Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Human Cost of War

Afghan Bridge © Grace Graupe-Pillard 2005

Grace Graupe-Pillard's artwork deals with something we keep forgetting to remember, that is the human cost of war. Here in the US we've seen very few images of the tens of thousands of people way off in those distant lands that our government has killed, and is still killing on our behalf. It's a painful, ugly truth, yet it's a truth we must own if we are to stop the killing.

We have few visual reminders of it, just as we're not permitted to see the coffins of returning dead American soldiers. We've been separated from the distasteful death and destruction our tax dollars are wreaking upon others. Our powerful leaders learned from past mistakes, (particularly Vietnam) to stifle and control the US media. We, most obligingly, don't really want to see the painful images we know are out there. Yet being the blind, impotent funders of this war-without-end is torturing our souls. The carefully nurtured disconnect Americans feel is dangerous to our future, because we aren't keeping track of what our government is up to in these other countries, and because it dehumanizes us.

Refuges III © Grace Graupe-Pillard 2003

Graupe-Pillard says of her of paintings,
In a world where terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and cultural upheaval have dominated the news headlines, these paintings focus on the devastating effect of war and its impact on the civilian population. Entitled DISPLACED, this series correlates the displacement of civilians in war-torn countries with a visual disintegration of form, evident in both the creative process and in the final painted product. In each painting, the chaos of cultural disintegration is symbolized by the fragmentation of the picture plane. With repeated editing, I appropriate images from journalistic sources, blowing apart the reality of the photograph so that the final result is distilled and disintegrated from its original context, and reduced into unpredictably flatly colored eccentric shapes further emphasizing the fragmentation of form and removal from its original source. The process of translating these manipulated images into oil paintings involves a change in scale, color and texture, portraying a seductive beauty that reflects the political "sanitization" of the horrors of war.

23rd Street Park © Grace Graupe-Pillard

We're told they're other, "they're evil", they want to destroy our freedoms", "they hate our way of life", etc. This is all designed to separate us from the things we all have in common with "our enemy", such as family, work, our homes, celebrations with friends, love, children, school, and so on. All humans share these things, and much more. Those things that divide us are small. The men and women who seem determined to drive us into endless self-fulfilling war are using the most basic of military tools to play up the minute differences between us and non-Americans, "divide and conquer".

...a strategy of gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into chunks that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. In reality, it often refers to a strategy where small power groups are prevented from linking up and becoming more powerful, since it is difficult to break up existing power structures. The phrase comes from the Latin divide et impera, which translates to "divide and rule". Effective use of this technique allows those with little real power to control those who collectively have a lot of power (or would have much more power, were they able to unite).

None of this "game" is a game to those poor souls caught in the middle, the so-called "collateral damage". This is the essential tragedy consistently being ignored by the media, the governmental leaders, and worst of all by you and me. All of this wrangling over land, natural resources, and political control, is brought down upon the heads of those unfortunate enough to live where in a spot that the greedy have targeted for themselves.

Brooklyn Bridge © Grace Graupe-Pillard

In 2003, shortly after the onset of the Iraq War, Grace Graupe-Pillard began working on a series of photographs entitled INTERVENTIONS which she says focus,
... on the horror and human cost of wars being fought in far-off places. These photographs depict images of soldiers, car-bombings, ruins, explosions, and refugees, which are digitally embedded into the familiar streets and parks of New York City, Baltimore and the New Jersey wetlands. Using the computer and digital filters, the implanted imagery often borders on the abstract, with heightened color and kaleidoscopic patterns portraying the ordinariness of our everyday reality blown apart. INTERVENTIONS attempts to make visually evident the ongoing tragic repercussions of war in our own backyard, as well as the equally powerful manipulation of the electorate through the politics of fear.

More of Grace Graupe-Pillard's paintings and photographs

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina Lays Bush's Guilt Bare

Click on image to enlarge.
Bay Saint Louis, MS Alexey Sergeev © February 2, 2006

Because the facts about the remaining devastation from Hurricane Katrina are so powerful, and the glaring ineptitude of the Bush Administration's handling of the disaster (to this very day) are so stark I've decided to use only two sources for today's blog. The images are from a fantastic collection of photographs by a Russian chemistry professor named Alexey Sergeev. I was unable to contact him for permission to use his remarkable images so I hope he approves of this posting. The other source is a surprisingly detailed review, by Associated Press (in USA Today), of the Bush Administration's follow-through on promises made by the President one year ago. Links to both sources are at the bottom of today's post.

