Move to impeach Bush begins (again): A newly formed group called After Downing Street is beginning a movement to impeach Bush for lying to Congress about Iraq's alleged WMDs. Founding organizations including Global Exchange, Gold Star Families for Peace, Democrats.com, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Progressive Democrats of America, and Democracy Rising will be urging their members to contact their Representatives to urge support of a Resolution of Inquiry. Norman Soloman writes:
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war -- and the argument can be made that White House deception in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq amounted to a criminal assault on that constitutional provision. But “high crimes and misdemeanors” is a very general term. And history tells us that in Washington’s pivotal matrix of media and politics, crimes of war have rarely even registered on the impeachment scale...

...In the past, attempts to impeach presidents for war crimes have sunk like a stone in the Potomac. If this time is going to be different, we need to get to work -- organizing around the country -- making the case for a thorough public inquiry and creating a groundswell that emerges as a powerful force from the grassroots. Only a massive movement will be strong enough to push over the media obstacles and drag politicians into a real debate about presidential war crimes and the appropriate constitutional punishment.
Out of touch: Six in ten Americans say George W. Bush is out of touch with the American people, according to a CBS poll last week. Perhaps that explains why Bush says Amnesty International's report that likens torture in Guantanamo Bay to Soviet gulags as "absurd." Then there's Cheney:
For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously.
Update: The full context of what Bush said:
"It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth."
But as Boingboing notes, the
Chicago Tribune (and all the papers it sold the story to) was kind enough to correct Bush's use of the word "disassemble" (i.e. to take apart). So did Radio Free Europe.

How kind of the liberal media.
Clown birthday. This weekend, in honor of McDonald's 50th birthday, the Billboard Liberation Front installed their own advertisement—complete with an animatronic Ronald McDonald repeatedly shoving a Big Mac into the mouth of a fat kid—across from one of the franchises at the intersection of Stanyon and Haight Streets in San Francisco. Shortly after the work was installed (by BLF workers in a fake Viacom truck), a bunch of fright-wigged Ronalds and Hamburglars descended to bow down in homage to the billboard. Forward Retreat tells the story.

McKinko's: McDonald's is also giving a test-drive to hi-tech gizmos in an effort to lure younger patrons in. A new restaurant in suburban Chicago gives "customers the ability to do things at McDonald's they can't do at other places. Quite honestly with some of the media centers you don't even need a credit or debit card, you can pay with cash and download your favorite songs on to your own CD," says a manager. An ATM-style machine will allow teens to buy music, ringtones, print photos and surf the Web at the restaurant.
Liar, liar: "When a person cannot deceive himself," Mark Twain wrote, "the chances are against his being able to deceive other people." It turns out he was scientifically correct: according to Rutgers researchers, the best liars are those who fool themselves. David Livingstone Smith writes, "The Homo sapiens who are best able to lie have an edge over their counterparts in a relentless struggle for the reproductive success that drives the engine of evolution. As humans, we must fit into a close-knit social system to succeed, yet our primary aim is still to look out for ourselves above all others. Lying helps. And lying to ourselves—a talent built into our brains—helps us accept our fraudulent behavior."

It offers an interesting lens through which to view our current political leadership, eh?

(Via Culture Kitchen.)

And: "Why is it that lies about sex are worse thanlies about war?" Atrios, Kos and Sirota weigh in.
Street collage: Romare Bearden meets Hannah Hoch meets Adbusters in these collages by Judith Supine. They appear to be collaged directly to signposts and newspaper boxes...


Circular logic: It turns out Make Poverty History's rubber bracelets, created to help the poor, might actually be bad for some of those they aim to help: they're being made in Chinese sweatshops in "slave labour" conditions, according to The Sunday Telegraph. (Via A Welsh View.)


"Read This Book Before It Becomes Illegal!" You know you're in scary times when the dominant forces of culture—avowed Christians who dominate the legislature, stake out the airwaves, and command the armies—claim to be victims. The biggest religion in the US, Christianity also is arguably the world's most powerful, if only because George Bush, commander-in-chief of the world's most destructive military, and his counselors, claim it guides their every move. Yet the Bill O'Reilly's and Pat Robertson's of the world still frame the separation of church and state as a "war on Christianity." (In The Anatomy of Fascism, Robert O. Paxton includes "the belief that one’s group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against the group’s enemies, both internal and external" among the "motivating passions" of fascism [pdf]. Compare that to Christian author Janet Folger's rally cry that "It's a civil war! Which will it be? The very freedoms upon which our country was founded? Or the eradication of Christian faith from American society?")

Given how many share O'Reilly and Robertson's views, author Janet "The Radical Left Will Stop at No Extreme to Forver Silence Your Faith" Folger's gonna make good money on her book, The Criminalization of Christianty. The publisher's blurb:
There is a war going on for the future of our country. Most people know that. What they may not know is that if Christians lose, the result won’t merely be enduring public policy we disagree with—it will be a prison sentence for those who oppose it. We’ve all seen the attack coming. First the Supreme Court said kids can’t pray in school. Then the Ten Commandments were ripped from the classrooms. Now pastors are being removed from their pulpits and put in jail for speaking out against homosexuality (Sweden). And things are only getting worse. How in the world did we get to this place? And why is it that Christians are singled out in this assault on morality? Serving as a wake-up call for America, this book will expose the truth that Christianity is being criminalized—and that we must stand up against it now .
With the US waging a "crusade" against terrorists, lead by a president who says "God speaks through me" and guided by generals who say that non-Christian gods are "idols" and use tanks emblazoned with the words "New Testament" on their barrels, the argument that Christians are victims, rather than victimizers, is a stretch of, well, biblical proportions.

(Via What Would Dick Think?)
More Storker: The Storker Project, mentioned below, is a series of babies constructed by DC-based artist Mark Jenkins out of clear packing tape and then photographed in surreal urban settings. (Via BoingBoing.)
Conyers keeps pushing on Downing St. Memo: White House press secretary Scott McLellan says there's "no need to respond" to a letter by Rep. John Conyers and 88 other members of Congress about a secret 2002 memo that shows the White House was working to "fix" intelligence to justify an invasion of Iraq. Bush has ignored the letter, but Conyers keeps pushing on: he needs 100,000 or more signatories to a petition urging the president to offer an "explanation and answers to questions about whether the President misled Congress into voting for the Iraq war." Sign the petition.

Minnesota loses one more: Minnesota State Senator Becky Lourey, who ran an amazing race for governor in 2002, lost a son—Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Lourey, 41—in the Iraq war, bringing the Minnesota death toll to 22 and the national toll to 1,656—1,449 since Bush urged attackers in Iraq to "Bring 'em on."

