Sunday, March 22, 2015

Truest statement of the week

The much ballyhooed Iraqi government operation to capture the central city of Tikrit from the Islamic State has stalled three weeks after it began, amid widespread reports that Shiite Muslim militias and the government are badly divided over tactics and roiled by claims that the militias have engaged in war crimes against the local Sunni Muslim population.

Read more here:
A two-day pause supposedly intended to give the Iraqi government time to bring up reinforcements has stretched into a week, as reports circulate that Iraqi government troops and the militias took heavier than anticipated casualties in their first efforts to dislodge Islamic State fighters.

Read more here:

-- Mitchell Prothero, "Operation to retake Tikrit from Islamic State stalled by heavy casualties, discord" (McClatchy Newspapers).

Truest statement of the week II

"You bring in the military force, and you fight the terrorist there, you evict them. And then what? That's the problem with the Tikrit operation, that it is a purely Shiite-led military operation against a heavily Sunni place of the country.  This is Saddam's birthplace here, with no political endgame anywhere in sight. Not for the people of Tikrit, not for the Sunnis of Iraq."

-- KRG Vice President Qubad Talabani to Deborah Amos (Weekend Edition, NPR).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.  First, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

What did we come up with?

A first for Prothero.  
Deborah Amos' report also scored a truest. 
Iraq should be front and center.  Time to ask why it's not.
Ava and C.I. take on The Flash.  When I (Jim) read this out loud to everyone, no one was happier than Stan who's been begging Ava and C.I. to take on this show forever.
Danny Schecter passed away.  This is a warts and all portrait.  

Short feature. 
Amen, as Marcia said. 
Scandal hit a new new season-low.  And the media attempted to lie about it and minimize it.

Short feature.
What we listened to. 
Press release from Senator Patty Murray's office. 
Press release from US House Rep. Jeff Miller's office. 
Repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker.

Mike & the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Iraq can wait apparently yet again

Week after week, Iraq can wait.

  • The ridiculous Katrina vanden Heuvel (ringleader of The Nation magazine) Tweeted last week about Iraq and accountability.  (See C.I.'s "Katty van van wonders about accountability.")

    But, you understand, she didn't mean accountability for War Crimes of the Iraqi government going on today.

    No, she's trying to revive anti-Bully Boy Bush euphoria in an attempt to help Dems in next year's elections.

    Last week, Human Rights Watch releases a new report entitled "After Liberation Came Destruction: Iraqi Militias and the Aftermath of Amerli" and all Katrina vanden Heuvel can do is whine about Bully Boy Bush.

    Or take Law & Disorder Radio -- a program hosted by three attorneys.

    Certainly a discussion about War Crimes would be right up their alley.

    Instead, this week they throw their temper tantrum over the results of the election in Israel last week.

    Time and again, Iraq has to wait.

    Because they care about everything else before they give a damn about Iraq or the Iraqi people.

    From the Human Rights Watch report:

    Peshmerga officers told Human Rights Watch they saw 47 villages in which militias had destroyed and ransacked homes, businesses, mosques, and public buildings. Residents told Human Rights Watch that the militias included the Badr Brigades, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, Kita’ib Hezbollah, and Saraya Tala’a al-Khorasani, and that they destroyed numerous villages between the towns of al-Khales, in southern Diyala province, and Amerli, about 50 kilometers to the north in Salah al-Din province.
    Satellite imagery corroborates witness accounts that in many cases Iraqi government forces and militias targeted the same villages and towns in which, supported by coalition air strikes, they had fought ISIS in the weeks before they lifted ISIS’s siege of Amerli. Satellite imagery showed that most of the damage they inflicted on these towns and villages after they lifted the siege resulted from arson and building demolition.
    On the basis of field visits, interviews with more than 30 witnesses, and analysis of photographs and satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch found that an area that included 35 villages and towns showed extensive destruction caused by fire, explosives and heavy earth moving equipment. The evidence showed that most of the damage occurred between early September and mid-November 2014. Using satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch identified over 3,800 destroyed buildings in 30 towns and villages, including 2,600 buildings likely destroyed by fire and a further 1,200 buildings likely demolished with heavy machinery and the uncontrolled detonation of high explosives. This destruction was distinct from damages resulting from air strikes and heavy artillery and mortar fire prior to ISIS’s retreat from Amerli, which Human Rights Watch separately identified using the satellite imagery. Human Rights Watch’s field research together with the satellite imagery analysis indicates that militias engaged in deliberate and wanton destruction of civilian property after the retreat of ISIS and the end of fighting in the area.

