Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ann Ravel: Our Wannabe Nurse Ratched

Real and wannabe censors are up to their old tricks again. Real censors are the Democratic members of the Federal Election Committee (FEC). The wannabe censors are also members of the FEC, and are Republicans. If the latter didn’t think anyone should be censored in any venue – print, radio, television, or Internet – they wouldn’t accept appointments to the FEC, nor wish to be in the same room with the real censors.

That being said, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA, McCain–Feingold Act of 2002) is the typical miscegenational product of bipartisanship between Republicans and Democrats that advances further government controls. But then, that's all one can expect of pragmatic bipartisanship efforts, in which the Republicans forget or discard their alleged principles, but the Democrats don’t and get some or all of what they want: More controls.

I happened by chance to hack into the personal blog of the Vice Chair of the FEC and discovered this startling and secret memo passed on to her fellow Democrats on the Commission. The text of it follows, and seems to be addressed, not to her ideological ilk, but to a hypothetical individual for whom Ravel nurtures a revealing, disturbing, if not psychotic animus:

My name is Ann M. Ravel, Vice Chair of the FEC. I’m a pal of Cass Sunstein. Remember him? And David Brooks? And Justice Stevens? They wanted to regulate your speech, too, or at least “nudge” you painlessly to politically acceptable and responsible speech. Now, don’t tell me that you, a lone blogger eking out an existence in Milord Obama’s trashed economy, aren’t a one-man political action committee, that you aren’t incorporated anywhere, not even in Delaware, you don’t sell your drivel to others or pay anyone to run it, and that your only expenses are your time and whatever it costs you to write and publish in the way of printer ink and paper. It doesn’t matter to me if you’ve spent a zillion dollars or the cost of a store-brand chicken pot pie, your speech ought to be regulated, and, if necessary, squelched.

And if you persist in running off your mouth about things you aren’t qualified to even think about, I can sic the IRS or the DOJ on you. All it will take is a phone call and a pen twirling between my fingers, just as my boss, President Obama, boasts he can do. He’s my guy!

Listen up, plebian! Allow me to instruct you in current political realities: The basic end of any censor is: I don’t want you to know this about this person or issue. I want to keep you in the dark about this issue. You don’t need to know this and I have the power to keep you ignorant. The flip side of those desires is that I want to stop you from enlightening people, or telling them what you think, or writing or producing biased evaluations of persons and events and issues and broadcasting it on the Internet unless it’s by the leave of this Commission. You see, I’m not as creative as you and I have nothing to boast of in the way of actually creating or producing anything, I’m just a career government wonk.

Also I’m an ambitious censor. I don’t mind being called a censor. Words and pictures can hurt people, or causes. But that label doesn’t frighten me or cause me to shrink in shame. In that capacity I’m a protector of the “public good,” or the “public interest,” at least, as my party defines them.  I’m totally copasetic with the name “censor.”

Don’t think I wouldn’t hesitate to take drastic action should you not comply with all FEC rules and regulations. My colleagues on the commission don’t call me “Nurse Ratched” for nothing! You’ve got to learn the ropes of responsible political speech, and that lesson not only applies to mere printed words on a blog site, but to YouTube videos and lectures, as well. Then there’s that nasty Drudge Report site, so rich in misinformation and lies and libels.  You and Drudge and all your compadres in the “free speech” tent must take your medicine, voluntarily, or “some other way.”

You see, I can delegate the task of washing your mouth out with soap or cuffing you for a frog-march to jail, just as my pals Barack and Hillary had done to that Copt creature who made that reckless and irresponsible “The Innocence of Mohammad” video. I don’t have to do it myself.

That geriatric dinosaur Republican Lee Goodman actually “ratted” on me to the newspapers and blog sites about my wanting to slap cuffs and gags on you and your First Amendment chums. He’s the Chair of the FEC and will retire from it in December. A wonderful Christmas present!. I’m the Vice Chair, and I hope “Open Borders/Ebola Obama” nominates me as his successor or just lets me sidle into his place at the table without any fuss and bother with Congress and the Senate.

