About greg

Just another bozo on the bus.


Later today the United States will formally inaugurate as President a willfully ignorant, inexperienced blowhard — a man who is dangerously unprepared to occupy the Oval Office and temperamentally unfit to deal with international and domestic affairs. A man who was elected to that office through gerrymandered Congressional districts, aided by systematic voter suppression tactics, and with the assistance of a covert campaign of misinformation and propaganda employed by agents of a dictatorial foreign regime led by a former Soviet KGB officer.

We will witness the swearing-in of an arrogant, petty, mean-spirited, selfish and self-centered man — a vindictive narcissist who is entirely lacking in empathy and loyalty, a thin-skinned bully who attacks at any perceived insult and is accustomed to picking fights and letting his lawyers tidy up after him.

We will have as president a boor, a braggart, a crude vulgarian who mistakes ostentation for taste. Our nation will be led by an amoral sexist buffoon, a blatant and unrepentant liar who has no respect for the law or for science or for the truth, a man who is completely lacking in integrity, devoid of sincerity, and utterly without principle.

Starting today, we’re going to have a president from whom we have to protect ourselves. That fact is disheartening, it’s humiliating, it’s almost incomprehensible that it could happen.

But it did. Get used to it. Get used to resisting. Get used to having to call your members of Congress on a regular basis. Get used to marching and demonstrating. You have to get used to it — or just give up. Resistance or surrender. There really isn’t any other option.


But here’s the good news: there are more of us than there are of them. And starting today and tomorrow, we’re going to let them see us.

Resist in any way you can. Resist in every way you can. Resist as writers, resist as photographers, resist as artists. Resist creatively. Just fucking resist every attempt to reduce us, to marginalize us, to limit us, to stop us.

Respect our existence

or expect our resistance.

there’s a photo, right there

I’m out taking a walk, right? I had an errand to run in a part of town I’ve never been in before, and when I’m done with my errand, I say to myself ‘Dude, long as you’re here, why not take a walk, look around.’ So I do. But the business area turns into a generic suburban neighborhood, and I decide I’m going to take the next left and head back to the car.

Then I see this garage door. I’m thinking to myself ‘Dude, there’s a photo, right there‘, and what happens? Garage door goes up, car pulls into the drive and directly into garage, and a woman gets out and begins unloading groceries.

What am I supposed to do? I can’t just stand there watching this woman unload groceries. That would be totally creepy. I can’t really offer to help her with the groceries, on account of that would be mega-creepy. So I have to continue my walk. I tell myself ‘Dude, you know where the house is — you can come back when nobody’s home‘ which would sound super mega-creepy if folks could hear what I was telling myself, but they can’t so I turn on my heels and start walking again.

I’ve gone maybe twenty-five, thirty yards, and I hear that garage door sound. You know that sound; it’s sort of a mechanical murmur. Anyway I turn, and hey, the garage door is going down again. Only now my brain is caught in the don’t-be-creepy loop, and I start wondering if I go back and photograph the garage now, will anybody in this suburban neighborhood who happens to be looking out their window see me back outside the house and call the police? Which would be understandable in a suburban sort of way.


Then I say to myself ‘Dude, won’t nobody be looking out the window — and even if there IS somebody looking out the window, they probably won’t call the police — and even if they DO call the police, won’t nothing happen on account of all I’ll have to do is say ‘Officer, cast your eyes upon that garage door’ and the officer would say ‘Dude, there’s a photo, right there’ and everything would be cool‘. So I turn around and head back to the house.

I shoot two quick frames, chimp the photos real quick, then I’m back on my way. No police were alerted. No neighbors were alarmed. No grocery-toting woman was creeped out. I call that a good walk.

probably didn’t happen, but still entirely believable

See, here’s the problem: all that unverified stuff reported about Comrade Trump could be true. Some of it is almost certainly bullshit. Maybe most of it. But even the most disturbing parts (and different folks will be disturbed by different stuff) are surprisingly believable.

Let’s take the most discussed (although maybe the least important) aspect of the (sorry, but I have to say it) leaked report. It’s claimed that Trump hired

…the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel where he knew President and Mrs. Obama (whom he hated) had stayed on one their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him.

