I discovered it to be a collar of iron, padlocked at the side

Connoisseur of the ordinary This year marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of Rembrandt.

….there are artists whose work is not like this. They are the ones who acknowledge human imperfection and mortality. And not only acknowledge it, but in some sense glory in it, making it the prime subject of their art. For if men and women were perfect, mentally, physically, morally, spiritually, why would they need art at all?

Certainly Rembrandt van Rijn did not feel an obligation to make his human subjects noble, let alone perfect. That is why, though not always a realist, he is the first god of realism after Caravaggio. And why so many people love him, since he was so seldom rivalled as a topographer of the human clay. Yet for all that has been written about Rembrandt, we have remarkably little certainty as to what he thought about the domain of his genius, the art of painting. He did not theorise. Or if he did, his ideas about art itself have been lost – except for six words, whose meaning is still disputed by art historians. He aimed in his work, he wrote to one of his patrons, the Stadtholder, who employed his friend Constantijn Huygens, to produce die meeste ende die natureelste beweechlickheyt – the greatest and most natural movement.

Rembrandt: before 1639, click on the thumbnails for larger images. The Blinding of Samson, 1636 is almost as graphic and disturbing as anything you’ll see in a modern slasher movie.

Intelligence, Policy,and the War in Iraq

Before the war, on its own initiative, the intelligence community considered the principal challenges that any postinvasion authority in Iraq would be likely to face. It presented a picture of a political culture that would not provide fertile ground for democracy and foretold a long, difficult, and turbulent transition. It projected that a Marshall Plan-type effort would be required to restore the Iraqi economy, despite Iraq’s abundant oil resources. It forecast that in a deeply divided Iraqi society, with Sunnis resentful over the loss of their dominant position and Shiites seeking power commensurate with their majority status, there was a significant chance that the groups would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power prevented it. And it anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks — including by guerrilla warfare — unless it established security and put Iraq on the road to prosperity in the first few weeks or months after the fall of Saddam.

In addition, the intelligence community offered its assessment of the likely regional repercussions of ousting Saddam. It argued that any value Iraq might have as a democratic exemplar would be minimal and would depend on the stability of a new Iraqi government and the extent to which democracy in Iraq was seen as developing from within rather than being imposed by an outside power. More likely, war and occupation would boost political Islam and increase sympathy for terrorists’ objectives — and Iraq would become a magnet for extremists from elsewhere in the Middle East.

Where in Senator Roberts takes a wishy washy stand for kinda supporting the idea that Bush’s domestic spying program may need some Senate oversight, but not really. Senator explains his stance on wiretaps

A day after Sen. Pat Roberts said he wanted a special court to oversee the warrantless wiretapping program, a top aide sought to clarify his position.

Roberts, a Kansas Republican, heads the Senate Intelligence Committee. He told The New York Times he is concerned that the secret court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act could not issue warrants as quickly as the monitoring program requires. But he said he was optimistic that the problem could be worked out.

Roberts also said the much discussed National Security Agency program “should come before the FISA court.”

Roberts was not available Saturday, but the Senate Intelligence Committee’s majority staff director, Bill Duhnke, said the Times story did not reflect “the tenor and status” of the negotiations between Congress and the White House, as well as within Congress.

Duhnke said Roberts is looking at changes within the federal law, but not necessarily involving court approval.

“The senator remains open to a number of legislative and oversight options,” Duhnke said Saturday. “His preference is always that the entire (intelligence) committee be briefed and involved in oversight issues. He also realizes that, as you negotiate between the branches, that isn’t always possible.”

Roberts told The Times he doesn’t think there is much support among lawmakers for exempting the program from FISA control. That is Bush’s favored approach, and one that would be established under a bill proposed by Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican.

This is why people laugh at political jokes regardless of the party of the politician, “should come before the FISA court.” versus, “but not necessarily involving court approval”. So Robert’s plan is that some legal cronies from the administrtion staff drop by the FISA court, wave some papers, have coffee, make some lame golf jokes, then leave. This new level of unaccountable accountability is refreshing. Senator Roberts represents the same people that keep repeating over and over again, in the hopes that repetition will make it so, that Democrats haven’t got a clear message. The Anonymous Liberal has more Butchering Legal Facts

How far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without?- President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Law Organization Objects To Spy Strategy

The American Bar Association objects to President Bush’s domestic spying program. The lawyers’ group accuses the White House of exceeding his power, and is calling for special court warrants for similar spying in the future.

