Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bernie's Bandwagon

The "silly season" for politics plays out each summer between Independence Day and Labor Day. It can be a period of thriving for off-the-wall boomlets. Opinion poll results published during the silly season often serve better as fodder for jokes than as useful measurements of significant trends.

Thus, with the turning of the leaves inside the beltway, why the hell are we still talking about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders? Weren't we told they were both populist gimmicks?

Shouldn't they be fading into the mists? After all, in a post-Citizens United landscape, the filthy rich Super PACS are supposed to be controlling the game. So we can't help but wonder about two things:
  • How much longer can Trump stay ahead of the pack in the opinion polls before he's hoisted by his own petard?
  • When will Sanders' unlikely bandwagon be crushed by Hillary Clinton's unstoppable juggernaut? 
Of course, the know-it-all pundits are still saying the Sanders phenomenon is about to wither. But let's not forget, at this point in 2007, Hillary Clinton was the presumed Democratic nominee; the smart money was not yet on Barack Obama. Clinton has spit out a lead before.

Some observers are saying Clinton's steady loss of support over the summer won't matter in the long run. Maybe so, but what if Clinton inadvertently helps Sanders stay in the game? For instance, if former-Sec. of State Clinton stumbles during her testimony before the Select Committee on Benghazi, scheduled for October 22, that's the sort of thing that could be a game-changer.

What if one of Bill Clinton's heretofore unnoticed "mistakes" comes out of the woodwork? Another Monica Lewinsky could fling a monkey wrench into the gears of that aforementioned juggernaut.

If anything like those imagined troubles appears in the weeks to come, it could bring Vice President Joe Biden off the bench and into the game. Biden would immediately peel off some support from Clinton and Sanders. Hard to say how much from either of them. At this writing Biden is still playing it coy.

However, that doesn't mean yet another Democrat won't hear the call for a Clinton-alternative if it gets loud enough. Although Jim Webb's campaign seems to be going nowhere, if an opening occurs some Virginians might wish Sen. Tim Kaine would consider tossing his hat into the ring.

Openings? One of the factors that has allowed Sanders to pick up steam is that when Clinton amps up her delivery during a speech, to drive a point home, sometimes it sounds like she's picked over and practiced her spiel so much she comes off as disconnected from the meaning of the sentences. Cold. While Sanders' natural gruffness has looked at times like charisma, Clinton has too often looked uncomfortable.

Among his growing legions of supporters, authenticity has been playing as Sanders' strong suit. It advances his cause to point out that on his way to the U.S. Senate he served multiple terms as a mayor and a congressman. Furthermore, it buffs Sanders' image when Dr. Cornel West says that if the election were left up to voters 25-and-under, Bernie would win it.

In that light Sanders looks less like a fluke and more like the leader of a new movement. To feed that movement concept, in Atlanta on Sept. 11, the professorial Sanders said: "The greed of the billionaire class is destroying this country and whether they like it, or not, we are going to stop that greed."

Likewise, at least in some respects, Citizen Trump probably isn't a fluke, either. He is speaking for the basic thinking of many of today's conservatives, who love Trump's brand of belligerence -- especially when it comes to his remarks about immigration. The xenophobia coalescing in the USA today is a signal that wall-building on the border is only going to become a bigger issue.

Look at what's happening in Europe, where the escalating migrant/refugee crisis is bound to spawn plenty of mean-spirited reactions across the pond. Yet, today, with modern communications, millions of people trapped in desperate situations know exactly how hopeless their futures are. For young families there's no putting that genie of awareness back in the bottle.

Rather than terrorism, how to cope with rising tides of refugees is likely to be next year's biggest political issue. Rather than a silly season fluke, Trump may be the tip of a spear in America -- a spear of paranoid and unapologetic bashers of "the other." As much as anything else, this trend toward Trump-ism within the Republican Party may have goosed Speaker of the House John Boehner's into his sudden resignation.

Instead of opposing him, conservative politicians in America may soon be falling over one another seeking to trump Trump, by being more extreme. Politicians still planning to follow election year tradition, by changing their tunes to cater to the middle of the road -- such as Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush -- may just find it to be virtually an empty landscape.