NEW!! Mark Fiore's Whoopsi Gras II

A Year After Katrina, Bush
Administration Fulfills Few Promises

8/20/2006 Associated Press
Nearly half of New Orleans was still under water when President Bush stood in the Crescent City's historic Jackson Square and swore he would "do what it takes" to rebuild the communities and lives that had been laid to waste two weeks before by Hurricane Katrina.
"Our goal is to get the work done quickly," the president said.

He promised to spend federal money wisely and accountably. And he vowed to address the poverty exposed by the government's inadequate Katrina response "with bold action."

A year after the storm, the federal government has proven slow and unreliable in keeping the president's promises.

The job of clearing debris left by the storm remains unfinished, and has been plagued by accusations of fraud and price gouging. Tens of thousands of families still live in trailers or mobile homes, with no indication of when or how they will be able to obtain permanent housing. Important decisions about rebuilding and improving flood defenses have been delayed. And little if anything has been done to ensure the welfare of the poor in a rebuilt New Orleans.

How has the government performed in the most critical areas of the recovery and reconstruction effort?

Click on image to enlarge.
Biloxi, MS Alexey Sergeev © April 9, 2006

EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE: A June report by the Government Accountability Office concluded that FEMA wasted between $600 million and $1.4 billion on "improper and potentially fraudulent individual assistance payments."

Government auditors found that debit cards distributed to Katrina victims were used to pay for things like Dom Perignon champagne, New Orleans Saints season tickets and adult-oriented entertainment. The audit also found that people used fictional addresses, fake Social Security numbers and the identities of dead people to fraudulently register for assistance. FEMA also double-deposited funds in the accounts of 5,000 out of the nearly 11,000 debit card holders.

CLEANUP: The job still isn't done. More than 100 million cubic yards of debris have been cleared from the region affected by Katrina. So far the government has spent $3.6 billion, a figure that might have been considerably smaller had the contracts for debris removal been subject to competitive bidding.

Working through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA gave each of four companies contracts worth up to $500 million to clear hurricane debris. This spring government inspectors reported that the companies — AshBritt Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla., Phillips and Jordan Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn., Ceres Environmental Services Inc. of Brooklyn Park, Minn. and ECC Operating Services Inc. of Burlingame, Calif. — charged the government as much as four to six times what they paid their subcontractors who actually did the work.

Click on image to enlarge.
Dead Forest, Bay Saint Louis, MS Alexey Sergeev © April 16, 2006
HOUSING: In his Jackson Square speech, Bush said his goal was to "get people out of shelters by the middle of October."

By and large that goal was met, with all but a few thousand of 270,000 Katrina evacuees out of shelters by mid-October.

But that didn't solve the monumental housing problem created by Katrina. Most of the people who had been in shelters went to hotel rooms, with FEMA picking up the bill. About 50,000 families who had evacuated to other cities were promised a year of rent assistance, though in April FEMA began cutting off some who the agency said did not qualify for the program. More than 100,000 families moved into trailers or mobile homes parked either in the yards of their damaged houses or in makeshift compounds.

Meanwhile, FEMA flailed and flip-flopped on its contracting policies for trailers, mobile homes and other temporary shelter. The first big contracts were handed out non-competitively to four well-connected companies — Shaw Group, Bechtel Corp., CH2M Hill Inc. and Fluor Corp. Then in October FEMA director R. David Paulison promised to rebid the contracts after Congress complained that smaller companies, especially local and minority-owned firms, should have a chance to compete for the work.

A month after that, FEMA said the new contracts would not be awarded until February. That deadline came and went, and then in March a FEMA official announced that the contracts weren't going to be rebid after all.

A week later FEMA reversed itself again, giving up to $3.6 billion in business to small and minority-owned firms.

"I promised Congress I was going to bid them out, and that's what I'm doing," Paulison said.