Worst Memorial Day headline: How sensitive of the Long Island Press: "Memorial Day Tourists: Bring 'Em On."
CHAnge or CHAos? The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) hired Leo Burnett to create a new public relations campaign touting the agency's radical reshaping of public housing in the Windy City. But their "This is CHAnge" headlines were too much for activists to take: a new campaign has gone up in bus shelters and interior bus ads exposing the realities of life for low-income residents of Chicago, under the headline "This is CHAos." The first phase of counter ads feature five powerbrokers who represent those who'll gain from the privatizing of public housing and the repurposing of public lands, and a second campaign will include testimonials from those who'll lose: as a press release for ChicagoHousingAuthority.net (not to be confused with the CHA's official site) reads: "If you are a working mother displaced by the demolition of your home,waiting over 6 months for a voucher to relocate,as your children are shifted from school to school,CHAnge feels a lot more like CHAos."

The ad shown here features mayor Daley, who is "presiding over an unprecedented boom in housing for the rich." It asserts that land once used for public housing is being sold to for-profit developers and, as part of the sweeping changes at CHA, has contributed to the destruction of 14,000 homes. It concludes with a jab at the new Michigan Avenue art park, "If the mayor has the energy to raise $450 million for Millennium Park, shouldn't he also be able to raise money for Chicago families in urgent need of affordable housing?"

(Via the Wooster Collective.)
Aspirational flashlight: So you can't afford a Hummer? Then, how about a Hummer brand flashlight, just $24.95? (Seen at the Mall of America Marshal Field's store.)


Street art from Storker, via Wooster Collective.
Strib conservative: taxes are bad. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, trying to balance a perceived bias in the political leanings of its columnists, is now showcasing an overtly conservative columnist. The first go-round by Katherine Kersten, a senior fellow of the Center of the American Experiment, is a doozy. She tells the local Catholic archbishop a thing or two about helping the poor. Archbishop Harry Flynn told Minnesota's no-new-taxes governor (who's working to enact a 10-cent/gallon gasoline "users fee" and a 75-cent/pack cigarette "health impact fee") that if he cared about the plight of the poor, he'd raise taxes. Kersten's belief is that "high taxes actually harm people: working families and the poor, most of all." In a bit of overblown rhetoric, she cites a luxury boat tax that didn't help the poor because it sent wealthy yacht purchaser out of the country to buy boats. Isn't it a tad hyperbolic to compare a luxury-cruiser tax with a small income tax increase shared by all to help fund social services? Are Minnesotans going to become South Dakotans to avoid minor tax increases?

Perhaps my favorite part of her party-line taxes-are-bad screed (1,000+ words! Almost unheard of for a Strib columnist):
In country after country, "compassion-driven" welfare states, founded on high taxes, have harmed ordinary people by producing levels of unemployment we would consider catastrophic. Europe's high tax burden is one reason that, on average, living standards in the European Union are not far above those of the poorest American states: West Virginia and Mississippi.
Please. I'm not a scholar of eastern European economies, but I suspect that some of the newer eastern EU countries are dealing with more complex issues—historical, ethnic, and geographic, not to mention the changing nature of European manufacturing—that contribute to standard-of-life issues. But without offering evidence or defining how she's measuring living standards, her argument is nearly meaningless.

Then she gets smarmy, giving the bishop the inside scoop on poverty: "Archbishop Flynn might want to have a chat with someone who understands the role of human dignity in combating poverty... Rudy Giuliani."

Then, after establishing her credibility as a Catholic—"of which I am one"—she goes on to say, "When religious figures give advice on economic policy, we'd do well to remember that they lack any special expertise on such matters."

Kersten included.

(Via The Blotter.)


Culture of humiliation: Bob Ellis asks, "Will showing Saddam Hussein in his underpants help our cause in the Middle East?" Probably not. He continues:
The followers of Jesus of Nazareth, curiously, did not abandon their cause after his whipping, buffeting, mocking, stripping and crucifixion. The followers of Che Guevara still revere him despite the photos of his shooting, his slow agony and his death. The supporters of John Tyndale did not cease to read his English Bible after his public burning at the stake. Where do Americans get their silly ideas?
From our "culture of humiliation," the Australian playwright concludes: a climate that, from Little League and spelling bees to American Idol and The Apprentice, wallows in "humilition, defeat, and mockery."
SUV backlash: With crude oil prices pushing past $51 per barrel and gas prices still sky high, it's no wonder the shine is finally coming off the SUV. Sales of passenger cars have surpassed SUV and light truck sales for the first time in 14 years, and even the armed forces is looking for cheaper transportation: the Army has ordered over 19,000 Chrysler minivans to replace its fleet of Humvees.

Visit 40mpg.com to vote in a poll on which of America's most popular cars should go hybrid next.

[Image courtesy FUH2.com]
Clear Channel's "pirate" radio: Well before its debut next Tuesday, the supposed pirate-radio station, Free Radio Ohio, has been outed as a fraud. As Carrie McLaren writes, the station has, for the last week "feigned overthrowing Ohio's media monopoly by bleeding its broadcasts into other Clear Channel stations." A poster at WOXY.com, intrigued that the station was ranting against other Clear Channel stations in the Akron/Canton market, did a search on the station's website domain registration. What they discovered: "the site is registered to Clear Channel, presumably as a promotion for an upcoming format switch at one of their Akron-area stations."

Update 8:21 pm: StayFree! has more.


Freedom fries coiner turns French: North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, the congressman who lead the charge to rename french fries "freedom fries" (and French toast "freedom toast") now says the war wasn't such a great idea. He's since become a vociferous opponent of the war in Iraq, which he says was "without justification." Of the renaming of culinary delights in the Capitol cafeteria—which remains in force—he says, "I wish it had never happened."
Spend your green on blue: So you voted blue in the last election, but how are you casting your dollar vote? Buyblue.org analyzes the campaign giving of major corporations so consumers can spend a bit closer to their values. As MarketWatch points out, sometimes a progressive veneer may hide a more conservative core--like the Working Assets Visa card that's backed by MBNA, a huge GOP donor that's given more than $5 million in the past five years. But mostly, corporations are quiet contributors to political parties. Check out Buyblue's company rankings to see what party they endorse:

Among the bluest:
American Apparel
Barnes and Noble
Black & Decker
Caribou Coffee
Jamba Juice
Levi Stauss
Starbucks (!)
LL Bean

Among the reddest:
Ace Hardware
Best Buy
Domino's Pizza
Fruit of the Loom
Kohl's Corporation
Krispy Kreme
Pier 1
JC Penney
Urban Outfitters
(Thanks, Dad.)

Earlier: Why you should buy your gas from Citgo.


Graphic designs: Just one of the entries, for some German volleyball organization, in the Phallic Logo Awards.
(Via A Welsh View.)
RIP George Dantzig: George Dantzig, a mathematician who helped create linear programming, recently died at age 90. Beyond his impressive longevity was his almost accidental emergence as a legendary mathematician. There's a life lesson in here somewhere:
During my first year at Berkeley I arrived late one day to one of Neyman's classes. On the blackboard were two problems which I assumed had been assigned for homework. I copied them down. A few days later I apologized to Neyman for taking so long to do the homework - the problems seemed to be a little harder to do than usual. I asked him if he still wanted the work. He told me to throw it on his desk. I did so reluctantly because his desk was covered with such a heap of papers that I feared my homework would be lost there forever.

