Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Displaying the egotistical hallmark that has distinguished the American persona for the last 8-10 years, the conversation about torture and the Obama administration's anti-torture position would be laughable, if it weren't so sad. Let me be clear--NOT the the position, the conversation ABOUT it.

Torture IS a moral issue. You either have a certain code of behavior you find acceptable or you don't. Any form of torture is acceptable or it is not. It doesn't matter--or at least, shouldn't matter--what the rest of the world thinks or what you fear the rest of the world will (or won't) do to you when the shoe is on the other foot. If torture is wrong, then it is wrong in any degree.

If you believe it is wrong to torture other human beings to get the information that you want, then it is wrong to do it. If you believe the ends justify the means, no matter how evil, then the sky is the limit. It is one of the few all-or-nothing issues.

The idea that it is wrong for others to torture but that WE can do it because hey, look at all the other lives we saved and the rights we've protected . . . is hypocritical. You either have certain values or you don't. Period.

It is ironic how many so-called conservatives preach certain "Christian" values (and again I refer to their USE of the label, not what those values really mean), yet are saying well, the torture we performed on suspected terrorists got us information that made us safe so, in this case, it's okay. In short, better the other guy--THAT'S a good Christian value? An honestly moral person doesn't drop their beliefs just to protect their own skin.

Torture tactics we deemed unacceptable are in our case acceptable because they were monitored? Really? And did anyone step in during these monitored sessions and say, "Stop--now you're going over the line?" Would we ever know?

(It should be added that over the centuries, it has been proven that torture victims will say anything that ends the torture, what they think their captors wanted to hear. If it happened to be good information, good for the torturers, but if not, the results were no doubt catastrophic for someone.)

It is the flagrant "me first, screw everyone else" attitude that brought us to the time, place and financial disaster we find ourselves in at present. Flagrant greed, hidden under the cloak that we are the "land of opportunity." It is consistent with the values of Dick Cheney and the Bush administration, therefore, that torture is acceptable because we got what we wanted and WE are safe. (This is the same man who, once on his way out of power in the U.S., summarily moved his company to Dubai! The same man who, when questioned about the current financial plight, and all the lives lost in the war, said "So?")

To some, making Dick Cheney the poster child may seem unfair. But while Bush is quietly resting in Texas under the reasonable assumption that it's someone else's ballgame now, Cheney has been showing no respect for the Office or the folks who hold it, even as he continually invoked privilege during his days in office. If he's putting himself in the spotlight, then he's opened himself to critique.

I can fully understand why former Bush administration big shots are now saying publicly that Obama is risking U.S. security by admitting that torture was done and then refusing to continue it. It worked for them, they believed in it. They are not hypocrites, at least, in this regard. Lacking in moral fiber, perhaps, but not hypocritical in this regard.

The Obama administration is stating its life values. If we abandon those values when it suits us to get what we want, then what the hell are we fighting to protect? Standards are standards because they are unchanging, bedrock. (You would think Conservatives would understand THAT!)

So we are no longing endorsing torture and will not accept those who continue to advocate for it. Those who are proud to be Americans should not place their flag-waving pride over the values we supposedly hold dear, the ideals we supposedly live by.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Those who love impressionism, color, dynamic use of lights and darks, interesting perspectives. and generally great art should get themselves out to Brooklyn to see the fabulous exhibit of french painter Gustave Caillebotte (pronounced Ky-a-bott)(1848-1894). Entitled “Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionist Paintings From Paris to the Sea,” it is an amazing exhibition of paintings, sketches and yes, boat half models, for this vibrant gentleman was a rabid boat enthusiast and designer, as well as a painter, engineer, lawyer, and art collector. He was a major member, financial supporter and frequent organizer for the French Impressionists, a well-to-do gentleman who used his wealth and connections to further new thought in art, often putting his money where his mouth was (dying too young at age 46). But he was no dilettante himself, as this exhibit shows. He had great skill as a painter, and loved putting his various passions into his paintings. From the start, his sense of structure made him explore extreme and unusual perspectives in his work. (LOVE the round-topped painting, where two boats through the trees being watched by two boys and a dog, changes perspective radically depending on where you stand in the gallery!) It is amazing to watch as he transforms from a traditionalist to an impressionist, yet all the while keeping the dynamism and understanding of contrasting space from his formal training. His personality practically vibrates off the walls.

And really, folks, The Brooklyn Museum is one of the country's finest--a very short trip over the bridge. Try to see this wonderful show (through July 5th). If you're like me, you'll discover an artist you didn't know before--and what an exciting discovery he is! (See the New York Times review, .)