$100 laptop: MIT puts Hummer to shame.

A month ago, Hummer announced it'd sell a branded laptop computer that would be nearly indestructible. Able to survive being dropped, getting doused in a rainstorm, and having coffee spilled on it (these things happen when off-roading between the Starbucks and home), the computers should appeal to an "aspirational and exclusive" target market, one that would happily afford a pricetag of between $2988 and $3329. In delightful contrast, the MIT Media Lab, led by visionary Nicholas Negroponte, has announced its plan for a nearly indestructible computer to be distributed to needy kids around the world—a $100 laptop running an open-source Linux operating system, with a crank that allows its user to generate power when no electricity is available. The machine will be WiFi ready, have an AC power cord that'll double as a carrying strap, a screen that'll switch from color to glare-resistant black-and-white for outdoor uses, and a rubber casing that'll snap shut to keep out dust or moisture.

Negroponte says that within a year his nonprofit One Laptop Per Child will produce between 5 and 15 million machines, which he plans to begin shipping to children in Brazil, China, Egypt, Thailand, and South Africa. Othe specs include a 500 mhz processor, flash memory (instead of a hard drive), and four USB drives. A huge salute to MIT for envisioning a humbler, more human laptop that targets a market drawn to the "inspirational and inclusive."

[Cross-posted at OffCenter.]


Bush: Conserve as I say, not as I do.

On Bush's seventh day trip/photo op to Gulf States, the president urged personal energy conservation: "We can all pitch in...by being better conservers of energy.  I mean, people just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption and that if they're able to maybe not drive...on a trip that's not essential, that would be helpful." Interesting admonition considering Bush's lifelong oil links, a track record opposing smart energy policies, and—most ironic of all—the fact that his call came during a plane ride that burned up 11,437 gallons of gasoline.

DeLay prosecutor targeted more Dems.

Now that Tom DeLay has been indicted and stepped down as majority leader after a long-running investigation into shady campaign finance dealings, the GOP is trying to spin the case as a "parisan vendetta" with "no basis in the facts or law." DeLay's spokesman implies that Travis County (TX) DA Ronnie Earle is a Democratic operative. Yet, Earle has doggedly gone after and brought down far more Democrats than Republicans, including high-profile ones like US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis. Earle says, and Media Matters confirms, that 11 of 15 politicians prosecuted by Earle have been Democrats.


Tacheles: Creative autonomy, Berlin-style.

Kunsthaus Tacheles, just blocks from where the Berlin Wall once stood, now houses a vibrant international arts community. View from the rear.

Berlin's Oranienburger Strasse is a curious street. Definitely in a hip part of town, it's dotted with high-end shoe stores, new glass-front condos, sidewalk bistros, and stores that sell exorbitantly priced handbags and women's jeans. A restaurant we noticed seemed to epitomize the neighborhood: surrounded by palm trees (in Berlin?), an open-air dining area has been covered by a canopy of red beach umbrellas. Underneath, tiki torches illuminate a half dozen or so stone Buddha statues from Thailand and cafe tables where a diverse, good-looking, and obviously fashion-conscious bunch of diners titter in hushed tones over what I can only guess are expensive meals. Despite this razzle-dazzle, we were drawn across the street by a big white sign with black letters spelling "Kunsthalle."

Interior view of a main stairway. Despite graffiti-plastered windows, the artist-policed space has cleaner bathrooms than most rock clubs I've been to.

We'd stumbled upon Berlin's not-so-secret art squat, Kunsthaus Tacheles. A building with a storied history—it started out as a kind of proto-shopping mall in the early 1900s, was taken over first by the Nazis, then by the Communists. And when the Berlin Wall, once located just a few blocks away, came down, the building became the home to a host of German and international artists, many the sons and daughters of Communist revolutionaries from Cuba, the Soviet Union, and China. Today, the building has the outward appearance of disuse—a bomb-pitted facade of gray stone covered with graffiti, stencil art, and stickers, and windows darkened from the inside by more graffiti. But inside is a vibrant, diverse, anarchistic (i.e. leaderless) art community. The building hosts a cinema, a performing arts space, 30 studios (made available to artists, who are selected by an outside curatorial panel, for only the cost of utilities), two indoor and two outdoor bars, exhibition spaces, two galleries facing Oranianburger Strasse, and a high-power projector that screens video art on an adjacent building every night of the week. Artists from Japan, China, the Middle East, and the UK, among other places, curently occupy the studios; probably Tacheles' most famous tenant is recording artist Peaches, who's been there for two years.

