Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Smelling Trump Supporters

Each time I enter Walmart in North Conway, New Hampshire I think about the 2016 text from former FBI agent Peter Strzok to his girlfriend, FBI Attorney Lisa Page: “Just went to a southern Virginia Wal-Mart,” Strzok wrote. “I could SMELL the Trump support.” Both were deeply into what now appears to have been a Machiavellian scheme to prevent Donald Trump from winning the 2016 election.

Walmart draws a different demographic than, say, a Sears Store, but it’s still in business while Sears is bankrupt. It sells almost every kind of item and usually at the lowest prices, so it’s no wonder the poor shop there. Often I hear condescending remarks about Walmart shoppers from people who think themselves elite sophisticates, a large percentage of whom I suspect supported Hillary. Where might Peter Strzok have smelled them? Whole Foods? Bloomingdales?

How many Walmart shoppers voted against Hillary after they heard her remarks about Trump’s supporters delivered shortly after the Strzok text above? “To just be grossly generalist, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call ‘the basket of deplorables,’” Hillary Clinton told donors gathered at a Manhattan restaurant in September, 2016. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that, and he has lifted them up.” Many pundits think that remark cost her the election weeks later.

Ken Langone
After shopping at Walmart, I will often go to the nearby Home Depot or Lowe’s for tools and supplies. I think about the shoppers there and wonder about their politics. Mostly they’re tradesmen or do-it-yourselfers looking for the same items I am. They’re purpose-driven, knowing what they need for a particular project. They know how stuff works and know how to fix things when they break down.
Bernie Marcus
In the parking lot are many pickup trucks. I might see a Trump sticker but almost never a Bernie or Hillary sticker. I don’t see very many political stickers because contractors don’t wish to put off clients. Most small businessmen keep their politics private. I suggest Peter Strzok would “smell” more Trump supporters at a Home Depot or Lowe’s than at a Walmart.

Strzok and Page, in concert with many others, did everything they could to prevent Donald Trump from winning. They also worked the Hillary Clinton email investigation that recommended she not be indicted. Then they worked on the “counterintelligence” investigation of Donald Trump that turned into a criminal investigation shortly after his election. Mueller eventually fired them after their caustic, anti-Trump texts went public. According to the Washington Post, some went like this: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok in August 2016. “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded.

Peter Strzok as he testified before Congress
Well, they didn’t stop it, but the two lovers were soon hired by Mueller to work in his dubious Russian collusion investigation, which they probably thought would lead to Trump’s impeachment. It didn’t, but Democrats are still hoping to impeach Trump for “obstructing justice” during the investigation into a “crime” for which it found zero evidence.

Electricians, plumbers, mechanics, and other tradesmen are called in to solve real-world problems. They diagnose, then figure out the easiest ways to make a repair. If they don’t solve problems they don’t stay in business. Neither politicians nor media operate under those constraints, however. Political problems like crime, terrorism, trade deficits, poverty, illegal immigration, deficit spending, unemployment, and so forth are reported by media. Politicians diagnose causes and propose solutions — but are not held accountable when problems persist or even worsen.

They escape accountability either by mouthing platitudes via teleprompter, by redefining the problems, or by proposing increased spending on heretofore unsuccessful remedies. For decades media assisted by glossing over failed solutions. When Donald Trump came down his escalator in June 2015, spoke plainly about what was causing our problems, and, without a teleprompter, explained what he would do about them, politicians and establishment media laughed.

When his poll numbers rose, media said it was a fluke and wouldn’t last. Months later he was brushing aside sixteen Republican opponents and cruising toward the nomination. A complete outsider with neither political nor military experience, he had it sewn up by June 2016 and the only thing standing between him and the presidency was Hillary Clinton — and she was under FBI investigation.

Together with Director Comey, Attorney General Lynch, and others, they successfully broomed the Hillary investigation, but Trump was elected anyway and Mueller found no collusion. Now the tables have turned and the investigators are themselves subjects of at least two investigations, one by another special prosecutor named John Durham appointed by Attorney General Barr.

