Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Infamous Human Chair Photo: Racist or Misunderstood?

The photo of Russian socialite, art critic and Garage Magazine editor Dasha Zhukova , has sparked an outcry both online & off. The photo above, originally published in the Russian magazine 'Buro 247', shows Zhukova sitting on a human chair made from a Black model. Cautious observers point out that the photo is a remake of a style and a series from previous artists. However, that context doesn't overcome the context regarding race. Racism is rampant in Russia, so how could Zhukova or anyone else believe that this would be viewed as acceptable? Then again, their aim may have been to shock. They were definitely successful at pissing off a large number of people. The aim may have been to gain more exposure for her magazine. If that is the case, then it's like adding salt to the wound. It just makes it that much worse. It has also been reported that the human figure is simply a mannequin... not a real model. Looks like a model to me. But I don't think that makes a huge difference either way.

I think it's racist just in terms of the publisher not recognizing the social context and environment in which it was put out.

Any thoughts? Is this defensible?

A Less Ambitious State of The Union

For the first time in several years, I was not glued to my TV screen for the annual State of the Union. There was not much anticipation surrounding this years speech.

This was definitely a speech from a President who is on his way out. Unfortunately a Republican Congress was at least partially successful in its mission to block or disrupt most of his major initiatives. At least for the time being, they have at least partially won the argument on healthcare reform.... in part because they have a much better PR game, and Progressives still cannot seem to sell their ideas to a public that, for the most part, already believes in core Progressive principles. This is astonishing to me.... but I predicted as much. The PR surrounding the Affordable Care Act has been a train wreck. Progressives could not sell a lifeline to a drowning man. The fact that Obama and Co outsourced one of their most important projects to a bunch of tech amateurs and didn't triple check the work also didn't help their cause.

In this speech, President Obama seemed to focus on remaining goals that were actually reachable.

Unlike previous State of the Union messages, there were no repeated demands in this speech for Immigration Reform. I think Obama & Co has accepted the reality that getting something done regarding comprehensive immigration reform is unlikely. A good PR campaign could help (the public has consistently expressed support for immigration reform), but the Democrats, being so bad at PR, are not even putting up much of a fight, even though it could help them in midterms, and in 2016. It's an illogical approach on their part.

Most of the speech was trite... much of the same blah rhetoric. I did hear a few positives.... or at least President Obama seemed to lean in a positive direction in a few areas, particularly in foreign policy. He expressed a willingness to stand up against Congress on at least some of his foreign policy moves. He expressed a desire not to allow Congress to interfere with negotiations on Iran. He also seemed to raise the bar, although slightly, on the future use of force, at least until the next pro-war American President takes office. For the first time, in about 15 years (since Bill Clinton's Kosovo adventure) an American President emphasized the need for the U.S. to "move away from a permanent war footing". First, he acknowledged that this was a problem, and secondly, he pointed out other means of asserting American influence besides using military force. However, there were several points where he ended up negating or contradicting those statements. The best example would be the obligatory declaration of support for Israel at all costs (even at the cost of America's best interests and security) obligatory declaration that all American Presidents must give because Israel has such a strong influence over money and politics within the U.S.

I guess it has not dawned on him that putting Israel ahead of the U.S. and blindly supporting and defending Israel, even to the detriment of this country, means that the U.S. will literally be on a war footing forever. So which is it? The U.S. can't have it both ways. Unfortunately with Israel, it's an either/or proposition.

In describing what America is all about, he went on to say we "free other nations from tyranny and fear. He was basically reiterating America's role as global cop. But I would argue, that's not our job. You cannot really hope to end the state of perpetual war, while at the same time, continue to push the role of the world's police force. So unfortunately, there was no groundbreaking shift from war in this speech at a time when we should have heard something more definitive. All I heard from the President on this front is that for the next couple of years, he was hoping to avoid any wars, and that we might.... just might... be able to avoid a big disastrous war with Iran. It was not the convincing message that I wanted to hear. There were no signs that the country was making a fundamental shift from outdated & nonsensical cold war, Truman Doctrine, or Bush Doctrine foreign policy. The U.S. is still headed in that wrong direction. Meanwhile, the U.S. will not be able to pay down its debt and will continue to fall behind in education, energy, education and tech.

I would have liked to hear more about student loan debt relief and reform, patches to healthcare reform, immigration, job creation, a national energy strategy that makes sense; and investment in urban communities in terms of eliminating blight, providing jobs and job training.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy Birthday, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is the national holiday honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are plenty of speeches that one could post about Dr. King, but here's a passage from A Letter from a Birmingham Jail.


April 16, 1963


We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Happy 50th Birthday to our wonderful First Lady: Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama!

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama was born 50 years ago today!

She makes 50 look fabulous!!

Thank you Mrs. Obama. You are a wonderful First Lady and represent our country so well. You will never know how deep you are in our hearts, and how much they swell everytime you step into the spotlight. We are blessed to have you and for you to be the bedrock of our wonderful First Family.

michelle obama 999

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