The Offenbar on the top floor offers a distant view of the Berliner Dom. It's name ("open bar") comes not from free booze—damn.—but from the fact that windows blown out in World War II were never replaced.

Tacheles is a Jewish word that roughly translates to "speak truth." Martin Reiter, an Austrian artist who's been a part of the community since 1994, told me that the name was first used by a punk band that rehearsed in the space, but, given its proximity to Berlin's main Jewish neighborhood and the activist views of many of its artists, it seemed a fitting name for an autonymous art community.

The Offenbar overlooks an outdoor space that includes makeshift bars, seating made from rusty signage letters, a ping pong table, and a tent village set up by a master African carver.

But, as I first approached the building, I have to admit I was skeptical of its autonomy. With so many trendy restaurants and new buildings as its neighbors, how independent could these artists really be? Were they just maintaining enough edge to keep the tiki-hut diners intrigued, just trying to create the illusion of danger that fuels so much of commerce? The more I heard from Reiter, a frizzy-haired painter, robot-maker, and video artist, the more suprised I was at just how autonymous the house is. As he tells it, the building was close to being demolished in the early '90s, so close that holes were bored to place dynamite. But artist-squatters intervened, physically, to prevent its destruction. After the wall fell, the neighborhood, like much of the city, was in chaos. Residents of East Berlin were pouring into the west, power companies had no idea where their grids extended and how to serve so many new citizens. Which all gave Tacheles' artists free reign. For four years, the house had free water and electricity, unbeknownst to the city.

Martin Reiter in the Offenbar

Over the years, Tacheles and the city have managed a kind of peace: the city of Berlin, realizing that the art house has stablized and lead to the gentrification of the neighborhood, let it be and have even funded it at times. Tacheles is extremely involved in land-use issues in the neighborhood and tries to be a good citizen. Today, Tacheles is a non-profit organization, pays no rent, and its building has been designated a historic landmark, so it can't be destroyed. It's far from Utopia, Reiter says, since factions within the house have different visions for it, but the model—a delicate balance between anarchy and civic-engagement, pragmatisim and dreaming, culture and commerce—is definitely one to admire. And the fact that it's situated in Germany's highest rent neighborhood, alternative culture pressed face to face with commercial enterprise, makes it all the more sweet.

Free guns for gun control!

I'm still on vacation in Berlin, so allow me to reblog an interesting post from we make money not art in its entirety:
The Gun Control Alliance is committed to enhancing public safety by reducing the number of guns in South Africa society through stricter gun control.

It consists of a diverse number of organisations and individuals who have endorsed the Charter for Gun Control which recognises that the current Arms and Ammunition Act is outdated and fails to adequately screen firearm license applicants, or monitor existing gun owners.

For one of its campaigns in 2000, the association had installed on university campuses and shopping malls several vending machines that sell guns. A simple and direct way to demonstrate how easy it is to get hold of a gun in South Africa. The money collected was used to support the activities of the gun-free society.


Dalai Lama: Move beyond "America, America, America" mentality

The Dalai Lama told 36,000 people at Rutgers Stadium that the concept of war was outdated and young people have a responsibility to make this century one of peace.

"This whole planet is just us," the 70-year-old exiled monk said Sunday. "Therefore, destruction of another area essentially is destruction of yourself."

Tibet's spiritual leader also urged the audience to develop a wider world perspective, not just focus on "America, America, America."

"His quiet mind is the kind of serenity New Jersey, home of strip malls, could use," Arielle Gomberg said.

The speech was the largest nonathletic event in Rutgers history, topping visits by former President Clinton and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.
More from Newsday.

