31 August 2012

Romney & Ryan: Does the Mendacity Need to be Pointed Out?

It seems like piling on, but Romney's speech last night was (1) wooden in delivery, (2) content-less with respect to actual constructive policy proposals and, (3) like Ryan's the night before, littered with lies and bullshit. Here at Daily Beast and here at The New York Times we hear that the "orators" at  this convention are establishing a new standard for ignoring reality.

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Best Shots (220) ~ Thomas Ball

(246) Thomas Ball ~ Oil Sands, Alberta, 2007  (29 August 2012).

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30 August 2012

Inaesthetics

Drowning (2012). Photograph © Alfredo Jaar*
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* From Inaesthetics #3 (2012) ~ "Inaesthetics is a biannual Journal for art and philosophy. Published in English, it also includes the original language version of those texts not written in English. Each volume is dedicated to a specific subject, including original contributions by philosophers, scientists, poets and visual artists. Contributions by visual artists are exclusively created for Inaesthetics. Inaesthetics’ back covers are especially designed by contemporary artists."

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Republican National Convention = Burning Man?

There is an entertaining comparison of the two events  here from The Guardian. This is the intersection of art & politics?

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Ryan - Lies and Bullshit

I am a bit late with this post. But, since Republicans seem to be ecstatic about Paul Ryan's speech last night, and since the press is largely preoccupied with his 'political' performance in attacking Obama and evoking small-town nostalgia, it seems appropriate to link to this nice column at The Nation. The punchline:
"Ryan had to know he was deceiving the American people when he and the Romney team prepared his speech.

But the “deficit hawk” congressman who voted for two unfunded wars, a budget-busting prescription drug plan that steered billions into the accounts of Big Pharma, and the bank bailout of 2008 made his choice long ago. He’s not going to level with the American people. He’s going to try to make them believe things that are not true."
How bad is it when we rely on Condi Rice* as a benchmark for honesty and straight talk?
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* Even The New York Times which was supine in the face of BushCo propaganda wrote in this editorial today: "Ms. Rice is a reminder of the colossal errors and deceptions of the Bush administration. She was a central player in the decision to invade Iraq and the peddling of fantasies about weapons of mass destruction."

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28 August 2012

John Berger & Tilda Swinton "Got off at The Same Station"

Not Just Pussy Riot ~ Taisiya Osipova

Political activist Taisiya Osipova reportedly has been sentenced to eight years in prison by a Russian court.

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Passings ~ Malcolm Browne (1931 - 2012)

 Self-immolation of Thich Quang Ðuc, Saigon, 1963

Photojournalist Malcolm Browne, who made this image of a Vietnamese monk setting himself alight in protest against the war, has died - you can find this obituary at The New York Times.

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From the Corners of Africa

At The Guardian, I discovered a story by Sean O'Hagan that usefully links to nearly a handful of photographers from across Africa - Adolphus Opara and Andrew Esiebo (Nigeria),  Michael Tsegaye (Ethiopia),  and Daniel Naude (South Africa).  Of these photographers I am familiar only with Esiebo; I've posted here on his work a couple of times. The work is uniformly impressive not only in its variety but in the way it departs both from the too common tendency to present of the entire continent as a disaster zone and from the temptation to depict Africa as a freak show. A good example of a photographer who, it seems to me, tacks back and forth between those unfortunate approaches is Pieter Hugo.

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27 August 2012

The ironies of political rights in the U.S.

My friend Kelly Gleason forwarded this link to a news story at NBC News - the punch line is in the title. At the RNC convention in Tampa, protesters cannot carry puppets even if they (the protesters, not the puppets) are packing heat. How is it that our politics is this screwed up?

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26 August 2012

August

I am just back from a two day, round-trip, cross country journey to deliver August back to his mother. I will relate the fun and games another time. But I miss the boy already. A lot. This is August last week in DC; we had fun there and here at home.

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23 August 2012

Best Shots (219) ~ Markéta Luskačová

22 August 2012

Call For Papers: Picturing Others: Photography and Human Rights

Picturing Others: Photography and Human Rights
Cardiff, 17-18 January 2013


This 2-day conference will bring together photography practitioners, academic researchers, press officers, journalists and members of community groups to discuss how photographs are used to represent people in situations of conflict or disaster, and to consider the real-world effects that photographic representation can have on the lives of people migrating from one country to another. The conference aims to create an initial forum for on-going dialogue between photographers, media officers, journalists and researchers on photography.

