Happy holidays! See you in 2005...
Nutter Utters: The Top Ten Most Outrageous Statements of 2004: Media Matters for America caps off the year with a round-up the nuttiest spewings by rightwing ranters. The honors:
Rush Limbaugh on the Abu Ghraib photos: "I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?"

Ann Coulter: "[Senator John] Kerry will improve the economy in the emergency services and body bag industry."

Tony Blankley called philanthropist George Soros "a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust."

Michael Savage: "When you hear 'human rights,' think gays. ... [T]hink only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son."

Oliver North: "Every terrorist out there is hoping John Kerry is the next president of the United States."

Pat Robertson on gays and lesbians: "[S]elf-absorbed hedonists ... that want to impose their particular sexuality on the rest of America."

Pat Buchanan: "[H]omosexuality is an affliction, like alcoholism."

Bill O'Reilly to Jewish caller: "[I]f you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel."

Bill Cunningham (Clear Channel radio host who appeared as a guest on The Sean Hannity Show): The election is over because "Elizabeth Edwards has now sung."

Jerry Falwell: "And we're going to invite PETA [to "wild game night"] as our special guest, P-E-T-A -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We want you to come, we're going to give you a top seat there, so you can sit there and suffer. This is one of my special groups, another one's the ACLU, another is the NOW -- the National Order of Witches [sic]. We've got -- I've got a lot of special groups."
O Fortified Town of Bethlehem: If you're singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" this Christmas, consider this: Mary and Joseph's arduous trek would've taken them through Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Bethlehem--a path they might not have successfully navigated today. Arjan El Fassed and Annet Meeuws write:
Joseph and Mary would arrive at a town surrounded by a combination of nine Israeli settlements, a stretch of the Wall, roads restricted to Israelis and a multitude of checkpoints, earth mounds and roadblocks. Approximately 78 physical obstacles surround Bethlehem today, along with the Wall, which is nearing completion along the northern and western sides of the city.

Instead of a bustling cultural and spiritual center hosting tourists and pilgrims from around the world, Joseph and Mary would experience Bethlehem as an isolated town, with boarded up shops and abandoned development projects. The age-old link between Jerusalem and Bethlehem is nearly severed as a result of Israeli policies including settlements, a great number of physical barriers and roads restricted to Israelis...
Also from EI: Maureen Clare Murphy writes on the occupation's affect on tourism in Jesus birth city: "Bethlehem has seen much trauma to its economy since the Intifada. A recent UN report informs, 'a total of 28 hotels, 240 olive wood and mother-of-pearl workshops, and 50 restaurants have closed.' Fears of violence and Israeli intimidation and closure have stopped religious tourists from coming to both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and those that do come to what they consider the Holy Land tend to spend most of their time in Jerusalem, and make only brief day trips to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Since approximately 18 percent of Bethlehem's population was employed in the tourism sector before the Intifada, and the Annexation Wall that is ghettoizing Bethlehem continues to be built, the outlook is grim."
Merry Christmas from the USA, starving people of the world: Putting Christ in Christmas means yanking aid to the world's hungry, according to the Bush administration. Remember this when Bush prioritizes permanent tax cuts for the rich ahead of doing our part for those suffering in the world:
With the federal budget deficit expanding and President George W. Bush promising to reduce spending, the administration has told representatives of several charities that it is unable to honor some promises...

The cuts to charities, estimated by some charities at up to $100 million, come at a time when the number of hungry in the world is rising for the first time in years and all food programs are being stretched. As a result, Save The Children, Catholic Relief Services and other charities have suspended or eliminated programs that were intended to help the poor feed themselves. The programs helped with food supplies through improvements in farming, education and health.

"We have between five and seven million people who have been affected by these cuts," Lisa Kuennen, a food aid expert at Catholic Relief Services, said. "We had approval for all of these programs, often a year in advance," she added. "We hired staff, signed agreements with governments and with local partners, and now we have had to delay everything."

Kuennen said Catholic Relief Services had to cut back programs in Indonesia, Malawi and Madagascar, among other countries.

Officials of several charities, some Republican members of Congress and some administration officials say the food aid budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 was at least $600 million less than what charities and aid agencies would need to carry out current programs.