How we treat our heroes: on Pat Tillman's death

When Arizona Cardinals football star turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman was killed in combat in Afghanistan, he was universally heralded as a patriot and a hero. Ann Coulter called him “an American original — virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be.” But an inquiry into more than 2,000 pages of documents relating to Tillman's death—which the Pentagon immediately reported as caused by enemy fire, when it in fact was immediately known to be a friendly fire killing—shows a more nuanced picture of the man, beyond the posterboy many in the right took him to be.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Tillman opposed Bush and the war, but enlisted to fight anyway; that a favorite author is Noam Chomsky, and that he sought a private meeting with Chomsky upon his return to the states; and he reportedly supported John Kerry in the last election. But, The Cunning Realist points out some of the key outrages in the Army and Pentagon's handling of Tillman's death: the fact that the Army waited five weeks to inform Tillman's family that he was killed by friendly fire; the systematic destruction of evidence, including Tillman's combat armor, which was burned by another soldier; testimony by a fellow soldier who said that Tillman died calling out to fellow Rangers, "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat f—ing Tillman, dammit," before his head was ripped off by three bullets; and testimony by an army official that "Army officials allowed witnesses to change key details in their sworn statements so his finding that certain soldiers committed 'gross negligence' could be softened."


Coalition of the dwindling.

The day after 10,000 peace activists rallied in London and 300,000 demonstrated against the Iraq war in Washington, the British government announced plans to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq in May, a move that will likely force Japan to withdraw its 550 soldiers as well. As the US' biggest ally joins a long list of "Coalition of the Willing" members who've jumped ship, let's recall Bush's comment from the presidential debate with John Kerry: "You forgot Poland." Oh yeah, they're hoping to complete their troop pullout by the end of the year, according to GlobalSecurity.org.

Latin Lolita?

Just noticed that this shot, a wider angle of the one I posted a few days ago, has a curious juxtaposition: the headscarves on sale for at Berlin's Türkischer Markt are displayed next to women's perfume, including one named Latin Lolita.


Jeb: Unleashing Chang

After naming Rep. Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, as Florida's House speaker, Jeb Bush got weird(er), invoking his "mystical warrior buddy," Chang:
Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society. I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down. [Then, unsheathing a gold (and presumably phallic) sword, which he gave to Rubio, he added:] I'm going to bestow to you the sword of a great conservative warrior.
While this is all a reference to Jeb's dad's foray into eastern mysticism years ago (Chang means elephant in Thai, and the 1927 film Chang, set in the jungles of northern Siam, was a precursor to King Kong), I wonder if the Florida governor knows the other Thai translation? Chang is often used by moms, combined with the Thai word for "little" (Chang noi), to describe a young boy's penis.

(Via The Killowatthour.)


More Berlin street-art

Translation: "But it is also art."

Friday market in E. Kreuzberg

Headscarves and perfume for sale at an open-air market along the landwehrskanal.

Spices for sale.

United Kolors of Kreuzberg

Still on vacation; having more fun, so less time to blog. In the meantime, some snapshots.


Google Maps unearths Roman ruins

Italian computer programmer Luca Mori was using Google Maps to check out the area around his town of Sorbolo when he discovered an unusual shadow in the satellite images. "At first I thought it was a stain on the photograp," hhe said. "But when I zoomed in, I saw that there was something under the earth." That something is a Roman villa dating just before the birth of Christ.


US to burn food sent for Katrina victims.

Germans I spoke to in Weimar the other day were flabbergasted and angered that the US refused its offers of aid for Hurricane Katrina victims, but I wonder how Brits feel: the FDA is reportedly planning to burn up to 400,000 food rations donated by the British. An unnamed British aid worker says:
This is the most appalling act of sickening senselessness while people starve.

The FDA has recalled aid from Britain because it has been condemned as unfit for human consumption, despite the fact that these are Nato approved rations of exactly the same type fed to British soldiers in Iraq. Under NATO, American soldiers are also entitled to eat such rations, yet the starving of the American South will see them go up in smoke because of FDA red tape madness.

There will be a cloud of smoke above Little Rock soon - of burned food, of anger and of shame that the world's richest nation couldn't organise a p**s up in a brewery and lets Americans starve while they arrogantly observe petty regulations.
All this while another storm, Hurricane Rita, bears down on southern states. Predicted to become a Category 4 storm, it has Louisiana (including New Orleans) and Texas (where thousands of Katrina evacuees have been moved to) in its path.