The conference will focus on the ways in which photographs from past times can affect how people are represented today; on the ways in which different sectors use photography to inform or educate; and on how the photographic images used in different sectors communicate with each other and with their publics. The conference will also engage with how people from areas of conflict or disaster view images of themselves by others, and how they use photography themselves. More broadly, the conference will reflect upon on how human rights and individual agency can be promoted and violated through the camera; and the choices that photographers, broadcasters and campaigners make when using photographic images.

We invite paper proposals of 200 words for submission by 8 October 2012 from all those with an interest in photography and human rights. Decisions on proposals will be communicated by e-mail by 22 October 2012. Proposals should be sent to the organising committee at migration@cf.ac.uk and may discuss any aspect of the questions suggested below.

We warmly invite presentations taking a practical, personal or theoretical approach, and referring to any historical period or geographical area. Conference presentations will be of 20 minutes’ length.

Topics for discussion may include, but are not limited to:

• Are there patterns in the ways in which people in conflict or distress elsewhere are represented in photography?
• How do these patterns of representation affect how people who migrate to other countries are perceived and how well they can integrate and settle?
• How do past photographic representations of people from elsewhere link to contemporary photographs of countries in conflict or disaster situations and the way they are presented?
• How do non-photographic media, such as text and radio journalism, affect responses to photographs of other people?
• How do photographed people in situations of conflict or disaster, or in peacetime, interact with their media representations?
• What kinds of images do indigenous media and NGOs use to represent people in situations of conflict or disaster in their own countries and localities?
• What are the decision-making processes used by photographers picturing conflict and disaster?
• How do image the choices made in news media affect how images are used by development organisations or community groups, and vice versa?
• Where migration is concerned, what are the effects of images on perceptions of migrants, on social integration in host countries, and on the resolution of conflicts at home and in host countries?
• How is the educational role that images of others can have connected to issues of wider power relations between the global South and the global North in making, publishing/broadcasting and viewing images?

 Rachael Langford
School of European Languages, Translation and Politics, Cardiff University
Cardiff, Wales, UK
tel +55 2920 875643
Email: langfordre@cf.ac.uk

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21 August 2012

Pussy Riot, Liberalism, Hypocrisy

"How many fans of Pussy Riot’s zany “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s erudite and moving closing statement were equally thrilled by her participation, naked and heavily pregnant, in a public orgy at a Moscow museum in 2008? That performance, by the radical art group Voina (Russian for “war”), was meant to illustrate how Russians were abused by their government. Voina had previously set fire to a police car and drew obscene images on a St. Petersburg drawbridge.

Stunts like that would get you arrested just about anywhere, not just in authoritarian Russia. But Pussy Riot and its comrades at Voina come as a full package: You can’t have the fun, pro-democracy, anti-Putin feminism without the incendiary anarchism, extreme sexual provocations, deliberate obscenity and hard-left politics." - Vadim Nikitim

Voina staged a live public orgy at the State Museum of Biology in the hall “Metabolism, energy, nutrition, digestion”. While five couples were copulating, the Voina chief media artist Alexei Plutser-Sarno, wearing a tuxedo and a top-hat, was holding a black pre-electoral banner reading “Fuck for the Bear” (29 February 2008).

I have to say that I found this scolding Op-Ed by Vadim Nikitin truly, ridiculously offensive. Why? Not because there are not many sanctimonious liberals who simply want to chastise far-away regimes for transgressions of the sort they wrongly believe never, ever occur here in the US. There are, of course, many liberals of just that sort. What is offensive about Nakim's argument (and Glenn Greeenwald's endorsement of it at The Guardian) is that there are many Americans who (1) speak regularly and loudly about transgressions by public - and private - powers in the US, (2) are quite aware that the women of Pussy Riot have been involved in provocative - some might say 'tasteless' or 'offensive' - performances in the past, and (3) nevertheless not only find it outrageous that the Russians are still running show-trials to rival those of the Stalin years but feel obliged to say so.

