Monday, May 29, 2006
Ghosts 1 (2000)
Ghosts 6 (2000)
Ghosts 10 (2000)
We pause today to remember, pray for, and extend thanks to all who have served or are serving in America's Armed Forces.
The rest of us have a Memorial Day Weekend homework assignment. It is to read the following excerpt of remarks given by Alberto J. Mora last week upon receiving a John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award. Mora, you might recall, retired last year as Navy general counsel. Two years before the Abu Ghraib scandal, he penned a memo to officials at the Pentagon expressing concerns that international treaties regarding prisoner treatment and torture were being disregarded. According to the Washington Post, Mora, after receiving the award from Caroline Kennedy, said:
It is astonishing to me, still, that I should be here today addressing the issue of American cruelty -- or that anyone would ever have to. Our forefathers, who permanently defined our civic values, drafted our Constitution inspired by the belief that law could not create but only recognize certain inalienable rights granted by God -- to every person, not just citizens, and not just here but everywhere. Those rights form a shield that protects core human dignity. Because this is so, the Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel punishment. The constitutional jurisprudence of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments outlaws cruel treatment that shocks the conscience. The Geneva Conventions forbid the application of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment to all captives, as do all of the major human rights treaties adopted and ratified by our country during the last century.
Despite this, there was abuse. Not all were mistreated, but some were. For those mistreated, history will ultimately judge what the precise quantum of abuse inflicted was -- whether it was torture or some lesser cruelty -- and whether it resulted from official commission or omission, or occurred despite every reasonable effort to prevent the abuse. Whatever the ultimate historical judgment, it is established fact that documents justifying and authorizing the abusive treatment of detainees during interrogation were approved and distributed. These authorizations rested on three beliefs: that no law prohibited the application of cruelty; that no law should be adopted that would do so; and that our government could choose to apply the cruelty -- or not -- as a matter of policy depending on the dictates of perceived military necessity.
The fact that we adopted this policy demonstrates that this war has tested more than our nation's ability to defend itself. It has tested our response to our fears and the measure of our courage. It has tested our commitment to our most fundamental values and our constitutional principles.
In this war, we have come to a crossroads -- much as we did in the events that led to Korematsu: Will we continue to regard the protection and promotion of human dignity as the essence of our national character and purpose, or will we bargain away human and national dignity in return for an additional possible measure of physical security?
Why should we still care about these issues?
We should care because the issues raised by a policy of cruelty are too fundamental to be left unaddressed, unanswered or ambiguous. We should care because a tolerance of cruelty will corrode our values and our rights and degrade the world in which we live. It will corrupt our heritage, cheapen the valor of the soldiers upon whose past and present sacrifices our freedoms depend, and debase the legacy we will leave to our sons and daughters. We should care because it is intolerable to us that anyone should believe for a second that our nation is tolerant of cruelty. And we should care because each of us knows that this issue has not gone away.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
--George W. Bush, Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, September, 2001
Is our freedoms leaving?
[Photo seen on FireDogLake]
Dear Mr. President,
I have a question. Are these the same freedoms our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq hold dear and are fighting to defend on this Memorial Day? Are these the same freedoms outlined in our Constitution that you swore to uphold and defend?
And, if you don't mind me asking, when do you think you might get around to upholding and defending them?
Because, to be frank, I think you hate our freedoms. I base this observation on the fact that you and your advisors have worked deliberately and systematically to undermine nearly everything that makes us free.
This is very serious, Mr. President. Nothing less than the soul of our nation is at stake. And, under your increasingly totalitarian leadership, our country's soul is transmigrating into something dark and troubling -- and making us over into someone most of us clearly do not want to be.
Like what, you ask. Like this, sir, found in Amnesty International's annual report released on Tuesday:
The United States has become a world leader in avoiding human rights accountability [emphasis mine]; a case in point is the reliance of the United States government on private military contractors, which has helped create virtually rules-free zones sanctioned with the American flag and firepower,” said Larry Cox, who became AIUSA’s executive director May 1. “Business outsourcing may increase efficiency, but war outsourcing may be facilitating impunity. Contractors’ illegal behavior and the reluctance of the U.S. government to bring them to justice are further tarnishing the United States’ reputation abroad, hurting the image of American troops and contributing to anti-American sentiment. These results are a distressing return on the U.S. taxpayers’ billion-dollar-plus investment and undermine what remains of U.S. moral authority abroad.
CBS News provides further analysis of the AI report:
Rights groups have loudly criticized the policies of the United States and its allies since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, complaining that human rights and civil liberties are being sacrificed in the name of counterterrorism.
"The Amnesty report and the recent U.N. report have documented the fact that the U.S. human rights record in recent years has generated distrust of U.S. motives and methods," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk.
"Splitting hairs on what is or is not international law misses the point: the reports as well as revelations by a former Pentagon lawyer familiar with the Guantanamo interrogations, Alberto Mora, all raise the question of whether or not the U.S. has violated basic human rights in its detention and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody,” said Falk.