RIP: The "conscience of the Holocaust"

Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor turned Nazi hunter, died yesterday at age 96 in Vienna. Known for bringing more than 1100 Nazis to justice, he was twice imprisoned by the Nazis and saw 89 members of his and his wife's family killed at their hands. When he was freed from the Austrian concentration camp at Mauthausen in 1945, he set out to find and prosecute as many Nazi officers as he could find. Of his life, the Washington Post writes:
He didn't write the motto "Never again"; he personified it.

He saw life as an opportunity to make a point. The point was that people are responsible for their actions. The lesson was that looking backward is looking forward.


German stories.

This billboard, probably altered before Sunday's German election, has "Stories" written in chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's eyes and a telltale speech bubble coming out of his mouth. Germans, suffering under a sagging economy, voted for his challenger Christian Democratic Union candidate Angela Merkel, a German cousin to George W. Bush it would seem, by a margin of 35.2 % to 34.3%. But Merkel, predicted to win by a landslide, instead lead her party to its worst finish ever, and Schroeder (a John Kerry figure who's far to the left of Merkel, but still firmly in the center and not universally beloved), expected to be walloped, isn't ceding the chancellorship so easily. Today, with both candidates claiming victory and negotiations underway to establish a coalition government, nothing seems very certain. As Der Spiegel reports, "Germany, on the Monday after the election, has two chancellors, no coalition government and little in the way of a plan how to resolve the situation. It was an election without a victor."

Berlin scenes: Kreuzburg

An homage to German artist Joseph Beuys on a wall of the Landwehrkanal in West Kreutzberg

Despite the weak dollar, American greenbacks must still be the currency of bling, as this backlit display welcoming visitors to Sonnenallee's cheeseball gambling establishment Speilothek Skywalker attests.

Strasse kunst: Weimar

We're in exciting, grimy Berlin now, living for the next 10 or so days in the bohemian/Turkish enclave, East Kreuzberg, and thanks to our host (we're renting from a guy name Jeff who, I think, is an expat American and a sound tech for a band that's on tour, but it's so cheap—200 Euros for three weeks—that it's almost like he's hosting us) I've got full-time internet access. So, some pix from Weimar. These were found on a wood fence behind the Bauhaus.


More street art: Weimar

This one, image borrowed from the Wooster Collective, shows the gray wall of the new library at the Bauhaus University. I've passed it each day I've been here and thought it a rather lame piece of public art, but Wooster tells me different: protesting the bland gray wall, someone aimed 10 eggs--egg matter sucked out via hypodermic needle and replaced with paint--at it, and followed it up with an original artwork label:

Street art: Weimar


Shifting the blame.

I'm pretty much off the political beat while I'm on vacation, but this is too noteworthy to overlook: a leaked Department of Justice document suggests the Bush administration is seeking to blame environmentalists for the devastation of Katrina. Seems to me like a more likely culprit is the "tax-cut zealotry" of the GOP.


News from over here:

German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is using an image of five flag-draped coffins bearing US soldiers killed in Iraq in his re-election posters. The tagline, "She would have sent soldiers," is targeted at his conservative challenger Angela Merkel. "As long as we are in office, German foreign policy will be made in Berlin and not anywhere else," said Schroeder at a rally this week, adding that Merkel lacked the strength to stand up to "the kind of pressure" he had to face in opposing involvement in Iraq. I'll see if if I can snap a photo of a poster when I'm in Berlin next week.


Berlin bound.

I'm heading to Germany for a few weeks—Weimar, Frankfurt, and Berlin—so posts will be less frequent and will likely take a more touristy direction. Auf wiedersehen.

[Image: Benjamin Raimbault]

The Secret Diagrams

German cartoonist Gerhard Seyfried has a curious part of his website, The Secret Diagrams. A comic mapping of themes, nefarious organizations, and Bush cronies, it vaguely reminds me of the late Mark Lombardi's hand-drawn maps of business relationships, including the Bush family's ties to the bin Ladens (below). I suspect Lombardi's work was more painstakingly researched (a show of his work at the Whitney after 9/11 earned a call from the FBI, who wanted to view the works).