McD's gets octopied:
SETE, France (AFP) - Armed with a high-pressure hose and a bucket of octopi, hundreds of protestors in this Mediterranean town pelted a McDonalds restaurant due to open this week with the slimy seafood.

Between 300 and 500 people gathered on the banks of the Sete canal, across from the fast-food outlet, playing music and yelling anti-junk-food slogans across the water, as police barred them from reaching the restaurant itself.

Aiming the hose across the water, they catapulted fresh octopi -- a local delicacy, known here as the "pouffre" -- towards the town's first McDonalds, which had been set to open on Saturday.

The crowd held up slogans slamming junk food, dubbed "malbouffe" in French, as well as work conditions in the fast-food industry.

Driving home their point, the protestors were serving up traditional Setois dishes -- one of which is the tielle, a fragrant octopus, tomato and onion pie prized by locals and tourists alike.

The demonstration caused the opening of the restaurant, the first fast-food outlet in the port town following years of resistance by the former communist mayor, to be put off until next week.

A group led by French militant farmer Jose Bove pulled down a McDonalds outlet that was under construction in the southern town of Millau in 1999, earning Bove a jail sentence, although the restaurant was later rebuilt.
More consumer disobedience: Boingboing links to resources for hacking Coke machines.
Immoral majority: A writer to the Washington Post's Terry Neal opines, "I do think the Democrat Party is identified -- justifiably -- with much of the vulgarization so prominently displayed by many celebrities, particularly those in the entertainment industry. Hey, we pick our friends." But as Neal outlines, it ain't that simple. Many Republican donors make tons of cash on peddling porn and other aspects of the immoral economy. Read about the Republican's moral values blindspot.
New Mashup: The Beatles + Beastie Boys = The Beastles.
The Jacir Debacle: Kudos to the Wichita State University and its Ulrich Museum for coming to its senses about the January exhibition of works by Emily Jacir. Jacir, a Palestinian whose dual citizenship allows her freedom to travel where others under occupation in Israel can't, creates poetic and human works about the restrictions on Palestinians, and the piece to be presented in Wichita appeared in the Istanbul and Whitney biennials. Jacir writes:
...The Jewish Federation of Kansas has put pressure on the University and the Museum so that they have been granted permission to place brochures and a sign in the gallery expressing their views concerning the politics of the Middle East. Actually, the University and Museum have no idea what text is contained in the brochures and what the posters are but have given them permission nonetheless.

This is a complete infringement on my right to free speech, not to mention an insult to me as an artist. It is intolerable that I have to go through this just because of my background. I am sure no other artist would accept to work under such conditions. They are placing a huge unnecessary burden on my exhibit with the presence of the brochures which are intended to silence or censor my work. I am shocked that they would place such conditions in a the space of a museum.

On the one hand they are allowing me to speak but on another they are trying to control my work by placing brochures, thereby contextualizing and framing my work in ways I have no control over. Not only is this an infringement to free speech but it also disturbs the integrity of my work...
However, as Joy Garnett reports, the University has backed down, allowing Jacir's work to be presented without recontextualization by the Jewish group (allegedly a rightwing group that supports Bush and has no actual Israeli members). Read all about it at NEWSgrist.
People Who Matter: Citing past examples ranging from Hitler to Churchill, TIME magazine defends its controversial selection of George W. Bush as "Person of the Year." And Ms. notes that TIME's list of 17 "People Who Mattered" only included two women by name--Nancy Reagan and Martha Stewart--as well as the cast of "Desperate Housewives." (Via Cursor.)


Seeing Red: Celebrating his reelection, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold took a golf trip to what may well be the "reddest spot on the whole map"--Alabama. His reflection from the road trip is published on Salon. A snippet:
Now, some may think that Alabama and Wisconsin are the polar opposites of American politics. But in both states I've found that -- along with sharing a sincere appreciation of a good turkey dinner -- too many hardworking people are losing their battles for decent paying jobs and adequate healthcare. I'm tired of seeing the power-hungry persuade the hardworking people of this country that the only way to preserve important values is to vote against their own families' basic interests. I believe that the working people of both states have sacrificed for other people's agendas for too long. And I believe that any political party or political movement or political candidate who would consistently say this would be heard throughout America.
(Thanks, Ben.)