You, Mr. President, and your Attorney General and
toadies advisors, consciously split those hairs. And now America is again leading the world -- in torture and gulags. I read, Mr. President, that earlier this week you compared yourself to Harry Truman. However, you appear to be more closely emulating other less tolerant leaders:
Maybe it's time we gave you a nickname. How's "Slobbo Jr." sound?
[Image seen on Feedback]
And I keep waiting for a response to the AI report, aside from the perfunctory "We do not torture" reverse negative statement in the "Healthy Forests = Clear-cut with Extreme Prejudice" dichotomy, but so far all I've seen was this on MSNBC today:
The Bush administration has asked federal judges in New York and Michigan to dismiss a pair of lawsuits filed over the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program, saying litigating them would jeopardize state secrets.
In papers filed late Friday, Justice Department lawyers said it would be impossible to defend the legality of the spying program without disclosing classified information that could be of value to suspected terrorists.
Shayana Kadidal, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, called the administration’s motion “undemocratic.”
Ample safeguards could be put in place to allow the case to continue without disclosing classified information, he said. The center has also argued that the court already has enough information to decide whether the program was legal.
“The Bush administration is trying to crush a very strong case against domestic spying without any evidence or argument,” Kadidal said in a written statement. “Can the president tell the courts which cases they can rule on? If so, the courts will never be able to hold the president accountable for breaking the law.”
But you're already above the courts, aren't you, Mr. President. You amend signing statements to laws exempting you from executing any policy you disdain and thus bend the Constitution to your will. You don't need no stinkin' warrants. You make your own reality. The Rove Doctrine rules. Kill 'em all...and let Diebold sort 'em all out.
But I've got to tell you something, Mr. President. And it might surprise you because you surely haven't heard it from your
stoolies advisors. Are you ready? You might want to sit down.
9-11 did not change everything.
I know I'm speaking the unspeakable but it's true. Really. The soul of our country should not transmigrate into something else because of 9-11. Somehow, we managed to confront and defeat our terrorist enemies after Pearl Harbor without steamrolling over our own freedoms. And all this Orwellian snooping is too ripe for abuse, as Bolling's cartoon I posted yesterday cleverly demonstrates. And all this torture and trampling of civil liberties, well, it's making our soul sick and risking permanent transmigration to
neocon evils a mirror image of America I never thought I'd see. It's not who we want to be, Mr. President. And it's a slippery slope, too. The next thing you know we'll be the bad guys and start committing even more horrific abuses and war crimes.
Oh. I forgot.
But I hope you remember we're the land of the free, Mr. President. At least, we used to be...before you came along.
P.S. This used to be the home of the brave, too. Hey, Democrats! Hello! What the fuck are you waiting for? Why are you sitting on your hands and burying your heads in polls these days while BushCo jerks our chains with this and this and this? You know, Al Gore is starting to look pretty good about now -- especially after Hillary's execrable flag-burning wingnut kissyfacing. Frank Rich wants Al to go for it in 2008. At least Al speaks up. So please spin the bottle and pick an issue. Or, if nothing else, just start working overtime to make absolutely certain the election in November is fair. Do something to give me a choice this fall other than choosing between the cowardly and the treacherous smirking war-mongering freedom-hating intelligence-cooking torture-loving eavesdropping apocalyptic-bringing Left Behinders.
Oh, and, since I have your attention, thanks. Even crumbs are better than no bread at all.
Friday, May 26, 2006
[Cartoon by Ruben Bolling from Salon]
--God created humans in their present form.
--religion is "under attack."
--in the Devil.
--Fox News is a trustworthy news source.
I've been watching with keen interest since the first NSA scandal: I've noticed on the Internet that there aren't many people really shocked by this. Our popular culture, our dirt-ball street culture teaches us from childhood that the CIA is listening to *all* of our telephone calls and reading *all* of our email anyway...
...In the very long view, this will turn out to be about how we deal with the technological situation we find ourselves in now. We've gotten somewhere we've never been before. It's very interesting. In the short term, I've taken the position that it's very, very illegal and I hope something is done about it.
[Image seen on JWR]
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Rex Gets the Joke (2004)
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Frag 4 (2003)
Don’t crash I said and the whole time
the car coughs, shudders, sputters as
rain slaps the windshield in restless sheets.
As the headlights flare over trees
grotesque branches reach just past us
accusing, like we’d smuggled contraband
then nothing, the darkness of the bypass
but for some distant airport runway lights.
I can’t find my way home you said.
Drops glide like mercury over our side windows.
Above our heads, twin jet engines grumble
but we’re grounded -- a canceled flight.
So, why I am sharing more of it? I don't really know. Maybe because such expressions need to leak out sometime, somewhere. Sorry you had to be in the vicinity.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Lake of Fire (2000)
Now the people cry and the people moan
and they look for a dry place to call their home
--Meat Puppets, "Lake of Fire"
Arianna Huffington reports that Al Gore was the red-carpet sight-to-see this weekend at Cannes. His film, An Inconvenient Truth, tore up the film festival. Gore gave 23 interviews yesterday, and he had 23 more scheduled for today. It seems everyone wants to catch the film...