From Reuters, a NOT-Photoshopped photo taken over the shoulder of George W. Bush. The note, to Condi Rice, seems to ask permission for a presidential potty break. (Verified by Editor & Publisher.)

Fiscal conservatives? Compassionate conservatives? Patriots?

No, no, and no.

Get this: the Iraq War has cost nearly $200 billion so far and doesn't show any signs of letting up. A deadly hurricane has devastasted the Gulf Coast, and the cost of rescue, relief, and rebuilding will likely exceed $100 billion in government funds. In response, what do the controlling party in Congress want to do?

Expand tax cuts for the rich!

House Republicans promise that the dividend tax cut and the capital gains tax cut will both be extended. As Dennis "Don't Rebuild NOLA" Hastert says, we really need more tax cuts to "stimulate the economy," a tactic that, if I recall correctly, failed miserably last time it was used to justify padding the pockets of the rich when the rest of the country was facing dark days.

(Thanks, Jim.)

Media speaks truth!

(From jzawodn, via John K.)

Location, location, location.

(Via w-m-m-n-a.)

NOLA victims may be victimized by bankruptcy laws.

Hurricane Katrina's victims may be the first casualty of bankruptcy reforms, foisted upon us by Bush, the GOP, and the credit card industry several months ago, says Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI). The new rules require, among other mandates, a "means test" for bankruptcy filers--proof that those filing for protection don't have means to pull out of their debt--which may prove problematic for people whose records (or assets) may not be located by the time the new rules go into effect October 17. Feingold says hurricane victims should be exempt from the rules for one year, an idea opposed by the Republicans and chairman of the judiciary committee, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

Presidential priorities: power to MY people first.

Before Bush finished his vacation, the White House had called power utilities in hurricane-struck areas to repair fuel piplines that supply the northeast. "That order - to restart two power substations in Collins that serve Colonial Pipeline Co. - delayed efforts by at least 24 hours to restore power to two rural hospitals and a number of water systems in the Pine Belt."


Meta: mediating the mediation

"Product placement, already common in TV programs, movies and video games, now is being seen in yet another medium: commercials. Marketers are pushing products in other marketers' commercials."

(Via the MIT brand lab.)



FEMA chief Michael Brown resigned. About two weeks too late, if you ask me.

His replacement, R. David Paulison, actually has experience in emergency management--three decades worth. But is it enough? Keith Olbermann reports that Paulison was the guy whose expertise had so many flocking to hardware stores to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting in preparation for terrorist attacks.

A poster for NOLA.

To raise funds for Katrina's victims, Northland Poster Collective is selling this poster, desiged by Ricardo Levins Morales. Under ten bucks, good poster, great cause. Buy one here.

[If you can't read it, the text says, "If living were a thing that money could buy, the rich would live and the poor would die."]

Lenticular versus testicular.

Working in a marketing department, I get lots of catalogues for schwag you can put your logo on: keychains, lenticular prints, change purses, pencils, inflatable animals, deal-a-meal–style data charts, etc. But, as it's a marketing department in a contemporary art museum, nothing seems appropriate for our logotye. I mean, what giveaway tchotchke clearly says Cremaster? (For those not in the know, that's the name of artist Matthew Barney's five-film series; it's also the name of the muscle that raises and lowers the testes when air temperature changes).

Well, here's the closest. From BoingBoing, a giveaway item that's truly appropriate—painfully so—to the occasion:

The epitome of Freedom.

From yesterday's "Freedom Walk":
One man who registered for the walk was detained by a Pentagon police officer after he slipped a black hood over his head and produced a sign that read, "Freedom?"

The man was removed from the Pentagon registration area, handcuffed and taken away in a police car. It was not clear whether he was charged or simply detained and the police did not respond to messages requesting more information.

Ann Grossman, 56, from Silver Spring, Md., also carried a homemade sign, which read "Honor Our Troops, Respect Their Lives," that was confiscated by police at the Pentagon.
(Via Americablog.)


NOLA doctors euthanized patients.

Those who worked feverishly to prevent Terri Schiavo's death, but sat on their hands while New Orleans flooded, should consider this:
Doctors working in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans killed critically ill patients rather than leaving them to die in agony as they evacuated hospitals, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. With gangs of rapists and looters rampaging through wards in the flooded city, senior doctors took the harrowing decision to give massive overdoses of morphine to those they believed could not make it out alive.

