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Book inscription by Che Guevara

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From the New York Times obituary of Alberto Granado, who accompanied Che Guevara on his motorcycle journey around South America.

Before Che left Cuba in 1965 to pursue revolutions abroad, he left several books with inscriptions for close friends. They included one about the sugar industry for Mr. Granado.

The inscription was prescient.

"My dreams shall know no bounds, at least until bullets decide otherwise," wrote Che, who was captured and killed in Bolivia in 1967. "I'll be expecting you, sedentary gypsy, when the smell of gunpowder subsides. A hug for all of you. Che."


James has the full details on his blog, but I wanted to make sure my readers knew about this too. We'll be there on Sunday.


Sunday December 19, 2010, 1:00 PM

GATHER on the Metropolitan Museum steps Fifth Ave. & 82nd Street

Then MARCH to the Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian FIFTH Ave. & 91st Street

Wear your free expression best and be part of the message.

Art+ is a New York City-based art action group - fighting censorship and homophobia


Pablo Picasso, The Charnel House, Paris, 1944-45. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 6' 6 5/8" × 8' 2 1/2" (199.8 × 250.1 cm). Mrs. Sam A. Lewisohn Bequest (by exchange), and Mrs. Marya Bernard Fund in memory of her husband Dr. Bernard Bernard, and anonymous funds. � 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, via MoMA website

On Monday, James and I participated in a guerilla "Communist Tour" of the Museum of Modern Art led by artist Yevgeniy Fiks. The first paragraph of his project statement says:

For the past fifty years, the Museum of Modern Art has been separating artists from their politics and in so doing sanitizing the history of Modern Art. �Communist Tour of MoMA� connects the history of Modern Art to history of the 20th century Communist movement. The project is based on research conducted at the Museum of Modern Art archives in New York, focusing on Modern artists from the MoMA collection whose careers overlapped with the trajectory of the Communist Party.

Below are some highlights from the notes I took during his whirlwind talk in the permanent collection floors of the museum. C-Monster was also tweeting during the tour using the hashtag #commietour.

We began with Picasso, in front of the painting above. Picasso joined the French Communist Party in 1944. He thought of Charnel House as a political/war painting in the tradition of Goya. Over his lifetime he donated millions of francs to the party and participated actively through peace conferences as well as publications and petitions. He was refused a visa to visit the the United States in 1950 due to his communism. Picasso and Leger contributed drawings to a French brochure honoring the Rosenbergs after their execution.

Mark Rothko was a member of several communist-backed organizations, including the American League Against War and Fascism and the American Artists� Congress. Like many others, he left the Congress, after the Molotov�Ribbentrop Pact of 1939.

Ad Reinhhardt contributed cartoons to communist publications such as "The New Masses" and "Soviet Russia Today" in the 1930s and 1940s. Some were published with his real name, some with a pseudonym, and some anonymously.

David Smith was a member of the party from the late 1930s until the end of World War II, and joined at a time when one had to belong to a study group to learn about Marxism before being admitted.

Jacob Lawrence taught at Camp Wo-Chi-Ca, was a cartoonist for "The New Masses," and signed a 1937 letter protesting against the potential banning of the Communist Party of the USA. While we were learning this, and standing near Lawrence's Migration Series (jointly owned by the Phillips Collection and MoMA), Yevgeniy was shocked to have a tourist come up and ask, "Are these primitives?"

Of course we all know about Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's communism. The most interesting facts for them were: Rivera getting expelled from the Soviet Union during a 1927 visit for "anti-Soviet" politics, and Kahlo's remark that she was a better communist than Rivera was or ever would be. After her death, Kahlo's body lay in state at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City covered with a red flag bearing the hammer and sickle.

Stuart Davis is considered by historians to be the most serious Marxist in the history of the American cultural left. He led both the American Artists Union and the American Artists Congress at different times in the 1930s. The latter held the meeting announcing its formation at the Museum of Modern Art itself! He left the party in the late 30s after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. [Note: see comment below from Davis's son.]

