Monday, January 26, 2015

"American Sniper": Whitewashing the War in Iraq

Divorced from historic context, "American Sniper," directed by Clint Eastwood, is an intense, gritty movie about modern urban warfare, based on the memoir of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), the Navy SEAL sharpshooter with 160 confirmed kills. It also empathetically depicts the effects of PTSD on a veteran and his family. The problem with the movie is that it does indeed attempt to divorce itself from history. The rationales for the war in Iraq have by now been thoroughly discredited. Yet "American Sniper" presents a false view of the war that continues to be peddled by Dick Cheney.

Kyle joins the military following the al-Qaeda bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. We view his and his wife Taya's (Sienna Miller) outraged reactions to 9/11. Right afterwards, Kyle is in Iraq; by framing the two locales so close together, the director conflates a connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq. In Iraq, Kyle is fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group whose emergence in the country actually came as a result of the U.S. invasion. Kyle's views of the conflict and the Iraqi people are simplistic. He tells a fellow SEAL that the U.S. is fighting so that the Iraqi militants won't invade San Diego and repeatedly tells Taya that he's fighting to keep her safe. The Iraqis themselves, whose complex sectarian divisions were uncovered as a result of the American invasion and occupation, are repeatedly referred to simply as "savages." When Kyle and his wife attend the funeral of a fellow SEAL, a family member reads a letter written by the deceased that reflects doubt about the war. According to Kyle, that doubt is what killed him. While he may have a point that doubt could lead to a loss of morale and resolve, the letter doesn't prompt him to reconsider the rationale of the war. His lack of doubt reflects the perspective of "American Sniper," whose omissions and simplifications ultimately result in a whitewash of the war in Iraq.

In 2015, Republicans Still Don't Believe in Equal Pay for Women

During President Obama's State of the Union speech, the Republicans made their lack of enthusiasm for certain economic proposals quite clear. House Speaker John Boehner and his GOP colleagues sat still as Obama called for equal pay for women, overtime pay and a minimum wage raise. It's particularly notable that the GOP doesn't believe in ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work, despite the fact that Obama reminded them, "It's 2015. It's time." That won't convince a party clinging to standards set decades ago. Watch:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday Night at The Liberal Curmudgeon: Nick Waterhouse Live

With an image reminiscent of Buddy Holly, Nick Waterhouse presents a mix of the rhythm and blues, jazz and soul of early rock. Above, he performed "High Tiding" at KEXP, Seattle, on March 11, 2014. The song is on "Holly," which was the album of the year on the St. James Infirmary music show, hosted by my good friend Michael Mand.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Robert Reich Explains Romney's Bain Capital Profits in 8 Easy Steps

Mitt Romney, who famously disparaged 47 percent of the country as freeloaders, is now posing as a populist concerned about income inequality while considering a third consecutive presidential run. Robert Reich comments, "Mitt Romney promised Friday that if he runs for president he’ll change the strategy that led to his 2012 loss to President Obama, and focus on income inequality, the 'scourge of poverty,' and 'opportunity for all people.' Hmmm. Watch the attached video and let me know how seriously to take Romney's change of heart":

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Libertarian Renounces Citizenship, Upset That He Can't Get U.S. Visa

Schadenfreude, anyone? Roger Ver, a libertarian entrepreneur who renounced his American citizenship and launched a website that helps the wealthy live virtually tax-free in the Caribbean, is complaining that the U.S. government has denied him a visa:

Ver complains that the decision has forced him to miss speaking appointments at conferences and that the US embassy in Barbados refused to even consider the evidence for his application.

The official reasoning behind Ver's rejection is that he doesn't have sufficient "ties" to his country of residency in the Caribbean and has not demonstrated he has "the ties that will compel [him] to return to your home country after your travel to the United States," according to a picture he tweeted of a letter that appears to be from the embassy.

In short, US officials are worried that Ver might choose to stay in his native country illegally.

Ver can't appeal the decision, but he is able to apply all over again, according to Coindesk. He has an American criminal record that could count against him, however — he has previously been jailed for 10 months for selling illegal firecrackers to farmers.

