29 November 2012

On 'Heartwarming' Photographs

I came across this story, about an officer from the NYPD who bought a homeless man a pair of warm boots,  in The New York Times yesterday. Before I go on, let's be clear: the officer did a generous thing. He did a generous thing that many folks, and not just denizens of NYC, would not have done. He deserves the public praise he's received. I myself am just glad he was not reprimanded for leaving his post on an anti-terrorism patrol in Times Square in order to buy boots for the fellow.

The story in The Times and related notoriety (e.g., gazillions of 'likes' and 'shares' on the NYPD facebook page) was prompted by the picture I've lifted above, snapped by a woman from Arizona visiting NYC. So, here is my problem. First, more or less random acts of kindness are, by definition, random. They will not systematically address the difficulties of the poor in America. Second, the picture has elicited lots of 'heartwarming' response. Screw that. Heartwarming is just people feeling good vicariously about themselves. It will not induce anyone to actually do anything about poverty - like stop electing right wingers whose first instinct is to blame the (unidentified) homeless guy for being out on the freezing streets barefoot on his being a 'taker' or a 'moocher.'

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Just in time for Holiday Giving

I have not heard either of these CDs (although there was this review of Miller/Lauderdale on Fresh Air this evening). Actually, both are being released too soon. I will have procured them prior to any opportunity for holiday giving. Buddy Miller and David Hidalgo are both fantastic - I've, figuratively, sung their praises here and here before. I suspect either of them could make music with me and it would be worth listening to. Well, OK . . . maybe they are not quite  that fantastic. But in each instance they have made a CD with really talented co-conspirators. You can find the details here and here respectively.

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28 November 2012

Passings ~ Lawrence Guyot (1939~2012)

When I was in third grade my parents moved (due to a job transfer) from western Massachusetts to Pass Christian, Mississippi. I was about 9 or 10 at the time. We lived there for only about a year before migrating back north. In his book on the SNCC, which I read in college, Howard Zinn described Pass Christian as the most racist town in the south. Maybe so. It also was the place where Lawrence Guyot was born. We lived there roughly during the years he was off getting the snot beaten out of him by racists. Mr. Guyot, a courageous participant in civil rights struggles has died. You can find his obituary here at The New York Times.

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The Priority of Democracy - Reviews (2)

"In reviewing the arguments advanced by Knight and Johnson, it is striking to notice the virtual absence of the normative arguments offered by democratic theorists from Rousseau to Amartya Sen: Democracy is good because it respects the moral equality of all, it embodies the broadest realization of human freedom, and it conduces to greater human fulfillment and sociality.  By putting their eggs in the pragmatist and consequentialist basket, Knight and Johnson seem to have forsaken the reasons some theorists have found democratic principles most convincing -- their connection to a fully realized and socialized human life. How would we respond to their argument if the calculation had led to a different outcome: a benevolent all-powerful bureaucracy does a slightly better job than democracy at securing the social goods they are interested in counting? Would we then be forced to conclude that benevolent bureaucratic dictatorship is the better system after all?  Probably not, for most of us. And perhaps this casts some doubt on the pragmatist method in this instance." ~ Dan Little


27 November 2012

There He Goes Again - Sean O'Hagan on the Dire State of Contemporary Photography

'The Library of Chained Books,' Hereford Cathedral, Hereford, UK, 1992.
Photograph © Chris Killip.

Every year at this time the short list is announced identifying the contenders for the Deutsche Börse photography prize. You can find the 2013 press release here. And with clockwork regularity we are immediately treated to a misguided lament from Sean O'Hagan at The Guardian. You can find this year's installment of his annual complaint here. I have commented on O'Hagan repeatedly here in the past. Our views converge nearly never.

I do think that I finally have figured out why O'Hagan's views so regularly seem misguided. Consider the opening and concluding passages from his comments on the 2013 Deutsche Börse short list:
The only surprise in the just-announced shortlist for the Deutsche Börse photography prize is the name Chris Killip. He is the only documentary photographer on the shortlist and the only one with a substantial body of work stretching back over several decades. He probably won't win. The other three contenders – Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Mishka Henner and Cristina de Middel – are contemporary artists who use photography as part of their practice.

[. . .]