 A couple of things are important. First, Nikitim is right that protests of the sort Pussy Riot has staged might well get one arrested in many places other than Russia. But would they also get one a show trial and multi-year sentence - serious prison time? Second, the orthodox church is busy supporting the oligarchic Russian regime, and it is naive to assume otherwise. Just as when ACT-UP New York staged protests during the church services of Cardinal O'Connor, the Russian activists are identifying church complicity with oppressive policies. Imagine gay kiss-ins during holy mass! Third, Greenwald is off the mark when he invokes Chomsky's moralism. Sure the US is especially egregious in perpetrating violence world-wide. That in no way implies that we should sit on our hands when other regimes follow suit. And, of course, when liberals support 'freedom of expression' in cases like this, it becomes easy to turn the outrage around next time they demur in the face of domestic outrages.
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P.S.: A follow up. It would also be a mistake to assume that all Russians support the show trial prosecution. Consider this observation from The Nation: "Support has come from inside Russia and abroad. More than 40,000 Russians have signed an online petition protesting the band members’ arrest and detention. A hundred Russian civic and cultural figures have petitioned the country’s Supreme Court. Russia’s human rights ombudsperson has urged their release."

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Passings ~ Martine Franck (1938 - 2012)

Marine Frank has died. You can find an obituary here at The Guardian.

20 August 2012

Passings ~ Von Freeman (1923-2012)

Saxophonist Von Freeman, a stalwart of the Chicago jazz scene who I had the very great pleasure of hearing live several times, has died. There is an obituary here at The New York Times and a nice remembrance here at npr.

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Niall Ferguson: Peddling Lies and Bullshit


Well, in his role as drum-major for failed economic policies (namely austerity as a cure for all that ails us) Harvard historian Niall Ferguson has produced this piece in Newsweek that has generated a storm of critical responses: James Fallows, Paul Krugman, and Ezra Klein and Brad DeLong have deflated Ferguson's attack on the Obama administration. Ferguson remains undeterred.

Among the claims at issue is one where Ferguson insists - putatively on the basis of analysis by the Congressional Budget Office - that the Affordable Care Act will violate Obama's 2008 pledge not to raise taxes on middle-income Americans and that it will contribute to the nation's deficit woes.

It is scant surprise that Ferguson, who was an adviser to the unsuccessful and unlamented 2008 McCain campaign, has little patience for Obama or his policies. (I myself don't have much either!) But it is some surprise to learn - as reported here and here at Politico - that not only do the folks at Newsweek not fact check submissions, but they don't seem to mind that Ferguson seems to have been simply "makin' shit up" for this piece. One would think that a self-respecting journalistic outlet would want essays it publishes to be sound. And one would think that an historian would find it important to get basic facts right. One would think. And instead we get silence from Newsweek and what we can only call the Bullshit defense from Ferguson. Here is an appropriate reply from Brad Delong:
"And his only excuse--now, it's not an excuse for the lie, it's a "I can lie cleverly" boast--is: "I very deliberately said 'the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA', not 'the ACA'".

Fire his ass.

Fire his ass from Newsweek, and the Daily Beast.

Convene a committee at Harvard to examine whether he has the moral character to teach at a university.

There is a limit, somewhere. And Ferguson has gone beyond it."
And here, at The Atlantic, is a more temperate riposte, in which their business and economics editor slices and dices Ferguson's claims. Niall? Newsweek?

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19 August 2012

20 Most Influential Asian Photographers


I came across this post at IPA ~ Invisibile Ph t grapher Asia; it is, as the title suggests, a list of the most influential Asian photographers.

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Best Shot (218) ~ John Minihan

(244) John Minihan  ~ Samuel Beckett, circa 1980 (15 August 2012).

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18 August 2012

Summer Fun

This is Susan and August at Herseypark yesterday afternoon. Generally I am not a great fan of such places. But August really had a blast on the rides, seeing the zoo creatures, and generally running about.