The fiercely libertarian entrepreneur has also appealed for others to follow his lead on citizenship, in June launching a website that helps wealthy people pay their way to citizenship on his new island home of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies.

He surrendered his American citizenship a month after moving to the islands, in February 2014.

Image: Flickr/Official Leweb Photos

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Yorkers Disapprove of Cops Turning Their Backs on de Blasio

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly praised police officers, yet he has also supported the rights of protesters against police violence and stated, following the Eric Garner decision, that he warned his biracial son, Dante, to "take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him." His honest, balanced statement about relations between the black community and the police was too much for many members of the NYPD who, in a show of profound disrespect, turned their backs on the mayor at the funeral of murdered officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. A public opinion poll shows that a majority of New Yorkers disapprove of this action:

A new public opinion poll shows that an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers—nearly 80 percent—believe police union leader Patrick Lynch was "too extreme" in saying that the mayor's office had blood on its hands for supporting the Mike Brown and Eric Garner protests. The poll comes amid persisting tensions between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD officers, and union leaders, which came to a head after two cops were shot and killed in Brooklyn on December 20. The Quinnipiac University poll, published Thursday, showed that 69 percent of New Yorkers disapproved of police officers turning their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio as an act of protest during the funerals of recently slain officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.

The poll also revealed stark racial divides in New Yorkers' opinions on the mayor's handling of relations between the police and the community: 62 percent of black respondents approved, while 63 percent of white respondents disapproved. They were similarly divided on who they believed was at fault for the ongoing tensions between de Blasio and the NYPD: 69 percent of black voters blamed police; 61 percent of white voters blamed the mayor.

Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Obama Delivers a Zinger to Hecklers at SOTU Speech

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama spoke of an improving economy and his agenda to boost the middle class. His new-found confidence was epitomized, however, when he went off script from his prepared remarks. Some derisively applauded when he said, "I have no more campaigns to run." Obama quickly responded with a zinger: “I know because I won both of them.” His ad-lib earned a standing ovation among supporters. Watch:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Obama Seeks To Raise Taxes On the Wealthy

Following recent moves on immigration, Cuba, tuition-free community college and possibly vetoing the Keystone Pipeline, President Obama is taking his next step in his determination to, as he told Senate Democrats, "play offense." In his State of the Union address, Obama plans to call on Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy to finance tax cuts for the middle class:

President Obama will use his State of the Union address to call on Congress to raise taxes and fees on the wealthiest taxpayers and the largest financial firms to finance an array of tax cuts for the middle class, pressing to reshape the tax code to help working families, administration officials said on Saturday.

The proposal faces long odds in the Republican-controlled Congress, led by lawmakers who have long opposed raising taxes and who argue that doing so would hamper economic growth at a time the country cannot afford it. And it was quickly dismissed by leading Republicans as a nonstarter.

...The president’s plan would raise $320 billion over the next decade, while adding new provisions cutting taxes by $175 billion over the same period. The revenue generated would also cover an initiative Mr. Obama announced this month, offering some students two years of tuition-free community college, which the White House has said would cost $60 billion over 10 years.

The centerpiece of the plan, described by administration officials on the condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s speech, would eliminate what Mr. Obama’s advisers call the “trust-fund loophole,” a provision governing inherited assets that shields hundreds of billions of dollars from taxation each year. The plan would also increase the top capital-gains tax rate, to 28 percent from 23.8 percent, for couples with incomes above $500,000 annually.

Those changes and a new fee on banks with assets over $50 billion would be used to finance a set of tax breaks for middle-income earners, including a $500 credit for families in which both spouses work; increased child care and education credits; and incentives to save for retirement.

