Monday, November 30, 2009

The Economic Bill of Rights

I've posted this before, but I'll post it again.

Taken from a speech by FDR, January 11, 1944:

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

There is no real political democracy without economic democracy. Stepping into a curtained booth every 2 years and picking between 2 predetermined candidates from the batshit-crazy-and-reckless party, or the over-cautious-always-on-the-defensive party, both funded by the same sets of corporations, is not democracy.
Both Mao Zedong and the NRA are wrong. The only thing that comes out of the barrel of a gun is death and more death, not freedom. When people no longer feel bound by the law, then the law loses its power and all the guns in the world can't bring it back. The power of the law is our common agreement to live by it. Equality before the law means that everyone is bound by it no matter how rich and powerful, or how poor and desperate. Our leaders, likewise, are obliged to live under the same law as ourselves, and when they break it, to face the same penalties. Everyone enjoys the law's protection whether they belong to a majority or a minority. Equality before the law is our best protection against tyranny, not a pistol under the bed. As Montesquieu pointed out, "outside the law is tyranny."
In a democracy, government is not a service for hire. Government is us and is all of our responsibilities. Democracy is a way of life, not a gated neighborhood or a shack in the wilderness. The ancient Greeks (who invented democracy) believed that there was no real freedom outside the polis. The man under tyranny and the man alone in the wilderness were one in the same, as far as they were concerned. Both lived under the yoke of necessity and ended their days in anonymous futility. The Greeks believed that those who enjoyed the liberty of the polis had the obligation to maintain and defend it.

When the Soviet Union fell, those who were in charge of the old system got rich in the new one. Those who were drudges in the old system became drudges in the new one.

In China, the regime made the transition from ruthless communism to ruthless capitalism. The regime remains firmly in control using the resentments and xenophobia of its people (together with a promise that all of them have a chance to win the lottery) to remain in power. Sound familiar?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Who Is On Food Stamps? Your Neighbors

Foodstamp participation is at record highs. One in every eight Americans, and one in every four children, is on foodstamps these days. This is the same program that conservatives wanted to scrap in the 1990s. The person most responsible for ending the stigma attached to the program was none other than George W. Bush who expanded the program rather than eliminate it.
Here is the article in the NY Times.

Here is an interactive county by county map in the NY Times showing the distribution of foodstamp use. It is very revealing.

The two counties with the highest percentage of foodstamp use are the Bronx in New York City,and Hidalgo County, Texas, both at 29% of the population. The region with the highest use is the South, especially Appalachia and the Ozarks.

We usually associate American poverty with urban minorities, but the larger part of the population of the poor, and especially the newly poor, are rural whites. Suburbs have very large populations of the newly poor, and largely white.

I teach college now in the Bronx, one of the poorest counties in the USA sandwiched in between two of the richest counties, Manhattan and Fairfield, CT. Twenty years ago, I taught in rural Kentucky, at Berea College in the Appalachians. What strikes me about those two places is not how different they are, but how similar.
Both have minimal legitimate economies. Both have large thriving illegal drug trades (I remember one county in Kentucky was so thoroughly taken over that the courthouse was used to grow pot, with county prisoners providing the labor). Both have high rates of alcoholism and domestic violence. Corruption is endemic in both (in rural Kentucky, the most powerful man was the school district superintendent, and school district was frequently the biggest employer; superintendents were always under investigation for bribery, favoritism, and kickbacks; I should point out that this was 20 years ago). Illiteracy is high in both.
Where I find the most striking similarity is the isolation. My Bronx students are as isolated as my rural Appalachian students ever were. My Appalachian students had little experience of the world beyond their own hometowns. So too, my Bronx students have little knowledge of the world beyond their own neighborhoods, even with the towers of Manhattan in sight. Many have never been out of the Borough.
In both cases, the students I taught were mostly people on their way up and out of those places. I've had remarkably bright and gifted students in both places; some who probably belong in NYU or Columbia but don't have the money or the connections to go there (I remember when George W. Bush became President in 2000, a legacy student with a C average, I thought, "meritocracy my ass!").