Islikely to see 's documentary about global warming? "Doubt it," Bush said coolly Monday. But Bush should watch it, Gore shot back. In fact, the former Democratic vice president offered to come to the White House any time, any day to show Bush either his documentary or a slide show on global warming that he's shown more than 1,000 times around the world.
"The entire global scientific community has a consensus on the question that human beings are responsible for global warming and he has today again expressed personal doubt that that is true," Gore said in an Associated Press interview from France where he attended the
"New technologies will change how we live and how we drive our cars, which all will have the beneficial effect of improving the environment," Bush said. "And in my judgment we need to set aside whether or not greenhouse gases have been caused by mankind or because of natural effects and focus on the technologies that will enable us to live better lives and at the same time protect the environment."
Gore said the causes of global warming should not be ignored.
"Why should we set aside the global scientific consensus," Gore said, his voice rising with emotion. "Is it because Exxon Mobil wants us to set it aside? Why should we set aside the conclusion of scientists in the United States, including the
, and around the world including the 11 most important national academies of science on the globe and substitute for their view the view of Exxon Mobil. Why?"
Is our planets burning?
*Blogger assumes, for the sake of argument, that Bush actually possesses the organ in question. Opinions vary:
Though he didn't say so publicly, Bush is a dissenter on the theory of global warming....He avidly read Michael Crichton's 2004 novel State of Fear, whose villain falsifies scientific studies to justify draconian steps to curb global warming....Early in 2005, political adviser Karl Rove arranged for Crichton to meet with Bush at the White House. They talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement. The visit was not made public for fear of outraging environmentalists all the more.
--Frank Barnes, Rebel in Chief
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Bunting Nest (2006)
Something new from playing around this weekend...
Cool Facts about the Indigo Bunting from All About Birds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
- The Indigo Bunting migrates at night, using the stars for guidance. It learns its orientation to the night sky from its experience as a young bird observing the stars.
- Experienced adult Indigo Buntings can return to their previous breeding sites when held captive during the winter and released far from their normal wintering area.
- The sequences of notes in Indigo Bunting songs are unique to local neighborhoods. Males a few hundred meters apart generally have different songs. Males on neighboring territories often have the same or nearly identical songs.
- Indigo and Lazuli buntings defend territories against each other in the western Great Plains where they occur together, share songs, and sometimes interbreed.
Whew. There's a few million phone calls that won't need trollin' no more...
Friday, May 19, 2006
California Uber Alles (2004)
Okay, this is the last in my deleted scenes viewing mode series. Let's carve out a section like so:
Thumbnail of "California Uber Alles"
And now we'll zoom into the selected section and see what we've been missing:
Detail of "California Uber Alles"
I hope you've enjoyed piloting in and out of a few images over the last several days.
And...meanwhile...in the 3D California (and across this great land)...
Close your eyes, can't happen here
Big Bro' on white horse is near
--The Dead Kennedys, "California Uber Alles"
From CNN -- one week ago:
In a poll released Friday [5-12-06], almost two thirds of Americans said it was acceptable for the NSA to collect phone records. When asked if they would be bothered if the NSA had their phone records, Democrats and independents were more likely to be bothered than Republicans. The ABC-Washington Post poll surveyed 502 people by telephone.
...And always wear the happy face
--The Dead Kennedys, "California Uber Alles"
[Image seen at collective]
What? Me Worry? Maybe you should...
From This Can't Be Happening:
The mainstream media keep finding and quoting people who say they don't care if the government taps their phones or monitors their calling records, because they "don't have anything to hide." Polls are dutifully trotted out showing that half the public supposedly supports NSA spying even on Americans, which they perceive as being aimed at catching "terrorists."
Besides the fact that this mentality shows little appreciation for the blood that was shed over the years to establish the freedoms of speech and assembly and privacy that we are supposedly so proud of, there is evidence that the Bush Administration and its spook minions are using this whole warrantless NSA spying campaign not to try to catch "terrorists," but to keep us, the American people, from knowing what the government is up to.
The latest evidence of this darker reality comes from veteran ABC journalist Brian Ross, who reports on ABC's website that he and a colleague, Richard Esposito, were warned by a government intelligence source that their phones are being monitored by the government in an effort to ferret out their government sources.
"It's time for you to get some new cell phones quick," the source told the two, Ross reports.
Ross goes on to say that sources have told him and Esposito (in person, not on the phone), that the government is investigating the calling records of reporters at ABC, the New York Times and the Washington Post, all in an effort to ferret out whistleblowers and unidentified sources of stories critical of the government or of Bush policies.
So now, we can state clearly that this administration, which has gone to such lengths over the last five years to try to control the public agenda by limiting reporters' access to information, by paying for fake "news", by currying favor with such broadcast outlets as Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, and by bullying editors and publishers, has gone the next step into flat-out intimidation and spying.
Hmmm. It sounds like some of our freedoms (of speech/of the press) and rights (to privacy) are being outsourced to a regime BushCo increasingly is emulating: China.
