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Euthanasia is the right step for some people, but today the person taking that step must do so unaided.

It's a slippery slope that these two lawgivers would have us tread.

Ariel Sharon's government is failing to use nonviolent approaches in its confrontation with the Palestinians.

Whether in his home district or in Washington, DC, Congressman Gary Condit is a discredit to his profession.

If they connect well with voters in 2002, they'll have an edge in a weak economy.

It is not too early to devise a progressive strategy for the 2004 election.

It's time to consider what would really improve our unequal society.

 'Following the Money' can prove devastating to critics of the illegal trade.

Courtney Love's plea to fellow recording artists
to join her in the creation of a new musicians' guild, printed below,
is the latest blow to the beleaguered "Big Five

Next year's Florida gubernatorial election--which could pit presidential brother and current GOP Governor Jeb Bush against former Attorney General Janet Reno--is developing into the marquee melee

Finally, President Bush is "deeply worried" about the economy. Yep, in remarks last week, he even went so far as to observe that "the recovery is very slow in coming."

Not all readers liked my attack on the liberal/left tendency to "rationalize" the aggression of September 11, or my use of the term "fascism with an Islamic face," and I'll select a representat

Nothing in modern times has symbolized the scourge of racism--and the potential for overcoming it--more than South Africa's recent history.

Are we all dimwits? We just sit there with goofy looks on our faces while the economy sputters and the President blows what remains of the budget surplus on a tax giveaway to the rich.

John Sweeney sees the AFL-CIO through some growing pains.

Last night I had the
strangest dream...

All of America's wealthy,
conservative and safely belligerent pundits had been delivered by a
just and beneficent Almighty Power to a Palestinian refugee camp,
following the bulldozing of their homes--including vacation
homes--and the expropriation of all their possessions. Instead of
pontificating between beach walks and vodka tonics in Vineyard Haven,
these armchair bombardiers were treated to rivers of open sewage and
hopeless lives of beggary. Those who resisted were arrested, tortured
and selectively assassinated. Meanwhile, editorial pages across
America cheered the "restraint" of their tormentors.

In
extremely lengthy articles, the New York Times and The New
York Review of Books
recently demonstrated beyond any doubt that
the Israelis (and the Americans) shared in the blame for the
breakdown of peace negotiations and ensuing cycle of violence that
now tragically appears to be engulfing the region. To the
punditocracy, however, these dispassionately argued, extensively
reported stories amounted to an existential insult of near biblical
proportions. Marty Peretz's New Republic published a vicious
attack on the articles by Robert Satloff, executive director of a
pro-Israel think tank. William Safire got so excited, he denounced
his own newspaper in a hysterical fit of ad hominemism: "Do not
swallow this speculative rewriting of recent events," he warned
readers. "The overriding reason for the war against Israel today is
that Yasir Arafat decided that war was the way to carry out the
often-avowed Palestinian plan. Its first stage is to create a West
Bank state from the Jordan River to the sea with Jerusalem as its
capital. Then, by flooding Israel with 'returning' Palestinians, the
plan in its promised final phase would drive the hated Jews from the
Middle East."

Mortimer Zuckerman, in his capacity as
chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American
Organizations, insisted, "This is just revisionist history.... There
is one truth, period: The Palestinians caused the breakdown at Camp
David and then rejected Clinton's plan in January." The baldest
comment came from the Zionist Organization of America's president,
Morton Klein: "Whether their account is accurate or not is
irrelevant.... I reject any discussion of what
happened."

In the wake of the suicide bombings, three
different Washington Post pundits demanded war three days in a
row. Michael Kelly, recently seen complaining about too many fatsoes
at the beach, advised the Israelis to unleash "an overwhelming
force...to destroy, kill, capture and expel the armed Palestinian
forces." The more moderate George Will called only for a "short war."
(Charles Krauthammer did not specify a length.) To read these
would-be warriors, you would think the Palestinians were summering in
Edgartown. A reader would never guess that a regional superpower is
carrying out a brutal military occupation, coupled with a settlement
policy that directly contravenes Article 49 of the Geneva Convention.

