Friday, June 29, 2007

See "Sicko" This Weekend!


Coming to a theater near you next week! A summer blockbuster care?

Michael Moore's new movie, Sicko, could put health care at the top of the nation's political agenda—and we can help. If opening week is a success, lots more people will go see Sicko. It's a great movie—poignant at times, funny at others.

Can you pledge to see Sicko next week and bring your friends and family along? The theater and showtimes near you are in the box on the right. Click here to watch the movie trailer and sign up:


We'll report to the media the number of people who pledge to attend.

When you go see Sicko, you'll hear true stories like these:

A middle-class couple with insurance move into their daughter's basement after cancer forces them into bankruptcy.
An American woman goes undercover in Canada in search of prescription drugs for her illness.
Richard Nixon's secret White House tapes reveal he decided to authorize the first HMOs because "the less care they give them, the more money they make."
A doctor employed by an insurance company testifies before Congress about letting a man die to save her company money—then getting a promotion.
Like most of Michael Moore's movies, this one has a point of view. It's an argument to change our failing health care system. And it comes just in time.

The next president will have to take on health care. Several 2008 candidates—John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, and Barack Obama—have plans to guarantee affordable health care for everyone with a public insurance option. These are the most forward-thinking proposals ever seen in a presidential race.

But the HMOs, big health insurers, and drug companies are busy trying to buy off White House hopefuls with lots of campaign cash. They want to keep making billions by denying Americans affordable health care.

So after the movie, we'll ask presidential candidates to promise not to take campaign money from any of the industry's PACs, lobbyists, or executives. And to turn up the heat, we'll pass out fliers to movie-goers encouraging them to call up their favorite candidate.

Not one more person should suffer or die because our leaders won't stand up to the companies at the root of our health care problems.

Please pledge to see Sicko next week—a fun way to fight for affordable health care for everyone.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Meet Chris Dodd: Democratic Candidate for President

More information to help you decide which Democrat you'd like to support in next year's Presidential primary. Chris Dodd Senator from Connecticut.

Speaking Saturday in front of Nashua City Hall, where Kennedy kicked off his 1960 presidential campaign, Dodd proposed a sweeping national service program, starting with high school and extending through retirement.

His own time as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic changed his life, says Dodd, who plans to make national service a signature idea of his presidential campaign. He and thousands like him volunteered because, all those long decades ago, a dynamic young president asked them to think beyond themselves. It's time for America to re-establish that ethic, he says.


As a candidate, Dodd, who voted for the 2002 Iraq war resolution, has come to advocate a quick end to US involvement there. An opponent of the surge, he calls for a March 2008 deadline for US troop withdrawal, and voted against the recent timeline-free war appropriation.

What if the result of US withdrawal is a more intense conflict between the Shia and Sunni?

"Well, then, that's it," he replies. "I can't solve every problem known to mankind. There are times, frankly, when . . . there's not a treasury deep enough or an army big enough to solve the problem."

On the environment, he advocates a 50-miles-per-gallon standard by 2017, a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions, and a $50 billion carbon tax on polluting industries. Yes, that tax will raise gasoline prices by 10 cents a gallon or so, but it's needed to accelerate the move toward alternative energy, he says.

A full healthcare plan will be coming soon, aides say.

Then there's the $10 billion national service proposal he unveiled in Nashua : Requiring community work (compulsory volunteerism?) in high school, doubling the Peace Corps by 2011, dramatically increasing AmeriCorps, plus a "senior heroes" program to have retirees help in the schools.


"There is something deeper going on than just the individual issues that need to be resolved," he said. "There is the overriding issue of who we are, where we are going as a people, and whether or not there is any kind of shared experience we have."

Recalling his own Peace Corps days, he concluded: "Why did I feel so damn good, why did I say yes to a guy" -- JFK -- "who said, why don't a bunch of you do something different?"

Watching Dodd reinforces something I've written before: Despite the fascination with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the lesser known Democrats are more experienced, less packaged, and every bit as interesting.

They deserve a closer look -- and New Hampshire is just the place to give them one. Source.

Background on Dodd

See how he voted on important issues.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Art in a War Zone

The café of the Madarat Gallery in Baghdad, where a constant rotation of exhibits is helping it to stay open while others close. (Scott Nelson/World Picture News, for NYT) Source

June 6, 2007
Baghdad Gallery Owner Hopes Culture Can Dispel Hate

BAGHDAD, June 1 — He may be the last hopeful man in Iraq.