Killip is included in the Deutsche Börse shortlist for his series of photographs, What Happened/Great Britain 1970–1990?, which chronicles the decline of working-class industrial communities in the north-east. Does the Deutsche Börse photography prize 2013 shortlist reflect the state of contemporary photography? Probably. Should it be renamed the Deutsche Börse photographic prize? Yes.
I will note that virtually every year the nominating committee puts forward at least one photographer who does relatively straightforward documentary work. O'Hagan's lament is simply mistaken on that count. It is no surprise that this year's short list contains someone like Chris Killip.* That, however, distracts me from our underlying disagreement.

It strikes me that O'Hagan thinks of photography in terms of a pile of images. In that sense he misses the fundamental point (lifted from the inestimable argument of philosopher Patrick Maynard) that photography is a technology for depicting people, places, things and so on; it is a tool for making marks on surfaces, marks that we use to amplify our ability to envision and imagine the world. Having missed this point, O'Hagan goes on and on about why this or that photograph or pile thereof does not "really" count as photography. But he is missing the point in a truly fundamental way. Each of the nominees this year - Killip included - is using photography for some purpose. Failure to grasp the basic pragmatics of photography leads O'Hagan to make his truly dim closing recommendation.
* To avoid muddying the waters, let me be clear that I quite like Killip's work. Unlike O'Hagan, I simply do not think that his approach to photography exhausts the legitimate range of possibilities.

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26 November 2012

Interview ~ Cathy O'Neill on OWS Alternative Banking

Here is a clip of Cathy O'Neill, who is among the principals of the OWS Alternative Banking Group. I have posted about the group and its initiatives here in the past. Here she is being interviewed by Reuters. Unsurprisingly, I find her remarks about the difficulty of finding a useful interface between mathematics and politics especially useful. For a parallel example see this earlier post.

Cathy (like other members of the group) clearly is a smart, articulate woman and an exemplar of how to bring expertise to bear in progressive politics. My worry is that absent politics in the streets initiatives by groups like this and Strike Debt will be too easily absorbed into the lobbying process in DC.

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25 November 2012

Passings ~ Cornel Lucas (1920-2012)

Photographer Cornel Lucas - famous for his portraits of film stars - has died. The New York Times has published this obituary.


Bradley Manning

I don't "tweet," nor do I "follow" - although my son Douglas is encouraging me to start. I came across this on FB. And I came across this statement on Manning's behalf by Nobel Peace laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel at The Nation. People fall over themselves declaring Colin Powell "honorable" even though he lied to the world about Iraq. Meanwhile Manning sits in jail. Here is the conclusion the laureates reach: "If someone needs to be held accountable for endangering Americans and civilians, let’s first take the time to examine the evidence regarding high-level crimes already committed, and what lessons can be learned. If Bradley Manning released the documents, as the prosecution contends, we should express to him our gratitude for his efforts toward accountability in government, informed democracy and peace."

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24 November 2012

The Problem with College and How Much It Costs

Whenever I hear folks complaining about the truly ridiculous increases in college costs, I suggest that the fault does not rest with too many tenured or tenure track faculty (indeed, way too many faculty are part-timers) or with the people who do the hard work (maintenance/housekeeping/food service etc.) on campus (indeed many of those jobs are outsourced so the institution can minimize employees and, hence, salaries/benefits)  but the enormous and increasing numbers of administrators. 
Dubious? Have a look at this story in Business Week. "The bottom line: From 1993 to 2009, U.S. universities added bureaucrats 10 times faster than they added tenured faculty."

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Best Shot (230) ~ Sarah Jones

(256) Sarah Jones ~ The Psychoanalyst's Couch (21 November 2012).


23 November 2012

Politics of Art ~ 'Tastes Great! Less Filling!'

I stumbled across a kerfuffle on contemporary "politics of art" started here at The Brooklyn Rail with a reaction here at Art Fag City. If Marcuse is right and the capitalist system is so extra-super-absorbent (as in adverts for paper towels) that no criticism can get traction, then it surely is off the mark to chastise artists for failing to escape. And unless we want to anchor (as Marcuse did and I do not) the resistant aspects of art in some transcendent feature of aesthetics or the psyche, there really is not much to the initial complaint. At least there is not much constructive to it. The reaction simply complains that the initial criticism neglects to name culprits and points to Occupy as a counter instance. I find that reply too diffuse by a large margin. Is this the state of the art (so to speak) on criticism?

