Gay marriage: an issue of law, equality, and routine paperwork
I believe in the sanctity of marriage. That is, for me, marriage is a sacred act, whether I get hitched in Vegas or the Basilica of St. Mary. I believe the loving union of two men or two women can also be holy, but that's not what the gay-marriage debate is about. It's about law.

While no couple getting married by a Justice of the Peace is required to declare their union before God, every wedding in a church or synagogue ends with the signing of a marriage license. The sacramental part of marriage is a powerful add-on, a time-honored way of making it more than just a legal contract. But, to the government, that's what it is. Legal. While gays and lesbians have long been having religious commitment ceremonies, professing their love to the heavens in services often presided over by ministers of many denominations, it doesn't make them technically married. What they're asking for now, and what the president hopes to block by amending our country's founding edict, is really pretty boring--the right to have a routine signature on the bottom of a legal document, and all the responsibilities and privileges that come with it.

So if opponents of gay marriage can strip their personal religious beliefs away from this matter of civil law--just as the First Amendment instructs our government to--the human rights issue would become starkly evident. "When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs," said Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun in 1992. "A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some." If some people can marry and others can't--regardless of what your church says--we're not created equal.

If you agree that permanently engraining discrimination in our country's founding document is a bad idea, visit my friend Jeff's Human Rights Campaign page to send letters to your elected officials. Then, use the GOP letter-writing tool I mentioned the other day to send a pro-human rights/anti-constitutional amendment letter to newspapers in your state.


Stations of the Crass: Maureen Dowd, linking Bush's break from "compassionate conservatism" regarding gay marriage with Mel Gibson's film The Passion (instead of leaving theater-goers "suffused with charity toward your fellow man" it's likely to send you home "wanting to kick somebody's teeth in"), she writes: "If the president is truly concerned about preserving the sanctity of marriage, as one of my readers suggested, why not make divorce illegal and stone adulterers? Our soldiers are being killed in Iraq; Osama's still on the loose; jobs are being exported all over the world; the deficit has reached biblical proportions. And our president is worrying about Mars and marriage?"

Couldn't've said it better myself:
Once a group is viewed as fully human, it grows harder to accord it some rights and deny it others. In the early 20th century, the laws banning miscegenation were justified as protecting whites against "inferior" blacks. By mid-century, in much of the nation, blacks were no longer inferior, and the case for miscegenation had dwindled to a defense of marriage as such. But if whites and blacks were no longer really different, what was it that marriage needed to be defended against?
Also: As Josh Marshall points out, the photo that accompanies this MSNBC story sums up what the freedom to marry is all about.


Thanks, George W!
Republicans provide Progressives with letter-writing tool:
Billmon has a great idea: use the Bush campaign's rather sophisticated letter-to-the-editor writing tool to send progressive-themed mail to your hometown papers. Just enter your zip code, then select which--may I suggest all--papers you'd like your automated, Bush email to go to, then hit send. (It seems to be good software with a surprisingly diverse database; when I type in my zip code, I can select the major dailies in the Twin Cities, plus the alternative weeklies, a neighborhood paper or two, titles from the minority press, and papers in first-ring suburbs; but be warned, the site requires you to accept cookies--i.e. the GOP will be trackin' you.)

Constitutional amendment: Conservative gay blogger Andrew Sullivan, who says Bush's proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage means the president wants homosexuals to be "stigmatized in the very founding document of America", runs a series of interesting letters on the topic. Like this one:
I organized my life around four institutions: my family, the Presbyterian Church, the Boy Scouts and the Republican Party. They summed up what seemed to me a sensible view of life and the world, embodying loyalty, unconditional love, a quiet, thoughtful exercise of faith, a commitment to ethical behavior, and a limited government that did the things it needed for the public good but otherwise left people alone to be all they could become and savor the victory of having done so. Then I came out, and one by one those four institutions turned their backs on me...


GOP humor: We killed Wellstone: Remember the hue and cry in the media and by right-wing pundits when mourners at Paul Wellstone's memorial booed Trent Lott? I wonder how they'll react to this (silently, I'm sure):
During a Feb. 5 meet-the-candidate night for the newly formed College Republicans U. chapter -- not to be confused with the older and more established College Republicans -- representatives for several candidates revved up the jovial crowd with such statements as "We need to put an end to the liberal Matheson era" and support "the Democrat killers."