    At some point, these crimes may get attention . . .

    No doubt just as soon as Katrina vanden Heuvel can figure out how to blame them on Bully Boy Bush.

    TV: The failures of The Flash

    Tom Welling looked like a trick -- like a trick with long legs career wise.  By contrast, Grant Gustin looks like a trick who needs his current john to put him through beautician school so he'll have another trade before the looks fade -- and they will fade.


    Grant Gustin is ten pounds away from ugly and two years away from tired.

    If you're not getting how plain and ugly he's going to be, take a look at the actor playing his mentor Dr. Harrison Wells.  In 2000, starring in Ed, Tom Cavanagh set a few hearts aflutter.  Those days ended quickly.  He now looks like an over-used trick who's had all the pretty pounded out of him.

    That's what awaits Gustin.

    And that's only one of the problems with The CW's Arrow spin-off.

    The Flash's ratings are all over the map -- not unlike the show.

    One episode pulls in 4 million viewers, the next 3 million, then a bit later another 4 million, then 3 million.

    The high marks testify to fans of the comic book hero The Flash wanting to like the show.

    The low marks testify to how much the series sucks.

    As we noted, Barry Alen (Grant Gustin) has a mentor/nemesis in Wells.  Wells came from the future to kill Barry but killed Barry's mother instead and is now trapped in the present time.  He is training Barry to increase Barry's powers so that he can use them to return to his own time.

    While a nemesis is needed, a team to train really is not.

    Is this the story of a superhero or Greb Berlanti's strange fixation with the Susan Anton sci fi film Golden Girl?

    Is Barry a superhero or not?

    If he is, why does he need training and a team to support him?

    It reduces him and infantilizes him.

    This when the character is already played by a 25-year-old.

    The superhero is the 20th century's replacement for the cowboy (or cowgirl).

    It's the lone character -- the Batman, the Spider-Man, etc -- who stands for good and fights evil.

    They may assemble a team -- as happened on Arrow -- but they do that after they hone their own powers.

    Instead, Barry's got advisors and trainers and is less like a superhero and more like a superstar working the red carpet and in need of a team of stylists.

    It weakens The Flash, it makes him seem even less than he is.

    At the heart of the frustration viewers have had with the show is this detail.

    They want to root for The Flash, they want to cheer him on but he's less a superhero and more of a new employee forever in need of further training and education.

    Further weakening the character is his love for Iris West (Candice Patton) who is dating police officer Eddie (Rick Cosnett).

    At every plot point, Barry Allen is revealed to be a weakling.

    And if Barry Allen was 15-years-old, the audience might embrace that.

    But when he's supposed to be a grown up, when he's an assistant crime scene investigator for the police, he just comes off really weak and really pathetic.

    Smallville was not a great show.  But it spanned The WB and The CW lasting for ten seasons.

    That was largely due to the strength and charisma Tom Welling was able to project.

    It also helped that Welling looked like a hero, with those cheekbones and that facial shape that allowed Welling to become a successful model long before he moved on to acting.

    Gustin has none of that.  He's really not able to project a fully-dimensional character.  He's miscast and there's no overcoming that.

    The audience senses the miscasting and that's why the ratings teeter-totter from episode to episode.  If season one has been a struggle (and it has been), wait for the nightmares of season two.

    Jim's World (Danny Schechter)

    Danny Schecter passed away last week.

    The death's led to usual amount of lying.

    For example, Amy Goodman 'honored' him on Friday's Democracy Now!

    Amy Goodman who he hated and loathed.

    I met Danny only once.

    He was on the West Coast and showed up at C.I.'s home to beg her for money (she wrote a check).

    Outside of that, I knew Danny from the many e-mails he and I exchanged over content at this site.  I also responded to two of his last letters (not e-mails, physical letters) he sent to C.I.

    The last one, yet another request for money, had me calling C.I. and reading it to her.  She dictated a brief response which noted (a) whoring for Barack isn't a way to make money and that shouldn't have surprised Danny since some Republicans whoring for Bully Boy Bush had learned that lesson in the previous years, (b) after his attacks on Ruth (carried out by him and an assistant) and his public attack on Marcia, he had a lot of nerve asking her (C.I.) for money and (c) "Tina Turner is my friend, you are not."  The dictated portion ended with something akin to 'you made your bed, lie in it alone.'