That seems like plenty for now even though there were many more, so I recommend talking to Yevgeniy at his #class presentation on March 12. Ask him about Matisse!

Update: James now has a post with some photos of the tour.


I'm glad the World Series is over so I can stop hearing about it. Here are some data points:

  • Estimated total cost of public subsidies to the Yankees for the new stadium: $1.8 billion.
  • The city turned over a Bronx park to the Yankees to build their new stadium in 2006, kicking out the kids who played there. They're now expecting it to be replaced in 2011. The high school that lost its playing field has been offered $37,500 by the Yankees to buy a bus so they can play their games in convenient locales such as Staten Island.
  • In May, New York City's Education Department announced a $405 million cut, an average of 4.9% per school.
  • School budget cuts are wiping out entire departments, with art classes and programs for at-risk students disappearing fastest, according to the Daily News.

[image via University of Nebraska Press]

I don't have a link for this yet, but I was watching CNN at the gym just now, and saw Arlen Specter say that we can't prosecute people in the previous administration for committing torture or war crimes, because "that's what banana republics do."

Meanwhile, after hearing that we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times, we learn that administration officials and members of Congress discussed torture but didn't know anything about the history or efficacy of the techniques. I had certainly heard of waterboarding before 9/11, thanks to reading about the Spanish Inquisition.

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved � not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees � investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.

The process was �a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,� a former C.I.A. official said.

The graphic accompanying the New York Times article (click to see it larger) would make a great list of people to prosecute if we could have our own Nuremberg trials. That list includes Nancy Pelosi.


Banana republics are the kind of states that torture people, and many democracies in Latin America are now prosecuting former officials for their crimes while in office, such as Peru's conviction of Fujimori.

We are the banana republic in this case.


Lately I've seen a few gallery opening announcements where the beverage sponsor was Jamaican beer Red Stripe. This makes a good "teaching moment." Jamaica is the most dangerous place in the Caribbean for queer people, with a government that regularly issues anti-LBGT statements, and a dance hall culture whose musicians regularly call for violence against queer people in their lyrics. Much of Jamaica's income comes from investment, trade, and tourism from the United States. This is no time to do business with Red Stripe or for that matter Myers Rum. Visit Pam's House Blend and Boycott Jamaica for more information.


The right-wing U.S. News and World Report graces us with a quiz:

If you had a choice of four daycare centers run separately by Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi, which would you choose for your kids?

via Media Matters


Large poster of Hindenburg during the first ballot of the Reich presidential election, March 13, 1932

I am really enjoying looking through the images provided by the German Federal Archives to Wikimedia Commons. Look at that building! We can barely get anything that modern in New York in 2009!

How this happened

This post at Daily Kos is the best summary I've read about how we reached this point of near collapse of our financial systems. Spoiler alert: former Senator Gramm (McCain's chief economic adviser) and formed Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan are bad buys. Here are some interesting statistics, which come from a conversation between business correspondent Bob Moon and host Kai Ryssdal on American Public Media's "Marketplace" in the spring.

BOB MOON: OK, I'm about to unload some numbers on you here, so I'll speak slowly so you can follow this.

The value of the entire U.S. Treasuries market: $4.5 trillion.

The value of the entire mortgage market: $7 trillion.

The size of the U.S. stock market: $22 trillion.

OK, you ready?

The size of the credit default swap market last year: $45 trillion.

KAI RYSSDAL: That's a lot of money, Bob.

Anglo-American capitalism strikes again

Remember, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is head of the conservative Christian Democratic Party in Germany, not the Greens. Via Deutche Welle:

Speaking in Austria on Saturday, Sept 20, Merkel said her government had tried in vain to win G8 support last year for tighter regulation of hedge funds and financial oversight of capital markets, hinting that she felt vindicated in her stance as a financial disaster unfolded on Wall Street in recent days.

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