Olga Koumoundouros' excellent sculpture Monument to a town meeting, after Acconci leads off this Adbusters piece. An excerpt from the artist's unpublished statement about the sculpture, a hulking found-wood assemblage that only reveals itself when viewers climb atop it:
"Drop the “T” out of “Terror” and “_error” reveals itself. ...The piece employed the language of minimalist sculpture to discuss American relationships to terror. By presenting itself as a monolithic structure at first glance, ladders are provided to those who wish to climb on top to see that the form spells the word terror. Terror reveals itself only when we get above it. Secure and walled seating space is offered in between the letters for those that climb on top as well. We sit in the midst of terror; we live with terror around us. The “purity” of form indicted.


I Heart Canada: As Morford writes, Canada "simply beat us senseless on the whole open-minded, progressive thing. Kicked our flag-wavin' butts. Trounced our egomaniacal self-righteous selves and made the red states look even more foolish and backward than the whole world already knows them to be." On top of that, our northern neighbor has agreed to welcome US citizens who don't want to fight in Iraq. Canada also won't be financially supporting the US missile shield, and they won't allow US rockets for the system to be launched from Canadian soil. (Via Cursor.)


New Zinn: Historian Howard Zinn writes a post-election essay on how progressives must "Harness That Anger." An excerpt:
Freed from the sordid confines of our undemocratic political process, we can now turn all our energies to do what is discouraged by the voting system--to speak boldly and clearly about what must be done to turn our country around.

And let's not worry about offending that 22 percent of the country (we don't know the exact number but it is certainly a minority) who are religious and political fundamentalists, who invoke God in the service of mass murder and imperial conquest, who ignore the Biblical injunctions to love one's neighbor, to beat swords into plowshares, to care for the poor and downtrodden.

Most Americans do not want war.

Most want the wealth of this country to be used for human needs-health, work, schools, children, decent housing, a clean environment--rather than for billion dollar nuclear submarines and four billion dollar aircraft carriers.

They can be deflected from their most human beliefs by a barrage of government propaganda, dutifully repeated by television and talk radio and the major newspapers. But this is a temporary phenomenon, and as people begin to sense what is happening, their natural instinct for empathy with other human beings emerges.

Tax poll for Minnesotans: Minnesota's Republican Governor, Tim "No new taxes" Pawlenty is soliciting feedback on how to approach the 2006–2007 state budget. Curious that polltakers must assume "There are no new tax revenues and the budget must remain balanced"--a bias you might want to mention when filling out the form. Take the survey here.

(Thanks, John B.)
Jam this: As Eyebeam's reBlog suggests, these customizable magnetic "Support Our Troops"-style car magnets are ripe for culture-jamming.
Salgado in search of pristine nature: "The modern notion that humanity and nature are somehow separate is absurd," writes Brazilian photographer SebastiĆ£o Salgado. "Our relationship with nature - with ourselves - has broken down. As the most developed species, humanity may have a special, often dominant, relationship with nature, but it is no less part of nature. Indeed, we cannot survive outside it." Known for arresting black-and-white images of workers, landless peasants, children, and migrants, Salgado is in the beginning stages of an eight-year project to "go to the most pristine places on the planet and photograph them in the most honest way I know, with my point of view, and of course it is in black and white, because it is the only thing I know how to do. I want to see if I can put a kind of virginity in these pictures, if you can say that, and to show 100% respect to nature and the animals." His work will be presented by The Guardian, where the first two installments--photos taken in the Galapagos and Rwanda--are now displayed.


Hidden casualties: As the US military death toll in Iraq teeters at the brink of 1,300, UPI's Mark Benjamin tells Amy Goodman about the hidden casualties of the Iraq war: 17% of GIs returning from Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); one in five of the 30,000 soldiers returning from Iraq has mental problems (according to the Department of Veterans Affairs); some 15,000 GIs have been injured (far below Pentagon estimates that only include soldiers injured by enemy fire), and untold numbers of Iraq vets are already homeless.

Caring for the injured: The New England Journal of Medicine offers a frightening photo essay on what it means to fight--and provide medical care--in Iraq.