    Marcia and Ruth can respond to the attacks on them if they'd like to.

    I'll try not to speak for them.

    But I will note the Tina Turner issue because it's about this site.

    Domestic terrorist Ike Turner brutalized and terrorized Tina Turner.

    When he died, Danny glorified Ike.

    December 16, 2007,  "Ike Turner (Ava and C.I. feature)" was written and went up here.

    That was the end of the nice-nice from Danny.

    Danny was furious that he was (gently) called out.

    He wrote in praise of Ike and said that Tina should forgive him.

    That wasn't his place -- not to say that for Tina, not to say it for any victim of violence.

    I've met Tina many times when she's visited C.I.  She's never brought up Ike.  I would imagine she's put him long behind her and celebrates the freedom she now has.  If she's found distance and detachment, good for her.

    Danny interviewed Tina once and thought that gave him the right to lecture/hector online that she needed to forgive Ike.

    After Ava and C.I.'s piece went up, approximately 30 e-mails arrived from Danny.  Some were to this site and I responded, some were specifically to C.I. and I would call her, read her the e-mail and she'd dictate a response.

    (Ava and C.I. are not home here in California most weeks.  During the week, they're usually in DC at hearings or across the country on campuses speaking about the wars.)

    In one exchange to C.I., Danny wrote (in all caps) that Ike Turner was a "BLACK MAN" and as such his actions were excused.

    To which I dictated a reply from C.I. that his chauvinism was the chauvinism of the left still present but dying out whereby a Black man trumps everything "even the abuse and battery of an African-American woman.  Your worship of the Black penis may enlighten your erotic fantasies but it's created your own denial on the level of an Israeli who can't acknowledge what's being done to Palestinians."

    I found that exchange interesting.

    I didn't see at that time what C.I. was seeing.

    I wouldn't until  candidate Barack emerged and one White male after another on the left -- one White male of a certain age -- made excuses and whored for Barack (who is bi-racial as my millennial generation knows but who the Baby Boomer male left identifies as "Black").

    For example, February 17, 2008, we noted this statement:

    I think it is ridiculous not to acknowledge that a black candidate at this level is fundamentally different from all white candidates who have come before or who are now competing. the more so a black candidate who has risked jail by doing drugs, and who has relatives TODAY living in the Third World (Kenya).

    We didn't identify the ridiculous, elderly White man making it, to explain his refusal to criticize Barack, but it was David Lindorff.

    As numerous e-mails came in from various name Boomer White men we called out in 2008, I got what C.I. was saying.

    The White Baby Boomer left refuses to call out any African-American male even slightly left.  They will spin and justify out of their guilt.

    They couldn't call out Barack out of their guilt.

    They were useless.

    They were useless for the last six years.

    That's how I will remember Danny who, up until right after Ed Snowden's disclosures, still sent this site angry e-mails that I'd reply to.

    Danny felt we were wrong to criticize Barack on the Iraq War, on illegal spying, on Libya, on Guantanamo and on the economy.

    In one of his last e-mails, Danny wrote, "As a black man, he faces real risks and could be killed by the government at any time."

    Imprisoned in the past, Danny could never acknowledge that Barack was now the government, was now 'The Man,' and that he was responsible for his own actions.

    For Danny, it was all about skin color.

    I can go into that even more including a very disturbing e-mail Danny wrote.

    And, by the way, if you've exchanged e-mails with me and you die, those e-mails are not confidential in death.  (Also, I've never allowed that they would be confidential in life.  C.I. tends to honor that but that is her policy not mine.)

    It's an interesting pass that Danny created and he wasn't the only one.

    Again, we may go into that some day soon.  For example, Tom Hayden's health is supposedly very poor.  I'd love to write about Tom.

    For now, I'll note that Danny did some important work early on during the Iraq War.

    That was his golden moment.

    By 2006, he'd walked away from the topic.

    By 2007, he'd walked away from his own beliefs.

    In various e-mails, he attacked various people on the left.

    Some of the attacks, I agreed with, some I didn't.

    His attack on Amy Goodman was specific to her refusal to talk economics and her refusal to question the government.  Not Barack, the government.

    He felt Amy was a defender of the status quo.

    He may or may not be right about that.

    But he was correct to complain that Amy mocked her audience as ignorant and uninformed and told him, on a break, to simplify his remarks or she'd change the topic.

    His other slam I agreed with was of Kris Welch on KPFA.  He'd appeared on Living Room and was furious that Kris was unprepared for the interview and that she tried to cover by bringing in other topics when they were supposed to be discussing the economy.