About six weeks later, one Sunday morning about eight o'clock, Anne and I were awakened by someone banging on our front door. It was Neyman. He rushed in with papers in hand, all excited: "I've just written an introduction to one of your papers. Read it so I can send it out right away for publication." For a minute I had no idea what he was talking about. To make a long story short, the problems on the blackboard which I had solved thinking they were homework were in fact two famous unsolved problems in statistics. That was the first inkling I had that there was anything special about them.
Sounds like the stuff of urban legend, but it's not.

(Thanks, Adrienne.)
Wal-mart and the American Landscape: When I asserted that a museum of American art funded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton is a tad disengenuous, I wondered if it was over-the-top. But now that Morley Safer makes a similiar point, perhaps I was on to something. Safer's letter to the editor of the New York Times:
To the Editor:

Your paean to Alice L. Walton, the Wal-Mart heir who recently purchased Asher B. Durand's landscape painting "Kindred Spirits" for $35 million ("A Determined Heiress Plots an Art Collection," Arts pages, May 14), ignored a grand inherent irony.

All that Wal-Mart money was gleaned from the systematic destruction of the very American landscape Ms. Walton so expensively celebrates. Not to mention the equally systematic obliteration of thousands of family businesses and of course the creation of hundreds of thousands of sweatshop jobs.

The robber barons of yore, through contrition or vanity, also established enduring cultural institutions, but surely in this age of alleged transparency, it behooves the newspaper of record to make at least passing reference to the human and environmental price we all pay to satisfy Ms. Walton's ambition.

Morley Safer
(Via The Nation)

And: My mom hates you, Wal-mart.
Racy photo caption: All the white kids at Waxahachie High School in north Texas got their picture and name in the yearbook. Not so for the only pictured African American, whose photo runs with the caption "Black Girl."
"We are remembered by the traces that we leave."
—Artist Guillermo Calzadilla, quoting Walter Benjamin
Paris' Gallery Chantal Crousel's Land Marks exhibition, on view through June 18, offers an excuse to review the incredibly thoughtful and socially engaged work of Puerto Rico-based conceptual art duo Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla. Their Landmarks (Vieques) work, shown here, is described by filmmaker Greg Allen:
The artists put political messages on the soles of shoes, which were then worn by protestors infiltrating the beaches of Vieques while the US Navy was conducting weapons tests. When protestors tripped the Navy's sensors, the tests would have to be halted; eventually the military agreed to abandon testing and its base on Vieques altogether. These photographs are documentation of repeated messages being directed specifically at the military security guards on the island; they're a form of psychological counter-operations meant to disrupt or unsettle the larger, vastly more powerful opponent.
The work's title is, like much of the pair's art, based on the myriad interpretations of language: landmark as footprint, bomb crater, or public commemoration:
What traces do we leave of our existence on earth? How is land physically scarred? Who determines which sites are worthy of historic preservation and which—like this tiny, sparsely populated island—aren't?

Allora and Calzadilla's work will be featured in this year's Venice Biennale, opening June 12.
Darth Bush: Horkulated quotes the Washington Post quoting A.O. Scott's New York Times' review of the new Star Wars film:
Revenge of the Sith is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes."
Earlier: Bush STARts WARS.


Mother of "friendly fire" victim speaks: Mary Tillman, mother of NFL player-turned-GI, Pat Tillman, who was killed by "friendly fire" in Afghanistan:
Pat had high ideals about the country; that's why he did what he did. The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect. The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting.
Local "news": Five minutes of channel surfing tonight revealed the sorry state of Twin Cities local news:

10:09 KSTP (ABC) runs a gripping story on the season finale of Desperate Housewives, a program created by its parent network.

10:13 WCCO (CBS) parses the nuances of what your coffee order indicates about your personality.

10:14 UPN 29 reports on an Indiana boy who got stuck in a novelty game (the kind with the crane and the stuffed animals).

These times of unrivaled peace and prosperity must've rendered news reporting obsolete.


Your rights in hot water:
As a Senate committe considers again expanding the powers of the Patriot Act, this product is so funny it's, um, not. With this mug, covered with the complete text of the Bill of Rights, you can watch the rights affected by the Patriot Act disappear as you pour hot liquid in.

(Via Horkulated.)
Commodifying Che: On view through May 28 at UC-Riverside's California Museum of Photography, the exhibition Revolution and Commerce: The Legacy of Korda's Photograph of Che Guevara.

Robin Rhode: Art at Street-Level

While "street art" might have a pejorative sting in fine art circles, it's an apt descriptor for South African artist Robin Rhode's work. And not simply because his art—often institutional critiques of museums and government offices—seems more at home outdoors than in the dim halls of officialdom, or because his work arises from the culture of pickup basketball, breakdancing, and graffiti. Rhode, quite literally, makes art on the street. On asphalt playgrounds, concrete sidewalks, and brick walls, this 20-something South African uses little more than a stub of chalk or charcoal to create performances that challenge the boundary between two dimensions and three—and confront the embedded histories and indelible memories that reside in architecture.

His works, public actions often exhibited as photographic series or wall drawings, are comic yet deadly serious: in Getaway, Rhode acts out an escape from The Slave Lodge, a Cape Town building that once housed slaves for the Dutch East India Company. With cartoonish charcoal-drawn motion lines trailing after him, Rhode high-tails it away from the site, stopping between stumbles to strike heroic runaway poses. In the deceptively simple Park Bench, he sketches a precariously angled bench on a white wall then struggles, unsuccessfully, to take a seat. The specificity of the site—the House of Parliament in Cape Town—gives the work its gravity: during apartheid, segregation of public life was legislated all the way down to public benches labeled "Coloured." In Leak, Rhode takes aim at the sanctity of the art museum. Riffing on Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, an upturned store-bought urinal signed with the alias R. Mutt, Rhode drew a urinal on a wall in the South African National Gallery and proceeded to "fill" it. In an apparent critique of whose art gets hung in the official halls of postcolonial South Africa, he signed the work R. Moet, the Afrikaans spelling of Duchamp's pseudonym. Taking a back-alley piss—the male act of marking territory—on the clean white walls of the museum sends a clear message to the art world: the museum, like the claimed turf of the graffiti writer, is ours.
Mini-nukes, MOAB, and depleted uranium munitions notwithstanding...

George W. Bush:
I made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is - I'm against that. And therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it.


But, the US is good and moral and just, right? A confidential army report on abuses to prisoners in Bagram, Afghanistan, includes the story of Dilawar, a 22-year old taxi driver, whose horrifying captivity and death in the hands of the US military should make any flag-waving patriot think twice:
At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.
Read the full account.