Amid the violence, the crumbling economy and rising religious and political intolerance, Hasan Nassar can see a peaceful, democratic Iraq close at hand, one in which ideas, not bullets, are paramount.

The incubator for his vision is his small art gallery in northern Baghdad, which he opened in early 2006 even as most others were shutting down. He has kept it alive with a relentless rotation of exhibits, lectures, poetry readings and film screenings.

There is urgency to this schedule. Mr. Nassar believes that culture can provide a pathway out of the hate and fear overwhelming Iraq, and he is trying to marshal like-minded Iraqis to join his movement.

Few people outside the shrinking Iraqi art world know of Mr. Nassar, and the trickle of visitors to his Madarat Gallery suggests that many Iraqis would find his notion quixotic. Furthermore, the gallery, the only one left in Baghdad with frequently rotating exhibits, is far from profitable.

But Mr. Nassar persists all the same, passing his days drinking cups of sugary black tea with a scattering of artists and bohemians in the gallery’s courtyard cafe, decorated with friends’ paintings and a stand of tall ficus plants. They talk about culture, politics and their shared belief that the salvation of Iraq rests with the redeeming and ennobling virtues of art.

“We’re trying to get back the Iraqi open mind,” said Mr. Nassar, 37, a plump man who speaks gently and smokes constantly. “It’s a chance for a new period, and I want to be part of that.”

Mesopotamia © 2004 Ali Talib
Immediately after the invasion, the cultural community here was flush with optimism. For many artists, the fall of Saddam Hussein promised a new flowering of expression, an artistic liberation. They found clients among the returning exiles and the flood of foreigners, including diplomats and their staffs, aid workers, journalists, even the American military.

“It was the golden age,” said Hadi Mahood, 36, a painter who works in a group studio without electricity in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad. “We hoped for a good life.”

But as the Sunni Arab insurgency grew and sectarian violence overwhelmed the country, the local arts community dissipated. People stopped spending money on all but essential goods, and art sales plummeted. Nearly all of the capital’s galleries closed, and hundreds of the country’s most accomplished artists joined the Iraqis who were fleeing the country. Those who remained retreated to the obscurity of their studios or lay down their tools altogether.

Many have concluded that their lives as artists were better under Mr. Hussein.

“One million times better,” said Noori al-Rawi, 82, a painter, curator and art scholar who founded four museums in Baghdad and is regarded by many in the Iraqi art world as one of the pioneers of modern Iraqi art.

© 2000 Noori al-Rawi
Mr. Rawi has become so depressed by the state of his country that he has not picked up a paintbrush for more than two years. He says he is ready to gather all of his art history archives — articles, books, reviews, photographs, slides and paintings — and burn them.

“I feel now that all humanity is against Iraq and against the Iraqi people and against Iraqi history and against Iraqi culture,” Mr. Rawi, frail and slight, said on a recent afternoon while sitting in his dormant studio in western Baghdad. “We entered an endless dark tunnel.”

Even during the terror and cruelty of Mr. Hussein’s reign, there was an active arts market, many galleries, and national and international art shows.

Mr. Hussein himself was a patron of the arts, sponsoring competitions, exhibitions and scholarships. But he was far from an egalitarian benefactor. He rewarded those who honored him with flattering sculptures and paintings and sometimes pressed pre-eminent artists into such projects. He punished those whose work or words stood against his rule.

“It was a dictatorship, but that dictatorship helped,” said Qasim Sabti, owner of the Hewar Gallery, which opened in 1992 in the Wasiriya neighborhood and became a cultural institution in Baghdad.

His gallery remains one of the few remaining hubs for the cultural community here. But even though its cafe is often busy, exhibits are rare. “Sometimes I am tired, too tired,” said Mr. Sabti, who is 54.

One of Hewar Gallery's storerooms
The space includes paintings from the Saddam Arts Center that Qassim bought back from looters
Baghdad Journal
Looking back at Mr. Hussein’s rule, he described the compromises that had been necessary for survival. “You were free to do your art with the government or without the government, but not against the government,” he said.

For that reason, Mr. Nassar does not subscribe to the notion that Iraq was better for artists under Mr. Hussein. He did well with his art, selling paintings through a dealer in Austria. But, he said, life was suffocating for everyone who was not close to the regime.