Actually, I would like to be appointed to a Cabinet post in this or the next administration. Then I could wield more power as a “czarina.” Excuse my drooling!

I understand you’ve written a number of books, fiction and nonfiction, in addition to your scurrilous and badly written column. And in many of them you depict government and public service and the like in a very negative light. That has got to stop. And in three of your nonfiction books, you practically libel retired Justice Stevens and in another portray my friend Hillary as Lady Macbeth! Not very funny! We are not amused. Wait until she’s President. She’s going to have you for dinner and feed the scraps to Huma Abedin and her other pigeons and lackeys. I'll have a hand in that, count on it. And wait until we get Congress to amend the Campaign Finance Law and gives the FEC wider powers of enforcement! I hope we’ll get our own SWAT team!

But maybe we won’t need those extra powers and an army of body-armored bodkins . I’m sure the NSA has had you red-flagged for a long time and is only waiting for the opportunity to swoop down on you and sweep you off the Internet. Let’s see how long you last under a few sessions of electrical water-boarding!

Your nemesis and eternal enemy, Nurse Mildred Ratched. Oh, excuse me! Ha, ha! Wrong name! Ann M. Ravel, FEC Vice Chair.

And that was the end of the memo. Quite a confession. Of course, if one proposed that the Campaign Finance Law be abolished by repeal as being in violation of the First Amendment, and all its attendant commissions and bureaucracies be disbanded and its personnel put out to pasture to fend for themselves in the real world, that proposal would be laughed right out the door, and possibly be frowned upon a politically incorrect speech.

And that would suit Wretched Mildew a.k.a. Ann Ravel just fine.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Majesty vs. Myopia

I begin this column by offering a measure of what I choose to uphold what ought to be a standard of esthetics, at least in portraiture. It is by no means my only measure, but it does reflect a person I once knew, and who is still close to my conception of a romantic ideal. If she is reading this, she will recognize herself.

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw
is a luxuriant representation of the kind of woman a man ought to want: In the frank, steadfast glance at her auditor is the knowledge of how she is being regarded, that knowledge shamelessly obvious in the set of her eyes and face, in the quiet confidence of her bearing, in her total expression. It is, from my own perspective, at least, a seductive, come-hither look. The hues of her satin gown, the purple sash, and the relaxed set of her arms, the surrounding colors of the armchair, the neutral background, in terms of composition, together all highlight and are all calculated to guide one’s glance to the focal point, that unforgettable, alluring face….

I have other such conceptions. Some are photographic, others cinematic. But Lady Agnew has been anchored in my gallery most of my adult life. A framed reproduction of it hangs on one of my walls. Two of my fictional characters are also painters and portraitists, literary versions of my projection of a romantic ideal: Stella Dawn in Run From Judgment, and Dilys Jones-Skeen in the Cyrus Skeen detective novels.

Well, enough of that. My point here is that this caliber of art has virtually vanished. There are some capable, unsung artists able to produce that quality of portraiture, but they are invisible to the cultural establishment, and if recognized, then shunned, banished, and deprecated. I happen to know at least two such artists, but only one has a website.

To create Lady Agnew required an enormous context and a measure of beauty. Sargent produced other exquisite paintings, some of which I like, others I do not. But, regardless of the quality of his work, it demanded a nominally rational epistemology and metaphysics. Otherwise, his paintings would be incomprehensible as selective recreations of reality, just as contemporary art is largely incomprehensible and incommunicable in meaning.

A canvas of dots and slashes is just a canvas of dots and slashes, regardless of the artist says it is. A pile of I-beams welded to hubcaps and fenders is just a collection of junk, regardless of what the “sculptor” says it is. He could give it some metaphorical name that may mean something to him, but that is just an arbitrary label.