Update: 05.21.05: It appears Dilawar was issued two death certificates, 17 months apart. According to University of Minnesota bioethicist, Dr. Steven Miles, the twin certificates suggest there was a coverup as to how he died.

[Image: A sketch by Thomas V. Curtis, a Reserve M.P. sergeant, showing how Dilawar was chained to the ceiling of his cell.]
Sleeping with the Enemy: Gay Israeli artists Gil and Moti are looking to fall in love with an Arab man. In an installation called "Sleeping with the Enemy," they've set up a double bed in a New York gallery that has three pillows—one of which remains unused. They've been courting an Arab man to join them since 2002, and the exhibition chronicles the effort through watercolors they've painted of interested men, photos, and email exchanges. Gil and Moti will be living in the gallery, on view during open hours, til June 5.

"We felt frustrated with the political situation in the Middle East," said Gil, who was married to Moti on the Queen's Balcony in Rotterdam. "As Israelis, we grew up with Arabs but we were encouraged by the education system to hate and abuse them so we thought we must do something about it. So we decided to fall in love with one of them."

It puts a twist on an idea explored earlier by Palestinian artist Emily Jacir, who created her Sexy Semite series from 2000 to 2002. An excerpt from my Adbusters piece on her work:
In her subversive Sexy Semite (2000-2002), she peppered the Village Voice with personal ads for Palestinians looking to settle down in Israel. One asks "Do you love milk & honey? I'm ready to start a big family in Israel. Still have house keys." Another, more pointed, reads: "You stole the land. May as well take the women! Redhead Palestinian ready to be colonized by your army."

The ads slyly suggest a way around an irreconcilable issue in the Middle East peace process: by marrying Israelis, Palestinians can gain citizenship and thus sidestep calls for the "right of return" (an unfulfilled provision of UN Resolution 194 that promises Palestinian refugees the chance to return home). But, given their placement in the love-wanted section instead of world news, the ads seem less about policy than the personal. Individual lives—people seeking love, a sense of home, the kind of daily routine you and I enjoy—are profoundly impacted by the occupation. And perhaps it's through individual relationships that the conflict can ease. As one ad punned: "Palestinian Male working in a difficult occupation. I'm looking for a Jewish Beauty. Only you can help me find my way Home."

Please stop speaking, Sen. Santorum. Republican Sen. Rick Santorum has again gone off the deep end. Now he's maligning so-called "radical secularists," including those at the New York Times. He then goes on to describe societies who "suppress" religion: Fascists, Nazis, Communists, Baathists... "That's the kind of public square the New York Times would advocate for." Huh? See the video, then sign a petition to tell him to shut his senatorial piehole.
World's first wave farm! How cool is this? The Portuguese company OPD announced that it will begin the first phase of building the world's first commercial wave farm to harness renewable energy from ocean waves 5 km off Portugal's coast. The company's press release says:
The initial phase will consist of three "Pelamis" P-750 machines located 5km off Portugal's northern coast, near to Povoa de Varzim. The [8-million Euro] project will have an installed capacity of 2.25MW, and is expected to meet the average electricity demand of more than 1,500 Portuguese households whilst displacing more than 6,000 tonnes per year of carbon dioxide emissions from conventional generating plant.
If all goes well, 30 more such generators will be constructed.
Eyeteeth will remain 99% Saddam's-undies-free. Thank you.
The GOP's violent hyperbole: Killin' is on the minds of vocal wingnuts these days. Sen. Rick Santorum compared filibustering Democrats to the world's most notorious genocidal maniac yesterday:
What the Democrats are doing is "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.'"
But his comments (now clarified but not retracted) are matched in hyperbole by others of his ideology.

Bill O'Reilly is outraged that the Los Angeles Times suggested that "Shutting down Guantanamo and giving suspected terrorists legal protections would help restore our reputation abroad." While he seems to forget that the vast majority of detainees at Guantanamo have been released without charges, and that many of them are innocent (not to mention that innocent-until-proven-guilty part of our legal system), he says, "They'll never get it until they grab [LA Times editor] Michael Kinsley out of his little house and they cut his head off." And maybe when the blade sinks in, he'll go, "Perhaps O'Reilly was right."

Then there's Clear Channel radio host Glenn Beck who opined:
I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out -- is this wrong?"
And on Wednesday Judge Joan Lefkow, whose mother and husband were executed by a man Lefkow ruled against, testified on Capitol Hill about courtroom safety, while presidential hopeful Bill Frist called Democrats' efforts to oppose extremist judicial nominees a "leadership-led use of Cloture vote to kill, to defeat, to assassinate these nominees.” Democrat Dick Durbin called him on it:
When words are expressed during the court of the debate that those of us who oppose these nominees are setting out to 'kill, to defeat or to assassinate these nominees, those words should be taken from this record. Those words go too far.
What's with the violent fixation? Can these people, with their histrionic rhetoric, connect with real human suffering? I mean, if they believe cloture is akin to murder and political procedure is like Hitlerian logic, how can they possibly relate to someone who's experienced real violence?
Found somewhere. Courtesy Found magazine.


BUYcott Citgo! I'm not one to shill for oil companies, but Jeff Cohen offers a pretty compelling argument for buying your gas from Citgo:
Of the top oil-producing countries in the world, only one is a democracy with a president who was elected on a platform of using his nation's oil revenue to benefit the poor. The country is Venezuela. The President is Hugo Chavez. Call him "the Anti-Bush."

Citgo is a U.S. refining and marketing firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. Money you pay to Citgo goes primarily to Venezuela -- not Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. There are 14,000 Citgo gas stations in the US. By buying your gasoline at Citgo, you are contributing to the billions of dollars that Venezuela's democratic government is using to provide health care, literacy and education, and subsidized food for the majority of Venezuelans.

Instead of using government to help the rich and the corporate, as Bush does, Chavez is using the resources and oil revenue of his government to help the poor in Venezuela. A country with so much oil wealth shouldn't have 60 percent of its people living in poverty, earning less than $2 per day. With a mass movement behind him, Chavez is confronting poverty in Venezuela. That's why large majorities have consistently backed him in democratic elections. And why the Bush administration supported an attempted military coup in 2002 that sought to overthrow Chavez.
Find a Citgo near you.

(Thanks, Sarah.)


Zinn on the interests of the powerful: On the recent publication of the companion to a People's History of the United States, In These Times associate publisher Aaron Sarver interviews historian Howard Zinn. I especially enjoy Sarver's suggestion that perhaps Zinn could get Bush to read and respond to specific passages of Voices of a People's History of the United States, which is comprised entirely of source material for Zinn's classic history. Zinn's response:
We have to find somebody to read it to Bush [Zinn laughs]. He is not going to read it. And the truth is, you know, Bush wouldn't care. Very often we delude ourselves into thinking that if these people in high places only knew the truth, they would change their policies. No, they wouldn't. Because the truth is, they don't care. If their interests were the same as ours, then we might find common ground. But their interests are not the same.

