Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

Aaah, blue skies…

I’m trying to think good thoughts this morning.

I have to because my head might explode if I allow myself to focus on the idiocy of the people who are being led sheeplike in angry, violent-tinged protest against the recent healthcare bill and the government in general.  They are angry that something is being taken from them at this moment, that the misfortune of their current state of affairs has just risen with the election of Obama.

Folks, this has been going on a long time.  Dave Leonhardt wrote a very informative article in yesterday’s New York Times that talks about how this bill is the first step at stemming the inequality of wealth in this nation, saying:

Since 1980, median real household income has risen less than 15 percent. The only period of strong middle-class income growth during this time came in the mid- and late 1990s, which by coincidence was also the one time when taxes on the affluent were rising.

For most of the last three decades, tax rates for the wealthy have been falling, while their pretax pay has been rising rapidly. Real incomes at the 99.99th percentile have jumped more than 300 percent since 1980. At the 99th percentile — about $300,000 today — real pay has roughly doubled.

I think a lot of the anger of these current tea-party protestors is justified but greatly misdirected.  They are, for the most part, middle-class and they have seen their income remain stagnant and their buying power diminish over the last three decades.  Unfortunately, instead of examining the real reasons behind this dilemma and discovering where this transfer of wealth finally settled, they fall prey to the urgings of talking heads like Limbaugh , O’Reilly and Beck.  Like Dick Armey, who has made a cottage industry out of this type of incitement.  Men who profess to speak for America’s best interests but in fact are simply protecting their own interests, which are considerable.  The grab-what-you-can-and screw-everyone-else, take-from-the-middle-and-put-on-top attitude of the last thirty years have been very good to this particular group.  They have a lot to lose.  Not the tea-partiers.  They have already had what wealth they possessed slowly sapped from them.

The terrible thing here is that these put-upon people, the middle and lower class of this country, still often identify themselves with the wealthy, with the very people and corporations who have benefited most from the increasing inequity in wealth in this country.  They are ripe and ready for anyone who can direct their anger at any scapegoat besides the true culprits.  They eat up incendiary words and phrases put out by the punditry without really knowing the basis behind these words.  Socialism.  Fascism.  Nazism.  Hitler.  Stalin. Antichrist.

They are led to believe that their anger is the anger of all people and therefore justified.  Every action becomes justified by the uncivil actions of their  leaders and  the silence of their shepherds when the first brick is thrown or the first racial epithet yelled.

Where does this end?  Who knows…  Like most things, this movement will probably have unintended consequences.  Sometimes, when you try to prod a wild animal forward it’ll eventually turn on you.

Today,  I’m going back to thinking about blue skies…

Read Full Post »

Last night was a historic one for America.  A healthcare reform bill was passed by Congress and awaits approval in the Senate before being signed into law by President Obama.

Is it perfect?  Certainly not.  It couldn’t be.  Passing legislation on a subject that affects such a large segment of our economy and all of our population could never approach perfection.  Some will say it’s not enough, that it doesn’t do enough.  Others will say it goes too far, is too intrusive. 

But it’s a true start, a real framework on which to build.  It is but a first step in a long process that needs to take place in order to bring substantive change to a system that has been devouring our economy for too long.  To do nothing and maintain the staus quo on healthcare as our government has been doing for too many decades was not a realistic option.  When you’re at risk of drowning there comes a point where you’re going to want to try to swim.

And we are in deep water.  Using the latest comprehensive figures, from 2007, the US spends over 2.2 trillion dollars, or $7400 for every person living here, for a system that doesn’t even include coverage for over 15% of its population.  The newer, not yet official, numbers are even higher, with healthcare costs growing much faster than the rate of inflation.

That means healthcare is eating about 16% or more of our GDP.  The average for other wealthy nations is 8-9% and that includes coverage for all their citizens in most cases.  And better overall healthcare, acording to most statistics.  We spend more and get less than any other nation in the world.  That puts us at a competitive disadvantage globally and  is unacceptable and unsustainable. 

Something had to be done and now it is officially underway with the imminent passage of this bill.  Let’s start building on this foundation.