The little community college where I teach is not so little anymore. Our enrollment this year was a record.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Art Salvaged From the Ancient Saint Peter's

All of the original ancient and medieval artwork of Saint Peter's was lost in the reconstruction. Entire mosaic cycles dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries were destroyed. But, a few Renaissance and Early Renaissance works (including Michelangelo's Pieta) were salvaged from the old church.

Giotto, The Stefaneschi Altarpiece, front

Giotto, The Stefaneschi Altarpiece, back

This was commissioned by Cardinal Jacopo Stefaneschi as part of an effort to glorify Saint Peter's in order to bring back the papacy from its "exile" in Avignon. It was once thought to have stood on the high altar. Now it is thought to have stood on the Canon's Altar nearby.

Copy by Francesco Beretta of Giotto's Navicella (Christ Walking on the Water)

A 17th century copy of Giotto's Navicella mosaic in the narthex of Saint Peter's today.

Cardinal Jacopo Stefaneschi (a cousin of Enrico Scrovegni, Giotto's patron for the frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua) kept Giotto very busy in Rome. He commissioned Giotto to make an enormous outdoor mosaic facing the atrium courtyard in front of Saint Peter's. The mosaic showing Christ walking on water and Peter coming out to meet him, was always known as the "navicella," the little ship. It was once Giotto's most famous and celebrated work. Now, there is almost nothing left of it except the copies you see above.

Arnolfo di Cambio, the Florentine sculptor and architect made the famous statue of Saint Peter with the worn feet.

Here is the statue vested with people touching the feet, as they have done for centuries.

Here is Antonio Polaiuolo's magnificent bronze tomb for Pope Sixtus IV, the builder of the Sistine Chapel, and uncle of Pope Julius II who decided to rebuild Saint Peter's.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Renaissance Saint Peter's: Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s career began and ended around Saint Peter’s Basilica.
His first great success as an artist was the famous marble Pieta intended for the tomb of a French cardinal in St. Peter’s, carved while Michelangelo was still in his 20s.

Michelangelo's Pieta photographed in 1964 when it visited the New York World's Fair. It was displayed, and photographed, at the angle it was originally to be seen. It was originally much lower and closer to the floor than it is now, on a high plinth behind bullet-proof glass.

Michelangelo takes a subject largely invented in Northern Europe, and full of tragic irony and pain – the Virgin Mary holds the body of her dead Son in her lap as she once held him as a child – and invests it with an unearthly sense of repose. The sharp tragic forms of Northern Gothic art are remade with a classical sense of grace and grandeur in a work that is completely original. The Pieta is beyond all the categories of art.
At the end of his life, Michelangelo would take charge of Saint Peter’s, making it too into something beyond all the categories, something completely original.

Bartolomeo Ammanati, Saint Peter's as it appeared about 1569

In 1546, the latest heir to Bramante’s great project for the new Saint Peter’s, the Florentine architect Antonio Sangallo, died. Since Bramante’s death in 1514, work proceeded very slowly on St. Peter’s. Much of the nave of Constantine’s ancient church still stood, and would remain standing until the 17th century. Many architects had come and gone since Bramante’s death, including Raphael and Antonio’s father Giuliano. The crossing arches completed by Bramante stood with construction largely finished on a couple of the great arms to support the dome. Much of the interior articulation was already finished according to Bramante’s design. Antonio’s family and partners fully expected to inherit the project, and its income.

Pope Paul III created a commission upon Sangallo’s death to see if work on the project could be accelerated. One of the experts asked to serve on this commission was the aging Michelangelo, now in his 70’s. When asked his opinion, Michelangelo said that Sangallo’s design should be scrapped and that his heirs should be fired and sent back to Florence. He accused them of corruption, and faulted Antonio for departing so far from Bramante’s original design.

