Summertime Blues.

By all objective standards, it’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Not by mine.

The sky is hazy, perhaps with smoke blowing up from the Soberanes fire near Big Sur. But the temperature is moderate — 72 degrees with clear skies. It’s supposed to warm up to 75 tomorrow before dropping down to 73 for the rest of the week. Weather here is not exciting.

It’s summer. I could be writing about Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, where the family went on vacation. (Geysers! Bison! Big Mountains! Temple Square in Salt Lake City where you could watch tourists wandering around playing Pokemon Go!)  I could write about my last job. (It’s also my future job, for that matter.) I am burned out writing about politics — I’m burned out by politics generally. I don’t want to read my news feed or by Facebook feed but I do anyway.

The need for the media to treat the candidates the same is bizarre. I want to write about the Clinton foundation, about some of the more ridiculous things I have read about it, and how it actually does good in the world. Donald Trump’s foundation does good too, but the Clintons give far more of their  income (close to ten per cent) than Trump does — looking over his foundation’s tax form, the largest the foundation has been in the past ten years is five million dollars. Not much for a man who claims to be worth billions.

I’m not even writing about the Olympics, about the amazing Simone Biles, and the bizarrely unfair criticisms leveled at Gabby Douglas, or how saddened I am by the swimmers who vandalized a Rio gas station, then lied about it. Most of my friends are outraged, and talk about male privilege and white privilege (and, more rarely, American privilege). I understand all those, and agree with them, but try as I might I am more saddened by the whole sordid affair than infuriated.

It’s just…. summer.

I am glad that it is now recognized that summer can cause depression as much as winter can. Years ago, that wasn’t the case: I had medical professionals tell me that summer SAD didn’t exist. Where some of my friends use light boxes, I stay up late and sleep late to make the days shorter.

In one study, researchers pushed mice out into water to see how long they tried to swim as opposed to just giving up and floating in despair. Aside from the fact that that seems like a crappy thing to do to those poor mice, giving up and just floating seems like an apt analogue to struggling with depression. I can get done what other people ask of me, but things for me, such as writing, don’t happen. I can’t even get up the emotional energy to set up Pokemon Go. (Although that might be passive-aggressive rebellion: everyone else in my family is obsessed, and although I have a pretty good knowledge of first generation Pokemon, I have refused to jump in. I am determined, however, that if I do, I am going to sign up for the red team. Everybody else in the household is blue. I never saw Avatar, either.)

Soon it will be September, which will bring work (always useful) and shorter days. (It won’t bring cooler temperatures: the hottest time around here is September and early October.) And a few months will bring the comforting dark blanket of November nights.

Also, this isn’t Florida.

So things will get better. As will I.

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No, you really can’t do that.

[I am not authorized to speak for my employer; everything in this post comes from personal experience. I am solely responsible for the content herein.]

I’ve watched a lot of political coverage this year. A LOT.

Lately, Donald Trump has claimed that if he does not win it will be because the election was rigged. Republicans across the country have yelled that fraud is rampant, so you need to curtail early voting and require ID from a list that enfranchises gun owners and disenfranchises minorities and students.

But election fraud of the type that these laws purport to prevent is rare — you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to have committed voter fraud.  News outlets, mostly (excepting Fox News) have done a decent job of reporting this.

It does not matter. Republicans insist that it is necessary to outlaw out of precinct voting, and reduce early voting days and institute onerous ID requirements.. (After the Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, the North Carolina legislatures wasted no time in putting in place restrictions that would impact African-American communities with “almost surgical precision,” according to Judge Diana Gribbon Motz of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.)

Telling people exactly how rare voter fraud is matters. But what may matter more is telling voters why voter fraud of the type these laws purport to prevent doesn’t happen.

I live in a state which tries to enfranchise people as much as possible, and to make it as easy as possible for people to cast ballots. More pertinently, I worked in the elections division of a neighboring county.

When you go to the polls, you have to sign the poll book. This is a list of everyone who is registered to vote in that precinct, and who has not been sent a vote-by-mail ballot. You sign, you go to a booth and fill out a paper ballot or use an electronic voting machine. (In California, electric voting machines also have paper trails.) If you have been sent a vote-by-mail ballot, you can surrender it and vote at the polls. If you do not live in that precinct or for some other reason (such as not being registered) do not appear in the book, you fill out a provisional ballot.

Ah, the mystical provisional ballots. Bernie Sanders supporters held on for weeks claiming that provisionals were disposed of. No doubt, this is the mechanism by which Trump supporters believe the election could be rigged: people going about casting provisionals right and left.

The Bernie supporters were wrong: the provisional ballots do get counted. They don’t get counted election night, however. And they aren’t counted without being investigated first.

Provisional ballots are checked against the computer to see if the voter cast a ballot at a different precinct. If, so, the provisional isn’t counted. They are checked against the vote by mail ballots, and if the voter mailed in a valid vote by mail ballot, the provisional is not counted. They are checked against the voter rolls, to make sure that the voter is even registered to vote in the county.

Someone could go around precinct to precinct and cast provisional after provisional, and it would have no effect on the outcome of the election whatsoever. All the ballots cast after the initial one would be invalidated.

None of those franchise restriction laws would change the level of fraud one way or another, because carrying off such a fraud in numbers sufficient to impact a race would be impossible.

All those laws do is make it more difficult for people — at least people who are poor, or elderly, or minority — to vote. Didn’t we deal with this years ago?  Apparently not.

Or maybe we did, and for the Republicans, that’s the problem.

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I just heard a cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Songs” by Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer.

Wow.

Yes, I know, there are major cultural appropriation issues. Bob Marley lived in a particular social and political context, and his music is a response and challenge and a call to action. “How long will they kill our prophets while we stand aside and watch?” isn’t really metaphorical.

But Johnny Cash makes this song so personal. It’s not a political struggle, but the struggle all of us have to get by. And there is something just… right … about the man whose first big hit was “Folsom Prison Blues” singing about songs of freedom.

“Redemption Songs” was released posthumously, on the box set which includes his covers of “One” and “Hurt.” That last one breaks my heart.

Good music, even for people who are not Johnny Cash fans.

Posted in Culture (popular and otherwise), Music | Leave a comment

Letters.

My dear RBG,

I love you. You know that. You have been a beacon of hope for so many of us, a gifted champion for the downtrodden. I hope you live forever.

But Donald Trump is right. You acted completely inappropriately when you spoke out about his candidacy. As Ben Carson said in an interview I saw with him, most people believe that the Court is completely politicized anyway. The last thing we need is to feed into that perception, further eroding trust in SCOTUS as an institution.

I don’t care if you gripe to your friends, or fulminate to Elena and Sonia. A Supreme Court justice has got to stay out of politics in public. It’s Caesar’s wife: not only must the Court be impartial (to the extent it can be), it must be seen to be impartial. That’s why you guys don’t applaud during the State of the Union, right?

Love,

A VBF (Very Big Fan)

P.S. Absolutely no love for making me agree with Donald Trump and Ben Carson. 

*********

Dear Donald Trump:

You think RBG is actually going to resign over this? Hah! As Willie Wonka might say, “You’re funny.”

No love,

A “hater.”

*********

Dear Bernie Supporters who walked out after he endorsed Hillary Clinton:

For months now you and he have been saying that his candidacy was about more than him. You’re both right: at this point, it’s about your egos.

You have two choices: vote third party (or not at all) and bask in your self-righteousness if Donald Trump wins the White House. You could be like the Nader people from 2000, who blamed the Democratic Party for not doing enough to “welcome them.” Never mind that you have consistently misrepresented Hillary’s record for months, or that the platform will represent many of Sanders’ positions (not all, but hey, a lot). Never mind that you are willing to turn America over to a party that wants to eliminate reproductive rights for women, whose standard-bearer exudes xenophobia and misogyny with almost every utterance. Nothing matters more than “refusing to settle,” right? I’m sure your ideological purity will be of great comfort to the rape victim who cannot get an abortion because abortions are illegal across the country. (Oh, and don’t forget, the next President will be responsible for the filling of at least one SCOTUS seat, ensuring that the Republicans’ reactionary agenda will be enshrined in law for years, possibly decades, even if January 2021 features the inauguration of President Warren.)

Or you can recognize that wars are not won in a single campaign. That change may take a long time. Don’t be fooled by the rapid ascendancy of the Tea Party: like the actor who has toiled in bit parts for fifteen years before becoming an “overnight sensation,” the far-right has been building its ground game ever since Goldwater lost the 1964 election. You can recognize how much can be accomplished at the local and state level, and that you can elect someone who will not set the country back, even if you don’t think she is going to move the country forward. You’ve achieved a lot — let’s build on it, okay?

