31 July 2006

Possibilities

Possibilities

Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love's concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms' fairy tales to the newspapers' front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven't mentioned here
to many things I've also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

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Exporting Democracy South to North

Here is a reason why elites (both Republicans and those in the erstwhile "opposition" party) in the US might find the Free Trade Zone of the Americas (I think that is the name) problematic. The Mexicans might begin to export more than just cheap labor across the border. They may actually begin to export democratic expectations and practices as well! As The New York Times reports, somewhere in exccess of a million people protessted yesterday in Mexico City in support not just of their own candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (although let's not be naive about who is mobilizing these folks!), but in support of fair eleections too.

© Janet Jarman for The New York Times









I have posted earlier (here and here) on the photographic documentation of immigrant workers and their resistance to various proposed draconian immigration "reforms" in the US - about being able to see those whose labor keeps our economy going. What if they also began to energize our polity? What if there had been marches like this when the Supreme Court usurped power and decided the 2000 election? What if Al Gore had called on his supporters to actually defend democracy rather than conceding in the face of BushCo's questionable if intransigent victory claims? Or what if those who voted for candidates other than Bush had simply occupied the Mall in Washington and central spaces elsewhere without waiting to be asked? Think of all we might learn from the Mexicans about how to respond to sketchy elections. God knows we have had some whoppers. Now that is an argument for open borders!

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Things to Do in SE Michigan This Summer?

Well, each summer I try to go to the Institute for the Arts in Detroit while I am in the area. They have absolutely terrific Diego Rivera murals as well as a wonderful collection of African-American Art. Last summer I missed the museum (almost) entirely because they'd shut large portions for renovations and this evening I learned that they are closing completely starting tomorrow. So, another disappointment!

I thought about the University of Michigan Art Museum but they are not much help this summer either. They do have an interesting exhibition coming up "The Rouge" which is a project by British Photographer Michael Kenna. But that will not show until next spring! In any case, Kenna's work is very interesting. The imagery is extraordinary. He has done a lot of night photography at large industrial sites. The exhibition coming to Ann Arbor is of the industrial landscape at the River Rouge plant in Dearborn; he also has done a project on the Radcliffe Power Station in Nottinghamshire (see below) as well as a retrospective on the Nazi extermination camps. Once again, thought there is a political reticence that I find odd. Here is a snippet from one of the interviews posted on Kenna's web page:

"For 12 years, Kenna photographed Nazi concentration camps, visiting 27 of them, sometimes repeatedly, from 1988-2000. It started at Banbury, with the mountain of shaving brushes that emerged from the communal developer tray in a photo by a fellow student who had taken a bus tour in Poland. “I felt repulsion, and a powerful intrigue. It kindled in me the desire to know more about the Holocaust, taught only briefly at school,” he says.

Ribbons of Birkenau railroad tracks stream out to a sentinel of trees in the misty distance. Dead vines choke a barbed wire fence in Gross Rosen. Like weeds strangling a neglected lawn, a heap of wire-rimmed eyeglasses lay snarled and knotted in Auschwitz. More interpretive than documentary, Kenna’s images facilitate our gaze, so we can never forget. “But if these photographs let us remember the Nazi barbarism, they also suggest the peace. Good is in them as much as, and maybe more than, evil,” says Pierre Borhan, director of Patrimoine Photographique, in an email to me. The Paris photography organization included Kenna’s photos in their 2001 group exhibition, “Mémoire des Camps.” The year before, Kenna donated 300 of his 6,000 negatives and prints (and their rights) to the French Ministry of Culture. The rest he gave to the Caen Memorial, a museum for peace in Caen, France.

The same benign stance in Kenna’s concentration camp photos shows in his images of the Ratcliffe Power Station in England and the Rouge Steel Works in Dearborn, Michigan. “I may point a finger, but I try not to make judgments,” he says. “I do have strong convictions and political opinions, but I don’t think it’s necessary to imbue my photographic work with them. I use photography as a vessel for visual material to flow through, to encourage conversation with the viewer. I try to present a catalyst and invite viewers to tell their own stories.” The story Chris Pichler of Portland, publisher of Nazraeli Press based in Tucson, Arizona, tells is one of the “ghost-like presence” that he feels in Kenna’s work, especially his industrial landscapes. “There’s an ominous beauty, a little bit fraught with danger.” "




Ratcliffe Power Station, Study 21, Nottinghamshire, England. 1984.
© Michael Kenna.















Ratcliffe Power Station, Study 31, Notting- hamshire, England. 1987 © Michael Kenna



Sure, I agree, these are "ominous." So are many of Kenna's other images - even those of non-industrial scenes. I find that not just odd, but disturbing. Perhaps we should take the images as a warning of some sort? Perhaps I am being unfair, but there is a certain de-politicizing impulse here. As Kenna says in another interview, speaking of another topic: "I believe it is most unwise to think that we have much control over events and people." Depending on whom Kenna includes in the "we" this is either admirable or defeatist. I am unsure. And as I said I may be being unfair. In any case, I find his photographs thoroughly impressive. To bad they are not being shown here this summer.

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27 July 2006

"We Europeans must never forget that we created the Middle East conflict"

Of course, the "pro-war left" (to say nothing of various shades of right-winger) will likely see this as a "Blame America First" or "Blame Europe First" whining, Timothy Garton Ash has a typically perceptive essay this morning in The Guardian. I think he is correct about the historical role of European Anti-Semitism in the genesis of this crisis:

"Yet observing European responses to the current conflict, I want to insist on Europe's own strong claim to be among the earliest causes. The Russian pogroms of 1881; the French mob chanting "à bas les juifs" as Captain Dreyfus was stripped of his epaulettes at the École Militaire; the festering anti-semitism of Austria around 1900, shaping the young Adolf Hitler; all the way to the Holocaust of European Jewry and the waves of anti-semitism that convulsed parts of Europe in its immediate aftermath. It was that history of increasingly radical European rejection, from the 1880s to the 1940s, that produced the driving force for political Zionism, Jewish emigration to Palestine and eventually the creation of the state of Israel."