In an extraordinary interview with The Mail on Sunday, one New Orleans doctor told how she 'prayed for God to have mercy on her soul' after she ignored every tenet of medical ethics and ended the lives of patients she had earlier fought to save.

Her heart-rending account has been corroborated by a hospital orderly and by local government officials. One emergency official, William 'Forest' McQueen, said: "Those who had no chance of making it were given a lot of morphine and lain down in a dark place to die."

The Iraq War March (which happens to fall on 9/11)

We've already got solemn days of remembrance and recognition for the military: Armed Forces Day (May 21), a Veteran's Day (November 11), and a Memorial Day (May 30). So when the organizer of today's military-style Freedom March argued on NPR today that politics had nothing to do with it, it seems a bit disengenous. But, we don't need to speculate; Mark Robbins from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management makes the flawed link--that foreign wars could've prevented an attack on our soil: "To commemorate the events of 9/11, especially for the men and women overseas who are making sure 9/11 doesn't happen again." For the families of 9/11's victims, it's too bad the Bush administration can't refrain from leveraging a grief that's probably still potently raw.

Other perspectives on the 9/11 anniversary:
Bill Moyers on "9/11 and the Sport of God"
Mark Benjamin for Salon: "Let's Iraq and roll: In a surreal twist on the public demonstration, the Pentagon put on a show Sunday to mark 9/11 and honor U.S. troops serving in the war"
Michael Moore: "A Letter to All Who Voted for George W. Bush"


New, improved beggar signs.

Also from Populism, Jani Leinonen's Anything Helps is "a line of plastic wall signs designed by authentic beggars. The signs have been collected from real beggars in San Antonio (USA), Frankfurt (Germany) and Helsinki (Finland). The production of the signs has been outsourced to the home country of the beggar to insure the authenticity. The beggars were Kurdistanian (in Germany), Russian (in Helsinki) and american (in San Antonio). 10% of each purchase goes to the poor."

Danes for Bush!

Flying the banner "Save us from Old Europe," Danes for Bush, a two-man Denmark-based NGO traveled the US during the 2004 elections in support of extending Bush's rule. As their site says, "Today it is obvious that Denmark chose the right side of the playing field."

The group is another fiction created by artist Jakob Boeskov, whose ID Sniper, a proposed rifle that would shoot GPS surveillance chips into the flesh of unsuspecting citizens from a distance, was featured in China's biggest weapons fair, China Police 2002. Danes for Bush, which is featured in the multi-venue exhibition Populism 2005, includes a comprehensive visual identity that includes everything from campaign buttons to an over-sized, inflatable pig mascot.

Some good news.

It looks like the death toll in New Orleans won't near the 10,000 figure predicted by the mayor and others. While no count exists yet, NOLA homeland security chief Terry Ebbert says, "Numbers so far are relatively minor as compared to the dire projections of 10,000."

And: Al Gore, activated by a request from a neurosurgeon who operated on the former VP's son after a car accident in 1989, airlifted 270 people from New Orleans on September 1. By using his influence to cut through red tape, and paying $50,000 for each of the flights, sick patients from Charity Hospital were evacuated to Knoxville.


Katrina update.

• Tom DeLay wondered if being a hurricaine victim is "kind of fun." So he asked some of them.

• As Bush works to link Katrina and 9/11 (I wonder if Katrina's victims will get the massive government payout that WTC families got?), the Freedom March is another vehicle in the fake connector between 9/11's victims and the war: when you walk, something you can only do if you pre-register and stay within the fences, you get commemorative military style dogtags.

• Bush loves the poor of New Orleans. Which is probably why he signed an executive order temporarily repealing the minimum wage there. (He must be reading from John Stossel's playbook. The 20/20 correspondent says that "price 'gougers' save lives.")

• As Republican Rep. Richard Baker of Baton Rouge proclaims, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did," a Florida gated community is refusing to allow its residents to house (most-likely-black) hurricane victims.