As the audience giggled off and on, Mike Clement, representing congressional candidate Tim Bridgewater, spoke excitedly about Republican successes when College Republicans work hard, citing the victory of Norm Coleman in the 2002 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota.

As Clement bantered with the audience, one Republican gadfly noted that they defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale in that race, adding: "We had to kill off Wellstone to get it." He was referring to the death in a plane crash of Sen. Paul Wellstone and his family before the election.
(Thanks, Andy.)


Bush suppresses Pentagon findings that climate change will lead to "global chaos":
The Bush Administration long maintained that global warming was pure fiction. But a leaked Pentagon document says that climate change "should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern"--and that it poses a far more serious threat to world stability than terrorism. According to a report in The Observer, "the potential ramifications of rapid climate change would create global chaos. 'This is depressing stuff,' [Pentagon advisor Andrew Randall, who commissioned the report] said. 'It is a national security threat that is unique because there is no enemy to point your guns at and we have no control over the threat... The consequences for some nations of the climate change are unbelievable. It seems obvious that cutting the use of fossil fuels would be worthwhile.'" The report warns that major European cities will sink under rising seas as the UK is plunged into a "Siberian" climate within 15 years--and that nuclear conflict, droughts, famine, and rioting will break out across the globe. This is huge. Why has the Bush administration actively suppressed this report? The president has already been accused by 20 Nobel scientists of distorting and politicizing scientific findings for the benefit of corporations. So maybe it's simply that Bush is protecting his petroleum pals from news that might kill profits. Or perhaps he knows his "wartime president" ruse relies on making national defense the highest priority. Whatever the reason, the report implies that ousting Bush from office--a noble and hopefully attainable goal--probably won't matter: the environmental damage is likely irreversible.


Birth of a language: Following up the fascinating 1999 New York Times story, "A Linguistic Big Bang," on the same topic, The Economist reports on the usual emergence of a distinct, new language form in Nicaragua. Arising spontaneously among deaf children, with seemingly no relation to the structures of spoken language, Nicaraguan Sign Language is composed of units of meaning (i.e. "words) and nuanced gestures that have evolved over time and become more sophisticated. Researchers are excited about the implications of studying NSL on all language: the question of weather humans tap into a pre-set template--i.e. whether our brains are hard-wired for language--might be answered in Nicaragua with this purely self-invented (and possibly straight-from-the-source) way of communicating.

Read the full article here.
Recommended reading: Robert Newman's excellent novel, The Fountain at the Center of the World," is predicted to become "the talismanic Catch-22 of the antiglobalization protest movement, the fictional complement to Naomi Klein's influential treatise No Logo" by the New York Times book review. (Thanks to whoever emailed the review a few weeks back.)

The ego has landed: According to an early report from Fox, Ralph Nader will be running for president.

Flaws with the Anyone-But-Bush strategy? Mark Hand at Press Action wonders how much better Kerry might be than the neocon Bush, citing the "gung-ho" militarism of the New Democrats and the Progressive Policy Institute:
...John Kerry, the frontrunner in the quest for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, has been promoting a foreign policy perspective called "progressive internationalism." It's a concept concocted by establishment Democrats seeking to convince potential backers in the corporate and political world that, if installed in the White House, they would preserve U.S. power and influence around the world, but in a kinder, gentler fashion than the current administration.

In the domestic battle to captain the American empire, the neocons have in their corner the Project for a New American Century while the New Democrats have the Progressive Policy Institute. Come November, who will get your vote? Coke or Pepsi?
Read the entire article here. (Thanks, Andy.)