With a no-holds-barred Sanders vs. Trump presidential contest it surely wouldn't be boring. Pundits might see a gaping hole where independent thinking and moderation used to be. Instead of politics of the melting pot, 2016 could be a year for politics of the centrifuge. How far Bernie's bandwagon might go in such a high-contrast milieu is anybody's guess.

-- 30 --

Sunday, June 28, 2015

About Those Monuments

The Confederate flag controversy that exploded following the nine murders in Charleston landed on millions of Facebook pages. My Facebook posts of articles about the flag and other commemorations of the Confederacy, etc., brought in a range of comments. Some of the more entertaining reactions were prompted by a facetious post of mine: 
With the way Richmond has allowed for some plain old buildings to get decorated with murals, mostly with good results, maybe City Hall has enough time before the UCI World Road Cycling Championships, in September, to get some artists to wrap the Confederate monuments in town with fabric -- a la Christo. Maybe throw some abstract expressionist tarps over them, or whatever. We've got the artists who could pull it off right here in town.
It inspired some wiseacre responses, as I hoped it would. But I also hoped it would goose Richmonders into thinking about how the rest of the world sees Monument Avenue's famous sculptures on pedestals 150 years after the end of the Civil War.

Of course, there were folks who took my satirical suggestion to wrap them seriously. Some enthusiastically agreed. Others disagreed, fearing a papering over of history would result.

However, it has become obvious we're living through a momentous time – a tipping point, to do with symbolism referring to the so-called Lost Cause. Hey, I never expected to hear Republican statewide office holders in South Carolina call for the removal of the Stars and Bars from its flagpole on statehouse grounds. The momentum to retire that same image from license plates, etc., ASAP, has skipped to other states – including Virginia.

Stemming from the sea change underway, just how many public commemorations of the Confederacy will be affected remains to be seen. For the time being the focus is mostly on flags. Which makes some sense, because flags are graphic symbols of ideas and events. What about public schools and bridges named after Confederate heroes?

The flags can easily be put in museums. Renaming a bridge might ruffle feathers, but it won't be all that difficult. Bringing it all the way home, what to do about heroic sculpture in our midst that's extremely offensive to a significant portion of the community is a problem not so easily solved in a lasting way.

The story of how the statues situated on Richmond's most recognized tourist attraction got there is interesting enough. Yet how the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee on horseback was generally viewed when it was unveiled in 1890 and how it is generally viewed in 2015 is different.

That needs to be addressed, but there's a complication. So many people who grew up in Richmond still believe what amounts to pickled history. Letting loose of the propaganda many Virginians were spoon-fed as children will be nearly impossible for some folks.

In 1961, my seventh-grade history book, which was the official history of Virginia for use in all public junior high schools — as decreed by the General Assembly — had this to say about slavery at the end of its Chapter 29:
Life among the Negroes of Virginia in slavery times was generally happy. The Negroes went about in a cheerful manner making a living for themselves and for those whom they worked. They were not so unhappy as some Northerners thought they were, nor were they so happy as some Southerners claimed. The Negroes had their problems and their troubles. But they were not worried by the furious arguments going on between Northerners and Southerners over what should be done with them. In fact, they paid little attention to those arguments.
In 1961 I had no reason to question that paragraph's veracity. Now those words read quite differently.

Tomorrow, if not sooner, Richmond's citizenry needs to start a conversation about Monument Avenue. It would be nice if leaders would lead. Yes, there will be people who will want to bulldoze the Lee Monument, even though some of Richmond's most respected art experts say it's pretty good art. It's a stretch to say that of the Davis Monument.

Some of my Facebook friends have suggested moving the Confederate statues to a museum or a theme park. Hey, I'm ready to dismantle the Jefferson Davis eyesore on Monument Avenue today and ship it down to Mississippi – his home state.

However, the suggestions that appeal to me the most, so far, go something like this: 
  • Add signage around the monuments to put them in a context, which would turn Monument Avenue into a museum of a sort.
  • Add more monuments to the stately avenue, statues of Virginians who we now want to celebrate; maybe less emphasis on war.  
Two of the first names for new monuments that come to mind for me are Maggie Walker and Lewis Powell. The aforementioned discussion would surely produce more names and additional ideas worth considering. Such a discussion might also open the door to an investigation of how our history books were cooked to facilitate denial and glorify infamy. Who did that? Why?

