Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bush's Suckiness

Sometimes it is still kinda startling to see Bush's suckiness represented so starkly... (click to enlarge graph)

If we extended that line all the way back to 9/11/01, the drop-off would appear even more dramatic. Had Bush not willfully and arrogantly screwed things up so badly, I might almost feel sorry for the dude...

... but he did, so I don't.

Pandering with a "Gas Tax Holiday"

It is rare that you get economists Robert Reich, Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman to agree on anything, but not so when it comes to the unbelievably stupid "gas tax holiday" idea advocated by the Republican ticket, John McCain and Hillary Clinton. All three economists think that it is a terrible idea and so should you:

• In his essay, "Dumb As We Wanna Be," Friedman explains,
This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.

When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit. . . .

The McCain-Clinton gas holiday proposal is a perfect example of what energy expert Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes as the true American energy policy today: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”. . .

But here’s what’s scary: our problem is so much worse than you think. We have no energy strategy. If you are going to use tax policy to shape energy strategy then you want to raise taxes on the things you want to discourage — gasoline consumption and gas-guzzling cars — and you want to lower taxes on the things you want to encourage — new, renewable energy technologies. We are doing just the opposite.

• In his essay, "What To Do About the Oil Crisis," Reich writes,
McCain and HRC are proposing a tax holiday on gas - so this summer you wouldn't pay the 18 cents a gallon that would otherwise go to Uncle Sam. Talk about dumb ideas. This will only encourage Americans to drive more, thereby increasing demand and causing gas prices to rise even higher. Driving more will also put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which fuels global warming. And this will cost taxpayers some $10 billion. It's a cheap political gimmick that does nothing to stem the rising price of oil.

You want to hold oil prices down? In the short term, strengthen the dollar. Part of the reason oil prices are soaring is because the dollar is tanking. The Treasury and financial ministries of other rich countries should buy back dollars to stop speculators who are bidding the greenback down.

Over the longer term, though, China and India's insatiable demand for oil will continue to drive oil prices up, and turmoil in the Middle East will keep them up. So there's really only one way for us to go: Alternative sources of energy - wind, solar, biomass, water, and if we can make it safe enough, nuclear.

But wait, if alternative energy is the way to go, and energy corporations are making record profits each quarter, why aren't they investing in these alternatives? Again, Reich explains,
They have more money now than they know what to do with. Their quarterly reports, out this week, will show galactic profits. But for them, basic research in alternatives is too risky. And why should we expect them to invest in alternatives to oil, anyway? They aren't even putting as much as they did five years ago into oil exploration, as a percent of their profits. They figure the best way to keep their stock price high is to use their windfall profits to buy back their shares. This may be good for their shareholders but it's terrible for America.

That's why it's time for a windfall profits tax on oil companies to finance our way to sensible and sustainable sources of energy. Forget the summer tax holiday on gas. We need a permanent holiday from oil.

• And, finally, in his piece, "Gas Tax Follies," he makes it plain,
John McCain has a really bad idea on gasoline, Hillary Clinton is emulating him (but with a twist that makes her plan pointless rather than evil), and Barack Obama, to his credit, says no.

Why doesn’t cutting the gas tax this summer make sense? It’s Econ 101 tax incidence theory: if the supply of a good is more or less unresponsive to the price, the price to consumers will always rise until the quantity demanded falls to match the quantity supplied. Cut taxes, and all that happens is that the pretax price rises by the same amount. The McCain gas tax plan is a giveaway to oil companies, disguised as a gift to consumers.

Is the supply of gasoline really fixed? For this coming summer, it is. Refineries normally run flat out in the summer, the season of peak driving. Any elasticity in the supply comes earlier in the year, when refiners decide how much to put in inventories. The McCain/Clinton gas tax proposal comes too late for that. So it’s Econ 101: the tax cut really goes to the oil companies.

The Clinton twist is that she proposes paying for the revenue loss with an excess profits tax on oil companies. In one pocket, out the other. So it’s pointless, not evil. But it is pointless, and disappointing.

Here is what the editors of the L.A. Times think about the gas tax holiday. And the NYTimes piece is here. And here are a whole bunch of short snippets of other reactions.

