Green World

In an eerie light.

A semi-tropical place.

Yep. That’s us. We look that way. The heat feels that way. The humidity feels that way. Essentially, we live in an outdoor hothouse. Even when the cooler air and lower sun of winter rolls around, we are still a hothouse. We just don’t feel it.

I was out wandering around with dogarito. Don’t ask. The name just came to me. I saw this little stand of leaves. They were nicely backlighted. I took my time photographing them. When I looked at them on a big monitor I was happily surprised. I worked on a bunch of them. How many pictures are in a bunch? Oh. I don’t know. It’s sort of like the weather guy on television the other night. Instead of saying something like 97 degrees, he just said it was going to be “dang hot.” Do you have any idea how much I appreciated that?

I did not appreciate that “dang hot” really meant 96 or 97 degrees with a “feels like” temperature of around 114 degrees.  Yep. That’s summer in the swamp. It’s “dang hot.”

Keep scrolling.

Hidden in the shadows.

You didn’t think that I’d leave out a little news commentary, did you?

This is not about the state of caged kids. Although that situation is still precarious.

This is about national discourse.

Of course the “Tweasel in Chief” is the prime driver of the rudeness and nastiness in public discourse today. I need not run down the list of his accomplishments, but it’s starting to affect everybody else.

Elizabeth Warren and the Tweasel got into an eight-hour Twitter fight yesterday. Eight hours? Really? Don’t either of them have something better to do with their time?

Then, his press secretary was asked to leave a restaurant because she works for the Tweasel.  She said it was more about the restaurant owner than her, forgetting that the newly appointed members of the Supreme Court made that behavior okay when they agreed that a baker could deny service to a gay couple.

Then the press secretary’s father got involved by tweeting a picture of tattooed Hispanics who might possibly look like gang members, comparing Nancy Pelosi’s campaign staff to MI-13 gang members. He’s a Southern Baptist minister. Praise God.

This list goes on and on and on.

Get a grip. Everybody.

Just because Tweasel is nuts, mean and stupid, doesn’t mean that we have to be.

Keep scrolling.

A still life.

The name Tweasel was created by a toddler after she heard me call the orange haired dufus in the White House a weasel and after she heard somebody else say that he is treasonous. She looked at me, smiled and said, “Oh, a Tweasel.”

Out of the mouth of babes.

Published by Ray Laskowitz

I am a visual storyteller. I've been making pictures for some 40 years. I travel the world in search of the right image. in the right light at the right time. You can reach me by phone at 505.280.4686, or by email at or For a quick look at my work please go to

50 thoughts on “Green World

  1. I must say, along with so many of us, I’m sure, that after this last week, I am utterly exhausted! I can’t maintain the same level of angst this coming week as I experienced last week. Presumably we have many many months (years!) of this still to survive. I need to find something green and beautiful and take my camera out for a stroll. Tweasel works for me, but dogarito is just fabulous!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s not easy or clear, always, to balance freedom of expression and freedom of worship with other rights. As John Gray and Isaiah Berlin noted, our highest ideals may not always be in harmony, and there is no obvious way of prioritizing them when they conflict. As I understand the Supreme Court case –correct me if I’m wrong, I didn’t follow it– it turned not on selling the cakes, but on decorating them.

    Seems like a petty thing for national attention to be focused on when there are kids dying all over the world, and a petty fight to waste resources on, for both sides. I can imagine being friends with either of them. For the gay couple, I’d say, “So leave him a nasty review on Google, spam your friends on FB to advertise that they should avoid this shop if they don’t support his attitude, and find another shop. Not worth your energy.” To the cake-maker I’d say “dude, does your virtue or salvation hinge on a couple words on a cake? –this is a culture war, not the the self-sacrificial love of Christ. –are you sacrificing to Moloch if you do this? –donate the legal costs you would incur to people who are suffering, and spend the time you’d spend in courts to a soup kitchen.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I failed to end the advice to the cake-maker with “not worth your energy”. I could vary up either bit of advice. One side sees it as the denial of service contrary to guaranteed rights; the other side sees it as not about the service, but about coerced expression, contrary to guaranteed rights.