Antonio Sangallo's proposal for St. Peter's, plan and model

Sangallo planned for a huge church. Michelangelo pointed out that much of the Vatican Palace, and perhaps even the Sistine Chapel, would have to be pulled down to accommodate the new church. Sangallo added extra ambulatories, aisles, and a nave to Bramante’s design. Michelangelo pointed out how dark the interior would be, and indeed, when we look at Sangallo’s plans, they are full of elaborate and awkward schemes for lighting the dark interior. Michelangelo complained that the church would be so vast and complex that it would become a nest of crime; he said that not even a company of soldiers could clear the whole building at sunset before closing.

Sangallo's original wooden model of his proposed design

Sixteenth century engraving of Sangallo's proposed design for the interior. Note all the elaborate and strange angles of the windows (including an odd sky-light) in the cut-away walls on the far right.

Sangallo’s original wooden model for his proposed church survives by great good luck. When we look at it, we can see what Michelangelo really objected to. The design is a huge lummocking monster, made up of quotations from ancient Roman monuments such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Theater of Marcellus. Sangallo’s design has no focus, nothing to tie all those parts together.

Michelangelo hated Bramante bitterly, even long after the architect’s death. He accused Bramante, probably unjustly, of conspiring to put him on the Sistine Chapel job so that Bramante could persuade Pope Julius II to rebuild Saint Peter’s. It is more likely that the initiative to rebuild the church was entirely the Pope’s. Michelangelo opposed the destruction of the ancient church. However, Michelangelo admired Bramante’s design for the new St. Peter’s very much, and he faulted Antonio Sangallo for departing too far from Bramante’s original conception.

Michelangelo proposed to the Pope that he could make a better and more efficient design that could be built much more quickly, incorporating what was already built. Michelangelo sealed the deal when he said that he would do this work for free, that he would take no salary (Michelangelo, it should be pointed out, was a very wealthy man at this phase in his life).

In 1547, Pope Paul III appointed Michelangelo head of the Fabrica, the construction company, of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo was 72 years old at the time of the appointment. Immediately, he faced resistance from the Fabrica and intrigues from the Sangallo family and their partisans. Dr. William Wallace, a noted Michelangelo scholar, suggests that based on the surviving evidence, Michelangelo was not above resorting to force and intimidation to get his way. Michelangelo’s quarrymen (many who had worked for him all their lives, and so had their fathers) would sometimes waylay members of the Sangallo circle, beating the stuffing out of them and threatening them with worse if they didn’t leave Rome. Even after he had taken control of the whole project, Michelangelo still faced hostility and constant intrigues against him, trying to take advantage of his failing health. However, even while suffering constantly from kidney stones, and frequently bed-ridden, the elderly artist took firm control of the project and imposed his will. When he took over, work on the immense project proceeded quickly and much was finished before Michelangelo’s death in 1564.

It is Michelangelo more than anyone else, except maybe Bramante, who is responsible for the St. Peter’s that we see today. After his death, his commanding ghost looked over the shoulders of all the later architects who worked on the building.

Michelangelo's proposed plan for Saint Peter's Basilica

Michelangelo’s first act upon becoming the new architect was to take a great eraser to Sangallo’s design, getting rid of all the ambulatories, aisles, and bell towers, and returning to Bramante’s original vision of a centralized church. Michelangelo dramatically simplified and concentrated Bramante’s original plan. Michelangelo working without a salary gave him a free hand. He was able to tear down those parts of Sangallo’s church that had already been built and impeded Michelangelo’s own design. Still, Michelangelo did little to alter what was already built. Most of what we see in the larger forms of the interior of Saint Peter’s is Bramante’s work. Michelangelo did little to change what had already been built on the interior.

Saint Peter's from the southwest.