And if you're spying on our own journalists and citizens, doesn't that take precious time away from the big picture task of apprehending terrorists and bringing them to justice?
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Deep in Sherwood (2004)
If we cut away a section, like such...
Thumbnail of "Deep in Sherwood"
...and blow it up, then you can hopefully get a feeling for some of the hidden forms and textures in the image:
Detail of "Deep in Sherwood"
And...meanwhile...in a galaxy far away...where the poor scrape by and bathe in the light of Fox News...and the rich glut themselves by lapping up dried lard sticking to the bottom of the pork barrel...
Earlier [Wednesday], President Bush signed into law the infamous tax bill that couldn't provide a more stark contrast between the two political parties. By now, we're all pretty well-acquainted with the reality that a $40,000 income will net you $17 in tax benefits (woo hoo!) while the millionaires among us will reap $42,000.
But there's a more powerful -- and simple -- metaphor lurking behind the scenes during the history of negotiation of this legislation.
When first proposed, the Senate version included a revision of arcane accounting rules under which the oil companies were escaping taxes by being permitted to undervalue oil in storage. This change would have netted the federal government approximately $5.1 billion in taxes. When the House and the White House objected, the provision was removed.
Also present in the original Senate bill was an extension of expiring college tuition deductions designed to help middle class Americans handle the spiraling cost of higher education. According to Sen. Charles Schumer, who talked to bloggers on a conference call yesterday, the savings to middle America was approximately the same as the amount originally proposed to tax the oil companies. During reconciliation of the House and Senate bills, the tuition deductions were stripped.
So. We are presented with our metaphor: continuing tax breaks for Bush's oil cronies in the same amount that was denied the middle class to educate its children.
--by SusanG at Daily Kos
As Robert Plant once observed: And it makes me wonder.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I thought it might be interesting to get a slightly different perspective on my art.
I have to shrink my images down some to fit them on the blog. When possible, I link the image to a larger resolution copy placed on my web site. But my images are created in a much larger size than shown either on this blog or on my site. In fact, any of my images created since 2003 can be blown up to poster size. Consequently, there are many textures and nuances of any given image that cannot be seen on the computer screen.
To give you just a hint of what's not being seen, I'd like to show some images in more detail over the next few days.
Here is a thumbnail of today's image with a section highlighted:
Thumbnail of "Reactor"
And here's a blow-up detail of the selected section:
Detail of "Reactor"
Now, try to imagine this process going on everywhere...
And...meanwhile...in the 3rd Dimension...
Globe Showing the Spread of Radioactive Cloud from the Chernobyl Disaster
[Image seen on worldprocessor.com]
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Gabriel Goes Home (2006)
Here's a new one that wants to come blow its horn.
[The NSA] could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything, telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.
--Senator Frank Church, 1975
[Cartoon by Mike Luckovich]
In his Sunday opinion column for The New York Times, Frank Rich, who returned from book leave just last week, shook off the cobwebs to launch a vigorous defense of newspapers -- and an attack on the real "traitors," including top officials.
Rich opens by recalling charges of treason against the late New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal when he published the Pentagon Papers in 1971. "Today we know who the real traitors were: the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes," Rich observes.
Now history is repeating itself, as the Bush administration and its defenders "are desperate to deflect blame" for the Iraq fiasco, "and, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.'s secret 'black site' Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism....
"When reporters at both papers were awarded Pulitzer Prizes last month, administration surrogates, led by bloviator in chief William Bennett, called for them to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.
"We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin."
Rich also suggests that perhaps the recently exposed NSA database on phone records "may have more to do with monitoring 'traitors' like reporters and leakers than with tracking terrorists. Journalists and whistle-blowers who relay such government blunders are easily defended against the charge of treason. It's often those who make the accusations we should be most worried about.
So...is Judgment Day coming?
Friday, May 12, 2006
Cat Queen (2005)
Today's image is a little something just purring away for Friday Cat Blogging.
And...meanwhile...at a secret undisclosed location...
Fluffy certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli...
[Image seen on Internet Weekly Report]
Frist is an animal lover who said his decision to become a doctor was clinched when he helped heal a friend's dog. But Frist now found himself forced to kill animals during medical research. And his new dilemma was finding enough animals to kill. Soon, he began lying to obtain more animals. He went to the animal shelters around Boston and promised he would care for the cats as pets. Then he killed them during experiments. "It was a heinous and dishonest thing to do," Frist wrote. "I was going a little crazy."
So now the U.S. senate is going to be led by the cat world's answer to Dr. Mengele! A man who can do that is capable of any infamy. Can't you just picture this oily Tennessean cooing and clucking over the tabbies and tortoiseshells at the shelter, solemnly wagging his head as the shelter staff counseled him on proper cat procedures, then dragging the poor creatures into his lab and torturing them to death? I call on the Humane Society to demand that Frist publicly apologize for this appalling, indeed ineradicable stain on his character, and pay substantial reparations out of the vast fortune that has accrued from the Hospital Corporation of America, founded by his father and brother.