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21 November 2012

Legalizing Police Violence: Spain

I heard this report on NPR this evening about proposed legislation in Spain that would ban photographing security police on the job. Let me get this straight: instead of addressing the grievances of protesters, and instead of insuring that the police respond to protests in a reasonable way, let's just try to make sure that there is no visual evidence of them beating the snot out of citizens engaged in legitimate protest. Nice plan!

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Find Something Else To Do Friday . . . Spend Time With Family & Friends Instead of Money

Here is a background report from Democracy Now!

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19 November 2012

Juvenile In Justice

A 12-year-old juvenile in his windowless cell at Harrison County Juvenile Detention Centre in Biloxi, Mississippi, operated by Mississippi Security Services, a private company. There is currently a lawsuit against MSS that forced it to reduce the centre's population. An 8:1 inmate to staff ratio must now be maintained. Photograph © Richard Ross.

I've lifted the image above from this slide show at The Guardian of recent work by Richard Ross. I have posted (in pretty much wholly complimentary terms) on Ross's work several times here before.  This is powerful work - once again. It raises obvious questions. How many rich white kids are here? Why are these kids being stored away? The likely answer to the first question - not many, if any - largely answers the second.

No need to be naive. Many of these kids are troubled and need considerable, ongoing help in dealing with their troubles. Some might well be incorrigible. We'll never know if tossing the kid in a cell is our default option. There has got to be a better, cheaper (whether financially or in terms of life prospects for kids) way to address ten-twelve-fourteen year old kids and their troubles.?

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18 November 2012

Acute Angles ~ Cello, Politics, Photography . . .

"Soon  . . .  I was facing harassment from local and federal law enforcement agents whenever I went to shoot in the vicinity of a corporate energy production site, despite being on public property. This got me pretty angry. I was suddenly subjected to national paranoia, not just reading about it in liberal magazines. Cops or the FBI threw me out of town and inspected my pictures. Their actions were illegal under the Constitution as I knew it, before the Patriot Act. The fury I felt about losing my freedom as an artist fueled a desire to keep working and get the better of the system; it made me want to make pictures that would express the tension and fear I felt contending with that system. So, yes, the project began about energy, but quickly became about power in all its dimensions—not only voltage power, but governmental and corporate power. The power of nature. The power of community. An artist’s power. American Power came to mean all these things and question their balance."
BP Carson refinery, California, 2007. Photograph © Mitch Epstein.

For some reason - not truly unfathomable, but one that I have no interest in fathoming - I have a special attraction to the cello, cellists, music for the instrument, and the odd intersections of cellists and politics. Go figure. In any case, among the cellists I have mentioned here in the past is Erik Friedlander. Yes, son of photographer Lee Friedlander. Eric has recently collaborated with Mitch Epstein on an innovative photography-music undertaking - The American Power Project. Hence an additional intersection.

I noted here in passing when Epstein won the 2011 Prix Pictet for this series of photographs (begun in 2003 and published in book form by Steidl in 2009).  While I was impressed by the images, I didn't realize at the time what a cool collaboration the whole thing had become. The joint production of pictures and music debuted at Les Rencontres d’Arles in June of 2011. You can find You Tube recordings of Friedlander's American Power Suite (six movements) here and audio versions at his web site here. You can find a web page What Is American Power? that Epstein created with his wife, writer and editor Susan Bell here. Finally, there is a really nice interview with Epstein about the entire undertaking here at BOMB Magazine. I've lifted the opening quotation above from it.

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17 November 2012

Urban-Rural My Keester - Can We Please Mention Race in a Direct Way?

Election Day results at Southern polling places reflected the same 
urban-rural divide that appeared everywhere else. 
Photograph © Travis Dove for The New York Times.

I live in - very conservative - rural western NY state. And I have good friends - mostly liberals and progressives - in the south, including North Carolina. So in many ways I am sympathetic to the distress that the author of this Op-Ed expresses. I found the 'some of my brother's best friends are Hispanic' portion of the essay laughable, but not surprising. That aside, I am not sanguine that demographic change alone will change red states blue. And, like it or not, in terms of presidential politics the hue of North Carolina approximates NC State considerably more than it does either UNC or Duke.