Memogate mayhem: Conservative activists are savaging Orrin Hatch. Some are likening him to Neville Chaimberlain. One, in the Washington Post, warned of a "thermonuclear" punishment for the crotchety Utah Republican, and more than a few blame him for a "demoralized" Republican base. His crime? Supporting a formal investigation into the unethical--and possibly illegal--pilfering of Democratic computer files related to confirmation proceedings for ultra-conservative judges. "The right-wing bile over Hatch's Memogate burst of conscience," reports Slate, "only shows how frighteningly militant Washington's church of conservatism has become." And, in case you missed it, George W. Bush has again made an end-run around the Democratic filibuster of a rightwing, activist judicial nominee. Like last month's recess appointment of segregationist judge Charles Pickering, Bush appointed William Pryor to the US appeals bench despite longstanding Democratic efforts to block the move. A crusader against Roe v. Wade, Pryor has the distinction of likening homosexuality to "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia."
Pigs, tattoos, art: Researching Belgian artist Wim Delvoye's installation artwork, Cloaca--a room-sized series of pumps, tanks, and tubes that simulates human digestion (a critique of the art world, he sells autographed byproducts of the machine for $1000 a plop, er, pop)--I came upon another of his recurring themes: tattooed pigs. In his project's most recent incarnation, last summer, he sought to tattoo poems on 23 piglets, anticipating that they'd grow--and the poems with them--to 300 kg by the end of the summer. Another protest against the notion of art as investiment--paintings increase in value just as the poems grow with the pigs, he says. While the work is controversial from an animal-rights perspective (as a vegetarian, Delvoye claims he's humane in the tattooing, and he actually extends the life of pigs destined for slaughter), it's also created a minor stir with a certain artist: Andy Feehan--who tattooed wings on a pig named Minnesota in 1976, before turning the needle on his hairless dog--says Delvoye swiped the idea from him.
What's so patriotic about these screwy cursors for Windows? I mean, I get some of them--a Saddam pointer with $!@# coming out of his mouth--but the rest?


Bushville: The Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign will erect a symbolic shantytown named after the president during the Republican National Convenition August 30–September 2. Run by a formerly homeless Minneapolis mom, the group will also lead "reality bus tours" of poor areas of NYC to illustrate the effects of Bush's--and Democrats'--policies.

The origins of Nazism: The Mises Institute excerpts Ludwig von Mises' 1944 Omnipotent Government: The Rise of Total State and Total War, the "first full-scale examination of German-style National Socialism as a species of socialism in general. "

Christian Zionists on NOW: Bill Moyers offers a truly chilling report on the rise and striking influence of Christian Zionism, Christians who support Israel and the West Bank settlements only because they see the unity of Israel as a foreshadowing of the Second Coming of Christ. Click here to see where you can watch the rebroadcast of NOW.

Grey Album protest: February 24 Next Tuesday, 54 web sites and counting will participate in a "day of coordinated civil disobedience": they'll host DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album--his sampling of the Beatle's White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album--in defiance of EMI's efforts to squelch artistic reuse of copyrighted materials. Visit Grey Tuesday to learn how your site can participate. EMI, copyright holders for the Beatles' work, has sent cease-and-desist letters to anyone posting the songs, to DJ Danger Mouse, and any record stores selling his CD. "It's clear that this work devalues neither of the originals. There is no legitimate artistic or economic reason to ban this record--this is just arbitrary exertion of control," said Nicholas Reville, Downhill Battle co-founder. "The framers of the constitution created copyright to promote innovation and creativity. A handful of corporations have radically perverted that purpose for their own narrow self interest, and now the public is fighting back."


"What you ask is who you are, and what shapes our lives are the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never think of asking..."
—Sam Keen
Getting a finger on the pulse at Daytona: Reporting from the Daytona 500, the American Prospect takes the pulse of "NASCAR dads," making an unexpected discovery: they’re not as into Bush as you’d think:
Then Bush's motorcade drove by. One middle finger went up in the crowd, then another, and soon they were everywhere.

As the crowd scattered to their seats, one of the few black fans I spotted at the racetrack ran by and saw me scribbling in my notepad. "Writing for a newspaper?" she asked. Before I could respond, she shouted, "Tell them Bush sucks!" Then she disappeared back into the fray.
(Via Cursor.)

One more from Cursor:
"To talk about the price of the Iraq war strictly in terms of U.S. casualties and tax dollars is an obscenity," writes Naomi Klein. "Yes, Americans were lied to by their politicians. Yes, they are owed answers. But the people of Iraq are owed a great deal more, and that enormous debt belongs at the very centre of any civilized debate about the war."