Regardless of our views about today's political issues, all of us in Richmond probably need to know more about our city's slave market days before the Civil War. That dark chapter of local history needs a good deal more sunlight cast upon it.

These discussions have been a long time coming. As far today's school children in Richmond are concerned, better late than never.

-- 30 -- 
--Words and photo by F.T. Rea

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Over-Awareness of the Camera

Behind makeshift barricades in the basement of a small church there will be 18 people, 17 of which will be hostages of an assault rifle-toting, 21-year-old schizophrenic full of sweet red wine and homemade speed.

The cops surrounding the church know he has already killed at least three people. Unbeknownst to the specialist negotiating with him on the telephone, the hostage-taker will have his finger on the trigger of a portable nuclear device.

To buy time the culprit's demand that CNN broadcast his message to the world will be met. His laptop will transmit his image and voice as he announces: "I am the Looney Tunes Bomber, my presentation will be a short subject." Then he will hurl accusations at a list of people, some of them celebrities. The final minute of his rambling performance will be consumed by a rapt audience of millions of viewers. 

After chuckling, “Tha, tha … that’s all folks,” the wannabe celebrity will set off the first nuclear bomb to be used by a terrorist.

It will blow Boise, or maybe Baltimore, off the map. The first video of the suicidal bomber’s diabolical stunt will go up on YouTube less than a half-hour after the appearance of the mushroom cloud.

Somewhere, in Rio, or Tokyo, or elsewhere, a heart will be beating faster in the chest of another angry child abuse victim, a boy who will be inspired by LTB’s bloodthirsty audacity. Instantly, he will decide to somehow set off an explosion to overshadow it.

In 2015 we are watching a generation grow up with an awareness of the camera that goes far beyond previous generations. And, we are witnessing a snowballing of the ability of anyone to transmit words and images about love, hate, religion, style and politics, by way of the Internet, to a worldwide audience.

It’s anybody’s guess where the current generation’s insatiable thirst to record and share voluminous records of their everyday lives will lead ... good or bad. We do already know that revolutionaries everywhere are relying on social media in a way that is mind-boggling.

Meanwhile, more and more we are seeing news stories that are tantamount to stunts staged for willing cameras. While it's fashionable these days to scold the press for its tasteless and excessive coverage of certain events, it's not entirely the fault of media executives and editors. The stories they encounter, in some cases, have been planned and packaged by people who are damn good at planting a story.

A precedent-setter in this area occurred in 1979 with the shameful cooperation that developed between news-gatherers for television and the Iranian "students," who demonstrated on a daily basis in front of the American embassy during the hostage crisis that sabotaged the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Now we know that much of the feverish chanting and fist waving was done on cue. Now we know the camera shots were pushed in tight because the angry horde yelling, "Death to America!" was only a dozen souls deep.

Today, it seems cultural and religious grievances are routinely becoming more heated, here and abroad, by provocative or slanted news coverage. Moreover, much of the reportage these days actually seems designed to inflame situations being covered.

On top of that, in America, the press scrutiny of angry the anti-government firestorm being stoked by some for political gain is surely helping to push some alienated militia types closer to the edge -- the sort that sees Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh as a hero.

Speaking of McVeigh, the future’s bomber in the church basement will have already seen how plenty of sullen murderers have been made into celebrities by the press. So his last thoughts might be about who he hopes will play him in the movie about his precedent-setting stunt.


-- 30 --

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Hippies Were Right

by F.T. Rea

In Libby Hill Park the convergence of Memorial Day weekend and a longtime friend’s 70th birthday party underlined an observation made in a conversation. A trio of grizzled baby boomers -- Chuck Wrenn, Mason Wyatt and me -- agreed that in hindsight the hippies were right about Vietnam, right about war, in general. The occasion was to wish Chuck a happy birthday.

A few minutes before that particular conversation I had been engaged in another one with different guys. It was noted how the same memories come to mind each time we're suddenly forced to pause and picture our friends who died in Vietnam. Such remembrances aside, the party itself was festive and the atmosphere was convivial.

So much so that when campaigner Joe Morrissey happened upon it, he wasted no time in inviting himself to the gathering. Morrissey had his new family with him -- the baby and its mother. The presence of the three added a touch of surrealism the event had probably been lacking.

