Girl at Lindo Lake © Robert Sommers 2018

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Dispensing justice

I was reading a conservative lauding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh the other day and he said that most importantly, once confirmed the nominee would read the original constitution and not "dispense justice."  Heaven forbid.

I am not a lawyer or a constitutional scholar, please don't ask me to try to explain the difference between originalists and textualists, it is frankly beyond me. Historical intent versus original intent, it is all very confusing. And unfortunately our constitutional framers didn't always agree on what things meant way back when. By the way, the term originalism is relatively new, entering the common lexicon in 1980. We also used to have pragmatists, intentionalists, natural law theorists and gap fillers but the latter ilk are now as rare as white rhinos.

Any how we have to put ourselves into the long dead minds of our forefathers way back in 1787, when a black, native american or woman had no legal rights. Helped if you owned land too.

The current vogue among members of the Federalist Society, those conservative stalwarts who pick our Supreme Court justices for us these days is simple. A nominee should have gone to school at Yale or Harvard, and earlier than that, Georgetown Prep, be Catholic or failing that Episcopalian, pretend to be entirely non partisan and non ideological at the conformation hearing and then once appointed, deliver a string of rulings for the conservative side. And they must belong to the Federalist Society.

Brett Kavanaugh has written a lot of opinions on the apellate court, some three hundred. He is an academic and strict originalist, who pretends that we live in a perfect world. He overturns environmental regulations with the apparent ease of somebody killing ants at a company picnic. A pretty good synopsis of his environmental rulings at Slate. He also hates the CFPB, It is true that there were units in the SEC that could have protected consumers prior to the creation of the CFPB, but the reality is that they rarely if ever did. He champions executive power and despises anything that would bite into executive privilege. He maintains that congress has to pass the laws, judges can't legislate from the bench.

It is well and good in theory to leave it to the legislature to legislate but let's look at the reality of Congress. Both houses now controlled by the Republicans, they themselves can not agree on, let alone pass, anything, within their own party!  Stuck in a dysfunctional miasma while the country disintegrates.

Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is a recipe for letting the wolves take over the henhouse, the same wolves who fill his party's coffers. You figure it out. 

Witness the recent immigration fiasco for a case study on Congressional ineptitude with the GOP running the show. Ar least Justice Kennedy was pragmatic at times, but these SCOTUS divas hurt and sometimes kill real human beings with their academic purity. They consistently elevate the corporation over the individual.

I hate to say this, I really do. But I fought a long term fight against cancer that was caused by benzene exposure, and methyl ethyl ketones. I am pretty sure I know exactly when it happened, got into some paint at my sign shop that I had no business using. Aircraft paint inadequately marked with warnings. And I fought bladder, kidney and ureter cancer for a little over 25 years in total.

Perhaps if the disease that killed my brother and almost killed me was visited upon these judges in some small measure they would start thinking about the real world implications of their enabling polluters and chemical companies with their legal sophistry. Maybe if Neal Gorsuch broke down in his car in Colorado and nearly froze to death in the ice and snow he would think twice about his horrible decision in the frozen trucker case.

The court is getting farther and farther away from representing the ideological mindset of the majority of our nation. Leonard Leo and his federalist cronies represent the worst thing to happen to American jurisprudence in memory. I shudder to think about what is to come.

Vox has an excellent article on Kavanaugh's shell game.
...So we cannot allow executive agencies to regulate aggressively because that would step on the prerogatives of Congress, but we cannot allow Congress to set up an aggressive regulatory agency because that would step on the prerogatives of the president.
But where a progressive judge might see judicial intervention as primarily warranted in order to protect the powerless against assaults from the powerful, Kavanaugh and the conservative legal mainstream see it as a tool to protect business owners from majority rule. If one is a sufficiently unprincipled liar — which Brett Kavanaugh certainly is, as we saw in his remarks after Trump introduced him to the nation — one can dress this up in the language of democracy or originalism or whatever else.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

I'm Uncle Sam, how do you do?

Soon on the road to Oregon. First stop Santa Barbara. Winding through the fires, hoping that the 5 doesn't close down. Oh well, whatever happens, it will be an adventure. Back already locking up...

