Wandering Eye: Drone assassinations, 'Artist's Statements of the Old Masters,' and more

Jeremy Scahill opens The Intercept's big whistle-blower-driven piece on the drone assassinations with an important point: What we're doing is extrajudicial killings. Assassinations. The U.S. has always done these (and torture too, of course), but until recently we've tried at least to maintain what the spy guys call "plausible deniability." No more. Now we just renamed them "targeted killings" and claim the victims are an "imminent threat." And we define imminent as "in the foreseeable future, possibly." And of course we make a list. Scahill's source is not comfortable with it: "This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them 'baseball cards,' assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong," the source told Scahill. The problem is not just moral, though, it's practical. We're killing people who could provide useful information if they were captured instead. And we're relying too much on "signals intelligence" (i.e. the vast data sweeps the NSA specializes in) instead of "human intelligence." We're doing this because it's convenient for war fighters. Incidentally, The Intercept uses the headline "The Kill Chain." That's the same one City Paper used a few years back when we tried to trace drone research through and by Johns Hopkins. The idea is to bring even more convenience in the future with autonomous drones that kill without human input. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Speaking from experience, writing an artist statement is the bane of most artists' existence—even if you also happen to be a writer. Seeing as it is utter agony to write about one's own work, it's no surprise that so many artist statements are just terrible, self-aggrandizing, gimmicky/formulaic nonsense. So, as artists are often taught, we might look to the old masters for guidance. In Hyperallergic contributor John Seed's new book "Artist's Statements of the Old Masters," the author imagines what famous artists would have written to justify or explain their work. Leonardo's statement for the Mona Lisa: "I originally proposed 'La Gioconda' as non-specific vehicle to map coded and opposing systems of selfhood and gender that could be substantiated via an intertextual nexus. Through a personal discursive process, it then evolved towards a self-referential 'otherness' that overlays Neo-Platonic androgyny re-defined as an ontology of the unsaid." As far as getting into da Vinci's mind goes, that's about as spot-on as anyone can get. (Maura Callahan)

 

Little pharma bro shit-head Martin Shkreli is in the news again, this time for supposedly punching a wall after Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took a donation from Shkreli and donated it to an AIDS charity. Shkreli was "SO ANGRY AT @BernieSanders [HE] COULD PUNCH A WALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1" And he said he did, posting an X-ray as proof. In comes Gawker to debunk this whole story. "A quick reverse Google image search shows pages over an alarmingly similar x-ray originating from Medscape.com," the site says. "And according to Photoshop, the only difference in the two images is, in fact, the 'Shkreli, Martin, 10/18/2015 21:32' seen on the image Shkreli tweeted out." The medical company owner later tweeted out a picture of himself playing guitar, leading some to believe they'd been trolled. "In this case, 'troll; does sound an awful lot like backpedaling after getting caught,'" says Gawker. (Brandon Weigel)

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