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16 August 2012

"Aggregates Unseen: Imagining Post-Katrina New Orleans"

Hot off the presses: James Johnson. 2012. "Aggregates Unseen: Imagining Post-Katrina New Orleans" Perspectives on Politics 10(3):659-68. This is an essay on how Robert Polidori and Richard Misrach, in different but overlapping ways, convey the phenomenon of forced migration without focusing on suffering individuals. It is another installment in my campaign to get political scientists to take photography seriously. Full disclosure: I used to edit this journal for the APSA.

13 August 2012

Interview: Teddy Cruz

My colleague Fonna Forman from UCSD forwarded this link to an interview with Teddy Cruz, a remarkable artist who works on all sorts of projects having to do with the border Tijuana-San Diego border and the ways people cross and use it. I've posted on Cruz's work here a couple of times before.

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Democracy at Work

Susan forwarded a link to a new web page Democracy at Work that looks promising - on the possibilities for (and, in many instances, the actuality of) democratic decision-making in the workplace.

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12 August 2012

Romney Contributes to Political Polarization

This graphic from Nate Silver shows the ideology score for any vice presidential candidate (since 1900) who had previously served in Congress. (So, for instance, since Sarah Palin while a former Governor, never served in Congress, she does not appear in the graphic.) The higher the score, the more extreme the individual' voting record. Paul Ryan wins in a landslide. His record places him in the same vicinity as Michelle Bachmann - a candidate who seemed extreme even during the Republican primary process! And, of course, the Republicans here, as with virtually every other indicator, turn out to have been more extreme than Democrats over the past four decades.

The point? The title of this post might well simply read "Romney is  a Republican."

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11 August 2012

Will Paul Ryan Recant (Again)?

Where is it written that Jesus refers to the poor as "parasites"? In all my years at Sacred Heart school I do not remember that ever being among the lessons. The church has at least the good taste to be hypocritical in its commitment to the meek and the poor.

Not so Paul Ryan, allegedly chosen to be the Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican party in large part for his traditional family values and Catholic faith. It turns out that he is an acolyte of the intellectual charlatan Ayn Rand. As is well known, Rand peddled a view called "objectivism," a doctrine of egoism that mostly appeals to post-adolescent American boys. In real life could not herself adhere to the doctrine. And, of course, the heroes of Rand's drivel are wholly warranted, on her account, in treating the poor with disdain. Make no mistake, the only ones who - with a straight face -  categorize Rand as a philosopher are the poor folks who need to shelve her works in big box bookstores.

Well, the conservatives started a drumbeat early on demanding that Obama renounce his pastor - that devilish Rev. Wright. It will be delicious to see if the Democrats make Ryan endure the same sort of show trial tactics. It also should be fun to watch as libertarians scurry about trying to place distance between their allegedly credible intellectual commitments and the nuttiness of Rand and Ryan. They should get a feel for what pragmatists have felt for four years as Obama slandered our good name!

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10 August 2012

Best Shot (217) ~ John Stezaker


 (243) John Stezaker ~ From: Marriages (8 August 2012).

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07 August 2012

Mankiw Misidentifies the Moochers

What would happen if economists made the truly banal observation that age, and hence earning power, is unevenly distributed across the U.S. population? Here is economist Nancy Folbre at The New York Times thoroughly deflating the right wing ruminations of Harvard economist Greg Mankiw- who served a tour of duty as Head of Bush #2's Council of Economic Advisers and currently is a Mitt minion - regarding the simply ghastly fact that poor and unemployed are recipients of federal aid.

Folbre does a truly astonishing thing; she actually looks at the numbers and the categories in a sensible way. This allows her to account, for instance, for the wholly unsurprising prevalence of children and the retired in different quartiles of the population. And, unsurprisingly, those quartiles receiving apparently disproportionate amounts of government largesse are disproportionately populated by children and the retired. Can Mankiw really be that dim?

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Learning the World - Mary Chapin Carpenter

Learning the World
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Grief lies quietly on the passenger side,
Unwanted company on a long, long drive.
It turns down the quiet songs and turns up the dance din.
It goes where you go, it’s been where you’ve been.

Pushing your empty car mile after mile,
Leaves you weeping in the wilderness of the supermarket aisle.
And in the late night kitchen light it sits in a chair
Watching you pretend that it’s not really there, but it is.

So it is and you ask
“Are you predator or friend? The future or the past?”