She chides the leading Democratic presidential candidates for ignoring the plight of Iraqis, but reparations are a central element of Rep. Dennis Kucinich's campaign.
Moyers to call it quits: Bill Moyers has announced that he'll be stepping down from his post at NOW with Bill Moyers after the November elections. Producers say they're committed to continuing the show, which draws a weekly viewership of 2.6 million.


...By my count, this year's budget contains 27 glossy photos of Mr. Bush. We see the president in front of a giant American flag, in front of the Washington Monument, comforting an elderly woman in a wheelchair, helping a small child with his reading assignment, building a trail through the wilderness and, of course, eating turkey with the troops in Iraq. Somehow the art director neglected to include a photo of the president swimming across the Yangtze River.

It was not ever thus. Bill Clinton's budgets were illustrated with tables and charts, not with worshipful photos of the president being presidential.

The issue here goes beyond using the Government Printing Office to publish campaign brochures. In this budget, as in almost everything it does, the Bush administration tries to blur the line between reverence for the office of president and reverence for the person who currently holds that office.

Operation Flight Suit was only slightly more over the top than other Bush photo-ops, like the carefully staged picture that placed Mr. Bush's head in line with the stone faces on Mount Rushmore. The goal is to suggest that it's unpatriotic to criticize the president, and to use his heroic image to block any substantive discussion of his policies...
Full article here.


Download while you can: The Grey Album
Stay Free! publisher Carrie McClaren sends this note:
DJ Danger Mouse's recent Grey Album, which remixes Jay-Z's The Black Album and the Beatles White Album, has been hailed as a innovative hip-hop triumph. Despite that and the fact that only 3,000 copies of the album are in circulation, EMI sent cease and desist letters yesterday to Danger Mouse and the handful of stores that were selling the album, demanding that the album be destroyed.

"EMI isn't looking for compensation, they're trying to ban a work of art," said Downhill Battle's Rebecca Laurie.

"Special interests, including the major labels, have turned copyright law into a weapon," said Downhill Battle co-founder Holmes Wilson. "If Danger Mouse had requested permission and offered to pay royalties, EMI still would have said no and the public would never have been able to enjoy this critically acclaimed work. Artists are being forced to break the law to innovate."

The Grey Album has been widely shared on file sharing networks such as Kazaa and Soulseek, and has garnered critical acclaim in Rolling Stone (which called it "the ultimate remix record" and "an ingenious hip-hop record that sounds oddly ahead of its time"), the Boston Globe (which called it the ""most creatively captivating" album of the year), and other major news outlets.
Download The Grey Album here.
Spies. A day after Chilean officials announced that their UN office phone had been tapped, the Mexican government is pointedly asking the US and UK about spying on fellow UN members in the run-up to war.

Have you seen the WMDs? Call it innovative, call it a sign of desperation, but the CIA's new "Iraqi Rewards Program" is, at the very least, unusual. Using a secure online form you can offer tips on the missing WMDs, the whereabouts of Ba'thist leaders or missing GIs, and more.


AWOL story won't go away: I'm having a hard time keeping track of the Bush-AWOL-National Guard story. First I heard his payroll records showed George W. Bush had a credit of nine days of work between May of '72 and May of '73, then it switched to six days. Hmm. Either way, doesn't the advertisement about the Guard specifically reference one weekend a month and two weeks a year--i.e. 36 days?

To try to make sense of it all, start with TalkLeft's excellent summary. But pay attention, the plot keeps thickening--and getting deeper. As Josh Marshall reports, the White House is reneging on Bush's promise on Meet the Press to release all service records, insisting instead that Bush promised to release only payroll records. Oh. Right. (Sounds a little like the difference between "weapons of mass destruction" and "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.")