Wish me luck!

A couple good friends went to see Dead and Co. recently, the current Grateful Dead tribute band featuring John Mayer. Just for the record, they liked it. I would sooner go through a tooth extraction, without anesthesia. Mayer is a fine musician and most of the other performers have been instrumental in my life's soundtrack. But I will take a pass here.

The idiom is played, it's tired, it was stale at the end when Jerry was alive. You can only wring so much out of a musical idea before it gets clichéd and loses its energy. Becomes a powerless mnemonic exercise. The whole jam band thing has gotten quite predictable. Boring. Don't ever really need to hear Sugar Mag again. I got the message, I processed the message. Let's move forward.

Melissa says a lot of young people were drunk and very high at Shoreline. Folks of all ages got the tie dyes out and pretended it was the first time or the last time. Suspended belief and grooved.

This sort of thing exists because there are obviously not a lot of safe spaces to get psychedelic in our world. Serves a necessary function, however moldy around the edges. But I hope that the concert goers don't think they were actually attending a Grateful Dead concert. That stuff stopped in 1995. To each their own, of course. By the way, she said Weir's high register sorties reminded her of a hyena's bark. Ow.  Did say that Bill and Mickey played great.

One dead story in honor of my late brother Buzz. I think all of my brothers and sisters saw the dead at one time or another with the exception of maybe Laurie. Liz and Barb went long before me at the Fillmore East. David F saw them and couldn't stand them. John went as a little kid, and I took Amie a few months before she died in the car accident at the tender age of 15. Anyway I took Buzz up with me once to Winterland or Oakland in the late seventies, I forget which. Wanted him to have a little taste.

My brother was quite the playboy in those days, for some reason or another, he scored a lot of very hot girls with perfect bodies in the spandex attire fashionable at the time. Did a lot of things I never dreamed of.

We went in to the show and I didn't see him again until the set break. He may have ingested a wandering hallucinogen or two. I caught up to him.
"How did you like it Buzz?"
"Incredible," he says.
"Yeah. These deadhead chicks are really ugly and they just don't give a shit. It's wonderful," he said without a hint of sarcasm.
He had a legitimate epiphany and was, to pardon the phrase, dead serious. Buzz may have been thinking more with his johnson back then. That is what he gleaned from the experience. Totally cracked me up. He was wrong, of course, there were some gorgeous girls around but they did not present in a style he was accustomed to. Miss him so.

Where Do The Children Play?

For Buzz.

In loving memory

Hum along with me

Prine and Thile

Friday, July 6, 2018

Speed of the sound of loneliness

L & M Dimming of the Day

Ut and Widener

I belong to a high powered photography group in Los Angeles called Clickers and Flickers. Unfortunately we haven't met for a while because our leader Dawn has apparently been pretty ill. I hope she feels better soon. This group has afforded me an opportunity to meet some of the greatest picture takers in the world. Here is a shot I took at a monthly meeting a couple years back.

The man on the left is photographer Nick Ut. Nick has taken some of the most iconic photographs in the world including this one from Vietnam, known colloquially as Napalm Girl. Nick ran the A.P. office in Vietnam. He was wounded three times. This picture won every major photographic award in 1973, including the World Press Photo award, the Pulitzer Prize, the George Polk Memorial Award and the Overseas Press Club award.

©Nick Ut

The man next to Nick and Michelle from Samy's Camera is Pulitzer finalist Jeff Widener.  Jeff took the famous picture of Tank Boy in Tiananmen Square.  He has received multiple awards and citations from the Overseas Press Club, the DART Award from Columbia University, Harry Chapin Media Award, Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, the Scoop Award in France, Chia Sardina Award in Italy, National Headliner Award, New York Press Club, Pictures Of The Year International, Best of Photojournalism, Atlanta Photojournalism, Belgian Press Photographers Association and the World Press in the Netherlands.

© Jeff Widener

Nice to rub shoulders with the true pros. Both of these men have had remarkable careers and were also at the right place at the right time. That takes a little luck and a lot of work. And the ability to stand close to the fire and not flinch. I salute them.