      It’s literally about the frosting on the cake. We’ve become this petty as a nation. Our identity is threatened, on both sides, by some frosting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sure it “wasn’t worth the time” for the protestors to do sit-ins at the Woolworth lunch counter back in the day either, from some folks’ perspective. This is about one helluva lot more than just icing on a cake.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As I see it, that case — decorations or baking — should never ever left the store. It is so easy to do what I do when I don’t want work for someone. Just say that you are already booked, even after the fact. It really isn’t worth the trouble or money. If it’s truly about beliefs, as you say, do something positive.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Apples and oranges. And, the protesters weren’t hiding behind some monitor yelling at each other. Do it face to face and you have me. Anything else is just noise. Eventually, nobody will be able to hear anything through the din.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One more thing, assuming Trump lasts that long (he will) and Warren is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is that what you want the 2020 election season to be about? Screaming at each other?


    2. Were this comparable to segregation, Sharon, I’d be all for it. It doesn’t seem to me to be about the securing of rights, however (as in the Woolworth sit-in), or the dismantling of _de jure_ practices that undermine and contradict those rights that exist on paper (again, as in the Woolworth sit-in), but about the power of untrammeled self-expression on both sides, demanding that that self-expression be recognized as legitimate. I’m not (yet) persuaded that this is comparable at all.


      1. Well, it’s not about discrimination in public accommodation, as was Woolworth’s, by definition:

        It’s about what really amounts to a service, as I don’t think it can be construed as the denial of a good (_vi&._, the frosting he’d sell happily, just not the message). You see how petty this is getting on both sides? It’s about a few words in frosting. I can’t help stop thinking about Dudley in the first Harry Potter movie: “but last year, last year I had thirty-seven!!!” Outrage. We all love collecting outrages, but not the sufferings of others.

        I guess I see this as something where the market and public opinion is sufficient for the couple to pursue their ends, and going to the courts is overkill. I doubt that more than a very, very small handful of bakers would deny them. If we assume that is the case, then this is not about access –segregation was everywhere, so that _was_ about equality and access– but about securing self-expression through punishment dissent on one side. Why pursue this, if one can eeeeeeasily find another baker? “The principle of it”, I can hear the reply, but is that the kind of freedom and equality that gays want? –the freedom to use the courts against those few who have sincere beliefs, and who don’t wish to deny them service, but who wish to be spared from coerced speech?

        That’s another issue, as I see it — if you want to talk about gays being denied shared property rights, or married health insurance, or the whole gamut of things they were denied before or which they only had tenuously or “in part”, as it were, then I will agree with the comparison to Woolworth’s. This isn’t about gays being kicked out of a restaurant or a bar, though, but about whether this evangelical Protestant could dissent from writing some stuff in frosting, or whether this gay couple could demand that he write this stuff in frosting. I don’t share his belief, and I’d tell him to write “congratulations on your marriage, X and Y!” and be done with it (don’t we do this with in-laws all the time to keep the peace?), but I also don’t want self-expression to be trammeled upon when it amounts to something so meager. If I were one of the gay couple, I’d say “good day”, leave a review on Google, and not buy anything from him.

        It really _is_ about frosting. People get so emotional on both sides, and misconstrue the degree of harm from and to both parties, and the ramifications of frosting for the culture, and, seemingly, for the culture war. Common ground may be gone, but the courts won’t return it to us. Going to the courts to build a common feeling from the top-down won’t work. If that’s the real ground of outrage, we gotta shift the whole conversation to the real topic, and leave this silly proxy war behind.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When you open a public accommodation, for which a bakery meets the definition, and part of your *regular business* is selling wedding cakes, you don’t get to pick and choose. It’s just that simple.

        It’s not just about “one gay couple.” It’s about all of us. It’s about someone being able to say “We don’t serve your kind here,” whatever that kind may be.

        I’m sorry you’re unable to see that “just find another baker” is no different from “just find another lunch counter,” but there we are.


      3. It seems like this communication failure is part of the problem at the heart of this tussle. (And props for what seemed like a Star Wars reference.) The baker never said that he would not serve gay couples, and presented his case as about freedom of expression. The gay couple focused not on the information content of the cake, but on the fact that they were purchasing a service. Were it simply about whether he’d sell to them, I would like to think that it would never hit the Supreme Court, but would get flagged as rights-violating discrimination. The conflict is about how to construct the situation, in part — and that’s because there are, if we just assume that both parties are correct, fundamental freedoms in conflict here.