“Saddam didn’t hurt my family or kill any of my relatives,” he said. “I didn’t suffer from any violence. But life was misery, especially if you liked to be free. In Iraq, you had to follow orders.

“Then we were just breathing. Now we have hope, hope for a good future.”

Optimistic comments like those have become extremely rare in Iraq, especially from people who are not politicians or generals. But while Mr. Nassar knows he is isolated, he insists that he is not alone.

“There are other people who believe this,” he said, “but they need to know each other to become a group.”

Mixed media on print-typewriter with poetry by Mahmoud Darwish
© 2007 Ghassan Ghaib
One recent morning, in preparation for a lecture by an Iraqi sculptor, Mr. Nassar arranged two dozen plastic chairs into rows in the gallery. He said he made no guarantees to any exhibitor. “He may not make money,” Mr. Nassar said, “but at least he can say: ‘I still exist. I’m still working. I’m still alive.’ ”

Sometimes the challenges are completely mundane. Shortly before the event was to begin, the power went out. Then his generator failed. The gallery was cast into darkness and, with no air-conditioning, the temperature quickly approached 100 degrees. Mr. Nassar was forced to cancel the lecture.

Still, about a half dozen people, including instructors from an art academy across the street, stuck around to talk about art and politics.

One of the few women artists represented by a gallery in Iraq
© 2003 Wasima Al Agha
Amjad Altayyar, a painter, lamented that the dominant parties and people in Iraqi society were communicating in “the language of power and car bombs.”

“In the small society of this cafe,” he continued, “you can find artists and educated people who belong to different cultures, different nationalities. But the language among them is this notion of acceptance.”

The gallery is linked to Mr. Nassar’s organization, Attitudes Society of Art and Culture, which he founded in 2004 to help promote his notion of a progressive society through cultural programs and exchanges. The bulk of its financing has come from a United Nations program that supports new initiatives in developing countries.

But the membership has fallen with the fortunes of the country, dropping to the current level of 37 from a high of about 200. Many members have fled the country or confined themselves to their homes.

Mr. Nassar says neither he nor his assistants have been threatened by militants because of their involvement in the gallery, though he acknowledges that his liberal ethos makes him an enemy of Shiite and Sunni Arab Islamist militias. The violence all around him has at times been crushing and, last December, forced him to close the gallery for two months.

“I was a few steps away from giving up,” he admitted. But he decided that resigning would be tantamount to dying. “If Iraq were without culture, people would be like animals: the stronger eating the weak. The faster would take out the slow.”

“This war,” he said, “makes hearts like stone.”

NOTE: When I cross-posted this blog on my DailyKos diary a reader added the following current article from Der Spiegel here's an image from the story:

Wild (and free) horses being painted as part of a mural project on "protection walls" placed around the "Green Zone" in Baghdad.
© 2007 Artist Unknown (but pictured).

More Modern Iraqi Art/Artists

Still More Modern Iraqi Art/Artists

Yet more Iraqi art!

Looted Iraq Art Stories:

Fox News engineer steals 12 paintings while "embedded"

Relics slow to surface


Please respect the work of the artists you see here and be sure to credit them when you share their artwork with others.

To share your opinion on this or any other post, please click the word "COMMENTS" below.

New Oath

New Oath Source

I'm still recovering from a terrible cold I caught while up in Seattle last week but I wanted to catch you up on one of the many important (and outrageous) stories oozing out of Washington D.C. this past week:

Cheney and the Battle of Information
House Dems Threaten to Cut Funding as Cheney Continues to Insist His Office is Beyond the Rules of the Executive Branch
By Holly Lang
Posted: 06/26/2007

Vice President Dick Cheney claims his office is part of the legislative branch, not the executive branch, placing him beyond the reach of certain rules requiring him to hand over classified information or to have his office periodically inspected by the National Archives. He is currently in a bit of a stalemate with the National Archives as he has refused to cooperate with that office in connection to classified data. They claim he is in violation of the rules on safeguarding classified information for the executive branch set forth by Bush himself. Cheney claims he isn't violating anything, as he doesn't have to follow those rules.

