It's been a full week since The Scrapbook inveighed against the assault on free speech, so we have a new parade of horribles to shake our head at. The precipitating event this time was the killing of two armed assailants at an event in Garland, Texas, that was displaying Muhammad cartoons. It should go without saying that free speech means supporting the right of people you don’t like to say things you don’t like. But since the event was organized by Pamela Geller, a controversial figure whose notoriety hinges on her willingness to insult Muslims, the media for the most part rushed to condemn Geller, rather than the men who tried to kill her.
There was an aggressively stupid bit of news “analysis” from McClatchy’s Lindsay Wise and Jonathan Landay headlined: “After Texas shooting: If free speech is provocative, should there be limits?” The piece proceeds to list ways in which the display of cartoons might not be protected by the First Amendment. On the substance, the article is as erroneous as you might imagine, but it does reinforce a truism useful for understanding such debates. Exceptions to the First Amendment are so narrow that the easiest way to tell someone doesn’t support the First Amendment is how quickly he rushes to talk about the exceptions.
As if to prove this point, CNN’s Chris Cuomo tweeted this nugget of legal wisdom: “Hate speech is excluded from protection. Don’t just say you love the constitution . . . read it.” The Scrapbook would very much like to see Cuomo’s copy of the Constitution; ours is missing the footnote about hate speech. Under a barrage of ridicule, Cuomo tried to backtrack, claiming he was referring to “case law,” not the Constitution, specifically the “fighting words” doctrine. Not only is this not applicable, we’d note that Cuomo recently told a judge on air that “our laws do not come from God, your honor, and you know that.” The judge promptly humiliated him by quoting the Declaration of Independence, so we’re not inclined to give Cuomo the benefit of the doubt—especially since he has a degree from Fordham Law School.
The competition for the most inane thing said about the Texas attack is fierce. The Washington Post’s “social change reporter”—let’s pause to note the mere existence of such a job—wrote an article headlined “Event organizer offers no apology after thwarted attack in Texas.” We can’t believe we keep having to restate the facts, but two men tried to kill Geller, and the implication is that she owes an apology? That’s bad enough, but here’s how the article began: “If the contest was intended as bait, it worked.” Just imagine the Washington Post covering an attempted rape with “If dressing provocatively was intended as bait, it worked.”
In the end, the media’s unwillingness to overlook the substance of Geller’s opinions in favor of protecting her right to have them in the face of armed gunmen is more than troubling. Such attitudes legitimize violence as an effective response to speech. And so long as they insist on arguing there are limits to the First Amendment, the establishment media are far more dangerous to a free society than the impolitic portrayals of Muhammad they would like to outlaw.
Years after the National Mall was torn up and blocked off to re-grow grass as part of the stimulus package, the bulldozers are back to clear a ten by six acre parcel, located adjacent to the reflection pool, between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War Two Memorial.
The "busiest land port of entry in the Western Hemisphere" is getting an upgrade, and according to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), about a half a million dollars worth of new artwork will be part of the package.
I live in Connecticut, and I don’t travel much outside of the Northeast corridor. But through a few strokes of luck, and some happy happenstance, I’ve been in Florence five times in the last seven years.
When it became known last year that George W. Bush had taken up painting, The Scrapbook took note of the fact, commenting on a couple of random examples that they were “better than you would expect, show imagination, and are certainly evidence of Bush’s well-developed sense of humor. . . . The paintings—in their awkward simplicity, bright colors, and irregular perspective—strike The Scrapbook as delightful. We would like to see more.”
From the moment Detroit filed for bankruptcy last summer, comparisons to the 2009 Chrysler and General Motors bailouts have abounded. Most highlight the differences, noting that the federal government is unlikely to pump billions of dollars into Detroit. But although the differences are real, the restructuring plan that Detroit has recently proposed suggests that the city’s bankruptcy may have more in common with the car bailouts than anyone imagined. Unfortunately, it’s the abuses of the latter that could be replicated—and even extended—if Detroit’s plan is upheld in its current form.
The Art in Embassies program of the U.S. State Department just turned 50 last year, but its growth in the last decade has been particularly dramatic if the insured value of the artwork is any indication. Although Art in Embassies purchases original works, such as the $1 million sculpture for the new U.S. Embassy in London, much of the artwork on display at various State Department installations throughout the world is in fact borrowed. In 2002, the State Department maintained a $20 million policy for artwork. By 2010, it had grown to $65 million. This year, the agency is looking to renew its current level of coverage, informing interested providers that "[i]nsurance must cover all items in any location in a Department of State facility abroad up to a value of $200,000,000." Last year, the $200 million policy cost the government $86,932.
If this painting isn’t iconic, the term should be banished from the vocabulary of art. Forget, for a moment, Mona Lisa’s smile and the Sistine Creator transmitting the spark of life to Adam. Set aside what was to come, including Picasso’s LesDemoiselles d’Avignon (1907). They, obviously, have their claims.
At the end of September, the federal government's fiscal year was drawing to a close, the threat of a shut down was increasing, and the State Department was shopping for art. Four contracts were awarded in the last two weeks of September, including $1,000,000 for a granite sculpture by Irish-born artist Sean Scully to be installed at the new U.S. Embassy in London. Notice of the awards was posted Sunday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend on the Federal Business Opportunities website.
Washington D.C. is big on tradition, and one of those traditions involves official portraits of top government officials. The Defense Department just awarded a $31,200 contract (frame included) to Portraits, Inc. for an official portrait of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta:
In some locales, wrote Albert Camus in The Plague, beautiful days are only experienced in the winter. But this is easily belied by the magnificent Edward Hopper exhibition on display at the Whitney Museum this summer. Beyond a showcase of artistic beauty, it is a much-deserved homage to an American master who is occasionally overshadowed by New York museums’ infatuation with European painters. That Hopper was born and bred in New York merely compounds this ironic injustice.