Is that likely? No, it’s not likely at all. Trump may be an egocentric fucking idiot, but he’s not THAT much of an egocentric fucking idiot. Probably.

It’s that ‘probably‘ that’s the problem. Because damn it, an incident like that simply can’t be rejected out of hand. It may be improbable, but it’s not hard to imagine Trump pulling crazy shit like that. Let’s not forget, this guy has made his sexual proclivities part of his public persona. Kinky sex with prostitutes to defile a bed slept in by Obama two years earlier? C’mon, that’s not very believable. Kinky sex with prostitutes? Totally believable.

In fact it’s NOT hard at all to believe Russia has information of some sort about Trump that can compromise him. Sexual, financial, ethical — doesn’t matter. It’s NOT hard to believe Russia would use that information (assuming it exists) to force Trump to serve Russian interests over American interests. In fact, it could be said we saw indirect evidence of that last summer when the GOP was crafting its party platform. The original platform included language calling for the U.S. to “provide lethal defensive weapons to the Ukrainian government” following Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Russia’s ongoing support for the separatist insurrection. Trump’s people had that strong anti-Russia language removed. To my knowledge, that was the ONLY major change Trump requested in the GOP platform. How does one account for that? Are we to believe that out of ALL the material in the GOP platform, the only section Trump disagreed with had to do with the Ukraine?

Comrade Trump and his transition staff keep claiming this is all an attempt to undermine and de-legitimize his presidency. I suspect that’s probably accurate — but it’s only partially accurate. It’s more likely an attempt to undermine and de-legitimize ANY U.S. presidency. And hey, it’s worked.


Vlad has to be laughing his KGB ass off.

this is not somebody that would have been prohibited from having a gun

So this guy walks into…wait, let me start over. This guy who has military experience walks into the FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska, and tells them…wait, let me start over again. This guy, who served in Iraq but received a general discharge from the military after having gone AWOL a few times, walks into the FBI office…wait. Let’s try that again. This guy who’d served in Iraq and was basically kicked out of the military, and who was facing domestic abuse charges for having hit and strangled his girlfriend, walks into the Anchorage office of the FBI and tells them he’s hearing voices. They send him…wait, damn it, let me start over again.

This guy, Esteban Santiago, who’d served in Iraq, who’d gone AWOL often enough that he’d been given a general discharge from the military for ‘unsatisfactory performance’, who was being prosecuted for punching and strangling his girlfriend AND who’d been arrested for violating the subsequent restraining order forbidding him to go near her home, walks into the Anchorage office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and tells them he’s suffering from auditory command hallucinations directed by the CIA requiring him to watch violent propaganda videos released by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which sparks the FBI into contacting Anchorage law enforcement, who subsequently seize Santiago’s Walther 9mm pistol and transport him to an area psychiatric facility for four days of evaluation, which determined Santiago wasn’t mentally ill.

So the Anchorage police gave him back his handgun.


I shit you not, they returned Esteban Santiago’s gun to him. Why? Because, according to U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler,

“As far as I know, this is not somebody that would have been prohibited (from having a gun) based on the information they had.”

What bits of information did they have? Let’s enumerate them, shall we?

  1. He was awaiting trial for assaulting his girlfriend. During an argument, she’d locked herself in the bathroom and called the police. Before the police arrived, Santiago (allegedly) kicked in the bathroom door, struck her, throttled her, then fled.
  2. He was also awaiting trial for violating the restraining order keeping him away from the woman who was now his ex-girlfriend.
  3. He presented himself to the FBI, confessed to having auditory hallucinations, and stated he’d been watching violent videos put out by militant Islamist terrorists.
  4. He was given an evaluation that determined he didn’t meet the criteria for being legally considered mentally ill.

Let’s look at that last issue first. Can a person who suffers from auditory command hallucinations NOT be mentally ill? Sure. In Alaska, mental illness is defined as having “an organic, mental, or emotional impairment that has substantial adverse effects on an individual’s ability to exercise conscious control of the individual’s actions or ability to perceive reality or to reason or understand.”