AP Photo

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Big Eyes," Directed by Tim Burton

Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) was supposedly the creator of paintings of big-eyed, waif-like children popular in the 1960s. As shown in "Big Eyes," his wife Margaret (Amy Adams) actually did the work while Walter, a flamboyant, sociopathic huckster, took the credit since no one would like "lady art." As a single mother who met Walter in 1958, the vulnerable Margaret was charmed by Walter, a real estate agent who pretended to be an artist in the bohemian North Beach section of San Francisco. With his salesmanship, Walter popularized Margaret's paintings, claiming them as his, and had them printed on postcards and posters while she churned them out in an attic. Critics such as John Canaday of the New York Times wrote scathing reviews of Margaret's work, and rightfully so; it was indeed sentimental kitsch. Regardless, it meant something to the artist, who grew increasingly demoralized by the art fraud the Keanes were perpetrating on the public and by her husband's abusive behavior. Margaret escaped with her daughter to Hawaii, where she emerged victorious in the 1986 trial Keane vs. Keane. While some might question how Margaret put up with her situation for years, "Big Eyes" renders her situation believable in the context of the 1950s repression of women–and her liberation believable in the context of the feminist movement in succeeding decades.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday Night at The Liberal Curmudgeon: Link Wray Live

Link Wray, influential guitarist known as the inventor of the power chord, performed "Rawhide" on the Dick Clark Show, March 21, 1959. Many in the teen audience didn't seem to know what to make of Wray's raw instrumental, but later rock guitarists did, including Pete Townshend, who said, "He is the king; if it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,' I would have never picked up a guitar."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Video: "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism"

"Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," a documentary by Robert Greenwald, was released just over 10 years ago. In celebration, Brave New Films released the entire film on YouTube. This groundbreaking film blew the lid off of Fox's claim to be "Fair and Balanced," exposing the station as a deceitful propaganda outlet for the Republican Party and the right wing (Media Matters has also played a valuable role in this regard). It's Friday night; grab some popcorn and watch:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Krugman: GOP Predictions Wrong On Obamacare, Economics, Climate

Whether the subject is Obamacare, economics or climate change, GOP predictions have been wrong, writes Paul Krugman. Even worse, the new Congress is run by Republicans who have no idea how wrong they've been–and are antagonistic toward anyone who points that out:

Consider, for example, how some Republicans dealt with good news about health reform. Before Obamacare went into effect, they overwhelmingly insisted that it would be a disaster, that more people would lose insurance than would gain it. They were, of course, delighted by the technical problems that initially crippled the program’s website. But those problems were fixed, and enrollment soared. Their response? “They are cooking the books,” declared Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, who now leads the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

But that was then. At this point we have multiple independent confirmations — most recently from Gallup — that Obamacare has dramatically expanded insurance coverage. So what do they say now? The law “will collapse under its own weight,” says Representative Paul Ryan, the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Speaking of Mr. Ryan: Almost four years have passed since he and many others in his party lambasted Ben Bernanke, then the chairman of the Federal Reserve, for policies that they claimed would lead to high inflation and “debase the dollar.” The inflation never materialized, and the dollar proceeded to strengthen, but Mr. Ryan gave no sign of having been chastened — and many conservatives, including favorite intellectuals like Niall Ferguson of Harvard, became “inflation truthers,” insisting that the government is hiding price rises.

,,,Then there’s climate change. It appears that 2014 was the hottest year yet, which should close the door on silly claims that global warming has stopped. But it won’t matter to Senator James Inhofe, who now leads a crucial environmental committee and has long insisted that all the science in this field is a liberal hoax.

Now, everyone makes predictions that turn out to have been wrong; it’s a complicated world out there, and nobody’s perfect. The point, however, is that Congress is now controlled by men who never acknowledge error, let alone learn from their mistakes.

In some cases, they may not even know that they were wrong. After all, conservative news media are not exactly known for their balanced coverage; if your picture of how health reform is working is based on Fox News, you probably have a sense that it has been a vast disaster, even though the reality is one of success that has surprised even the law’s supporters.

The main point, however, is that we’re looking at a political subculture in which ideological tenets are simply not to be questioned, no matter what. Supply-side economics is valid no matter what actually happens to the economy, guaranteed health insurance must be a failure even if it’s working, and anyone who points out the troubling facts is ipso facto an enemy.