Millions of ordinary people like the tradesmen I see at Home Depot have been watching this unfold right along. They know Trump’s solutions have been working in spite of vociferous opposition from Strzok and his ilk — whose chickens are now coming home to roost.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Body Control

Alyssa Milano wants women to be in control of their own bodies. Everyone should be, although it does get more difficult with age. I’ve added Milano to a list of “celebrities” of whom I had never heard until they made news by saying something stupid. I don’t know what she was famous for before her recent attempt at rallying American women to stage a sex strike in protest of legislation passed in a few conservative states that would virtually eliminate abortions. The irony seems lost on her, but seeking an abortion is a sign that women have not been in control of their bodies and got pregnant when they didn’t want to.

Even when I was a leftist, I knew abortion dismembered human babies and I was always firmly opposed to it. “Then don’t have one!” was the knee-jerk answer from pro-abortion lefties I debated, “but don’t stop a woman from getting one.” That’s been the legal status quo of abortion ever since 1973 when the US Supreme Court passed Roe Vs Wade, which claimed that somewhere in the Constitution is a woman’s right to abortion. Having read that document many times while I taught civics, I know abortion is not in the Bill of Rights. The twisted legal gymnastics that Harry Blackmun wrote in Roe is among the most labyrinthian since the Dred Scott Decision. That was reversed in a subsequent court and Roe Vs Wade may be as well, Allysa Milano’s sex strike notwithstanding.

My taxes don’t pay for abortion, I’m told — not directly at least. Some tax money goes to Planned Parenthood which does more abortions (about 1000 a day) than anyone in America, but the pro-abortion lobby insists the money pays for mammograms — but Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms. And now, Maine Democrats have passed a bill that will make me pay for abortions and Democrat Governor Janet Mills is expected to sign it very soon. What can I do about that? Nothing, except continue to object. As far as I know, Catholic hospitals in Maine will not be forced to perform abortions as they are under Ireland’s new law.

Maine Governor Janet Mills
Because my mother was active in pro-life politics early on, I learned decades ago exactly how abortions are done at various stages of pregnancy right up to birth. The procedures are appalling, especially photographs of the results — pieces of dismembered babies that are unmistakably human. Most Americans have little idea of how abortions are done and pro-abortion activists desperately want to keep it that way. Transparency is abortion’s enemy. The “Pro-Choice” side doesn’t want women to see just what it is they’re choosing.

When I see print-outs of ultrasounds on refrigerators, I wonder how it must feel for women who had abortions to look at them. Do they get a lump in their throats when they congratulate the expectant parents who proudly posted the image? Technology has improved so much that the latest ultrasounds are vividly realistic. For decades, the abortion lobby has been lying to millions of women, convincing them that what is being aborted isn’t a human being, but just a lump of tissue.

They all support abortion
All Democrats running for president support abortion and the issue looms larger than it has in the past several election cycles. Four months ago, when Virginia Democrat Governor Northam commented on an abortion bill he would be asked to sign, we got an unvarnished view of how most Democrats think, and infanticide doesn’t repulse them at all. Northam, a pediatrician no less, said: "If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen [under the bill he supported]. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

The discussion would be about whether the now-fully-born infant would live or die. This month, during debate on the Alabama law outlawing abortion, Democrat state legislator John Rogers said: “Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now, or you kill them later. You bring them into the world unwanted, unloved, then send them to the electric chair. So you kill them now, or you kill them later.”

Such blunt talk by Democrats used to be only behind closed doors, but times have changed. Voters who were tired of the abortion debate hear this and think: “Wait, I thought it was just a lump of tissue, not a baby. What are they saying? Isn’t it murder to kill a baby?”