Lady Agnew needn’t even have a name. One knows what she is. She has an identity apart from Sargent’s title. She is an abstraction reduced to a concrete.

Novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand offered a philosophy of art that could’ve been understood by Sargent, had he been able to read it, but is basically hieroglyphics to modern artists. In her essay, “Art and Cognition” in The Romantic Manifesto, she wrote:

Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments. Man’s profound need of art lies in the fact that his cognitive faculty is conceptual, i.e., that he acquires knowledge by means of abstractions, and needs the power to bring his widest metaphysical abstractions into his immediate, perceptual awareness. Art fulfills this need: by means of a selective re-creation, it concretizes man’s fundamental view of himself and of existence. It tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important. In this sense, art teaches man how to use his consciousness. It conditions or stylizes man’s consciousness by conveying to him a certain way of looking at existence.

In her companion essay in the same volume, “The Psycho-Epistemology of Art,” she noted:

By a selective re-creation, art isolates and integrates those aspects of reality which represent man’s fundamental view of himself and of existence. Out of the countless number of concretes—of single, disorganized and (seemingly) contradictory attributes, actions and entities—an artist isolates the things which he regards as metaphysically essential and integrates them into a single new concrete that represents an embodied abstraction.

For instance, consider two statues of man: one as a Greek god, the other as a deformed medieval monstrosity. Both are metaphysical estimates of man; both are projections of the artist’s view of man’s nature; both are concretized representations of the philosophy of their respective cultures.

Art is a concretization of metaphysics. Art brings man’s concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness and allows him to grasp them directly, as if they were percepts.
This is the psycho-epistemological function of art and the reason of its importance in man’s life….

Every color, hue, and line in Lady Agnew constitutes a concrete integrated with countless other concretes to recreate an identifiable entity which has been reduced to a single, concretized entity.  Those colors, hues, and lines were determined by Sargent to be essential to the image. They reflect his epistemology and metaphysics in his sense of life and in an estimate of himself.

But, what makes modern artists tick? Why do they continue to present artworks that seem to confess a madness or insanity that is in violent conflict with the norm of “common sense” or which clashes with everyone else’s sensory experience?

Briefly, their epistemologies and metaphysics are arrested at the concrete level. Whether that is a matter of choice or is self-induced or is congenital, is irrelevant. To them, reality is a chaos and no sense can be made of it. Themes are impossible and comprehension of anything is subjective.

Modern art is a child of Immanuel Kant, the 18th century Prussian philosopher who never ventured from his hometown of K√∂nigsberg. His philosophy was that “true” reality was unknowable to man, that the contents of his mind are subjective according to layers of filters that sift thru sensory data and produce a false knowledge of existence. Existence was dichotomized into the noumenal world, which man could never know “directly,” and the phenomenal world as conveyed by our senses, which distort or mistranslate the noumenal.

Which, in turn, presents to modern artists a maelstrom of disconnected concretes, an unintelligible universe, with no unifying law or system, in which identities or labels are arbitrary and subjective.

In most cases it is very unlikely modern artists have ever even heard of Kant (or of any of his reality-contesting successors of the 19th century). But by either conscious, calculated inclination to put over a fraud (as Picasso did), or because an artist is an obsessive schizophrenic, chronically nauseous, and who is burdened with a mental cyclic vomiting syndrome and can only “express” himself in episodes of expectoration .

For example, Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” is not how anyone will see a nude woman descending a staircase, not even Duchamp. Remove one of the elements in the image, and it wouldn’t make a difference. Add one or more, and it wouldn’t make a difference. It could have the same title or any other title, such as a “Rasher of Bacon” or “Portrait of My Garbage Man.”

Subtracting or adding a drop of paint or slash of color to or from one of Jackson Pollack’s canvases would not make a difference to the overall, alleged “composition,” regardless of the name given it by Pollack. It could be “Splashes No. 46,” Or “I was drunk as a laird, No. 2,” or have no name.