It hands you your overcoat and opens the door.
You are learning the world again just as before,
But the first time was childhood and now you are grown,
Broken wide open, cut to the bone.

And all that you used to know is of no use at all,
The same eyes you’ve always had have you walking in the walls
And the same heart can’t understand why it’s so hard to feel,
What used to be true, it’s now so unreal, but it is.

So it is and you say
“I wish I were the wind, so that I could blow away”

Grief sits silently on the edge of your bed,
It’s closing your eyes, it’s stroking your head.
The dear old companion it’s taking aback
Watching you pretend it’s not really there.

This is the lyric from a song on a newish recording Ashes & Roses by Mary Chapin Carpenter. I do not know much about she or her music. But she is singing and chatting with David Dye on 'The World Cafe' this afternoon. And this song made me stop and listen. It seems that she wrote it in the wake of her father's death. As regular readers will know, I think it is pretty difficult to find much useful in what gets written about grief and loss. But this song captures a good slice of the experience.

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Pussy Riot Update

Well, according to this report at The Guardian, prosecutors in a Moscow court case are demanding three years in prison for members of Pussy Riot. This is shameful persecution of political speech pure and simple as this post at The New York Times makes clear. For additional background have a visit here to Mother Jones. Amnesty International are running a campaign on their behalf - you can find a link here and there is a webpage for supporters here.

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06 August 2012

Some Interesting Things to Read

In The New York Times Avraham Burg published this essay on the dire state of what passes for democracy in Israel.

In Dissent, Rebecca Solnit argues the case for debt relief for young folks who've incurred burdensome student loan debt.

In The Guardian last Friday this update on the Moscow show trial of Pussy Riot on charges of hooliganism.

Amartya Sen in The New Republic, writing on the apparent demise of Europe, and especially on how the neglect of democracy and the demands of social justice has contributed to to the problem.

And a couple of posts at the Economix Blog (The NY Times) by Simon Johnson here and here on the serious need for regulation of financial markets and on the tall tales bankers tell as they try to derail that prospect.

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05 August 2012

Maps as Public Art


Today The New York Times ran this interesting story on the design and subsequent demise of a map of the NY subway system. Words and pictures need to go together, as the designer knew while the bureaucrats apparently did not. This reminds me of the mayhem a decade later that surrounded Richard Serra's 'Tilted Arch'; public opposition (no doubt orchestrated) did in both.

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03 August 2012

Pussy Riot Trial

From left: Maria Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, members of feminist punk group Pussy Riot sit behind bars at a court room in Moscow, July 30, 2012. Photograph © Mikhail Metzel / AP; Caption © TIME.

Back in 1970s in what then was Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel coordinated respectable "dissidents" around the cause of the Plastic People of the Universe, a rock band engaged in what the Communist regime regarded as politically inappropriate performances and events. Today in Russia, members of the rock band Pussy Riot are imprisoned while on trial on charges of "hooliganism" and respectable, churchgoing opinion seems to be that the ladies are guilty and stand in need of punishment. You can read a report here in The New York Times and find an archive of articles here at The Guardian. The take away is not that Putin seems to have endorsed leniency in the case, but that the women face seven years in prison for making a political statement. This is the new "democratic" Russia.

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02 August 2012

Best Shot (216) ~ Briony Campbell

(242) Briony Campbell ~ Falling in Love (1 August 2012).

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01 August 2012

Best Shot (215) ~ Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo

(241) Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo - Accra, 2008  (25 July 2012).

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Best Shot (214) ~ Libi Pedder

(240) Libi Pedder - James, 2007 (18 July 2012).

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Why Does Romney Keep Going on About the Jews and Their Special Capacity to Make Money?

Mitt Romney is still trying to clean up after himself for several "gaffes" made during his overseas tour. The one that seems most troubling, as reported here at The Guardian,  is his claim that the differences in economic performance between Israel and Palestine come down to the Jews and their "culture." Romney has repeated the claim upon arrival back in the U.S.. Most reporting on the matter focuses on rightful Palestinian outrage at Romney's apparent amnesia regarding the occupation and its obvious burdens on the Palestinians and their economy. But what I find stunning is that Romney is basically pointing to the Jews and remarking on their special money-making prowess. Where have I heard that sort of line before?

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