While serving as an ardent toady of business, especially the health care and pharmaceutical cartels, Frist projected a "caring" image, accepted without demur by all except his former interns at the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Tennessee, where he amassed big bucks as a heart/lung transplant surgeon. "He was a complete asshole," recalled one intern to my brother Andrew recently, "Arrogant and unhelpful."
Mee -- eeee -- ee -- ooow.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
They Are Out to Get You (2001)
The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed -- would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper -- the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.
--George Orwell, 1984
Just because you're paranoid...
And make that are out to get you...
From a story by Leslie Cauley in today's USA Today:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.
"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.
For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.
Our Prezdent, rather than playing gee-tar or chomping cake with adoration-of-Falwell McCain, and who snoozes through face-shootings by Number 2, actually spoke to the issue within hours. Again, from USA Today:
At the White House, President Bush said the administration acted within the law and "fiercely protected" Americans' privacy while doing everything possible to prevent terrorist attacks. "Al-Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans," he said. "We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans." He didn't address specifics of the program and walked away without responding to reporters' questions.
I'm sure we can believe him -- assuming there's no asterisk to his clipped remarks because of a signing statement exempting him from actually enforcing his own remarks.
By the way, just so you know, every statement he makes comes with that asterisk.
softsoap review the NSA story tonight shows the MM has no post-Colbert pattern recognition. The Situational Room's gist was that the public does not really care about Orwellian snooping because earlier reports on BushCo's "terrorist surveillance program" barely blipped the cable news radar. The Patriot Act is a-dor-a-able as long as we're safe safe safe. Move along. Meanwhile on the immigration front...
Will the new revelations about the NSA tip the balance? Perhaps. According to the story, the NSA is not actually listening in on the phone calls but monitoring the patterns ofcalls in a kind of giant Google search, with the hope that their algorithm will detect something untoward and worth investigating. But even if your call to Aunt Sally isn't being listened to by some NSA officer, the program sounds creepy enough that no shortage of senators jumped all over it. The Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he'd subpoena the heads of the three telecommunications companies involved — AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth — before hearings to find out what they knew. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, who had kind words about former NSA head Gen. Michael Hayden when he was nominated to be the new CIA boss on Monday, talked ominously about a "showdown" over the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unlawful search and seizure.
At the same time, conservative Judge Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, whom many on the right wanted President Bush to name to the Supreme Court, abruptly resigned yesterday, reportedly in part because of civil liberties issues. The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Luttig was shocked back in November when the Bush Justice Department announced that the government would file charges against suspected terrorist Jose Padilla as if he were a regular citizen. Just two months earlier, Luttig had written a seminal opinion saying that the federal government could detain Padilla without a charge, reasoning that the government must have had an extraordinary case against Padilla to justify such an extraordinary imprisonment. When the Bush administration reversed position and in effect acknowledged that the regular old justice system was able to accommodate the case, Luttig was enraged, saying the reversal strained the Bush administration's "credibility before the courts." It was that frustration that helped lead to his resignation, the Journal reported.
If provoking the anger of a conservative's conservative like Luttig wasn't enough, another development out of the Justice Department was nearly as stunning. On Wednesday, the Justice Department's point man on government accountability, H. Marshall Jarrett, wrote to Congress saying that he was shutting down his review of the NSA spying probe because his staff was denied access to the agency's files and personnel [emphasis mine].
So to review the bidding: Bush's Justice Department is blocked from investigating its own controversial spy program; a leading conservative jurist resigns, reportedly in part over the government's handling of civil liberties; and a big NSA program of eavesdropping on Americans' phone-calling patterns is revealed. Will this be enough to turn public opinion against Bush on civil liberties and terrorism? Given the collapse in public support for the President on so many issues, it wouldn't be surprising.
Wait. Didn't Time name George W. Bush "
Man Person of the Year" in 2004 " for sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design...." Oh yeah. I remember that now...
Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.
--from Winston Smith's diary, George Orwell, 1984
[Image seen on about.com]
Hey, it's just another enhanced interrogation technique...
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Bottom Feeders (2001)
But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know -- fiction!
--Stephen Colbert, White House Correspondent's Dinner, April 29, 2006
From the Chicago Sun-Times -- "Did the Media Miss Real Colbert Story?" by Doug Elfman (5-7-06):
The truth is many in the media wrote about Bush's stand-up routine at the dinner as if they had just watched the coming of a comic genius, but they didn't report much on Colbert's funnier, harsher jokes. This may have been a case of the press corps following a standard motto: to the winner goes the spoils, and Bush got more laughs (out of copy written for him) than Colbert did.
How did Bush tickle reporters? He made fun of the fact that he can barely speak English (he is quite simply the worst communicator of all U.S. presidents), that our vice president is a heartless face-shooter, and that Bush is basically an idiot.
Ha ha, our "war president" knows he's a village idiot? To members of the White House press corps, that's some real funny stuff. To non-insiders, this looked like another example of good old boys and gals slapping each other on the back.