And so, Bush would not be moved by a mother appealing to him not to go to war--he believes in the war. Condoleezza Rice would not be moved by a poem by Langston Hughes even though as a fellow African American she should be listening to him and paying attention. But no, she has her own agenda. So our hope is not that this will be read by the people in power--our hope is that this will be read by the average American who does not know these things and will then organize and act and become part of the social movement that will then force the people in power to change their policies.
Download an mp3 or stream this interview (and others) at In These Times' radio venture, Fire on the Prairie.
Drug marketing secrets revealed!
Dr. Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal:
For a drug company a favourable trial is worth thousands of pages of advertising, which is why a company will sometimes spend upwards of a million dollars on reprints of the trial for worldwide distribution...

Fortunately from the point of view of the companies which fund these trials - but unfortunately for the credibility of the journals who publish them - they rarely produce results that are unfavourable to the companies' products.... An editor may thus face a frighteningly stark conflict of interest - publish a trial that will bring in $100,000 of profit, or meet the end of year budget by firing an editor.
(Via The Blotter.)
Let's not forget the big picture:

"I saw many old people who couldn’t walk fast, and the Americans pushed and pulled them. They broke prisoners’ arms. I saw three dead bodies. One guy came from Khost. He was in a cell next to ours, and he couldn’t stand. His legs couldn’t move. They beat him so much. Then they took him to a room on the second floor. The next morning I saw them take his body down the stairs on a stretcher...

"We were not so sad when we were tortured. But when they insulted Islam it was really very difficult. They would come into the cell and search our belongings. They would pick up the Holy Koran and go through it page by page like they were looking for something. We didn’t understand what they were saying while they did this. Then they would throw the Holy Koran on the ground or drop it in the latrine.."

— A 21-year old Afghani prisoner, interviewed by human-rights researcher Daniel Rothenberg last summer

"Let's be clear: To avoid rioting in the Muslim world, the answer is not for the press in the United States to muzzle itself. The answer is for the United States to stop torturing Muslims."

— Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive
Terrorism and Tinseltown:
Nick Gillespie at Reason points out this story:
"According to recent news reports, the Department of Homeland Security has hired former actress Bobbie Faye Ferguson, as DHS's 'liaison to the entertainment industry,'" says a memo from the Republican Study Committee.

Salary for the GS-15 position "could top $136,000 plus benefits. Ferguson's new role as Homeland's connection to the stars began in October 2004," reports the committee, which is the Republican conservative caucus on Capitol Hill. The Hollywood liaison's job description includes "reviewing movie scripts" and identifying "opportunities for proactive outreach to the entertainment industry," according to the memo.

But the days of Homeland Security's "proactive outreach" to Tinseltown may be numbered. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican, plans to introduce an amendment to the DHS appropriations bill that would take away $100,000 in taxpayer money budgeted for department salaries and transfer it to "first-responder grants."

"With $100,000, America's first responders could purchase ... 165 bulletproof vests or 40 Level A [hazardous material] protective suits," according to Mrs. Musgrave's office.
Waiting for the wipeout: Photographer Liu Tao snapped this shot in China's Xiamen city as a cyclist hit a submerged pothole. Now he's facing fierce criticism for lying in wait for a hapless cyclist to hit the hole. It raises the age-old photojournalistic question: is it better to capture the suffering for the world to see or put down your camera to help a single person. "I just knew that the city government has paved the pit, and without my pictures, the pit would not be noticed by the government, and there would perhaps be more people falling over," says Liu. Additional photos here. (Via A Welsh View.)
The Strib on Newsweek:
...As for this short Newsweek item causing the rioting and deaths in Afghanistan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan told Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers that the violence was "not at all" tied to Newsweek, but was an insurgency seeking to prevent the national reconciliation that President Hamid Karzai is trying to promote. Before the Newsweek item was even published, both the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse reported a new surge of Taliban-led violence.

Besides, the White House itself committed much more egregious errors in the way it so casually used dubious intelligence to make a case for going to war in Iraq. As the blog Daily Kos pointed out Tuesday, McClellan seems to have a double standard. In his discussion with reporters on July 17, 2003, he was asked: Bush is "president of the United States. This thing he told the country on the verge of taking the nation to war has turned out to be, by your own account, not reliable. That's his fault, isn't it?"

McClellan responded: "No."

The accusations concerning Qur'ans in toilets have been published repeatedly over the past three years in a number of media, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, a number of other American newspapers, the BBC and a Moroccan Islamic newspaper. The only thing Newsweek added was a claim of "official confirmation." While not a small thing, that supposed confirmation did not break this story; it is old news. And one source's faulty memory over where he saw information about it does not prove that the accusations of Qur'an abuse are untrue. Indeed, they still deserve further investigation.
Banksy strikes again: British guerilla artist Banksy has snuck this fabricated relic, dubbed "Early Man Goes to Market," into the British Museum. He explains:
The British Museum is home to some of the most treasured historical artefacts in the western world; the Elgin marbles, the Rosetta stone, and a piece of rock found on a building site in Peckham that Banksy has drawn a pre-historic man pushing a shopping trolley on. Having remained in the collection undiscovered for quite some time we are now offering it as the bounty in a treasure hunting competition.
The first person to locate the piece of rock glued somewhere in the museum and photograph themselves next to it will win an original Banksy painting of a shopping trolley.

(Anyone trying to remove the piece or alert museum staff will be instantly disqualified from the competition)

Email your picture to: banksy@banksy.co.uk


An alternative logo and program line-up for the new Public Broadcasting System await at Jesus' General. Take action on the Republicanization of PBS at Common Cause.
Amen! One third of professors at Michigan's Calvin College, an evangelical Christian school, are taking out an ad in the local paper to protest George W. Bush's commencement speech.
"As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort," the ad will say. "We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq."


"No single political position should be identified with God's will," says the ad, which also chastises the president for "actions that favor the wealthy of our society and burden the poor."

Christians are to be characterized by love and gentleness, it adds, but "we believe that your administration has fostered intolerance and divisiveness and has often failed to listen to those with whom it disagrees."

Moreover, says the letter, set to run in the Grand Rapids Press, the Bush administration's environmental policies "have harmed creation," and it asks the president "to re-examine your policies in light of our God-given duty to pursue justice with mercy."
Full story here.
Conyers! Update 5/18: Democracy Now! and the Washington Post are just two outlets corroborating what Newsweek didn't have the spine to—that US interrogators taunted Islamic detainees at Guantanamo by desecrating the Qu'ran, including by flushing the book down the toilet.