Most of Michelangelo’s work on Saint Peter’s is on the exterior and is very original and extraordinary. Michelangelo’s articulation of the exterior is focused and concentrated in a way that Sangallo’s is not. Michelangelo sculpts his building masses while Sangallo piles his up out of smaller pieces. Michelangelo borrows some of what Bramante did with the interior articulation, and takes it in a whole new direction. Like Bramante, he divides the exterior into a series of units divided by massive double pilasters, the whole thing tied together by an enormous entablature. Unlike Bramante, those units are not all uniform in size. Not only are the massive pilasters doubled, but they sit against 2 and 3 levels of backing. The vertical reach of the pilasters is not checked by the entablature. On the contrary, it breaks the entablature and continues on up through the attic storey without interruption.
James Ackerman in his great book on Michelangelo’s architecture points out that Michelangelo’s great gifts to the design of Saint Peter’s are unity and economy. He also points out that Michelangelo never felt bound by the decorum of classical architecture as the Renaissance understood it. He feels no compunction about breaking up a huge and important entablature with the vertical reach of the pilasters. He transforms Sangallo’s secondary support piers into spiral stairwells, and brilliantly adds extra windows between pilasters to light them. They are at an angle to the corners of the massive square of Bramante’s original plan, and the hemicycle apses. Renaissance classical decorum would have required that all those angles be a uniform 45 degrees. Ackerman demonstrates that Michelangelo simply thought of the shortest distance between 2 points in a straight line. Michelangelo thinks less in terms of geometric harmony than in terms of connective tissue. Michelangelo brings out the organic quality always latent in classical architecture since the days of the ancient Greek temple. The pilasters become ribs and bones. Entablatures and cornices become connecting tendons. The whole exterior mass seems to heave and subside like a great muscular male torso.

The very unclassical vertical reach of the pilasters of the exterior finds its climax in the great dome of the church. At 452 feet high, it remains unchallenged as the tallest dome in the world. It is also among the most celebrated and imitated of all domes ever built. As stirring as it is, its design was hardly inevitable.

Michelangelo struggled over the dome more than with any other part of Saint Peter’s. There remains a lot of argument among historians over whether indeed that inner struggle was ever settled, and if so, are we really looking at Michelangelo’s solution. Michelangelo lived long enough to see all the exterior articulation on Saint Peter’s finished, and to see the dome rise as far as the drum. After his death, the dome was completed by the sculptor Giacomo della Porta.

Michelangelo first looked for inspiration to a dome he had known and loved since his boyhood, the great brick dome of the Cathedral of Florence designed by Filippo Brunelleschi more than a century before. Brunelleschi’s dome is an inspired hybrid of Roman building forms and Gothic design and construction. Michelangelo apparently had something like that in mind at first. He wrote to friends in Florence to send back measurements of the dome and its lantern.
The influence of Brunelleschi’s great dome shows clearly in Michelangelo’s early drawings for Saint Peter’s dome. Like the cathedral in Florence, he wanted a ribbed double shell dome topped by a lantern.

Michelangelo's sketches for Saint Peter's dome showing a double shell dome and a lantern.

Michelangelo's sketch of the dome showing the double shell with an early idea for the articulation of the drum. This design combines Bramante's doubled columns with the occulus windows of the Florence Cathedral

Cigoli's drawing of Brunelleschi's double shell design of the dome of the Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral

The argument among the historians is over how much or little Michelangelo wanted the dome pointed like the dome in Florence, and over the size of Michelangelo’s proposed lantern compared to what della Porta built.

Etienne Duperac's engraving of Michelangelo's final proposed design for Saint Peter's. Michelangelo intended 4 smaller domes which had not yet been designed before his death. There are now only 2 of those small domes, designed entirely by Giacomo della Porta.