Seriously, people. The time has come for a fundamental paradigm change in our energy policy and in our relationship with the natural world. We need to kick our oil addiction and get serious about investing in alternatives. We need to find more sustainable ways to live. Like, yesterday...

Hillary Clinton has an ad up in Indiana pandering on this gas tax holiday and it is cynical as hell and oh-so-very-Republican:

Like the Republicans, Hillary is hoping voters are too dumb to think it through a little bit to see the full consequence of this ruse. Hopefully, they won't fall for it. You can do your part by spreading the word...

UPDATE: Here is Obama's response to the Hillary ad:

77 Optical Illusions

When I was in elementary school, I got fascinated with optical illusions and did what seemed at the time like a huge report on visual trickery. Ever since, I've always had a soft spot for such things. Here is a website with 77 different optical illusions for your enjoyment...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Music Plasma

Looking for some new music? Check out Music Plasma. Go here and type your favorite band or musician in the box. Click enter and watch it generate a graphic of that musician/band's universe...

You can also do it with movies.

It isn't perfect, but it is pretty fun to play with. It sometimes misses obvious connections and it would be even cooler if it could recommend specific albums or songs, but it is worth a look nonetheless.

Anyone know of other similar kinds of websites?

In An Absolut World

Absolut brand vodka recently caused a bit of a stir when they ran this print ad, featuring Mexico as it was before the U.S. took over about a third of that country in the mid-19th century. What do you think? Controversial or not?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rumble in the Jungle

H+B Gallery out of Los Angeles has posted a collection of Howard L. Bingham's photos of the "Rumble in the Jungle," the epic 1974 boxing extravaganza in Zaire between George Foreman and Muhammed Ali.

To see the thrilling final round of the fight, including Ali's shocking knockout of Foreman, click here. To see the mayhem afterward as well as Ali's post-fight interview, click here. To see more footage and hear Norman Mailer's recollections and analysis of the fight, click here.

There is also an excellent documentary on the fight and surrounding craziness called "When We Were Kings." Here is what Salon had to say about the film. Here is a review of the soundtrack. It earned a 97% "fresh" rating over at Rotten Tomatoes... virtually unanimous critical opinion that the documentary is great.

I've selected some highlights from the Bingham collection and tried to post them chronologically, for the most part, so that they have a kind of loose narrative flow...

Here is the link to the H+B site... check out all the photos in the exhibit there.

James McMurtry, "Levelland"

We are driving back from Denver to Lincoln today, so I've got this James McMurtry song - "Levelland" - on my brain. I can't embed it, but you can click here to take a look at the video and have a listen.

If you don't know about McMurtry's music, you should check him out! He is the son of famed western author Larry "Lonesome Dove" McMurtry. James plays "roots rock" music with a working-class political edge. He has an uncanny ability to observe and comment on the part of the country I am living in these days... And he is awesome live, too.

This is an anti-war, anti-Bush/Cheney tune - "Cheney's Toy's" - from his most recent CD:

Here is McMurtry doing "We Can't Make It Here Anymore." If you like it acoustic:

If you like it electric:

Dig it. Stay conscious...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Iraq War Sets a New Record!

A new USA Today/Gallup poll (click graph to enlarge) finds that 63 percent of Americans say “the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq," a new high mark by one percentage point. Gallup notes that “majority opposition to the Iraq war is basically cemented.”
Gallup adds, “The new high in Iraq war opposition is also notable because it is the highest ‘mistake’ percentage Gallup has ever measured for an active war involving the United States — surpassing by two points the 61% who said the Vietnam War was a mistake in May 1971.”

Given these numbers, why do you think the anti-war movement in the U.S. is not more vigorous? If you are a caring citizen, what do you/we do to stop this thing? What is your/our responsibility to actively oppose and/or protest this war? To quote Dr. King out of context, "Where do we go from here?"

The Race Card, pt. 4,396

Since the Pennsylvania primary a couple of days ago, there has been renewed discussion about the role of race in the campaign and in the upcoming general election.