The one who stayed: The mass desertions of Bush cabinet members didn't touch the ever-incompetent Donald Rumsfeld. If my opinions seem harsh, check Republican Senator John McCain, who today admitted he has "no confidence" in Rumsfeld's abilities. "I have strenuously argued for larger troop numbers in Iraq, including the right kind of troops — linguists, special forces, civil affairs, etc.," said McCain, R-Ariz. "There are very strong differences of opinion between myself and Secretary Rumsfeld on that issue."


Slavery wasn't so bad, say white Christians: In Gary Taylor's state of Alabama, a school is using a booklet called "Southern Slavery, As It Was" that seeks a biblical justification for the kidnapping and indentured servitude of Africans. The principal of the Cary Christian School defends the use of the highly unorthodox view of slavery: "As a classical Christian school, we think it's important for our students to be able to think and not be slanted to a particular position. We want them to think for themselves." There's no slant in these excerpts from the pamphlet (which, due to bad publicity, has been pulled from the curriculum):
"As we have already mentioned, the 'peculiar institution' of slavery was not perfect or sinless, but the reality was a far cry from the horrific descriptions given to us in modern histories." (page 22)

* "Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence." (page 24)

* "There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world." (page 24)

* "Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care." (page 25)

* "But many Southern blacks supported the South because of long established bonds of affection and trust that had been forged over generations with their white masters and friends." (page 27)

* "Nearly every slave in the South enjoyed a higher standard of living than the poor whites of the South -- and had a much easier existence." (page 30)
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports on the booklet and its neo-Confederate authors Douglas Wilson and Steve Wilkins (whose publications feature his opinion that feminists seek "to rob women of their beauty in submission" and that "[I]f neither parent believes in Jesus Christ, then the children are foul — unclean.")

Plus: Are there neo-Confederates in your town?
Dogs of war: Here's an aspect of war I'd never considered:
this time the marines are not chasing down the insurgents who they defeated in a devastating assault on the city last month. Their quarry is stray animals grown fat on the flesh from corpses and who could harbor rabies.
Full story here.
Dispatches from the Piously Correct: The Guardian's Gary Taylor talks with Alabama Republican Rep. Gerald Allen, who's helping shape Bush's policies on "moral" values.
Last week, Bush's base introduced a bill that would ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that "promote homosexuality". Allen does not want taxpayers' money to support "positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle". That's why Tennessee Williams and Alice Walker have got to go.

I ask Allen what prompted this bill. Was one of his children exposed to something in school that he considered inappropriate? Did he see some flamingly gay book displayed prominently at the public library?

No, nothing like that. "It was election day," he explains. Last month, "14 states passed referendums defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman". Exit polls asked people what they considered the most important issue, and "moral values in this country" were "the top of the list".

"Traditional family values are under attack," Allen informs me. They've been under attack "for the last 40 years". The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is "Hollywood, the music industry". We have an obligation to "save society from moral destruction". We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from "re-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children". We have to "protect Alabamians".
Earlier: The New York Times' Frank Rich, in discussing the new biopic on Alfred Kinsey, creates a chilling laundry list of evidence suggesting a new, perhaps even more intense form of Victorianism:
Just three weeks after the election, Channel 13 killed a spot for the acclaimed movie "Kinsey," in which Liam Neeson stars as the pioneering Indiana University sex researcher who first let Americans know that nonmarital sex is a national pastime, that women have orgasms too and that masturbation and homosexuality do not lead to insanity. At first WNET said it had killed the spot because it was "too commercial and too provocative" - a tough case to make about a routine pseudo-ad interchangeable with all the other pseudo-ads that run on "commercial-free" PBS. That explanation quickly became inoperative anyway. The "Kinsey" distributor, Fox Searchlight, let the press see an e-mail from a National Public Broadcasting media manager stating that the real problem was "the content of this movie" and "controversial press re: groups speaking out against the movie/subject matter" that might bring "viewer complaints."

