Almost daily I walk my dog on the Santa Monica Pier. I often see tourists with very expensive cameras and lenses hanging around their necks. I’m often amazed at how few pictures people take, and more often at how bad they are going to come out. I see people shooting into the sun, which puts their friends and family in silhouette. Often I want to just stop and let them know about the basics of photography, that adding in a fill flash will make that horrible picture which will never be seen again, actually worth sharing.

Then there’s the opposite problem, people stand facing the sun so that they are lit. The issue here is that they can’t keep their eyes open because it’s too bright and they are squinting and their features are distorted. The solution in this case is to either set up the poses, have them close their eyes and then the photographer counts to three and on three they open and the picture is taken; alternatively, and the best solution, is to place subjects in filtered light that allows them to be seen, but not baked.

The principle that I am (pardon the pun) focusing on is that the middle ground between two extremes is usually the best solution to any given set of problems. I don’t want to live in a world of political extremes where the fundamentalist hard right is calling for the ouster or death of my fellows or where the hard left is demanding an America where everyone is coddled, living in a safe space of cookies and bubble blowing, and we have to all be so politically correct that we can’t have civilized, but difficult, conversations.

The polarization that is happening across America is not abnormal for presidential election years, however it does seem that it is particularly ugly this year and I don’t think it’s a good thing (tip of the hat to Martha Stewart). I think it may be a necessary thing, if it is allowing people to vent frustrations and hurts, but I don’t see it moving us forward as a nation.

Candidates each election cycle try to tap into the collective consciousness so that they can pander to the electorate; this is true no matter the level of the campaign. In our own city council races, the candidates each year take the temperature of their respective voter pool and try to appeal to them as intensely as possible, without alienating too many other voters.

This is often the source of the mushspeak that candidates put forth. Those lofty sounding speeches and sound bites that signify nothing, containing promises the candidate has no intention to complete. Whether it’s building a wall, making education free for all, or stopping development in the downtown corridor, they say whatever they think they need to say at the time to win a voter over.

Oddly, this year we have candidates who are making outrageous statements to get free publicity from the media. It’s not mushspeak we’re being inundated with, but with mushthinking. It’s appalling to me what’s happening in our political process. For example the abdication of duty being espoused by the Senate leaders when it comes to vetting a new Supreme Court Justice is beyond political maneuvering, it is bordering on the treasonous. To try and convince the American public that we should wait for a new justice to be appointed by the winner of the presidential election, is not a genuine debate over process or values, it is bureaucratic bamboozling which is a direct contradiction of the Constitution that every member of the Congress has sworn to uphold.

I was against the idea of the president appointing a justice in the recess of Congress; it is equivalent to taking a picture facing into the sun. The appointee would be a silhouette, and as much as I trust our president to exercise good judgment, that’s why he was elected after all, I still want to know a bit more about who is on the Court. Evidently he agreed with me, for which I thank him.

Additionally I am against the Senate refusing to hold hearings on any appointee that the president sends up for review, the Senate has a job to do, refusing to hold hearings is equivalent to facing the sun but squinting so hard you can’t see anything. So long as the members of Congress are in office they need to do their jobs, and the same goes for Mr. Obama.

And he agreed with me here as well – we’re really getting along nicely these days….