Colbert's routine was more remarkable for its unique and creative brazenness. He joked that Bush's presidency is like the Hindenburg; that Bush's wiretappers were monitoring this very event, and that the White House press corps, sitting in front of Colbert, gave Bush a free pass, scandal after scandal, until recently (when his polls numbers dropped).
How's this for a newsworthy lead? It was perhaps the first time in Bush's tenure that the president was forced to sit and listen to any American cite the litany of criminal and corruption allegations that have piled up against his administration. And mouth-tense Bush and first lady Laura Bush fled as soon as possible afterward.
From whom were they fleeing? A star comedian pretending to be a Fox News-like blowhard doing a sort of performance art that America hasn't witnessed nationally since the days of Andy Kaufman. Even if Colbert's bit had been reported as a train wreck, that would have sufficed. Instead, shocking lines like the following were barely covered by any traditional organ except industry magazine Editor & Publisher: "I stand by" Bush, Colbert cracked, "because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."
For TV reporters in particular to quote that gruesome line would be an agreement with Colbert, that they helped Bush mix politics with corruption from the ashes of 9/11 ("aircraft carriers and rubble"), and failed to see through Bush's politicization of the drowning of an American city after a hurricane ("recently flooded city squares").
And from the Huffington Post -- "Ignoring Colbert, Part II" by Chris Durang:
This, by the way, is the same Washington event where Bush previously charmed many (and horrified others) by pretending to have trouble finding Weapons of Mass Destruction (after we'd started to realize they weren't in Iraq), and wandered the room looking under tables. Really cute, huh? They should send videos of that to the families of soldiers killed.
The media's ignoring Colbert's effect at the White House Correspondents Dinner is a very clear example of what others have called the media's penchant for buying into the conservative/rightwing "narrative."
In this instance, the "narrative" is that President Bush, for all his missteps, has a darling sense of humor and is a real regular guy, able to poke delightful fun at himself and his penchant for mis-using and mispronouncing words.
Who cares if he lied to start a war? (Or chose to ignore all contrary opinion, which as far as war-starting goes, is pretty crummy.) Who cares if he declares he's above the law, and according to the Boston Globe yesterday there are something like 750 laws he's decided don't apply to him as "Commander-in-Chief"?
The Globe article's first sentence: "President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution."
If the President doesn't obey the law, what the heck is he? He's a dictator in a coup, I think -- but no matter, according to the media, he's A-DOR-ABLE!
And...meanwhile...no longer under the ocean...
Let's talk instead about a real fish story...
[Cartoon seen on Fringe]
"You know, I've experienced many great moments, and it's hard to name the best," Bush told weekly Bild am Sonntag when asked about his high point since becoming president in January 2001. "I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5-pound perch in my lake," he told the newspaper in an interview published Sunday.
--MSNBC, May 8, 2006
Well, I guess we all have our Great Moments in BushCo. This would be mine
I don't know of anyone in my administration who has leaked. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action.
--George W. Bush, September 30, 2003
[Image seen on Democrats.com]
even if I'd have to embellish about the one who (so far) got away...
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Monday, May 08, 2006
Satan on a Stick (2000)
And you thought that state fair corn dog was evil...
The blog will likely go into heavy photoblog mode for the summer. I will be working on a book project as well as focusing on new art over the next few months. I thought about closing down this blog or letting it just go fallow, but I enjoy posting and hearing occasionally from the faithful few. So, instead, I'll be putting up art and keeping text optional. This way, I still share art and reserve the right to go off on a rant as time permits and circumstances warrant.
Thanks. I appreciate everyone who visits and comments.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Friday, May 05, 2006
Derby Day (2003)
Well, the big race is tomorrow -- as it always is on the first Saturday in May. Today's highly abstract image always struck me as a depiction of a horse race.
I don't know what more to say about this image, really. So, I think I'll (ahem) turn over the reins to someone more familiar with the sport -- the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Here's an excerpt from his 1970 essay "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved."
A short set-up. Our gonzo narrator has already arrived in Louisville and conned his way into a motel room by claiming to be a photographer for Playboy and was sent to cover a story that the Black Panthers and skinheads have elaborate plans to infiltrate and disrupt the Kentucky Derby. He has purchased multiple cans of Mace ("Chemical Billy") that he schemes to use when the going gets weird and arranges to met English artist Ralph Steadman -- who has been assigned to do some illustrations for Thompson's article. The meeting of Steadman and Thompson will prove seminal. Steadman would go on to illustrate much of Thompson's work throughout his career. As the section opens, Thompson has corralled Steadman and driven him to the track at Churchill Downs on the day before the Derby. As Steadman soaks up the surroundings, Thompson gives him the lowdown on tomorrow's big event.