Love,

Someone who actually agrees with you on almost all issues of substance.

*********

Dear Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow:

Love you guys. But I am going to take a break because I just can’t take all this anymore. Between the violence and the politics (and the way they overlap) everything seems overwhelming, and even your intelligent perspective on the news of the day can’t make it better. I’ll go back to Google News for now.

See you after the conventions.

Bye for now,

A (most of the time) follower.

PS. Who am I kidding? I’ll be tuned in tomorrow.

*********

Dear Tampa Bay Rays,

Damn. Oh well, the Buccaneers’ season starts in about a month.

Sincerely,

Disappointed.

PS. NY Mets, you are on notice: get your freaking act together.

Posted in Politics, SCOTUS, Sports | Leave a comment

I-N-T-E-N-T

It is not difficult. Really, it’s not.

The difference between Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus, or Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Manning, or Hillary Clinton and Edward Snowden, is…

She did not knowingly and deliberately give classified information to people who had no right to it. Petraeus gave classified material to his mistress, Manning and Snowden gave classified material to WikiLeaks. Maybe you think that they acted in the best interests of the country (Manning or Snowden, anyway), but that’s irrelevant to any discussion about Clinton.

I don’t care if you are a conservative fulminating because she was not indicted or a leftist aggrieved because you wanted her to be eliminated as the Democratic nominee, or if you’re Edward Snowden pretending that setting up that email server was the equivalent of dumping mounds of classified materials in Julian Assange’s lap. The law requires more than “I don’t trust her.”

You want to argue “gross negligence”? That’s another bag of marbles, and maybe — or maybe not — you have a point. James Comey didn’t think so. And the man served under GWB as well as Obama, and before his actual announcement was lauded by the Republicans in Congress as being the soul of integrity. They only decided he was hopelessly corrupt when he declined to do what they wanted.

In any case, don’t bring in Snowden, Manning or Petraeus. Pretending as though what she did was equivalent to what they did simply makes you look foolish.

 

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Who knew? Hillary’s a Republican!

There’s this politician…

Has a 100% rating by the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Has an F from the NRA.

Is endorsed by the Sierra Club, The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, The Natural Resources Defense Council, Planned Parenthood, and the Alice B Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Among many others.

And she’s a Republican! At least according to a sad number of people who — still — show up on my Facebook feed.

Which is odd because in her last term, Hillary Clinton had a more liberal voting record than seventy percent of the Democrats in the Senate. She is more liberal than Barack Obama, as liberal as Elizabeth Warren, and only a little less liberal than Bernie Sanders.

Don’t take my word for it: take FiveThirtyEight.com’s.

I know that me writing this will make little difference: if they can’t paint her as a Republican selling out progressive values, they’ll paint her as having been lucky to  escape being in jail, ignoring the fact that under the law (law? remember that?) she should not have been indicted, and that Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice also used personal email for work, and that George Bush and Dick Cheney did much worse.

She’s Hillary. They hate her.

Oh, but it’s not misogyny! It can’t be!

After all, they’re the TRUE progressives.

Don’t mind me. Irrational people on the other side bother me; irrational people on my side infuriate me. I expect better.  But then this entire election season has disabused me of a long cherished notion: yes, there are batshit crazy conspiracy theorists on the left as well as on the right.

Rats.

Posted in nothing special | 1 Comment
I have a new laptop — a Macbook Pro 13 in. (Trying to run El Capitan or Yosemite on my 2011 Macbook Pro was proving excruciatingly hard.)
 
I was considering what to call it following my usual naming conventions (artists). Thus far, my electronics have been:
 
Jan (Vermeer, my first laptop)
Francisco (Goya, my first backup drive, which died when I accidentally kicked onto the floor)
Henri (Toulouse-Lautrec, second external drive)
Georgia (O’Keefe, second laptop)
Artemisia (Gentilleschi, iPhone)
 
So after careful consideration (Rosa, after Bonheur; Edward, after Hopper; Claude, after Monet)*…
 
I would like to introduce Dorothea, after noted American photographer Dorothea Lange.
Hopefully we will have a long and fruitful collaboration. 
*For obvious reasons, Vincent has never been a serious contender.
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