I also think he is corect about the road to resolving or at least dampening the crisis:

"It does not follow from this terrible European history that Europeans must display uncritical solidarity with whatever the current government of Israel chooses to do, however violent or ill-advised. On the contrary, the true friend is the one who speaks up when you're making a mistake. It does not follow that we should sign up to the latest dangerous simplifications about a "third world war" against "an Iran-Syrian-Hizbullah-Hamas terrorist alliance" (according to the US Republican Newt Gingrich) or a "seamless totalitarian movement" of political Islamism (according to the Conservative MP and journalist Michael Gove)."

And:

"One proposal is for European forces to participate in a multinational peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, but that only makes sense if realistic parameters are established for a clear, feasible and finite mission. Those are not yet in sight. Even a ceasefire is not yet in sight. . . . The truth is that now, more than ever, the diplomatic key lies in the full engagement of the United States, using its unique influence with Israel and negotiating as directly as possible with all partners to the conflict, however unsavoury."

What is troubling is that the Israelis are now claiming that they will occupy parts of southern Lebanon until a multinational peace-keeping force can relieve them. That could take an awfully long time.

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PS: Having posted this. I will warn commenters that I am going to be away until Monday and will be out of e-mail contact. So, feel free to comment if you feel so moved. And don't take my lack of reply personally. Thanks.

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26 July 2006

Jill Greenberg - "End Times"




















Apparently there is a "controversy" about work by Jill Greenberg entitled "End Times." You can find some of the images here. Greenberg is trying to elicit a view of what children might feel and how they might express their feelings if they knew what she (Greenberg) thinks, namely that the world is heading for hell in a handbasket.

According to a story in The Los Angeles Times this has caused a stir among bloggers because Greenberg made the children cry. In turn much of the "art world" crowd has found nothing at all objectionable. To my mind what is objectionable are the images themselves which strike me a wholly pedestrian.

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Blogging, Hiring & Firing in Academe

The on-line version of The Chronicle of Higher Education has just run a little symposium on the influence that blogging ought or might or has (or the reverse of all those things) had on decisions to hire or fire in the academic marketplce. You may find it interesting.

Israel-Lebanon: Mission Accomplished?

These are images lifted from The New York Times this morning. They accompany a story - "Israel Finding a Difficult Foe in Hezbollah" by Steven Erlanger & Thom Shanker - that basically concedes that the Israaeli ccampaign against Hezbollah has accomplished very, very little in military terms. Here is what I think is the important paragraph:

"Hezbollah is still launching 100 rockets a day at Israel, nearly as many as it did at the start of the war. Soldiers return from forays into Lebanon saying the network of bunkers and tunnels is more sophisticated than expected. And Iranian-made long-range missiles apparently capable of hitting Tel Aviv remain in the Hezbollah arsenal."

The first image (© Kevork Djanseziaan/AP) shows: "The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, announced the first shipment of humanitarian assistance to Lebanon."


And here is the second image (© Adam Haji/Reuters) taken at roughly the same time and captioned as follows: "Beirut was rocked by at least four powerful explosions that reverberated throughout the city, and huge plumes of smoke, dust and debris billowed over the capital’s southern suburbs."

So it is hardly credible to proclaim "Mission Accomplished" here either. But the announcement of humanitarian aid is a cruel joke when the bombs are still falling on Beirut. What the Ambassador should hope to announce is that the US has done something tangible to stop the conflagration. Fat chance. Here is why - as The Times correspondents explain:

"At the Pentagon, senior military planners cast the conflict as a localized example of America’s broader campaign against global terrorism and said any faltering by Israel could harm the American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan."

25 July 2006

Off Theme

There are things in life other than war and environmental degradation.

A Field Guide to Sprawl


I just picked up a little picture book A Field Guide to Sprawl (WW Norton, 2004) which is a collaborative work by author Dolores Hayden who teaches at hte Architecture School at Yale and aerial photographer Jim Wark. The book offers an "illustrated vocabulary of sprawl," a lexicon for envisioning and discussing the consequences of uncontrolled land use.In her introduction Hayden writes: "When people struggle to interpret their local landscapes aerial photographs reveal the scale of existing and new development. In an era when a truck stop can be larger than a traditional town, aerial images convey the vast spread of twenty-first- century development and can bring up-to-the- minute data on the progress of construction. Also, aerial photographs can be understood by people without technical training in a way zoning maps, zoning codes, satellite surveys, and traditional site plans cannot. If shot at altitutdes of 1,000 to 2,ooo feet, they can show building facades as well as site massing. Although they rarely include recognizable people, when aerial images are shot at oblique angles and at relatively low altitutdes, showing land and buildings together, they entwine natural and constructed elements. Low-level, oblique-angle pictures can establish a complete visual inventory of a town because they can show inaccessible places such as wetlands or steep terrain, and reveal hidden sites such a dumps or gated communities."

Here are a couple of examples of images from the book that illustate the difficulty of envisioning "hidden sites" of the sort Hayden mentions:


Tire Recycling Dump. Midway, Colorado, CO, United States. (11/5/1997) © Jim Wark.


Golf Condos. Palm Desert, California, CA United States (3/10/2002) © Jim Wark.

On the highly questionable economic consequences of sprawl I recommend: Robert W. Burchell, Anthony Downs, and Sahan Mukherji, Sprawl Costs (Washington D.C.: Island Press, 2005) as a terrific companion to the Hayden/Wark book. Burchell, et. al. puncture the common refrain that only uncontrolled development is economically viable.

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Some More Views

Here is another set of Op-Eds that address the ongoing violence along the Israel -Lebanon border, how it might be ended, and what should be done ot prevent future instances. These are from The New York Times the authors are Avishai Margalit, Rashid Khalidi, Richard Perle, Judith Kipper, Chiblli Mallat, Paul Salem & Robert Malley. While I think nearly all of the authors offer important insights, here are three that strike me as especially crucial:

"Of the six players most directly involved in the confrontation — Israel, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, Iran and the elected Palestinian government — the only one with which we [the US] talk is the one with which we agree." - Robert Malley

"Viewing the current crisis through the distorting lens of terrorism, as the Bush administration and the Israeli government do, leads to the unreflective use of force. Starting from the premise that as long as there is an occupation, there will be resistance, might instead lead the United States to undertake aggressive, multilateral diplomacy with the goal of ending Israel’s presence in the West Bank." - Rashid Khalidi

"President Bush should undertake a robust diplomatic initiative that, directly or through third parties, engages not only states, including even Iran and Syria, but also non-state parties to the conflict, especially Hezbollah and Hamas." - Judith Kipper

24 July 2006

Amos Oz on the Current Conflict

Several days ago, at the outset of the curent violence between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, I posted on the conflict in terms drawn from Amoz Oz's recent book How to Cure a Fanatic. This evening I came across this Op-Ed piece Oz published in The Los Angeles Times. It is germane because in the comment thread that the post prompted commenters debated what Oz might think of the current state of affairs.
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Hezbollah Attacks Unite Israelis
The usual domestic divide dissolves in the face of rockets.