If Roe is reversed, I’ll still have to pay for abortions in Maine. The issue will again be decided at the state level, just as it was prior to 1973 — and Maine women won’t likely join Alyssa Milano’s sex strike.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Capturing The Spirit

Inch Strand, Dingle
After I’ve photographed something I feel an affinity for it. I’ve captured some of its essence. American Indians avoided having their picture taken because of a superstition that photos captured their spirit and would impede its travel to the spirit world after death. Think of the common phrase I just used: “having their picture taken.” Why do photographers use that phrase? Is something really being taken away?

Maine Coast
I think so, but the taking doesn’t diminish the subject. Rather, picture-taking supplements or strengthens it. Putting a picture on display spreads the spirit of the subject more widely as it imprints itself in the minds and souls of however many others focus on it. A good photograph should evoke a feeling in the viewer — something like what the photographer felt when he or she framed the picture and snapped the shutter.
Sumac in Autumn
Photographs have over-filled my 500 gig laptop. The overflow is stored on the cloud, wherever and whatever that is. It’s hard to trust something I cannot see and do not fully understand, so I store raw versions of all my photos on two separate hard drives each stored in a different building, but I only do that every couple of months. In the interim, I’ve taken dozens of shots to which I’m emotionally attached. Smaller, jpeg versions are stored on “the cloud” every time I download them, but I’m still nervous about losing them somehow.

Photography has only been around less than two hundred years and less than that in digital form — only since 1957. The first digital cameras for consumers were sold about twenty years ago. I understand how images were recorded on cellulose and then printed on paper. I’ve used a darkroom and smelled the chemicals employed in the process, but I don’t understand how a digital sensor works nearly as well. It’s been explained to me but not much sank in.
Evan's Notch
I like it though — very much: no chemicals, no darkroom, no bulky equipment, making multiple copies instantaneously. Sending them across the country or around the world is just as easy. Editing is a breeze once you learn the procedures. Competing camera-manufacturing companies are putting out equipment capable of taking pictures in lighting conditions that would have been impossible only a decade ago. Maybe best of all — costs keep going down. We can snap multiple shots — dozens, hundreds even, and discard those we don’t like at no expense. 

Good Book
Rarely do I photograph people, except for loved ones. Of them, I take many shots and then share with family and close friends. Cropping, editing, and categorizing the hundreds or thousands I take in a year brings each of them before my eyes many times — even before others see the pictures. Whether my subjects are looking into the lens or they’re unaware I’m photographing them, I see into them. So do others who view the images.
Willard Beach
Most of my subjects are comfortable with my constant shooting at family gatherings. They're so accustomed to me holding a camera they don’t seem to notice anymore. One of my grandsons who was three years old at the time got very annoyed, however. “You don’t have to take pictures of everything!” he said indignantly.
“Oh, but I do!” I responded, “especially people I love.” That didn’t persuade him and he began to hide his face when I was around with my camera until I negotiated with him. For a quarter, he would allow me unlimited shots for the rest of the day. After getting the coin he wasn’t aggravated anymore and after that, he stopped demanding payment. He’s six now and last week I photographed him and his siblings as they flew kites. He asked me to send him a copy of himself flying his kite for his iPad. I was happy to oblige, of course.

During my first visit to Ireland eleven years ago, I was struck by how many
people I saw on the streets of Dublin looked just like people I would see in Boston. From the open top of a double-decker bus, I used a telephoto lens to photograph iconic Irish faces. As I shot several dozen pictures, I was surprised to see that more than half of my subjects sensed I was looking at them and looked right into the lens. It was uncanny. How did they know? I was perched well above the street and they were on a busy sidewalk.
Kezar Lake Morning
After many decades taking many thousands of pictures, I can only conclude that there’s more going on than a mechanical, optical, chemical, and/or digital process. There’s something emotional and spiritual happening as well.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Maine Moves Further Left

Behind our house in Maine
When I moved to Maine from Massachusetts in 1977, Democrats ran things. As the new Director of Special Education for the Fryeburg School District SAD 72, I traveled around the state to attend workshops and meet with state officials trying to bring Maine into compliance with federal law under the new US Department of Education just forming in the Carter Administration. 