Nevertheless what stuck me most about the piece was the image above, which accompanied it in today's New York Times. Speaking of hue, why are we not talking about black and white here. That is, after all, what the image reveals. All this euphemistic chatter about "urban" and "rural" is just that - euphemism. And unless the unidentified precinct pictured here somehow incorporates city and farmland (not impossible) the operative distinction is race. Period.

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Solidarity not Charity (+ Resentment and Humiliation)

Among the things to which political theorists like Richard Rorty and Avishai Margalit (among others) quite rightly call attention are the ways social and political arrangements - even when they are 'well intentioned' - can generate humiliation. Among the reasons why I find reliance on charity and faith communities in the provision of social services is that they risk doing just that on a systematic basis. If you want a small taste of how this can go have a look at this story at The New York Times. Charity typically comes entangled with pity and disrespect. It requires that we view recipients as 'victims'. Solidarity invokes recognition of others as equals, or at least demands that their interests be accorded equal consideration.

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14 November 2012

Best Shot (229) ~ Harry Gruyaert

(255) Harry Gruyaert ~  Commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo, Boom, 
Belgium, 1988  (14 November 2012).


Thoughts on Debt Forgiveness

The Strike Debt initiative - which I posted on here yesterday - for playing secondary markets in order to promote debt forgiveness seems to have prompted some interesting discussion.* Coincidentally, The Boston Review is running this symposium on debt forgiveness. But, more to the point, Doug Henwood has raised some smart, constructive questions here at LBO News. What follows are thoughts prompted by Henwood's comments.

(1) First, Henwood is right that the strategy of using markets against debt is in some respects self-defeating. This is a lesson that American evangelicals learned a few years back as they tromped off to sub-Saharan Africa to buy slaves out of bondage. All they got for their efforts was increased demand and hence higher prices and increased supply on the slave markets. That said, it is unlikely that Strike Debt-esque initiatives can come close to  buying enough debt even at discounted rates to make default profitable on the primary market. In other words such initiatives are not going to increase overall levels of debt even if they will encourage "the vultures" in secondary markets. It would seem that  this initiative will leave the primary debt market unaltered and make the exploiters in the secondary market better off. Is that all?

(2) I think of the initiative as a demonstration project. It makes the situation with opaque products being sold on largely invisible markets more transparent to folks who otherwise simply would not pay attention. Hence it demonstrates the systematic character of the finance mess. This hardly is "purely symbolic' - even if this sort of initiative will not bring capitalism to its knees. The initiative will shed some light on a corner - and a particularly unsavory corner - of the market system.

Even if one were to protest that postmortems of OWS are premature, the sort of wide-ranging, informed, vigorous discussion of political economic issues that Henwood seeks hardly exists. And even as groups like Occupy the SEC continue to intervene in the policy making process, the dampening (suppression?) of street level activism such as we witnessed last year means that those interventions will be less forceful than they might otherwise be. So, the Strike Debt initiative helps keep the agenda open. That is a good thing.

(3) Doug's Any characterization of bankruptcy as "an unsatisfactorily individualist solution to a collective problem" should elicit a response from anarchists of the Jim Scott persuasion. Such folks would see bankruptcy as a form of 'everyday resistance' available to people for whom collective action is either unavailable to exceptionally risky. And they would chastise Henwood for reject this view as a too narrow view of politics insofar as he it neglects the political importance of such 'insubordination.'

(4) It is ironic that the Strike Debt initiative consists of a bunch of (relatively) well off Americans addressing the predicament of another bunch of (relatively) well of Americans (even if we recognize that those sets intersect to some considerable extent). It has nothing to say about or to the impoverished here in the US. And it does not, as far as I can tell, have anything to say about the analogous problem of debt relief at the international level. What about all the impoverished denizens of developing countries whose economies languish under the burden of debt enforced by Washington consensus strictures? Here is a possible route into a broader discussion of the sort Henwood wants to see.
P.S.: More here at Dissent.

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13 November 2012

A Clearly Divided CIty

I am not sure why, but I have not seen this image before this evening. Generally I think of New York as little more than an advertising circular much like the ones that appear unsolicited in our rural mail box. But I have to say that this cover image - taken from a helicopter at 5000 feet the night after the recent storm - by Iwan Baan is pretty remarkable. Here are some reflections from the photographer:
“It was the only way to show that New York was two cities, almost . . . One was almost like a third world country where everything was becoming scarce. Everything was complicated. And then another was a completely vibrant, alive New York.