No one with any sense would argue that Arafat and his
corrupt cronies do not bear considerable responsibility for the
collapse of any hope of peace in the Middle East in the near future.
And suicide bombers against civilian targets in Israel are as
counterproductive as they are immoral (though those who settle in
occupied territory are knowingly putting themselves in harm's way and
hence share some responsibility when their families are forced to pay
for this fanaticism with their lives). Nevertheless, a conflict where
"our team" engages in terrorism, assassination and the apparently
routine torture of teenagers to defend a cruel and illegal occupation
is one in which neither side holds a monopoly on virtue.

Since a majority of Israelis supports a freeze in the
provocative practice of settlement-building, the mindless hysteria of
the American punditocracy must have other sources than mere logic.
It's dangerous to draw firm conclusions without any special knowledge
about the psyches of those involved, but much of the materially
comfortable American Jewish community has had an unhappy history of
defending the principle of Jewish sovereignty over captured
Palestinian lands right down to the death of the last Israeli.
Because of the sacrifices they demand of others, many American Jews
feel they must be holier than the Pope when defending Israeli human
rights abuses. The New Republic's Peretz is a particularly
interesting specimen. He reflexively defends everything Israel does
and routinely slanders its critics. Peretz, who owes his prominence
to money, in this case his (non-Jewish) wife's fortune--which allowed
him to purchase his magazine--has never published a single book or
written a significant piece of scholarship, reportage or criticism.
It's not hard to imagine that his self-appointed role as Israel's
American Torquemada--seen in his obsession with smearing the
world-renowned Palestinian scholar and activist Edward Said--is
inspired as much by guilt and envy as by more rational motivations.
(I say this as a supporter of the peace process who has respectfully
disagreed with almost all Said has said about the conflict in recent
years.)

Whatever the reason, the net result is the same.
For a brief moment in recent history, when Israel had a government
that was dedicated to finding a way to make peace, the warrior
pundits were placed on the defensive and the Palestinians received a
reasonably fair shake from the nation's elite media. More recently, a
review of leading editorial pages by the ADL found that "the major
newspapers across the country are viewing the situation in the Middle
East in a realistic and objective manner." The authors of the study
helpfully defined their terms. To the ADL "realistic and objective"
means "critical of and hostile to Arafat...directly blaming him for
the continuing violence and creating a climate of hatred" along with
the dismissal of all Palestinian peace overtures as "calculated tools
for his goal of gaining further concessions from
Israel."

In a rational world, the ADL report would at least
complicate efforts by Safire, TNR and others to charge the
media with "pro-Arab" and "anti-Israel" bias. Alas, I'm betting
bubkes...

Unions know what has to be done. Now they have to do it.

The current uproar
over the posture of the Bush Administration on global warming and,
most recently, on power-plant emissions vividly illustrates the
political hypocrisy and opportunism imbuing debates on environmental
issues. Take first global warming. The charge that the current phase
of global warming can be attributed to greenhouse gases generated by
humans and their livestock is an article of faith among liberals as
sturdy as is missile defense among the conservative crowd. The
Democrats have seized on the issue of global warming as indicative of
President Bush's willful refusal to confront a global crisis that
properly agitates all of America's major allies. Almost daily, the
major green groups reap rich political capital (and donations) on the
issue.

Yet the so-called anthropogenic origin of global
warming remains entirely nonproven. Back in the spring of this year,
even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which now has a
huge stake in arguing the "caused by humans" thesis, admitted in its
summary that there could be a one-in-three chance its multitude of
experts are wrong. A subsequent report, issued under the auspices of
the National Academy of Sciences, is ambivalent to the point of
absurdity. An initial paragraph boldly asserting the caused-by-humans
line is confounded a few pages later by far more cautious paragraphs
admitting that the thesis is speculative and that major uncertainty
rules on the role played in climate equations by water vapor and
aerosols.

It's nothing new to say the earth is getting
warmer. I myself think it is, and has been for a long, long time. On
my shelf is an excellent volume put out in 1941 by the Department of
Agriculture called Climate and Man, which contains a chapter
acknowledging "global warming" (that same phrase) and hailing it as a
benign trend that will return the earth to the normalcy in climate it
enjoyed several hundred thousand years ago.