I've remained silent on the Newsweek affair because it's so silly. Many prisoners released from Guantanamo have complained of desecrations of the Qu'ran, or similar tactics, so many that Newsweek's bungled story—or kowtowing to the Bush administration—is irrelevant. But just like the 60 Minutes story on Bush's AWOL military service, which was corroborated by numerous sources, the media's failings don't excuse the news: considerable evidence shows Bush ditched his military obligations, just as detainee interviews suggest that desecrations of a Muslim holy book indeed did happen at Guantanamo (and the Army's admission that they staged mock executions to terrorize Islamic prisoners shows they have the spirit for such humiliations). Of course, the chickenhawk, "Newsweek Lied, People Died" rightwingers don't seem to care about people dying, they care about taking down the "liberal media." Which is why this is so sad: if Newsweek is a voice for liberals, liberalism is in a sorry state (read my blogroll to find truly progressive media).

But I will say this: right on (yet again) John Conyers, for saying what needs to be said. In a letter where he says the White House's reaction to the Newsweek error "smacks of political exploitation of the deaths of innocent and a shameless attempt to intimidate reporters from critically investigating your Administration's actions," he writes:
[T]here is - of course - a sad irony in this White House claiming that someone else's errors or misjudgments led to the loss of innocent lives. Over 1,600 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives in the Iraq war, a war which your Administration justified by falsely claiming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. To date, your Administration has consistently blocked Congressional inquiries into whether such claims were the result of intentional manipulation of intelligence or, as you assert, a mere "failure."
CPB's next target: FAIR reports on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's possible targeting of National Public Radio in its war to eradicate diverse viewpoints from the public airwaves. The New York Times reports that the group is considering "a study on whether NPR's Middle East coverage was more favorable to Arabs than to Israelis"--further evidence that the agency intends to police public media for content it deems too "liberal."
Census mapping: Social Explorer is a website I just found that presents 2000 US census data—race, poverty, country of origin for non-natives, unemployment—in a searchable, zoomable map format. In this screen-capture, the brownest areas show higher levels of poverty of my fair town (which is curious but unsurprising: log on to see the correlation between the brown patches of poverty and the brown patches of race). Speaking of which, The Observer reported on Sunday that one third of all deaths—around 18 million a year, globally—are caused by poverty.

"Getting it right, not right-wing": "Objectivity is not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference," said longtime journalist Bill Moyers at this weekend's National Conference on Media Reform. "I came to believe that objective journalism means describing the object being reported on, including the little fibs and fantasies as well as the Big Lie of the people in power. In no way does this permit journalists to make accusations and allegations. It means, instead, making sure that your reporting and your conclusions can be nailed to the post with confirming evidence."

But while Moyers' PBS show NOW brought in a cacophony of voices from the left and right—Sister Joan Chittister, Grover Norquist, Rep. Ron Paul, Kristina van den Heuvel of The Nation and conservative commentator Cal Thomas—it's been heaped with scorn by rightwingers who accuse it of leftwing bias. These charges are led by Kenneth Tomlinson, the conservative Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Tomlinson commissioned a $10,000 study—paid for with tax dollars—on the alleged biases of NOW, but won't release the findings, while at the same time, he reportedly committed around five million dollars to get a Wall Street Journal show on PBS every week. A $5 million subsidy to put members of the editorial board of a Dow Jones company (that had first-quarter earnings of $400 million) on PBS? "I thought public television was supposed to be an alternative to commercial media, not a funder of it," says Moyers.

But here's CPB's problem with Moyers' show:
Ideologues don't want you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right. They embrace a world view that can't be proven wrong because they will admit no evidence to the contrary. They want your reporting to validate their belief system and when it doesn't, God forbid. Never mind that their own stars were getting a fair shake on NOW: Gigot, Viguerie, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Stephen Moore, then with the Club for Growth, and others. No, our reporting was giving the radical right fits because it wasn't the party line. It wasn't that we were getting it wrong. Only three times in three years did we err factually, and in each case we corrected those errors as soon as we confirmed their inaccuracy.

The problem was that we were telling stories that partisans in power didn't want told: we were getting it right, not right-wing.
Read Moyers' entire speech here. And click here to "tell Congress, the CPB and PBS station managers remove Tomlinson and support town meetings in your community on the future of PBS."


Commodity Culture: Wal-Mart heiress Alice L. Walton just announced she'll be building a new American-art museum, Crystal Bridges, in Wal-Mart company town, Bentonville, Arkansas. It'll open in May 2009, and among its holdings will be a $35+ million painting by 19th-century artist Asher B. Durand (the most ever paid for an American artwork). While the arts can always use generous patronage, artist Mark Vallen writes that:
Wal-Mart Inc. is hardly a credible or benevolent voice when it comes to the public interest, and delivering the nation’s art treasures into its gapping maw makes me shudder. While the corporate press and apolitical art critics fawn over the art world’s latest benefactor, they are likely to forget to mention the following… Wal-Mart Inc. has a terrible record when it comes to the mistreatment of its US employees, and a ghastly history of exploiting workers in other parts of the world. There is no better example of how politics is intertwined with art than the spectacle of an art museum being founded by a rapacious corporation well known for exporting US jobs overseas and profiting from foreign sweat shop labor.
And indeed it's ironic that a Walton would focus on American art, considering Wal-Mart's "Made in America" mantra has given way to a sea of imported chintz and wages so low its employees must turn to government assistance to get by. If there's a social realist wing of Crystal Bridges, you can bet it won't depict this kind of reality.

But is this new? Of course not. Since the Medicis and on up until present-day funding by the Altria's and Absolut's of the world, sponsorship of the arts by the wealthy and well-connected has raised suspicion.

As it should: when culture is privately or corporately owned, what happens to public access? With a demonstratedly conservative company like Wal-Mart providing the funding, in what context will the art be exhibited? As the artists intended or with a certain ideological spin? Plans to double the size of the 4.2-million-acre Mall of America (now branded with the museumy acronym MOA in local ads) initially included an art museum, but now will feature, among a casino, an indoor golf course, and "Italian canal with gondolas surrounded by dancing foundations," a concert hall and "multi-cultural exhibits." How will such an organization present culture? As a value unto itself, or as another value-engineered component of an integrated branding scheme?

Paranoid? Check out the example of Clear Channel Exhibitions, run by notorious GOP funder, radio and billboard behemoth, and anti-peace campaigner Clear Channel Communications. Its exhibitions have covered everything from Chicano art to art of the Vatican. In its recent Vatican show, Robert Pincus writes that it presented:
history as the Vatican would want it to be presented. In other words, a squeaky-clean version of their legacy with no recounting of the Machiavellian political dealings and corruption from centuries past, when the papal state was a major political force in Europe. This show is surely in step with the company's own's bottom-line vision of exhibitions. As Clear Channel chairman and CEO Brian Becker said back in a December 2001 news release: "The acquisition of BBH Exhibits represents our commitment to capturing a substantial share of the family entertainment market, including exhibitions, large-scale events and other family-oriented, education-based experiences."
Clear Channel Exhibitions promotes itself as "the world leader in providing blockbuster educational and entertaining family traveling exhibits, and a developer of large-scale, educational touring mega-events," yet as Pincus points out "nowhere in the promotional words from the corporation do we see the word 'art' or the phrase 'high-quality art exhibition.' The promotional phrases are all about size and scale." As Walker curator Philippe Vergne says, artists provide "the unnameable," works that are "anomalies in a culture run by Cartesian logic." So, what happens if the mavens of commodity culture get a hold of real culture?
Mystery pianist: From Reuters:
A smartly dressed man found wandering in a soaking wet suit near an English beach has baffled police and care workers after he refused to say a word and then gave a virtuoso piano performance.