A couple of good articles on the subject:  Ezra Klein in the Washington Post  and Paul Krugman in the New York Times.  Klein’s view is very similar to that of mine and Krugman’s examines the contrast between the tones of the two opposing sides of this struggle.

Read Full Post »

In a recent New York Times article, columnist Matt Bai wrote about the current outrage in the American public against the influence of lobbyists is our halls of government.  He makes a case that perhaps the lobbyists themselves are not wholly to blame for the power they now wield but the current state of affairs is a result of a system that has made most politicians view any critical decision as being a matter of them either choosing  what is truly right for their constituents and the country or choosing what best protects and serves their own position.  It comes down to a matter of self-preservation, looking out for themselves, over looking out for the people they represent and supposedly serve.

As a result, we are left with a government designed and built with good intentions for all but operated by the few for their own often selfish ends.

It brings to mind director Frank Capra‘s classic film,  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  Everyman Jimmy Stewart plays Jefferson Smith who is chosen by the governor of some vague western state to replace a recently deceased senator.  Smith is chosen for his wholesome image in the state, as head of the Boy Rangers,and for a naivete that those in power feel will allow him to be easily manipulated.  In Washington, Smith is faced with corruption and graft from special interests and is soon the target of these groups as they attempt to destroy him when he finds out what he is up against and tries to do what is right.

Sounds familiar.

The film is a very simplified, maybe overly naive,  object lesson for our democracy.  But beneath this layer of naivete there is the simple truth that our government is based on those in power doing what is just and right for the people and when this power is usurped, our voices are ignored and the power of our democracy is diminished.  We lose something essential to our character as a people.

What’s the answer?

I’m not sure.   Perhaps we should change our system in a way that very much limits a person’s term in office, maybe one four year term so that there is no pressure for running a campaign while they are in office.  Do away with career politicians.  Fund all campaigns with public funds and return to a true citizen government.

Could such a system do much worse than the way things are currently done?  Some will say that we would be losing our best minds by having term limits but does the current system really encourage our best minds to serve in government at this point?

As it is, I am without a congressman of any sort at the moment.  I am unfortunately part of the congressional district  ( the 29th New York) represented until last night by Eric Massa, who is bailing on his constituency because of a recurrence of cancer and a sexual harassment scandal.  I am disappointed.  In the sheer stupidity of his actions.  In his quick, unceremonious exit.  In his unwillingness to finish his term and fight for the people that chose to vote him into office.  He claims he was at odds with the Democratic party over his refusal to toe the party line on health care but instead of staying in the game and trying to work out solutions, his choice was to try to punish the party by leaving the citizens of his district without a voice in Congress for several months until a special election can be held.

He was obviously not our Mr. Smith.  I don’t think Mr. Smith would give up so easily on the people of this country.


Addenda: As I was finishing the end of this, there was a local news report on the TV about a local longtime mayor who was being urged to seek Massa’s abandoned seat.  In a statement the mayor said that the environment in Washington was toxic and that they needed honor and dignity.  For that reason, he would not run.  It struck me as a very funny line.

Read Full Post »

This Walking Man I from the late Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.

A week or so back it became the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction, selling for a cool $104.3 million.

I’ve always been intrigued by the life and work of Giacometti so I’m not going to rant about the relative merits of any work being truly worth such a sum of money.  If someone feels that it is worth that, then it is worth that.

However, there was an interesting editorial piece in Tuesday’s New York Times from Eduardo Porter that used the sale of this Giacometti as an example that the economic downturn is at an end.  At least for the type of person who can afford $104.3 million.

The fact that the super-rich are once again secure enough to parctice conspicuous consumption is a positive economic indicator especially when it comes to things such as works of art and other luxury items, which are considered Veblen goods. These are are items whose appeal grows as their prices rise.  Think Ferrari.  Louis Vuitton.

The Veblen Effect is an interesting one.  The idea that the same item becomes more desirable simply because it’s price is raised seems somewhat counterintuitive.  One would think that common sense would make such a thing a rare occurrence.  But we know better, don’t we?  Status seeking overrules all common sense.