        But this is icing, not an inheritance issue or something more substantial. Perhaps, however, if we can’t figure out how to balance these freedoms in the case of some icing, we won’t be able to balance them when it comes to something that’s actually substantial.


      4. Our civil rights are about as substantial as it gets. Your right to practice your religion *ends at the door of any public accommodation you license and open.” A bakery is not church. If you are unable to comprehend why the baker was in the wrong, I genuinely have nothing more to say to you.

        We do not compromise on civil rights. Period.

        I know this is hard to wrap your head around, as a male who is probably white and Christian … which means that you’re at the top of the privilege ladder and whose rights are likely to never be abridged as a result. After all, the ladder was built by and for straight white men.


      5. BTW, Ray has not approved my post that contains two very clear links that spell out why the baker was in the wrong under the law. But I’m pretty sure you can use the search string “discrimination under public accommodation law” and look it up on FindLaw on y our own time. I’m kind of done trying to educate people who think that we should compromise on civil rights when it will most likely never be their rights that are infringed in the name of “compromise.” Good day to you.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Further to my comment above:

    Quote: Privately-owned businesses and facilities that offer certain goods or services to the public – including food, lodging, gasoline, and entertainment -are considered public accommodations for purposes of federal and state anti-discrimination laws. For purposes of disability discrimination, the definition of a “public accommodation” is even more broad, encompassing most businesses that are open to the public (regardless of type).

    The argument that a wedding cake is a “service” rather than a “good” is mooted by this point. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a good or a service; what matters is that the bakery is a public accommodation and they are not permitted to discriminate against people in protected classes such as sexual orientation.

    The additional problem here is that the SCOTUS ruling, despite how narrow it was, is being construed by bigots of various stripes who happen to operate public accommodations to use their “sincerely held beliefs” as a reason to discriminate against people in protected classes (e.g., this hardware store guy

    And boy, was a prominent member of the administration, who had been vocal in her support of these discriminatory laws, upset over the weekend when a business owner asked her to leave. In fact, in direct violation of governmental ethics laws, she used her official Twitter channel to try to damage the business … despite the fact that she was not being asked to leave for being part of a protected class, as the gay couple were.

    So, there’s all of that.


    1. Whatever you wrote did hit the spam filter. It’s fixed now. I’m not sure what it didn’t like. Rest assured, the only comments I don’t approve and usually turn into spam are those folks who I’ve never “met” and are looking to just start a fight. A conversation like yours and Gregory’s is good stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not going to coerce you into a conversation, so if you aren’t interested in replying, I’ll just wish you well and be on my way.

    It’s disappointing when identity is brought into these conversations, though, as though identity overrides epistemological universals and becomes a black mark, as though my saying anything were the operation of categories, rather than simply being positions that I, Gregory, hold on the merits of the reasons I state. Of course, people can be motivated by all sorts of nasty or laudable things that stay hidden, and out of sight, but I’ve put everything on the table.

    I am straight, and White (Welsh-Irish), and Christian, but I’m also very pro-gay, and don’t really hide that. I am also a secularist, in that the secular part of the sacred-secular divide is where politics is located. We need to keep politics down from being turned into something sacred, which is a constant threat, is what people constantly want to turn it into — whether they identify as “religious” or not (SJW’s and The Religious Right both violate the secular principles we have established in the West). I don’t think you meant to deny people the ability to practice their religion (I have seen everyone from nearly every religion do this) at work, but something much more coercive than this. I, likewise, do not think that it is OK for people to oppress people on the basis of their religious traditions in a secular society (_e.g._, just as Muslims and Jews can’t tell me not to eat pork, so evangelical Protestant cannot tell a couple gay Episcopalians they can’t marry or buy their cakes at a public store), _because_ politics is secular.