The man, wearing a formal black suit and tie, was spotted by police in Kent on April 8 and taken to a psychiatric unit where it proved impossible to identify him because he stayed silent.

It was only after he was given a pen and paper that care-givers were given an intriguing clue to his possible background when he drew an intricate picture of a grand piano.

He was taken to the hospital's chapel where he played classical music on the piano for hours.

However, despite his picture being posted on the National Missing Persons Helpline's (NMPH) Web site, no one has come forward to identify him...
US troops hit the road: With the bloodshed in Iraq rising—1,622 US military killed and Iraqis deaths in the mid-20,000s—it's no wonder that re-enlistment rates are down, that military recruiters are resorting to unethical and illegal tactics, and that so many US personnel are deserting. According to The Independent, Pentagon figures show there are 5,133 troops currently missing from duty.

"Trigger-happy" troops: British defense chiefs have warned that "trigger-happy" US troops will make the occupation of Iraq more bloody and lengthy. One British officer said:
"US troops have the attitude of shoot first and ask questions later. They simply won't take any risk.

"It has been explained to US commanders that we made mistakes in Northern Ireland, namely Bloody Sunday, and paid the price.

"I explained that their tactics were alienating the civil population and could lengthen the insurgency by a decade. Unfortunately, when we explained our rules of engagement which are based around the principle of minimum force, the US troops just laughed."
War crimes investigation: Fifty-one House members, led by Rep. John Conyers, have called on Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to "appoint a special counsel to investigate whether high-ranking officials within the Bush Administration violated the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441, or the Anti-Torture Act, 18 U.S.C. 2340 by allowing the use of torture techniques banned by domestic and international law at recognized and secret detention sites in Iraq, Afghanistan Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere."
Conformity now! When a straight student in Appleton, Wisconsin, donned a blond wig and formal dress to accompany a gay friend to his senior prom, he was turned away at the door. He returned in a leisure suit and was let in, but now he owes a $250 fine for disorderly conduct. “The only thing that Mr. Lofy did wrong was wearing a purse that didn’t match the dress and open-toed shoes before Memorial Day,” said the student's pro bono lawyer Erik Guenther. Earlier: A straight-A lesbian student in Florida won't be in the yearbook this year because of her inappropriate attire: she wore "boy's clothes," a tuxedo.

Rainbow sashes go national: The local Catholic diocese is now making national news for refusing communion to gay men and their allies who wear rainbow sashes at church. More than 100 at the Cathedral of St. Paul were refused a communion wafer on Pentacost Sunday, the day Catholics believe the Holy Spirit came to Christ's followers after his resurrection. (Via MetaFilter and AmericaBlog.)


And the meek will inherit...? The Southern Baptists are launching niche churches: cowboy churches, country music churches, motorcycle churches. The World Changers Church International—fittingly run by Pastor Dollar—preaches the "prosperity gospel" which posits God wants his followers to be wealthy (really?), and these World Changers are exporting churches to South Africa and Nigeria. And, for the wee ones, Groeschel's Life Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, includes a "Toon Town" of 3D buildings, a 16-foot high slide, and an animatronic police chief who recites rules.

While the values of Jesus may seem a bit obscured by all the bells and whistles, these evangelical churches are among the fastest growing in the US: every two days, on average, a new megachurch opens in the US. How are these churches garnering such success? Through sophisticated marketing and branding strategies pulled not from the Good Book but from the pages of corporate America. BusinessWeek dedicates an entire issue to "Evangelical America" and the big business of "faith." Plus: More on the "prosperity gospel" and Christian capitalism.
God's "gospel lizards":
G. Thomas Sharp, head of the Creation Truth Foundation, seems to think notorious science guy Bill Nye is the biggest Christ-denier around. In videos available here, Sharp says that Nye, with his "multi-billion-dollar budget" (huh?), is deceiving children into buying into conventional thinking on dinosaurs. His problem with Nye: if dinosaurs went extinct 64 million years before humans entered the scene, what's written in Romans 5:12—that by sinning, humans brought death into the world—can't possibly be so. How could dinosaurs die out unprompted by our sin?! The stakes here are pretty high: Sharp says, "If you've got death before Adam's sin, you've destroyed the basis of the Gospel!" Sharp, who refers to dinosaur skeletons as "God's gospel lizards," sees it as another example of scientists dumbing down the bible.

(Links and image via Jesus' General.)

Armies of God: When told by her superiors that she should be angry that outside groups criticized the Air Force Academy's culture of intolerance toward non-Evangelicals, chaplain Capt. MeLinda Morton replied that she agreed with those groups. Now she's out of a job. "The evangelicals want to subvert the system," Morton, a Lutheran minister, said of a culture that includes preferential treatment for Evangelical Christians, frequent slurs against Catholics and Jews, and a lecture by another chaplain that those not born-again will "burn in the fires of hell." "They have a very clear social and political agenda. The evangelical tone is pervasive at the academy, and it's aimed at converting these young people who are under intense pressure anyway."

Christian progressives? Yes, they do exist. Find out more at the Christian Alliance for Progress, the blog Bad Catholic, Ono Ekeh's blog, and Faithful Progressive. Atrios has more.


Killing in the name of the Lord: "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it." So says the website for FORCE Ministries, a Christian group with a three-prong "mission strategy" that encompasses evangelism, discipleship, and deployment. Its goal is "equipping military personnel for Christ-centered duty," but you've got to wonder how this fervor would be met in the less Christian lands. As Jonathan Schwarz writes, "If there were a comparable group of middle eastern men with a comparable website with a comparable picture reading 'Purpose: Impart faith in Mohammed,' it would get a great deal of attention here."
Wanted or Weed? I bought my first house last fall, and after a week straight of rain, I'm now starting to see the first plants poking out of the soil and stretching their little arms like waking honeybears after a long winter. But, since I'm relatively clueless about cellulose-based lifeforms, I don't know if I'm seeing pesky weeds or exotic plantings. Can you, oh Internets, help? In the spirit of Am I Hot or Not?, I've photographed some plant/weeds and posted them on Flickr. Click on the image (above, or click here) to get to the site, leave your wisdom in the comment box, and then weigh in on the other six photos. And, while I'm at it, are fiddlehead ferns weeds?

Um, thanks.
Progressive press: When the Lee family of newspapers agreed to buy Pulitzer, Inc., it also inked an unusual deal that'll continue the progressive editorial slant of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for at least five years. The paper's platform, adopted in 1911, includes the pledge that it "will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty."