Later Friday afternoon, we went out on the balcony of the press box and I tried to describe the difference between what we were seeing today and what would be happening tomorrow. This was the first time I'd been to a Derby in ten years, but before that, when I lived in Louisville, I used to go every year. Now, looking down from the press box, I pointed to the huge grassy meadow enclosed by the track. "That whole thing," I said, "will be jammed with people; fifty thousand or so, and most of them staggering drunk. It's a fantastic scene--thousands of people fainting, crying, copulating, trampling each other and fighting with broken whiskey bottles. We'll have to spend some time out there, but it's hard to move around, too many bodies."
"Is it safe out there?" Will we ever come back?"
"Sure," I said. "We'll just have to be careful not to step on anybody's stomach and start a fight." I shrugged. "Hell, this clubhouse scene right below us will be almost as bad as the infield. Thousands of raving, stumbling drunks, getting angrier and angrier as they lose more and more money. By midafternoon they'll be guzzling mint juleps with both hands and vomitting on each other between races. The whole place will be jammed with bodies, shoulder to shoulder. It's hard to move around. The aisles will be slick with vomit; people falling down and grabbing at your legs to keep from being stomped. Drunks pissing on themselves in the betting lines. Dropping handfuls of money and fighting to stoop over and pick it up."
He looked so nervous that I laughed. "I'm just kidding," I said. "Don't worry. At the first hint of trouble I'll start pumping this 'Chemical Billy' into the crowd."
He had done a few good sketches, but so far we hadn't seen that special kind of face that I felt we would need for a lead drawing. It was a face I'd seen a thousand times at every Derby I'd ever been to. I saw it, in my head, as the mask of the whiskey gentry--a pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams and a terminal identity crisis; the inevitable result of too much inbreeding in a closed and ignorant culture. One of the key genetic rules in breeding dogs, horses or any other kind of thoroughbred is that close inbreeding tends to magnify the weak points in a bloodline as well as the strong points. In horse breeding, for instance, there is a definite risk in breeding two fast horses who are both a little crazy. The offspring will likely be very fast and also very crazy. So the trick in breeding thoroughbreds is to retain the good traits and filter out the bad. But the breeding of humans is not so wisely supervised, particularly in a narrow Southern society where the closest kind of inbreeding is not only stylish and acceptable, but far more convenient--to the parents--than setting their offspring free to find their own mates, for their own reasons and in their own ways. ("Goddam, did you hear about Smitty's daughter? She went crazy in Boston last week and married a nigger!")
So the face I was trying to find in Churchill Downs that weekend was a symbol, in my own mind, of the whole doomed atavistic culture that makes the Kentucky Derby what it is.
On our way back to the motel after Friday's races I warned Steadman about some of the other problems we'd have to cope with. Neither of us had brought any strange illegal drugs, so we would have to get by on booze. "You should keep in mind," I said, "that almost everybody you talk to from now on will be drunk. People who seem very pleasant at first might suddenly swing at you for no reason at all." He nodded, staring straight ahead. He seemed to be getting a little numb and I tried to cheer him up by inviting to dinner that night, with my brother.
Back at the motel we talked for awhile about America, the South, England--just relaxing a bit before dinner. There was no way either of us could have known, at the time, that it would be the last normal conversation we would have. From that point on, the weekend became a vicious, drunken nightmare. We both went completely to pieces. The main problem was my prior attachment to Louisville, which naturally led to meetings with old friends, relatives, etc., many of whom were in the process of falling apart, going mad, plotting divorces, cracking up under the strain of terrible debts or recovering from bad accidents. Right in the middle of the whole frenzied Derby action, a member of my own family had to be institutionalized. This added a certain amount of strain to the situation, and since poor Steadman had no choice but to take whatever came his way, he was subjected to shock after shock.
Kentucky Derby (1970) by Ralph Steadman
Another problem was his habit of sketching people he met in the various social situations I dragged him into--then giving them the sketches. The results were always unfortunate. I warned him several times about letting the subjects see his foul renderings, but for some perverse reason he kept doing it. Consequently, he was regarded with fear and loathing by nearly everyone who'd seen or even heard about his work. Ho couldn't understand it. "It's sort of a joke," he kept saying. "Why, in England it's quite normal. People don't take offense. They understand that I'm just putting them on a bit."
"Fuck England," I said. "This is Middle America. These people regard what you're doing to them as a brutal, bilious insult. Look what happened last night. I thought my brother was going to tear your head off."
Steadman shook his head sadly. "But I liked him. He struck me as a very decent, straightforward sort."
"Look, Ralph," I said. "Let's not kid ourselves. That was a very horrible drawing you gave him. It was the face of a monster. It got on his nerves very badly." I shrugged. "Why in hell do you think we left the restaurant so fast?"
"I thought it was because of the Mace," he said.
He grinned. "When you shot it at the headwaiter, don't you remember?"
"Hell, that was nothing," I said. "I missed him...and we were leaving, anyway."
"But it got all over us," he said. "The room was full of that damn gas. Your brother was sneezing was and his wife was crying. My eyes hurt for two hours. I couldn't see to draw when we got back to the motel."
"That's right," I said. "The stuff got on her leg, didn't it?"
"She was angry," he said.