And we’re not talking about marginal figures. You sometimes hear claims that the old-fashioned Republican establishment is making a comeback, that Tea Party extremists are on the run and we can get back to bipartisan cooperation. But that is a fantasy. We can’t have meaningful cooperation when we can’t agree on reality, when even establishment figures in the Republican Party essentially believe that facts have a liberal bias.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gallup: Uninsured Rate Drops to 12.9%

Gallup reports that the number of uninsured continues to decline–and projects that it will decline further. The research organization states, "The Affordable Care Act has accomplished one of its goals: increasing the percentage of Americans who have health insurance coverage." Surely those who railed against "Obamacare" must now be pleased to find out they were wrong, especially if they claim to be patriots. If they want the best for the nation, they must be gratified that millions more of their fellow citizens have health coverage, right? Especially with findings such as the following:

The uninsured rate among U.S. adults for the fourth quarter of 2014 averaged 12.9%. This is down slightly from 13.4% in the third quarter of 2014 and down significantly from 17.1% a year ago. The uninsured rate has dropped 4.2 percentage points since the Affordable Care Act's requirement for Americans to have health insurance went into effect one year ago.

The uninsured rate declined sharply in the first and second quarters last year as more Americans signed up for health insurance through federal and state exchanges. After the open enrollment period closed in mid-April, the rate leveled off at around 13%. The 12.9% who lacked health insurance in the fourth quarter is the lowest Gallup and Healthways have recorded since beginning to track the measure daily in 2008. The 2015 open enrollment period began in the fourth quarter on Nov. 15 and will close on Feb. 15.

...The Affordable Care Act has accomplished one of its goals: increasing the percentage of Americans who have health insurance coverage. The uninsured rate as measured by Gallup has dropped 4.2 points since the requirement to have health insurance or pay a fine went into effect. It will likely drop further as plans purchased during the current open enrollment period take effect. The Department of Health and Human Services reported that 6.5 million Americans either selected new plans or were automatically re-enrolled into a plan via as of Dec. 26, 2014. Prior to this year's open enrollment period, Gallup found that more than half of those who were uninsured planned to sign up, a positive sign. Gallup also found that most newly insured Americans planned to renew their policy or get a different policy elsewhere.

Furthermore, the uninsured rate may drop because the healthcare law's provision requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to provide health insurance to 70% of their workers took effect on Jan. 1. In 2016, companies with 50 or more employees will be required to provide health insurance to 95% of their workers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

David Pakman: Politicians Who Voted For Spending Bill Received More Money

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently railed against the Omnibus Bill, which would permit "derivatives traders on Wall Street [to] gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system." David Pakman reports that, similar to those who voted for the Keystone XL Pipeline, those who voted for this bill received substantially more money than those who didn't. In fact, they received twice as much from the financial, insurance and real estate industries. Further, in many cases the Democrats were no better than the Republicans. Pakman concludes that while the Democrats are better than Republicans on a host of issues, on others they are "the same plutocratic corporatists." Watch Pakman discuss our corrupt political system of legalized bribery:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Jon Stewart Mocks McConnell's Taking Credit for Economic Growth

Desperate to explain the continuing economic recovery while not giving President Obama any credit, new Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell came up with a novel rationale. Even though the Republicans have passed no legislation in the new year, McConnell stated that their midterm election victory has provided Americans with so much hope that the economy suddenly improved. He said, “After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope. The uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress.” Jon Stewart mocked McConnell, stating “Thankfully, the Republican Senate majority under Mitch McConnell came to our rescue and saved the economy retroactively... If you rub Mitch McConnell’s shell, you will receive five years of business growth.” Watch:

"Mac Conner: A New York Life" at Museum of the City of New York

Ads in The New Yorker and the New York Times for the Mac Conner exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York associate him with the "Mad Men" television series and with good reason. Conner, 100 years old, is an illustrator whose work for ads and magazines, including Redbook, The Saturday Evening Post and Cosmopolitan, reflected the American culture of the '40s, '50s and '60s. Illustrators such as Conner played an integral role in postwar ads and in women's magazine stories (see illustration above for "Let's Take a Trip Up the Nile," This Week Magazine, November 5, 1950). Conner's art celebrated postwar materialism and reinforced traditional sex roles, yet it took a darker turn as the 50s progressed and "the age of anxiety" became a familiar theme. He illustrated stories dealing with juvenile delinquency (the focus of the film "Blackboard Jungle," 1955) and troubled relations between men and women. During the '60s, pictures depicting an exclusively white America and happy housewives became increasingly dated with the civil rights and women's movements; however, Conner richly documented an American cultural period in this fascinating exhibit. Below is a video in which Conner discusses his career. Watch:

"Mac Conner: A New York Life" continues through February 1, 2015, at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue (at 103rd Street), NYC, 212-534-1672,

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Saturday Night at The Liberal Curmudgeon: Simon and Garfunkel Live

Simon and Garfunkel performed "Hazy Shade of Winter" during their reunion concert at Madison Square Garden, December 2, 2003. I now realize that my mental setting for this essential winter song is erroneous. When the duo sang "Down by the riverside" and "manuscripts of unpublished rhyme," I pictured another of Paul Simon's New York City songs, this one about a troubled poet wandering around Riverside Drive in Manhattan. Yet the fact that the lyrics on the official Paul Simon site include the word "riverside" in lower case belies this interpretation. Regardless, I've had this association too long to change it. I still see a discontented writer rambling around the Upper West Side as the Salvation Army plays and the leaves turn brown in Riverside Park.

Republicans Turn To "Judicial Activism"

For years, Republicans have railed against "liberal judicial activism." So who are they turning to in order to block President Obama's agenda and aid their own? The courts. No matter how they spin it, they're not relying on the legislature. One hopes that the Republicans appreciate the irony:

As Republicans prepare to take full control of Congress on Tuesday, the party’s leaders are counting on judges, not their newly elected majority on Capitol Hill, to roll back President Obama’s aggressive second-term agenda and block his executive actions on health care, climate change and immigration.

On health care, Republicans in Washington have sued the president and joined state lawsuits urging the Supreme Court to declare major parts of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. On climate change, state attorneys general and coal industry groups are urging federal courts to block the president’s plan to regulate power plants. And on immigration, conservative lawmakers and state officials have demanded that federal judges overturn Mr. Obama’s plan to prevent millions of deportations.

Democrats say the legal moves reflect a convenient turnabout for the Republican Party and a newfound willingness to seek an active role for the judiciary when it benefits conservative policy goals.

“What they cannot win in the legislative body, they now seek and hope to achieve through judicial activism,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia. “That is such delicious irony, it makes one’s head spin.”

But conservative legal scholars say Republicans are justified in seeking judicial relief from what they believe has been a series of egregious abuses of power by Mr. Obama. They argue that urging the courts to restrain the president’s authority is legally different from a liberal judge’s using rulings to invent new rights under the Constitution.

Legal distinctions aside, the results may be similar: In 2015, major policy decisions affecting millions of Americans will be debated and decided in courtrooms, not legislatures.

Photo: Monte Wolverton, Syndicated by Cagle Cartoon

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Schumer: Democrats Have Enough Votes To Uphold Obama Keystone Veto

Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) mentioned a few Democratic proposals that would improve the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, but he ultimately recommends that President Obama veto it. In a recent press conference, Obama seemed to indicate that he plans to do just that, citing several problems with the project. After that, the White House press secretary confirmed that Obama would veto indeed the bill. Schumer said that the Democrats have enough votes to hold up a presidential veto. Watch:

SCHUMER: Our Republican colleagues say that this is a jobs bill but that really is not true at all. By most estimates it would create several thousand temporary construction jobs and only 35 permanent jobs… Why create very few jobs with the dirtiest of energy from tar sands when you can create tens of thousands more clean jobs using wind and solar? Our Republican colleagues are doing what they always do: they’re appeasing a few special interests — in this case oil companies and pipeline companies and not really doing what’s good for the average middle class family in terms of creating jobs. So I think, Bob, in conclusion, we will have enough votes to sustain a presidential veto.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Salman Rushdie: "I Stand With Charlie Hebdo"