I have seen the Veblen Effect at work.  I have a painter friend who, a number of years ago, had a painting sitting for a long time in his possession.  He felt it was a very good piece, one that was a great example of his body of work.  It was priced modestly and sat for months and months with no interest.  Frustrated one day, he more than doubled the price of this painting.

It sold within days.

Now this is certainly not on the level of the Giacometti’s Walking Man.  It’s just a little illustration of how we all can be affected by this drive to show our desired status in this world.  I’m not saying it’s wrong or right.  It’s part of who we are as a species and will probably never change.  The important thing is to determine who you really are as a person and be comfortable with that. 

Because who you truly are shows through even the most  or least  expensive coverings…

Read Full Post »

Albert York Grey Cow in Landscape with PondA friend sent me a New York Times obituary from the other day of a somewhat obscure painter.  The headline read, “Albert York, Reclusive Landscape Painter, Dies At 80” and told of the life and death Albert York, “a painter of small, mysterious landscapes who shunned the art world yet had a fervent following within it.”

I’m not sure if my friend forwarded this because it ‘s an interesting read or if he saw similarities between York and me.  But reading it made me think about my own form of increasing  reclusiveness and its effect on my career and beyond.

I used to worry about what sort of legacy, if any,  I would leave behind with the work I’m doing.  I guess that’s only normal when you feel you’re putting everything you have into something.  Much like a business owner who works his whole life growing and nurturing his business wants to believe that his toil will leave an enterprise that lives on past him.  Nobody wants to believe their very best will leave no footprints in the sands of time.

As an artist, these footprints are left through the recognition of your work.  This involves putting your work out there, pushing it and promoting it, making it known to those in the art world.  Sometimes doing good work will be enough but that is a rarity. It is a very social game in most cases, with careers advanced primarily through contacts begetting contacts.  The socially aggressive, those who seek to mingle with the art crowd, are rewarded.

I realized years ago that relying on leaving any sort of artistic legacy through these means was futile for me.  I don’t mingle well, haven’t been to anything resembling a party, outside of a few openings at my local gallery, for many years.  I don’t make contacts well.  Barely keep up with my best friends and family.  I can’t remember the last time I went to a movie, let alone a party.  I seldom like to venture beyond my normal routine or the end of my driveway.

I now realize this who I am and as such, have severe limitations on how I can affect the legacy of my work.  I will never be the insider, the social gadfly who constantly self-promotes.   I thought I could do that at one point but I know now that it’s not for me.  This blog is as close as I get to self-promotion these days.  I can only do what I do and that is paint and try to keep slogging ahead, hoping a footprint or two remains behind.

So, Albert York, my best wishes for you on your new endeavor.  Your work seems to have left a footprint…

Read Full Post »

Just a Thought

 Mystic Voice The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings…

As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.

  • From the Dhammapada
    Sayings of the Buddha

This immediately brought to mind the current state of public dialogue in this country.  There are those whose thoughts are full of fear and anger that soon manifests as angry words which in turn become angry deeds.  Soon these deeds have become the norm and thereafter becomes who we are.

We need to be careful about how we feed our thoughts, about who we allow to influence us. As we think, so we become.

This was brought to mind by a column this past weekend in the New York Times from Frank Rich, warning of the rising, once more, of domestic terrorism here in the USA.  Irresponsible words  feed other angry, fearful minds.  Long repressed angry deeds are triggered.

Those who shake the trees should be careful- they don’t know what may fall from the branches.

Read Full Post »

John Gadsby Chapman- Excavations on a Roman CampagnaI mentioned in a my post yesterday about my friend, Paul D’Ambrosio, and his new blog.  I spoke of his curatorship at the Fenimore Art Museum but failed to mention a new exhibit that he has put together, America’s Rome: Artists in the Eternal City 1800-1900.

The New York Times didn’t fail to mention it however, having a fine review in yesterday’s edition.

Many congratulations to Paul on his successful exhibit which will hang until the end of the year.  If you’re ever in the beautiful Cooperstown area, stop in and see a lovely town and a wonderful exhibit.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: