 1969 journal. Three pages — one long quotation by Alfred Stieglitz. I won’t quote the thing; you can read it yourself if you want. Essentially Stieglitz was talking about ‘practicing in public’ — showing work that doesn’t quite meet your standards for what the work could be. He said:

[I]f one does not practice in public in reality, then in nine cases out of ten the world will never see the finished product of one’s work. Some people go on the assumption that if a thing is not a hundred percent perfect it should not be given to the world, but I have seen too many things that were a hundred percent perfect that were spiritually dead, and then things that have been seemingly incomplete that have life and vitality, which I prefer by far to the other so-called perfect thing.

Stieglitz also talks some bullshit, like “Is the thing felt – does it come out of an inner need – an inner must? Is one ready to die for it?… that is the only test.” Is one ready to die for it, lawdy. Drama queen, right there. Gedney includes all that crap about ‘inner must’ in his three pages — but I think we can overlook the bullshit and still learn something worthwhile from Stieglitz.

sports fan

I love the notion of practicing in public. I’d be lying if I claimed I only shot photographs for my own pleasure. I enjoy making them available to other folks. I rather hope the folks who bother to look at them find something worthwhile in some of them, but if they don’t, I’m not that concerned. For the most part, I’m fairly confident of my ability to take a good photo — if I have a moment or two to allow the elements of a good photo to register in my brain. You know, stuff like composition, light and shadow, geometry, depth of field. All I need is that moment or two; I’ve been noodling with cameras long enough that I can adapt fairly quickly to most situations.

But then there’s street photography, and the street is pretty damned stingy when it comes to allowing you a moment or two for anything to register in the brain. Sure, you can look at a scene and quickly assess the possibilities — the light is good over there, the shadows are nice in that spot, all I need now is for something interesting to happen right there. But if nothing happens — like in the shot below — you’re just left standing around gawping like the village idiot. There’s a spot for potentially interesting photo, but the street just ain’t giving it away.

court avenue sidestreet

Street work is different. It’s about immediacy. It’s about anticipating what’s about to happen while incorporating the unpredictable. It’s about being open to the moment and responding to it creatively, and without conscious thought. Those are things I’ve been good at all my life. All my life — except when it comes to photography.

I have very little confidence in my ability to shoot street. I totally love doing it. I love the spontaneity of it. I love the semi-unpredictable way groups of people shift in and out of patterns. I love the way the point of balance of an image may exist only for a moment, then disappear and what could have been an engaging photo becomes just a disorganized, visually jarring clump of people. I love shooting from the hip (and I mean literally from the hip), trying to anticipate how various elements will arrange themselves in the next few moments — and predicting how that arrangement will appear through the lens of a camera held maybe eighteen inches below my eyes.

approaching the farmer's market

All the things I love about street photography are things that make it easy to get it wrong. It’s so very easy to miss the shot, to fuck up the composition, to release the shutter a moment too soon or too late, to be half a step too far to the left, to fail to notice what’s taking place (or not taking place) in the background.

The difference between good street work and ineffective street work can be measured in the time it takes a person to turn their head or glance at a cell phone. I love the practice of street photography — getting out there and trying to do it well. And I’m with Stieglitz about the importance of practicing in public. If you want to be good at this stuff, you need to be open about the struggle. Fuck perfection.

kid eating cinnamon roll

So back to Gedney and Stieglitz:

Either you feel that a thing must be perfect before you present it to the public, or you are willing to let it go out even knowing that it is not perfect, because you are striving for something even beyond what you have achieved… [I]n struggling for perfection you know that you may lose the very glimmer of life, the very spirit of the thing that you also know exists at a particular point in what you have done; and that to interfere with it would be to destroy that very living quality.

Practicing in public. I’ve been thinking about this concept off and on for a few years, but it was only recently I began to focus on that last phrase: “…to interfere with it would be to destroy that very living quality.”

It’s that living quality that makes street photography vital, isn’t it? So if there’s any style of photography that ought to be practiced in public — that should be liberated from the entire idea of ‘perfection’ — it should be street. Right?

i want my bernie back

Well, I’m done with Bernie. Don’t misunderstand me. Bernie Sanders’s politics still align more closely with mine. I still think he’d have been a good president. I’m just done supporting him.

Not because of that fracas in Nevada. And that’s all it was, a fracas — a lot of bustle and fuss and loud noises. It was the result of anger and passion, and I’m of the opinion that anger and passion have a place in politics. I think it was stupid, but I don’t have any real problem with that.

And it’s not because Bernie doesn’t really have a realistic path to the nomination. That’s just math and unbending reality. I don’t think Bernie should stop his campaign and start supporting Hillary — at least not yet. I think he needs to show up in Philadelphia with as many pledged delegates as he can get, so he can help shape the official Democratic platform.

And I’m not withdrawing my support for Bernie because of what I see as the emerging hypocrisy of some of his positions. And yes, I mean hypocrisy. Early in his campaign he decried the idea of superdelegates, saying the DNC used them to overturn the will of the people. I rather agreed with him. But now that he needs them, Bernie seems to think it’s fine for superdelegates to overturn the will of the people. His argument is that polls show him doing better against Trump, so for the good of the Democratic party superdelegates should support him rather than Hillary, even though she’s won more pledged delegates and has won more votes. And about those polls — throughout this campaign Bernie has dismissed the importance of polling data. And he’s been right to do so. If we listened to the polls, Bernie would already be back home in Vermont. Yet now he’s using polling numbers to bolster his argument that superdelegates should abandon Hillary and support him. That’s hypocrisy. It’s also unrealistic to think he can disparage the Democratic party elite as part of his stump speech, and then expect them to support him (because that’s exactly what the superdelegates are — the party elite).

But even that isn’t what’s caused me to change my mind about supporting Bernie. A certain amount of hypocrisy is hard-wired into the political process. Politics is grounded in compromise, and that sometimes means you have to support a position you don’t fully agree with. Bernie has spent his entire life in public service; he’s had to do that before. Not as often as some, but he’s done it. And I don’t find fault with him for that.

I want my Bernie back

I want my Bernie back.

No, the reason I’m no longer supporting Bernie is because of an emerging pattern of whiny self-righteousness and martyrdom that I find offensive. It bothered me early on, when Bernie’s flacks dismissed Hillary’s victories in the South as somehow illegitimate, because the Southern states were Red states. It bothered me that he did that while championing his own victories in caucus states, which are the least democratic way of nominating a candidate.

I’m tired of hearing Bernie supporters who can’t be bothered to learn the requirements for voting in their primaries, then claim their votes are being suppressed. I’m tired of hearing Bernie’s campaign claim that every primary or caucus they lose has somehow been rigged, but every state he’s won is a legitimate victory. I’m tired of the histrionics, the claim that if Bernie doesn’t win then democracy is dead. And I’m really tired of hearing folks say that if Democrats don’t support Bernie, then they deserve Trump.

I still want a US$15 minimum wage. I still want free or affordable college available to everyone. I still want to see the big banks neutered, and the criminal justice system reformed, and universal medical care. I still want all those things I wanted five months ago during the Iowa caucus. I still want that Bernie Sanders.

But I don’t want what Bernie’s campaign has become. I want the old Not me, us Bernie Sanders. I don’t want the new Me, or you deserve to get fucked over Bernie campaign.

rain on your wedding day

Conservatives have killed irony. Killed it, hacked its body into dozens of pieces, and buried them in a shallow grave in the Meadowlands. Then they dug up the body parts and set fire to them. Then scattered the ashes. In a toxic waste disposal site. And covered them with salt. Non-iodized salt.

And that was before Senator John Thune (Republican from Whogivesafuck), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation decided it was critically important to find out if Facebook was being mean to conservatives. I swear I am not making this up.

Thune

On Monday, Gizmodo published an article indicating that Facebook “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section.” The source of that article, who is described as ‘politically conservative’, requested anonymity, “citing fear of retribution from the company.”  He told Gizmodo:

“I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”

It was like they had a bias, you guys! Against Ted Cruz! C’est incroyable! And c’mon, everybody knows that Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck are super popular, and we all want to know what they have to say about…you know, stuff. But no, Facebook users were denied that information because Mark Zuckerberg hates Republicans.

Senator Thune was so outraged by this that he took time away from his busy schedule of not holding hearings on a Supreme Court nominee and not considering President Obama’s request for funding for research on that silly Zika virus to write a stern letter to Facebook. He demanded information on whether or not the Trending Topics news curators are “targeting news stories related to conservative views for exclusion.”

Thune also held a news conference, in which he stated:

“If there’s any level of subjectivity associated with it, or if, as reports have suggested that there might have been, an attempt to suppress conservative stories or keep them from trending and get other stories out there, I think it’s important for people to know that. That’s just a matter of transparency and honesty, and there shouldn’t be any attempt to mislead the American public.”

Transparency, you guys. And honesty. With these allegations in mind, I looked just now (seriously, just now, at 10:06 in the morning, local time) at Facebook’s Trending Topics.

Calvin Klein: Company’s Ad Featuring Upskirt Picture of Model Criticized.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Article on Actress’s Lifestye Website, Goop, Recommends $15,000 Sex Toy.

Hyperloop One: Company Successfully Tests Propulsion System in Nevada Desert.

Well. There you have it. No mention of any upskirt photos of Glenn Beck. Nothing at all about Mitt Romney’s sex toys. And as we all know, this hyperloop business is a liberal conspiracy against the petroleum industry. Or wait — maybe it’s a sex toy? Doesn’t matter, because It’s clearly biased, you guys!

Thune, who frequently appears on Fox News shows (which are totally fair and balanced, not to mention completely transparent and honest), also said this:

“Facebook must answer these serious allegations and hold those responsible to account if there has been political bias in the dissemination of trending news.”

L’ironie, elle est morte! Cue Alanis Morissette.

nothing much

Yesterday afternoon a friend called. Well, she didn’t actually call call; she sent me an email. Which is what she does instead of calling. But her emails have the quality of a phone call, so I think of them as ‘calls’. Anyway, she said “What exciting thing did you do today?” As if all my days are filled with exciting things.