Lot to Laugh, train to cry

Long time gone

The hubris and high horse of first world entitlement.

I posted this picture of mine of Sedona with the following query on Google +:

Sort of a pet peeve. The desecration of sacred spaces. Say what you want about the citizens of Utah, they aren't building housing tracts at the foot of the Court of the Patriarchs at Zion or nestled next to the majestic spires and hoodoos at Bryce Canyon. Yet.

Arizona is different. Surprised there isn't a Walmart at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Private property and individual liberty is god and nobody is going to tell anybody how and what they can do with their land. So you get this sort of crap. Put your doublewide wherever you feel like it.

Got a couple interesting comments. Lot of foreigners on Google + who don't understand why we would do this, don't really understand the American West, the good as well as the icky parts. I guess it is worse at the Great Pyramid in Egypt, we humans the world over just don't respect much anymore except the almighty dollar or sheckel.

This comment was interesting.

Swami's tide pool, thirteen seconds

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Evan Nagao


Big Boss Man

Later, Scott Pruitt

© Robert Sommers 2018

Four Days Gone

Happy fourth!

Leslie and I had a nice fourth of July on the coast. I love the fourth, it has always been my favorite holiday.

I love my country, its constitutional principles and the freedom and liberty that the founding fathers envisaged.

Which are under attack.

I hope every fellow citizen will give some consideration to those qualities that have historically made our country unique and wonderful and decide if they are still worth protecting.

We are in a national conversation about who and what we want to be in the future and it is obvious that the question is not yet settled.

Our friend Eileen celebrated her birthday at Lena and Ron's beautiful home yesterday.

Everybody contributed to a big feast. Leslie made risotto.

All the food was very wonderful. We watched the Del Mar fireworks from the top deck afterwards.

Earlier in the day, we scored three packages of our beloved Belgian les pres de sales butter at Gelsons. Paid a bit more for it but not excessively so.

Nothing like hanging with your pals.

Like butter.

Hope everybody had a great day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

raptor in the shade

Roy Gaines

Buzz died a little over a year ago, on July seventh.

To lose a brother
no one ever prepares you for
such a devastating crash

no books or tapes. or words of the wise.
do my tears
still sear my heart
like acid rain?

the spectral landscape
is missing that
one essential color
now renders the entire exercise a complete fraud.

a waste of time frankly.

No one called him home.

You up and stole him from us
and it is unacceptable.
You rat bastards.

We want him back.

The southwest furthers...

Monument Valley
Afternoon, Spider Rock
Horses grazing near Kayenta

Tried So Hard

Portland Expo Antique and Collectible Show

Really looking forward to visiting and exhibiting at the Portland Expo Show later this month.

It is billed as America's largest antique show.

It will be my first time showing at Portland, which is always fun, and I am about due for a road trip.

I did see the Grateful Dead and McGuinn, Clark and Hillman with David Bromberg at the Speedway near the venue in the late 1970's. Lovely show.

Hope my northwest friends will stop by and say howdy. I know that it is a beer town but hope that they have some decent vodka too.

Baby Don't You Do It

Asshole Meter

Politics is definitely divisive. I commend all my friends from the other side of the partisan tracks who have had plenty of opportunity to cut me out of the herd and have not. Big old world, room for everybody. Thank you.

On another subject, I don't know about you but I think I am a little bit psychic. Always have been. Or maybe it is not psychic, maybe there is another deeply buried atavistic faculty that we humans innately possess that we just don't have a name for yet. The one where you meet somebody and you know within three seconds that they are a total asshole that you want absolutely nothing to do with. The ol' hair standing on the back of your neck smell check.

You can try it out for yourself, quickly scan the following random faces:

Anyone in this collage that you would want to have anything to do with, let alone be friends with? Anyone you would even want to breathe the same oxygen with? Or even shake their hand?

Definitely not, because let's face it, they all, to a man, look positively deranged. I could tell you what these folks actually do for a living but I don't want to be a spoiler. A hint: none of them to my knowledge are currently incarcerated, one has been pardoned, two, maybe three indicted. Shouldn't be too hard.