According to surviving evidence, Michelangelo intended a much more spherical dome than the Gothic dome in Florence, and with a larger lantern than what was built. Ackerman faults della Porta for departing from Michelangelo’s intentions. Howard Hibbard suggests, plausibly, that della Porta returned to the Florentine pointed dome for engineering reasons; a heavy stone lantern is much more securely supported on a pointed dome than on a spherical dome. Others like Sir Kenneth Clark credit della Porta for returning the design to its original sources of inspiration in Gothic art and in Brunelleschi’s dome. I’m inclined to agree with Kenneth Clark. Della Porta, usually a mediocre sculptor, rose above his own limitations and made inspiration out of an engineering necessity. The more pointed dome, in my opinion, fulfills the aspirational reach of the rest of the building with a much more satisfying climax than Michelangelo’s original hemispherical dome with a big lantern.

Probably no other dome built before or since has so much thematic content concentrated in so clear and concise a form. The whole history of the Church is summarized in that dome. The dome is a Roman building form. Christianity appeared during the Roman Empire. It is a round structure built over Peter’s traditional tomb, like the round churches of Constantinian Christianity with their ambulatories to accommodate the rite of circumambulation. It is a dome resting on four enormous arches recalling its great Byzantine predecessor Hagia Sophia. The vertical aspirational reach of its point and its ribs and buttresses deliberately calls to mind medieval Gothic architecture.

The dome calls to mind the vault of heaven; not the heaven of the stars and planets with their gods of the cosmic order imagined by the Romans, but the glorious heaven of Christ and the company of the saints. What we see in St. Peter’s dome is not the established order of earthly power projected into the heavens, but the exhilaration of the hoped for Heaven at the end of all history and all longing.

Bust of Michelangelo on the dome of St. Peter's.

Some Leftover Turkey from Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand on the American Indians:

"They didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using . . . . What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent."
- Address to West Point, 1974

No comment.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Keep the Alka Seltzer out of sight.

I'm still thankful for the black guy in the White House, despite his determination to fight for America's national testosterone in Afghanistan right down to the last high school grad who can't afford college; despite his unrequited fondness for Republicans; and despite the free bailouts to Wall Street. If he brings off anything like real health insurance reform without a legally mandated bonanza for the insurance industry, he'll be the greatest President since Roosevelt as far as I'm concerned.
Just imagine President Glenn Beck weeping on national teevee as he signs those executive orders to invade Venezuela and Iran, and to lock up the fags and deport the Latinos before an audience of teabaggers baying for blood.

After 8 years of arrogant reckless Republican rule, I'm thankful for over-cautious always on the defensive Democrats.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saint Stalin Pray for Us

I've never been one to believe too readily in cabals, which doesn't mean they don't exist. All the stuff about "The Family" that's been coming to light, mostly because of the reporting of Jeff Sharlett of Rolling Stone and Harper's is really amazing. Their reading of the Bible is very selective even by fundamentalist standards. They largely dismiss the Christian Gospels in favor of a much more atavistic imperial understanding of the Bible. They believe in that old tribal God who fights for His people, who pushes other people out of the lands that He has predestined for His people. People "win" because they have God's favor. People have "power" because God assigns it to them. The Family believe themselves to be God's instruments on earth, and that the United States is a divinely chosen country with a mandate to dominate the world. What they discuss is not so much saving souls or binding up the wounds of humanity, but power, how to get it and what to do with it. Their members do not look to such people as St. Francis, or even Calvin for examples of Christian life. They are encouraged to study the examples of people like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. For them, God is not Love, but Power. Their God is the God of Winners. CHRISTUS VINCIT indeed.
They would be easy to dismiss as a bunch of apocalyptic kooks if they weren't already in the halls of power. Their numbers include senators, congressmen, generals, corporate executives, and any number of foreign dictators. They've been around since the 1930s with their origins in societies that favored Italian Fascism and Franco's Falange.
Sharlett reports that they are the main force behind the proposed Ugandan "death to gays" law.

You can read all about them over at Father Jake's blog where he has all the relevant links.