...Yet even as the "Kinsey" spot was barred in New York, a public radio station in North Carolina, WUNC-FM, told an international women's rights organization based in Chapel Hill that it could not use the phrase "reproductive rights" in an on-air announcement. In Los Angeles, five commercial TV channels, fearing indecency penalties, refused to broadcast a public service spot created by Los Angeles county's own public health agency to counteract a rising tide of syphilis. Nationwide, the big three TV networks all banned an ad in which the United Church of Christ heralded the openness of its 6,000 congregations to gay couples.
Smelly, rightwing media: In its 12th year, the P.U.-Litzer Prizes--recognizing the smelliest performances in media--have just been announced. Among the honorees: MSNBC's Don Imus, who, just a day after Yassar Arafat died, characterized Palestinians as "They're eating dirt and that fat pig wife of his is living in Paris"; a former assistant managing editor at the Washington Post who admits, "We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power"; and CNN's Jack Cafferty calling AirAmerica Radio a "communist radio network." This year's top stinker:
It became a media mantra. Two days after the election, the Los Angeles Times reported that "Bush can claim a solid mandate of 51 percent of the vote." Cox columnist Tom Teepen referred to Bush's vote margin as an "unquestionable mandate." Right-wing pundit Bill Kristol argued that Bush's "mandate" went beyond the 49-states-to-one landslides of Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1984. Reality check: This was the narrowest win for an incumbent president since 1916. As Greg Mitchell wrote in Editor & Publisher: "Where I come from, 51 percent is considered a bare majority, not a comfortable margin. If only 51 percent of my family or my editorial staff think I am doing a good job, I might look to moderate my behavior, not repeat or enlarge it."
Some suggested runners up, culled from recent postings at Media Matters ("the most vile, despicable human beings in the country," according to Bill O'Reilly): the bible-thumper Pat Robertson saying that "Kwanzaa is an absolute fraud" and Bill O'Reilly's recent comment to a caller who complained that growing up Jewish in a Christian town, he often felt like people were trying to convert him. O'Reilly's retort: "You have a predominantly Christian nation. You have a federal holiday based on the philosopher Jesus. And you don't wanna hear about it? Come on, [caller] -- if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel then. "


Military-issue bibles:
Although the International Bible Society (IBS) indeed will crank out a limited-run, special edition of the New International Version Bible in the near future, it's unlikely that readers will discover, for example, a previously unreleased surprise ending to the Good Book. Rather, according to FedBizOpps.com, a site for federal government procurement opportunities, the Department of Defense intends to award the IBS a sole-source contract for the production of 10,000 Bibles containing military-specific messages and imagery. The Bibles - which will be distributed to soldiers of the elite U.S. Special Operations Command - will feature a "custom-designed cover" and "Army designed color photographs and text inserts."

It appears that IBS's crafting of the Special Ops Bible will rely on the "new package, same great taste" approach that the commercial sector often takes when introducing a new logo or easy-grip handle for an existing product. It's hopefully safe to assume that though the Bibles are new, they will not be "improved." IBS has an extraordinary task ahead of it, as they must juxtapose, hypothetically, Christ's "Blessed are the peacemakers" pronouncement with army-centric motivational messages and images. A tough job indeed, given the context of 100,000 "excess casualties" - consisting mainly of women and children - that U.S. and British military forces may have caused since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as indicated in the Oct. 29, 2004, edition of The Lancet, a British medical journal.
(Thanks, Reggie.)


First US soldier seeks asylum in Canada:
A former Marine on the front lines of Iraq, a witness for an American seeking to become the first U.S. soldier granted asylum in Canada, said Wednesday several men in his unit were "psychopaths" who enjoyed killing unarmed Iraqi civilians who posed no threat.

U.S. Army Pfc. Jeremy Hinzman, 26, is calling on the Immigration and Refugee Board to grant him, his wife and 2-year-old son refugee status in Canada, claiming he would face persecution if forced to return to the United States.

He fled Fort Bragg, N.C., to Canada weeks before his 82nd Airborne Division was due to be deployed to Iraq. He had served three years in the Army, but had applied for conscientious objector status before his unit was sent to Afghanistan in 2002.

Hinzman's case comes just as Ottawa is attempting to improve relations with Washington, which soured dramatically after Canada refused to send troops to Iraq.

Jimmy Massey, a staff sergeant who was in the Marines for 12 years and served three months in Iraq before being honorably discharged with post-traumatic stress syndrome, told the immigration board during the last day of Hinzman's three-day hearing that his colleague likely would have been forced to commit atrocities that violated Geneva Conventions.
Full story here.