But when you do find out what these random people all actually do for work, your initial raw instincts will be positively born out. I guarantee.

I just can't see myself partying with any of these cats. Creep city. Obey your first instincts.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Wave generated thread seeks eye of the needle

big bang bobbins baste in primordial play dough.

The Monks

Pecos lightning strike

Johnette Napolitano - Everything For Everyone

Rock bottom?

The country and world is fractured, beyond any point I could imagine it could ever break.

Irrespective of the length of tenure of the current resident of the White House, I think that the wounds, while not necessarily mortal, will take at least a generation to heal.

Our ugliest tendencies have been exposed to ourselves and the rest of the world. And to be fair, they predate Trump, we just thought that the more racist fissures had been somewhat resolved. Wrong.

I was pretty taken aback by the putrid level of bile in the hatemail that HuffPo receives that it recently published. This sort of stuff:

These are not the worst of them, by a long shot. I have many conservative friends, many of whom support Trump. I sent this link to one of them and got this comment back:

This is all part of the uncivil war. Maxine may get back what she wishes on others.

No condemnation of the vile vitriol, racism and anti-semitism. Dems have it coming. All is fair in blood and war because Maxine Waters wants to resist the President and his agenda. I don't see the equivalence, personally. While many of us might secretly wish some horrible dire end for certain members of the GOP, have you ever heard  liberals or progressives resorting to this sort of racist filth and demagoguery? Of course not, because it doesn't happen.

I know that the great majority of conservatives are not nazis or bigots. But I also see that very few repudiate the racist scumbags who have allied themselves to their cause. Like the guy who pulled the gun at the family rally in Huntsville yesterday, chanting whoop whoop and Vanilla Ice lyrics. Deranged conservative syndrome is spreading like an evil virus.

Trump isn't helping things. Do you notice the veiled threats of late? Be careful when you are messing with my base - they are stupid and they are armed.

“I hope the other side realizes that they better just take it easy,” Trump said on the Fox News’ program “Sunday Morning Features.” If you criticize him, he considers you a danger to this country. 

Maybe he isn't a Nazi, maybe he is more like a Stalinist because Uncle Joe would love this sort of talk. Divide and conquer and throw the children in "summer camps."

Waters didn't threaten anybody with harm. She said that people should make Trumpers feel unwelcome. She has since been besieged with death threats. What kind of leader physically threatens congressional leaders and his political opposition?

I take my hat off to many good conservatives right now - George Will, Bill Krystol, Jeff Flake, Jennifer Rubin, Gerson, Brooks, Schmidt, Corker, the ones who had the balls to speak up. Not enough of them, frankly. 

Swainson's Hawk

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Choctaw Bingo

The simple things

Is it unseemly for a grown man to publicly extol and profess his love for something as seemingly ordinary as an egg salad sandwich? This tale, thankfully, is short and there shall be no pictures, as I was directed by my superiors. The principal has sworn me to secrecy and I must abide by his dictates or risk ever dining again on one of his scrumptious ouvre'ry repasts. He doesn't want it to seem like he is playing favorites or be forced to start making these for the common bourgeoisie.

We have lost many things in the past hundred years, knowledge, culture and dignity to name but a few. But tell me, have you tried to find a decent egg salad sandwich in a restaurant of late? As hard to procure currently as a pullet's teeth. You can find one on a deli shelf once in a while, usually bland, full of onion and without any redeeming character whatsoever.

Luckily, I have a certain association with a certain Greek restaurant owner who happens to love me and lets me order anything I want off menu. I don't often ask, not wanting to appear insufferable or be tarred with the public sobriquet of an apple polisher who seeks special dispensation. But there are times the need is simply too great and I must call in my chits.

Last week there was just such a day. He doesn't even cook anymore, for anyone but me and his granddaughters anyway but the owner dutifully carved out a space in his kitchen and went to work. A dash of mustard, a bit of mayo. Slightly toasted wheat bread with his own patented mince of celery and carrot as a sort of textural paste. I won't belabor this, the egg came warm, spilling out the sides, with a stout dill on the side of the plate and a small fruit compote which was also exceedingly good. The sandwich was heaven. Do not ask for the finer details of preparation. After all, I am a glutton, not a cook.