By Amos Oz,
July 19, 2006

Many Times in the past, the Israeli peace movement has criticized Israeli military operations. Not this time. This time, the battle is not over Israeli expansion and colonization. There is no Lebanese territory occupied by Israel. There are no territorial claims from either side.

Last Wednesday, Hezbollah launched a vicious, unprovoked attack into Israeli territory. This was also an attack on the authority and integrity of the elected Lebanese government, as Hezbollah has, by attacking Israel, hijacked the prerogative of the Lebanese government to control its territory and to make decisions on war and peace.

The Israeli peace movement objects to the occupation and colonization of the West Bank. It objected to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 because the invasion was aimed at distracting world attention from the Palestinian problem. This time, Israel is not invading Lebanon. It is defending itself from daily harassment and bombardment of dozens of our towns and villages by attempting to smash Hezbollah wherever it lurks.

The Israeli peace movement should support Israel's attempt at self-defense, pure and simple, as long as this operation targets mostly Hezbollah and spares, as much as possible, the lives of Lebanese civilians (not an easy task, as Hezbollah missile launchers are too often using Lebanese civilians as human sandbags).

There can be no moral equation between Hezbollah and Israel. Hezbollah is targeting Israeli civilians wherever they are, while Israel is targeting mostly Hezbollah. Hezbollah's missiles are supplied by Iran and Syria, sworn enemies of all peace initiatives in the Middle East.

The real battle raging these days is not at all between Beirut and Haifa but between a coalition of peace-seeking nations — Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia on the one hand — and fanatic Islam, fueled by Iran and Syria, on the other.

If, as we all hope — Israeli hawks and doves alike — Hezbollah is going to be defeated soon, Israel and Lebanon will be the winners. Moreover, a defeat of a militant Islamist terror organization may dramatically enhance the chances for peace in the region.

AMOS OZ is an Israeli novelist and essayist. His most recent work is "How To Cure a Fanatic."

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Too Fine a Point?

At the risk of stating - or, rather, showing - the obvious, I am llnking to this story in The Guardian that relates the tragic tale of a family caught in the effort to abandon their home in south Lbananon. The planes being used in that campaign are F16 fighter jets supplied by the US (the bulk of our foreign aid budget goes to supply the Israelis with such weaponry) - just the aircraft that Lt. Weeks (see yesterday's post) will be learning to fly for her new post with the Thunderbirds. Just call these people - as well as the Israeli civilian killed and wounded by Hezbollah attacks - "collatoral damage."

23 July 2006

Is Being a Fighter Pilot Progress for Women?

I am really unsure quite what to make of this. The women over at the (generally terrific) blog Feministing.com have a "Weekly Feminist Reader" post that this week contains a link to this story about a young woman Samantha Weeks who is a jet pilot for the US Air Force. Weeks has just been named the newest member of the Thunderbirds and is only the second woman pilot to be named to the group which performs at air shows and so forth. Seems great, right? Well, I am not entirely sure. At least I'm not sure about the way Feminsting posted the story without comment. Here are a few reasons why.

The first thing I noticed is that the story spent an awful lot of time talking about clothes. (I'll spare you the correspondent's remark about the color of Weeks' roots.) Hence, we learn that although the appointment does not include a salary bump, it "does include a custom-made uniform, complete with one's name embroidered on the chest. Past ensembles have come in fire-engine red and a sleek blue-and-black number. " This "more tailored" attire will replace "regulation olive-green flight suit hangs loosely on [Weeks'] athletic 5-foot-7-inch frame." Terrific! I am sure the uniforms are really cool. But the real question is whether stories about male pilots devote such attention to the uniforms.

The second thing that caught my attention was not mentioned at all in the article or in the post. I wonder whether Weeks actually is allowed to fly in combat. I do not know what the regulations are, but I suspect the answer is "No." So there are real issues of sex equality here that go beyond the appointment of this young woman to this position. Moreover, there is a further question about which I have posted before: does the incorporation of women into the military constitute progress? I am not entirely sure - I can imagine arguments on both sides. Several of my very best female students over the years (e.g., Stacy Allen, Rachel Boylan, Tracy Chavanne, Natalie Lupiani) are or have been in the military. Each of these young women is smart, disciplined, motivated and capable; so why shouldn't they serve in the armed forces? I admire each of them for doing so. But I also would prefer a nation that was significantly less oriented toward the use of military force as a policy instrument. I also definitely wish there were more means of financing college that did not require military service.

Finally, it is crucial to be clear. The Thunderdirds are PR for the military. Period. The description of the entourage that accompanies the group's tours makes clear that this is a significant expense. And it is aimed at two things: (1) creating a positive impression among the public regarding the technological prowess of our weapons and (2) recruiting young people into the Air Force. That seems to me to be a questionable enterprise when we are unwilling, as I also have noted before, to forthrightly acknowledge the costs of military service.

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22 July 2006

Gapminder

One of the problems that prompted me to become "seriously" interested in photography was the difficulty of depicting aggregate phenomena (war, famine, migration, economic growth, and so forth). Typically this is a problem of conveying quantitative intformation. Since many people are ill-equipped (not innately, but due to lack of trainng) to grasp the mathematics and statisitics behind such information, figuring out how to communicate it in accessible ways is an especially pressing problem for democrats, committed as they are to the rule of citizens. So, for instance, in The Public & Its Problems Dewey is preoccupied with the need to integrate social and political inquiry into democratic debate. He rightly (I think) inisists that this is as much a task for art as science. But he says very little about how we might approach the (admittedly daunting) problem he identifies.