The focus of modern artists is not on universal themes – which require some level of abstraction – but mere concretes. It is some species of mental myopia that would limit an alleged artist to pick some concretes that attracts him in the swirling dust devil of existence that comprises such a person’s metaphysics.

In your mind’s eye picture a modern artist frantically in search of some one entity his myopia can focus on and recreate (or not) to the exclusion of context. Ah, there’s Andy Warhol’s eight hour “movie” of the Empire State Building. Who can forget his Campbell Soup Cans? And then there’s another fellow who photographs a collection of light bulbs. An American creates a sort-of blowup Christmas tree, but it actually looks like a sex toy. It sits in the Place Vendome, Paris.  Then there’s a very-well done, “realistic” sculpture of copulating crickets, with commendable attention paid to anatomical detail. The art that sits inside this Silicon Valley exhibit hall is on a par with the “erotic” insects. “Composer” John Cage focused on sounds without melody or a shred of continuity.  Or no sounds at all. (He studied under Arnold Schonberg, so what else could you expect but noise?)

Want to distort the human face (“…a boot planted on the human face forever….” Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four), then try and compete with Chuck Close’s gallery of horrible, Halloween-caliber faces. except they aren’t for Halloween, they’re “high art.” Collectors pay fortunes for these…”portraits.” After all, ugly or nondescript visages are concretes, too.

See also my column on government-subsidized art, “The CIA: Funder of Trash and Terrorists.”

I could go on indefinitely about the number of utilitarian objects that have been the subjects of modern artists. It was not my intention to subject the reader to a menu of modern art, but I couldn’t think of a better way to dramatize the difference between the minds that could produce Lady Agnew and the myopic, very disturbed minds that could produce rubbish.

Please see a gallery of Sargent’s works as an antidote.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Metropolitan Opera Joins the Jihadists

It’s a sign of how far America has been corrupted by political correctness, subjectivism in ethics, and relativism in the arts that a shoddy opera that romanticizes murdering terrorists can be put on by a major cultural institution, the Metropolitan Opera of New York City.

I am not an aficionado of heavy weight opera. I won't go into my esthetic tastes here, because those are irrelevant. What is relevant is the obscenity of John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, which debuted at the Metropolitan Opera last night (October 20th), whose libretto is a long-winded, atonal propaganda piece for the Islamic jihadists who hijacked a cruise ship and murdered Leon Klinghoffer, a passenger because he was a Jew. Listen to the sing-song screeching here and also a trailer.

But even the discordant singing and jumbled orchestral score are irrelevant. Even had Adams’s opus been written in the disciplined and original style of Georges Bizet or Giacomo Puccini or Giuseppe Verdi, Klinghoffer remains a sucker punch to all standards of moral decency and civilized taste.

More importantly, staging The Death of Klinghoffer is in conformance to the prescriptive steps for “cultural jihad” promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood in its 1991 memorandum for “transforming” America from a free republic into a bastion of totalitarian Islam. The Brotherhood’s “master plan” calls for “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers…”  Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, composer John Adams, and director Tom Morris I guess don’t mind lending their hands to the PLO, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other Islamic gangs.

The Death of Klinghoffer is fundamentally a U.S. State Department and New York taxpayer-funded exercise in malodorous agitprop for anti-Semitism and Islam. John Adams and the Met may as well have staged an adaptation of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will as a musical with dialogue.  Better yet, he could have turned “Springtime for Hitler” from The Producers into a serious, Wagnerian style opera, with no dancing and no plumbing for laughs. Why not?

If you’re going to shill for Islam and its core Jew-hatred and its unapologetic ugliness, why not go whole hog? I’m sure the cost of producing a musical Triumph of the Will can be recouped in the usual ticket prices, which for Klinghoffer are going from $35 to $145 a seat. I’m sure the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, could offer special discounted prices to Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, and to the whole staff of the Council on American-Islam Relations. Perhaps even offer private showings for the staffs of every Islamic front group in the country. Full houses guaranteed.