The Bush Administration says warrant-less eavesdropping is legal under the President’s constitutional powers as commander-in-chief and congressional authorization for the use of military force adopted days after the September 11 attacks. The program bypassed secret courts created under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (or FISA) that grant warrants.

The ABA’s resolution calls on Mr. Bush “to abide by the limitations which the Constitution imposes on a President” to make sure national security is protected in a way that is consistent with constitutional guarantees. It opposes “any future electronic surveillance inside the United States by any U.S. government agency for foreign intelligence.”

– FOR what length of time I lay unconscious after hearing Beckenham’s cry, and feeling the cord tighten round my throat, as narrated in the preceding chapter, I have not the remotest idea; I only know that when my senses returned to me again I found myself in complete darkness. The cord was gone from my neck, it is true, but something was still encircling it in a highly unpleasant fashion. On putting my hand up to it, to my intense astonishment, I discovered it to be a collar of iron, padlocked at the side, and communicating with a wall at the back by means of a stout chain fixed in a ring, which again was attached to a swivel.

This ominous discovery set me hunting about to find out where I was, and for a clue as to what these things might mean. That I was in a room was evident from the fact that, by putting my hands behind me, I could touch two walls forming a corner. But in what part of the town such a room might be was beyond my telling. One thing was evident, however, the walls were of brick, unplastered and quite innocent of paper.

As not a ray of light relieved the darkness I put my hand into my ticket pocket, where I was accustomed to carry matches, and finding that my captors had not deprived me of them, lit one and looked about me. It was a dismal scene that little gleam illumined. The room in which I was confined was a small one, being only about ten feet long by eight wide, while, if I had been able to stand upright, I might have raised my hand to within two or three inches of the ceiling. In the furthest left-hand corner was a door, while in the wall on the right, but hopelessly beyond my reach, was a low window almost completely boarded up. I had no opportunity of seeing more, for by the time I had realised these facts the match had burnt down to my fingers. I blew it out and hastened to light another.

from DR. NIKOLA’S VENDETTA by Guy Boothby

enlightenment principles and empiricism from the reality based community

Round and round we go, who’s more hateful or cultish, the left or the right. All human beings possess the same personality traits, good and bad, the only differences are in degree and frequency in which the worst aspects of our personalities express themselves. When writing about politics and the associated personalities, unless you’re writing some 800 page annotated study, you’re writing in generalities, supported by some specific examples.
Credit where its due I think David Neiwert at Orinus beat Unclaimed Territory to the punch in identifying the cultish tendencies of the right in this five part series on ostensibly Michelle Malkin, but actually covers a cast of right-wing characters. Unhinged: Unhonest
including : The Minutemen, anti-environment extremists, anti-abortion extremists, eiminationist thugs, religious extremists, talk-radio hatemongers,Coulter, Limbaugh, neo-confederates like Trent Lott,John Carlson, racists Haley Barbour, Bob Barr, Kirk Fordice, Mike Foster(former Bush campaign chair), Michael Savage, and Bill O’Reilly among others people and organizations. If these people aren’t cultist and extreme, then what is, in referring to anyone to the left of Giovanni Gentile as excrement, treasonous, seditionist, traitors, terrorists sympathizers, the always popular – communist, and the usual smogasboard of disparaging remarks. From conservative pundits on radio, TV, newspaers, and certainly the internet we’re told that Democrats and liberals are treasonous, Democrats and liberals are military haters ( even though some of those same Democrats are decorated military heros), that anyone opposing the war in Iraq should be lynched ( forget that liberals by a large margin supported going into Afghanistan after Bin Laden), goated terrorists into attacking an American city, advocated the nuclear bombing of an indiscriminate Arab city to prove a point, the Asian tsunami – “Was it God’s hand?” and not a tragedy, public flogging of Bush critics, the benefits of “local fascism”, assassination fantasies, periphernalia depicting permits to hunt liberals. There is some of this behavior on the left, regrettably, but as David explains, we’re pikers in the world of hate mongering compared to the Right.