• Roger Simon, over at, writes that GOP political operatives believe race (or is it racism) is worth a solid 15 points to the Republicans in this Fall's general election. He writes, "The man I was talking to is not a racist; he was just stating what he believes to be a fact: There is a percentage of the American electorate who will simply not vote for a black person no matter what his qualities or qualifications." Hey, I give the GOP guy credit for stating the obvious publicly.

• RJ Eskow says race is a central factor in the Democratic primary results. At the tail end of the essay, he hits at the broader meaning of this for the Democrats:
She's inflicted some serious wounds on Obama, but the way she's done it [by going negative and "blackenizing" Obama] has made it all but impossible for superdelegates to accept her as an alternative. His supporters are too angry over her tactics to accept her on the basis of electability alone. Obama emerges from Pennsylvania damaged, but choosing Hillary instead would shatter the part
Sad, but I suspect mostly true...

• And then there is this:
According to exit polls: One in five white voters said race was a factor, and three in five white voters chose Clinton.

"A lot of voters in a lot of these states have never voted for an African-American candidate before," [Democratic opperative Tad] Devine says. "This is simply a new experience for them, and many of them are going to have to confront this in the course of the campaign. I think right now, Hillary Clinton for them is sort of either a way station, you know, toward Obama or a signal that they're not quite ready to make that step. I don't think anybody knows the answer to that yet."

• The NYTimes thinks we need to take the above with a grain of salt, arguing there is little evidence that some of the constituencies that have been going to Hillary in the primary - white working class, older women, etc. - will not move toward Obama in the Fall. According to their analysis, exit polls show he has lots of potential in these areas. Here is the crux of their take:
Yet for all of her primary night celebrations in the populous states, exit polling and independent political analysts offer evidence that Mr. Obama could do just as well as Mrs. Clinton among blocs of voters with whom he now runs behind. Obama advisers say he also appears well-positioned to win swing states and believe he would have a strong shot at winning traditional Republican states like Virginia.

According to surveys of Pennsylvania voters leaving the polls on Tuesday, Mr. Obama would draw majorities of support from lower-income voters and less-educated ones — just as Mrs. Clinton would against Mr. McCain, even though those voters have favored her over Mr. Obama in the primaries.

And national polls suggest Mr. Obama would also do slightly better among groups that have gravitated to Republican in the past, like men, the more affluent and independents, while she would do slightly better among women.

• Doug Wilder, the nation's first black governor, has encouragement and a warning for Obama:
The encouragement is that Obama is approaching the race issue the right way, and the nation is ready to elect a black president. The warning is that it may not be as ready as polls suggest.

``Let's not kid ourselves again, the issue of race will not disappear; but I don't think it will predominate,'' the former Virginia governor said in an interview at his office in Richmond, where he is now mayor. At the same time, he said, even if Obama is the nominee and heads into the fall with an apparent lead, the election ``will be closer than any polls will suggest.''

• Michael Dawson, over at The Root, writes that black voters are not going to be happy campers if Obama is denied the nomination.

• Martin Kilson, over at Black Commentator, has a deeper analysis of race and class in the election.

• One commentator over at The Times of London doesn't think the U.S. is ready to elect a black president.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This is how we solve this thing...

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

No, the sky is not falling. For those of you who are sweating Obama's 9 point loss in Pennsylvania yesterday, turn off the squawking boxes and think rationally about this. Yes, Clinton got just enough to stay in it for another round or two. Did you ever really think she'd go away? The result we got was the one we expected. But all the math remains severely stacked against her. She needs to win 70%+ of the remaining pledged delegates to catch Obama. It ain't happening. There is an incredibly long shot that she might catch Obama in the popular vote, IF the Florida and Michigan votes get counted as is. Even so, that is pretty unlikely, too. But, it really doesn't matter because the rules state that the delegates are the key number. Hillary is also having increasing money problems, which is like having a slow, inexorable tire leak. Last, Obama is going to absolutely crush Clinton in North Carolina and he is going to either win Indiana outright, or be right there in second place. Either way, it is all but over for Clinton... but even then I suspect she'll stay in through June 3rd.

So, yes, it would have been nice for Obama to rally and win PA, but that was never really in the cards. He cut a 25 point deficit to 9 points in 6 weeks. Not bad. He is flush with cash to keep running a strong campaign in the remaining states. Even better. He is going to be the nominee... it is just going to take a little while longer. Great!