My patron then gave me all the extra egg salad in a sealed cup, both to feed me later and possibly hide the remaining evidence. It disappeared too before I even received my bill.

Something very beautiful about a perfect egg salad sandwich. Bless you.

Les Prés Salés butter with Camargue sea salt

If you have extraordinary bread and extraordinary butter, it's hard to beat bread and butter. Jacques Pepin

Leslie and I are simply addicted to this Belgian butter. We started using it about three years ago. Have never eaten any butter that can match its incomparable flavor set.

Well, maybe the stuff I hand churned myself in kindergarten came close but that was admittedly a long time ago.

We have tried pretty much all of the european butters and they are all mostly pretty good but nothing we have sampled comes even close to this one. Some nights all I need for dinner is a touch of Les Prés Salés on a piece of bread and I am exceedingly happy.

I think the secret might be in the Camargue sea salt, which is hand raked and harvested in France. Camargue is located in the Rhone delta and is known for the high quality of its salt. The butter itself comes from the fresh cream of very happy and healthy cows that live on the rugged plateau of the Belgian Ardennes.

The salt crystals stay intact and add a nice texture and bold savory flavor to the delicious spread. Leslie says that the butter has an underlying tang that makes it taste richer.

European butter has a slightly higher butterfat content, at least 82% and is often cultured. America, as one would expect, is mostly boorishly uncultured and has a butterfat content ceiling of 80%. Mediocrity.

Unfortunately, our go to market, Fallbrook's Major Market, has run out of the salty sweet stuff. Haven't had it for six weeks and we just ran out of the last little bit we had been hoarding. (Ed: My wife said, now why exactly did we run out, Robert? Who's the chazer?)

I talked to a grocer yesterday and he said that they are indeed looking but may in fact never be able to get it back again.  I went on line and found a place back east that had it, will only cost twenty six dollars to ship plus the price of the butter. I don't think so.

If you see it anywhere locally, will you please let us know? Starting to feel like a butter junkie needing a fix...

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Deep Blue

Hummingbird # 4793

Ace of Cups

Catch a wave

Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “If youth only knew and age only could.” Now in my sixth decade I think back on photographic opportunities that I unfortunately squandered in my youth and would like to have back. More knowledge now, better equipment, almost know what I am doing.


One of the first places I would revisit would be the Wave in Paria, Utah. A singularly incredible place to shoot with taffy like rock formations.

Too hot now, too far to hike, too out of shape, too hard to win the lottery to get in. One heart attack later. Not that I got horrible shots the first time but I know I could do a lot better. But we don't get that many do-overs in this life so you have to go for it out of the gate.

Harlan Ellison

Repent Harlequin, said the Tick tock man - Jim Steranko
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Harlan Ellison earlier this week. Ellison was as fine a speculative fiction writer as you could find.

I loved his collection of short stories I have no mouth and I must scream, which contained one of my favorites, Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes. Now I feel the urgent need to reread him.

Here is a snippet of his bio from Wikipedia:
Ellison was born to a Jewish family in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 27, 1934, the son of Serita (née Rosenthal) and Louis Laverne Ellison, a dentist and jeweler. His family subsequently moved to Painesville, Ohio, but returned to Cleveland in 1949, following his father's death. Ellison frequently ran away from home, taking an array of odd jobs—including, by age 18, "tuna fisherman off the coast of Galveston, itinerant crop-picker down in New Orleans, hired gun for a wealthy neurotic, nitroglycerine truck driver in North Carolina, short-order cook, cab driver, lithographer, book salesman, floorwalker in a department store, door-to-door brush salesman, and as a youngster, an actor in several productions at the Cleveland Play House".
Ellison was a prolific writer, editor and screenwriter. Works included The Deathbird Stories, the film A boy and his dog, a Star Trek episode, The city on the edge of forever, The Outer Limits, and an episode of The Flying Nun.

