Politics: February 2006 Archives


I think I can speak for a lot of people on the Left if I say that for a long time we've been in a state of despair because of our belief that the radical Right was pretty much in absolute control of things at the top.

But today, as I stare at the national and international news stories now unfolding regularly, each headline topping the outrageousness of its predecessor, I'm thinking it should be pretty clear to all of us that absolutely nobody is in charge in Washington [and I suspect this isn't what Republicans meant by small government].

Somehow I'm not feeling better yet.

May the luck of the simple fool save us from total annihilation, since it's clear we won't make it with our cleverness.

[image from History of Magic]

birds fly, buddies stay on the ground

I have no first-hand experience with the hunting of tiny birds, but I assume any "sportsman" engaged in its pursuit is supposed to wait until the intended target is in the air before blasting at it. Judging from a description of the damage he did to his friend's chest, face and innards, it looks like our SUV-riding vice-huntsman wasn't going to wait for his host's house quail to get more than five feet off the ground last Saturday. Although to be fair, as Barry reminds me, these little shooting-plantation quail are raised in cages and may not be able to fly very high when finally released as Republican targets.

It also probably wouldn't help the cute little critters one bit, or our good old boy's buddies either, if he had been drinking all afternoon. Why else do we suppose the Vice President was totally unavailable that day, even to talk to his [pretend] boss? It would also help to explain how Mr. Whittington might have looked like a Quail.

But hunting, even badly, and drinking, also even badly, are not crimes. I don't even think badly handling the bad consequences of bad hunting or bad drinking is a crime. Even if it does involve Dick Cheney, this is really not a major story, probably regardless of what we might still learn about it.

My real question is why, after six years of a very deliberate reign of fear, a politically-motivated war, the brutal murder of tens of thousands of innocent people and the corruption and near ruin of a great nation, it's a hunting accident which seems to have finally persuaded the media to begin to look serious about trying to hold this administration accountable.

The most likely answer is that what happened in south Texas seems perfectly-designed for the tabloid journalism into which our media has been tranformed. The only thing missing, at least so far, is sex.

[image from grousewing]

Juan Cole cuts through all the mendacity this morning: He describes, in the clearest possible fashion [and richly illustrated] the crimes of Bush, Cheney, Libby and Rove as they relate to the Valerie Plame story.

Cole's good, but it's really all over now, except for some of the shouting. Even after the revelations in today's news, I see his account primarily as a lesson in why it was so important to get Alito appointed.

Listen to the administration's assertions of the legitimacy of their own spying ever since the wiretapping story broke. They know that everything they have done and will yet do really is perfectly legal and constitutional, because the Supreme Court, as Bush has now constituted it, will end up ruling so.

And don't think that this crew will ever have to surrender their power. Everything has finally been put in place for the perpetuation of a one-party state.

And we can't do a thing about it.

Those who have refused to play along have to be asking how much time they will have to get out of the country.

Thomas Hirschhorn Superficial Engagement 2006 [detail of installation]

Thomas Hirschhorn Superficial Engagement 2006 [detail of installation]

Most of the commercial media has decided that Americans shouldn't be shown the drawings which seem to have made the world go crazy over the past week, but this absurd delicacy is only the latest, and certainly not the most outrageous, insult to come from those who do a pretty thorough job of controlling access to the outside world for all but the most curious of our compatriots.

Americans, unlike almost all other peoples on the planet, have not seen the notorious Danish cartoons, but, even more importantly, they also have not seen the messy images of burnt, ground-up, chopped-up and gutted bodies which have haunted and angered people everywhere around the world for years.

We are being treated as children and we're doing a pretty good job of justifying the censorship and restrictions to which children are subject. Of course I have to admit that as a nation we haven't actually shown much real maturity in the last five years, but heavily insulating an already embarassingly-provincial people who make up the most powerful and most war-like state on the planet just doesn't seem like a good idea.

Where are these notes going? Well, I'm trying to tie together the two experiences which have so disturbed my mind and my sanity this week. I haven't been able to do any art posts for days because I've become so depressed following developments in the cartoon war, but most of all because of finally being confronted with crude photo reproductions of the most obscene and grotesque scenes of death as inflicted both by our oh-so-innocent selves and a lot of people who see us quite otherwise.

On my first visit to Thomas Hirschhorn's extraordinary installation at Barbara Gladstone last week, I was so overcome with the power of the piece that I was unable raise the camera I was carrying aound in my right hand. Several days later I decided I had to make my way back in and try to get something I could upload here, if only for the sake of anyone unable to make the pilgrimage to West 24th Street by this coming Saturday. I felt like I was profaning a sacred grove; I was nervous as hell, and I got in and out as quickly as I could.