"I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity." - Salman Rushdie

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

NYPD Officers Stage Disrespectful Protests at Funerals

Whoever this lone police officer (shown left) is, I commend him. He didn't join his colleagues in the NYPD who turned their backs on NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio during the funeral of Officer Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn. Many NYPD officers also turned their backs during the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos, Liu's partner, also tragically slain in an ambush in Brooklyn by a mentally unbalanced man. Despite de Blasio's repeated praise for police officers, many objected to his support for the rights of protesters against police violence and his statement, following the Eric Garner decision, that that he warned his biracial son, Dante, to "take special care" around the police. There are apparently officers who are unable to hear the mayor speak honestly about relations between the police and the black community. Regardless of the memo to officers from Police Commissioner Bill Bratton stating that “A hero’s funeral is about grieving, not grievance,” there are members of the NYPD who have used the funerals as opportunities to protest, something they have in common with the loathsome Westboro Baptist Church. The mayor rightly called the protests "disrespectful" to the mourning families and the people of New York. Indeed, such behavior belies the title "New York's Finest" and does not help the city heal from the grievous wounds of recent events.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Remembering Mario Cuomo, Liberal Beacon Who Challenged Reaganism

Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York who recently passed away at 82, was a liberal beacon who was right on so many issues. He spoke against the weakening of the separation of church and state, the arms race and the death penalty. Cuomo reaffirmed liberalism when he said, "We believe in only the government we need, but we insist on all the government we need." In his Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention, 1984, Cuomo challenged the rhetoric and ethos of Ronald Reagan, stating, "Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a 'Tale of Two Cities' than it is just a 'Shining City on a Hill.'" Watch Cuomo's speech, which remains a source of inspiration:

CUOMO: Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a “Tale of Two Cities” than it is just a “Shining City on a Hill.”

Maybe, maybe, Mr. President, if you visited some more places; maybe if you went to Appalachia where some people still live in sheds; maybe if you went to Lackawanna where thousands of unemployed steel workers wonder why we subsidized foreign steel. Maybe—Maybe, Mr. President, if you stopped in at a shelter in Chicago and spoke to the homeless there; maybe, Mr. President, if you asked a woman who had been denied the help she needed to feed her children because you said you needed the money for a tax break for a millionaire or for a missile we couldn’t afford to use.

Maybe—Maybe, Mr. President. But I’m afraid not. Because the truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that this is how we were warned it would be. President Reagan told us from the very beginning that he believed in a kind of social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest. “Government can’t do everything,” we were told, so it should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest. Make the rich richer, and what falls from the table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.

You know, the Republicans called it “trickle-down” when Hoover tried it. Now they call it “supply side.” But it’s the same shining city for those relative few who are lucky enough to live in its good neighborhoods. But for the people who are excluded, for the people who are locked out, all they can do is stare from a distance at that city’s glimmering towers.

"Judith Scott: Bound and Unbound" at the Brooklyn Museum

The work of Judith Scott, on display at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, should intrigue anyone interested in contemporary sculpture. Scott encased found objects with string, rope, yarn and more fabrics for hours, weaving until her fingers bled. She had Down syndrome, was deaf and never spoke, and after over three decades in an institution, her sister brought her to the Creative Growth Arts Center in Oakland, California, which provides an outlet for artists with developmental and physical disabilities. While we can't know what the sculptures meant to Scott, her enigmatic work suggests totems or ritual objects. They can be enjoyed for their originality, shapes, vivid colors and textures. They also demonstrate the wellsprings of creativity that can be found in the art of the "outsider" and the marginalized. Watch the following BBC documentary on the work of Judith Scott:

“Judith Scott: Bound and Unbound” continues through March 29 at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY, (718) 638-5000,

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Saturday Night at The Liberal Curmudgeon: Remembering Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker, who passed away recently, was known for his passionate covers, especially of The Beatles. His career was boosted by his famous performance of "With a Little Help from My Friends" at Woodstock. Shown above, Cocker performed the song at the Queen's Golden Jubilee, Buckingham Palace, June 3, 2002. One reviewer wrote that he sang with an "undimmed, soulful intensity." Paul McCartney said of Cocker's rendition, "It was just mind-blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem, and I was forever grateful for him for having done that.” I recommend listening to a tribute to Joe Cocker on the St. James Infirmary music show, hosted by my good friend Michael Mand.