Again, don't worry too much. The sky is not falling.
(click to enlarge Tom Tomorrow comic)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Live Santana!

Going to see Santana this evening in Omaha...

Oh, and Derek Trucks is opening...

Pennsylvania Prognostication

For all of you PA primary watchers, it is time for Obama supporters to regain a little perspective. Over the last couple of weeks, polls have shown the race tightening in PA. No surprise there. But, I suspect many of you are now laboring under unrealistic fantasies that Obama will yet pull off the full upset. Let me be clear, that is highly unlikely. Again, that is highly unlikely... and wholly unnecessary for the Obama campaign. Obama has been parked at around 40-44% for some time. His numbers don't budge. So, it appears he has his ceiling in PA. But, remember, the baseline for Clinton was 19-20 points after the last round of elections. She needs a blowout of 20 or higher to even get back in fighting distance to Obama... and even then she'd still need blowouts in every other remaining contest to have a shot at drawing even in pledged delegates. It ain't happening...

So, what do I expect tomorrow:

Worst case scenario: If Clinton wins by 15-20 or more, that will spell trouble for Obama, but this is highly unlikely. And, even if that happens, it still doesn't do much for Hillary in terms of the math. It will be a bigger PR nightmare for Obama than anything...

Best case scenario: Realistically, while I'd love to see Obama pull off the upset, I think if he keeps it between 4-8 points it is a huge "win" for his campaign and ends the whole thing, albeit in a few weeks after Obama wins Indiana and North Carolina.

Here is what I expect: Clinton wins by 8-12 points (I suspect it is right around 10 points) and trudges onward for the next few rounds. Yes, it will be torturous but it is what it is...

Time is on Obama's side. By June 3, or shortly thereafter, he will be the nominee. So, sit tight, batten down the hatches and enjoy what is sure to be a bumpy landing...

If you are still fretting, Obama fan, here is a good breakdown of the only path Hillary has to the nomination:

What's your prediction?

Pras Michel's New Documentary on Homelessness in Los Angeles

Pras Michel, of former Fugees fame, has made a documentary film about his experience living "undercover" as a homeless man on the streets of L.A.'s skid row for nine days. It is estimated that roughly 90,000 homeless people live within a 50 square block area in L.A.

Here is a good interview with Pras on the film.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hillary's New Ad in Pennsylvania Takes On Nefarious "Obama-Boss Connection"

Just kidding. The funny folks over at Slate made the ad...

Gilberto Gil Live!

Drea and I are headed to New York City later this summer and we just picked up some tickets to see Brazilian musical genius and current Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, while we are there. In honor of that, here is some Friday music...

At the height of the Tropicalia movement, this is Gilberto Gil & Os Mutantes playing "Domingo no Parque":

Here is a more recent live clip of Gil doing a cover of Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldier":

Dig it. Have a nice weekend...

"The Dream Reborn"

When I first launched this blog about a year ago, I wrote that in a time of despair and real darkness across the political, social and economic landscape, I wanted the blog to offer a critique of the way things are, but also highlight the constructive, the proactive, the hopeful, the new ideas and ways of being, that might actually begin to point the way to something fresh and alternative, a way out of this mess, a way forward, toward the way things might be...

In that vein, I want to let you all know about Green for All, a really positive new approach to political mobilization, community organizing and social change. Here is what they say for themselves in their vision statement:
We believe a shift to clean energy can improve the health and well-being of low-income people, who suffer disproportionately from cancer, asthma and other respiratory ailments in our dirty-energy economy.

Also, we believe it can create entrepreneurial, wealth-building opportunities for those who need new avenues of economic advance.

In other words: we believe that the national effort to curb global warming and oil dependence can simultaneously create good jobs, safer streets and healthier communities.

For us, our highest calling is to ensure that the clean-energy economy in the 21st century in fact does all of these things. Indeed, we would say that America’s chief moral obligation is to build a green economy that is strong enough to lift many people out of poverty.