    That said, you can’t reasonably expect to coerce someone into doing something they find unconscionable. Human rights are treated as non-negotiable, precisely because they are not part of the secular side of the divide. Conscience, likewise, _does_ touch on the sacred, even if it is malformed. This is why it trumps the state in certain cases, is why we have conscientious objectors during wars: individuals have an obligation to the state that they need to meet, but they do not need to meet it by carrying a gun or directly supporting the military. You cannot coerce someone’s conscience, or coerce them into violating their conscience.

    When someone’s conscience runs across someone else’s rights and seeks to satisfy itself by violating those rights, the rights need to win against the demands and aims of conscience.

    When the conscience is solicited to express itself in a way it finds unconscionable, however, that’s another story.

    In this case, the issue, as I read about it in one of the major rags, was freedom of expression vs. non-discrimination. In this case, it’s not even about defending hate speech, which is currently a pot of boiling water I don’t care to get into, thank you very much. If I went to an Orthodox Jewish ad agency and asked them to run a series of posters that said, “you either love bacon, or you’re not really human”, I would expect to be turned away gently.

    I have been pretty squarely on the Democratic side of things for the past 15 years, but I’ve noticed how remarkably top-down Democrats have become that undermines their positioning themselves as the party for the people. Instead of building an ethic that can make sense for everyone across all identities, they champion causes at the highest levels, and take this “I’m not compromising or negotiating on this” stance, which doesn’t win over people in the Red states and doesn’t generate a shared sensibility really ever. Pluralism and multiculturalism will only work if we have a shared sense of what the public good is, and that won’t come from courtroom victories, but conversations. Telling people “we have nothing to talk about if you don’t agree with me” won’t build any consensus with people one disagrees with, and we definitely need more consensus.


    1. I never said “If you don’t agree with me there’s nothing else to say.” I said that if you can’t understand that a bakery is a public accommodation and that the baker was in the wrong, there’s nothing more to say. I’ve provided links that back up my position.

      BTW, I reject your “whataboutism” WRT the Orthodox Jewish ad agency. Why? Because their regular business would not be advertising pork products. The baker’s regular business was making wedding cakes. He was not being asked for anything outside his usual and customary business. He used his religion as an opportunity to bigot, and that’s never okay.

      As for “winning people over in the Red States,” I grew up in a place where it was literally illegal to live if you were a person of color well into the 1920s. Implying that I just don’t understand, or that I should somehow be willing to compromise on matters of civil rights pretty much falls on deaf ears. I’m watching women’s rights being eroded left, right, and center by a bunch of Red State men, BTW. Ergo, my dog in the fight is that any time someone’s civil rights are trod upon, we are all in danger. It could be you next (although I doubt it; as previously noted, cis-het white males have more privilege than any other group in our culture.”

      I rather imagine that, like Sarah Huckabee Sanders (who likewise supports the right to discriminate based on “sincerely held beliefs”) you would be most irate to be told “we don’t serve your kind here.” Ms. Sanders’ politics are not a protected class the way sexual orientation is.

      In any event, it is quite clear that you really don’t want to hear anything else I have to say and I don’t want to waste any more of my time, or space in Ray’s blog, with this matter. As I already said, if you can’t understand why the baker was in the wrong, despite me providing facts that demonstrate this (and many thanks to Ray for pulling it out of the spam filter), there really isn’t anything else to say. This is not a difference of opinion. You, and anyone else, may hold any opinion that you so desire. You are not, however, entitled to your own facts.

      I wish you well.


      1. I still can’t see the links 😦

        –and the Visigothic word, so far as I know, meant “battle”, or “fight”, or something like that. If I’m not mistaken, it shares a root with our English “guard”, though I’d need to do some digging. My Old English is almost non-existent.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m not sure that I know how to find the links. They are in the heart of the comment, which is why I think the comment was originally caught as spam. I’ll see if there is anything I can trigger.

        Let me poke around a bit on the word. The French word is a man’s name and a type of early photograph.


      3. It’s up, but it has a moderation tag. There were two links: one about discrimination in public accommodation law, and another about a man who now feels free to return the previously-illegal “no gays allowed” sign to the front window of his Tennessee hardware store. The first is from FindLaw and the second is from Snopes. If Ray is unable to trigger the post to full visibility for whatever reason, I will put the links in separate comments.