Constitutionally, he might be right. The only specified role for the vice presidency is to act as president of the Senate. But the man attends White House meetings, has an office there, shares some executive level staff and has a role in White House affairs. But house dems and a whole bunch of other folks feel he is acting irresponsibly by avoiding his responsibilities. The debate is kicking strong and even constitutional experts are split. Representatives for Bush announced via email Sunday their support for Cheney, stating that the president's office agreed Cheney's was not bound to the National Archives' rules, ones that Cheney did once follow, having offered the requested information in both 2001 and 2002 and simply just stopping in 2003.

Recently on MSNBC's shot "Hardball," Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) claimed that if Vice President Cheney wanted to act unaccountable to anyone and that his office was not part of the executive branch, then certain funds allocated by the Senate to Cheney's office should be denied, as it is available only to the executive branch.

"I said if that's your logic, then we should not be funding you through the executive branch. And either Wednesday or Thursday, my amendment will be on the floor because the funding for the executive branch is on the floor. And I'll strike the money for the Vice President's office," Emanuel told "Hardball" host Chris Matthews.

House Democrats -- including Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- back Emanual, who has now drafted a bill to stop spending for Cheney's office. Many news outlets, both mainstream and not, also support the bill, including one political blogger who wrote, "Is this not one of those extraordinary moments when the people's representatives will actually vote on whether to fund the horrific farce that is this administration?"
More Background.

More Background

More, hilariously presented background

Dick Cheney Source
Jon Carroll - San Francisco Chronicle

The phrase that will always be associated with Vice President Dick Cheney is "undisclosed location." Whenever there is a crisis in government, that's where Cheney is. Whenever anyone in Congress needs Cheney to answer questions, he is out at Rancho Undisclosed. Apparently, the undisclosed location is often just his official residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory, but he reflexively does not want that fact revealed.

He doesn't want any facts revealed. He wants to avoid at all costs the notion that he is working for the American people and is thus accountable to them in any way. At a time when governmental transparency is all the rage, he seeks governmental opacity. He's trying for the perks of dictatorship without the requisite infrastructure -- and, most of the time, he's getting those perks. He rules with an iron fist in an iron glove.

His mania for secrecy is unsurpassed. In 2001, he headed a task force to develop energy policy for the then-new Bush administration. The Government Accountability Office sought to know the names of the members of the task force. The vice president said no. His office has refused to comply with ethics laws requiring disclosure of travel paid for by special interests. In 2004, he refused to provide Congress with the names of the people who worked for him. He refused to provide a list of visitors to his official residence.

And now, he has unilaterally exempted his office from rules regarding the safeguarding of classified documents. His justification is that the vice president's office is not an "entity within the executive branch." His reasoning: Because the vice president presides over the Senate when he wants to and breaks ties when he has to, he is really a member of legislative branch -- not that he follows the rules of that branch either. In essence, he is now the fourth branch of government.

Soon, civics classes will be taught a revised version of our precious system of checks and balances. There's the administrative, the legislative, the judicial and the cheney. The exact function and duties of the cheney are unknown. The cheney does not report to the president because that would be a violation of the separation of powers. The cheney just does what it does because it is what it is.

And you'd best not ask questions. When the Information Security Oversight Committee of the National Archives made the initial request for information, the cheney tried to have the committee abolished. The cheney sounds more like a department at Hogwarts than an agency of government. Inside the cheney, all is darkness.

In a related story:

Bush Won't Supply Subpoenaed Documents

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dave the Rave: Political Cartoonist

The New Monica, the New Dress © 2007 David Ravenwood
(click image for larger view)

I wanted to leave you with some witty, sharp political artwork for the next week (more details about where I'm going below). Therefore I'm presenting just a bit of David Ravenwood's (Dave the Rave) wonderful cartooning. I met Dave through DailyKos where we both communicate with like-minded bloggers around the world. David is an "ex-pate" American living in England. He almost always recommends my diaries on DailyKos (which I greatly appreciate) probably because my Pacific Time Zone late night posts show up when he's just waking up over there on the other side of the pond.

This Is What A Torture Victim Looks Like © 2007 David Ravenwood
(click image for larger view)

I especially like his use of the U.S. Constitution in the first two comics, having used that important document myself as creative subject matter. The first one shows Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former assistant (and graduate of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University (Law School) testifying before Congress. Like Bill Clinton's "Monica" this one also wears a dress stained with scandal...only this time it's actually important. The insidious manipulations Gonzales and his fundamentalists mentees have wrought upon the U.S. Justice Department are only now coming to light.