Click on image to enlarge.
New Orleans Alexey Sergeev © July 2006

REBUILDING: Despite Bush's Jackson Square promise to "undertake a close partnership with the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, the city of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities," state and local officials had a hard time reaching a deal for federal aid to help residents rebuild their ruined homes.

In January the administration rejected a $30 billion plan for Louisiana as too expensive. The White House also balked at subsidizing the reconstruction of homes in flood plains, a policy that would have excluded all but a small fraction of Louisiana homeowners whose houses were significantly damaged.

The state finally won funding in July for the $9 billion 'Road Home' program, which pays homeowners up to $150,000 either to repair their damaged property or rebuild elsewhere in the state. People who leave the state are eligible for a 60% buyout. The money, which is being distributed through escrow accounts to prevent fraud, is just becoming available a year after the hurricane.

Click on image to enlarge.
9th Ward New Orleans Alexey Sergeev © February 2, 2006

LEVEES: The federal government hasn't broken any promises with regard to flood protection — mostly because it has assiduously avoided making any.

White House Katrina recovery czar Donald Powell has said that the administration intends to wait for the completion of a $20 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study, due in December 2007, before it decides whether to enhance the flood protection system in southern Louisiana enough to resist a Category 5 hurricane.

A preliminary draft of the study released in July was widely criticized because it omitted five projects that state officials say should be started right away. At the same time, it focused on a massive levee that would stretch hundreds of miles along the Louisiana coast while paying only lip service to the critical task of shoring up the state's vanishing wetlands, which provide a natural barrier to hurricane flooding.

"We're wasting our time and money and attention contemplating large-scale levees across the entire state," said Tim Searchinger, an attorney with the advocacy group Environmental Defense.

The federal government has committed about $6 billion since Katrina to repair and improve the Big Easy's existing levee system. The first goal was to bring the levee system back to "pre-Katrina" levels by the beginning of the 2006 hurricane season on June 1. That goal was largely achieved. The next step will be to make improvements that will bring the system up to what is variously called Category 3 or 100-year protection by 2010.

But planners and state and local officials say that the levees need to be brought up to Category 5 protection, a level that would cost up to $30 billion, if people are to have confidence moving back to areas destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Click on image to enlarge.
Plaquemines New Orleans Alexey Sergeev © February 5, 2006

POVERTY: Bush offered three proposals in Jackson Square to help combat poverty around the Gulf Coast region. Two of them never went anywhere — the creation of "worker recovery accounts" that would help evacuees find work by paying for school, job training or child care while they looked for employment, and an Urban Homesteading Act that would give poor people building sites for new homes that they would either finance themselves or obtain through programs such as Habitat for Humanity.

A third proposal, the creation of a Gulf Opportunity zone, did come to pass. Signed by President Bush in December, the legislation gives $8.7 billion in tax breaks to developers of low-income housing projects, small businesses and individuals affected not just by Katrina but by hurricanes Rita and Wilma as well. The law also provides debt restructuring for financially troubled local governments in the area.

Alexey Sergeev's
2006 Photos

Full Associated Press Story

How protect the Gulf Coast for the future.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

I Have A Dream!

Martin Luther King Jr. © Chris Crites 2006

Hat tip to the Democratic Party Blog for reminding us that today is the day that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic, "I have a dream" speech in 1963:

...And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

Full speech text and audio file HERE!

Keep Hope Alive!

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What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love & Understanding?

Party © Michael Dal Cerro 2006 (Note: link is slow to load but well worth it).

An Elvis Costello song was running through my mind the other day as I wondered how the idea of peace, love, and understanding became such a joke in America. What a bizarre twist to think of these admirable goals as signs of weakness but isn't that just about where we are today?
As i walk through
This wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity.

I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

And each time i feel like this inside,
There's one thing i wanna know:
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

And as i walked on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

'cause each time i feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

'cause each time i feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

We Live In a Divided Country © Deborah Harris 2006

Upon "losing" the Presidential election to George W. Bush, Senator John Kerry said this,
Earlier today, I spoke to President Bush, and I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory. We had a good conversation and we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need - the desperate need - for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today, I hope that we can begin the healing.