"Yeah...well, okay...Let's just figure we fucked up about equally on that one," I said. "But from now on let's try to be careful when we're around people I know. You won't sketch them and I won't Mace them. We'll just try to relax and get drunk."
"Right," he said. "We'll go native."
Place your bets. And......they're off.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Before and After (2000)
I sweat and work out by proxy
pumping with vigor the wooden
lever of my own worn recliner.
My den is as warm as a sauna
so I slouch with my shirt open
to air out. My pet sin
is idleness because it takes
so little effort. When I think
of my power tools rusting
in the workshop I need a rest
so I batter my own face with
my fists to prove I’m tough
then sag in my lounge chair
where I’m blasé about the next
rough round of self-loathing.
After the title fight the night
ends and dawn creeps through blinds
like a burglar. I hear the jeers even
with the crowd muted. I have nothing
on my blank slate and my black walls
and could care less what news
flashes will wash over the glass
palette I brush with a button
press as my nose extends with each
line that forms another white lie
to boil my blood in a forge
that blasts wooden heads to skin
thick enough to deflect my thoughts
of living puppets without strings
in a heap and down for the count.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Meter Maid (2001)
I think these are a uniquely Australian: meter maids. They were, and still are, found on the Gold Coast, a stretch of high-rise touristy suburbia plonked on the sandy coast south of Brisbane. In August 2000, I saw two real-life meter maids in Surfers Paradise. No tiaras, I regret to report. They were wearing sun-smart white cowboy hats, less of a tan than the maid pictured here, and were resplendent in sash, gold bikinis and matching strappy sandals. Meter maids primary responsibility is to check parking meters to find those which are expired, or nearly so. Having found one, they pop a coin in the said meter so the hapless motorist will not be fined in the near future. I know this seems unlikely, but Surfers requires quite a bit of explanation itself. Apparently the system worked by promoting a charity. The maids would also slip a note about the charity they represented under the windscreen wiper of the car they saved from what we call in Melbourne, at least, the grey ghosts (the parking inspectors or inspectoresses . . . hissss!!! ) Meter maids worked for a long established company, but in recent years, I understand that another one set up in competition!
Standing by a parking meter
When I caught a glimpse of Rita
Filling in a ticket in her little white book
In a cap she looked much older
And the bag across her shoulder
Made her look a little like a military man...
--The Beatles, "Lovely Rita"
A hulking Boston bodyguard was arrested yesterday, accused of hurling a scalding Starbucks coffee at a meter maid who slapped a ticket on his illegally parked Hummer in the Back Bay. The alleged attack unfolded about 8:30 a.m. when Christi Noviello, 44, was walking her Berkeley and Boylston streets beat and saw the black Hummer parked in a loading zone with a woman in the passenger seat. "I am a nice meter maid," Noviello told the Herald yesterday in an exclusive interview. "As a courtesy, I gave the lady a chance to move, but she pointed at the Starbucks and refused."
Noviello wrote a $55 ticket, and slid it under the Hummer's windshield wiper -- apparently enraging its driver, Francois Youhanna.
"He started yelling, 'I don't accept this ticket!' He had a Venti-sized cup of black coffee in his hand, and he flung it right in my face," said Noviello, just hours after she was treated for first- and second-degree burns on her face and upper torso at New England Medical Center.
"I went down, I was panicking. It hurt so bad, I thought my face was falling off," she said. "It was in my eyes, I was screaming."
In the third reported physical assault on a Boston parking enforcement officer this year, Francois Youhanna, 37, is charged with assault with a deadly weapon by intentionally scalding 44-year-old Christi Noviello after she gave him a $55 ticket Wednesday morning for parking his black Hummer in a loading zone while he ran into a Back Bay Starbucks.
While physical assaults on meter maids have declined in recent years from a high of 42 in 2000 to 16 last year, the episode served as a reminder of the indignities the workers regularly confront, officials said. Last year, 48 parking enforcement officers reported verbal threats or harassment, said Thomas Tinlin, deputy commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department.
Noviello, a small-framed woman who appeared stunned by the parade of cameras around her, said there was no way Youhanna spilled his coffee by mistake after slipping on the ice, as he told arresting officers. "He said, 'I was only gone for a second,' " she recalled. "He walked away a little. Then he walked back, and the next thing he did was flip his coffee on me."
After the film's climax [sic], Celeste returns to work but we see a subtle shift in her character. With the struggle to establish herself as a woman and as a naughty meter maid now complete, Celeste performs her parking enforcement duties with a newfound confidence. We see her as a self-actualized woman. During the final moments of the film, though, we see one more question raised by Scott. Celeste runs across a wealthy, handsome gentleman (Bill Bonethruster) double-parked. He offers her sex in exchange for forgiving his crime, and the central question asked by the entire Naughty Meter Maids series is asked. Is there some essential chasm between being naughty and being a meter maid? Must Celeste -- and every woman in New York's Parking Enforcement Squad -- choose between the two things? Foucault was the first to analyze the phrase "naughty meter maid" as a countertext -- asking if there is a necessary dichotomy present in being both naughty and a municipal employee.