29 November 2013

Political Economy in the Kitchen

28 November 2013

COBRA Update (And No - this is not about the program for maintaining health insurance if you lose your job.)

Not long ago I included this paragraph in a digest:
In 1984 the British government established a special committee - COBRA (or Cabinet Office briefing room A) - that meets to address quickly political emergencies perceived or actual. The Guardian reports here on a newer, parallel COBRA, consisting of artists aiming "to engage critically and creatively with the increased use of aesthetics and performance by the UK government to promote, explain and justify its labelling of an event as 'an emergency'." The parallel entity meets whenever the official COBRA does in order to formulate a creative response to the the putative emergency.
Yesterday The Guardian ran this story about an interesting graduate program in art and politics and featured a fellow, Theo Price, who both did the program and is a principal in the un-official COBRA undertaking.

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Chris Hedges on Art & Politics ~ Just What You'd Expect

"Well, the role of art is transcendence. It’s about dealing with what we call the nonrational forces in human life, those forces that are absolutely essential to being whole as a human being but are not quantifiable. Not empirically measureable. Grief, beauty, the struggle with our own mortality, the search for meaning, love—Freud said he could write about sex, he could never write about love—and that’s only going to come through art. I mean, I don’t think it’s accidental that the origins of all religions are always fused with art, with poetry, with music. Because you’re dealing with a transcendence or a reality that is beyond articulation." ~ Chris Hedges

I generally find Chris Hedges actively unhelpful. Here he confirms my view.  His view of art as necessarily concerned with "transcendence" is bunk.  (To note only the most obvious thing, poetry is largely about articulating emotions, thoughts, insights.) But I suppose it makes sense since he is trying to connect art with politics. And his politics are unbearably moralistic. I suppose there is something to be said for consistency.

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27 November 2013

Passings ~ Saul Leiter (1923-2013)

Photographer Saul Leiter has died. There is an obituary here at The New York Times.


26 November 2013

Koudelka (Follow Up)

I recently posted here on a NYRB essay by David Shulman on Josef Koudelka and his images of the "separation barrier" the Israeli's have constructed. A bit later the Lens Blog posted this two part interview [1] [2] with the photographer. The interview is revealing about Koudelka's personality as much as anything.

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Pope to American GOP ... Your Libertarian Views are Anathama

According to this report, Pope Francis has issued an apostolic statement that, among other things, directly calls into question many of the primary tenets of libertarian economic and political thought. Now, I myself am not a big fan of the Pope or the Church. But isn't Paul Ryan Catholic? And, how about Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum? And Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell? Or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.)? Just wondering. Remember, for these folks the Pope is infallible - except, perhaps, when his views puncture our own ideology!

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23 November 2013

Outlier - A Definition

There is the US leading a pack of post-Communist states in life expectancy at only 4 times the cost. (Source)

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Britten at 100

 "In Britten I have found a new hero, a musically surprising and multi-dimensional citizen of the world." ~ Marin Alsop
Here is a piece from npr on composer Benjamin Britten (and specifically his War Requiem) on the centenary of his birth. I did not know his music or politics at all.

Update (11/26):  There also is a recent essay here from NYRB reviewing a troika of recent works on Britten. The essay is more straightforward about Britten's sexuality and his politics than the npr piece. And it comes down, I think, on the right side of the continuing debate about Britten's accomplishment and stature. That debate seems to be heated: " . . . [I]n Britten’s centennial year (he was born in 1913 and died in 1976), the “battle of Britten” . . . continues. Britten’s reputation—the need to decide once and for all whether he is great or overrated—is central to discussion of him, in a way that is not true for more acclaimed contemporaries (like Stravinsky) or lesser ones (like Finzi). A peevish, aggrieved tone persists on either side."

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22 November 2013

Filibuster Repeal - Spinning the Data Graphics

Here, from this story at WaPo, is a a pair of data graphics released by the GOP and the Dems in the wake of the Filibuster reform passed in the Senate yesterday.The top graph was released by Mitch McConnell's office. The Bottom was released by Harry Reid's office.

So, as the WaPo suggests, which you find persuasive will depend on whether you think a nomination to the Federal DC Circuit Court of Appeals is equivalent to the Deputy Vice Assistant to the Ambassador to Fiji. McConnell seems to think 'yes'; Reid 'no.'

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21 November 2013

Politics, Movement and Electoral

Interesting political developments. In Chile, according to this report at The Guardian,  Camila Vallejo Dowling, was one among several leaders of student mobilizations in 2011 elected to Congress. And The Los Angeles Times reports that here, in the U.S., Kshama Sawant - OWS activist and freakn' self-proclaimed socialist - was elected to the City Council in Seattle.  You can find another report on Sawant here at The Guardian. These may seem blips on the radar. Perhaps they are. But each raises the issue of what possibilities a movement might generate.