This sort of nonsense really happens. I once had a client who suffered from auditory command hallucinations. My client believed he had Go-Bots (these were transforming robot toys similar to Transformers) sitting on his shoulder. The Go-bots would identify gay men, then tell him to shoot those men the kneecap. (Spoiler: Go-Bots have shitty gaydar; none of the men he kneecapped were actually gay — not that it matters.) My client wasn’t considered medically ill because he knew shooting people in the kneecap was wrong and because he felt he could refuse to obey the Go-Bots if he’d really wanted to (he just didn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t trust the Go-Bots).

If Santiago was able to “exercise conscious control” of his actions, then legally he wasn’t mentally ill. By going to the FBI and informing them he was being controlled by the CIA, he was demonstrating that conscious control. Seriously — by reporting that he was hearing voices to the FBI he was proving that he wasn’t legally mentally ill.


Now, you’re probably saying ‘Dude, the guy STILL assaulted his girlfriend! Shouldn’t that disqualify him from toting around a firearm? WTF? Allow me to respond. Dude, this is Alaska. In some other states, Santiago’s firearm would have been confiscated. But Alaska? They don’t even stop folks who are convicted of domestic abuse from buying and carrying firearms — and Santiago hadn’t even been tried yet.

So hey, let’s give him back his gun. And hey, while we’re at it, let’s let him transport that handgun from Alaska to the Gun Nut Mecca of Florida. Sure, we’ll make him transport it in checked luggage (not carry-on luggage, because that would be crazy), but let’s give him access to it once he lands. I mean, we don’t want to make it difficult for Esteban Santiago to protect himself once he lands in Fort Lauderdale, do we.

Because as T. Jefferson said, the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. And unsuspecting passengers idling around waiting for their baggage to arrive. Freedom isn’t free, right?

corrupt as fuck, don’t care who knows it

You almost have to be impressed by the audacity of it. It’s a shameful thing to say, but you sort of expect a few several many a significant number of politicians to be, well, corrupt. It’s a given, right? They have power and we all know what power does, right (spoiler — it corrupts).

But Jeebus on a nickel, what Congressional Republicans did last night? Completely and totally fucking shameless. They gathered together in a conference and voted to rip the balls right off the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. Wait, it’s worse than that. They did it in secret. Wait, still worse than that. They did it on a Federal holiday.

When was the last time Congressional Republicans voluntarily went to work on a Federal holiday?

Republicans gather to vote on new ethics rules.

Republicans gather to vote on new ethics rules.

Okay — some boring but necessary history. Back on January 30, 1798 (that’s right, we’re talking the end of the 18th century here), Congress was in the process of impeaching a guy named William Blount (who’d borrowed heavily to invest in land along the Mississippi River, and when it looked like France might gain control of Louisiana and thereby control the mouth of the river, tried to make a deal with Britain to seize both Florida and Louisiana in order to keep the French out and allow Blount to sell his river land for a buttload of coin). During the impeachment process, while the House was in session, a guy named Roger Griswold (who belonged to the Federalist party) was trying to get the attention of another guy, Matthew Lyon (who was a Democratic-Republican — and yes, that was an actual political party back then). Lyon was deliberately ignoring Griswold, who got pissed off and called Lyon a ‘scoundrel’. That was considered a profanity back then. Lyon responded by spitting tobacco juice on Griswold.

William Blount (Democratic-Republican, Tennessee), corrupt as fuck; did not get impeached.

William Blount (Democratic-Republican, Tennessee), corrupt as fuck; got away with it.

These two guys continued to fuss at each other for a couple more weeks, then Griswold went apeshit (which, it turns out, is NOT a legal defense) and attacked Lyon with his cane (gentlemen routinely carried canes back then — go figure). Lyon retreated to a fireplace, seized a pair of tongs, and the two went at it. They had to be tackled and separated by other members of Congress.

Griswold versus Lyon, Congressional Death Match of 1798.

Griswold versus Lyon, Congressional Death Match of 1798.

Congress decided they shouldn’t have to put up with that sort of shit happening at work, so they formed the House Committee on Ethics. The committee would be responsible for investigating and punishing breaches of ethics and decorum by House members. The new Ethics Committee looked into the fuss between Lyon and Griswold and they came to a decision — which basically was this: Don’t pull that sort of shit again, especially while Congress is in session. In other words, they did bupkes.