• And unlike Dick Cheney (who told Pat Leahy where to stick it on the Senate floor, the guy who told Cheney to "go fuck" himself yesterday--Dr. Ben Marble, an emergency-room MD who lost his house in the hurricane--was allegedly cuffed and detained for his free-speech foray (he tried to sell footage of his voiceover on eBay, but the auction site pulled the plug).

NRA silent as guns are seized.

As police in New Orleans begin confiscating private citizens' guns, the NRA isn't talking about their cold dead hands anymore. In fact, they aren't talking about anything, as TalkLeft reports.

Update 9/12: With Bushian tardiness, the NRA leapt (slow-motion-like) to the defense of NOLA's gun owners, three days late!



The master of civility gets a dose of his own medicine. Video here.

(Thanks, Jim.)

The Nero Meme.

The image of George W. Bush honkytonkin' with country singer Mark Wills while New Orleans residents were dying on August 30 is sure to become one of the defining images of his presidency. Bloggers have been juxtaposing the image alongside photos of what was happening in Gulf states during the same hours, but now the meme is taking on a new pictorial form: Photoshoppers are editing Bush into the scenes of suffering—to devastating effect. The fusion seems to say something that, to me, feels pretty true about this president's frivolity and focus, and the feverish spin that's following the White House's early inaction after Katrina seems to bear it out.

I've seen several such images, but can't find them now. If you spot more, please email me the link.


Emergency radio.

Our friends at the Prometheus Radio Project (who were involved with Radio Re-volt last summer) are taking their fight for lower-power, community FM into a place where it's needed most, the survivor's camp at the Houston Astrodome. Prometheus has petitioned the FCC—and been granted, with almost unprecedented speed—the right to build a 30-watt radio station in the dome to provide critical information to people displaced in the area. An audio bulletin board, of sorts, it'll broadcast news and logistical information about finding resources and reuniting with family members, etc. One stumbling block: a Harris County official is requiring that volunteers provide 10,000 radio recievers before they are allowed to begin setup of the station equipment. Click here to learn about donating radios or to donate funds.

Hear Prometheus' Hannah Sassaman discuss the project on Democracy Now!

(From Off-Center.)

In the right light.

While some of the photos inside the New Orleans Superdome when it was housing hurricane victims bordered on the mystical, BAGnewsNotes questions, "[W]eren't any "non-romanticized" photos taken inside the Dome after the first day or so? And if so, why haven't we seen any? And if not, why not?"

The photos they don't want you to see.

Just as it banned photography of GI's caskets returning home from Iraq, the White House doesn't want you to see photographs of the deceased victims of the hurricane. While many would agree—who wants to see such sadness and gore?—the refusal to allow journalists to document the human cost, when paired with the White House's hyper-control of its own image and its track-record of dishonesty about the reasons for war in Iraq, is highly suspect. One report estimates that 40,000 people in New Orleans alone were killed by Katrina and its aftermath—and wherever blame is placed, it happened on Bush's watch, the era of "Homeland Security."

Plastic Turkey, part the third.

A thousand firefighters, eager to help the victims of the hurricane, found themselves in a role they hadn't bargained for, according to the Salt Lake Tribune: as photo-op props for FEMA and George W. Bush.
Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency...

... Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid.

But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.
(Via Kos via TPM. Image via Horkulated.)

See the whole trilogy! Plastic Turkey Part 1 and Plastic Turkey Part 2.


Lifted from Cursor:

The Battle of New Orleans: With 50,000 troops now in the "Katrina zone"; and business set to boom for "gunmen loyal to the corporate bottom line," Public Enemy's Chuck D wades in and the mayor of Slidell warns of a possible armed standoff with FEMA.

Norm's conquest.

The Blotter writes that Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman is becoming "a sort of trial-balloon politician for the neo-con agenda's most egregious proposals," and the next one he'll float is about reframing the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina as "an historic opportunity to revitalize the Gulf Coast, while providing for economic incentives that will ensure massive investment in intellectual, physical and technological infrastructure."

How? Wait for it...

"Tax credits to encourage recovery and restoration by businesses and corporations in the region," according to a Coleman press release. And: "Tax credits for human resources technology development."

The release ends with the admonishment that Coleman "felt strongly that federal assistance to the region cannot simply be viewed as government mandates and hand-outs."