Is it the pictures downloaded from the internet or is it what the artist has done with them? Why is moving through the groteque clutter of this gallery space so moving an experience? I don't think I can answer the question, at the very least because as an American who hasn't been surfing on line for these images what I saw on Saturday is still too much of a shock, even though all along I've considered myself pretty well informed and had thought that nothing about cruelty could shock me, short of being placed personally in its midst.

See Jerry Saltz's "Killing Fields" for more questions and a few answers.

I will say that it is surely the most courageous show in the city right now, and that I admire both Thomas Hirschhorn and Barbara Gladstone for bringing it to us.

How can we match such a gift? We could start by growing up and putting the censor out of business.


This note arrives with the clarity of the next morning. In a much better world it could even form the basis for reconciling the irreconcilable.

I admit that as an atheist I'm hardly in a position to preach here, but with all respect it seems to me you're missing the point if, in the name of avoiding the dangers of idolatry, you make the unseen image into a fetish.

The real obscenity is the evil which produced these photographs, and the blasphemers come in every description.


This cartoon appeared today in Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly associated with the radical Left. The in-house drawing portrays the prophet of Islam next to a headline, "Mahomet overwhelmed by the fundamentalists." The distraught man cries, "It's hard to be loved by fools."

Anyone who comes to my blog regularly knows that I have great affection for the planet's diversity, and that I am extremely sympathetic to the people and cultures of the middle east, but I expect I've also made it pretty clear that I consider myself an adversary not just of fundamentalism, but of all organized religions, equally, and regardless of where they are found. Okay, I admit that sometimes there's a worthy aesthetic element, but as in any other institution, that's not the part that destroys and kills.


Barry has uncovered the best words to appear on the subject of the cartoon war yet.

The fact that fundamentalists of all persuasions are completely incapable of self-reflection, self-criticism, and self-irony would not warrant a mention, were it not for their practice of imposing their issues on me and my world. They assume that we will kowtow to them as soon as we recognise who they are: "Look out! Religious feelings! We're leaving the private sphere."
See his site for the context of this piece and a link to Sonia Mikich's entire text.

[image from nouvelobs, via a news item from Reuters]

The U.S. and British governments criticized publication of the caricatures as offensive to Muslims, raising questions about whether the line between free speech and incitement had been crossed. [Associated Press]

One more short thought on the subject of cartoons (although as much as I would like never to have to address this stupidity again, I suspect this is only the beginning):

Our own fundamentalist Christian religio/politicos must be green with envy of their Islamist fellows for what they have been able to accomplish around the world in just a few days.

Contrary to the principles and practice of their open societies, virtually everyone of any authority in what we would like to regard as an enlightened world is currently bending over backwards to apologize (for the normal exercise of hard-won fundamental freedoms) to particularly vocal members of one cult. Our sad, clueless guardians and the institutions they control are going even further and affirming a quite new and unrestricted principle of untouchability with respect to both the practice and beliefs of that cult - and in theory at least that of any other which manages to get noticed.

Where will this end? There are lots of different religious formats out there, with lots and lots of taboos, and lots of cynical people willing to use them for their own political purposes.

We seem to be engaged in a political and cultural suicide which will be mourned by people of intelligence and good will everywhere in the world - if any of us survive the deceased ourselves.


This whole Mohammed image thing is almost perfectly ridiculous, but there is one perfect solution to the problem.

Denmark simply must not be left hanging in the wind. There is a popular, although apparently apocryphal story concerning the Danish resistance to the Nazi occupation. Supposedly the aged King Christian X left the palace on his daily ride wearing the yellow Star of David, the symbol which jews had been ordered to display prominently on their clothing.

Maybe it's just a nice story, but whatever its basis in fact, the combined efforts of the Danish population saved from extermination all but a few dozen of the nation's 6500 jews.

Let's put together a wonderful, real story with the material we've been handed sixty years later.

It's time for all newspapers, and all nations, everyone who has a media outlet, to make themselves a common target of those who would threaten the freedoms which support liberal societies.

I believe the images scorned by ignorant or cynical people who do not, or pretend not, to understand our liberties should be shown everywhere, and as prominently as is possible. Now.

We are all Danes today, regardless of our beliefs.

[image via Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who has published all 12 original cartoons on his blog]

It would be inappropriate under the circumstances were I not to mention the significance of the source of the very elusive image I've used and the link I provide. Geert Wilders is more than a little controversial himself.

I don't know what to make of all of this, but in the end I have to say I'm not losing interest in this story.

See yesterday's post for the background.

Thanks to Towleroad for alerting me to the latest developments from MSNBC.

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from February 2006.

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