Ah, but the way Malkin explains things, you see, it’s the sheer volume of the left’s unhingedness that is worth examining. So her text is mostly dedicated to cataloging this ugliness — while studiously ignoring the question of whether a similar volume might exist on the right. Indeed, other than these two “minor” instances, you won’t find a single instance of Malkin describing (let alone denouncing) “unhinged” behavior on the right.

Not only are conservatives guilty of nearly identical behavior that Malkin describes as “unhinged,” but the volume of it is at least equal to, if not greater than, that from the left. Right-wing unhingedness is equally pervasive, if not more so, at nearly all levels: it can be found throughout ordinary movement conservatives; conservative media and punditry spokespeople; and among the officials and movement leaders (like Cheney) who set the tone for the rest. And it has been poisoning the public discourse for a much longer period of time.

Did the right actually think that Bush could carry out a truly bizarre agenda, riddled with incompetence, lacking self claimed compassion, undermine the Consitution, and that people of conscience would fold up like cheap chairs and by our silence permit the unraveling of American values. The Conservative faith

So, it isn’t precisely a cult of George W. Bush. It’s a cult of Republican power. We know this because when a Democratic president last sat in the oval office, there was non-stop hysteria about presidential power and overreach. Every possible tool to emasculate the executive branch was brought to bear, including the nuclear option, impeachment. Now we are told that the “Presidency” is virtually infallible. The only difference between now and then is that a Republican is the executive instead of a Democrat.

Political Religion

George W Bush has won two elections with the unquestioning support of conservatives. Yet, in his first term he made it quite obvious that he was not a conservative in any sense that I understood conservative. From out of control spending to federalizing education to nation building and messianic foreign policy, he has simply not been conservative by any common definition of the term. None of that stopped conservatives from virtually worshipping the man. It is only now that he has become unpopular and his policies are failing that his brand of conservatism is being criticized on the right.

David Brooks says that the left is Stalinist. I assume that’s what Sullivan’s title refers to as well. Communism is often considered a secular religion, although that clearly underestimates the huge power of state coercion. If the American left is Stalinist, it certainly has been extremely ineffective. After all, conservatism now dominates all three branches of government. And I can’t help but find this argument amusing considering that the primary critique of Democrats is that we have no convictions and are constantly fighting amongst ourselves. We are remarkably undisciplined totalitarians.

In one way both parties share the same religion: an all-American obsession with winning. In this I actually envy the right. When they fail, as everyone inevitably does at times, they don’t lose their faith. Indeed, failure actually reinforces it.
Liberals, on the other hand, have nothing like that. We hate ourselves for losing and hate our leaders for failing us. The conservatives just put theirs out to pasture and move on, secure in the knowledge that their greater faith will prevail. It must be very nice to live in a world in which you can never, ever be wrong.

Just One Minute writes in regards to Glenn Greenwalds original posts, Do Bush followers have a political ideology? and Follow-up to the Bush post yesterday ,”But fun’s fun. James Taranto took the trouble to follow the links and see just what evidence Mr. Greenwald offered in suppport of his thesis. What he found was not enough to get a passing grade on a seventh-grade paper, but was evidently more than enough for the Self-Invented Reality Based Community.”. Actually Glenn provided ample evidence short of a five year University study and if right-wing bloggers weren’t so lazy they would find plenty of evidence on their own, rather then relying on Glenn, David, or Digby to do their homework for them. As to the title of Reality Based Community that was bestowed on Democrats and liberals, albeit latently by a Bush administration official as reported in an article by Ron Suskind called Without a Doubt
, the official said, referring to Suskind,

The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

The “we” was the Bush administration. The folks of ” enlightenment principles and empiricism” embraced the title the Bush administration has itself bestowed upon us, ” the reality-based community’. Why shouldn’t we embrace it, as stated earlier, not all every single members of our team lives up to our ideals, but at least that’s what guides us. Not the dogma of Bush or conservative cultism.