    For the record, he only attacked women in his e-mails.

    I never understood his raging about Tina Brown (who he worked for) and his complaints there seemed petty at best.

    When whistle blower Ed Snowden came forward with the revelations of illegal spying, Danny e-mailed about some praise that C.I. had offered at The Common Ills.  (We all stand up for Ed and praise his whistle blowing.)  But he said we were wrong to slam Barack because Barack would use this exposure to finally go after Bully Boy Bush for illegalities.

    Danny didn't seem to grasp that these were crimes both Bully Boy Bush and Barack had committed and that, as Ed was already saying publicly, he'd hoped that things would change with Barack's presidency and, when there was no change, that was why he went public.

    I explained that in an e-mail.

    Danny replied with a weak response and another justification of how Barack "is an innocent because of his skin color.  Even if he did the same things Bush did, this is different because he is black and we should refrain from criticizing him."

    The Baby Boomer's liberal White guilt will apparently never go away.  Fortunately, they will die off.

    Fortunately, my generation believes in accountability.

    That's  Danny Schechter's The Death of Media is a must-read. We discussed the book  and also did a second piece on it.

    In my opinion. that's his finest work.

    It's a shame he couldn't live the beliefs he espoused in this book.

    But that doesn't mean others can't.

    Danny also made documentaries.

    His Weapons of Mass Deception is one we repeatedly praised over the years and is probably his best documentary. He was slammed by some documentary makers for his approach but that approach really screwed with the format and made for a highly effective film.

    After that documentary, I'd praise the one he was most proud of, the one he raised when I met him at C.I.'s home, Beyond 'JFK:' The Question of Conspiracy.

    This was a project he worked on with Barbara Kopple that you can find on the deluxe edition of Oliver Stone's JFK film.

    Danny believed that JFK was assassinated as part of a coup staged by elements of the government.  He found it outrageous that Amy Goodman's "drive for respectability" kept her from exploring this story.  He felt that the left needed to challenge official stories such as the assassination of JFK, the assassination of MLK, the Paul Wellstone plane crash and 9-11.

    He went on at length about the co-opting of the left, the left's desire for respectability and so much more.  And maybe if 2008 had seen the election of Hillary Clinton or John McCain could have allowed Danny to maintain his ethics.

    But his own limitations and personal blindness and bias and, most of all, guilt made his final years one long public embarrassment.

    The real news value . . .

    in the photo below?

    Barack Obama can't tie a tie.

    The wide open circle of the tie tells you he's slipped an already 'tied' tie over his head.

    He requires someone to tie them for him.

    Tweet of the Week

    3h3 hours ago 
    Pretending to cry for American kids While bombing kids in Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia & Afghanistan 
    3h3 hours ago 
    Pretending to cry for American kids While bombing kids in Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia & Afghanistan 

    The media will lie about even the little things (Ava and C.I.)

    Last week, Ty's "Ty's Corner" addressed some objection to our  "TV: The only thing worse than bad TV is the Water Cooler Set That Praises It."

    In that piece, we noted that Shonda Rhimes was running off her Scandal audience by refusing to offer the storylines viewers tuned in for -- specifically the Fitz-Olivia-Jake triangle.  We noted the ratings were going south.

    We'd been calling attention to the problem for some time, such as in our "TV: Off the rails,"

    For those who didn't grasp the problem, Ty offered this visual.

    That was  Variety's headline,  It backed up what we'd said.

    So did last Thursday's ratings.

    That's when hacktress Lena Dunham guest-starred in a heavily promoted episode.

    And that's when Scandal hit a new season-low.

    For some reason, Tony Maglio (The Wrap) felt the need to lie about the low ratings, "To be fair to Scandal,  viewing levels typically dip this time of year, as many college-aged young adults are on spring break. The delayed viewing numbers may see an extra boost as a result."

    Oh, okay then.

    That makes sense . . .

    if you're just allowed to make s**t up.

    7.79 million viewers watched the March 19th episode of Scandal -- a new low for the season.

    But according to Tony, that happens every year at this time.

    And he's right -- if you don't fact check the liar.

    If you do fact check his lying ass, you find out that the March 20, 2014 episode had 9.08 million viewers.

    So, no, this is not a a 'typical' dip for the time of year.

    Tony's bosses might want to ask him why he feels he can get away with lying?

    Scandal is in serious trouble.

    We know it.