It makes St. Louis an even more fitting host for this weekend's National Conference on Media Reform. See who's blogging from the conference here (including our friends at Be the Media).
Bush's Benjamins: The prez is loaded, according to just-released financial disclosures of his and VP Cheney's assets. Remember this when Bush says he can relate to ordinary Americans:
Bush's 1,583-acre ranch was worth between $1 million and $5 million. The president reported having at least $4.95 million in Treasury notes, $750,000 in certificates of deposits and $217,000 in checking and money market accounts. Bush owns the mineral rights valued at up to $15,000 on property in Reeves County, Texas. He also owns a tree farm, which is not expected to have commercial sales until 2007, which currently has a value of just under $600,000.
Interesting, too, are the disclosed gifts, including a $2,700 bike from the owner of Trek, a $14,000 shotgun by gun manufacturer Roy Weatherby, and $400 in salad plates given by Trent Lott's wife.
Call for artists: NoRelevance.com is looking for logo-based art for an upcoming exhibition, Targeted:The Subversion of Brand America. The twist: unlike, Mark of the Beast, these logos should, like real brand logos, appear on clothing, where they say more about our emotional identification with branded goods. More info here. While you're there, don't miss the nice galleries of RNC protest signs and hand-paintage signage. (Thanks, Art.)


Midnight music: Paul Anka records a very un-Sound Gardeny version of Sound Garden's "Blackhole Sun": mp3 here. (Via Sivacracy.)
The Downing Street memo is news: The British press reports on a memo that confirms Bush and Blair agreed to go to war with Iraq long before Bush got Congressional approval, long before the WMDs argument was even floated stateside, and much of the US corporate media fails to report it? What gives? It's a huge story, and if you'd like to see it in your newspaper, check out Downing Street Memo.
More on Mark of the Beast: Art.Blogging.LA follows up on the Mark of the Beast story (about the Transport Gallery show shut down by the LAPD on 4.23.05):
Brandy Flower, who curated the show, got word of the official police report from someone investigating the story at the LA Times. The report states that the event was shut down due to the “200 protesters” out in front of the gallery. This official tidbit is not only pure fiction, but also directly contradicts what was said the night of the 23rd, when their reasoning was based on the content of the show. “This is blatant bullshit,” says Mike [Russek, Transport's director] and now feels like they’ve given him free reign to pursue legal recourse if he can find the funds. He met with lawyers initially, but then had to drop them due to a lack of cash, but in the meantime several people interested in contributing to a legal fund have contacted him. “I don’t want this gallery to have a bad rap. One of the things I told the officer that night was that he has no idea how hard we try to just get people to come down here to our openings and then the cops show up and send them all away? It’s not right. Really, I just want an apology, I want the LAPD to admit that they messed up.”
Only on Fox: From Media Matters:
During Fox News' coverage of the Capitol and White House evacuations on May 11, the channel's "Fox News Alert" banner twice read "RNC headquarters evacuated," referring to the Republican National Committee. Other messages that appeared on the banner included: "White House and Capitol evacuated," "U.S fighter jets over White House," "Capitol Building evacuation ordered," and "Fighter jets tracking small plane 3 miles from Capitol." Fox's alert banner did not note that the Democratic National Committee headquarters was also evacuated.


Money and Meaning: The current print edition of The Minneapolis Observer, an excellent, intensely local monthly newspaper by former Utne editor Craig Cox, digs up a 1997 Fast Company interview with "worldly philosopher" Jacob Needleman, who wrote Money and the Meaning of Life. I've always liked sociologist Georg Simmel's sentiment that "Money hollows out the core of things"—that is, money shifts our focus from the intrinsic value of something to its commodity worth. But Needleman has a more nuanced view. Excerpts from this excellent interview:
Q. Doesn't having that much money mean you no longer have to worry about the basic necessities of life? Doesn't that free you?

A. No. If you are worrying about vegetables now, you'll be worrying about yachts then. You're a worrier. It's in you, not the money. Life, except for the obvious physical needs, is not so much defined by the external situation as by the inner one.

Having money won't change your internal makeup. If you're an anxious sonofabitch without money, you're going to be an anxious sonofabitch with a lot of money.
Q. Based on your encounters with the super-rich, is there ever a time when they can put down their egos for a moment?

A. Death is the great equalizer. I've seen that phenomenon many times. I've had people in my classes come to me, men and women over 50 years old, and they say, "I made it. I'm rich. But what the hell is my life for?"

In the meantime, all you really need is a couple of hemorrhoids to learn humility.
Q. What would you say is the most common misconception that businesspeople have about money?

A. They forget the whole human condition. They forget we're mortal beings and we're meant to love and to serve, not just to get. Money is the most tempting illusion; it tempts most people to forget that we're people. We live, we're going to die, and there's much more to life than making money -- although without making money life is very difficult.
Another perspective: Helen and Scott Nearing, referred to earlier, sought to extricate themselves from the market economy. During the Great Depression, they left New York to start a sustainable homestead in rural Vermont. An excerpt from 1977 issue of Mother Earth News:
"Civilization," said Mark Twain, "is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessaries." A market economy seeks by ballyhoo to bamboozle consumers into buying things they neither need nor want, thus compelling them to sell their labor power as a means of paying for their purchases. Since our aim was liberation from the exploitation accompanying the sale of labor power, we were as wary of market lures as a wise mouse is wary of other traps.

Readers may label such a policy as painfully austere, renunciatory, or bordering on deliberate self-punishment. We had no such feeling. Coming from New York City, with its extravagant displays of non-essentials and its extensive wastes of everything from food and capital goods to time and energy, we were surprised and delighted to find how much of the city clutter and waste we could toss overboard.

We felt as free, in this respect, as a caged wild bird who finds himself once more on the wing. The demands and requirements which weigh upon city consumers no longer restricted us. To the extent that we were able to meet our consumer needs in our own way and in our own good time, we had freed ourselves from dependence upon the market economy...
Recommended reading: Perhaps the best book my dad ever suggested on this topic, Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.
"Offensive and Aggressive." From Adbusters:
Los Angeles' Transport Gallery has featured some in-your-face work: a show by seminal punk photographer Edward Colver called Remember September 10th, featuring an effigy of a lynched Klansman (title: A Well-Hung Klansman), and the traveling show of anti-war posters by the likes of agitprop greats Robbie Conal and Mark Vallen called Yo! What Happened to Peace? But these exhibitions didn't rouse the Los Angeles Police Department the way a one-night showing on April 23 did. With six patrol cars, they shut down the exhibition Mark of the Beast, forcing some 1,000 attendees into the streets, on grounds that it was "offensive and aggressive in nature."

The offending works? Culture-jammed corporate logos.

The LAPD's reaction to Mark of the Beast was spurred by a single phonecall of complaint, according to gallery director Mike Russek, and Transport was shuttered by officers who never set foot in the gallery to see the work for themselves. It's yet another example of the clamp-down on free expression in the United States following September 11, 2001...
Read the full story, which started out here.