Anything more
than a glance at the computer models favored by the caused-by-humans
crowd will show that the role of carbon dioxide is grotesquely
exaggerated. Indeed, the models are incapable of handling the role of
the prime greenhouse gas, water vapor (clouds, etc), which accounts
for twenty-five to thirty times as much heat absorption as carbon
dioxide.

Similarly, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change admits to a "very low" level of scientific understanding on an
"aerosol indirect effect" that the panel acknowledges is cooling the
climate system at a hefty rate (aerosols are particles so fine they
float in air).

In a particularly elegant paper published in
May in Chemical Innovation, journal of the American Chemical
Society, Professor Robert Essenhigh of Ohio State reminds us that for
the past 850,000 years, global temperature and carbon dioxide have
been moving up and down in lockstep. Since 849,700 of these years
were ones preceding any possible human effect on carbon dioxide, this
raises the question of whether global warming caused swings in carbon
dioxide or vice versa. Essenhigh argues convincingly that the former
is the case. As global temperatures warm, a huge reservoir of carbon
dioxide absorbed in the oceans is released into the atmosphere.
Clearly, this is a much more potent input than the relatively puny
human contribution to global carbon dioxide. Thus natural warming is
driving the raised level of carbon dioxide, and not the other way
round.

But science can barely squeeze in the door with a
serious debate about what is prompting global warming. Instead, the
Europeans, the greens and the Democrats eagerly seize on the issue as
a club with which to beat President Bush and kindred targets of
opportunity.

Now take the latest brouhaha over emissions
from coal-fired plants. The industry wants what is coyly called
"flexibility" in emissions standards. EPA chief Christine Whitman is
talking about "voluntary incentives" and market-based pollution
credits as the proper way to go. Aware of the political pitfalls, the
Bush Administration has recently been saying that it is not quite
ready to issue new rules.

Now, there's no uncertainty about
the effects of the stuff that comes out of a power-plant chimney.
These heavy metals and fine particles kill people or make them sick.
There are also cleaning devices, some of them expensive, that can
remove these toxic substances. Ever since the 1970s the energy
industry has fought mandatory imposition of such cleaners. If Bush
and Whitman enforce this flexibility they will be condemning people
to death, as have previous foot-dragging administrations, Democratic
as well as Republican.

Both political parties have danced
to the industry's tunes. It was with the propagandizing of Stephen
Breyer (now on the Supreme Court, then a top aide to Senator Ted
Kennedy) that the trend toward pollution credits began. And after the
glorious regulatory laxity of the Reagan/Bush years, the industry was
not seriously discommoded in Clinton Time. Ask the inhabitants of
West Virginia and Tennessee whether they think the coal industry lost
clout in those years.

The sad truth of the matter is that
many "big picture" environmental theses, such as human-caused global
warming, afford marvelously inviting ways of avoiding specific and
mostly difficult political decisions. You can bellow for "global
responsibility" without seriously offending powerful corporate
interests, some of which, for reasons material, cynical or both, now
have a big stake (the nuclear industry, for example) in promoting the
caused-by-humans thesis. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill loves it,
and so does the aluminum industry, in which he has been a prime
player. On the other side we can soon expect to hear that powerful
Democrat, Senator Robert Byrd, arguing that the coal industry is in
the vanguard of the war on global warming, because the more you shade
the earth, perhaps the more rain you cause. So burn dirty coal and
protect the earth by cooling it.

The logic of the
caused-by-humans models installs the coal industry as the savior of
"global warming"--you want to live by a computer model that does
that?

