Politics: March 2008 Archives

five years and, unfortunately, still counting.

The caption to this Reuters photograph reads: A protestor takes part in a demonstration marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq, in Washington, March 19, 2008.

[image by Jim Young from Reuters]

passing GO

We're telling them, "we're not going to regulate you, and we're going to bail you out when you fuck up."

I didn't say it. It was Barry. It was just a few minutes ago. He was replying to my reading outline the Reuters headline, "Bear near announcing sale to JPMorgan: source". Like many others who happened to be noticing what's been going on, I had already been shocked to hear that my government had decided to throw a "financial rescue package"* at Bear Stearns, a quintessential capitalist firm which had failed at capitalism (slapped by "the invisible hand"?). This afternoon we learn that one of its rivals had decided that now Bear Sterns was an attractive investment.

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) is close to rescuing the fifth-largest U.S. investment bank, Bear Stearns Cos Inc (BSC.N), a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday, in a deal that could be announced in the next few hours.

Of course none of these people went to jail, but none of them even lost their jobs and none of them lost their ginormous bonuses.

But it's looking like the country's about to lose its shirt. I know these lines are a gross simplification of the economics drama being played in the headlines (and conducted behind our backs), but Gretchen Morgenson's piece in the NYTimes today both explains it in super-lay-person terms and suggests the horror of its potential (likely?) consequences. Here's just a peek:

HERE is the bind the Fed is in: Like the boy who puts his finger in the dike to keep sea water from pouring in, the Fed finds that new leaks keep emerging.

Regulators must do whatever they can to keep the markets open and operating, and much of that relies upon the confidence of investors. But by offering to backstop firms like Bear, who were the very architects of their own — and the market’s — current problems, overseers like the Fed undermine a little bit more of that confidence.

Another worry? How many well-capitalized institutions remain at the ready to take over those firms that may encounter turbulence in the future? Banks just do not have the capital that is needed to rescue troubled firms.

That will leave the taxpayer, alas. As usual.

And this excerpt doesn't even address the consequences of foreign investors losing confidence in our capital markets and our government's ability to keep things together.

Hold on; we're in for a very rough ride.

"The size and terms of the credit line were not disclosed. JPMorgan will borrow the money from the Fed and lend it to Bear Stearns, and the Fed will ultimately bear the risk of the loan." [quoted from an earlier NYTimes article, "Run on Big Wall St. Bank Spurs Rescue Backed by U.S."]

[image from Hasbro]

farm foreclosure sale during the Great Depression

My obsession* with this story welcomes further ratiocination: Greg Palast makes some connections which Wall Street, the White House and their joint instrument, a discretionary Justice Department, would prefer to to keep hidden from the rest of us. See the argument in his piece titled "Eliot’s Mess: The $200 billion bail-out for predator banks and Spitzer charges are intimately linked"

broadcast in two earlier posts, beginning about one week ago, here and here

[uncredited {Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange?} image from annette on picasaweb]


"New York Gov. Spitzer resigns but more woes likely" reads the Reuters headline this morning.

I'm so glad we were able to run him out of office (and within the space of only a few days!) because we heard he had paid for s_x. Apparently nothing else would have worked in these chaste United States of America.

There's also that interesting subtext that his administration was a danger to so many very-big-money interests, but maybe I should stick with the observation that he wasn't eliminated because he was guilty of the kind of crimes of which Bush and Cheney are guilty. I'm thinking of, say, the torture of prisoners we hold in concentration camps here and around the world; the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the Middle East and elsewhere; the bankrupting of the economy of the world's richest nation; the discarding of an ancient Constitution he had sworn to uphold; the defiling, most likely permanently, of this Republic's reputation (the fundamental and most powerful instrument of a people's influence for good); and cynically pulling the people of the most powerful and secure state on earth into an endless war for which there is no explanation other than the stupidity of the man we call "Mr. President", the personal gain of his gruesome Vice President, but above all the obscene enrichment of their handlers, the corporations which are the only objects of their allegiance.

