Got very depressed listening to Mr. Bush's State of the Union Address tonight.
On the other hand I got a lot of work done in the studio today. All in all feeling pretty good. Anyhow, at least we only have to endure three more State of the Union's from this idiot. Hope there's a union left by then.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Today seemed like a long day. Robin came home from work early because a truck w/radioactive material exploded near her office. After lunch she spent the day glowing softly and working at home while I sanded more panels and put furniture together. Later we took a walk on the beach and sat a while and watched the surfers. On the way home @ dusk we walked to a bar at the end of our street and had dinner but mostly drinks. I've never drunk so much in my life as I have since moving here. I still like the sissy drinks though-rum runners, amaretto sours- while Robin drinks whiskey straight or gin martinis! I need to find my flask.
Posted by Paul Behnke at 10:10 PM
Saturday, January 28, 2006
January 29, 2006
Spies, Lies and Wiretaps
A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.
The first was that the domestic spying program is carefully aimed only at people who are actively working with Al Qaeda, when actually it has violated the rights of countless innocent Americans. And the second was that the Bush team could have prevented the 9/11 attacks if only they had thought of eavesdropping without a warrant.•
Sept. 11 could have been prevented. This is breathtakingly cynical. The nation's guardians did not miss the 9/11 plot because it takes a few hours to get a warrant to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mail messages. They missed the plot because they were not looking. The same officials who now say 9/11 could have been prevented said at the time that no one could possibly have foreseen the attacks. We keep hoping that Mr. Bush will finally lay down the bloody banner of 9/11, but Karl Rove, who emerged from hiding recently to talk about domestic spying, made it clear that will not happen — because the White House thinks it can make Democrats look as though they do not want to defend America. "President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," he told Republican officials. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."
Mr. Rove knows perfectly well that no Democrat has ever said any such thing — and that nothing prevented American intelligence from listening to a call from Al Qaeda to the United States, or a call from the United States to Al Qaeda, before Sept. 11, 2001, or since. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act simply required the government to obey the Constitution in doing so. And FISA was amended after 9/11 to make the job much easier.
Only bad guys are spied on. Bush officials have said the surveillance is tightly focused only on contacts between people in this country and Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Vice President Dick Cheney claimed it saved thousands of lives by preventing attacks. But reporting in this paper has shown that the National Security Agency swept up vast quantities of e-mail messages and telephone calls and used computer searches to generate thousands of leads. F.B.I. officials said virtually all of these led to dead ends or to innocent Americans. The biggest fish the administration has claimed so far has been a crackpot who wanted to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch — a case that F.B.I. officials said was not connected to the spying operation anyway.
The spying is legal. The secret program violates the law as currently written. It's that simple. In fact, FISA was enacted in 1978 to avoid just this sort of abuse. It said that the government could not spy on Americans by reading their mail (or now their e-mail) or listening to their telephone conversations without obtaining a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The court has approved tens of thousands of warrants over the years and rejected a handful.
As amended after 9/11, the law says the government needs probable cause, the constitutional gold standard, to believe the subject of the surveillance works for a foreign power or a terrorist group, or is a lone-wolf terrorist. The attorney general can authorize electronic snooping on his own for 72 hours and seek a warrant later. But that was not good enough for Mr. Bush, who lowered the standard for spying on Americans from "probable cause" to "reasonable belief" and then cast aside the bedrock democratic principle of judicial review.
Just trust us. Mr. Bush made himself the judge of the proper balance between national security and Americans' rights, between the law and presidential power. He wants Americans to accept, on faith, that he is doing it right. But even if the United States had a government based on the good character of elected officials rather than law, Mr. Bush would not have earned that kind of trust. The domestic spying program is part of a well-established pattern: when Mr. Bush doesn't like the rules, he just changes them, as he has done for the detention and treatment of prisoners and has threatened to do in other areas, like the confirmation of his judicial nominees. He has consistently shown a lack of regard for privacy, civil liberties and judicial due process in claiming his sweeping powers. The founders of our country created the system of checks and balances to avert just this sort of imperial arrogance.
The rules needed to be changed. In 2002, a Republican senator — Mike DeWine of Ohio — introduced a bill that would have done just that, by lowering the standard for issuing a warrant from probable cause to "reasonable suspicion" for a "non-United States person." But the Justice Department opposed it, saying the change raised "both significant legal and practical issues" and may have been unconstitutional. Now, the president and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales are telling Americans that reasonable suspicion is a perfectly fine standard for spying on Americans as well as non-Americans — and they are the sole judges of what is reasonable.
So why oppose the DeWine bill? Perhaps because Mr. Bush had already secretly lowered the standard of proof — and dispensed with judges and warrants — for Americans and non-Americans alike, and did not want anyone to know.
War changes everything. Mr. Bush says Congress gave him the authority to do anything he wanted when it authorized the invasion of Afghanistan. There is simply nothing in the record to support this ridiculous argument.
The administration also says that the vote was the start of a war against terrorism and that the spying operation is what Mr. Cheney calls a "wartime measure." That just doesn't hold up. The Constitution does suggest expanded presidential powers in a time of war. But the men who wrote it had in mind wars with a beginning and an end. The war Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney keep trying to sell to Americans goes on forever and excuses everything.
Other presidents did it. Mr. Gonzales, who had the incredible bad taste to begin his defense of the spying operation by talking of those who plunged to their deaths from the flaming twin towers, claimed historic precedent for a president to authorize warrantless surveillance. He mentioned George Washington, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These precedents have no bearing on the current situation, and Mr. Gonzales's timeline conveniently ended with F.D.R., rather than including Richard Nixon, whose surveillance of antiwar groups and other political opponents inspired FISA in the first place. Like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Bush is waging an unpopular war, and his administration has abused its powers against antiwar groups and even those that are just anti-Republican.•
The Senate Judiciary Committee is about to start hearings on the domestic spying. Congress has failed, tragically, on several occasions in the last five years to rein in Mr. Bush and restore the checks and balances that are the genius of American constitutional democracy. It is critical that it not betray the public once again on this score.