Joe Brennan
With longish hair, beard, and Irish surname, Maine officials correctly assumed I was a fellow-traveling Democrat and tried to enlist my help go elect Joe Brennan governor. In Maine, as in Massachusetts where I grew up, Irish Americans took naturally to politics — nearly all of them Democrats. At our dinner table growing up, politics were discussed nearly every evening. It was in my blood.

But I’d had enough of electoral politics by 1977. My work with John Kerry’s unsuccessful 1972 congressional campaign had soured me. He spent more money than any other candidate for Congress in the entire country. I had rubbed elbows with lots of deep-pocketed lobbyists and supportive celebrities at fundraisers and it all left a bad taste in my mouth. All my previous experience had been in state and local races, but the Kerry campaign gave me a feel for big-time Democrat politics. I didn’t like it.

I still paid attention by reading the Boston Globe, watching WGBH, and listening to NPR, but my worldview was well left of those outlets at the time. I consumed every detail of the Watergate Scandal as it unfolded and voted for Carter in 1976. I worked on a community newspaper with Saul Alinsky radicals transplanted from Cambridge to Lowell, but I longed to move away from an increasingly urbanized Greater Boston and head to northern New England.

With job offers from Brunswick, Augusta, and Fryeburg, I chose the latter because mountains captivated me more than the coast. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my personal politics were changing. I was slowly modifying my world view in a push/pull process. The Democrat Party and public education were both moving leftward while conservative explanations of how the world functioned seemed less hard-hearted and more realistic compared to liberal narratives. 

As I crossed what might be called the “moderate middle” sometime in the early to mid-nineties, my movement rightward accelerated and I voted Republican from 1996 onward. Regular readers of this column will be surprised to learn that Saul Alinsky’s actually made sense to me forty years ago. I can hardly believe it myself. In 2019 Maine Democrats are where I was in 1974 — on the radical left.

Democrats who took over Maine last November are quite different from the comparatively moderate, Joe Brennan Democrats of the 1970s. Last summer they were outraged when Senator Susan Collins cast the deciding vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Some opened a crowdfunding campaign to which millions were pledged and would go to a candidate challenging her in 2020. By October the fund surpassed $3.5 million, “… not an insignificant amount for a political race in a state with one of the smallest populations in the country (1.3 million),” said the Washington Post. Then last week, a headline in the Washington Free Beacon caught my eye: “‘Queer Feminist Mermaid’ Surfaces to Challenge Susan Collins.”

I wish I were kidding but I’m not. US Senate candidate Bre Kidman was: “politically mobilized by the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight,” according to the Free Beacon, and “hopes to be the first gender nonbinary queer elected to the U.S. Senate… On Facebook, Kidman is described as a ‘criminal defense attorney by day and radical fat queer/performance artist/model/musician/activist most other times.’” So far, she’s the only declared Democrat candidate.

Bre Kidman
Since 1992, Republicans were in control only during 2011 and 2012. Every other year, Democrats controlled the House and often also the Senate and the Blaine House as well. For nine years over that span, Democrats controlled all three. For another eight, the allegedly Independent Angus King was governor but behaved as a liberal Democrat — just as he does now in the US Senate.

In complete control again in 2019, Democrats want taxpayers to fund abortions and allow nurse practitioners and midwives to perform them. They want a forty-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline, kerosene, and home heating oil to pressure Mainers to reduce consumption, but outraged citizens filled the hearing room and an overflow room objecting. The bill failed and a study will be done instead but expect another vote on it next session.

Democrats also want to renew state reimbursement for General Assistance welfare benefits paid to non-citizens that Governor Lepage squashed. A respite from Democrat control was brief under LePage, but Democrats are back and more “progressive” than ever.