But the list of government officers guilty of real crimes continues beyond the names of these two rogue CEO's; it includes every member of Congress, the entire Supreme Court and anyone else who has remained complicit or just plain silent in their crimes. But in the end, although we are being poorly-served by a badly-compromised, not-so-free press, and we may argue that it's really a matter of degree, none of us ordinary mortals (remember "with the consent of the governed"?) can escape responsibility so long as our "leaders" and their paymasters remain free to continue their dirty work.

[image from LeggNet]

William Hogarth Enthusiasm Delineated 1761

This is stupid, if not just evil. No, I'm not talking about Eliot Spitzer. Let him deal with his family; it's not our concern. People are screaming at the Governor about his marital infidelity and announcing or calling for the end of his career. Meanwhile, George Bush's murder count in Iraq, already in the hundreds of thousands, continues to mount and no one will pull the plug or talk about impeachment.

I simply don't care what kind of sex the people I vote for engage in, just as I insist that they not care about my own - or yours either. Murder and other high crimes I care about.

[image from payer.de via fortunecity]

When it comes to something like the Whitney Biennial, or for that matter the siren of any large display of contemporary art, whether a museum survey, an art fair or even a small-budget benefit, I look forward to seeing stuff by artists I haven't heard of before but I'm also excited to see emerging artists I've managed to scope out already. If I liked the work there's nothing more exciting than seeing the artist get greater recognition and a broader audience.

While the latest Whitney Biennial makes me happy on both accounts, there's one area in which it may disappoint even some of its most loyal fans: There is some surprisingly-not-so-exciting new work by familiar and honorable names included in the 2008 survey presumably because of their continued importance to younger colleagues and to the contemporary scene generally.

I'm thinking of the work of John Baldessari and Sherrie Levine, or at least her sculptures, and I was disappointed by the work with which Mary Heilmann and James Welling were represented. I'll add quickly add that Matt Mullican's work looked great, even if I can't explain it.

What will follow all these paragraphs is a list of some of my enthusiasms for work by the show's less-established artists. I'll admit there were some rough spots on Madison and Park Avenue last Wednesday afternoon (I just don't get Kembra Pfahler or Seth Price, for instance), but it was great fun making the rounds.

Someone should write about the impact on curated events like the Biennial of "art shows" like Armory, Basel and the dozens of newer ventures which drag gallerists, artists, curators and collectors to more and more venues all over the planet. Maybe the evaluation will become easier if they begin to lose viability, as many are predicting. In any event, perhaps it's the hoped-for effect of the "cure" in the curator which brings us back to the Whitney's signature venture every two years.

I've only been to the press preview so far, and that visit was limited to but a few hours (not enough time, even for an exhibition with fewer artists than usual, especially since there is so much performance art included this year). This checklist is therefore somewhat provisional. I look forward to another visit - and a revisit to work which didn't register with me the first time around. Also, to be fair, these choices represent a limited number of somewhat accidental marriages between picks and my ability to get decent images with my camera.

One more thought: Many of the pieces which have been selected, or in fact commissioned, by the curators are pretty overtly political, something which even a few years ago visitors and critics would have found, literally, "remarkable". The world has indeed changed, certainly for the worse, but the fact that more and more people understand that may be attributed not least to the many artists who actively pursued truth all along.

William Cordova's open, labyrinthian construction of wooden studs, "The House That Frank Lloyd Wright Built for Fred Hampton and Mark Clark", is an historical and political document; the work seen on the far wall is "Ollantaytambo (for F. CLearwater, L. Lamont & Bunchy Carter)"

Heather Rowe's "Something crossed the mind (embellished three times)" defends its Whitney-commissioned territory while literally reflecting its museum environment

Matt Mullican shows some "ellipses and balls", and some other stuff; that's all I know right now

Shannon Ebner's, characteristically assembled from language, here includes "Involuntary Sculpture" from 2006 in the foreground, and this year's "STRIKE", a detail of which is seen to the right

Phoebe Washburn employs golf balls, Gatorade, a wine refrigerator, and whatnot in order to sustain a ecosystem for flowers, "While Enhancing a Diminishing Deep Down Thirst, the Juice Broke Loose (the Birth of a Soda Shop)"

Amy Granat and Drew Heitzler, inspired by Goethe's Werther, document a road trip in projection stills from "T.S.O.Y.W."