It always amazes me how much people love power, that so many would prefer power to love. Power in itself is meaningless. Power, like riches, comes from the earth and always returns there. It is nothing more than the capacity to make things happen.
In times of transformation and upheaval, some people feel deeply threatened. They yearn for some kind of Big Daddy to make them feel powerful, to make everything right again, to make them glorious, to keep them safe, and to smite their enemies. Some people project Big Daddy onto God, others onto a political leader. There's never a shortage of people willing to audition for the role of Big Daddy. We all want Big Daddy. We want him to be Santa Claus, Wilford Brimley ordering us to eat our oatmeal, and Superman all in one.

In case you think "Saint Stalin" is a joke, the icon is already "written."

Here are the Russian Teabaggers with Their Man. Damn liberals are slandering a great hero of the Second World War! I'm not making that up. The gentlemen shown above will tell you as much if you ask them.

Gays appear to be in the global gun sights once again; the favorite target of mad mullahs, evangelical demagogues, Catholic hierarchs, Orthodox hierarchs, Anglican bishops, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Hindu fundamentalists, Scientology, Gangsta rappers, rednecks, metalheads, skinheads, die hard Maoists and Stalinists, racists, antisemites, NeoNazis, every son of a bitch with a grudge, a chip on their shoulder, and a spike up their ass.

Gays represent the same thing to every last one of them from mitred bishop to bearded fanatic to tattooed thug. They represent liberal cosmopolitanism and the end of male privilege. These folks may all differ on many things, but they all believe in the Holy Penis. God definitely has one, in their eyes. In fact, they believe in that All Holy Penis before they believe in God. Gays and lesbians are a living breathing rebuke to that faith. Transgenders show us all the transgressive knowledge that while male and female may be biologically determined, masculine and feminine are cultural constructs.

Gays have one thing in common with artists, their capacity to spring up like dandelions through concrete. The Second World War saw the last great attempt to pathologize and destroy homosexuality. In the end, ironically, the War opened the way to political and social liberation for gays and lesbians.
One of my favorite stories is one told 15 years ago by Charles Kaiser about a 26 year old gay soldier from Cincinnati who was part of the liberation of Paris in 1944. He went looking for a once famous gay bar in Paris named for a surrealist ballet by Darius Milhaud, Bouef sur le Toit, Beef on the Roof. He expected to see the building where it used to be before the war. Instead, he found it wide open for business and packed with soldiers from around the world all dancing with each other. It was encounters like that which suggested to largely isolated gays and lesbians that life could indeed be very different for them, and that it was in their capacity to make it happen; it was their power.

Some people's idea of the Kingdom of Heaven; Mauthausen inmates.

A gay Israeli soldier at a Pride Day parade in Tel Aviv.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Night Out With The Boys Club Crawling In Weimar Berlin

Here is Marek Weber und Sein Orchester with singing by then famous (and now forgotten) star of stage and screen Siegfried Arno. He is singing "How can he help it? Sigismund is so beautiful..." (or so I'm told by the YouTube poster, not being German literate myself).

I know almost nothing about this band. All I know is that Marek Weber was Czech and that a lot of his musicians and singers were Jewish, so I presume they went out of business when You Know Who with the funny little mustache got voted into power in 1932.

Marek Weber and Siegried Arno call to my mind Christian Schad's paintings of the rooftop Bohemia of 1920s Berlin, all the ne'er-do-well fallen aristocrats, underworld figures, artists, actors, musicians, and glamorous transgenders of that time and place.

Count Saint Genois d'Anneaucourt, 1927

Sonja, 1927

Christian Schad's self-portrait, 1928

For us looking back in hindsight, it all has the pathos of a doomed culture, a last fling before the lights go out. We look at them and wonder whatever happened to all these people.

See ya on the Ku'dam!

Monday, November 23, 2009

For Mimi; Distance Vision

Now that your cataracts are finally gone, click on each of these and enjoy the view

Brueghel, Haymaking

Brueghel, Harvesting

Friedrich, Morning Landscape

Friedrich, The Evening Star

Bierstadt, Storm in the Rocky Mountains

Dry Kegs of Gunpowder

Yesterday was the 46th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's murder. With all the people on the right trying to appropriate his memory, Digby at Hullabaloo reminds us how the right really felt about him back then. This ad appeared in Dallas November 21, 1963.