In his essay for the catalogue that accompanies
"Picasso Érotique," beautifully installed in the Montreal
Museum of Fine Arts until September 16, Jean-Jacques Lebel reproduces
an extraordinary drawing that is not included in the exhibition
itself. On the right is a vagina, sparsely surrounded by pubic hairs.
It dwarfs the homuncular male figure, moving open-eyed and
stubble-cheeked into the dark night of death, emblematized by a sweep
of black wash. The date of execution is inscribed in large and
ornamental numerals--25.7.72. It was perhaps the last of the goaty
old master's drawings of a woman's sexe--he was to die, aged
91, the following April. The figure, of course, is Picasso himself.
In his middle 70s, after he was abandoned by his young and beautiful
mistress, Françoise Gilot, he represented himself as some
figure of contempt--an old man, a monkey, a clown, a grotesquely fat
caricature of an infantile male personage, often an
artist--juxtaposed with an inward-dwelling woman, a model, usually
nude, indifferent to his presence. The male will often be shown
draped and ornamented with the paraphernalia of worldly
recognition--armor, for example, or robes too large by far for his
shrunken physique. The woman needs no external mark of power. Her
youth and nakedness, which at times is accentuated by a circlet of
flowers worn in her hair, is emblem enough. In this small, scary
masterpiece, Picasso is taking leave at once of life and of sex.
Eros c'est la vie was the punning pronunciation of Rrose
Sélavy--the pseudonym that his fellow eroticist, Marcel
Duchamp, took for himself when he assumed his periodic female
identity. The same disproportion of this farewell drawing is embodied
in Duchamp's monumental Large Glass, in which the Bride sits
aloof and alone in an upper chamber while her various Bachelors are
segregated in a limbo of desire below.

The disengaged
vagina is a universal symbol. What Picasso has scrawled in the 1972
drawing could have been incised in plaster outside a doorway in India
or brushed in red pigment on a wall in Rome at any moment of its
history--or scribbled with ballpoint in lavatory booths or drawn with
a pencil stub wherever lonesome men languish. On the other hand, it
belongs to its meaning to be furtive and hidden. The female nude is
omnipresent in Western art, but the representation of a woman with
her genital orifice displayed is exceedingly rare. There are two
celebrated exceptions. The first is the somewhat presumptuously
titled The Origin of the World, by Gustave Courbet, painted in
1866--roughly the moment when the term pornography entered the
language. It shows a reclining woman, her legs spread apart, her
garment lifted to the level of her breasts and her luxuriant pubic
thatch exposed to the viewer. The woman's head, lower legs and arms
are cropped by the edges of the canvas, which was evidently kept
covered by a green veil after the painting was done. It was
commissioned by a Turkish diplomat, Khalil Bey, and was later
acquired by the celebrated French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, who
was, incidentally, Picasso's consultant on most medical questions.
Lacan too kept it hidden--like the portrait of La Belle
Noiseuse
in Balzac's Chef d'oeuvre inconnu. It was
concealed behind a painting by Lacan's brother-in-law, the Surrealist
André Masson, and shown only to favored visitors. Courbet's
painting became the property of the French state after Lacan died,
and I first saw it at--naturally--the Brooklyn Museum. It was shown
in the 1988 "Courbet Reconsidered" exhibition in the days predating
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, when it aroused neither outcry nor outrage
but only a certain curiosity. Later it went on view at the
Musée d'Orsay, surrounded with enough art history almost to
neutralize it. I once discussed it in a lecture at Yale but was
hesitant to show a slide--though I was told afterward that
avant-garde feminists have adopted it as a symbol of female power. In
certain African societies it is considered lethal to behold a woman's
genitals, which are kept safely out of view by means of the myth of
their dangerousness.

The other example is Duchamp's
mysterious Étant donnés... in the Philadelphia
Museum of Art, where, peering through a peephole, one finds oneself
looking at the shaven cleft, between her spread legs, of a woman
lying on her back. Duchamp designed the installation in such a way
that the hole through which we see her will not allow the viewer to
see her head or even if she has a head. It was Duchamp's last work,
done in secrecy during the last twenty years of his life, when the
received opinion was that he had given up art for chess. There is a
wall in "Picasso Érotique" with small apertures through which
one can see backlit transparencies both of the Courbet and the
Duchamp as Picasso's predecessors in the representation of a woman's
open sexe. It is a distinguished but not a particularly
extensive artistic genealogy, considering the wide distribution of
this particular organ, and the extraordinary interest it generates in
most of our lives. A visitor from outer space could acquire a wide
knowledge from the history of art of what human females look like
undressed, but have not a clue as to the vagina's existence or visual
appearance.