      4. Oh, I know. There are plenty of places that see nothing wrong with this … despite laws to the contrary. And, of course, the same people putting up those kinds of signs would lay a gold-plated brick if someone denied *them* service because of “sincerely held beliefs.”


      5. I want to get back to this thread, but I have so many obligations. Hang in there; I’ll be back to read everything when life settles down. I’ve downloaded the SCOTUS decision doc in the meantime; will read that together with your links when I get around to it. A lawyer friend mentioned to me that the problem with conscience laws is not that they are there, but that they are notoriously difficult to determine the sincerity of. How to set up rigorous criteria? Clearly there can’t be a “no X allowed” sign. It appears that the danger of such a thing is that the sincerity might be impossible to verify reasonably, and open to abuse. At any rate, will read this soon.


      6. And that is very much the point: “sincerely held religious beliefs” is a meaningless phrase. I could claim a sincerely held religious belief about nearly anything and no one could prove otherwise. That’s why the baker was in the wrong. He opened a public accommodation; he does not get to suddenly claim religious objection to serving customers.

        I appreciate your open-mindedness.


      7. Well, the _principle_ is not wrong, but the problem is that the legal _procedures_ are not strict, and cannot meaningfully differentiate between insincere animus and sincere belief. In such a situation, does one gamble, and leave open a hole for animus to smuggle into legitimacy by huddling together with sincerity? I incline strongly against this, given what seems to me to be a high likelihood for abuse. If the principle is to be enshrined, it would seem that it needs stricter determinations, and I’m not sure what those could be or whether that’s even possible. The problems seem fundamental and the presence of such beliefs seems indeterminable _via_ legal means.

        I still hold that this is all over some icing, though, and that we’ve become such perseverating divination experts that we scrye out far-flung identity crises over minutiae, dreaming catastrophe on the other side of this-or-that petty slight to our self-expression or the recognition we think we are owed. The principles involved are all real, don’t get me wrong, and have weight, but I’d like for us to resolve the long legacy of segregation, or the insane balooning of high school and college credentialism where acquiring the cultural capital of credentials has nearly obliterated learning and the classical liberal arts education, or our war machine foreign policy that kills people (icing kills no one), or the criteria we have for giving foreign nations aid (we pump money into so many foreign cartels), or sort out for ourselves what it is that defines us as a nation (we need to be able to say “we”, and not just melt into our respective identity silos), before we tackle the legal procedures of identity and rights with regard to cake frosting purchases and sincere religious beliefs.


      8. As much as I hate to say it, your continued expression that this is “just about cake frosting” betrays a lot of cishet privilege. It is no more about “cake frosting” than the lunch counter sit-ins were about grilled cheese sandwiches.

        However … you do rightly point out that this is animus shrouded in “sincerely held religious beliefs.” “Sincerely held religious beliefs” have been used as battering rams for all kinds of bigotry throughout our country’s history. If it were you being denied service because of some immutable characteristic, I doubt you’d consider it minutia.

        You and I are in complete agreement on a great many other matters that you cite. That’s why it baffles me that you cannot see beyond the materiel in question and the material outcome that is already resulting in “we have the right to not serve you because Jesus.”

        I guess that, at this point, I shall leave well enough alone.


      9. “Cishet privilege.” Wow! That’s actually a pretty nasty phrase. So, now I suppose it’s a sin to be what we are… how inauthentic of all of us.


      10. I don’t see where I indicated that it was a sin to be what we are … in fact, I keep pointing out quite the opposite.

        However … to argue that it’s just about cake frosting when it is in fact about a gay couple being denied service in a public accommodation shows a level of privilege that can only come from being in the majority (that is cisgender and heterosexual) and being blind to what it is like to be in the non-majority. If someone has never experienced prejudice, they can think it doesn’t exist.

        I really thought we were doing much better as a culture until I had an enormous wakeup call during my trip to Tennessee last year … that because I lived in a liberal, multicultural place, that more places were like that than not. This feeling ran counter to having grown up in a very conservative place (people think Oregon is liberal, but it isn’t) … but I was able to ignore that because I didn’t see that kind of thing anymore.