And that, not surprisingly, set the precedence for a LOT of decisions by the House Committee on Ethics. When you put members of Congress in charge of policing the behavior of members of Congress, you end up with a LOT of Don’t pull that sort of shit again decisions. Which is why, in 2008, after a couple hundred years of bupkes, Congressional Democrats led an effort to create the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent, non-partisan entity tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct against members of the House of Representatives and/or their staff.

That sounds great, doesn’t it. But the OCE was pretty limited in what it could do. There were limits on how long they could investigate (about three months at most) and they didn’t have any subpoena power. At the end of their investigation, the OCE turned in a report to the House Committee on Ethics. Yeah, that’s the same committee that’s mostly done bupkes for two centuries — but the OCE was also required to make their report public, which put more pressure on the HCE to actually DO something. And the OCE could, if necessary, refer allegations of criminal conduct to prosecutors.

Which is probably why House Republicans wanted rip off the OCE’s balls (tiny as they were). Here’s what the Republicans did (and remember, they did this in secret on a holiday). First, they changed the name of the agency. Now it’ll be the Office of Congressional Complaint Review. What were once ‘ethics investigations’ are now just ‘complaints’. They also removed OCE’s power to investigate anonymous tips, and they’ve prevented the OCE from referring ‘complaints’ of criminality to prosecutors. Oh, and that public report? The one that might embarrass Congress into action? That’s history.

The jackass who sponsored this legislative turd is Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. He claims it will improve the due process rights for the House members who find themselves under investigation. This is the only time in modern history a Republican has shown any concern about anybody’s due process rights.

Bob Goodlatte (Republican, Virginia)

Bob Goodlatte (Republican, Virginia)

What amazes me — and probably shouldn’t — is how open they were about this. Yeah, they met in secret on a holiday, but after de-balling the OCE, they actually announced it. Basically, this is a proclamation that Republicans under a Trump administration intend to Make Corruption Great Again.

Trump would probably want to put a portrait of William Blount on the new twenty-dollar bill. If he knew who William Blount was. And I’m positive he doesn’t. By the end of the first Trump term, I fully expect the motto of the United States will switch from E Pluribus Unum to “I Got Mine, Jack.” Or, if you prefer it in Russian, Я получил мое, домкрат.

Editorial Note: In case you’re wondering what happened to William Blount, the guy who started all this, the House voted to impeach him. However; the Senate refused to convict him, and Blount returned to Tennessee. There he worked to fuck over the Cherokee natives who were losing their land to settlers. After he was accused of working to fuck over the Cherokee natives, Blount sued his accuser for libel. The suit was dismissed by a Judge Campbell. Blount managed to get elected to the Tennessee State Senate, at which point he worked to impeach Judge Campbell. The Tennessee House voted to impeach the judge, but the Senate refused to convict him.

Ethics is some tricky shit.


I belong to this odd collective of photographers called Utata. I’ve written about the group and some of its projects before, so I won’t bother you with a description again. I mention it because one of our elastic traditions (by elastic I mean sometimes we do it, sometimes we don’t, some of us do it, some of us don’t) is to post the last selfie we took in the year to our Flickr group.

Yesterday was the last day of 2016, so I went searching through my files (I say ‘files’ as if I actually have some sort of organized system of storing photographs, which polite folks would suggest was an exaggeration) for the last selfie I shot. Turns out that was June 20th.


It’s a perfectly acceptable selfie (at least by my fairly low standards), but June 20th was six months ago. And let’s face it, the photo is more about the cat than me. Still, it’s technically a selfie so I figured it would do.

If I had a lick of sense, that would have been it. But no. I decided I should probably take a new photo — a current photo, a photograph that is more clearly a selfie, a photograph with less cat. Did I prepare this in any way? No, I did not. Did I change clothes or shave or even bother to comb my hair? No, I did not. Did I even look in a mirror first? No, I certainly did not. Why didn’t I do any of those things? Because I am, on any number of metrics, a fucking idiot.

