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Trump: a damning indictment

October 21, 2020

The Albany Times-Union’s Sunday presidential endorsement editorial was quite extraordinary in multiple respects.

It was unusually early. Filled an entire page. And was superb.

Of course, endorsing Biden was no surprise. Last time, practically no paper in America endorsed Trump. Unprecedented then, it will surely repeat this year. Trumpsters will say that merely shows the press’s bias against him. As if it’s somehow just a baseless prejudice. In fact journalists, whose business it is to understand public affairs, do so far better than the average citizen. Far less susceptible to disinformation, lies, and propaganda. Thus they see the reality of Trump — and in consequence almost unanimously oppose him.

Much good it did in 2016. That such responsible voices are nowadays drowned out by a cacophony of crazed shouting (like Trump’s own) is one of the signifiers that we’re in real trouble.

The Times-Union’s editorial presents a damning indictment. Setting forth the facts — not “fake news,” BS, lies, hoaxes, spin, or hype, but facts — such things do still exist — with blistering, devastating thoroughness. Nailing Trump as a very bad man, very bad for America.

His cultists, if they read it at all, will just wave it away. That itself is a key reason why Trumpdom bodes terrible for our future. So many people so impervious to reason and indeed reality itself. Living in an alternate reality bubble. We can’t go on like this.

It was apparently written by editorial page editor Jay Jochnowitz. A masterpiece of the genre, meriting attention for that alone. But more importantly, it does cogently illuminate the stakes in this election: good against evil. Really and truly.

Please do read it here: https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Editorial-Joe-Biden-for-president-15655822.php

(Coming soon: my own final comprehensive indictment.)

A dozen daffy delusions

October 17, 2020

1. Urban rioting is scarier than Covid-19.1

2. Only Trump can fix it.2

3. Face masks infringe on freedom.3

4. Immigration is bad for us.4

5. Foreign trade costs jobs.5

6. Gun ownership makes people safer.6

7. Whites are better than blacks.7

8. 2016 Russian election meddling was a hoax.8

9. Trump tells it like it is.9

10. He can only lose the election by fraud.10

11. He’s making America great again.11

12. He’s chosen by God.12

Footnotes:

1. Covid’s human and economic toll is literally thousands of times greater.

2. Trump stokes the societal divisions that lead to such violence. And he’s screwed up horribly on Covid.

3. Science is clear that masks curtail the spread of disease. Nobody has “freedom” to endanger others.

4. Immigrants contribute workers and skills we need, creating wealth, paying taxes, and adding consumer demand that means more jobs.

5. Trade enables consumers to buy things cheaper, leaving them with more money to spend on other things, which in turn creates more jobs, not fewer.

6. A gun in the home is way more likely to injure a family member than an intruder. America’s gun violence far outstrips other countries, because of less regulation and more guns.

7. Anyone believing that proves their own inferiority.

8. Major Russian subversion was conclusively proven by evidence.

9. He’s the biggest liar ever (also proven).

10. He can only win the election by fraud, because sensible Americans are fed up with his freak show.

11. His mishandling Covid and the resultant economic fallout hugely damages America. His disgusting behavior degrades our global standing.

12. There is no God. But if there were, he’d be a fool to rely on Trump.

Bidenomics: What to expect

October 10, 2020

Trump tries to scare voters with a bogeyman Biden — a captive of left-wing radicals who will turn America socialist, open borders, unleash violence, destroy suburbs, and more. All utterly idiotic. Only fools fall for it.

Biden’s always been determinedly centrist, a political moderate, a pragmatist, deeply respecting the hard-working middle class. In the primaries he decisively crushed his party’s leftist minority. True, he afterward created a task force to flatter them by crafting a diluted version of their policies. He’s diluted it further in his own policy pronouncements. As president he’ll be his own man. And he’ll have to work through a Congress where moderates likewise dominate among Democrats.

The stock market has risen even as a Biden presidency grows likelier. Wall Street obviously doesn’t foresee an anti-capitalist socialist administration.

The Economist has presented a thorough analysis of what “Bidenomics” probably portends. That pro-market publication likewise fears no radicalism. If anything, it says, Biden may be insufficiently daring.

Job One will be the covid-induced economic crisis, that’s hit the less affluent worst, and ravaged state and local government budgets. Trump’s insane refusal to negotiate anything before the election will give Biden full responsibility. This should mean a major, costly recovery initiative, particularly helping small business, largely left out so far. Infrastructure will be a key part, with a big green tinge. Rock-bottom interest rates make financing this fairly painless. Though eventually we must get to grips with our huge ongoing taxing/spending imbalance. The Economist isn’t betting on Biden biting that bullet.

He should, however, address the imbalance within the tax structure, worsened by Trump’s inexcusable giveaway to the richest. People like me must pay a fairer share. We should also see a long-overdue Medicare-like government health insurance option for people wanting it. Biden will also likely tackle college costs and student debt, though here again, the most radical “free-for-all” ideas will be non-starters, with help instead targeted to those most in need.

On trade, it’s unfortunate that Biden’s free trade instincts probably can’t overcome the self-harming protectionism that now infects both parties. So Trump’s stupid tariffs will be hard to unwind.

Further, Biden seems stuck in a retro mindset emphasizing manufacturing’s economic role. This vain dream of “bringing back American manufacturing jobs” has bedeviled us for decades. We actually manufacture as much as ever, but do it with ever less labor, thanks to technological advances. That’s a good thing. Our future prosperity does not lie with manufacturing but with the technology that pervades it and every other aspect of modern life.

America’s economy is meanwhile becoming sclerotic. A key reason corporate profits (and stocks) are strong is decreasing competition. Small business creation was lagging even before the pandemic crippled that sector. The commanding position of the tech giants is obvious. The Economisthopes Biden will revitalize antitrust enforcement and otherwise act to open up the economy to make it more competitive.

But the great contrast with Trump will be restoration of the ideals of public service and conduct that he so traduces. Biden will act conscientiously and responsibly, getting and heeding good advice rather than disdaining it, working within America’s time-tested institutions rather than trying to blow them up. He will govern for all Americans, not just a minority of diehard fans. Honoring our democratic traditions. A return to sanity, rebuilding what Trump has knocked down.

It’s all crystallized by Trump’s sickening attack on the credibility of our election, encouraging supporters to disrupt it based on ballot fraud lies, so he can overturn the results. Making America into a banana republic.

That’s what’s really at stake in this election. First, save the country. Then worry about economic policy.

Presidential covidiocy

October 4, 2020

In the debate, Trump mocked Biden’s mask-wearing, as he’s done continuously. Trump was probably already infected. 

He also denigrated Biden’s intelligence. Who looks smart now?

All along, Trump pooh-poohed the pandemic, acting, at every stage, like it’s all done or soon will be. However, we can see how contagious this virus is, when even the President, in the White House bubble, gets infected.

But wait. What bubble? Now it’s evident how fecklessly lax the whole White House operation has been, with not only Trump but everyone around him flouting the safety precautions urged by other parts of his own government. A huge spreader was the mask-free Barrett nomination reception. So the infected now include not only Trump, but Melania, Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway, campaign chief Stepien, Republican party head McDaniel, Gov. Chris Christie (in Trump’s debate prep), Notre Dame’s President (at the Barrett event), several senators, and many others.

This White House covidiocy was not only recklessly stupid for everyone thusly endangering themselves — and others coming in contact with them — it was irresponsible toward the whole American public, screwing up the administration’s ability to function. Institutions throughout the land have wrestled with how to operate safely. But not the White House!

Along with incompetence, another of its defining characteristics has been untruthfulness, a super-spreader of lies. A Cornell University study reviewing 38 million articles about covid found Trump the “single largest driver” of misinformation. That pandemic of dishonesty infects even this presidential health crisis. At Saturday’s medical briefing, his doctor, Sean Conley, repeatedly evaded questions whether Trump had received oxygen by serially stating times when oxygen was not administered. But Friday morning was excluded from that litany. They also couldn’t get the infection timeline straight.

Trump is in special danger, being 74 and obese — we actually don’t know what other prior health issues he might have. Nevertheless, he may come out of this with flying colors. Thanks, of course, to receiving extraordinary medical care (not, presumably, including hydroxychloroquine or bleach injections). 

Nice for him; others are not so fortunate. Over 200,000 Americans dead so far, with many more suffering long-term if not permanent injury (plus millions losing jobs, and psychological damage). And, while he’s getting that great publicly-provided health care, Trump’s minions are right now asking the Supreme Court to end Obamacare, and thus end health coverage for millions of Americans. 

Most of the covid deaths and other damage could have been avoided had Trump acted responsibly about masking and other precautions, not only personally, but urging everyone to comply, instead of encouraging what became mass covidiocy. Most Americans are, in spite of Trump, doing the right thing. But the minority who refuse, instigated by the covidiot-in-chief, are the cause of the virus still being out of control here, in contrast to most other nations. 

So as to Trump’s own illness, some might say he had it coming. Nevertheless I hope for his recovery. So he can face what else he’s justly got coming, starting with a crushing defeat in November. 

My surrealist art

March 10, 2019

Albany’s Opalka Gallery (part of Sage College) hosts occasional “Pecha Kucha” nights. A wonderful event, with a bunch of presenters each talking about a series of 20 slides, each screened for 20 seconds. I previously did one about my love affair with numismatics. More recently, my surrealist art. It’s a challenge to time the patter to the progression of slides. Also, taking pictures of pictures turns out to be hard; balancing brightness and color was problematical. But here are my slides, coupled with my verbiage about each:

When I was 13, my mom saw this painting she liked in a friend’s house. I said if you buy me paints, I’ll copy it for you. So this became my first real painting. That was in 1961, and now it’s hanging in my house. For a while I did such normal-type pictures.

Then, in my early twenties, I became captivated by surrealism. So I started doing paintings like this, from my own imagination. Its title is “Christmas Toys.” Surrealist pictures, you know, are supposed to have enigmatic titles.

My favorite artist was the Belgian Rene Magritte. And as an homage, I did make this one copy of a painting of his, titled “Collective Invention.” It has also been called “The Practical Man’s Mermaid.” You see, the usual mermaid has . . . well, never mind.

 

I had a thing for doing paintings with an architectural flavor. You might see something familiar about this scene. But I titled it, “The Temple at Naddegomra.”  Which was the name of a city in a fantasy novel I was writing.

This next one is called “Cold Street.” I exhibited some paintings at the first modern Pinksterfest in 1972, and sold one or two. There was a gal who set up next to me, also with paintings. Hers I didn’t much like. But nevertheless, we wound up leaving the show together, which was nice.

 

Now this is not a painting, it’s a sculpture. Again you see my architectural proclivity. By the way, this was not photographed in dramatic lighting; I painted it that way, in black and white. Really so fantastically clever, no?

 

And then I thought the sculpture was so absolutely wonderful that I also made a painting of it. Call it synergy between two art forms. Or maybe incestuous or something. But it’s not stealing if you steal from yourself.

 

Here is another sculpture. These were made with wood scraps, basically because I didn’t want to throw them away. This one is called “The City of God.” Somehow that was the title it whispered to me. Even though I’m actually an atheist.

 

 

 

 

And here is the painting. I did actually have a show once, in a local art gallery. But eventually I realized what was really going on with that: the gallery owner just wanted to get into my pants. So much for my art.

 

 

 

 

 

But I was really only doing this for my own amusement anyway, I had no serious artistic pretensions or ambitions. I wasn’t a starving artist, I was working as a lawyer. Here is one more sculpture, this one was done with wood and plaster.

 

And, surprise, here is the painting. This is the last of these pairings, I promise. On this one, as you can see, I added a little something. This picture hangs in my office, but not where it’s staring at me all day. The title is “Portrait of the Artist as a Piece of Wood.”

 

I did sometimes utilize photos. I came across this striking photo of a rock, or maybe it’s an iceberg. And it was just crying out to have that red globe added. I think this picture really shows a strong Magritte influence. The title is “Thing in the Sky.”

 

 

 

 

 

This was also from a photograph, a very famous one, by Edward Weston, of a green pepper. The evocation of a human nude was so obvious, I decided to play on that by painting it in fleshy tones. Take particular note of the bottom right part of the image.

 

 

 

 

So then I later came across this other photo in which I saw a close affinity with Weston’s pepper. So I painted this as a companion piece, and of course for complementarity, this one I did in green tones.

To evoke green peppers, get it?

 

 

 

Now, the next one I titled “Night Watch,” although it has nothing in common with the famous Rembrandt picture with that title. But I thought the title was fitting anyway. To appreciate this picture properly, you should bend your head down to the left.

 

But never mind, here, I’ve done it for you. The wonders of technology. By the way, all this stuff was done almost half a century ago. I basically stopped doing art because I was devoting more time to my writing instead. Not that that was a huge success either.

 

 

 

 

Anyhow, I also had a fascination with optical illusion art. Here you see it combined with my architectural fetish. Look carefully at this picture, what is depicted is a nonsense construction, that could not be built.

 

This next one is titled “Bas Relief in Four Planes.” Actually it depends how you look at it, you can see two planes, or three, or four, with features either in relief or sunken. Generally Democrats can see three or four planes, Republicans only two.

 

And on this next one, I took it to the next level by adding double symmetry: the picture is identical both upside down and in mirror image. That was actually very tricky to work out. The title is “Bathroom Tile Design.”

 

And, finally, something a bit different. A woman crucified to her own erogenous zones. Some profound symbolism there, of course, though I’m not sure exactly what it means. Maybe I had issues. But an artist doesn’t have to explain his paintings, the meaning is left up to the viewer.

John McCain

August 26, 2018

The two presidential candidates I was most proud to support were both Arizonans. I believe that had John McCain won in 2008, America today would be in far better shape than it is. A better nation.

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, okay?”

No, not okay. I like people who don’t say such things, okay? Had McCain won in 2008, we surely wouldn’t now have a president who does.

McCain reflected honor upon America. Evoking the better angels of our nature.

With him gone, it is now up to us to make America great again.

“Reveal” International Contemporary Art Fair in Saratoga Springs

August 8, 2018

We had lucked out during vacation trips to Dubai and San Francisco, happening upon unanticipated international art shows in both places. So when I saw there’d be one in nearby Saratoga, we had to go.

 

(We are not real connoisseurs, or buyers. We’ve only ever bought one serious pricey art work. Our walls display paintings by my late father, a surprisingly good amateur, and my own from my surrealist phase half a century ago. Plus one large Picasso copy by my ex-girlfriend’s artist sister, a gift the girlfriend left behind.)

 

But my wife and I do enjoy the visual treats and surprises one always finds at such shows. People have been doing art for thousands of years, so you might think everything’s been done, with nothing new being possible. How untrue that is. What is great at such shows is seeing how artists are always coming up with amazing new concepts for art.

Rothko

 

Well, not all do. My wife made a negative comment about those Rothko-like square canvases with bland horizontal color bands, a few of which were seen at the show. Borrrring! To me at least. But fortunately stuff like that was the exception.

One nice thing is being able to chat with artists about their work. Maybe they talk to us because we have a look like we might just possibly be eccentric millionaires. But they do seem to relish an opportunity to talk with anyone about their art. One gallery owner, too, chatted us up quite amiably, but then suddenly turned and walked away. Guess he decided we weren’t eccentric millionaires after all.

Most beautiful thing at the show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We discussed with artist Derek Gores his picture, “Directory Assistance” (above), a gigantic collage from fashion magazines, with many intriguing bits on close inspection (including quite a few breasts). Derek liked my wife’s boots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another artist, Brett Loving, showed us a video of how he’d done his painting “Evolution” (below) — with an excavator. That’s right, he sat at the controls of that huge piece of equipment with paint brushes fitted to its arms. Interesting results.

 

A painting by Daniel Marin (below) was quite stunning. I called it “Explosion in a Paint Factory,” but its actual title was “Arcane.” I couldn’t figure out how he could get paint to do what it did there.

 

Really incredible was Gwen Adler’s “Porcelain Frida” (below). That Frida Kahlo sure has become an icon.  Here her image in porcelain was at the center of what might have been a wildly baroque religious picture. It seemed to be a collage of innumerable photographed parts, with the whole thing then re-photographed as a single image. Is that a noose above her head?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As noted, a lot of contemporary art aims to surprise the viewer. Sometimes it’s an aesthetic surprise, of real beauty achieved in novel ways. Sometimes it’s a matter of being playful with visual elements. Both applied in the case of the green sculpture shown below; I actually didn’t register the echo of the human body in it till I saw my photo.