Please visit David's Flickr page (just click on his name under any of the comics here) and I think you will be both entertained and educated. Sometimes the only way to tolerate intolerable news and events is when they're delivered in an irony sandwich. David excels at this and I thank him very much for his work.

Every Single Day © 2007 David Ravenwood
(click image for larger view)

The Iraqnamic Blend-O-matic © 2007 David Ravenwood
(click image for larger view)

Dubya's 7 Year Itch © 2007 David Ravenwood
(click image for larger view)

I'm heading North to Seattle today for the Fremont Fair. Here's a description of this annual event:
June 16-17 (10am-10pm)
Fremont Fair, Solstice Parade and Art Car Show
This is the funkiest event of the entire year, featuring the wacky Solstice Parade at noon on Saturday. The parade is a Mardi Gras like affair, consisting of human-powered floats, bizarre drill teams, giant puppets, assorted strangely costumed characters, and the unsanctioned but traditional slow "streak" of about 150 naked (but beautifully body-painted) nude-bicyclists (there are also a few opportunistic flashers who infiltrate the parade, so parental discretion is advised).This street fair features more unusual craft, art and food booths than most of the other fairs and has an excellent music lineup on 4 stages. The other element that makes the Fremont Fair one of the best events of the year is that Seattle's only annual Art Car show is an integral part of the fair, with about 75 strangely altered/decorated vehicles from all over the country on display all weekend.

Please respect the work of the artists you see here and be sure to credit them when you share their artwork with others.

To share your opinion on this or any other post, please click the word "COMMENTS" below.

Friday, June 08, 2007

I'm Off to the DMV

Chalet LTW "Before" Chalet RV Website

For the last few months I've been taking a break from making political art (creative fatigue) and have instead been painting our little pop-up trailer. It's a purely whimsical, self-indulgent project and until my back waylaid me I was having a ball. I haven't painted in many years and it's been great to get back to it. I use 1-Shot oil-based enamel which is a favorite of ArtCar artists worldwide. The colors are delicious although the paint is filled with lead and other toxins. Working outside in the fresh air of summer makes it manageable without a respirator.

Today I'll be heading to the DMV to pick up the long-awaited custom license plate for our little trailer. The new name is "CANDY HM". You'll soon see why. Here are some in-progress photos:


Candy Home (front in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (front in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (front in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (front in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (front in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy


Candy Home (back in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (back in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (back in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (back in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (back in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy


Candy Home (rear in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (rear in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (left rear in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (center rear in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (right rear in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Candy Home (rear bumper in progress) © 2007 Emily Duffy

Please respect the work of the artists you see here and be sure to credit them when you share their artwork with others.

To share your opinion on this or any other post, please click the word "COMMENTS" below.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Where I've Been


You may have wondered where I've been the past week or so. I've been having to avoid the computer as sitting for more than 10 minutes at-a-time was toooooooo painful. I've been lucky up until now not to have any major back problems but since my ArtCar caravan to Arizona back in February, I've had a recurring pain in my right hip.

I turn 50 this year, (wow, never thought I'd live to write those words) and as is probably quite normal for a "full-figured" woman, I'm starting to have aches and pains. I thought I'd start exercising at a gym (which I hate doing) to try and keep these aging bones in shape. Unfortunately the gym I picked, while convenient, didn't have professional trainers. I hurt myself but good on one of their stupid machines.


After weeks of acupuncture (the absolutely ONLY thing that reduced the inflammation) and very gentle chiropractic (from a doc who works on Olympic team members no less) I'm feeling so much better. They did, unfortunately, find some arthritis at the base of my spine (between the sacrum and pelvis) which isn't good news. But I'm back at Weight Watchers (my 12th time since 1974) and losing weight already. I'll soon start physical therapy via Pilates ordered by my doctor.

So, this is why I've been quiet here on the blog. I didn't intend to share my sob story, especially since it doesn't have anything to do with either politics or art but since it's keeping me from pursuing both of those interests I wanted to say something about it.

The VainVan

I'm also resting up, and preparing for a trip to Seattle. I'll be driving the VainVan up for the annual ArtCar Blow Out (in conjunction with the Fremont Fair). It's loads of fun but an 850 mile drive so I'll be taking lots of breaks along the way and stretching my back out.