Go Canadian: For Americans traveling abroad, consider going incognito--as a Canadian.
Dear FCC: A Boingboing reader is messing with the FCC (and Bill O'Reilly) using the Parents Television Council's letterwriting tool:
"I woke up this morning and it suddenly dawned on me that, gee willikers, my show stinks! I have no idea what I'm talking about and I am a menace to the broadcast industry. Shut me up before I open my big yap again!

"By the way, I am writing this from the Parents Television Council's web site. They make it so easy for people like me to send an email complaining to the FCC about anything we want.

"According to Mediaweek, 99.8 percent of the complaints going to the FCC about indecency are coming from this very web site. Only who knows how many of them are legitimate and representative of the will of the great American public? -- Bill O'Reilly, Fox News"
Greenest, Meanest: The Union of Concerned Scientists recognized Honda as the "2004 Greenest Automaker" award yesterday, while dubbi8ng General Motors "Public Polluter #1" for ranking worst of all car companies for environmental standards. (Via Cursor.)
Speak truth to power: Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard: "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles? ...We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have."

Rummycount: 1,276 soldiers have been killed in Iraq on Rumsfeld's watch.

Disgruntled? Why does the AP piece on this story have a headline that reads Disgruntled soldiers put Rumsfeld on the spot? Are they really disgruntled (in that suspicious "disgruntled ex-employee" way) or do they merely wish to avoid being blown to smithereens?


Cool tool du jour: Can't seem to remember your login info for the LA Times or Chicago Tribune? Visit Bugmenot to get a free password and "bypass compulsory web registration." Very cool.


Feel the love? In George Bush's America, what could be better than one rightwing media empire falling in love with another? Today, Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio corporation (and renowned organizer of pro-war rallies), announced that Fox News Radio will be providing news to some 500 of its affiliates. Alternet has launched a new site, FightFox in response, and you can have your say on the matter--or any other issue related to media policy, perceived bias, and use of the public airwaves--at a public hearing with FCC commissioners Copps and Adelstein in St. Paul, MN, Thursday night.


An "intellectual emetic": This one's dedicated to the "reluctant" Bush supporter (and not-enlisted hawk) I met at Dusty's Dagos (real bar name) recently who said "War is ugly. People die in war. I wish it wasn't that way, but it is." From Mark Morford:
Maybe this should be the rule: If you can't handle seeing what really goes on in a war, maybe you don't deserve to support it. If you can't stomach the truths of what our soldiers are doing and how brutally and bloodily they're dying and in just what manner they have to kill those innocent Iraqi civilians in the name of BushCo's desperate lurch toward greed and power and Iraqi oil fields and empire, maybe you don't have the right to stick that little flag on your oil-sucking SUV. Clear enough?...

...Here is your uncensored truth: http://www.fallujahinpictures.com. Real pictures from Fallujah. Real pictures of war. Brutal and explicit and shocking and just one site of many. Be warned: this is very graphic content. Horrific and deeply disturbing. No censorship. No suppression. No Photoshop. No bogus shots of happy Iraqi children running in the streets begging for candy from American soldiers. No night shots of Marines in bitchin' night-vision goggles bustin' down the door of some palace and then cheering.

Because if you think that's what it's all been about, if you really think war is just this tragic but necessary evil that contains some unfortunate violence and regrettable death but is nonetheless still full of righteous democratic American truth, you have been wildly misled and deeply deceived  and might want to consider a nice intellectual emetic. You and Dubya both.
(Thanks, John K.)


UCC Petition: Tell CBS and NBC to air the "God is still speaking" ad by visting the United Church of Christ's Action Center (while you're there, check out the other great social-justice issues they're taking on.)


Yahweh or the Highway! Jesus speaks (via Ward Sutton's new comic.)