His works were certainly dystopian but not as gloomy as Dick or Gibson nor as lyrical and optimistic as Zelazny. Stylistically leaned more to Bradbury really and were similarly often tinged with horror. He had exceedingly high literary standards, his work was as good as they come. Thankfully his stories will survive him.

Wet Willie - Keep On Smilin'

Calling W.C. Fields

I almost never post the pictures and memes I regularly get on my cell phone but I thought this one was actually pretty funny.

Friday, June 29, 2018

merlin at twilight

Joan Baez - Seven Curses

New Math

fact check of the day - NYT

What they said:

The deficit, which was one of the other criticism (sic), is coming down, and it's coming down rapidly.

— Larry Kudlow, the White House economic adviser, in an interview with Fox Business Network on Friday


An April report from the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal deficit will rise from $665 billion in fiscal year 2017, which ended on Sept. 30., to $804 billion during the 2018 fiscal year.

In an analysis published this week, the C.B.O. said that “deficits would rise from 3.9 percent of the gross domestic product in 2018 to 9.5 percent in 2048.” According to the agency, the tax cuts add $1.27 trillion to the deficit over the next decade — even with economic growth factored in.

Additionally, the Treasury Department reported in May that the federal deficit had reached $532 billion so far in the 2018 fiscal year, up from $385 billion in April. The deficit was larger in March ($600 billion) because the government collects taxes in April. (By comparison, the deficit had reached $433 billion in May 2017, and $344 billion in April 2017.)

And the Office of Management and Budget estimated in February that the deficit will continue to rise — from $655 billion in 2017, to $833 billion in 2018, to $984 billion in 2019.

I see a great future for Kudlow on the Trump team.

I still miss someone

Rise up.

So although a majority of americans once again voted for the Democrat in the last presidential election, we now have Republicans controlling the House, Senate, Presidency and Supreme Court.

The latter institution purports to be nonpartisan and ideologically color blind but we know what a crock that is. Seven of nine SCOTUS justices appointed by Republicans, partially thanks to some nasty McConnell gamesmanship and the conservative four vote like a block.

Funny, you will often see Kagen or Breyer vote with the majority but never the other way around.

Great article by Jonathan Chait at New York today, The Republican Court and the Era of Minority Rule. Read it. Thanks to the most consequential decision of Mitch's tenure the majority of this country is now renting and tearing their garments.

Why? Because we have been gamed.
Democrats have won the national vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, which, with the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, will have resulted in the appointment of eight of the Supreme Court’s nine justices. And yet four of those justices will have been appointed by presidents who took office despite having fewer votes than their opponent. Republicans will have increasingly solid control of the court’s majority, with the chance to replace the sometimes-wavering Kennedy with a never-wavering conservative movement stalwart.
Over the last generation, the Republican Party has moved rapidly rightward, while the center of public opinion has not. It is almost impossible to find a substantive basis in public opinion for Republican government. On health care, taxes, immigration, guns, the GOP has left America behind in its race to the far right. But the Supreme Court underscores its ability to counteract the undertow of its deepening, unpopular extremism by marshaling countermajoritiarian power.
Sorry Jonathan, but you misspelled countermajoritarian. No decent editors nowadays. I have talked about the general phenomenon before, I call it the "tyranny of the sticks." The rural areas have diluted majority power and seized the reins. It was no accident. Through redistricting and blatant gerrymanders, abetted by an ideological SCOTUS, the GOP has managed to neutralize the urban metropolis and minority voting in this country and now runs the entire show. Still don't understand how a citizen in Wyoming's vote is worth so much more than mine is. Minority rules. And they reign with a big stick.

Abolish the Electoral College for once and for all. Time for a big payback. Time to stop playing so nice. They've stolen your country. Rise up.

Let me get this straight

Free speech is apparently a one way street. A group of people pretending to be a pregnancy resource medical clinic don't have to tell a woman that they don't actually have a doctor or medical provider on staff or that she has the option of terminating her pregnancy elsewhere.

But in states like Mississippi a doctor can be forced to lie to a patient considering getting an abortion and tell her that it will increase her risk of getting breast cancer, even though medical studies show that it does not...