What Brown's surrounded by.

On Minnesota Public Radio this morning, I heard host Kerri Miller either defending FEMA director Michael Brown's credentials or playing devil's advocate with the guest. The gist: does it matter if the FEMA head has direct emergency-management experience, or is it more important to be a good leader who knows enough to surround himself withi a talented staff? Fair enough question, and one I recall was posed about Bush when he was running the first time (let's not get into the answer to that one). Tonight ThinkProgress goes beyond the fact that Brown got his job not through any relevant experience but through a college buddy, and looks at those under him at FEMA. Not pretty:
The Chief of Staff is a guy named Patrick Rhode. He planned events for President Bush’s campaign. Rhode has no emergency management experience whatsoever. From Rhode’s official bio:

"His first position with the Bush Administration was as special assistant to the President and deputy director of National Advance Operations, a position he assumed in January 2001. Previously, Mr. Rhode served as deputy director of National Advance Operations for the George W. Bush Presidential Campaign, in Austin, Texas."

The Deputy Chief of Staff is Scott Morris. He was a press flak for Bush’s presidential campaign. Previously, he worked for the company that produced Bush’s campaign commercials. He also has no emergency management experience. From Morris’s official bio:

"Mr. Morris was also the marketing director for the world’s leading provider of e-business applications software in California, and worked for Maverick Media in Austin, Texas as a media strategist for the George W. Bush for President primary campaign and the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign."

These guys make Brown look qualified. And that’s no small feat.

Silent Norm.

As the GOP works to place blame for the wretched response to Katrina back on cities and states affected, let's recall Sen. Norm Coleman's rhetoric about Kofi Annan, whom Coleman blamed for the oil-for-food scandal in Iraq because Annan was "at the helm" when it happened: "The massive scope of this debacle demands nothing less. If this widespread corruption had occurred in any legitimate organization around the world, its CEO would have been ousted long ago, in disgrace." My guess is he'll refrain from applying such logic to the CEO in the White House.

We will, see those teeth a chatterin' later this week, when the UN oil-for-food report comes out. I wonder how he'll navigate the hypocrisy of what comes out of his mouth?

[Image via Raw Story.]

Anti-Bush spot axed in Manhattan borough race.

The New York Fox affiliate WNYW (Channel 5) refused to air a campaign commercial by Brian Ellner, a Democratic candidate for Manhattan borough president. Is it because at the end of the spot Ellner introduces his partner, Simon Holloway (the first time, Ellner's campaign claims, that a candidate has introduced a gay partner in a political spot), or is it his emperor-has-no-clothes criticism of George W. Bush? Channel 5 was the only local station to reject the advertisement out of 15 network or cable affiliates approached by the Ellner camp. See the spot here.

Gothamist pipes in: "The funny thing is that this controversy is exactly the kind of thing that the Channel 5 News at Ten would cover... Well, clearly, Channel 5 doesn't remember such programming as "The Littlest Groom" or "When Animals Attack." Perhaps Ellner needed some lesbians in the ad to make it Fox-worthy."

(Via SpeakSpeak.)

Gold vortex.

Architects Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues created a golden vortex in the courtyard of Materials & Applications in Los Angeles. Constructed from gold-tinted Mylar (reinforced with bundled Nylon and Kevlar fibers), the work, representing the "deadliest force in the Universe," is called Maximilian's Schell, after the actor Maximilian Schell, who played Dr. Reinhardt’ in the Disney film The Black Hole. "During the day as the sun passes overhead, the canopy casts colored fractal light patterns onto the ground while a tranquil subsonic drone from an integrated ambient sound installation by composer James Lumb (Electric Skychurch) entitled Resonant Amplified Vortex Emitter, lightly rumbles below the feet of visitors." The view from the underside:

Reseeding sandals.

A sandal that seeds the earth as it wears out: nice idea. Johnny Applesandal, by design house Lift, engages in phytoremediation. That is, as the tread of the footwear gets thinner through use, embedded seeds that actually clean up the soil are left behind. When they're completely worn out, just send what's left back to the manufacturer for "disassembly and material reclamation."

(Via WMMNA.)