(Thanks, Reggie.)
Pumpkin pistol: As BoingBoing links to a Texas barbecue shaped like a pistol, I'm reminded of a story about pumpkin guns in the latest issue of The Rake:
The 2004 crop of shooters includes trebuchets, slingshots, spring engines, ballistae, torsion catapults, and colossal compressed air-powered behemoths such as the “Aludium Q36 Pumpkin Modulator,” whose name was inspired by the raygun belonging to Marvin the Martian, one of Bugs Bunny’s more memorable rivals. The Q36 is from Morton, Illinois, the home of Libby’s, who incidentally make quite a lot of canned pumpkin filling. The gun travels to pumpkin-shooting events on large flatbed trailers and is assembled on-site using a construction crane. The machine is basically a giant air gun fabricated from ten-inch-diameter aluminum piping, pneumatic valves and regulators, and other assorted industrial doohickeys. The gun is powered by huge tanks of compressed air and mounted on a steel launch pad the size of your average garage slab. Its barrel spans nearly eight stories and the whole thing is encased in a welded steel superstructure tensioned with guy wires.

When the trigger is tripped, a deafening release of compressed air imparts great gobs of kinetic energy to the projectile in the breech. If it’s a good, tough-shelled pumpkin, it soars about 4,800 feet before splatting into seedy goo upon impact. That’s getting very close to a mile, and brother, that’s a long way to shoot a pumpkin. If the pumpkin can’t handle it, it disintegrates in the barrel and somewhere down-range, it’s raining pumpkin pie.

Too Christian for TV? CBS and NBC are deeming the United Church of Christ's new ad campaign as too "controversial" to air. It's racy message? Tolerance and welcoming:
The 30-second commercial features two muscle-bound “bouncers” standing guard outside a picturesque church and selecting which persons are permitted to attend Sunday services, and turning away apparent gays and persons of color.

Written text interrupts the scene, announcing, “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.” A narrator then states, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

According to a written explanation from CBS, the United Church of Christ is being denied network access, they church says, because its ad implies that other denominations are not as accepting of minorities and therefore too “controversial.”
For more, visit TalkingPointsMemo.

And: The Universalist Unitarian church down the block from work bears a big banner that reads, "Civil Marriage is a Civil Right.” Amen.


In the 160-page year-end "Big Ideas" issue of Adbusters, I wrote about the--ahem--mushrooming potential of fungi to do everything from clean up oil spills to cure fatal diseases. My unedited version:
"Some people think I'm a mycological heretic, some people think I'm a mycological revolutionary, and some just think I'm crazy," says Paul Stamets of Shelton, Washington. The revolutionary heresy he practices is one based on mycotechnolgy—using mushrooms to do everything from fighting disease to cleaning up toxic waste, from regenerating damaged logging roads to combating feisty termites and carpenter ants. Author of several books on the medicinal, culinary, and environmental use of mushrooms and the recipient of the Collective Heritage Institute's 1998 Bioneers Award, Stamets uses his business, Fungi Perfecti, to explore how to tap into the power of the vast web of mycelial networks in our soil—a kind of "matrix" of fungal filaments that can grow as big as 20,000 acres. Among the oldest and largest biological entities on the planet, these webs of fungal cells (mycelia) make up "the essential wiring of the Gaian consciousness," says Stamets. They have an "inherent intelligence," an ability to "respond to natural disasters and sudden changes in the environment." In short, mycelia produce acids and enzymes that aid in decomposition by dismantling chains of hydrogen and carbon—these hydrocarbons are at the root of most petroleum products, pollutants, and pesticides. Several years ago, Stamets' had the opportunity to show off his shrooms. In an experiment with the Washington State Department of Transportation, he competed in a contest of sorts: he treated ten cubic yards of diesel-contaminated soil with spores from oyster mushrooms, while other researchers using chemical and biological agents treated their own plots of earth. The other technologies had little success after four weeks, but Stamets fungi were amazing: enormous mushrooms, some a foot in diameter, had covered the soil. When tested, the mushrooms had no traces of petroleum, and 95 percent of the hydrocarbons had been broken down. After 12 weeks the soil was deemed safe enough for the DOT to use for highway landscaping. Continuing research is showing that certain species of fungus can break down sarin and VX nerve gases, that fungal mats can filter out and digest E.coli, and that mushrooms may have a role to play in fighting HIV, to name just a few of Stamets' successes. The potential for this area of study is staggering: each of Stamets' discoveries have come from the study and cataloguing of some 50,000 species of mushrooms—a mere fraction of the estimated 6 million varieties on earth.