It was also be noted here that most Americans now enjoying their geezerhood were not hippies. Most never went to a political demonstration or took LSD, either. No, most members of my generation basically followed in their parents' footsteps, which wasn't all that colorful, so the real story gets blurred sometimes. 

Although, at 57, he's a baby boomer, I have to doubt Morrissey was ever a hippie. One thing for sure: with his 19-year-old girlfriend by his side, wearing a dress that clung to her body like it has been painted on, he obviously still enjoys creating a spectacle. Then the news-makers said their goodbyes to the voters and strolled their way west on East Franklin Street. After all, it was a holiday weekend and there were surely other parties underway in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, it was still a beautiful day for a outdoor celebration and the self-congratulatory discussion about what the hippies were right about touched on other topics. For instance, in spite of being mocked as tree-huggers, hippies were as right as rain about wanting to protect Mother Nature. They were right about various movements to make laws and customs more fair for all citizens.

Speaking of old times, compared to some other eras, a good many of the American movies produced in the hippies' decade-long heyday -- 1967-76 -- were rather interesting. But please don't blame the flamboyant hippies for all the popular culture fads of the '70s; disco music was not part of the hippie scene. Eventually, the culture shifted and punks replaced hippies, just as hippies had replaced the beatniks.

Then the politics of the '80s swung back to the right. The hippies' anti-greed, live-and-let-live style was rejected. Yuppies prevailed. Conspicuous consumption came back into style. The Cold War ended but the notion of perpetual war didn't die. A decade later the fog of 9/11's terrorist attacks made too many Americans willing to send another generation abroad to kill and be killed. In the doing America created new enemies by the million, torture was even justified. 

Now the fog has cleared. Duping the voting public into supporting another wave of rightwing politicians calling for launching another war in the Middle East isn't going to be easy. It looks to me like 2016 isn't going to be a good year for war mongers. Hopefully, the ghosts of those who died in Vietnam and Iraq will rest easier in Memorial Days to come.

Hey, the hippies were right about pot, too.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bibi Strangelove?

Sterling Hayden as Gen. Jack D. Ripper
From what I can tell the Americans making the most noise in their support of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seem to believe the sheer force of their hero's personality -- if directed at the worst villains in the Middle East -- has the power to scatter them into holes in the ground, to cower. Poor devils.

Beyond that, there seems to be no plan, just a pose.

At least, no plan short of another war to to bring on another regime change. Remember, prior to that invading Iraq in 2003 it was Bibi Strangelove who said: "I guarantee you that [removing Saddam Hussein] will have enormous positive reverberations on the region."

Prior to launching that war for regime-change, America's post-WWII history with overthrowing governments, supposedly in order to install more friendly regimes, is worth remembering. Here are a few highlights:
  • Let's start with Iran in 1953, where the USA combined with Great Britain to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, to put a dictator, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, in charge until 1979.
  • Throughout the 1950s and '60s America's CIA had its fingerprints all over various regime-change campaigns waged in South America and in the Caribbean.
  • The real lollapalooza of the '60s was the coup arranged by the USA in South Vietnam in '63. It's hard to fathom what the true price has been for our government's mistakes in Vietnam.
  • Of course, during the '80s we threw billions in arms support to the mujahideen militants in Afghanistan. They returned the favor by morphing into al-Qaeda. 
There are lots of other regrettable foreign policy moves that can be added to this list of plots that backfired -- dictators supported, illegal arms deals, etc. -- but you should get the picture being painted. Answers for why some good number of people in the world harbor the bitterest of feelings toward America's government -- maybe its voters, too -- can be found in the stories of our government's bloody overreaching, and its very expensive failures.
Back to Bibi. He says the Iranians can't be trusted. At least, their current leaders can't be trusted. Then, out of the other side of his mouth, Netanyahu says he wants more than a 10-year deal. What, like 15 years? Does that mean the same Iranians he doesn't trust today, will become more trustworthy, tomorrow, if they agree to a longer deal? 

What the hell does Bibi Strangelove want? 

It seems rather obvious that he first and foremost he wants to get reelected. Netanyahu has taken a big gamble with this week's political stunt in DC, to align himself with hawkish factions of the American Republican Party. No doubt, he hopes the gamble will pay off. 