Here’s more proof of my idiocy: I picked up my tablet (okay, you’ve almost certainly heard folks say you shouldn’t ever take a photo with a tablet because the cameras suck; turns out that’s true, and it’s even more true when it comes to taking a selfie because the front-facing camera (or is it the rear-facing camera? I don’t know) sucks even more), stepped into the middle of the room where there was the most light, and hey bingo at 5:09 Central time on December 31st, I took a selfie.


It was what you’d call a ‘tactical mistake’. I looked at the photo and thought ‘Lawdy, what the hell was I thinking?‘ It has been pointed out to me on occasion that I often look like a thug in photographs. I think we now have to amend that to ‘an aging thug’. Or maybe ‘a confused, aging thug’. Because, c’mon — just look at that. It looks like I’m concerned the camera is going to eat my soul.

I started to delete the photo, at which point I realized ‘Dude, THIS is the last selfie of the year.’ After a brief moment of horror, I realized I could comb my hair, put on different clothes, find some good light, take a selfie with an actual camera, and then THAT photo would be the LSotY.

But that would be sort of a dick move. Now, I’m perfectly capable of making dick moves. Mostly I make them without thinking. Deliberately making a dick move amplifies its essential dickishness (witness Donald J. Trump’s New Year’s tweet). I couldn’t really do that to Utata, could I. So I was stuck with this photo.

And then I thought of Prisma. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an application created by some Russian developer that doesn’t just apply a filter on top of an existing photo; it actually scans the digital data and uses that information to apply a ‘style’ to a photo. I’ve had the app on my tablet for a few months, but never really bothered to play with it. This seemed like a good time to try it.

Prisma - Udnie


Prisma must have around thirty different styles (yeah, I could count them, but really, how likely is that?). The style above is based (loosely, I’d say) on Francis Picabia’s painting Udnie (Young American Girl, The Dance). I don’t see it, myself. But hey, it’s an improvement on the original photo.

It’s much easier to see the connection between the Heisenberg style and the famous Heisenberg drawing of Walter White from Breaking Bad. I like this style, although I have to say it’s a wee bit alarming to see that a Breaking Bad-based style makes me look LESS like a thug than in the original photo.



Some of the Prisma styles don’t seem to have any relationship to — well, to anything at all. For example, the Colored Sky style has a lot of color, but I don’t see much sky in it. Unless you’re hallucinating. Or maybe on another planet. The shark eyes are sort of cool, though.

Colored Sky

Colored Sky

And the Aviator style? Seriously, what does this have to do with aviation? It should have been called the Braveheart style. It’s got Mel Gibson as William Wallace splashed all over it. Well, except there isn’t an implied claymore in the photo, and there’s no hint at all of consuming “…the English with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse.” So okay, maybe less Braveheart and more Pogo the Clown.

Aviator (seriously?)

Aviator (seriously?)

The Urban style doesn’t strike me as particularly ‘urban’ unless you’re defining ‘urban’ as ‘scowling like a motherfucker’. Really, I don’t understand where that scowl comes from. I’m a nice guy. Honest. A harmless guy. I’ve never once been convicted of a felony.



I suppose it’s appropriate to end this with the Mononoke style. I’m not sure if Prisma named the style after Princess Mononoke, the 1997 anime film by Miyazaki, or the 2007 Mononoke television series about an itinerant medicine seller, or the Japanese term for a supernatural spirit that can inhabit or possess…well, just about anything, it seems. It’s appropriate to end with this style because that’s sort of what Prisma does. It doesn’t lay a filter ON the photo; it digs down into the photo’s data and sort of inhabits the photograph. This is probably the closest approximation of the original selfie; it transforms the photo while still retaining its essential confused, aging thugness.



In general, I’m not a fan of apps like Prisma. I just can’t take them seriously. I certainly don’t believe Prisma’s claim that their app “transforms your photos and videos into works of art.” That’s fundamentally bullshit. You don’t create art by picking styles off a menu. That’s not making art; that’s shopping.