    ABC knows it.

    Even Shonda Rhimes knows it.

    It's only hacks in the media who are in denial.

    In touch with his inner Urkel

    This edition's playlist

    1) Stevie Nicks' 24 Karat Gold: From The Vault.

    2) Stevie Nicks' Rock A Little.

    3) Fleetwood Mac's Tusk.

    4) Stevie Nicks' Wild Heart.

    5) Stevie Nicks' Belladonna.

    6) Stevie Nicks' In Your Dreams.

    7) Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.

    8) Fleetwood Mac's Fleetwood Mac.

    9) Fleetwood Mac's Tango In The Night.

    10) Fleetwood Mac's The Dance.

    BUDGET/SEQUESTRATION: Murray Introduces Amendment to Replace Automatic Budget Cuts for Two More Years, Build on Bipartisan Budget Deal

    Senator Patty Murray

    Senator Patty Murray serves on the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (and she has previously served as the Chair of both of those Committee).  Last week, her office issued the following:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray's Press Office
    Thursday, March 19, 2015                                          (202) 224-2834
    BUDGET/SEQUESTRATION: Murray Introduces Amendment to Replace Automatic Budget Cuts for Two More Years, Build on Bipartisan Budget Deal
    Murray amendment to GOP budget would roll back sequestration for defense and non-defense investments
    Murray: “Democrats and Republicans across the country have said that the across-the-board cuts to both defense and non-defense investments are terrible policy…need to be replaced”
    MURRAY AMENDMENT BLOCKED BY COMMITTEE REPUBLICANS: Murray to continue fighting to replace automatic cuts, urges Republicans to work with her
    Washington, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, introduced and called for a Budget Committee vote on her amendment to the Senate Republican Budget that would replace sequestration evenly across defense and non-defense investments for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Republicans voted Murray’s amendment down in the Committee, but she plans to continue fighting in the Committee and on the floor to build on the bipartisan budget deal and roll back the automatic cuts that are hurting families, communities, and the economy in Washington state and across the country.
    “Democrats and Republicans across the country have said that the across-the-board cuts to both defense and non-defense investments are terrible policy, an absurd way to reduce the deficit, and need to be replaced,” said Murray while introducing her amendment. “I urge my colleagues to support this amendment so we can agree on responsible and realistic topline spending numbers for this year and allow the Appropriations Committees to do their work without waiting for another crisis…if my Republican colleagues have any other ideas for how we get this done—my door is open, and I am ready to get to work.”
    At the end of 2013, Senator Murray and Representative Paul Ryan worked with their colleagues to pass the Bipartisan Budget Act, which prevented another government shutdown, rolled back sequestration evenly across defense and non-defense discretionary spending for two years, and moved Congress away from the constant crises.
    The full text of Murray’s remarks introducing the bill follows:
    Chairman Enzi, Ranking Member Sanders, I offer my amendment to build on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and extend the replacement of sequestration through fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
    I don’t have to explain to most members of this committee why we need to replace the senseless automatic cuts with more responsible savings—I know almost all of you agree.
    Democrats and Republicans across the country have said that the across-the-board cuts to both defense and non-defense investments are terrible policy, an absurd way to reduce the deficit, and need to be replaced.
    There are Republicans on this Committee who have been very vocal about the need to roll back the cuts—and have even expressed openness to using revenue from the tax code to get this done.
    Last year Democrats and Republicans were able to reach an agreement that rolled back the worst of these automatic cuts for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.
    Our deal prevented another government shutdown, moved us away from the constant crises, and restored critical investments in research, education, defense jobs, and more, and helped get the economy going again.
    So this amendment builds on that deal and extends it for two more years.
    It maintains the principle that Democrats will not abandon—that sequestration should be replaced evenly across defense and non-defense investments.
    And it replaces the automatic cuts with new revenue from closing tax loopholes used by the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, which, since this budget already contains massive spending cuts but no new revenue, would maintain the principle that sequestration should be replaced with a mix of responsible spending cuts and new revenue from those who can afford it most.
    Finally, it includes language to automatically release the additional defense and nondefense funding to the Appropriations Committee upon the increase in the statutory caps, similar to language passed in the previous Senate Budget.  
    So I urge my colleagues to support this amendment so we can agree on responsible and realistic topline spending numbers for this year and allow the Appropriations Committees to do their work without waiting for another crisis.
    And if my Republican colleagues have any other ideas for how we get this done—my door is open—and I am ready to get to work.
    Eli Zupnick
    Communications Director
    U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
    (202) 224-2834


    Chairman Miller Calls for Immediate Firings after Biggest Construction Failure in VA History

    US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  Last week his office issued the following press release:

    Mar 18, 2015

    WASHINGTON – Chairman Miller released the following statement today regarding the biggest construction failure in VA history.