There are days when I calculate alternative routes to get home from my office just in case something happens to Obama. The Bronx (and most every city in the USA) would erupt like Krakatoa if anything happened to him. I pray daily for his safety and for the safety of his family.

Read this ad and then tell me if anything has really changed over there on the far paranoid right in 46 years.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Vast human experience confirms that marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society. Where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits - the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live. Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves. Unfortunately, we have witnessed over the course of the past several decades a serious erosion of the marriage culture in our own country. Perhaps the most telling - and alarming - indicator is the out-of-wedlock birth rate. Less than fifty years ago, it was under 5 percent. Today it is over 40 percent. Our society - and particularly its poorest and most vulnerable sectors, where the out-of-wedlock birth rate is much higher even than the national average - is paying a huge price in delinquency, drug abuse, crime, incarceration, hopelessness, and despair. Other indicators are widespread non-marital sexual cohabitation and a devastatingly high rate of divorce.

--Anonymous poster on Madpriest's blog plagiarizing the "Manhattan Declaration."

Before we get into the legalities of this whole thing [same-sex marriage] and what the [U.S.] Supreme Court did, I'd like to show you what Jesus said. I think his word, in my opinion, the final word on it. In Matthew, he [Jesus] said this ... 'Haven't you read,' he [Jesus] replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'"-- I want to emphasize that male and female. And he [Jesus] says, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' [Matthew 19:1-5, New International Version].
"Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is the basis of marriage. It is male-female, not male and male, not female and female. It is male and female. There is no way that two women can reproduce. There's no way that two men can reproduce. The whole concept of marriage is to bring forth a godly seed, to bring forth children who will grow up to serve the Lord.
"That's what marriage is about and it is about nothing else. It has nothing to do with these hedonists, self-absorbed hedonists, if you will, that want to impose their particular sexuality on the rest of America. They don't need marriage because marriage was the protection of men and women, male and female, for the bringing forth of children. That's what it's about, nothing else, bottom line. And if America goes the other way we will be flying directly in the face of the clear word of the Bible.

--Pat Robertson on The 700 Club, November 30, 2004

Here's a poster from some folks down at the old NSDAP who really cared about marriage and healthy families.

Here's Magnus Hirschfeld with all his gay friends who supposedly didn't care about families.

Here is Magnus Hirschfeld's office after those concerned citizens from the NSDAP paid a visit.

Here is Erwin Schimitzek, a store clerk from Dessau arrested for homosexuality, photographed in Auschwitz where he died in 1943 at age 24.

And now for pictures of boys kissing! Hooray!

There are times when it's fun to belabor the point.

And here's some music to kiss by. I'm sure Hirschfeld and his gay friends did lots of kissing to this:

Hat tip to Madpriest for discovering this.

What's all this I hear about gay men opposed to families?

What's obscene is not boys canoodling and having sex; it's people who rationalize their fear and bigotry.

More obscenity:
The public image of gays and lesbians is overwhelmingly white and affluent (including on this blog); and yet, the vast majority of anti-gay hate crime victims are black and Latino lgbt's.
For example from last week:
Jason Mattison was gagged with a pillowcase and stabbed to death with a box cutter in his own home after being raped. He was 15 years old at the time of his death, and known to be gay.
Steven Lopez Mercado in Puerto Rico was found last week murdered, dismembered, decapitated, and partially burned. Steven was transgender. The alleged killer said he believed he was picking up a woman in a part of San Juan known for a high population of transgendered people.
All the piles of gay porn in the world are small potatoes compared to those obscenities. The only competitor in obscenity would be all the people whose rationalizations enable this violence, and then scramble to distance themselves from the blood oozing in their direction when it happens.