Green for All recently held a conference, titled "The Dream Reborn." Here is a brief video about it that also gives a good intro to their ideas and approach. It is very inspiring and righteous...

In this video, conference attendees share their dreams...

Get involved. Spread the word...

(Thanks to my good bud, Justin, for originally turning me on to Green for All...)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

UPDATE: Howard Zinn, "A People's History of American Empire," Video!

This is an animated video of "A People's History of American Empire," with voiceover by Viggo Mortensen...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What is "net neutrality"?

(click above cartoon to enlarge) You may have heard the term "net neutrality" before. A lot of people have heard the term bouncing around in the media ether, but aren't exactly sure what it is, let alone why it is important. As it turns out, net neutrality is a very important issue that we should all be aware of, thinking about and expressing ourselves on.

If you are unsure what net neutrality means, read the above cartoon and/or watch this 2-minute web video and you'll have the basics:

If you are intrigued and would like to know some more about net neutrality and what you might do to help ensure a free, open and democratic internet, click here or here.

Spread the word...


OK, we all need a little levity to break up the tedium of this interminable primary season. To that end, this Rocky parody is really silly... and worth a look.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Missing the Point on Obama's "Bitter" Comments

There has been a medium sized dust-up over Barack Obama's recent comments that many small town and rural Americans are "bitter" from years of economic struggle and deindustrialization. He argued that, as a result, many have come to distrust government and instead cling to guns and religion. Hillary, who has made $100 million over the last few years, claims it proves Obama, who not too long ago paid off his and Michelle's student loans, is "elitist." And, Hillary is running around pretending she's Annie Oakley, a gun-loving, church-going, beer-and-a-shot good ole gal. This, of course, is a joke and if the media was halfway decent, they'd call Bill and Hill on it, but they've largely chosen to caricature Obama's statements, focusing almost exclusively on their impact on the horse-race, and thereby missing the opportunity to analyze the content of the remarks and explore the very real struggles of millions of Americans.

• Take a close look at the poster that appears above. That is a real poster from Pittsburgh. It speaks directly to the issues Obama raised. (Click the image to enlarge it) In fact, Obama's were words of compassion and understanding, not condescension or elitism. As he did with race a few weeks back, he was attempting to speak honestly about the struggles of everyday people in small towns and rural areas and the frustrations ('bitterness") they often experience.

• Here is what Barack had to say about Clinton's reaction to his remarks:

• Here is what Theda Skocpol, who knows the Clintons very well, wrote:
I have been in meetings with the Clintons and their advisors where very clinical things were said in a very-detached tone about unwillingness of working class voters to trust government -- and Bill Clinton -- and about their unfortunate (from a Clinton perspective) proclivity to vote on life-style rather than economic issues. To see Hillary going absolutely over the top to smash Obama for making clearly more humanly sympathetic observations in this vein, is just amazing. Even more so to see her pretending to be a gun-toting non-elite. Give us a break!

I wonder if she realizes that gaining a few days of lurid publicity that might reach a slice of voters is going to cost her a great deal in the regard of many Democrats, whose strong support she will need if she somehow claws her way to the nomination -- and even more so if she does not clinch the nomination. The distribution of "we're not bitter" stickers to her campaign rallies is the height of over-the-top crudity, and the reports are that very few audience members seem to have much enthusiasm for this nonsense. Not surprisingly, people cannot see the reasons for so much fuss.

Yes, she wants a big break, she desperately wants the nomination she and Bill believe is hers by right. We all know that. But where is her authenticity and her dignity and her sense of any proportion?

This has to be one of the few times in U.S. political history when a multi-millionaire has accused a much less wealthy fellow public servant, a person of the same party and views who made much less lucrative career choices, of "elitism"! (I won't say the only time, because U.S. political history is full of absurdities of this sort.) In a way, it is funny -- and it may not be long before the jokes start.

• Similarly, Rachel Maddow chastised the media for getting the story wrong:

To a certain extent, I think we’re really commenting on the caricature of his comments. If you look at what he said, what he said was not that these values of small town America, and rural America and working class white America are the product of economic hardships. He’s saying that those folks in America do not believe they’re going to get any economic help from Washington so they don’t’ vote their economic interests when they vote, they instead vote these other things. It’s actually…we’re not actually taking this on as a political issue and debating whether or not that’s right or wrong. We’re debating the damage of the caricature of his comments. It’s this…become this meta-narrative about how he’s been described rather than actually taking on the meat of what he argued.