There are two main aesthetic reasons for its
absence from art. The first is enunciated by Freud: The genitals
themselves, the sight of which is always exciting, are hardly ever
regarded as beautiful. When a New York gallerist was shown some
examples from a work by the French Surrealist Henri Maccheroni,
titled 2000 photographies du sexe d'une femme, she said she
realized why, by contrast with breasts and buttocks, this particular
attribute played no part in the stereotype of feminine beauty. The
second reason is this: The difference between male and female nudes
is that the male's genitals are visible unless they are covered but
the female's are invisible unless uncovered, which requires that the
woman assume an awkward posture in which they are displayed. There
are two circumstances in which this routinely takes place. The first
is the gynecological examination. The second is where they are
flashed by sex workers for the enticement and arousal of clients. In
a superb review of a book on a brothel in a recent issue of this
magazine, Leah Platt quoted the author's interview of a working woman
on her job, performed behind a window before a paying male: "make eye
contact, pout, wink, swivel your hips a little, put a stiletto-clad
foot up on the window sill to reveal an eye-full of your two most
marketable orifices, fondle your tits, smack your ass, stroke
whatever pubic hair you haven't shaven off...until the customer
comes, then move on to the next window." The segregation of the Bride
from the Bachelors in Duchamp's Large Glass could be an
allegory of this transaction.

In her legendary early film Fuses, the great performance artist Carolee Schneemann
undertook to discover whether showing how sexual love looked
corresponded to the pleasure of experiencing it, and this involved
her in finding a way of exhibiting herself that was neither
gynecological nor pornographic. I have never seen Fuses, but
in her forthcoming book, Imaging Her Erotics, Schneemann
describes how the film landed her in hot water with audiences from
the art world, from which she had supposed she could count on a
measure of support. Since there are a certain number of opened
vaginas in "Picasso Érotique," the exhibition's
organizers--Jean-Jacques Lebel and Jean Clair, director of the
Musée national Picasso in Paris--prudently decided against
seeking a New York venue for their show, thinking, with the
European's affecting ignorance of North American geography, that New
Yorkers need but slip across the border to see it. So unless you're
prepared to take an hour's flight on Air Canada--or do the thing
properly by postponing your trip to Barcelona until the show is
installed in the Museu Picasso, near where it all began--you'll have
to make do with consulting the catalogue and writing a letter of
indignation to Giuliani's Panel on Decency.

Just inside
the entrance to "Picasso Érotique," the exhibition's designer
has re-created an imagined bordello bedroom as one might have existed
in the red-light district of Barcelona in the era of Picasso's youth.
Projected on its wall is a clip from what I take to be a vintage
film, in which a generously proportioned woman, sitting on the edge
of the bed, lifts her breasts in the time-honored way, and then
stands, with her wrapper open, to give us a view of her nakedness.
The action is pretty fast. We get a shot of a man administering
cunnilingus while a frustrated customer peers through a keyhole until
he evidently can't hold himself in any longer and falls to the floor,
clutching his front, like one of Duchamp's bachelors. It certainly
beats an acousta-guide in setting the somewhat merry tone the early
drawings and watercolors carry out. The pictures are really scraps,
pages from a sketchbook, graphic souvenirs of the artist's erotic
encounters in the kinds of bedrooms we have just seen, with the kinds
of women we have just been shown. A lot of the pictures are on the
border between cartoons and life drawings. There is a certain amount
of cunnilingus, some lively sketches of an ecstatic woman in high
sockings fingering herself, some scenes of women sitting around
half-dressed, a few quite tender scenes of lesbian caress and a
fairly ambitious painting of the artist himself, looking as innocent
as a choirboy and wearing a striped jersey, being treated to
fellatio. It is on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but I'll
lay odds that though it was painted in 1903, in the middle of
Picasso's extravagantly admired Blue Period, you won't see it proudly
displayed there when the Montreal show is over.

The
interest of these mostly ephemeral works lies as much in what they
tell us about the male sexual imagination as about what Picasso saw.
Men visited the brothels of the so-called barrio chino--the
Chinese Quarter of old Barcelona--as they visit brothels everywhere:
in part to see, in part to enact, what life otherwise only allows
them to imagine. That is why the displayed vagina belongs so
centrally to pornography--the much-debated male gaze is not readily
gratified, due to its object's hiddenness. There are relatively few
depictions in the early parts of the show of the way men and women in
love express that condition sexually.

