Colbert on Zorn

Stephen Colbert opines on avant-jazz composer John Zorn's MacArthur "genius" grant. Hilarious:

Inactive, partisan CPA does Pawlenty's accounting

Given recent controversies over partisans posing as independents (the paid Kennedy consultant who runs Minnesota Democrats Exposed), bloggers feeding the results of their computer sleuthing to campaigns (Noah Kunin), and an inactive CPA touting his credentials (Mark Kennedy), the star of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's newest ad is a surprising choice--an active GOP partisan, former GOP candidate, and a CPA whose license is inactive.

In the commercial John Heutmaker--"Accountant, Bloomington, MN"--says, "I'm not being paid to say this. I'm not an actor, I'm an accountant." While this line suggests that he's merely a concerned citizen coming forward out of moral duty, the fact is he's a former Republican candidate (he got just under 6% of the vote in the 2004 primary for state senate district 41B). And, according to the Minnesota Board of Accountancy, Heutmaker's CPA license is inactive, which means he cannot legally work as an accountant or bill himself as a certified CPA.

As the camera pans across a computer monitor showing a spreadsheet with a dazzling number of digits and dollar signs, he says, "I checked the numbers" and discovered that Mike Hatch wants to spend "6.4 billion dollars or more" on new projects: "That's extra money the state doesn't have, so they'll have to come to us for a tax hike." How much does Heutmaker say it'll cost taxpayers? $2,192 per family.

The header on Heutmaker's on-screen spreadsheet starts out "Hatch promises...," but as the AP reports, Hatch hasn't committed to all the programs Heutmaker is likely tallying. Further, Heutmaker's accountancy is pretty iffy: "He gives a four-year total of programs that Hatch has mentioned [...] and divides the cost by the number of households to come up with a tax burden."

What do you think? Deceptive or fair? Effective or another ho-hum political ad?

adMN is an ongoing review of communications created to shape Minnesota's campaigns and culture.


Lordy, lordy, gimme $40.

Pastor Marty Baker of Stevens Creek Community Church, an 1100-member evangelical church in Augusta, Georgia, has discovered a way to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God is God's"--while keeping a bit for himself: he's installed an ATM-style "Giving Kiosk," in the church--one sold by his for-profit venture.

Baker came up with the kiosk idea a couple of years ago. He had just kicked off a $3-million building drive, but noticed that few people seemed to keep cash in their wallet anymore for the collection bag.

So he began studying the electronic payment business. He designed his machine with the help of a computer programmer who attends Stevens Creek, and found ATM companies willing to assemble it for him. In early 2005, he introduced the first machine at his church.

Since then, kiosk giving has gradually gained acceptance among his upper-middle-class flock. The three kiosks are expected to take in between $200,000 and $240,000 this year — about 15% of the church's total donations.

"It's truly like an ATM for Jesus," Baker said.

This summer, Baker and his wife, Patty, began selling the devices to other churches through their for-profit company, SecureGive.

Butting Heads: Ventura's adman helps MA candidate take on the "Big Dig"

"Cranial rectal inversion": that's the scientific term, I think, for what Minneapolis ad man Bill Hillsman depicts in a new ad for Massachusetts independent gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos. The ad is incredibly simple: it features a hand-drawn version of Mihos asking a "Bechtel Engineer" and state politicians why the Big Dig--the most expensive highway project in America, running through Boston--is $12 billion over budget. Before they can answer, the engineers' heads get embedded, as if by gravitational pull, in their posteriors.

Hillsman and his North Woods Advertsing get away with the gag thanks to the softening power of illustration, likening bureaucrats to "buttheads" (or worse) while casting Mihos as the independent who'll ask tough questions. Just as Hillsman did for Jesse Ventura, the ad has raised Mihos' profile--one measure of a good ad is whether paid placements generate additional free media coverage. "He’s probably gotten more attention because of this ad than virtually anything he’s done in this campaign," says Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

According to a recent poll, the Big Dig is an issue Massachusetts voters are steamed about: 86% of those polled think problems with the project (including a tunnel collapse that killed a motorist) have harmed the state's reputation. The same survey also includes a sobering fact for Mihos: he's got the support of just over five percent of voters.

adMN is an ongoing review of communications created to shape Minnesota's campaigns and culture.


We love torture, yes we do...

The US is one step closer to OKing a new bill that limits the rights of detainees and, according to Democrats, may result in continued torture of terror suspects. Today's 253-168 vote in the House of Representatives will be followed by likely passage of a Senate version of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [pdf]. The New York Times reports that Democrats oppposed the bill 5-to-1:

Said Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio: "This bill is everything we don't believe in."

The legislation would establish a military court system to prosecute terror suspects, a response to the Supreme Court ruling last June that Congress' blessing was necessary. While the bill would grant defendants more legal rights than they had under the administration's old system, it nevertheless would eliminate rights usually granted in civilian and military courts.

The measure also provides extensive definitions of war crimes such as torture, rape and biological experiments -- but gives Bush broad authority to decide which other techniques U.S. interrogators can legally use. The provisions are intended to protect CIA interrogators from being prosecuted for war crimes.
Amnesty International opposed the bill's broad language. AI's Larry Cox issued a statement that the bil could be interpreted to allow "the administration authority to continue secret prisons, interrogation techniques that have long been considered torture, immunity for those responsible for torture, and cruel and ill-treatment of prisoners."

Here in Minnesota, four Republicans and one Democrat supported the bill:
Mark Kennedy
Gil Gutknecht
Colin Peterson (D)
Jim Ramstad
John Kline

Only Minnestoa Democrats Martin Sabo, Jim Oberstar, and Betty McCollum opposed the bill.

How did your representative vote?

The creepy and the credible: Two attack ads

Mark Kennedy's most recent ad dials up the attack: with the words "Broken Promises" flashing on-screen and eerie music, the commercial lays out Kennedy's accusations about Klobuchar's failures as a prosecutor. The gist: Klobuchar promised to be tough on drug felons, "career criminals," and people who commit gun crimes, but wasn't. Klobuchar's campaign fired off a press release calling Kennedy's ads "desperate" and "misleading," citing Klobuchar's 91% conviction rate. Tonight, they've followed it up with a compelling ad that uses real crime victims to underscore the point.

Kennedy goes for a creepy aesthetic with his ad. The music is somewhere between the X-Files theme song and a soundbed Fox News might use in an investigative piece on pedophilia: tinkling, off-key... creepy. We see Amy Klobuchar, framed as if viewed through a peephole or hidden camera, as she says, "The best way to look at someone to see if they're going to do good work for you is to see what they've done in the past." Throughout the rest of the spot, Klobuchar's words echo as if a horror film's ominous recollection--"see what they've done in the past... the past"--as text appears on screen listing off her alleged "BROKEN PROMISES." The overall tone is dark and sensational--a far cry from Klobuchar's new ad, "Ashamed."

Klobuchar's ad features victims of identity theft, drunk drivers, and a gang shooting to emotionally convey her prosecutorial credentials. Most arresting is the testimonial by the parents of Tyesha Edwards, the young girl killed in South Minneapolis by a stray gang bullet while doing homework in the family's Chicago Avenue home. The spot doesn't manipulate these people--or the viewers--by sensationalizing their suffering; unlike Kennedy's ad, this one uses modest typography and fairly generic music, and lets the victims speak for themselves. While offering the campaign a way to slip in KIobuchar's endorsement by police, the spot smartly lets Mrs. Edwards deliver the spot's eponymous accusation: "Mark Kennedy, you should be ashamed."

adMN is an ongoing review of communications created to shape Minnesota's campaigns and culture.

Stealth Republicans

In August, Rep. Mark Kennedy's campaign manager blogged, "Why has Amy Klobuchar mentioned only once, in the most cursory fashion, that she is a Democrat? Why is she running from her party?" Kennedy's own home page offers no mention of his party affiliation, and of the three times the word "Republican" appears, one is in his "Fact Check" column and two are in August blog posts. A quick look at Minnesota's major GOP candidates shows a similar trend--Republicans are still keeping the party of Bush at arm's length, at least publicly.

But first, those who do tout their party affiliation do it unabashedly. You could hardly miss CD5 candidate Alan Fine's allegiances: the first image on his site is him pressing the flesh with Rudy Giuliani; below it are quotes by Minnesota GOP chair Ron Carey and Republican analyst Brian Sullivan. Further down the page is a photo of Fine doing pullups in front of a "CORN DOGS" sign at the Fair; it's captioned: "At the Minnesota State Fair, Republican endorsed 5th district congressional candidate Alan Fine (44) beats Marine doing 16 pull ups, wins marine hat and 'raises the bar' for the 5th district race."

Even the site Democrats for Fine (two such Democrats are listed), which is registered to Fine Enterprises, mentions his party three times.

You've got to search hard to find that Tim Pawlenty is a Republican, but you can: in his campaign "blog," where a news story mentions he won the party's primary. Similarly, it's easier to find Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer's recipes for honey butter and raspberry jam than it is to find a GOP mention (there are some; in the photo gallery, she's shown holding a gun after target practice at a Young Republicans event).

Then there's Michele Bachmann, whose effusive support for George W. Bush has made clear her affiliation: her site leads with a photo of her with the president, and her home page prominently features this vivid mention of a hurtling, parading booster: “Hoekstra is the latest high profile political leader in a parade of prominent Republicans who are throwing their support behind the Minnesota State Senator.”

Others, like Gil Gutknecht and Obi Sium, feature links that are heavy on the Republican, while one, CD7 candidate Michael Barrett makes it overt: in a side-by-side comparison of issues with Colin Peterson, he affixed a red "R" by his name to indicate party. (The overarching slogan for his campaign is “Mike Barrett. Secure the border. No Amnesty.”).

But the majority of Republicans--and many key ones--fail to mention their membership in the party that controls Congress, the Senate, the House, and the judiciary--while some simply bury it within their sites.

Those who don't mention it at all:

• Congressional incumbent John Kline
• Auditor Pat Anderson
• Congressman Jim Ramstad
• Rep. Rod Grams (Grams' clunkily constructed site has the distinction of being designed by a consultant whose resume, printed on his home page, includes work as a Boy Scout counselor for merit badges including auto mechanics and cinematography.)
• State Sen. Dick Day
• State Senate candidate George Marin (whose GOP connections rank lower than a Napolean Dynamite impersonator and Rusty, the family dog.)

Conventional wisdom knows why this is: the Iraq war remains unpopular, and Bush, while seeing a recent bump in approval, still hovers around 40% approval. Is it mere political pragmatism that dictates muffling party allegiances? Are there similarities--geographically, ideologically, otherwise--between those who trumpt their Republicanism and those who keep it hidden? And, how does this compare to past years?

More to come...

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor. ]

Oh sh!t.

"GOP picks Twin Cities for its 2008 convention."


New Robin Rhode 2D performances

South African artist Robin Rhode has created a new series of works for Africa Lives, and the BBC exhibits them as online flash animations. Via networked_performance.

Poll: October surprise?

Your brain on Newsweek, part 2.

It happened again. Last week I wrote on Newsweek's choice to have hard-hitting news stories on the covers of its international editions and good-lookin', happy women on the cover of the American version. This week, all the international covers feature a menacing looking Taliban fighter with a rocket launcher on his shoulder and the headline "Losing Afghanistan." The US cover: "My Life in Pictures," about photographer Annie Liebovitz's new book.

I love Liebovitz--really, I do, especially that iconic Rolling Stone cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in bed (shot the day before Lennon's murder)--but in an election year when the US is fighting two simultaneous wars, is her new book of pictures really the most newsworthy?

Read "Your brain on Newsweek."

Attack of the Giant Robot!

Next week, Giant Robot founders Eric Nakamura and Martin Wong are visiting the Walker Art Center as part of the Asian-themed Student Open House. To promote the visit, we asked GR contributor and artist Souther Salazar to create an original artwork. He did, and offered this explanation:
i came up with the design by asking scott to tell me about the walker, the event, about minneapolis this time of season, the trees, the animals, and anything else he could think of. scott gave me a list, told me about the leaves on the ground, the state bird, the look of the walker center, and many other things.

after reading his list and looking at the pictures he sent, i sat sat down and drew everything that came to mind. i made the giant robot logo into a real robot that eric and martin are inside of, piloting it on their way through minneapolis. the 2-man band, the birthday suits are slightly ahead of them on the bridge. i had them all coming in from the left because that's the side of the paper i started on, and their destination, the walker center, on the right, because that is where i finished.

Off-Center has more.


adMN: Peter "The Body" Hutchinson

Another installation from Minnesota Monitor as part of a new series called adMN, critiquing political ads in the state. Earlier editions look at ads by Guard veteran Tim Walz and by the Better Ballot Campaign, which advocates for Instant Runoff Voting in Minneapolis city elections.

Sometime last year, the hand-painted sign that accompanied an effigy of Jesse Ventura affixed to a North Minneapolis wall got a revision: after several years decrying the former governor's performance, it was changed to read: "Minnesota's 2nd Worst Governor." With Tim Pawlenty's help, Ventura's star had apparently bumped a bit higher than sea level; now, thanks to two more political outsiders, The Body's profile is, comparatively, skyrocketing: he's stumping for Texas novelist/governor's candidate Kinky Friedman, and he's the voice behind Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Peter Hutchinson's newest round of radio ads.

The new ads for Hutchinson and "Team Minnesota" are, well, odd. But they do offer a refreshing break from typical political ads that range from manipulatively schmaltzy to brazenly mean-spirited to flat-out dull.

Two of the three are launched by a loon call, followed by an announcer who lists off hyperbolic achievements by an unnamed politician--"As your governor for the last four years, he permanently balanced the budget, he made taxes and fees go away..." (notice the jab on Pawlenty there?). As the accolades get cheesier and cheesier--he caused children to yell "hooray," he fostered love and understanding among Democrats and Republicans (SFX: smooching sounds)--Jesse Ventura's voice breaks in, amid the static and feedback squeals of a pirate-radio takeover, telling us that "career politicians will do anything to get re-elected."

Trademark Ventura, he snarls, "Let's stop the BS and move Minnesota forward with honesty and common sense."

Like the other two ads, "It's time to think independently again" is the theme of the third spot, which opens with a politico talking about the "little people" and how much he likes them. In a broadside at Mike Hatch, the archetypal careerist says, "Sure I'm tough, but I'm a nice guy. Even my dog likes me."

Created by Spyglass in Minneapolis, the commercials are airing in the Twin Cities, Rochester, Duluth, St Cloud, Brainerd, Moorhead, Mankato, and Willmar, says Hutchinson campaign manager Steve Struthers. "[Ventura] is the most recognizable voice for Minnesotans who are fed up with the partisan gridlock that has paralyzed our state; so he was a natural choice for us to use in order to break through the clutter of advertising," he says.

People across the state have responded favorably to the spots, Struthers says. "They appreciate Ventura's straight talk and the fact that he was not beholden to any particular special interest groups. They are excited to see that Peter has those same qualities--not a career politician, not taking contributions from PACs or lobbyists--without some of the downsides associated with Gov. Ventura's celebrity status."

Hear the three spots here, then tell us what you think: will the ads help Hutchinson "shock the world"?


Crafted Close.

Chuck, Up Close, by Susan Spencer Reckford, takes a crafty approach to Chuck Close's grid-based self portraits by using merino wool spots. On view at the New Jersey Crafts Annual starting October 3.

Communicative clothing.

The Tufts-organized exhibitioin Pattern Language: Clothing as Communicator makes its way to the University of Minnesota's Weisman Art Museum October 14. It features work by artists who "go beyond the everyday utility of clothing, and instead use clothing, fabric and the body to invent new forms of communication and interaction between wearers, between wearers and their clothes, and between the makers of clothing and the fashion system." Cases in point: Mimi Smith's Camouflage Maternity Dress, which aims to hide the body but--given its transparent space-bubble frontpiece--let the world see the pregnant woman's belly; and in Patrick Killoran's poly-fleece sweatpants (An Opening, 2001), "male physical urges and pleasures are expressed and easily satisfied through the design of these sweatpants."


Your brain on Newsweek.

Here's a chicken-and-egg question: are vapid Americans, fueled by deep interest in the exploits of celebrities instead of the affairs of the world, demanding shallow news coverage, or is the mainstream media hell-bent on perceiving us that way?

This week's Newsweek International covers, from the magazine's own website, suggest the sorry state affairs in the media. "The slow drift toward lighter fare at TIME and Newsweek showed no signs of abating," writes the Project for Excellence in Journalism in its "The State of the News Media 2006." From 1980 to 2004, Newsweek's content dedicated to entertainment rose from 5 to nearly 10 percent. In 2005, TIME and Newsweek spent an inordinate amount of its space to cover celebrities, compared to USNews: 14.2% for TIME, 10.4% for Newsweek. (See TIME's cover archives here.)

One interesting graph from PEJ's study: since 9/11/2001, circulation of The Nation has gone through the roof. From 100,000 issues to over 160,000. Maybe the alternatives to celebrity-obsessed media are looking more and more attractive.


Ritchie: "Lead with hope"...and organization.

"Thank you all for thinking this down-ballot race is important!" So introduced Nancy Gaschott, wife and campaign treasurer of DFL-endorsed Secretary of State candidate Mark Ritchie at a fundraiser last night. But for a relatively low-profile office, the night featured a who's-who of progressive politics--and ideas that transcend the nuts and bolts of the office's focus on voting records and business filing fees.

More than 300 people attended the event at the Van Dusen Center in Minneapolis. DFLers Keith Ellison; County Commissioner candidate Gregory Gray; State Sens. Scott Dibble, Linda Higgins and John Hottinger; Minneapolis City Council member Betsy Hodges, and RT Rybak senior aide Peter Wagenius were a few of the politicos in attendance, but the cross-section of activists and community leaders was striking: Better Ballot Campaign's Jeanne Massey and FairVote Minnesota president Tony Solgard; Jay Walljasper, editor for the Project for Public Spaces and Ode magazine; native get-out-the-vote activist Alyssa Burhans, Worldchanging publisher Leif Utne, farmer Bruce Bacon, former Utne editor Julie Ristau, and many others. Considering this unabashedly progressive cast, it wasn't surprising to see the event billed as a "Zero Waste Event"--compost bins for food and waste paper were located at the entrance.

Before Gashott took to the podium, I spoke with Ritchie campaign manager, James Haggar. Because the spending cap for the Secretary of State's race is low--candidates can spend around $220,000 and are limited in how much they can accept from individual donors--events like this are meant to rally support and generate "a lot of smaller checks." (So far, Ritchie's fundraising is nearly twice that of the incumbent, Mary Kiffmeyer.) He says the campaign is going well, given prominence by high-profile cases of voting irregularities here in Minnesota and around the country.

The three issues Haggar thinks will gain traction with voters:

1. "People believe elections should be nonpartisan, regardless of the party" of the secretary of state. He cites Ritchie's 20 years of experience in public service--including creating the nation's largest get-out-the-vote movement (you've likely seen the "November 2" t-shirts).

2. "Make sure we can trust our elections"--that votes are counted correctly, that all eligible voters get the chance to participate, and that they're given the right information on the process. He also wants better enforcement of the new law prohibiting out of state vote challengers (as of this election, people who challenge a voter's eligibility must be from Minnesotans and have personal knowledge of an intended voter's ineligibility).

3. "Get better services to voters, on the business services side, the board of investors, and in elections themselves."

After a rousing introduction by Ellison, Ritchie spoke. He put the race in context--questionable voting decisions made by Mary Kiffmeyer and Katherine Harris--but moved beyond those concerns to challenge the safety of democracy itself.

"Lots of folks believe their only tool for defending themselves from government that's trying to shred democracy-- to hold them accountable for Katrina, to hold them accountable for Iraq--is the vote, and they see the vote being eroded, and they're worried about this." Defending the vote, he says, will be his top priority. And neutrality--not partisanship--is required. He says:
Our secretary of state has looked at the laws that she is supposed to implement, and she's picked the ones to implement that she thinks are going to help Republican candidates. I hate to say it in those partisan terms, but that's the way it's come down. She's picked the ones that were designed to clarify and make voting easier for people who live in group homes, for women who are in battered women's shelters, for people who are young and only have cellphone bills, for native Americans--and she decided she didn't have to implement those laws.