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18 November 2013

Missing Photographs

 Steven Edwards starts his Photography: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP, 2006) by asking readers to entertain an interesting possibility - a world thoroughly devoid of photographs or photography. According to this report by Olivier Laurent at The British Journal of Photography, the French newspaper Libération published its entire 14 November issue without a single photograph. The editors reportedly withheld images as a statement about the precarious situation of photographers and photojournalism. Yet, even though this 'statement' is intentional and derives its force from the contrast to a world awash in images - the photographs we expect are missing, not nonexistent - it underscores the audacity of Edwards' counter-factual.

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Solnit on Typhoon Coverage

You can find an OpEd by Rebecca Solnit on the media coverage of the Philippines disaster here at The Los Angeles Times. She underscores the ways elites and mass media foment anxieties about disorder (looting!!!) and mayhem, fabricating them mostly from whole cloth.

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17 November 2013

Passings ~ Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

Doris Lessing has died. There are obituaries here and here at The Guardian and The New York Times respectively. And there is a remembrance by Margaret Atwood here. Atwood remarks:
"She was political in the most basic sense, recognising the manifestations of power in its many forms. She was spiritual as well, exploring the limits and pitfalls that came with being human . . . [S]he was everything a younger female writer might hope for: kind, helpful, interested, and with a special understanding of the position of writers from elsewhere within England. . . . And she was a model also for every writer coming from the back of beyond, demonstrating – as she so signally did – that you can be a nobody from nowhere, but, with talent, courage, perseverance through hard times, and a dollop of luck, you can scale the topmost storyheights."

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Chilean Ironies

Ariel Dorfman here in The Guardian on the impending Chilean elections. In the process of sketching the ironies of the presidential race, he rightly suggests: "democracy, rather than the straitjacket of the poor seeking liberation, is the essential precondition for any deep change, any permanent justice."

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16 November 2013

Sunday! Music at Bop Shop Tonight

BOP ARTS presents
10³²K - Kevin Ray - Bass, Frank Lacy - Trombone and Andrew Drury - Percussion
Sunday November 17th 8pm
Bop Shop Records
1460 Monroe Ave
$15 donation requested.

This should be a great show. Highly recommended.

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Storyville (BBC): Pussy Riot A Punk Prayer

Question: "Does your father support you?"
Nadia: "Yeah, he's the best. I am who I am today because of him"
That exchange comes @ 7:37. I hope my baby daughter Esme will say something like that some day.

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GOP And 'Free Expression'

Results of questions asked of the GOP identifiers in this poll ... interesting in light of events at UofR over the past several weeks [1] [2] [3]. Symbols of exclusion and oppression are just fine with Republicans. Symbols of inclusion and diversity not so much. I guess this goes to show what counts as "land of the free and home of the brave" for red-staters.

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13 November 2013

What I Am Up To Tomorrow Afternoon

Some background here at USA Today and my previous posts here and here.

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What's Wrong With Nuclear Power?

"The question ... is why such an inherently flawed design as the light-water reactor (LWR) is still, after all these years, the preferred technology?

Most of today’s reactors, whether they use boiling water or pressurised water, trace their ancestry back to the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, launched in 1954. At the time, the LWR was just one of many reactor designs that existed either on paper or in the laboratory—using different fuels (uranium-233, uranium-235 or plutonium-239), different coolants (water, heavy water, carbon dioxide or liquid sodium) and different moderators (water, heavy water, beryllium or graphite).

The light-water reactor of the day, with its solid uranium-dioxide fuel and water for both moderator and coolant, was by no means the best. But Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of America’s nuclear navy, chose it because it could be implemented faster than any of the others, making it possible for Nautilus to be launched on time. The LWR also appealed to Rickover because it produced a lot of bomb-making plutonium as a by-product.

After that, the die was cast."
So we have a flawed technology because the decision-making process was dominated by military not energy generating considerations. (Source: This story at The Economist.)

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12 November 2013

Pyotr Pavlensky's Painful Protest

"Red Square has seen a lot over the centuries, from public executions to giant military parades, but a performance artist broke new ground on Sunday when he nailed his scrotum to cobblestones in a painful act of protest" (source).
So, I get why this guy nailing his nuts to the pavement is a protest. But why is it art? 

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Burtynsky, H-Two-Oh

Recently, The Economist, ran this two part video interview with Edward Burtynsky on his newly published project Water.

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11 November 2013

Gerhard Richter on Models

Haggadah, 2006 © Gerhard Richter
(Oil on canvas; 152 cm x 152 cm; Catalogue Raisonné: 895-10.)
"When we describe a process, or make out an invoice, or photograph a tree, we create models; without them we would know nothing of reality and would be animals. Abstract pictures are fictive models, because they make visible a reality that we can neither see nor describe, but whose existence we can postulate."~ Gerhard Richter*

This passage tied to this image popped up on my Facebook news feed this morning. Given my own interests in the status of models in social science, I find it apposite since I think that mostly what models do is allow us to do conceptual work, mostly by enabling us to envision and examine 'things' we cannot observe directly. The things? Causality, Justice, Power and so forth. And many of our best known models - think Rawls' original position - are not abstractions from reality at all. They convey relatively concrete conceptions of more abstract concepts like those I just mentioned.
* Text for catalogue of documenta 7, Kassel, 1982.