What really struck me, if you look at the image on the left, you see the Goldman Sachs building and new World Trade Center. These two buildings are brightly lit. And then the rest of New York looks literally kind of powerless. In a way, it shows also what’s wrong with the country in this moment.”
 And, of course, Baan's image only captures Manhattan, leaving out the  darkness and devastation in the other boroughs.;

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NYC Event - Strike Debt

There is a report here at The Nation* about the back story to this event later this week. The aim is to raise money, parlay those funds into purchases of outstanding debt on the markets (typically at large multiples of the initial funds) and then set the debtors "free." All brought to you by a spin-off from OWS called Strike Debt.

* And another report here at The New York Times (added 14 November).

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12 November 2012

On Veteran's Day

"Dedicated to the Deserters of All Wars"
Nikolaus Kernbach, Stuttgart, Germany 2007.

 For the Unknown Deserters 
 Designed by Mehmet Aksoy, Potsdam Germany (1989).

Memorial to Unknown Deserters
Hannah Stuetz Menzel (1989/2005), Ulm, Germany.

I am not a pacifist. But I also suspect that most wars are unnecessary and doubt that even the truly unavoidable ones are justifiable. So, on this day when we are meant to be honoring Veterans - those given honorific status for having fought in wars - I want to note some discordant memorials. These all are in Germany. And there, of course, many people have a deep sense that their country perpetrated an especially heinous war. It is difficult not to agree. But, as the saying goes, 'He who is without sin should cast the first stone.' Do we need to feel the need to atone for crimes on the scale of the Nazis in order to wonder whether those who simply turn and walk away might not be taking an heroic stance?
P.S.: I was prompted to track down these memorials - and several others - by reading James Scott. 2012. Two Cheers for Anarchism. Princeton UP. Overall, the book is not as provocative as I'd anticipated. But it raises a set of smart questions.

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Enthusiasms (35) ~ Iris Dement

Another new CD  that has spent large amounts of time on the changer over the past week is Iris DeMent's Sing the Delta. Understated arrangements, DeMent's tremulous vocal phrasings, and lyrics that pull you 'home' without descending into the maudlin conspire more or less secretly on this record. They make it worth listening to, again and again.

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Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters

Here is a review I stumbled across in The Boston Globe of a new film by Ben Shapiro entitled Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters. I have mentioned Crewdson here several times, mostly in passing. And, while I am not sure what I really think about his staged works, Crewdson seems like a genuine and decent fellow.

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11 November 2012

Post-Election Desperation on the Right

This image was made by photographer Scout Tufankjian not this week but in Iowa last summer.* This week, however, it acquired notoriety because the Obama campaign included it in a celebratory - "Four More Years" -  tweet and plastered it across their Face Book page.

Then arrives in the mail our copy of The Economist sporting the same photo. The publication had, I believe, endorsed Obama. So, what is with the outlandish caption? Surely, if the editors had meant try to hug a Republican they'd have said so. So this cannot be taken as friendly, encouraging advice. And the editors surely know - the accompanying editorial suggests as much - that the overwhelming source of animosity and inaction over the past four years has come from far to the right of our centrist chief executive. Then again, the editors decry Obama's record, proclaiming that "his failure to work successfully with the Republicans has been woeful." Their advice? Another helping of the bi-partisanship that found no takers over the past four years. In the end this post-election campaign is a bit of a mystery. Why not send a message to the reactionaries among the Republican party, especially the Congressional contingent? I am not an Obama fan. But he and his party just kicked the snot out of the hapless Republicans. And they did so under far from auspicious economic circumstances. The right - including not just the usual talking heads but the editorial board at The Economist -  seem not to have noticed. I hope the new Obama administration does notice and that they press their political advantage rather than embracing a supine bi-partisanship.
* I found this at Tufakijan's web page: "NOTE:  Scout was not employed by or affiliated with the Obama campaign in any manner, shape, or form.  She was a journalist covering the campaign." It is important to underscore that disclaimer because of the potentially misinterpret-able statement in the report to which I link above. It states "Tufankjian has been a campaign photographer with President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign since the beginning."