It's a pattern. This belief that some of us are above the law. Maybe they believe there's a higher law so they don't have to enforce one. Maybe they believe their ideology is so correct that all the rest of us really don't matter. This idea that some laws can be implemented and some laws can be ignored has begun to be part of the body politic, especially of elected leaders and we have to confront that.
While he'll focus on the integrity of voting machines, registration, and polling procedures, he'll also target more nebulous areas of psychology: the beliefs that "one vote doesn't matter or that it doesn't matter who's elected, they're all corrupt, or this belief that the whole system is rigged and nothing can be done."

He adds:
It's the last area I'm most concerned aobut. We're articulate about the problems in the system. Yes, big money does control a lot of politics, but it doesn't control everything. Yes, these machines we vote on can be manipulated. [To counter this, Democrats must] lead with hope, lead with inspiration, lead with organization--because that's how we move people forward.
Images (top to bottom): Hottinger, Dibble, Ellison, Ritchie, Sen. Steve Kelley; compost bin provided by Eureka Recycling; Higgins, Ritchie, Gray.

Coup: Reactions

While the king of Thailand backs the recent coup, the US doesn't. (No surprise, considering Bush's coziness with Thaksin.) Nor does a more credible voice, Walden Bello's Focus on the Global South, based in Bangkok:
The rationale for the takeover – that Thai society has become divided as never before in the nation’s history, and that the threats of violence require measures to maintain peace and security – may be an accurate reflection of the current political and social situation. Undoubtedly, corruption and arrogance on the part of the Thaksin Shinwatra government undermined democracy and the Constitution, and it led people to challenge the legitimacy of the regime. However, the usurpation of power and trampling of rights and liberties by a group of officers calling themselves the Democratic Reform Council is in no way justifiable.
The Christian Science Monitor, in a piece forwarded by Mark, writes, "the manner of [Thaksin's] removal by Army officers loyal to the Thai monarch exposes the shallow roots of the democratic institutions that grew in the shadow of past military regimes."

The readiness of self-styled democrats to condone the military action reflects the conservative grounding of Thailand's urban political culture, which is shaped more by royalist hierarchy than well-defined checks and balances on a strong executive.

"They should use the rule of law to pin him down, rather than use a gun to get him out," says Pasuk Phongpaichit, coauthor of a critical biography on Thaksin. "I think it's important now that the coup group puts in place a new Constitution very quickly, or it could backfire and impact the economy."

Other critics of Thaksin, however, say that given his lock on the political system, and gutting of institutional checks and balances, there was no other way to end the stalemate. Thaksin packed courts with allies, politicized the nominally nonpartisan Senate, and muzzled television news. During a 2003 antidrugs campaign, Thaksin cheered when over 2,000 suspected dealers were shot dead in what rights groups called extrajudicial killings.

CSM also runs a short profile of coup leader and now interim military ruler
Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, who is the first Muslim leader of 95% Buddhist Thailand.

Image via Fringer.


Art/design notes.

• High art: Just after Willie Nelson's bust for pot and psilocybin mushrooms, artist JSG Boggs--whose hand-drawn dollar bills earned him a Supreme Court trial and praise from Ira Glass--was arrested for meth possession.

• Cubicle racer: This one's for all of you out there who face the drudgery of hauling boxes with a dolly--a handtruck chair!

• Design Populi: Vote now for the Cooper-Hewitt's People's Design Award. You can nominate and vote on your favorite hand-made or mass-produced design products.

• New MacArthur grants: Congratulations to 2006 MacArthur Fellows, a diverse list that ranges from composer John Zorn and violinist Regina Carter to astrophysicist Matias Zaldarriaga and nature illustrator/author David Carroll.

• Banksy backlash? UK guerrilla artist Banksy has been heralded blogwide--and in his first US solo show in Los Angeles--but is a backlash a'comin'? Animal rights activists decried his use of a painted live elephant (which LA animal services officials ordered him to scrub clean) in the LA show, he got "banksied" by another artist who installed his own work alongside Banksy's, and a top art blogger offers a "mea culpa" for his role in the artist's online hype.

• "Robin Rhode" TV spot: South Africa's Robin Rhode, whose first US show was the Walker's 2003 How Latitudes Become Forms is getting a lot of attention lately for his site-specific chalk and charcoal drawings on flat surfaces. He's even been "blatantly ripped off" by Nike. Watch a Walker Channel webcast of a panel discussion on contemporary art and Africa featuring Rhode.

[Crossposted at Off Center.]

Minnesota Monitor.

The near-schizophrenic content of Eyeteeth of late--from local politics to one-hit images of art and oddities to Thai coup-news--and the shortage of posts in recent weeks is due to my newest blogging gig. I'm a fellow at the Center for Independent Media, a DC-based nonprofit that's behind the New Journalist Pilot Program. With the goal of strengthening the progressive blogosphere, the organization is paying bloggers in Minnesota and Colorado to do investigative blogging on issues of local concern. With excellent mentors and a talented crew of bloggers, Minnesota Monitor is up and running and going strong. Occasionally, I'll post my writings from the site here, but if you want to read each and every word, click here.

This morning's offerings: critiques of political ads by the Democrat-Farmer-Laborer Party and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch.

Thanks for reading, and do stop by MNMON and leave me a comment.


Walker New Media designer Brent Gustafson's wedding featured a surprise--a three-tiered Mario-themed cake planned in secret by his now-wife Annette. Congrats!


Coup liveblogging.

Thai blogs set up solely to liveblog the coup:

19 September (English)

revolution.blogrevo (Thai)

Global Voices Online has more.

Other perspectives:
Cowboy Caleb in Pattaya offers a chronology.
Metroblogging Bangkok
Bangkok Pundit

[Image: Note the tuk-tuks to the left of the tank!]

Breaking: Coup in Thailand

As Mok's family is in Bangkok, this is worth watching:
BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Tanks have been seen rolling through the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday amid rumors of an attempted coup, witnesses tell CNN.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra -- currently at the U.N. headquarters in New York -- went on a government-owned TV station and declared a state of emergency, The Associated Press reported.

According to officials at the Thai mission at the United Nations, Thaksin has moved up his speech to the General Assembly to Tuesday night and will return to Bangkok after his address.

He had been scheduled to address the assembly on Wednesday.

Thaksin has been under considerable pressure to step down. Elections in Thailand are scheduled for November after the country's constitutional court ruled April's vote was unconstitutional.