But there is a great
deal of that in Picasso's art, beginning with when he fell profoundly
in love with Fernande Olivier in 1904, and began to see life en
couleur de rose
: The so-called Rose Period is not merely a change
of palette. Pictures titled Le Baiser (The Kiss) or
L'Étreinte (Embrace) outnumber by a significant factor
those showing special couplings of the kind advertised in
Pompei--though there is a gouache from 1917 that could easily have
been copied from the kinds of souvenir postcards that are probably
still hawked outside the excavations. Its chief pictorial function is
to display the man's enormous penis in a state of futile erection,
since the couple has assumed a position too athletic for actual
intercourse to take place: She is standing on her head, with one foot
braced against his chin. In the main, except when he is being
satirical, Picasso has no use for the caricaturely gross penis. He
shows himself as normally proportioned in an awkward, scowling 1902
Self Portrait With Nude.

The kisses are intensely
felt and at the same time comically shown: In a painting dated
January 12, 1931, the couple dart their triangular tongues into each
other's mouths; the woman's nose is draped affectionately over the
man's, her eyes closed and his rolled upward. In Figures at the
Seashore
, it is impossible to determine to which of the two
kissers the breasts belong, as if the difference between two
individuals has been transcended, and they are one being, with
tangled legs and arms. One cannot but think, in these wonderful
middle-period works, of Aristophanes' vivid thesis in The
Symposium
, that each of us was once part of a single being, now
split into two, each part seeking to be reunited with the other. So
many of the Baisers and Étreintes are ingenious,
imperfect reassemblages of bodily parts into helpless erotic wholes,
destined to fall apart despite the great passion that brought them
together. The overall mood is one of tenderness and comedy.

So I was not surprised to learn from the museum's
publicist that there have been very few complaints about the show in
Montreal, though attendance so far has greatly exceeded expectations.
But there has been a spontaneous show of affection on the part of
those who visit the show together. Basically the show is about love.
She told me that she had been alerted by one of the guards that
couples often begin to hold hands while looking at the work, to
whisper in each other's ear, to embrace lightly, even to kiss. I
found that a very touching discovery, and really something of a
vindication for mounting such a show. It is evidence that there is
more to experiencing art than allowing one's eyes to be flooded with
form. This is the power of erotic representation: We respond with
affection. But sex has another strand as well, a raucousness and
comedy that the ancients appreciated when they rocked with laughter
at the sight of satyrs capering across the stage with leather
phalluses. For all his tenderness, Picasso was a fierce satirist,
aware that we can look pretty ridiculous in the grip of sexual
passion. There is a delicious suite of etchings done in 1968, showing
the painter Raphael making endless love to his mistress, La
Fornarina, never so overcome by passion that he has to put down his
brushes and palette and use both arms. In all of these images,
Picasso shows the couple's genitals fitted together like bolt and
bolt-hole, but each wears the calm smile of Hindu deities in cosmic
fornication, as if butter would not melt in their mouths. Most of
these etchings contain observers as well as the lovers themselves.
The Pope, for example, often drops into a picture to observe the
action--and in some of them Michelangelo gets an eyeful while hiding
under the bed.

Raphael, painter of sweet madonnas and
charming infants, was not above doing a bit of pornography himself
now and then. His notorious 1516 frescoes of the history of Venus,
commissioned for Cardinal Bibbiena's bathroom in the Vatican, were
whitewashed over in the nineteenth century as inconsistent with what
was felt to be spiritually fitting for the artist of the Acts of
the Apostles
. The nineteenth century was a bad time for the
erotica of the masters. Ruskin had no hesitation in ordering the
destruction of Turner's horny drawings on the grounds that he was
obviously insane when he drew them. But the depiction of sex was one
of the main reasons that drawing was invented. Even the misogynous
Degas executed a series of monoprints in the Maison Tellier, one of
Paris's best-known brothels of the 1880s. They show the prostitutes
lounging about, waiting for clients or engaged in lesbian sex with
one another. Picasso owned some of these quite compassionate images,
and as he approached the age of 90, he devoted a rowdy suite of
etchings to the somewhat implausible episode of Degas observing the
whores. There are a good many exceedingly open, exceedingly juicy
vaginas in these pictures, I would say lovingly drawn, in which it is
indeterminate whether the women are mocking or tempting the voyeur.
In one, Picasso shows lines of sight from Degas's eyes to the hairy
juncture of vaginal lips spread open for his uncertain
delectation.