        Well. Just because I didn’t see it doesn’t mean it wasn’t there … and the experience I had in Memphis made me realize that. It happened in the National Civil Rights Museum, FWIW, and I wrote about it in my blog. My eyes were opened in a way that left me shaken to my core … and I’m damned glad of it.

        Anyway, that’s not really the point of the discussion. The point is that those who have the most privilege tend to be most blind to it.

        And, to bring this around to a discussion point I see coming, privilege has nearly nothing to do with wealth. It has to do with how people treat you right out the gate because of their perceptions of you. So, while Oprah and Beyonce have financial privilege that I do not, I have white privilege that they do not.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Cishet privilege are fighting words, at least in many urban places like here. And, the particular phrase pretty much means it isn’t okay to be what you are if you happen to be… white, straight and likely male. I’ll jump to your bottom graph… of course, in most cases privilege has nothing to do with wealth. I don’t know that much about Oprah, but I do know some about Beyonce and Jay-Z, living in the same hood as they do sometimes. Mess with them from a racial perspective and they will leave you for dead.

        That said, one of the reasons I sort of always chuckle when people get excited about New Orleans is because I know the truth. I may go on and on about potholes, crime and now needless flooding, but the truth is we are the most racist city that I’ve ever lived in. And, that cuts both ways. At one level we get along fine together. If you came along with me on Ray’s ramble through Central City, you’d be surprised at how many people know me and like me. That’s because I photograph so many second lines there and we’ve likely met and had a good time together. But, most of our tourists stay in the Quarter, sometimes Magazine Street, ride along St. Charles Avenue and maybe go up Esplanade to the park.

        But, on the next level things start to change quickly.

        This is common throughout almost any city east of the Mississippi. Memphis is especially bad because of its history and what mostly happened in the neighborhoods that were back of Beale Street. NOLA isn’t much better. Nor, is St. Louis and so on.

        When I moved here in 1999, we still didn’t celebrate Lincoln’s birthday… Officially, it’s because most folks take off a week during Mardi Gras. Unofficially, it was because Lincoln freed the salves. White southern memory runs deep. Our neighbor passed last year at 95. She told us stories that her grandparents told her who were born in the 1850s, lived through the Civil War and Reconstruction. For them that was like yesterday.

        Small southern towns are a lot worse than we are. Black people on one side, white people on the other. If you’ve ever been to the National Park at the Chalmette Battlefield where the Battle of New Orleans was fought you’ll see that there is a broad grass field. In 1962 there was a one street little town there. Former slaves built after the Civil War. JFK had it condemned and the people moved so that he could make it a national monument. The list goes on and on and on… one more thing, if you drive upriver on River Road on the Westbank towards the mansions, you’ll see a few of those one street towns. They were built by former slaves who were then sharecroppers. If you are white, the residents eyes will send daggers at you. As well it should be. They live almost like they did 100 years ago. In poverty. Then, drive a mile or two upriver and you come to all the plantation mansions.

        Read what I wrote about Alexandria Ocasio Cortez a few days ago it you want to know where I shake out. 🙂 And, buy one of her t-shirts.


      12. I did go out to Chalmette during my first visit … and nothing was said about the town. At all. I wish I were surprised; I read a scholarly study of sundown towns that made my blood boil.

        I grew up in Oregon, where it was illegal for black people to live until the 1920s … and they don’t teach you that in the mandatory Oregon history classes in junior high.

        I think, in many ways, we are in violent agreement on the matter of privilege and what it really means. I’ll go back and look for your other post.


      13. There is on historical explanation about midway into the battlefield. Google Frazandville. That was name of the town. Apparently, Fats Domino had some kin there. Most of them moved to the Lower 9th. One of the best pieces about the town is on, written by Richard Campanella, a Tulane professor.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. Just looked up Fazendville … and the story is horrifying and fascinating at the same time.

        It was muddy and nasty the day I went to Chalmette … and I didn’t tromp out very far. I listened to the ranger/docent talk, and spoke with the historian on board the boat I took … but nothing like this was mentioned.

        I am grateful to you for giving me something new to look into.

        Liked by 1 person

      15. You’ll have to do it. I don’t even know where that post is, much less what an in moderation tag means. To me, it’s either approved or not. I’m not very tricky with this stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

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