Julia Meltzer, David Thorne and Rami Farah collaborated on "not a matter of if but when: brief records of a time when expectations were repeatedly raised and lowered and people grew exhausted from never knowing if the moment was at hand or was still to come"

Daniel Joseph Martinez's installation suggests a golden ossuary, but the bones which sustain the many worldwide terrorist organizations that are the painted subjects of "Divine Violence" are not at rest

Ellen Harvey has installed an entire environment, "Museum of Failure: Collection of Impossible Subjects & Invisible Self-Portrait in my Studio", in a room of her own at the Whitney

Walead Beshty's gorgeous series of photographs, "Tschaikowskistrasse 17 in multiple exposures (LAXFRATHF/TXLCPHSEALAX) March 27-April 3, 2006", documents an abandoned embassy to a state which no longer exists representing a government which no longer exists

Omer Fast's "The Casting" conflates the perversity and ordinariness of domestic and military violence in a four-channel video which employs actors and a script

Cheyney Thompson's paintings, like all of his work, are like nothing else around; there were three large dark (virtually unphotographable) canvases surrounding this single smaller and lighter painting.

Flora Wiegman, who performed solo throughout the Whitney on Wednesday, dancing [see Barry's video] the role of various creatures protected by Fritz Haeg's sculptural initiative, is seen here below the bat house at the bottom of the Museum's broad moat

DJ Olive installed a campsite and sound project inside the Seventh Avenue Armory, on the second floor and the mezzanine above

Lisa Sigal re-imagined parts of the east wall of the Administration Building inside the Drill Hall

Olaf Breuning assembled a colorful, animated and whimsical platoon of teapot-based electric robots, "The Army", and installed it on the second floor of the Armory

I didn't take notes, so I'm sure I've forgotten a number of people, but some of the artists responsible for installations I did not record digitally but which I really liked include, : Bozidar Brazda, Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn, Garder Eide Einarsson, Roe Etheridge, Rashawn Griffin, Alice Könitz, Louise Lawler, Jason Rhoades and Bert Rodriguez.



In 2003 nearly a million people marched in the streets of New York against a war (to which the majority of the country was opposed even then) only days before it began and the U.S. press hardly mentioned they were there, but last night a small explosive was detonated outside the door of the Times Square military recruiting station, presumably intended to send a similar anti-war message. This time a protest somehow manages to stir the media.

Our democratic system isn't working; peaceful protests are not considered newsworthy. It would be nice if we could believe that the only people who are learning this lesson are those who would not consider violence a reasonable means of effecting political change.

[first image by David Karp of AP; second by Keith Bedford of REUTERS; both found on Yahoo!photos]


"Certainly the prestige of the office of president must be seriously compromised if a woman has a serious shot at it."

I would add "or a black man" to that conditional clause, but the subject of the article from which this quote was pulled is specifically that of the place of women in American society. The sentence is inserted as a parenthetical reality check inside the penultimate paragraph of Leslie Camhi's Village Voice review of "Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution" at PS 1. She alludes to the current state of our national political life with this reminder of both how far we have come and how close we still remain to the more benighted environment of the 60's and 70's which inspired the feminist revolution:

Just how far we've traveled since those times might be measured by the fact that the female contender for the Democratic presidential nomination is perceived as the establishment candidate. (Certainly the prestige of the office of president must be seriously compromised if a woman has a serious shot at it.) But some things almost never change: It's nearly impossible, for example, to imagine this show being staged across the river, at P.S. 1's Manhattan affiliate, the Museum of Modern Art.

Instead, the artists of "Wack!" remain in the schoolhouse. But their contemporaries might well take a lesson from them.

[Presidential chart image by Automatic Preference whitosphere blog via Francis L. Holland]

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from March 2008.

previous archive: Politics: February 2008

next archivePolitics: April 2008