 

Sometimes too the playfulness is an unexpected and strange juxtaposition of disparate elements — as in Timofei Smirnov’s “Where No Voices Heard” (with telephone).

Or this horse carrying packs of crayons.

 

But then there’s the category of just plain weirdness. This photo of Edgar Endress’s “The Shrine of the American Dream” (below) shows only a portion of the wooden panels, there were many more.

 

 

And how about Michele Mikesell’s “The Lookout” (right). Clown pictures can often be subtly unsettling, but this one has that characteristic in spades. An art work like this sure is arresting and intriguing to look at it, but I wouldn’t want it on my wall where I’d have to look at it every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And some pieces of contemporary art I put in the category of just plain fun. Here is Paul Rousso’s “A Twisted Grand.” It’s a Thousand Dollar bill, a pretty accurate representation of the real thing; oversized and sculptural.

 

 

And here’s one final piece, a photograph, that was not actually in the show. It’s a picture I took recently, of our kitchen sink. It’s titled “Kitchen Sink.”

Breath Debt — Poems by Therese L. Broderick

June 18, 2018

(Page Publishing, 91 pages, $12.95 + 2.50 shipping; order from author, Box 8600, Albany, NY 12208 or Paypal to frank@fsrcoin.com; also purchasable from Amazon (click here) or Barnes & Noble (click here); e-book format will be available soon.)

Note, Therese will appear at Albany Library, 161 Washington Ave, Tues., July 3, 12 noon; light refreshments

I love being able to say my wife is a poet. Now, a lot of people write poems. But that’s not the same as being a poet. For Therese, poetry is her life. She went back to school in her forties and got a master’s degree in it, and she dedicates herself to her craft with total commitment.

She has published numerous poems and a few “chapbooks,” and won awards and prizes; this full-length collection, Breath Debt, is the culmination of years of intensive effort.

Here Therese deeply mines her own personal experience of life. Of course, such sharing enhances our insight into, and feeling for, the human condition. Isn’t that what poetry is (or should be) mainly about?

A powerful presence in the book is her father. Despite color-blindness, he served in WWII, and then — despite color-blindness! — had a career as a commercial artist. He also long suffered from lung disease, and died of it at 61, when Therese was 21. Thus the title, Breath Debt, as his struggles for breath figure in several of the poems. (The term also relates to breathing while singing.)

Therese and I often have conversations about poetics; our perspectives differ; of course mine are those of a layperson while she has devoted herself to studying the subject and developing her own distinctive voice. This is real poetry, in the truest sense of that word. I admit that much is “above my (literary) pay grade.” (That, in poetry, is what’s called a metaphor. I think.) You will not find here chirpy banalities about sunsets and moonrises (though one poem does play cleverly with the orthography of the word “moon”).

But that’s not to say it’s highfalutin. “Death in Yellowstone” delightfully recounts our young daughter’s fascination with a book so titled, during our Yellowstone tour. (A dip in its boiling pools is not recommended.) Another charming poem poignantly recounts her mother’s valiant weekly effort to get three small daughters’ hair washed before church. And one is about her cutting the lawn with scissors. (Therese is an unusual person in many ways.)

Again, lots of people write poems. But not like this. I salute my wife for a tremendous achievement.

BLOG TERMINATION RESCINDED

June 15, 2018

 

DONALD J. TRUMP

@RealDonald Trump

 

Frank Robinson and myself had a very good meeting, really really terrific. We showed him a video how great it could be for him and his people if he’d just be nicer and got a better haircut, like mine. I think he wants to, he’s very talented and sincere (not like that backstabbing Canuck liar Trudeu), Frank swore he would totally cut his hair, which I believe is going to happen very very quickly! So now we’re BFFs and lifting sanctions on his blog. Americans can sleep soundly now!

5:12 AM – 15 June 2018

BLOG TERMINATION NOTICE

June 14, 2018

Notice: Pursuant to Executive Order #9038672, this blog (“The Rational Optimist”) is determined to be a threat to national security, very dishonest, an enemy of the people, and very very unfair, and accordingly is hereby terminated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ordered and Decreed                                       DONALD J. TRUMP

June 14, 2018                                        President of the United States

 

(satire)