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10 November 2013

Passings ~ Norman Geras (1943~2013)

Political theorist Norman Geras has died. There is an obituary here and an appreciation here at The Guardian. I respected much of the theory Geras produced but disagreed with his aggressively moralistic and credulous stance on the Bush-Blair military adventures in Iraq. The former did not entail the latter.

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Passings ~ Jack Mitchell (1925-2013)

Photographer Jack Mitchell has died. You can find an obituary here at The New York Times.


09 November 2013

Not Reluctant

Although I am not reluctant at all - I really do like children very much - I find this work by Phil Toledano refreshing for its clear and funny expression of ambivalence in the face of his baby girl Lulu.

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07 November 2013

John Berger Collected

I noticed an advert for this new collection of John Berger's scattered writings on photography. It is due out soon from Aperture - information here.

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Passings ~ Editta Sherman (1912-2013)

Photographer Editta Sherman has died. There is an audio tribute slash obituary here at NPR and another, in print, here at The New York Times.


05 November 2013

Awoiska van der Molen

#245-18 | gelatin silver print © Awoiska van der Molen

I am continually impressed by the number of incredibly talented photographers out there in the wide world. Today, out of the blue, Awoiska invited me to be FB friends. I accepted, then followed the link to her web page - here - and discovered several remarkable series of images. I especially like the landscapes. What a fortuitous day.

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Happy Birthday John Berger (5 November 1926)


John Berger © Laure Vasconi.

Critic and writer John Berger turns 87 today. I have written here repeatedly about, and in response to, his criticism and his politics.

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03 November 2013

The Politics of Josef Koudelka's WALL

"Koudelka’s pictures have an eerie, meditative texture. Many of them are structured around the glaring contrast between the Wall, always intrusive, harsh, ophidian, and the organic, still living world of hills, terraces, and valleys on either side of it. Paradoxically, these photographs are beautiful, almost too beautiful, to look at—despite, or perhaps because of, the raw wound they reveal."
I've lifted the passage above from this post at NYRB that Israeli activist and academic David Shulman has written on a new book* by Josef Koudelka. Shulman, himself a member of an Israeli-Palestinian Peace group called Ta‘ayush (meaning roughly 'living together'), is intimately familiar with the politics surrounding what the Israeli government euphemistically calls "separation barrier." I admire both Koudelka and Shulman immensely and have posted on each frequently- see here and here respectively. Here are a baker's half-dozen images from Koudelka:

A roadblock on Route 443 in the West Bank
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

Replanted olive trees, Ma’ale Adummim settlement
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

A demolished house near Qedar settlement. 
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

Al ‘Eizariya, East Jerusalem. 
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

A road sign indicating directions to Rachel’s Tomb and to Jerusalem
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

Al Walaja, south of Jerusalem
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem area
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

As Shulman attests these images depersonalize suffering. Does their beauty - and the fact that they are more or less wholly de-populated -  deflate the all to common worry that photography aestheticizes suffering?
* Josef Koudelka. WALL. (NY: Aperture, 2013).

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Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

I have posted here a number of times about Pussy Riot and their political persecution by the Russian government. Early in the fall one of the imprisoned young women Nadezhda Tolokonnikova published an open letter decrying the conditions of imprisonment. The authorities apparently deem her claims slanderous. For her efforts, Al Jazeera reports, she has been transferred to solitary confinement and - more troubling still - her family has reported that they have not heard from her since her transfer to solitary.

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02 November 2013

Contingent Faculty & Unions

This graphic comes from AAUP and displays the trend in faculty composition for all American institutions of higher learning.  And today the WaPo ran this report on the trends in unionization among contingent faculty. Disturbing problem meets appropriate remedy.

This raises the obvious question regarding common complaints about the "spiraling costs" of College education. Once we determine the relative increase in administrative salaries (Deans and Dean-lets, Student Affairs Staff, etc.) relative to faculty salaries, we must then ask about the composition of faculty salaries. Not only are full-time, tenure/tenure track faculty not getting significant salary increases, but they are being replaced by very low wage, typically benefit-less contingent faculty. Where do those pesky cost increases originate?

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01 November 2013

The NSA Apparently Has Zero Sense of Humor But Some Libertarians Do

On the drive home this evening I heard a brief report on NPR focusing on Dan McCall, the fellow who designed this coffee mug. He is the principal in a law suit against the NSA which is trying to prevent him from using this facsimile of their Official Seal to poke fun at the agency. McCall seems to be a bit of another no-hoper libertarian - he also makes admiring posters of F.A. Hayek and Luwig von Mies and Ron Paul - but unlike any of those three, he is a funny libertarian. You can find McCall's we page here. And I appreciate his being an irritant to the spooks.

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