We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and longing for a measure of compassion." - John Kerry, address to supporters at Fanueil Hall, Boston, MA, November 3, 2004

We're Bridging That Gap © Patricia Dahlman 2006 (Note: link is slow to load but well worth it).

Due to the political agenda of recent years Deborah Harris, Michael Dal Cerro, and Patricia Dahlman came together to form The War and Peace Print Project. "We Live In a Divided Country, Try to Bridge That Gap" is a hand made, limited edition (30) book, printed by the artists and bound with a hard back cover. The book is $300. For more information please contact Patricia Dahlman: watpaetki AT aol DOT com.

Mixed Marriage © Michael Dal Cerro 2006 (Note: link is slow to load but well worth it).

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Friday, August 25, 2006

What's In A Frame?

Painting damaged during Katrina undergoing restoration
by the New Orleans Conservation Guild

Sometimes a painting's in a frame and sometimes manipulated words are in a frame.

Wikipedia defines the latter,
In communication theory, and sociology, framing is a process of selective control over media content or public communication. Framing defines how a certain piece of media content or rhetoric is packaged so as to allow certain desirable interpretations and rule out others. Media frames can be created by the mass media or by specific political or social movements or organizations. The concept is generally attributed to the work of Erving Goffman, especially his 1974 book, Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience.

I bring this up because America has two tragic anniversaries coming up in the next two weeks, Hurricane Katrina, and the attacks of September 11, 2001. Major media buys are already in place for both dominant political parties.

George Lakoff is a world renown expert on communication framing particularly in how the right wing political activists have used it to take almost complete control of the U.S. Government. Lakoff says,
Reframing is telling the truth as we see it – telling it forcefully, straightforwardly, articulately, with moral conviction and without hesitation. The language must fit the conceptual reframing — a reframing from the perspective of progressive morality. It is not just a matter of words, though the right words do help evoke a progressive frame: paying their fair share, those who have received more, the infrastructure of wealth, and so on.
Reframing requires a rewiring of the brain. That may take an investment of time, effort, and money. The conservatives have realized that. They made the investment and it is paying off. Moral: The truth alone will not set you free. It has to be framed correctly.

Since the Republican's disastrous "Contract With America" their party has been doing a better job of framing the national debate than any other group. This success in framing has won them control of all three branches of our government. None of this is news but it takes constant vigilance for us to remember what happened, when, and who did what exactly when it comes to the accelerated history we've lived in the past six years. Part of the power of framing comes from distracting the opposition so much that they can't get their bearings in time to defend themselves.

An analogy might be, the American right wing is acting like a pyromaniac, a person who exhibits
... a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 18 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:
*Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
*Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
*Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
*Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.
*Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another. -
in the Sierra Mountains in August. The pyro has a full box of matches and he's setting fires all over the place. By the time the firefighters can reach the first fire, he's set two more. He can't help himself, he's driven by inexplicable inner urges to set fires and will do so until caught and punished.

Our current situation, as you well know, is that we haven't got enough authorities trying to catch and punish the renegade Republicans.

A key part of holding the right wing responsible for their failed political and social policies is making sure you have the facts straight, making sure everyone knows the facts, and pounding them over and over until something gets done about it.

Dangle © Kevin Brett 2006

So with that in mind I present a timeline of Hurricane Katrina as compiled by the excellent non-profit, Think Progress. Please visit the link, save it, circulate it, and read as much of the information as you can, (there's a lot there). Then when you see right wingers re-framing the facts to benefit their own goals, CALL THEM ON IT! That means writing to the media outlet that's allowing them to manipulate the facts and demanding they correct the record. You have the right, and the duty to do this. It's an important aspect of winning our country back.

You can find contact information for most American media outlets HERE.

If you have HBO you should take the opportunity to watch
When the Levees Broke by Spike Lee.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Today Was Weird

Steve Bard's Weird House, Photo credit Marlow Harris

Today I had my first (and hopefully last) colonoscopy. This is one of those lousy things you have to do when you get older. I'm not yet 50 but was having some problems (which I'll spare you the description of) but my doctor went ahead and sent me for one. UGH! That's pretty much the word that covers the entire experience. So, I'm not quite up to my normal blogging activities, and I'm still coming out of the drug stupor I was in most of the day, and I'm still trying to catch up on my eating (they make you fast for 24 hours... oh the inhumanity!) so I'll leave you with this freaky link to explore for today.