The Death of Klinghoffer is being vigorously protested, and the Met’s Peter Gelb has been hard-pressed to cancel its debut and subsequent showings.

Yet, the opera has its defenders. New York’s Communist mayor, Bill de Blasio, for example, according to a New York Daily News article of October 20th, said:

Mayor de Blasio defended the Metropolitan Opera's right to show "The Death of Klinghoffer," and criticized predecessor Rudy Giuliani's protest against the controversial work.

"I really think we have to be very careful in a free society to respect that cultural institutions will portray works of art, put on operas, plays, that there will be art exhibits in museum," de Blasio said Monday at an unrelated press conference.

"And in a free society we respect that. We don't have to agree with what's in the exhibit but we agree with the right of the artist and the cultural institution to put that forward to the public."…

"I think there is a serious problem today in the world that has nothing to do with this opera," the mayor said.

"There's an anti-Semitism problem in this world today, particularly in Western Europe, that worries me greatly. That's where my focus is. I don't think an opera is what the focal point should be right now."

"The only thing I know about the opera is that the Metropolitan Opera has a right to show it," he said.

That’s rich, coming from a politician who hankers after the power to squelch freedom of speech, and who really isn’t for a “free society” at all. And it’s evidence of his cluelessness, one shared with countless others about government-subsidized “art,” that he can claim that the Met has a “right” to force taxpayers to fund any kind of propaganda, which is what Klinghoffer is.  

Excuse me, Bill, but the Met would have a “right” to show Klinghoffer if it were completely privately funded, and even then it would raise issues. But it isn’t completely privately funded by donors; it’s funded in large part by government money, that is, taxpayer money. Institutions that receive a single cent from the government to push rubbish like Klinghoffer to the forefront of “culture” do not have “freedom of speech” rights. Taxpayers, who had no choice in the matter, however, do have a right to protest such “art” and to gag its shills and promoters.

Further, Klinghoffer is implicitly about Islam. The terrorist protagonists are Muslims.  Islam also believes in “freedom of speech,” that is, the freedom to censor any critics of Islam – or behead them, shoot them, hang them, rape them, stone them to death. Islam believes in free speech, and will tolerate you as long as you don’t talk back.

Daniel Greenfield, in his FrontPage article of June 3rd, “Should New York Taxpayers Fund Pro-Terrorism and Anti-Semitism at the The Metropolitan Opera?”, revealed some interesting facts about the Met:

The Metropolitan Opera has been having serious financial problems. Its programs regularly mention support from public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts. Its 2012 report mentions $500,000 in support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. The year before that it was $100.000.

The Arts website shows six figure funding going to the Metropolitan Opera every year under General Opera Support. There are also other grants. That means that when a terrorist screams about the Jews on stage, he’ll be doing it with funding from New York taxpayers.

Maybe it’s time to put a stop to that.

If the Met wants to promote the murder of 9 percent of the population of New York City, New Yorkers shouldn’t have to pay for it.

That means eliminating all city and state funding for the Metropolitan Opera. The most obvious place to start is by killing the annual six-figure New York State Council on the Arts giveaway.

It’s something that a New York State Senator or Assemblyman can do.

At the Federal level, the Met receives funding from a variety of agencies, including $1 million from the State Department and from the usual suspects such as the Department of Education.

Need I say more?

Staging the anti-Semitic The Death of Klinghoffer in the face rising anti-Semitism around the world is not about “freedom of speech.” It is about the power to defy all standards of rationality and morality because of political correctness and an amoral indifference in the ugly, sorry souls of Peter Gelb, the director, and the whole cast.

It isn’t only Leon Klinghoffer who has been shot in the head and tossed overboard. It is the American public and in particular, New Yorkers.