I admit, it's a hard story to follow, especially since, as the Star Tribune editorializes, so many people reporting on the story "couldn't tell you the difference between a DD214 [military form] and an Article 15." But as Strib letterwriter Al Raney suggests, there's a paperwork-free way to vouch for the prez: ask his war buddies. "I spent three years in the U.S. Army about 50 years ago... If I were unable to locate my service records, I would contact one of the dozen (or more) Army buddies whose names I still remember. Guess what? Most of them are still alive! If I contacted them, they would "swear to" my military service -- both time and location."

Media no longer AWOL? And from Cursor, an admission by the White House that they were "taken aback" by the intensity of reporters' questions on the subject. (About time the Washington press corps shows a little teeth, eh?)
Political compass: According to this remarkably well documented online quiz, I'm somewhere in the realm of Ghandi and Nelson Mandela in terms of my libertarian and economic leanings. Visit Political Compass to see where you land, then email me your results: paul (at) eyeteeth.org.

My scores, for comparison:
Economic Left/Right: -8.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.79
Ladies & Gentlemen: A new music magazine is being created right here in the Twin Cities. The brainchild of former First Avenue designer Erik Westra and Aesthetic Apparatus designers Dan Ibarra and Michael Byzewski, Ladies & Gentlemen will include a 12" record album, interviews, essays, and more. Their description:
Ladies & Gentlemen is an all-encompassing arts magazine. The magazine is roughly 12 inches wide and 12 inches high. It is no coincidence that these measurements closely resemble those of an album. The outside cover is screenprinted. Inside this cover is a 24-page booklet containing words, drawings, and pictures incorporating a wide assortment of genres and topics. The cover also houses a 12” record containing exclusive music from six different bands generally involved in the booklet that accompanies it. Each issue is hand-assembled, signed, and numbered in an edition of 1000.
Preorder a copy here.


The craft of war: Boingboing links to a site selling Afghan rugs, including several that depict airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers. To be clear, the depictions seem to be both a historical record and a celebration of the American "liberation" of Afghanistan, not a commemoration of the attacks (a point some fail to grasp).

And: In the age of the Patriot Act and the MATRIX data surveillance program, isn't the "Uncle Sam Window Peeper" craft item a bit ominously titled?


Modified motivation: And here, according to the prez, is why we launched modern history's first American preemptive war: "Saddam Hussein was dangerous, and I'm not just going to leave him in power and trust a madman. He's a dangerous man. He had the ability to make weapons at the very minimum."

Fact or fiction: McSweeney's runs a little quiz: guess which of the 14 listed quotations came from George W. Bush and which were uttered by the fictional Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars movies.
Presidential diapers: A businessman in China has applied to use the US president's name for a brand of diapers. "Back in my hometown in Henan Province, the pronunciation of 'Bushi' sounds exactly like 'not wet'," said the man. (Via Gothamist.)

Kudos to Mimi: A friend in Chicago has been quietly writing an online diary for several years and building a fierce cult following. One day HarperCollins UK called up to tell her they wanted to make her anonymous journal into a book, so they did: The World According to Mimi Smartypants. In a recent post, "Mimi"--who, with husband "LT," just adopted a little girl from China--writes about comments from "bus crazies" on young Nora: "A talkative old lady asked, 'Is that baby Asian?' (uh, a little bit) and then observed, 'Asians have great musculature!' 'Musculature' seems like an inappropriate word to apply to a baby, unless baby-clothing manufacturers start making breakaway onesies. Then we could teach Nora to growl and rip her shirt down the front like Hulk Hogan. That would be cool."

Tying Mimi to diapers: Mimi links to this disturbing headline, bringing the post full-circle: "Golden feces wipes smile on Japanese faces."
Teen hermits: "America is at risk of becoming an Acute Social Withdrawal nation - inward-looking and very cold to outsiders," says Jerry Koepp, a volunteer youth director in an Orlando-based rehabilitation program sponsored by the American Health Association (AHA). "It is simply a consequence of a social system that has collapsed. As more and more of our young people refuse to assimilate into mainstream culture and reject our core values, the more likely we are to follow in Japan's footsteps. I think the number of Acute Social Withdrawal will increase exponentially in the years ahead."