But you can have fun shopping with Prisma. Watching the transformation is a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be. And that’s the thing about Utata — it’s all about having fun. So I legitimately took my last selfie of the year at 5:09 Central time on December 31st. But I don’t think anybody can fault me for spending maybe twelve minutes on January 1st shopping with Prisma.

cabinet of nazgûl

There’s a lot of wild speculation about what will happen when Donald J and his Cabinet of Nazgûl take office in January. Which is completely understandable, given that Donald J is following the Bizarro World approach to cabinet appointments. If he can’t find somebody who is actually opposed to the very existence of the agency he or she would be running, Donald J can at least find somebody who is completely unqualified to run it.

You got a Department of Energy? Let’s see if we can find a guy who earned a Bachelors degree in Animal Science! Let’s see if we can find a guy who earned a D in classes like ‘Veterinary Anatomy’, ‘Feeds & Feeding’, ‘Writing for Professional Men’, and ‘Meats’. Let’s get Rick Perry and put him in charge of maintaining the nation’s nuclear arsenal!

Pundits look at the venal greedheads and amateurish bunglers hired by Donald J to help run his government and say how unprecedented it is. But you know what? It’s not unprecedented at all. We’ve actually seen what happens to a government when it’s run by people chosen primarily for their loyalty to the president or to a political ideology rather than for their qualifications.

We saw it in Iraq.

After the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the Bush administration needed to create a replacement government. It was a unique opportunity — a chance to build a government from the ground up. The Bush folks created a new entity to handle the reconstruction of Iraq: the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The CPA was given the power to enact laws, to print currency, to collect taxes, to deploy police, and to spend Iraq’s revenue. Did the CPA hire experts in administration? Did they hire prize-winning economists or professional accountants? Did they hire scholars in Middle East studies or sociologists aware of the sensitive cultural and religious issues between the various Iraqi tribes and clans? Did they hire experts in logistics to insure material and supplies would get where they needed to go in a timely fashion? Did they seek out public health experts? Did they look for experienced construction managers?

Fuck no. They hired people who were 1) loyal to George W. Bush and 2) shared an ideology that was grounded in Christian conservatism.

Got that? In a Muslim country needing to be rebuilt after a war, the agency tasked with the rebuilding hired Christian conservatives with no expertise in rebuilding or running anything. Want to reopen the Iraq stock market? Put Jay Hallen in charge — a 24 year-old kid working in real estate with no experience or education in finance. Want to rebuild the nation’s health care system? Hire James K. Haveman, who operated a Christian adoption agency in Michigan that urged pregnant women not to have abortions. Got a US$13 billion budget for reconstruction? There’s 23 year-old Casey Wasson — she had no experience in accounting and had just graduated from an evangelical university for home-schooled children, but she thought George W. Bush was aces, so what the hell, let her help manage it. How hard can it be?

Did these rank amateurs and ideologues fuck things up? Oh lawdy, did they. Iraq is what it is today largely because after we preemptively invaded a nation that turned out not to be a threat to us, we put incompetents in charge of repairing all the damage we caused. Sure, we created a situation that encouraged a civil war to break out, but at least we made sure we weren’t giving the Iraqi people any money for abortions.

Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall.

Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall.

Since Donald J’s Cabinet of Nazgûl aren’t starting from scratch, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to fuck things up on an Iraqi scale. But the lesson is there to be learned. We’ve seen how putting ideology and greed above all can produce an epic shitstorm that can last for decades.

I’ve called Donald J’s cabinet the Cabinet of Nazgûl, but in all honesty that’s inaccurate. The Nazgûl were actually competent at their jobs. Sauron sent them out to do a job, and they did it pretty well. The general incompetence of Donald J’s crew can work in our favor. The men and women in his cabinet don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, which means they’ll spend a chunk of time tripping over their own tiny dicks.

It’s our job to resist and obstruct, to help them to trip themselves up. And if they don’t trip themselves, then we have to do the tripping for them. And trip them again as they try to get up. I hate that obstruction has to be a priority, but it’s that or allow things to get fucked up faster.

It’ll be a long four years, but then we can have Michelle Obama or Kirsten Gillibrand to run against Donald J. It’s not necessary for him to lose to a woman, but it would be SO much sweeter that way.