There are no open vaginas in Picasso's own
celebrated brothel scene, the famous Demoiselles d'Avignon,
one of the canonical works of Modernism and by all accounts his
masterpiece. It could in one way almost be a Cubist paraphrase of one
of Degas's monoprints, in which the women are gathered to greet the
visitor, who will hopefully select one of them for whatever he is
into. Here are five women in all--three classical figures to the
viewer's left, two masked women to the right, one of them, her back
to us, squatting. The masks could be African, could be Oceanic, but
hardly belong to any European tradition other than that of the
ethnographic museum, where Picasso first saw them. Whatever they are
up to, the women hardly look as if they are out to tempt us. If we
did not know from scholarship that it was a brothel scene, it is hard
to know how we would read the work. It is easy to sympathize with
Alfred Barr, who acquired the painting for the Museum of Modern Art,
when he described this as a purely formal figure composition, which
as it develops becomes more and more dehumanized and abstract. Leo
Steinberg quotes this in a great essay, together with a 1912
interpretation by the poet André Salmon, of Picasso's own
inner circle: The women "'are naked problems, white numbers on a
blackboard.' Can we be looking at the same canvas?" Steinberg asks
with incredulity. I shall always be grateful for this "Can we be
looking at the same canvas?" It definitively erased from my aesthetic
whatever inclination I had toward formalism in art. On the other
hand, I am not ready to be included in the "us" to whom Steinberg
says this picture looks like a tidal wave of female aggression. I
cannot get female aggression to fit with the overall feeling toward
women conveyed in this wonderful exhibition in Montreal, not even in
the period when Picasso was painting Salome dancing for the price of
John the Baptist's head. The Demoiselles d'Avignon is not in
the show, and that's a good thing. Nobody really understands it;
nobody is even able to say whether it is a success or a failure. It
may not be white numbers on a blackboard, but it falls outside the
range of the human--all too human--to which eroticism, as behavior
and imagination, belongs.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Pacifica Radio
executive director Bessie Wash said that the Pacifica management's
goal "is to increase listenership." In the name of that worthy
ambition, however, Wash has continued to further alienate many
longtime supporters and staff and to weaken the core programming that
should be the foundation on which that listenership is built. In the
latest development, Pacifica is no longer originating and
distributing its most popular (and much-honored) news program,
Democracy Now!, following disputes with host Amy Goodman. (The
program is being produced elsewhere and aired on some stations, while
Pacifica sends out reruns of earlier shows.) Meanwhile, in order to
fight lawsuits brought by former employees and listeners, and the
accompanying bad publicity, Pacifica is using scarce listener-donated
dollars to hire a white-shoe law firm and a high-priced PR outfit.
And dissidents are pushing an economic boycott that will reduce those
dollars even further.

At the rate things are going, there will soon be no Pacifica worth
fighting over (apart from its valuable real estate on the dial). It
is time for both sides to pull back from the brink. We continue to
believe that Democracy Now! and Goodman exemplify Pacifica's
fifty-year tradition of tough, radical reporting and that they
represent an asset of immense worth. We also believe that the only
way out of the current downward spiral at Pacifica is for dissidents
as well as management to focus on positive steps to move the
enterprise forward. For the dissidents, it means an end to the
boycott, which is incompatible with a devotion to the spirit of
community radio, and a willingness to be open to change. For the
Pacifica management and board, set to hold a key meeting on September
12, it means a commitment to respecting its employees and a
restructuring of the organization to grant more legal power to the
staff and listeners, who have made Pacifica what it is today.

As we've said before, Pacifica is one of the bastions of the precept,
enshrined in the Federal Communications Act, that the airwaves are a
public trust. It deserves the care and concern of all who believe in
that precept.