Acute Social Withdrawal, either a medical condition or a social phenomenon (researchers aren't in agreement), is defined as "a complete withdrawal from society by an individual for more than six months." In the US in 2002, there were more than 5,200 reported cases of young people, mainly boys between 16 and 20, holing up in their bedrooms; in Japan, the rates are much higher, with one million kids affected by the disorder.


Dishonest Dubya: The action figure.

Sinking: Bush's approval rating has hit a 3-year low, at 48%, and 50% of Americans say they don't want him re-elected.


Four more years? Chomsky says that four more years of the Bush administration could be "extremely dangerous for the country, and the world, and could cause, maybe, irreparable harm."

Most trusted: In a new Roper poll, PBS was seen as the nation's most trusted institution, and the second best use of tax dollars after defense. Meanwhile, Bush inexplicably (but thankfully) decided to increase funding for longtime neocon whipping boy, the National Endowment for the Arts, by 15 percent.

Race reversal: A link from A Welsh View:
Wayne Joseph, the principal of a big suburban high school in southern California, had an unequivocal sense of his black heritage, having written extensively about race in America. But after seeing a TV story last April about a Florida company, DNA Print Genomics, which marketed an ancestry-by-DNA test, he began to wonder exactly how much of him was African, how much wasn't, and what else there might be in his genes.

"I sent away for their kit and received the kit, happened to swab both sides of my cheek and sent the swabs in," Joseph said.

A few weeks later, the results arrived at his comfortable Claremont, Calif., home.

"I just glanced at it, just a cursory glance initially ? didn't really notice it much," Joseph said. "Then, I went back to it, because all of a sudden it hit me exactly what I had read. And it read, 57 percent Indo-European, 39 percent Native American, 4 percent East Asian and 0 percent African.


This machine kills fascists: Siva Vaidhyanathan, writing his first installment of a hopefully regular column for OpenDemocracy, admits to peeling a sign off his laptop that bore the words Woody Guthrie scrawled on his guitar, "This machine kills fascists." The reason: seated at the airport with a flight to catch and horror stories about overly zealous airport guards on his mind, he pondered, "What if this security person reads the sign as a threat? Would he care about my explanation?" Once past the checkpoint he grew to regret it:
I don’t really want to live this way. I don’t want to censor myself from making harmless statements during sensitive times. What will I do when I have to make serious statements during difficult times?

I claim to understand the ways general fears can twist us into behaving in inauthentic ways. I pretend to teach young people about the pernicious effects of a total surveillance state. But can I trust myself to stand up for my own professed values? Are they even my values if I am not willing to act upon them?
His conclusion is where the confessional starts to make the most sense: "Can we trust ourselves to select leaders who would install reasonable yet imperfect measures to make us safer? Or will we invite our leaders to pander to our worst attributes: xenophobia, provincialism, and impatience? Will we continue to reward leaders who insist on intrusive measures that make the state more secure in its power over its subjects? Or will we remember the value of and reinvest in our liberal traditions?"
Revolution is not an AOL Keyword: The poem.
reBlog: Eyebeam has launched a new website, reBlog, which republishes the web's best blog posts on the intersection of art and technology. Check it out. (Thanks, SP.)


Sharpton in bed with the GOP? Citing an "extraordinary array of connections" between the Sharpton campaign and Roger Stone, the Republican strategist credited with shutting down the recount in Miami-Dade during the 2000 presidential election, the Village Voice postulates that perhaps Republicans are aiming to use "the Democrat-bashing preacher to damage the party's eventual nominee." Stone once explained his interest in working with Sharpton by saying that they shared "a mutual obsession: We both hate the Democratic Party." (Thanks, Reggie.)