One obvious place to start when thinking about such matters is the analyses of Edward Tufte - a political scientist whose work, while incredibly provocative, has unfortunately had scant impact on the social sciences. Here are the final lines of his first book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information: "What is to be sought in designs for the display of information is the clear portrayal of complexity. Not the complication of the simple; rather the task of the designer is to give visual accesss to the subtle and the difficult - that is, the revelation of the complex." This observation, of course, makes direct contact with Dewey, who thought the primary problem of the public is that it has difficulty "finding" itself in the complex welter of demographic, technological, economic, etc. changes characteristic of the contemporary world. Tufte's work might well provide some of the tools needed by a Deweyian view of democracy.

I am teaching a feshman seminar this coming fall that will try to make the connection I just sketched more explicit. An anonymous commenter just brought to my attention a web site Gapminder.org that I suspect will prove quite useful for my students (and me too!). I have only just begun to poke around on the site but it looks quite cool (Thanks!). Here is a one sentence description of the organization lifted from their page: "Gapminder is a non-profit venture for development and provision of free software that visualise human development. This is done in collaboration with universities, UN organisations, public agencies and non-governmental organisations. " The focus of the organization seems to be on development issues. The notion that we need to appreciate the difficulties of visualizing these matters is brought home when contemporary pragmatists like Richard Rorty, the heirs of Dewey, complain that the populations of the developing world and their problems "are becoming increasingly unthinkable." If we think with works of art (as Rorty would acknowledge) we can and surely should be thinking about the artistic presentation of statistical information of just the sort that Gapminder.org seems to offer.

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Salgado - Genesis Project

Here is a link to the relevant page at the Guardian Unlimited which is one among the several publications printing installments of Salgado's current (ongoing) project. as always, the images are impressive. I am not sure, though, quite what to make of the overall project. So, for now I am just offering the link so you can see the pictures if you've not done so already.

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21 July 2006

Burtynsky and Environmentalism
















Over at Conscientious Joerg Colberg has posted on Edward Burtynsky and his powerful images of environmental degradation. Joerg is addressing the images collected in Burtynsky's new book China (Steidl, 2005). Like Joerg, I think Burtynsky's work is terrific. It is important to note, however, that Burtynsky himself is extremely reticent to speak about the political dimensions of his work. I have not seen the new collection, but this reticence is clear in the text that accompanies his Manufactured Landscapes (Yale UP) from which I have lifted this image. ["Nickel Tailings No. 36, Sudbury Ontario, 1996," © Edward Burtynsky.] If you are interested in an insightful critical commentary on Burtynsky I recommend Rebecca Solnit's essay "Creative Destruction" which appeared in The Nation (1 September 2003). That said, I think it is important to ask what relationship might exist between images and verbal accounts of environmental destruction - or indeed of other distinctly political problems.

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20 July 2006

"Irresponsibly Inflamatory"

In my last post I said that bloogers are being irresponsibly inflamatory by presenting the images of young Israeli girls writing messages on heavy artillery shells bound for Lebanon adjacent to images of incinerated and dead aand wounded. I stand by the charge and (with due warning that the links are to extremely gruesome images) present this and this and this as evidence. One can be critical of Israel and not say that its actions are morally equivalent to the Nazi bombing of London in WWII. One can find the girl's actions repugnant (actually you can find their parents' condoning of the actions repugnant) and grasp that the girls are not responsible for the deaths in Lebanon. You can find the entire situation disturbing and depressing without losing one's senses altogether. Can't you?

The Costs of War

These horrifying images (photographs: Sebastian Scheiner/AP) show young Israeli girls writing "greetings" on artillery shells destined for Southern Lebanon.

The images have appeared on several blogs adjacent to images of dead Lebanese children whom the bloggers portray as the recipients sof the girls' messages. The blogs I have seen are irresponsibly inflamatory. You can find links to some of them as well as a set of initially anguished but increasingly vituperative and unfocused reactions at The Guardian Unlimited which also offers a plausible account of why we might imagine the girls as innocent rather than as hateful.

What is horrifying is that there are parents who would allow their children to do this. I am not under bombardment and never have been, so you may think it naive or incredible for me to say this, but I am confident that I would never allow, let alone encourage, my sons to do such a thing. The very thought makes me sick.

I close with a prediction. These girls will be haunted by these images. Their parents have placed them in the position of forever being hunted down by journalists or historians or others and asked "How Could you have Done Such a Thing?" I think that is an unforgiveable legacy.

[Thanks once more to an anonymous commenter for calling my attention to this topic!]

19 July 2006

Disease as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

James Nachtwey has produced a photo-essay "The Congo's Hidden Killers" for Time that depicts the efforts of Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders to mitigate the health crisis caused by protracted war in the Congo. As always, Nachtwey's images are powerful because of the balance he strikes between capturing intimacy and maintaining respect for his subjects. Something he says in the audio track that accompanies the pictures struck me, namely that all sides in the war have participated in a form of primitive biological warfare, using disease as a weapon of mass desstruction. By destroying people's homes and livelihood they have driven them into a world in which illness and infection take an incredibly high toll. In addition, he calls attention to the use of rape as a means of terrorizing local populations.

18 July 2006

Knowledge & Experience

I want to call your attention to a new blog called "Knowledge & Experience" that my friend Evelyn Brister has started. Evelyn is a terrifically smart woman, a philosopher and environmental scientist. The blog (as the subtitle suggests) is oriented toward issuses in Feminist Theory and Philosophy of Science, Medicine, and the Environment. It is sure to be interesting and insightful.

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"Does gender matter?" - Actually, Yes

This one is not about photography at all but simple politics - the poltiiccs of sex inequality. I recommend the "conversation" published in The New York Times today with Ben Barres, a Stanford Neurobiologist. Barres has rececntly taken on the "Larry Smmers Hypothesis" - namely that women are underrepresented in science relative to men because of innate differences between the sexes - in a Commentary in the journal Nature (Volume 442, #13, July 2006). You can link to his commentary from the Times interview. Barres basically argues that there is no scientific basis for the Summers Hypothesis (also spouted by others like Stephen Pinker).

One observation. Barres' essay is mis-titled. It turns out that gender (understood as social expectations regarding the sexes and their differences) does matter. It is sex that seems not to. Perhaps it is not possible to draw more than an analytical distinction between the two. But it is a distinction with a difference.