“I moved a couple of stones around on the table on the deck,” I said. “Then looked at the places where the stones used to be.” Not what you’d call traditionally exciting.

There’s this table on the deck — a little round glass-topped table — and I put stuff on it. You know how it is; you move around through the world and you pick stuff up. An odd-shaped stone or an interesting piece of wood or dried dog-chewed chunk of tennis ball. I don’t know what most folks do with that stuff, but me, I put it on the table. I used to put stuff on the table then photograph the stuff. An art project, I guess you could say. Then after a year or so I stopped doing that as a project. I still put stuff on the table and occasionally photograph it — just not as a project.

moved the rocks1

Here’s something obvious: if you leave a thing on the table for a while, it gathers dust. When it rains, the dust washes off. That dust dries around the base of the thing. So if you leave a thing on the table for a long while, then move it, sometimes it leaves an interesting pattern. Sometimes it just leaves a mess, but sometimes there’s a pattern and sometimes that pattern is interesting.

I like to look at those patterns. They please me. The whole process of creating that pattern pleases me. Sometimes I’ll leave the pattern and wait for the next rain to destroy it. More often I’ll just Windex the hell out of it and wipe it away. Then I’ll put something else on the table. Or maybe just re-arrange whatever crap is already at rest on the table.

Then I’ll wait. It’s a calm, still, quiet, personal sort of excitement.

moved the rock2

Anyway, that’s the exciting thing I did. I picked up the stones and looked at the patterns left behind. Then I put one of the stones down again.

It’s a pleasant little stone. Looks a bit like an egg. I saw it as I was walking down Delaware Avenue, sitting with a few thousand other decorative stones surrounding some greenery in front of Guadalajara, a Mexican restaurant. Only took a moment to stop, stoop down, and pick it up. I don’t think the folks at Guadalajara would mind that I took their stone.

move the rocks with cat

Later, the cat came wandering out. The cat takes a limited interest in these things. The cat doesn’t particularly care about patterns of dust left by rain-washed stones; the cat just wants to be around when something’s happening — even if that something is nothing much.

The cat has her own metrics for excitement.

trump, the slayer

This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. — Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

Well, okay — that’s it then.

Now the Republican party can drop all pretense of being serious about governance. Or diplomacy. Or hell, pick something. The GOP just isn’t a serious political party. They’ve become a frat house for assholes.

They’re pretty ecumenical when it comes to assholes, I’ll give them that. Assholes of all stripes are welcome. Religious assholes (“I’m not perfect, I’m just forgiven!”), economic assholes (“Tax breaks for the rich, fuck the poor!”), militaristic assholes (“Carpet bomb mosques, build more Hobby Lobbys!”), racist assholes (“Hey, somebody has to mow the lawns!”), stupid assholes (“Why can’t we make the Second Amendment the First Amendment?”), sexist assholes (“That was a compliment! What’re you, a lesbian?”), and free range raging assholes of all sorts. If you’re an asshole, Trump wants your vote.

Like I should care what sort of asshole you are? Just vote already.

Like I should care what sort of asshole you are? Just vote already.

Of course they picked Trump. He’s the distillation of the Republican party. There’s nothing surprising about it. Nothing strange about it. It’s not weird; it’s wyrd.

Okay, today’s etymology lesson. The modern term weird is derived from the Anglo-Saxon wyrd, which means something like destiny or fate — but more complex. Wyrd doesn’t refer to something preordained, something that is meant happen. It’s more a constantly evolving and shifting nexus of individual choices and decisions melded with the necessities of the universe. The wyrd brings various elements together, then riffs on whatever crazy-ass stuff happens next. It’s a sort of Viking jazz improv version of fate or destiny.

It’s like this: fate didn’t bring Buffy Summers to Sunnydale, home of the Hellmouth. It was the wyrd. There was a pool of potential Vampire Slayers out there in the world, and the universe needed a Vampire Slayer parked at the Hellmouth. The universe didn’t care who the Vampire Slayer was, or what supernatural lottery ticket had to be cashed in to become the Slayer. The universe didn’t care what actions and decisions (like, say, burning down a high school in Los Angeles) would bring the Slayer to Sunnydale. A Slayer was needed in Sunnydale; the wyrd got one there. It happened to be Buffy.

Wait, what? They're nominating who?

Wait, what? They’re nominating who?

Donald Trump wasn’t preordained to destroy the Republican party, and the Republican party wasn’t preordained to be destroyed. But the wyrd is at work. In a couple of months the GOP national convention will meet in Cleveland (city of light, city of magic — as Randy Newman says) and not even the wyrd knows what will happen. Maybe Trump will be given the nomination, maybe establishment Republicans will somehow nominate some other poor bastard, maybe the sun will turn black and Trump will transform into a giant snake who will be killed with a mystical knife wielded by Elizabeth Warren. Who knows?

Regardless, it looks like the GOP — the frat house of assholes — is about to die. Not even the wyrd can say what will happen. But we know where and we know when, and I know I’ll be watching. Because, to paraphrase Hunter Thompson, when the going gets weird, the wyrd turns pro.

Burn on, big river, burn on.