If Netanyahu gets reelected, my guess is he will soon try to arm-twist the USA into backing him up when Israel unilaterally bombs Iran, initiates a new war, and then tells us we have no choice but to go along. This was the same sort of strategy Gen. Jack D. Ripper employed in "Dr. Strangelove..." (1964) by provoking a nuclear first-strike.

Bibi's cartoonish swaggering demeanor is nearly as over-the-top as that of the bellowing Gen. Ripper (as played by Sterling Hayden) in "Dr. Strangelove..." More Democrats ought to be making jokes about Bibi's cock-of-the-walk mannerisms.

Dig it: No matter what the details of the deal now being negotiated with Iran turn out to be, it's a given Netanyahu is going to say it's a bad deal. The sitting prime minister of Israel seems to have convinced himself that war to institute regime-change in Iran is the only sure way to keep the promised land safe from Persian plots against Israel's "precious bodily fluids."

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ballpark Bandwagon Breakdown

Between January and September of 2014 Richmond witnessed the coalescence of a significant resistance to the notion of building a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom. In May the volume of the opposition chorus apparently surprised Mayor Dwight Jones (pictured left). Now it seems unlikely Jones’ so-called “revitalization” plan, as originally advertised, is ever going fall into place.

However unpopular with the voters the mayor’s plans for Shockoe Bottom and North Boulevard have become, shifts in the thinking of some on City Council may animate makeovers in 2015. What effect the rearranging of councilmanic chairs will have on the ballpark issue isn't known, yet. As we wait for that drama unfold, it's worthwhile to organize the 2014 record of the brouhaha for the sake of facilitating a clear perspective.

What came to stifle the mayor’s stadium-building scheme last year began gathering over the winter. Although no single entity was coordinating it, by early spring the escalating criticism of the Jones plan was pouring in from several directions.

However, now it seems there was one standout event that proved to be the tipping point. It appeared out of the blue on Apr. 28. On that Monday morning a group of students from Richmond public schools appeared at City Hall with a purpose. The majority of them were from Open High.

Whether one called it a "flash mob," or a "walkout," the protest march had obviously been prompted by a couple of telling Style Weekly articles ("Caving In" and "Filling Holes") published earlier the same month. The stories revealed dreadful conditions in some local public schools; the students acted on their own volition. They carried signs with messages for all to see. Some messages decried dilapidated school buildings. Others protested the Shockoe Stadium plan.

The next surprise came later that same fateful day. Instead of dispatching a brief note to congratulate the kids for their civic-minded moxie, and to say he was too busy to meet with them, Hizzoner decided to smooth the students’ ruffled feathers with his practiced mayoral patter. Well, in baseball parlance, Jones "booted" his chance to make a play. His painfully awkward response to the students' questions about the city's skewed spending priorities was worse than inadequate.

Naturally, the local media were all over the story of a flummoxed mayor. The kids looked good on TV.


Pre-turning point:

When Mayor Jones rolled out his large-dollar plan to “revitalize” the city on Nov. 11, 2013, he presented the building of a baseball stadium in the Bottom as an essential component. He spoke of how it would create jobs, enlarge the city's tax base and get a slavery-related museum built, too.

No doubt, 2014 began with the perceivable momentum on the mayor's side. Jones’ Chief Administrative Officer and top salesman, Byron Marshall, appeared more than up to the task of ramrodding the taxpayer-backed project through Richmond’s nine-member City Council.

As the baseball-in-the-Bottom bandwagon chugged through the first month of the 11th year of baseball stadium debate in Richmond, dissent to the mayor’s plan couldn’t be heard over establishment media-amplified boosterism. Venture Richmond’s ubiquitous LovingRVA public relations campaign was pumping high-test fuel into the bandwagon’s tank.

That, while no person or organization was speaking for the scattered opposition. Some wanted to protect Shockoe Bottom from an outrageously inappropriate development. Some saw another build-it-and-they-will-come boondoggle in the making. Others stood against what they believed to be an impractical plan, a plan that turned a blind eye on what baseball fans seemed to prefer.

Leading up to 2014, The Virginia Defender, published by Ana Edwards and Phil Wilayto, had been focused on the issue for years. Owing to that effort and those of other activists, in February the resistance to baseball-in-the-Bottom continued gathering. STYLE Weekly stayed on the stadium beat with a series of news stories and several Back Page OpEds.