Steve Bard is a FAC...(friend of ArtCars) who lives in Seattle, WA and has his own strange obsessions which ArtCar artists understand and empathize with. Steve has an Art House. He's decorated damn near every inch of surface in his house, even ceilings. It's fantastic, frightening, and freaky. Take a look:

Seattle Dream Homes: Steve Bard (scroll down)

Take a virtual tour

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When Politics Turns Your Stomach...

...try to remember why it's important to pry the American Government out of the hands of right wing rapturists.

"To us [is committed] the important task of proving by example that a government, if organized in all its parts on the representative principle, unadulterated by the infusion of spurious elements, if founded not in the fears and follies of man but on his reason, on his sense of right, on the predominance of the social over his dissocial passions, may be so free as to restrain him in no moral right and so firm as to protect him from every moral wrong." --
Thomas Jefferson
to Amos Marsh, 1801. ME 10:292

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale



Osprey © Kevin Brett 2005


Photo credit: California Native Plant Society


Planned Parenthood


Artist Unknown

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Right Wing's "Freedom Agenda" Part II - Iran

The Liberator © Mark Bryan 2004

George W. Bush told us exactly what he intended to do, but we didn't believe him. It was shocking, it was audacious, it was crazy, we thought he was an idiot, but he named the three countries he and his so-called neocon think tankers planned to "democratize"... Iraq, Iran, & Syria. Well whadayaknow, they're actually doing it. We know what happened in Iraq and now we have a lovely civil war there. I'm certain their plans for Iran and Syria will go just as swimmingly.

Back in April of this year, the amazing reporter Seymour Hersh, of The New Yorker, wrote an indepth report about how America's radical right wing made elaborate plans to "democratize" the Middle East way back in the 1990s and now that they've managed to grab a stranglehold on all three branches of the US government, they're moving full steam ahead with those plans.

This week on CNN, Hersh explained that there has long been a plan arranged with Israel, a hair-trigger if you will, that was set to go off at any provocation. Hezbollah and Israel have been taking pot-shots at each other for years without major consequence. Last month the Lebanese, most of the rest of the world, and especially Hezbollah were all taken by surprise at Israel's full-scale war reaction to two of its soldiers being abducted.

So what is this all really about? Could it simply be greed and an unquenchable thirst for supreme power? Is that what America will come down to? Yes, apparently, that is if we, you and me, our family, friends, and neighbors, continue to sit by wringing our hands, watching reality TV, self-medicating and whining about having no power.

Addicted To War © Joel Andreas 2004

While we still do have power... and brother-sister we still do... we'd better wise up and use it. Here's a few ways how:

1) Swallow the fear, open your eyes, and read everything you can get your hands on about what's happening in and outside America. This article, which spells out the right wing's freaky plan, is a good start.

2) Talk to everyone you know about what you learn, stay in touch, share information, organize one of the groups in your life (neighborhood, family, friends, hobby group, etc.) into an action team. If you have no friends, family or neighbors (oh come on!!!), you can always join's virtual phone bank project.

3) Find at least one progressive candidate for US Congress who you support, and send them money ($5 will even do), make phone calls for their campaign, lick envelopes, hang voting cards, etc., between now and the November 7th election. Or help register voters (absentee if your community has touch-screen voting machines, especially Diebold).

4) Stop giving your money to corporations who are profiting from the Bush war plan. You can find lists of these companies in several places, one of which donates money to right wingers.

Holy Wars © Mark Bryan 1998

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Spank the Donkey!

Pat Oliphant © 2006
Wild and ugly rumors of the possibility of success have been causing consternation in donkey world.

How many times since November 2000 have you asked yourself, "What the hell is wrong with the Democrats?" I've made myself sick asking that question because I still don't know the definitive answer and we're up to our necks in elephant crap.