Thaksin had called for the elections in April, three years early, after opponents accused the billionaire leader of abusing the country's system of checks and balances and bending government policy to benefit his family's business.
More than 10 tanks are said to have blocked roads surrounding the government offices, and, according to AFP, "the Army television is broadcasting images of the royal family and songs associated in the past with military coups."

Update: The coup attempt has been confirmed; apparently PM Thaksin Shiniwatra canned his army chief, and jeeps are patrolling the city.

Flickr photos tagged "Thailand" "coup." More images at ThaiPhotoBlogs. Please leave comments if you find any Thai bloggers covering this news.

Update: Thailand is under martial law and the Constitution has been suspended:
As soldiers and armored vehicles moved through Bangkok, an announcement from the military earlier declared a provisional authority loyal to beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The announcement declared that a "Council of Administrative Reform" had seized power in Bangkok and nearby provinces without any resistance. It recognized the king as head of state.

Image via Thai-blogs.com.

Banksy ordered to wash elephant

British guerilla artist Banksy's much touted LA debut has hit a snag: the elephant he'd painted with a non-toxic paint to match the wallpaper of an installation was ordered washed off. Animal rights activists have protested the inclusion of the animal at all, and finally the general manager of LA's animal welfare department ordered that "the elephant be completely scrubbed down to bare skin and that a child-safe face paint be used":
The department had initially granted Banksy a permit to use the elephant, which he had hired from local company Have Trunk Will Travel. But when officials saw the result in a crowded, celebrity-laden opening on Thursday night, they tried to rescind the licence.

The department, however, had to give five days' notice, by which time the exhibition would have closed. Mr Boks instead ordered the elephant scrubbed clean. "The paint they had been using, although non-toxic, according to government regulations was unsafe and even illegal to use the way they had been using it," Mr Boks said.
I love Banksy's work, but this one seems to deviate from the artist's usual social commentary into unadulterated spectacle. As The Guardian writes, "Whether Banksy, the reclusive 28-year-old British artist and provocateur, had intended to allow the elephant's plight to distract from his grand themes of poverty, political hypocrisy and the future of the planet is debatable."

Banksy banksied:
aBLA reports: "Jeff Gillette 'banksied' Banksy this weekend by sneaking in and installing his 11x14 inch painting Manet's Luncheon on the Grass with with Talaban, Burkhas RPG's and McDonalds take out. Apparently Gillette made it through security with ease and installed in in the back room. It was only up for 15 minutes (hey, where's the fun in that?) but during that time it was clear it looked like it belonged!"


Steel britches.


From corsets made of wood and metal to sculpted codpieces, the medieval armor and underwear photographed by Tanya Marcuse both protect and constrain. On view starting October 13 at Belfast Exposed, Armor & Undergarments features a range of work that examine the dichotomies of male/female, hard/soft, outside/inside, armed/disarmed. Writes Marcuse:
I see these garments and suits of armor as sculptures of the body that, like a carapace, outlast their wearers. These personal effects adorned, constricted and protected the body all at once. Now they are archived as artistic and cultural artefacts, shells of the bodies that once inhabited them.
Via ArtKnowledgeNews.



Terracotta art student

German art student Pablo Wendel fooled Chinese authorities briefly when he posed as one of Xi'an's famed terra cotta warriors. Dressed as one of the 2000-year- old figures (including a small pedestal on which he stood, "a gown and hat, identical to those once worn by Emperor Qinshihuang's warriors"), Wendel was eventually caught by police and his constume was confiscated. He was sent back to Hangzhou, where he's been studying.

"I have always dreamed of disguising myself as a terracotta warrior among the real ones," he said.


Star Tribune doesn't "love a winner"?

How come the Star Tribune's story yesterday, headlined "Some Democrats remain silent on Ellison" didn't actually get around to quoting any Democrats until 200 words in? Before a Dem gets to speak, the piece quotes two Republicans and mentions Ellison's religion, race, and Louis Farrakhan.

Written by McClatchy Washington bureau reporter Kevin Diaz, the story begins "Usually, everybody loves a winner," but offers little backup of the claim that Democrats don't support CD5 Democratic candidate Keith Ellison. Retiring Rep. Martin Sabo, Diaz mentions, remained silent on Ellison--not surprising since he was Erlandson's boss and endorsed his longtime friend in the race.

The piece then quotes GOP chair Ron Carey, who, in reference to Ellison's past affiliation to Farrakhan's Nation of Islam says "This ain't your daddy's DFL." Then, a graf dedicated to another Republican:

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who is Jewish, said Ellison "clearly brings a troubled background" to the race and that "voters will have to judge that."It's not old stuff -- - it is who Mr. Ellison has been," said Coleman. "And I think folks in the Jewish community are going to have to look closely at that, with his associations with Farrakhan. The DFL is going to choose their candidate. But the people of Minneapolis, I hope in the end that they simply don't pull a lever because they're born and raised in a single-party."
The second half of the article lists the support that "trickled in" from within Ellison's party: Rep. Betty McCollum, Rep. Jim Oberstar, Sen. Mark Dayton.

Diaz also notes that Sen. Collin Peterson, "like Sabo" (an interrupter seemingly inserted only to buttress Diaz's so-far mostly unsubstantiated thesis), didn't comment on Ellison's win "in the overwhelmingly Democratic district," and implies that Nancy Pelosi's unavailability for comment--she did release a statement of support--might suggest less than total commitment for the DFL-endorsed candidate.

Diaz doesn't include endorsements already on record by prominent democrats, from Dennis Kucinich and Walter Mondale to the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Mayor R.T. Rybak; Reps. Maxine Waters, John Conyers, Mel Watt, and Charles Rangel; Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin; and a host of state representatives and senators (many of the local endorsers were presented at Ellison's victory party).

Star Tribune readers representative Kate Parry was unavailable for comment, but I'll post her explanation should she offer one.

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]

Jeffers: "Where were all the conservatives?"

After a morning spent talking on radio shows about "how it felt to be crushed" in Minnesota's Republican gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, a tired but proud Sue Jeffers took a few minutes to tell me about the experience, her reluctant support of Tim Pawlenty, and her disappointment at Minnesota conservatives.

Sue Jeffers is funny--with a directness and humor that have probably served her well in the nearly 30 years she's owned Stub and Herb's bar on the university campus, it's surprising she garnered only 11 percent of the vote. But that figure was one she kept bringing up, her disappointment at the results clear.

"For heaven sakes, that guy in Italy who just put his name on the ballot got 35%!" she says, citing the candidacy of the Rome-based fugitive felon Jack Shepard for the 4th Congressional District seat. "Dean Johnson got elected again! Where were all the conservatives? They. Stayed. Home."