The role of social media was snowballing. Facebook pages dedicated to opposing Shockoe Stadium included: Referendum? Bring It On!Save the DiamondSay No to a Stadium in Shockoe BottomShockoe ResistanceA Stadium RVA Can Love!. Outdoor billboard signs went up. Yard signs were posted. Activist Farid Alan Schintzius headed up the signage approach.

In March and April the Citizens Referendum Group held meetings at the City Library to discuss crafting a strategy to put a baseball stadium referendum on the ballot. Although that ad hoc group’s ambitious petition-signing campaign didn’t collect enough signatures to force such a referendum, the connections the undertaking created could come into play again. Many names and addresses of registered voters were collected. (An archive of published notices and articles on this issue is here.)

Other petitions were circulated. Boycott strategies came also into play. Political gadfly Paul Goldman weighed in with an avalanche of opinion pieces for WTVR.com. Although his message meandered over the year, Goldman was relentlessly hard-hitting with his many objections to pursuing the mayor's Shockoe Stadium concept.

In the wake of the notoriety of the Oscar-winning movie, “12 Years a Slave,” on March 25 the Hollywood Reporter weighed in: “Where the jail that held Solomon Northup once stood, a state-of-the-art baseball stadium may soon rise. That’s if the mayor of Richmond, Va., has his way.”


Post-turning point:

On Apr. 29, Preservation Virginia announced its Most Endangered Sites List for 2014, which included Shockoe Bottom. At this point three members of City Council were on record as being opposed to the mayor’s plan. They were: Parker Agelasto, Chris Hilbert and Reva Trammell.

The first of May brought news of an alternative stadium proposal, one for the Boulevard from a new developer. A week later Doug Wilder stuck his thumb in Jones’ eye by announcing his intention to revive his much-traveled slavery museum concept and locate it a couple of blocks from where the mayor wanted to put a similar museum.

On May 23, City Council members Charles Samuels and Jon Baliles put out a joint press release announcing their decision to let the sputtering Shockoe Stadium bandwagon pass them by. Joining with their three colleagues already prepared to vote against the mayor‘s plan, a new five-member majority was thus created. The bandwagon screeched to a sudden halt.

Four days later, Mayor Jones’ office announced his development plan for the Boulevard and the Bottom was being temporarily withdrawn from consideration. It was then anticipated the plan would be re-worked and introduced at a Council meeting before the summer was over.

Nonetheless, inside City Hall during June the stadium issue languished. In July Trammell suggested a referendum might be the best way to go. Her fellow Council members didn’t see it her way.

On August 3 a group of merry Richmonders paraded around The Diamond to mock the notion of demolishing it, only to build a replacement in the Bottom. As the accordion music swelled -- playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" -- some paraders may have wondered, once again, what the point of the LovingRVA campaign had been in the first place.

Was it to persuade the public? Or perhaps certain members of City Council?

In September, without much in the way of an explanation, Byron Marshall resigned. In the absence of a freshened up presentation from the mayor's office Council went on with other business.


If rumors are to be taken seriously, it now seems one member of last year's five-member-majority may flip this year. Time will tell. Still, what the mayor and any potential flip-flopping politicians should take to heart is this plain truth:

The opposition that swelled up in 2014 won’t be difficult to reanimate. It hasn’t gone anywhere, even if some politicians and rainmakers twist all the arms they can reach. After years of this issue flapping in the breeze, most voters have their minds made up. More salesmanship isn't going to change those minds much.

Moreover, last year’s coalescence of factions created something bigger than the sum of its parts. It’s something that isn't likely to ever stand aside for that old ballpark bandwagon. Nor is it likely to forget flip-floppery. For 2015, one thing is a safe bet: Dwight Jones wants no more face-to-face meetings with sign-carrying students at City Hall.

-- 30 --

-- Photo from Richmond.com

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Je suis Rebus Charlie

But, of course!
It's not a matter of whether those cartoons in France were good art, or bad. Not whether they were clever commentary, or plain silly. Not whether they were overly offensive, or too provocative. It's about whether we've gotten so scared of bullies that we're afraid to laugh, or not afraid. 

Satire has always been dangerous. Rebus ain't scared.  

-- My art. Take it, or leave it.