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10 November 2012

Are We Having Fun Yet? John Schabel's Passengers

 And here is an announcement of what seems to me a truly peculiar photographic project - a collection of images taken by John Schabel via telephoto lens of of airline passengers framed in the windows of commercial aircraft. I guess I cannot fathom what possessed Schabel. My first response, reflecting my own less than edifying experiences with airlines, is to ask whether he is simply illustrating the common saying 'misery loves company.'


Jame Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey

There is a new film out called Chasing Ice; it documents the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) started by photographer James Balog. EIS in a massive project recording the transformations of glaciers. You can find a couple of reports here and here at NPR as well as a brief interview with the filmmaker Jeff Orlowski  here at The New York Times. Balog has installed time lapse cameras to record changes in glaciers across several continents. The cameras record the glaciers every half hour every day during daylight hours. The EIS folks then create videos from the images to reveal the ways the glaciers are changing. Clearly this is a huge technical and logistical  undertaking and a needed advance over the sorts of re-photographic projects I've noted here and here in earlier posts. The EIS is doing pretty remarkable work that, interestingly enough, Balog compares to making portraits.

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09 November 2012

Jonathon Keats on Art & Politics

A short while ago I wrote this post prompted by an an essay in (of all places) Forbes by critic Jonathon Keats. In the meantime I have come across two more posts by Keats on the intersection of art and politics that also are smart and provocative. The first - here - is an astute analysis of the ways Pussy Riot traverses that intersection. The second- here - is takes up contrasting modes of "pragmatism" at work in the flamboyant politics of Ai Weiwei and the more easily assimilated performances of Cai Guo-Qiang. Both offerings are highly recommended. I admit that I am not a regular Forbes reader. Keats may change that.

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08 November 2012

Best Shot (228) ~ Samuel Aranda

(254) Samuel Aranda ~ Fatima & Zayad, Yemen, 2011 (7 November 2012).

I only very rarely comment on the images I lift from from this series. Aranda won the World Press Photo Award for this image last year. At the time I was highly (but, I think, constructively)  critical here and here of the image and the award committee. Nothing has changed my mind.

I will also take the opportunity to say, once again, what a great series this is at The Guardian. It now is in the hands of Sarah Phillips who continues the fine work of her predecessors.

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07 November 2012

A Note to Liberals

"Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over. And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you've made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead. 

Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do"
These two paragraphs come from Obama's victory speech last night. Notice what his agenda includes and what it neglects. Deficit reduction. Tax reform. Energy independence. Immigration reform. This sounds like the Romney/Ryan platform minus the assault on reproductive choice and health  insurance reform. Nothing on political economic inequality. Nothing on unemployment - except insofar as that is taking care of itself, however slowly. Nothing on enforcement of financial sector reforms. This is what Obama has in store for you. More center-right policy with a garnish of bi-partisanship.

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Enthusiasms (34) ~ Ron Miles

This CD* arrived in the mail this afternoon. It is very good and I suspect it will stay in the changer for a while. I first heard trumpeter Ron Miles in a small group led by Wayne Horvitz. And on this disc he converges with guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Brian Blade. All that is rarefied company indeed. Meanwhile the tunes tend toward the understated and off-kilter, which is pretty much right on target for my taste.

* Ron Miles/Bill Frisell/Brian Blade - Quiver - Enja/Yellow Bird, 2012.

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06 November 2012

Birthdays ...

Richard Serra, 2008 (b. 2 November 1939)

John Berger, 2009 (b. 5 November 1926)

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Passings ~ Teri Shields (1933-2012)

This is an odd post. Terri Shields was - to the best of my knowledge - neither a photographer nor a model. She was the parent of an attractive daughter and, as such, placed the girl - Brooke Shields - in front of the camera as a child. As s result, Terri was among the early exemplars of the exploitative adults against whom I have inveighed here repeatedly. While I support neither extremist reactions of "child pornography" nor the censors who trail in their wake, I have a difficult time getting a grip on what parents and photographers and editors are up to much of the time.

Terri Shields has died. There is an obituary here at The New York Times.

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05 November 2012

Documenting Photojournalists at Work

I saw this story in The New York Times calling attention to a series of four short documentaries on HBO each dealing with a different photojournalist at work in a different location.  We don't get HBO. So much for that - at least for now. But here are links to the web page for each installment: [1] Eros Hoagland  in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, [2] Michael Christopher Brown in Libya, [3]  Hoagland (again) in Rio de Janeiro, and [4] Véronique de Viguerie in South Sudan.