Calling voter turnout "pathetically low"--the Secretary of State's office puts it at just under 16 percent--Jeffers was surprised the issues that pushed her into the race didn't drive more people to the polls. The backlash against the new Twins stadium, which will be paid for in large part by tax increases not approved by voter referendum, didn't materialize as planned. Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Humphrey Institute told the Star Tribune that the "people who turned out were the party faithful -- the angry voter doesn't turn out for a primary."

Jeffers' beef is, in part, with those party faithful. She says she was surprised at how hard the Republican Party worked to silence her. She was excluded from the endorsing conventions, ommitted from the delegate list to the state convention and fairs, and Tim Pawlenty refused repeated requests for debates. "Even the CD conventions I’d been invited to, they had a conference call and Ron Carey [chair of the state Republican party] made them uninvite me. One out of the eigth allowed me to come in and talk."

She's particularly peeved that Pawlenty refuses to be held accountable, and she agrees that if a gubernatorial candidate can't get the ear of the governor, then chances an average citizen can are essentially nil. “Pawlenty let us down when he refused to debate me all those times. And he expects people to come out and vote for him now that he’s let us down. When you’ve promised people you were going to do one thing"--not raise taxes, not use tax dollars to support a sports stadium or the Hiawatha corridor--"and then you do something different, it surprises me that they actually expect people to support them—and then people do support them.”

Jeffers, who worked on Pawlenty's campaign in the past, admits, however, "I’ll have to vote for Tim Pawlenty because he’s the closest thing we have to a conservative on the ballot."

Jeffers isn't sure if she'll return to politics; at the moment, trimming the hedges and getting back to golf ("Politics killed my golf game.") are higher on the priority list. She has no regrets about running, and aside from some naivete, she says she's made no mistakes. "I’m very proud of myself for standing up against a political machine. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and there must be other avenues for me out there to try to make changes."

She continues, "I’m pretty good at running my small business and raising my kids, but obviously I’m not very good at being a politician. I got 11 percent, in case you didn’t notice! I did think I was going to get a lot more [votes]. Sometimes I even truly believed I was going to win, that I could’ve made a difference. I would’ve been the best governor Minnesota ever had. Nobody would’ve looked after taxpayers better than me. Maybe I need a different line of work than politics.”

Like serving beer and French fries?

“Yeah, but I tell ya, every time I’m serving someone a beer and they talk to me about high taxes or congested roads or how expensive healthcare is or how much they hate the new Hiawatha train and the new Twins stadium, I’m going to say, 'Oh, did you vote in the primary?'”

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor. Image credit.]


Grazie, Signor Bush

Wooster Collective:
At the start of the Iraq war, the artist sweza, who at the time was studying in Bologna, Italy, manipulated over 50 "attention roadworks" signs in the neighborhood making the workers into undertakers using a very simple stencil. He added the words "grazie bush lavoro per tutti" which can be translated to "Thank you Mr. Bush for creating jobs for everybody."

The Wagon of Revolution

Behold the Wagon of Revolution (W.O.R.) one of eight planned wagons equipped with generators and sound systems to be utilized in the (fiercely) independent Minnesota gubernatorial campaign of James Everett. The one he's got now he hauls around, presumably in his graffiti-covered van, to parts of his native North Minneapolis, hosting rappers and hip-hop dancers, attracting attention of passersby, and talking politics with neighbors. A veteran Get Out the Vote strategist (he says his Subzero Collective is featured in the book How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office), he claims a team of 400 youth are working on his campaign (yesterday, 50 of them were hitting the pavement on behalf of Congressional candidate and northside resident Keith Ellison). As we talked, shouting over the blaring sonic mixture of rap and combustion, he turned to turn off the generator, and with it what he calls the Boombox 3000. See the Wagon of Revolution in action in a video on Everett's site.


Election results

You're gonna have to go to Minnesota Monitor for that (one note: Keith Ellison won the Democratic primary for Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, putting him in line to become the country's first Muslim federal official.)

Good night.

Liveblogging the Governor's Race 5

I finished the night off a Ray J's restaurant in Woodbury, where, as I entered, Tim Pawlenty was busily signing autographs amid a room of well-dressed and loudly chattering people. By the time I'd arrived, the AP and MPR had already called the race in Pawlenty's favor so I'd missed his speech; he didn't emerge from the autograph scrum until about ten minutes before he left. A press release was thrust into my hands by a campaign worker, which contained the same kind of words he was telling a pair of student journalists: he's going to pit his "agenda of government reform and accountability agaisnt Mike Hatch's desire to bring back the failed tax and spend policies of years past," the release said.

I asked his reaction to Sue Jeffers' opinion that he wasn't staying true to conservative values; his answer: "There are many people in Minnesota who think I'm too conservative." He thanked Sue for "bringing these issues"--presumably the Twins stadium, fees and taxes I'd mentioned--to his attention. Before he turned to leave, I put up my camera to take a snapshot. He suggested I get in the shot and, handing the camera to an aide, we ended up, naturally, framed in front of a red Pawlenty banner.

Liveblogging the Governor's Race 4

Sue Jeffers arrived at Stub & Herbs about 30 minutes ago, and now as results are coming in she's sitting with a Coke and relaxing, satisfied at the job she's done. She thinks the same issues everyone else has been citing here tonight--taxes and fees and stadiums--will earn her plenty of votes. She faults Tim Pawlenty for refusing to debate her.

"He should be able to stand up and defend that record," she says. "It's bad when your sitting governor won't debate a political neophyte." Turning to Laura, a young supporter who just called Pawlenty a "weenie," she asks, "Is that the right word."

That neophyte thing seems to be the draw for the crowd--now 30 or so--gathered here. Enge, who wears a leather biker vest over a black t-shirt with Michael Savage's mantra "Liberalism is a mental disorder," says, "Sue's never been a politician. That's what I like about her. Most of us just bitch. She's doing something." (Enge has driven his truck, a flag-covered pickup, in several of Jeffers' parades.)

Even Jeffers admits she didn't really plan on this path. "Two years ago I had a pretty nice life," says Sue Jeffers. "I ran a business, I played golf and went to basketball games. You've got to be really frustrated to throw that away" and go up against established politicians and "the political machine."

Final question: what percentage of the vote would make her satisfied?

"51 percent." She pauses, rethinking: "Yeah, 51 percent."

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]

Liveblogging the Governor's Race 3

Sue Jeffers is scheduled to arrive at Stub & Herbs in about 15 minutes. The pool room of the bar, lined with blue-and-white Jeffers signs, “Blinded by the Light” blasting on the stereo, and tow Jeffers-shirted boys violently winging darts at the electronic board dominate the action in the relatively empty room.