    “VA’s entire construction program is a disaster and has been for years. Nearly every major VA hospital construction project is behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget. In Colorado, a replacement VA hospital is more than $1 billion over budget and isn’t even close to completion. VA’s construction problems have been documented by the Government Accountability Office and at numerous congressional hearings. Every single member of VA’s top leadership is fully aware of these issues, yet the senior executives who presided over the mismanagement that led to them remain firmly entrenched at VA, where they collect generous taxpayer-funded salaries. No reasonable person could conclude that VA Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction Principal Executive Director Glenn Haggstrom and VA Office of Construction and Facilities Management Executive Director Stella Fiotes are doing a good job. Therefore, I am calling upon VA’s leadership to fire them immediately. As part of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, Congress gave VA leaders the authority to immediately fire VA senior executives for poor performance. It’s well past time for the department to fire Haggstrom and Fiotes or explain to America’s veterans and American taxpayers why these individuals have earned the right to continued VA employment.”  – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

    Colorado VA Hospital Construction Is More Than $1 Billion Over Budget
    The Wall Street Journal
    March 17, 2015

    VA CONSTRUCTION: Additional Actions Needed to Decrease Delays and Lower Costs of Major Medical-Facility Projects
    Government Accountability Office
    April 2013

    Goya: the Witches and Old Women Album—facing the horror of reaction restored

    Repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

    Goya: the Witches and Old Women Album—facing the horror of reaction restored

    by Noel Halifax

    Published Tue 17 Mar 2015
    Issue No. 2445

    A detail from Nightmare, circa. 1816-20
    A detail from Nightmare, circa. 1816-20 (Pic: The Morgan Library & Museum)

    As the Spanish royal court’s painter, Francisco Goya was at the heart of its sickening conservative trappings and its rituals.

    He painted grand romantic portraits of the king and his courtiers in the tradition of the late romantic movement, which Europe’s crowned heads so beloved.

    Goya made his living this way from the 1780s until 1824. He worked through the French invasion in the 1800s and the Spanish monarchy’s restoration after Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew’s short reign. 

    But he seemed to have led a untroubled life in such turbulent times. His art reflects the new times  after the overthrow of reaction. It moved from studio portraits to scenes of the Peninsular War and experimental images of national and peasant wars. 

    But the new times stalled when reaction was restored in 1814 with the help of the British.

    Goya survived and continued his courtly work under the restored monarchy. He seemed the perfect survivor, trimming his art to suit the client.

    However, when he died an even more remarkable series of work known as the “black paintings” was discovered. No one, perhaps only a few close friends, were aware of it. 


    Private rooms were found in his house, which were painted all black with scenes of monsters, nightmares, war and destruction,

    Eight albums of similar drawings were also found, which were later sold and dispersed. This exhibition brings together one of these eight books, the Witches and Old Women album of 23 drawings. 

    They are remarkable and astonishing drawings, which show Goya as an amazing draftsman of the imagination but also an impassioned critic of the old order.

    While his pictures of the war are full of anguish, they retain hope for a new world. There isn’t just bitterness, but a dark wit with musings on life in an imploding society. 

    The drawings dance and whirl and sum up the emotion of Goya’s plight—to live in a society where an aborted revolution has collapsed in on itself.

    What can one do then, but wryly comment on the dark side’s triumph with black humour and wit.

    These paintings haunt, taunt, intrigue on the irony and horror of it all—and leer at the coming face of death.

    Goya—the witches and old women album. Courtauld Gallery, London WC2R 0RN. Until 25 May. Adults £8.50, unwaged £4, 18s and under free.

    Payments © Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original


     This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

     "Katty van van wonders about accountability" -- most requested highlight by readers of this site.

    "Truly, f**k off, Ralph Nader" -- Ann calls out Nader.

    "Bond versus the kill joys" -- Mike calls it.

    "Oil workers strike continues" -- Trina continues to cover the oil workers.

    "What did they do to my Mac and Cheese?" and "Ice cream?" -- Kat notes the problems with our food supply.

    "Chelsea Manning is behind bars but Petraeus walks?" -- Trina asks the needed question.

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