I respect the difficulty and risk involved in working as a photojournalist on the front lines. At the same time, it is important not to romanticize the work or those who do it. It will be interesting (eventually) to see how these episodes work.

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Welfare for Wealthy Speculators or What's Wrong with the Putative "Reform" of the Finance Sector?

"Many Americans probably think the Dodd-Frank financial reform law will protect taxpayers from future bailouts. Wrong. In fact, Dodd-Frank actually widened the federal safety net for big institutions. Under that law, eight more giants were granted the right to tap the Federal Reserve for funding when the next crisis hits. At the same time, those eight may avoid Dodd-Frank measures that govern how we’re supposed to wind down institutions that get into trouble.

In other words, these lucky eight got the best of both worlds: access to the Fed’s money and no penalty for failure."
This is the punchline from a very useful article in The New York Times yesterday. This is why we need groups like Occupy the SEC.

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03 November 2012

Curing Gays of Their Sexual Orientation: A Question

I really don't care how people have sex or how they define their sexuality - or how they alter or redefine it over time. So, if "gay" men want to repent and undergo therapy or whatever, so they can become non-gay, that is fine. People pay all sorts of money to make themselves 'normal' or otherwise in various ways. Not my business. Nor, I think, is it the business of the state (or the church!). But here is a story at The New York Times that made me wonder about how the "problem" is cast. In it, one of the men describes to the reporter why he was going to great lengths to change his sexual orientation and why he objects to the new California law that bans certain sorts of 'therapies' that promise to get the gay out of you. In the reporter's words: "He was tormented as a Christian teenager by his homosexual attractions." Why not say, "He was tormented as a homosexual teenager by his repressive Christian upbringing"?

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02 November 2012

UR - SEIU Impasse Update

According to this story in The Campus Times the negotiations between the University of Rochester and a sub-set of its employees represented by SEIU continue to be troubled. I've posted on this here and here before. It is nice to see that a group of students - among them one of my really smart advisees - is supporting the union.

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Best Shot (228) ~ Tom Wood

(253) Tom Wood ~ Three Wise Women, Liverpool, 1989 (31 October 2012).


01 November 2012

Where Is Jack Welch Now? Congressional Republicans Suppress CRS Report

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, currently a pompous right-wing wind bag, made headlines by calling into question the October jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Welch implied that the unexpectedly favorable numbers were a political plot in which BLS officials had connived to make the Obama administration look good. Even conservative commentators like David Brooks thought his accusations were ludicrous. Well the question today is this - "where is Jack now?"

The New York Times reports today that Congressional Republicans connived to suppress a report from the Congressional Research Service that deflates the central tenet of their economic views, namely that there is some well-established, robust relationship between tax rates on those at the very top of the income distribution and economic growth.  You can find a copy of the report and some commentary here at The Washington Post.

The Republicans might have avoided stepping in this particular pile of their own bullshit. As Susan pointed out to me and as this cogent analysis of the CRS report and its putative shortcomings at The New Republic points out: "CRS reports are never released to the public anyway." Oooooppps! Now not only are the Republicans wrong about economics, but they are compounding their mistake by censoring the findings. This surely should outrage so hardheaded a businessman as Welch. Right? Don't hold your breath waiting for him to tweet his criticism of the Republicans. It is more likely that he will join the editorial ideologues at Pravda the Wall Street Journal in impugning the author of the report.
P.S.: (2 November 2012) To punctuate this post I add a link to this news report from The New York Times this morning.  The story is about how job growth - as reported by those dastardly partisans at BLS! - has basically stagnated this month. Unemployment is reported up on the Friday before the election. Hey Jack! We'd love to hear from you.

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Fashion Models & Unions?

Yesterday, The Guardian ran this story on the exploitation - there really is no other term for it - of young fashion models. The story revolves around Kate Moss and a particular shoot - some of which I've lifted above - from 1990 when she was sixteen years old. The photographer was Corinne Day, now deceased. It seems that this story underscores the need for unions or their equivalent - like the Model Alliance (U.S.) and Equity's Models' Committee (U.K.), both mentioned in The Guardian piece - to watch out for the interests of models. Note that in the Vanity Fair interview that instigated the discussion, Moss herself never suggests the possibility. She looks back, suggests she knew she was being exploited, but offers no remedy beyond the kindness of friends.

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