• Here is a more thoughtful analysis of working class resentment and reaction in American politics

• Reacting to this story and to the hulabaloo over the fact that Obama isn't much of a bowler and Hillary is a good beer drinker and shot-taker, one diarist over at Daily Kos wrote this:
My first reaction was the sensible one: to pray to God to please kill me, immediately. Preferably by meteor. But one of the defining characteristics of my life is that God just isn't that into me, and/or all the meteors are already spoken for, so it never works.

In lieu of divine homicide, then, I suppose the only other avenue left is to try to pry some sense from the nonsense. So here goes: what you see, above, is the defense of the petty, the vapid and the embarrassingly trivial as valid "news", worthy of actual air time. The premise goes like this: the news media reports some minor absurdity about the race. Various pundits go on television to tell Americans how the latest triviality should make them "feel". Ten times as many pundits appear to analyze what would happen if Americans actually felt that way. Then comes the man-on-the-street interviews to see if people really do "feel" that way, and regardless of what actually gets said, by how many, the hypothesis is pronounced correct, or at least "newsworthy". (Note: the definition of "newsworthy" is simply "something we felt like putting on television." This could be a story about Abu Ghraib, or a story about a cat that has learned to ride a skateboard, or a story about what Robert Novak thinks about something. It is, in other words a meaningless phrase.)

Then George W. Bush and a half dozen cabinet members in some back room somewhere authorize the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody, but we can't pay attention to that because we've all got to decide whether we want a president with good bowling scores.

• John Farr points out that there is truth in Obama's words

• Former Clinton Labor Secretary, economist Robert Reich, agrees there is truth in Obama's remarks

• Matthew Rothschild, over at The Progressive magazine, writes that whatever Obama's sin on this "bitterness flap," it pales in comparison to Hillary's lies over her "experience" in Bosnia.

• Seth Grahame-Smith points out the obvious hypocrisy of Hillary's attacks on Obama

• Hillary used to sing a different tune on guns

• Bill Clinton has made similar remarks as Obama in the past

• It does not appear Hillary Clinton's attacks are resonating all that much with Pennsylvanians, although not surprisingly early polls do indicate slight slippage for Obama in PA since this flap hit. That said, anecdotally, Clinton was jeered and Obama cheered yesterday when the topic surfaced in their speeches. In fact, this reporter claims Hillary was booed outright at a union gathering when she raised the issue.

• This report suggests that most Pennsylvanians think Obama's statement was no big deal

Monday, April 14, 2008


I was recently turned on to a cool website, called Muxtape, where anyone can post a digital "mix tape" for the whole world to listen to. The site is purposefully low-tech and a bit random, but that is also part of its charm. It is a good way to get yourself introduced to some new music.

Check it out. Dig it.

Anyone have suggestions of other good music websites? Let us know in the comments section...

Spread the groove!

Mexican Superheroes!

Over at Mother Jones, they recently ran a photo-essay by photographer Dulce Pinzon, titled, "Mexican Superheroes," and with a secondary headline that read, "It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's a Mexican Immigrant". MJ described the 4-photo spread this way: "Pinzon posed undocumented Mexican immigrants in superhero costumes and captured their feats of derring-do in New York City." I thought it was worth reposting...

Here are the photos and the text that appeared with each one:

Photo #1: "It's Clobberin' Time"
Luis Hernandez (The Thing) works in demolition and sends $200 a week home to Veracruz.

Photo: #2: "Super Fry"
Oscar Gonzalez (Human Torch) is a cook. Originally from Oaxaca, he sends home $350 a week.

Photo #3: "Spidey Cents"
Window washer Bernabe Mendez (Spider-Man) sends $500 a month home to Guerrero

Photo #4: "Kitty Sitter"
Minerva Valencia (Catwoman) works as a nanny. She sends $400 a week home to Puebla

Any thoughts or comments about this photo-essay, or its meaning?