17 July 2006

Farah Nosh

I want to call attention to the work of a young (I believe!) Canadian photographer. She is Farah Nosh and you can find a portfolio of her colorful images from Iraq at her extremely cool website. My only complaint is that the images are very small - probably to accommodate the flash technology - and that the text is minuscule, making it difficult for older, bi-focal wearing folks like me to read it. Of course, given the font size on this blog, I perhaps have no right to complain! In any case, when you check out her portfolio be sure to keep going until the end - the final two images (#66 & #67) are among the best. One captures joy bordering on euphoria, the other the intersection of politics and soccer. The work is simply impressive all the way through.

I noticed today a slide show of her more recent black and white images "Baghdad Survivors - Wounds of War" depicting some of the thousands upon thousands of Iraqis who have been grievously wounded in the war. It appeared in The New York Times and you can find a link to it here. As Farah remarks in the accompanying audio, her images capture "the costs of war on those whose tour of duty in Iraq is a lifetime."
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PS: I have been back to Nosh's we page and my complaints about the size of text & images no longer hold; I still highly recommend her work (13 July 08).

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"The Architecture of Authority"

I always have found it curious how academic political theorists in the U.S. have taken up "postmodern" thinkers to try to argue for a more or less relentlessly skeptical stance, one that presumes we have no more or less stable normative criteria for assessing politics. Nearly a decade ago (1997) I published a paper in Political Theory entitled "Communication, Criticism and the Postmodern Consensus." There I suggested that far from being systematically skeptical about the grounds of normative criticism, postmodern thinkers actually are committed to a standard of equal and reciprocal communication. I relied specifically on writings by Michel Foucault on disciplinary power to make this point. Although the paper has been widely ignored, I think the point I make is correct. Here is a brief passage:

"Foucault . . . discusses the disciplines in . . . general terms . . . as "those systems of micro-power that are essentially nonegalitarian and asymmetrical." And he goes on to explain that disciplinary institutions -- not just prisons, but schools, the military, factories, hospitals, mental health clinics -- "have the precise role of introducing insuperable asymmetries and excluding reciprocities" (Foucault 1979, 222, stress added). Jeremy Bentham's panopticon is the most telling example of the asymmetrical, hierarchical, non-reciprocal nature of disciplinary power. It is, on Foucault's account, the quintessential disciplinary institution. There: "Each individual, in his place, is securely confined to a cell from which he is seen from the front by the supervisor; but the side walls prevent him from coming into contact with his companions. He is seen but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject of communication" (Foucault 1979, 200 stress added). Disciplinary mechanisms, then, do not just render social relations less symmetrical and reciprocal but, crucially, they do so by simultaneously disrupting the communicative relations that nourish social and political agency and replacing them with patterns of thoroughgoing objectification."

The implications of this seem clear to me and it seems clear too that Foucault's actual views run counter to standard ways of characterizing his work as thoroughly skeptical and nihilistic. As I wrote then and still think: "What Foucault seems to argue here -- and what the postmodern consensus obscures -- is that disciplinary power is normatively objectionable precisely because it imposes unequal, asymmetrical, non-reciprocal relations and because, in so doing, it obliterates the sorts of extant communicative relations that, potentially at least, could promote social relations characterized by equality, symmetry and reciprocity." Foucault does not think we actually all inhabit a "disciplinary society" - at least he didn’t think so in the mid-1970s. He (like Hobbes writing about a different modality of power in The Leviathan) was warning us about the dangerous tendencies of modern societies.

My point here is not simply to promote a paper that has languished in obscurity. It is, instead, to provide some theoretical background to a project by photographer Richard Ross that he calls the "Architecture of Authority." Ross is busy documenting the spatial features of incarceration and prosecution in BushCo’s "war on terror." You can also find his work on this Frontline special on the use of torture by the U.S.. (The image here - © Richard Ross - is of the intimate space of an interrogation chamber at Guantanamo.) Interestingly he not only invokes Foucault, but suggests that the spatial structures of interrogation, incarceration and prosecution operate, as Foucault suggests, by subverting relations of communication. Maybe in the thirty years since Foucault wrote we have moved closer to the sort of disciplinary society he warned against? Maybe Ross understands Foucault better than the legions of American political theorists who regularly get him wrong?

This image, also © Richard Ross, is of a newly constructed cellblock at Guantanamo that the photographer describes with direct reference to Foucault.
[Thanks to an anonymous commenter for bringing Ross's work to my attention.]
UPDATE - My friend Henry Farrell over at Crooked Timber initiated a thread of commentary on this post. You may be interested to see just how little support there is for my reading of Foucault!

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14 July 2006

The Middle East: Real Estate & Fanaticism

The news from the Middle east is horrible today. This is an image from The New York Times of Beirut which is under bombardment by the Israelis just as Hezbollah is shelling northern Israel. This, of course, comes on top of the ongoing conflict/standoff in Gaza precipitated by Palestinian kidnapping of an Israeli soldier.


Images such as this, insofar as they suggest that we have simply reverted to the 1980s, might generate a sense of hopelessness. At least that is how my thoughts tend in light of recent events. But I also have recently read a slim volume by Amos Oz entitled How to Cure a Fanatic (Princeton UP) and I recommend it as an antidote to despair. Here are a couple of relevant passages:

"The Israeli-Palestinian clash is essentially . . . not an internal but an international conflict. Which is fortunate as international conflicts are easier to resolve than internal ones - religious wars, class wars, value wars. I said easier, I did not say easy. Essentially the battle between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs is not a religious war, although fanatics on both sides are trying very hard to turn it into one. It is essentially a territorial conflict over the painful question "Whose land?" It is a painful conflict between right and right, between two very convincing claims over the same small country. Not a religious war, not a war of cultures, not a disagreement between two traditions, but simply a real-estate dispute over whose house this is. And I believe that this can be resolved."

Current events may make Oz's cautious optimism seem wildly naive. But it is important to see the nature of his solution. he insists plausibly that "imagination may serve as a partial and limited immunity to fanaticism." And he thinks, also plausibly, that large portions of both the Israeli and Palestinian populations are not fanatics and can be persuaded by imaginative proposals to settle their real estate dispute. For this, he insists they need not learn to love one another but simply to co-exist.

"I don't think love is the virtue by which we solve international problems. We need other virtues. We need a sense of justice, but we also need common sense; we need imagination, a deep ability to imagine the other, sometimes to put ourselves in the skin of the other. We need the rational ability to compromise and sometimes to make sacrifices and concessions, but we don't need to commit suicide for the sake of peace ..."

So Oz is not a pacifist - he rightly insists on the need to defend oneself in the face of aggression. But he insists too on the need for peace. That is a hopeful but not naive view. And on days like today, when the news is so bleak, it is important to keep hope in sight. Here is his diagnosis of what is at stake:

"The present crisis in the world, in the Middle East, in Israel/Palestine . . . is about the ancient struggle between fanaticism and pragmatism. Between fanaticism and pluralism. Between fanaticism and tolerance."

It seems clear which side one must take in that struggle.

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13 July 2006

Q&A with Photography Editor of the Times

As the latest installment of their "Ask the Newsroom" series, The New York Times is this week running "Photos in The Times. The chief editor for photography is answering questions from readers." She is Michelle McNally, Assistant Managing Editor for Photography. You may find some of her Q&A with readers interesting.

12 July 2006

Mohr - Photography & Memory

What is the relationship between photography and memory? Or, more precisely perhaps, how do we use photography to prompt or sustain or construct memory? This question is not one to which I have given much thought. It came up in an exchange on a previous post. One anonymous comment (thanks!) directed my attention to a fascinating new novel by Frederick Reuss entitled Mohr: A Novel (Unbridled Books).


The novel is about the author’s actual but mysterious uncle Max Mohr, a physician and minor German literary figure who, in the mid-1930s, leaves his wife and young daughter behind to emigrate to China. One might be tempted to say the novel is a fictionalization of Mohr’s life and that of his family based, interestingly from my perspective, on a cache of photographs that Reuss discovered several years ago, many of which he intersperses throughout the novel. I have only just started the book - surprisingly it was in stock at the local Barnes & Noble. But it brought to mind an essay by John Berger that deals with this subject and I thought it might be useful to quote a brief passage as a sort of promissory note for more extensive thoughts of my own on the topic in the future. Here is Berger:

"By contrast [with cinema], if there is a narrative form intrinsic to still photography, it will search for what happened, as memories or reflections do. Memory is not made up of flashbacks, each one forever moving inexorably forward. Memory is a field where different times coexist. The field is continuous in terms of the subjectivity which creates and extends it, but temporarily it is discontinuous. . . .

A photograph is simpler than most memories, its range is more limited. Yet with the invention of photography, we acquired a new means of expression more closely associated with memory than any other. . . . Both the photograph and the remembered depend upon and equally oppose the passing of time. Both preserve moments, and propose their own form of simultaneity, in which all their images can coexist. Both stimulate, and are stimulated by, the inter-connecctedness of events. Both seek instances of revelation, for it is only such instants which give full reason to their own capacity to withstand the flow of time.

Photographs can relate the particular to the general. This happens, as I have shown, even within a single picture. When it happens across a number of pictures, the nexus of relative affinities, contrasts and comparisons can be much wider and more complex."

Several things are important here. First, Berger is taking direct issue with critics like Sontag who insist that photography cannot contribute to understanding because the latter presupposes narrative and there is no possibility of narration with photographs. Second, he proceeds to elaborate how photographs can contribute to or sustain stories rather than mere reportage. And stories, in turn incorporate a sort of reflection that breaks with positivist understandings of photographic truth. Third, Berger provocatively (and rightly, I think) insists that the co-existence he attributes like memory, to photographic narratives ultimately subverts the notion that an arrangement of photographs must constitute a sequence. Finally, and returning to Mohr, Berger describes the need for shared interpretation of the discontinuities that photographic stories inevitably present. What Reuss, unexpectedly confronting an array of unfamiliar photographs does in his novel (I think) is produce one such interpretation. He has written a "story" in Berger's sense and, importantly, it is therefore probably inapt to call his work a fictionalization. But is he constructing memory? If so, what relationship does his story bear to truth?

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"Comment: Nattering Nabobs"

If you've not already read it, I highly recommend David Remnick's exquisitely blistering criticism in The New Yorker of BushCo's ongoing attack on the free press. As you know, I think the mainstream media has been largely supine in the face of political deception and incompetence. However, the administration has been denigrating and bullying the press pretty much relentlessly. Remnick's comment appears in the July 10 & 17 edition which arrived by mail here in the periphery yesterday. It has been posted on-line since July 3rd. I obviously need a blog staff to hunt such things down for me!

P.S.: Although I've not yet read it, this same ssue also contains a promising essay by Seymour Hirsch -"Last Stand: The Military's Dissent on Iran Policy".

11 July 2006

Ramin Jahanbegloo Update

I had posted earlier on the detention of political theorist Ramin Jahanbegloo by the Iranian authorities. Here is an update on his status from Mcleans that points out that since late April Jahanbegloo has been "locked in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was beaten to death in 2003." It also indicates that the Canadian government is making "little headway" in securing his realease. What follows is part of a recent article from the NY Times:

IRAN AGAIN REJECTS DEADLINE ON NUCLEAR PROPOSAL
By Nazla Fahti
(NY Times - Published 2 July 2006)

"[ . . . ] In a separate news conference today, the minister of intelligence, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, linked the arrest of an Iranian-Canadian philosopher, Ramin Jahanbegloo, to what he said were efforts by the United States to start a "soft revolution" in Iran. Mr. Jahanbegloo has been jailed since late April after he was arrested at the Tehran airport.

"The United States is pursuing efforts to start soft revolution in Iran and in many other countries and Mr. Jahanbegloo's arrest can be defined as part of that," ISNA quoted Mr. Mohseni-Ejei as saying.

"Mr. Jahanbegloo had an assignment and the intelligence apparatus became suspicious at the scale of his activities and resources" at his disposal, he said.

Mr. Mohseni-Ejei said a decision on Mr. Jahanbegloo's case would be made after his interrogation was finished.
________________

FURTHER UPDATE 7/20: Here are additional links that may prove helpful [1] [2]

Mr. Jahanbegloo has been barred from access to a lawyer. Independent human rights groups have said his arrest was politically motivated. "

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10 July 2006

Reporters sans frontières/Reporters Without Borders Benefit: "100 Football Photos for Press Freedom"

Like many Americans, I am more or less indifferent to the World Cup. I do know that Italy prevailed over France (on penalty kicks!) in the finals and even that Germany defeated Portugal for third place. That is about it, however. Oh yeah, I also know that the French star (whose name escapes me) was tossed from the final game on a "red card" (why the official cannot simply point to the door like umpires in baseball do I am unsure - even though I am pretty much indifferent toward baseball too!).


Having now confirmed my parochialism, I want to mention an opportunity to support freedom of the press while also treating your withdrawal symptoms if you have developed a World Cup addiction. Buy a copy of 100 Football Photos for Press Freedom with Agence France-Presse which is the latest in a series of photo publications produced to support Reporters Without Borders; all proceeds from sales will go to help underwrite the organization and its work.

(Thanks to an anonynous commenter for brinnging this to my attention.)

09 July 2006

The British Landscape

Here is an excerpt of a review in Open Democracy by Ken Worpole of a new book by photographer John Davies entitled The British Landscape (Chris Boot, 2006).

"Davies focuses on the industrial occupation of the landscape – particularly around Newcastle, Manchester, Sheffield and south Wales – in the last days of British industrial muscle-power. These portray a period of decline, regeneration, and in some cases the complete levelling of the former factories and houses, followed by a process of landscaping to produce an effect as if nothing had ever existed before.

This complete eradication of all evidence of human industry, culture and community, produces some of the most disturbing images, as Davies' photographs raise the complex issue of how we preserve the public memory and experience of our industrial past, while adapting to new ways of living and inhabiting the landscape. Too many regeneration schemes, these photographs suggest, are based on the wholesale eradication of public history and memory, producing an ersatz sense of modernity, a mixture of system-built housing, ring roads, theme pubs and retail parks."

I unfortunately have not been to the parts of Britain that Davies documents since the late 1970s. Tellingly, Worpole especially stresss the erasure from the public landscape of the history and culture of laboring classes in Britain. He rightly notes that we ought to guard against undue nostalgia for working communities which often are marked by extreme hardship. But he wonders why the ancient past often is preserved with great care while features of the human landscape of less remote origins are simply razed.

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07 July 2006

Making Excuses for the "Liberal" Media, II

[As the title suggests, this is the second of a two-part post; the first installment was yesterday.]

Now for Kimmelman. His article is a review of an exhibition of photographs by Harrell Fletcher entitled "The American War." Fletcher's photos are pictures of photographs on display in Ho Chi Minh City at the War Remnants Museum. The museum originals depict the Vietnam war and its consequences from the Vietnamese perspective. According to Kimmelman: "It is an ingenious little show; heartbreaking too. It would be a pity to miss." Unfortunately, I did miss the show in New York and Cambridge. Perhaps I can catch it elsewhere (Rochester, despite being tied into photographic production in obvious ways is off the map as far as such exhibits are concerned!).

Fletcher took his pictures surreptitiously, his "photographs of photographs" are made in such a way that it is "clear that he was there, in the museum." This according to Kimmelman introduces a sort of reflexivity into the viewing experience in which viewers are not just seeing but are aware of themselves seeing the photographs. This, as philosopher Patrick Maynard argues in The Engine of Visualization is how photographic depiction commonly works. So Kimmelman has not actually added much there.

What is disturbing about his review is when he compares Fletcher's work to another recent show in NYC, this one by Thomas Hirschhorn. Kimmelman suggests that "the connection between Mr. Fletcher's 'American War' and the war in Iraq is almost too obvious but his show does more than make that comparison. In a nearly invisible way, it raises a general question about looking at photographs: about what it means to see something from someone else's point of view . . . and also about how strangely, even alarmingly, compelling war pictures can be." So, having drawn the parallel between Vietnam and Iraq, Kimmelman immediately changes the subject eventually drifting off into musings on the personalized dimensions of seeing animated by ritualized reference to the often cited, little read Walter Benjamin.

All that is problematic enough. But, here is Kimmelman's assessment of Hirshhorn whom he takes to task for his use of war photographs from the Middle East: "The show, boasting about its inclusion of pictures that the American media generally find too gruesome to disseminate, was in retrospsect infuriating. It is difficult to make art out of war but easy to exploit violence and congratulate oneself for looking at pictures that other people can't or don't or won't. Piety is an abuse often heaped on top of bloodletting."

I have not personally seen Hirschhorn's work. I am not here to defend it. Instead I want to pose some questions to Kimmelman. What if the American media generally and The New York Times specifically did not self-censor? What if they actually confronted the American public with the costs of the war by actually publishing pictures of American casualties? Wouldn't that deprive Hirschhorn of the shock he seeks to exploit? Beyond that, by what right do members of western publics whose governments are prosecuting war in Iraq under completely false pretenses maintain that they "can't or don't or won't" look at disturbing images of war? If Kimmelman is outraged by Hirschhorn's alleged piety perhaps he ought to check in on his own self-righteous resentment and anger. After all, the newspaper Kimmelman writes for abdicated (by its own admission) its responsibility to challenge the administration in the lead up to the war. And the LA Times report I discussed yesterday makes it clear that once the war commenced that same newspaper has presented a sanitized narrative of the war's costs. Now that is infuriating! So much for the liberal media. If it were doing its job we would not have to focus our indignation on artists like Hirschhorn. We might instead focus on those perpetrating war in our name.

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Show Us the War

For those who do not share the "squeamish public aesthetic" about which Carr (see the previous post) is so concerned, try the website "Show Us the War."

06 July 2006

Making Excuses for the "Liberal" Media, I

[As the title suggests, this is the first of a two-part post; the second installment will appear tomorrow.]

On a single day last month (Monday, 5 June) The New York Times ran not one but two stories on war photography - Michael Kimmelman "Photographs of Vietnam: Bringing the War Back Home" (B1,7) and David Carr. "Show Me The Bodies" (C1,5). Both authors draw parallels between the way the American press is depicting (or, actually, not depicting) the current war in Iraq and how it portrayed the War in Vietnam. Kimmelman’s story appeared in the Arts section, Carr’s in the Business pages. The two stories are, in different ways, a mess; they reflect, I think, the authors’ effort to absolve our largely supine mainstream press for the irresponsibility it has shown in covering the war. I will use this post to discuss Carr and another to address Kimmelman.

Carr takes as his point of departure a story in The Los Angeles Times by James Rainey entitled "Portraits of War: Unseen Pictures, Untold Stories" (21 May 2005). Rainey reports that during a six month period (1 September 04 through 28 February 05) a significant number (559) of American and allied troops died in Iraq. During that same period a systematic review of six major newspapers and two news magazines discovered precisely one photograph of a dead American solider. Now, this is a pecculiar pattern and Rainey's analysis is actually quite nuanced. By contrast Carr is concerned to explain it or, more precisely, to explain it away. In the process he ties himself into knots.

Carr is especially concerned to dismiss the possibility that a there might be a political explanation for the pattern that Rainey discloses. He insists that "it is practical, not political realities that dictate what we see" in the nation's mainstream press. In making this claim he derides un-named "conspiracy theorists" who "suggest that a sanitized visual narrative is being constructed for an increasingly unpopular war." Two things are important about Carr's claim. First, there is the inconvenient matter of timing. Rainey's study covers a period before public support for the war really started to deterioriate. We were getting a sanitized visual narrative even when the administration enjoyed considerable support. Second, and more importantly, one need not be a conspiracy theorist to identify political sources for the way the mainstream meedia cover the war. Consider what Rainey actually wrote: "Journalists attribute the reltively bloodless portrayal of the war to a variety of caauses - some in their control, others in the hands of the US Military, and the most important related to the far-flung nature of the conflict and the way Americana news outlets perceive their role."

It is not difficult to find politics lurking here and to do so with no hint whatsoever of conspiracy. Consider the first factor. Iraq is a big country (compared,, say, to Vietnam) and the relatively few reporters and photojournalists who are assigned there not only operate in a highly dangerous environment but remain hostage to the vagaries of where fighting (and so casualties) might occur. You cannot, after all, photograph events if you are not present. Let's think now. Why is Iraq so dangerous? Perhaps because the administration did not feel the need to plan for what might happen in the aftermath of the US invasion. Why are there so few reporters and photojournalists assigned there? Perhaps because the Pentagon is trying very, very hard to maintain control over information. Or, perhaps because the major media deem it unpatriotic or commercially inconvenient to focus too much on the war and especially on its real human costs (Of course the mainstream press does regularly show Iraqi war dead, but do Americans care about that?). And what about getting access to actual fighting? Well, since most (not all, but most) reporters and photographers in Iraq are "embedded" they really are at the mercy of their miltary hosts. So the problem is not just the size of Iraq and geographically dispersed nature of the conflict. The problem in very large measure is with political decisions that limit access or make it too dangerous.

Consider the second factor. Editors and publishers back home in the States have many things to worry about. Commercial considerations for one thing. Public reaction for another. Advertisers may not like pictures of war dead. And not just wacky right wing bloggers but the families of the dead or of those still serving in Iraq might object. Well, all of that seems to me to be directly political. Are newspapers supposed to follow public opnion or lead it? Are they supposed to report the news or remain supine in the face of commercial interests? Carr seems to think such things are outside the realm of politics. But when editors, as he says, "leave germane but grisly photographs ... on the darkroom floor" out of obesiance to "commercial considerations" or "a squeaamish public aesthetic" (for the alleged existence of which Carr humself offers considerable counter-evidence), they are quite simply making political decisions. They are deciding that reporting the costs of war is less important than some other aim. No conspiracy needed. We are getting a sanitized view of war and the "liberal" media is giving it to us.

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03 July 2006

Political Hope on Independence Day

"The significance of ideal ends and meanings is, indeed, closely connected with the fact that there are in life all sorts of things that are evil to us because we would have them otherwise. Were existing conditions wholly good, the notion of possibilities to be realized would never emerge." - John Dewey (1934)


Well before I had any idea who Robert Mapplethorpe was, indeed before his name became common currency in American cultural politics, I'd seen this image as part of the the cover art on his friend Patti Smith's album Easter.


That was 1978, shortly after I graduated from college, during years when questions of patriotism hardly were on anyone's lips, surely not on mine. These days there are "patriots" all around. It bears asking however what it means to be patriotic. This image by Mapplethorpe is a good way of focusing such reflections. (I must say that insofar as any of the 'my country right or wrong' crowd will read this, I find it quite delicious to invoke Mapplethorpe as a point of departure.) Being a patriot does not mean unswerving loyalty to any particular government or administration. It does not mean love of this or that place. It means that one is inspired by and committed to some set of ideals and to the possibilities they embody. And it means taking that inspiration as a basis for action (an imperative that is not satisfied by, for example, driving a flag-festooned SUV).

Mapplethorpe's image has stuck with me over the years. Perhaps oddly, and perhaps contrary to his intent, I find it inspiring. And in the current political circumstance I find this picture of a frayed and tattered flag especially relevant. I am committed to the liberty and equality for which the flag stands. I worry, though, that the policies of our current government may tear it beyond repair or recognition. I hope that that is not the case. And as evidence of possibilities I will point to just two rececnt, relaated examples. The first is the stand taken by First Lt. Ehren Watada (U.S. Army) who has refused orders to deploy to Iraq on the grounds that the war is illegal and that, as an officer, he is bound to refuse orders to partake in illegal actions. The second, is the decision this past week by the US Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Runsfeld in which the majority of a very conservative court held that equality before the law (as embodied in international agreements to which the US is signatory) applies to the prisoners being held at Guantanamo, after all. This, I thnk, is a momentous decision.

Lt. Watada and the Court majority are not just mouthing principles; they are doing things with our principles. They are calling the Bush administration to account, insisting that our government must acknowledge freedpm and equality and build them into its policies. In the process they are mending the frayed and tattered flag. They are holding out possibilities that are truly patriotic. That is a basis for hope. Have a peaceful 4th of July.

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Uncommon Citizens: Portraits of Freedom Riders

Here is an interesting project. entitled "Breach of the Peace: Portraits of Mississippi Freedom Riders." Photographer Eric Ethridge has gone to the Mississippi State archives and retrieved mug shots of freedom riders who were arrested there in the early 1960s. He has then tracked the individuals down and made portraits of them as they are today. He presents the paired photographs - mug shot and portrait - together. Several of these appeared in The New York Times Magazine (2 July 2006). The link here is to Etheridge's blog where he not only links to the Times page, but posts several other images and promises more.

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