Lieutenant Gov. candidate Ruthie Hendrycks just arrived. She’s feeling positive about both her efforts and her chances: “I honestly believe Sue Jeffers and Ruthie Hendrycks did everything we c ould and that the outcome tonight will be positive.” A resident of Hanska, 13 miles south of New Ulm, she says she thinks greater Minnesota will turn out in support for the team. Issues like “wasteful government spending,” the Twins stadium, transportation issues, and the raising of fees statewide have “irritated” the conservative base. She says the stadium and Minneapolis light rail, in particular, might turn former Pawlenty voters to their cause. “Pawlenty has raised fees by $559 million… Every fee you can think of was raised instead of taxes---license tabs, hunting licenses, building permits…” She adds, noting a frequent theme of the Jeffers campaign, that the GOP platform calls for small, effective, efficient government and that Pawlenty’s August 19 statement the “the era of small government is over” directly goes against that platform.

The bar is still relatively empty—nine, including me, now that one dart-chucking boy has wandered off—but Hendryck’s is in good spirits. “I don’t think the odds are as against us as others think.”

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]

Liveblogging the Governor's Race 2

7:30 pm: I just to Stub & Herb's, the bar Sue Jeffers owns on Oak Street on the U of M campus. I met Dan McGrath, Jeffers campaign manager, in the parking lot. He seemed optimistic about Jeffers chances tonight, buoyed by issues that "get conservatives hot under the collar" at Pawlenty--the governor's support of a Twins stadium without a referendum; his support of the Northstar Corridor, ethanol subsidies.

Of the Twins stadium, one of the main reasons Jeffers joined the race, he quotes a Pawlenty flip-flop, recalling, as McGrath paraphrases, when the governor said, "We're not going to subsidize billionaires to provide millionaires a place to play baseball."

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]

Liveblogging the MN Governor's Race

Tonight I'll be following the campaigns of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his challenger Sue Jeffers. But first, just down the street from my northside home, I stopped to say hi to James Everett, an independent gubernatorial candidate you probably haven't heard of. Everett, founder of the Sub-Zero Collective, uses "positive hip-hop" and other media tactics to reach his constituents. Tonight that involved his graffiti-covered van parked at the corner of Plymouth and Penn avenues North and, a block away in the Snow Foods parking lot, the "Wagon of Revolution" (or W.O.R.). Outfitted with a sputtering generator the wagon was a mobile sound station, attracting attention to Everettt's unorthodox campaign.
Born in North Minneapolis and educated at North High, Everett says he was the first, second, and third presidents of the local NAACP chapter, the ytoungest6 member of the Citizen's League, and an Emmy winner for his wo4rk with teh show Don't Believe the Hype.

Quoting everyone from Floyd B. Olson to the Book of Samuel, Everett's platform includes private policing (since, he says, 70 to 80% of police calls are for domestic violence), a pullout of Iraq, and reparations from slave owners. He's not on the primary ballot, but he hopes to debate other gubernatorial candidates.

"I can come up with global concepts," he says. "I just can't clean my room."

[Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.]

Minnesotans: Vote Today!

It's primary day here in Minnesota, so get out and vote. In Congressional District MN5, Democrats have won the seat every election since 1963, so conventional wisdom says the winner of the Democratic primary goes to Washington--and the race, between Keith Ellison (who could become Minnesota's first African American Congressman and the US House's first Muslim), Mike Erlandson, Ember Reichgott Junge and Paul Ostrow is quite tight (and nasty). So please, find your polling place and turn out. For daylong liveblogging on the races, visit Minnesota Monitor.


Commemoration 2.

Standing on a flag in honor of 9/11? Reuters:
U.S. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush stand on a carpet commemorating the date of the attacks of September 11, 2001 near a mural depicting those attacks outside the Ladder Company 10 firehouse opposite the site of the World Trade Center in New York, September 10, 2006. Bush lay a wreath at Ground Zero before visiting a chapel for a memorial service. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES)

Photo of the day

A 640-minute time lapse photo of the night sky shot at the IAS observatory, Farm Hakos, Namibia in June 2006.



At work and with bloggers I know, there's been a debate about whether it's appropriate to blog on the 9/11 anniversary. A few candidates locally have pulled their ads today, and some events have been rescheduled til tomorrow out of sensitivity.

Not so for South Carolina State Superintendent of Education candidate Karen Floyd: the Republican planned a $1,000 a head Dove Shoot followed by a $100-per-couple dinner. Alas, Republicans killing doves on 9/11--could it get more symbolic than that?--won't happen: after protests from PETA and blogwide ridicule, the fundraiser has been rescheduled for October 3.

9/11 Fact

Last weekend, the number of US troops killed in Iraq surpassed the number of known victims of the 9/11 attack five years ago this morning.


More on the previous topic.

From Andrew Sullivan:
Next week, I'm informed via troubled White House sources, will see the full unveiling of Karl Rove's fall election strategy. He's intending to line up 9/11 families to accuse McCain, Warner and Graham of delaying justice for the perpetrators of that atrocity, because they want to uphold the ancient judicial traditions of the U.S. military and abide by the Constitution. He will use the families as an argument for legalizing torture, setting up kangaroo courts for military prisoners, and giving war crime impunity for his own aides and cronies. This is his "Hail Mary" move for November; it's brutally exploitative of 9/11; it's pure partisanship; and it's designed to enable an untrammeled executive. Decent Republicans, Independents and Democrats must do all they can to expose and resist this latest descent into political thuggery. If you need proof that this administration's first priority is not a humane and effective counter-terror strategy, but a brutal, exploitative path to retaining power at any price, you just got it.

GOP election strategy: "Beat the drum of fear"

Although the politics of fear is said to be "losing its punch," look for Republicans, knowing full well the congressional and presidential tide may be turning against them, to "beat the drum of fear" to get re-elected this fall. The strategy is illustrated through Bush's recent speech where, despite the fact that the al-Qaeda leader's trail has gone "stone cold," he uttered Osama bin Laden's name 17 times or through Bush's request for TV airtime--to commemorate the fight anniversary of 9/11 with a televised speech--one minute into the final hour of the hugely contested documdrama The Path to 9/11 on ABC. It's also touched on by this graphic, which in an Onion-y kind of way has a lot of truth about the "coincidental" raising of terror alert levels at key moments of past elections, dips in Bush's approval ratings and pivotal times around news cycles:

The (winding) Path to 9/11

The controversy about ABC's semi-fictionalized account of the 9/11 attacks, the two-part docudrama The Path to 9/11 (airing tonight and Monday nights on KSTP Channel 5), hasn't gotten much coverage locally. The lone locally written piece in the Star Tribune was a Neal Justin-penned blurb that says the movie "does a credible job of humanizing the 9/11 Commission report." (That notion isn't one held by star Harvey Keitel, three members of the 9/11 Commission, many Clinton Administration staffers, educational publisher Scholastic, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and a host of Ivy League historians.) A call by Minnesota Monitor to KSTP's Mike Smith has not been returned, but Talking Points Memo publishes a note from the station's programming director that suggests viewers call or email network headquarters:
[A]s the ABC affiliate, Channel 5 broadcasts ABC network programming but does not determine the content of it. We are the only locally-owned television station serving the Twin Cities, and hope that you will judge ABC network offerings separately from Channel 5's own local news and public affairs programming... We also suggest that you make your opinion known to the originator of the program: ABCNEWS.
That drew a miffed-seeming reply from ABC News:
That's flat-out false, says an ABC News spokeswoman. "ABC News did not participate in any way in the production of this movie," Cathie Levine told me earlier today. In fact, she said, the news division didn't even let the production use its file footage, following ABC News policy.