Fair unbalanced: From Cursor: "Former Washington Post ombudsman and Des Moines Register editor, Geneva Overholser, resigned from the National Press Foundation's board, over its plans to honor Fox News anchor Brit Hume. She told USA Today that 'Fox wants to do news from a certain viewpoint, but it wants to claim that it is "fair and balanced." That is inaccurate and unfair to other media who engage in a quest, perhaps an imperfect quest, for objectivity.'"
Give Bush the Clinton treatment: Click here to urge Congress to censure the president for misleading the nation into war with Iraq over nonexistent WMDs. Then tell your friends to do the same.
A Canadian perspective on the boob incident: Tom Shales of the Washington Post referred to the Janet Jackson Super Bowl episode (and the event's commercials, some featuring flatulent horses, a crotch-biting dog hawking beer, and a gruesome slasher movie) the "Super Bowl of Sleaze." But Todd Babiak, in a piece for the Edmonton Journal titled "Bare breast not nearly as offensive as cynical American jingoism," takes another tack:
Everyone was apologizing for the boob, a thematic replay of the Madonna-Britney kiss during the MTV Video Awards. However, no one apologized for the real outrage: the rest of the halftime show. From beginning to end, the spectacle was a 12-minute toilet flush of uninspired lip-synch performances anchored by a hymn to rednecks by Kid Rock....Halftime began with an MTV advertisement imploring Americans to vote, but Jackson's song, like the rest of the halftime show, was bland and cynical and joyless. Even with the nipple shield, Jackson's bouncing boob was the most honest and most challenging moment in the show.
While we're on the topic: From Advertising Age, "The Porno-ization of American Media and Marketing."


Mingering Mike revealed: A thriftshop digger who discovered 20 boxes of records made of cardboard and promoting the fictitious soul singer Mingering Mike tracked down the creater of this funky outsider art in Washington DC. In today's New York Times, Neill Strauss writes about meeting the man behind Mingering Mike (a twist on "merging traffic") and what drove him to write some 4,000 unreleased songs, packaged in painted album sleeve and cardboard disks painted with grooves and labels. Strauss writes:
Eventually he gathered family members to help record the music. When asked what he used for percussion, he laughed and replied, "You wouldn't believe it."

The music was not recorded with an overturned bucket after all, he said, but from either beating an Afro comb on a bed or hitting a telephone book with hands. Occasionally, he said, his cousin, the Big D, would roll up a piece of paper and blow through it to replicate the sound of a trumpet.

But just writing and recording music wasn't enough, Mingering Mike said, so he started making the album jackets so that "if it all came together one day, I'd be ready."
Also: Mingering Mike becomes a net phenomenon.
Oh. My. God. From ABC News Australia: "After sending thousands of soldiers to war and failing to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Mr Bush and Mr Blair have been put forward to receive the Nobel peace prize." In other news, The Guardian reports that the White House knew there were no WMDs in Iraq back in May.

CBS booby prize: CBS ended up showing Janet Jackson's breast during the Super Bowl halftime show, but they wouldn't air MoveOn.org's TV spot "Child's Pay."

Intelligence or lack thereof: Cursor links to a Maureen Dowd column where she quotes a former Bush official saying, "Most intelligence failures are about missing something happening. What's so bizarre about this is, they thought something was happening that wasn't. This is right up there with Pearl Harbor and Bay of Pigs."


Dear Ralph: The Nation, the magazine that published Ralph Nader's 1959 article "The Safe Car You Can't Buy" and has kept a close relationship with him ever since, writes Nader an open letter from the editorial board: don't run for president.

Buzzflash interviews George McGovern:
Let me say that one thing that Richard Pearle and Dick Cheney and George W. Bush have in common is that none of them have ever been near a combat scene. They're perfectly willing to send younger people -- other people's sons -- into war. They're very generous with that blood of the young men and women that they throw into combat so casually. But they've protected their blood and their limbs by never serving near a battlefield. That's true of the President. It's true of the Vice President. It's true of Pearle and Wolfowitz -- that whole crowd of neo-conservatives that have the ear of the President.

And it makes me furious to see people like that beating their chests on how patriotic they are, waving the flag, glorifying God, while young Americans are needlessly being sacrificed in wars that they have devised, not our troops. These theorists sit around dreaming up wars for young men to die in.
Value-Added Cinema: On the day when so many people will be watching the Super Bowl just for the ads, this is a fitting find: a film to screen at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival (February 5–15) is constructed entirely from product placement shots: "Steve Seid, Video Curator for Pacific Film Archive and Peter Conheim of Negativland present a finely tuned montage of egregious product placement shots, drawing on 70 films—removing the gratuitous and unnecessary plots and leaving behind just the exhilarating core of consumerism."