Copyright 2006The New York Times Company
Posted by Paul Behnke at 10:46 PM
This morning I met a reporter, named Jacqueline Beam, @ my studio for an interview. She writes the ART SCENE collumn for fiiday's St. Augustine Record. The whole thing went really well. I have no trouble talking about art especially when it's my own! Most of the conversation focused on the work itself with an emphasis on the drawings I will have in the show that opens next week. Jacqueline seemed very cosmopolitan (she's lived all over the world) and has been exposed to a lot of different art so she was sympathetic with my view of the scene here. But, if I meet many more people like her and Jennifer I may have to stop being so judgemental and view the art public down here differently. There are a lot of transplants here who've brought wider views about what art can be with them.
Posted by Paul Behnke at 5:56 PM
Friday, January 27, 2006
Yesterday I did almost nothing...a day of my life wasted. One of many. I woke up early to make Robin's lunch and coffee but went right back to bed when she left and slept until four p.m.! This after a good seven hours the night before! Anyway I got up, had something to eat, then called my state Senators to urge them to filibuster the Alito nomination. While there's even a glimmer of life there's hope. Right?
Next I sanded down three large panels---gesso and paint to come.
Robin got home around midnight. Her boss took the training class she's been teaching out to dinner then they all went to a crappy "Blues" club with a crappy, bald, white guy doing Stevie Ray Vaughn covers --- wearing a B.B. King t-shirt! So I'm told.
What a day...
Call your senators! and remember the words of Lawrence Durrell..."we are all dying without having properly lived."
Exhibit A? Right here.
Posted by Paul Behnke at 8:42 AM
On January sixth I had an exhibition of new paintings at Hamlett Dobbins' space, Material in Memphis. I had scheduled this before I found my space as a sort of deadline---to have something to work towards to force myself to be proactive about finding a studio and getting to work. It worked. With the deadline looming I was able to complete eight paintings for the show in three months (only ended up with room for six).
I am very happy with the new work as a whole. These represent my first successful experiments with color in the last seven years! The new work incorporates more graphic elements but retains areas of a more "expressive" paint handling that was a primary feature of most of my black and white work. I think these elements combine to create work with a more contemporary, personal feel. I had begun several smaller color pieces in Memphis before the move but nothing seemed to click before I got to St. Augustine.
Anyway, the show went well. My only regret was that Robin couldn't get away from work to attend it with me. A lot of people attended though (mostly thanks to Emily putting the word out) and I did get a fair share of publicity in the Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Flyer. I was very glad that Frederic Koeppel wrote a review of the show... http://www.commercialappeal.com/mca/exhibitions/article/0,1426,MCA_570_4399874,00.html
After the show...dinner w/Dale and Kristen @ Memphis Pizza Cafe then met Emily at the P&H for Mel Spillman's birthday party complete with a fantastic cake made by Bobby!
While sitting at the P&H I started to get really homesick for Memphis. I realized as I looked around that most of the bar was filled with artists and I knew nearly all of them. It's no secret that I've missed my closest friends alot since moving but I realized how terribly I took Memphis' close knit, and largely very supportive art scene, for granted. You don't know what you got till it's gone.
Posted by Paul Behnke at 12:58 AM
Thursday, January 26, 2006
This year has been very busy so far. In August Robin and I made the move from Memphis to Jacksonville, FL because Robin got a great job offer down here. We stayed in corporate housing for a month before Robin made a friend at work who happened to have a house for rent in St. Augustine, FL. We loved it on sight. It has a great backyard for Joe and is only two blocks from the beach! We really lucked out with our landlords who have become great friends too.
The next order of business was to find studio space for me and it didn't look easy. St. Augustine, and even Jacksonville, doesn't have the best art scene in the world. Most of the "galleries" are really only showrooms that hang purses and jewelry next to paintings next to pottery etc...No traditional galleries with an underlying vision that represent a group of artists with various one-person/group shows a year. Only tourist art! Lots and lots of brightly colored palm trees! I think the main problem with the scene here is that there are no grad programs in the visual arts at any of the local colleges. Communities depend on these to provide professors and students who will take it upon themselves to start co-op and underground galleries that feature more contemporary, fresher and thought provoking work.
But it turns out I was as lucky in finding a place to work as we were in finding a house. On my third cold call I reached Jennifer Dornaux who owns and runs The Studio: art and movement. Jennifer attended the Art Institute of Chicago and is well versed in contemporary art and so she has become my first and (so far) only art pal here. Jennifer's main business is a dance/Pillates studio. But in the front she has a gallery space and tries to promote contemporary work. In the back she rents out individual spaces to eight artists. It's always hard for me to get used to a new working space but after about a week of just sitting and staring at a blank surface I started to feel at ease and began to paint. The studio has the right level of activity for me---other artists coming and going, stopping in to talk etc. and there are figure drawing classes on two sundays a month.
Art scene or not, St. Augustine is beautiful but I miss winter.
Posted by Paul Behnke at 9:16 AM
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
"...of course to think such things, I have to admit- it isn't very grown-up.
I can't help it. I stayed in this world of childish wonder. I think a lot of
creative people never grow up. I am certain that a real man wouldn't
paint any pictures!...or wonder about the universe...or believe in dreams
...or think that trees sometimes look at him."
Posted by Paul Behnke at 9:24 PM