Bush interested in bin Laden, again.

A new DNC ad asks if Bush's new focus on the 9/11 kingpin is genuine or just election-year fearmongering.


American road trip self-portraits

By Bard College MFA candidate William Lamson.

The Sponsored Candidate, Part 3.

Short of returning political contributions to defense contractors whose work might call into question his antiwar stance, Minnesota Congressional candidate Mike Erlandson could look to Senate contender Mark Kennedy for what not to do--begin hurling rocks in the proverbial glass house.

Pointing out an "egregious example of [...] hypocrisy," Kennedy's press secretary said on September 1 that the mutual fund holdings of her boss' challenger, Amy Klobuchar, contradicts her campaign rhetoric that criticized oil industry profits. "[She] frequently says we need to ‘follow the money,’ well, when you follow the money of ExxonMobil it ends up in Amy Klobuchar’s pocket.” Someone did follow the money and discovered that Klobuchar's oil stocks, estimated somewhere between $3,900 and $15,000 by Kennedy, are a drop in the bucket compared to the $70,000 the Republican has accepted from the oil and gas PACs.

By leveling the argument of hypocrisy against opponents--Klobuchar has been "saying one thing to voters and doing another," says Team Kennedy--candidates welcome closer scrutiny of what money is ending up in their own pocket.

Like Klobuchar, Kennedy too has taken swipes at the oil industry, once denouncing "Exorbitant Oil Company Profits." He says, as former oilman George W. Bush did, that it's time "to break our addiction to foreign oil," and that tax breaks for oil companies should be taken and redistributed to producers of sustainable fuels. These are popular and pragmatic plans, but, as WCCO points out, they don't conform to Kennedy's voting record: in 2005, he voted for the energy bill that OK'd at least $2.8 billion in tax breaks for oil companies.

A closer look at Kennedy's campaign contributions reveals another bit of irony--he received $13,000 from ExxonMobil since 2000, around as much as Klobuchar reportedly has in her mutual fund. Further, Kennedy accepted many thousands more from Texaco ($500), Marathon Oil ($1,000), the Petroleum Marketing Association of America ($1,000), oil enterprises owned by the Wyoming-based True family ($3,000), and Eden Prairie's Western Petroleum ($9,000), to name a few, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

Kennedy's criticism of Klobuchar's finances underscores that, regardless of the reality of one's voting record or personal ethics, money is considered, by some at least, a clear window into a politician's values...

See part 1.
See part 2.

EPA goes green, finally.

From Treehugger:
[The US Environmental Protection Agency] is the first and only major federal agency to purchase green power equal to 100 percent of its estimated annual electricity use nationwide.

As of September 2006, EPA will be purchasing nearly 300 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of green power annually in the form of renewable energy certificates (RECs) or delivered product. This amount is equal to 100 percent of the total estimated annual electricity consumption at all of EPA’s nearly 200 facilities across the country—enough electricity to power 27,084 homes for an entire year.

Photographing Big Brother

The concept behind Cynthia Greig's photography might be called "cute"--she photographs normal-scale people manipulating miniature objects--but the result, to me, hints at political critique in the age of warrantless wiretapping, surveillance mania, elections promised to be "delivered" by Diebold's director, and wars fought remotely as if by a president controlling puppets. Perhaps I'm seeing "Big Brother" too literally?

Via Core 77.


Visitors to Disneyland over Labor Day weekend had their fantasy popped by a curious addition--a mannequin dressed in the orange jumpsuit, manacles, and hood of the Abu Ghraib detaineee. The intervention was up for an hour and a half before Disney security removed it. Apparently another project by Banksy.


The Sponsored Candidate, Part 2.

While Congressional candidate Mike Erlandson must weigh whether a few thousand dollars of income from military contractors is worth the risk of being perceived as less than resolute in his opposition to the Iraq War--an argument likely to be raised by his Republican challenger should he win Tuesday's primary--the real issue with campaign contributions is whether they actually influence a candidate's values or policy votes.

A comparison of Erlandson's defense donations to those of the man he hopes to replace, his old boss, Congressman Martin Sabo yields unexpected results. Sabo voted against the original authorization of force against Iraq and has since voted against measures that would declare Iraq a front on the "War on Terror" and that would signal approval, after the fact, of the removal of Saddam Hussein. He now calls for a withdrawal of troops from the country.

How does this antiwar stalwart, a man so beloved by Minnesotans that he's been elected to serve 18 years in the Minnesota Legislature and 28 in the US House, stand on campaign financing by defense industry representatives?

He's accepted it. Lots of it.

According to FEC filings, Sabo received $12,500 from MTS Systems' PAC (the Eden Prairie-based contractor that also funds Erlandson); $18,000 from the PAC at Alliant Techsystems (maker of "advanced weapons" including depleted uranium munitions, "smart bombs," and landmines); $9,500 from Boeing's PAC'; $9000 from Honeywell's; $14,500 from Raytheon; $26,000 from General Dynamics' PAC; $1,000 from Bechtel's PAC--nearly $250,000 from the defense industry alone.

Sabo didn't immediately respond to a call for this article, but Frank Sorauf, retired University of Minnesota author and political science professor, suggests that perhaps such figures by candidates can be misleading.

"Some of the contractors maybe have a very large civilian business," he says. "That's really not a war industry. That's a multipurpose industry. They're the kind of industry that's really interested in general access to members of Congress."

He adds that large companies have nuanced and multifaceted problems with which they need the good favor of government. He suggests that the pragmatic side of business--getting help with visa problems for a specialized scientist in the case of Honeywell, as a hypothetical--is more likely behind corporate contributions than any quid pro quo.

"Some PACs may take the stance that 'he may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch,'" he adds.

Sabo's votes suggest that he wasn't influenced by his defense-related contributors. For Erlandson, who served as Sabo's chief of staff and State Chair of the Minnesota DFL but has never held an elected office, the issue is trickier. What's a candidate without a voting record to to do when his stated stances could be perceived as contradicting his FEC disclosures?

Senate candidate Mark Kennedy's recent accusation against DFLer Amy Klobuchar might offer a clue.

More to come...

See Part 1.