Here we are, two weeks after progressive Ned Lamont won the Democratic nomination in Connecticut (beating Joe Lieberman) and there are currently 6 Democratic senators refusing to endorse the duly elected candidate FOR THEIR OWN DAMN PARTY! Additionally there are 10 who CAN'T DECIDE WHICH OF THE TWO TO SUPPORT?!!??

So, dear visitor, it's up to let these FOOLS know that they're not doing their job, and we're not happy about it. If you recognize any of these dolts as one (or saints preserve us, two) of your Senators please contact them first thing tomorrow (Monday) morning and tell them to get behind Lamont IMMEDIATELY!

The toll-free number for the Capitol: 888-355-3588. Ask for your Senator's office. When you're connected, be sure to tell them you're a constituent, they tally these things.


Thankfully there are 27 Democratic Senators who openly support fellow Democrat Lamont who again, was DULY ELECTED by the Democratic voters of Connecticut to be their candidate. If you recognize any of these Senators as your own, drop them a line thanking them for representing you well on this issue, and to keep up the good PROGRESSIVE work:

Speical thanks to Bob Geiger for tracking this important story. He does regular updates on his blog Bob Geiger's blog

Friday, August 18, 2006

Propaganda Antidote: Guest Artist Doug Minkler

Artburn © Doug Minkler 2005

Poster Text: Artburn-- Artist's indigestion: caused by an overindulgence in aesthetics and a belief in the myth of "neutral or non-political art". Relief comes from an acknowledgement of the political function of art coupled with a balance of aesthetics and usefulness in the development of a healthy democratic society.

Printmaker Doug Minkler has been creating political artwork for decades. His powerful images, incisive text, and subject matter get right to the heart of the issue he's focused on. Doug also believes in the shareware concept and encourages free downloading, printing, and distribution of his poster art. What better way to circulate propoganda antidote? Minkler believes that artists have a unique and essential part to play in shaping political dialog.

Mayakovski: Art is a Hammer © Doug Minkler 2006

Minkler goes on to list what he considers the essential tasks an artist should undertake in times just like we're living through right now,

The Artist Role in Time of War

1. Support people of conscience (war resisters,
whistle blowers, freedom fighters).

2. Criticize life-threatening government policy
(imperial wars, social services cut, homeland security laws).

3. Expose the media's role in the lies
(scapegoating immigrants, corporate control, censorship).

4. Propose solutions (internationalism,
fair trade, environmental justice).

5. Question all norms and protocols
and Create as if your life depended on it.

Minkler calls all artists to this urgent task, even those who try to insulate themselves within their studios,

As for contemporary artists who have never raised their brushes in self-defense or in the defense of others, I would like to encourage you to lend your specific talents to envisioning a better future. Many artist friends have responded to this call by claiming that their form of expression is not suited to the requirements of effective propaganda, but this excuse is usually not founded in history. Artists of all stripes as unlikely as Mark Chagall, Joan Miro, Alice Neal and Jackson Pollock have all made artistic contributions to social struggles. Often the artist least expected to respond politically creates the most influential work. Other reluctant artists have told me that they did not feel qualified to design the future. They prefer to leave that job to more knowledgeable or politically aware persons. But this kind of abrogation of civic responsibility is characteristic of what has contributed to the demise of our democracy. The ominous proliferation of nuclear weapons and life-threatening environmental degradation proves that the policy of non-involvement is not working. It is paramount that we all take part in shaping the future.

Artists, in general, are resourceful, have a healthy intellectual curiosity, value justice and are highly suspicious of dogma. Although many do not publicly espouse their beliefs, they usually possess sound values--share the wealth, protect our natural resources, make love not war. We have developed our expressive skills and often view the world from a unique vantage point. This artistic perspective, often coming from our deep unconscious, can provide insights crucial to motivating, informing and problem solving.

At this time in history, the survival of our species is dependent on learning how to cooperate. Our enemies, who profit from capitalism, racism, and war, will try to mislead us, distract us, divide us, and destroy our organizations. Our job as artists is to create images that expose the ugliness of the exploiters but equally important, we must show viable alternatives to a better future.

Full Essay Here

Terrorists Wear Suits© Doug Minkler 2003
Poster Text: U.S. Corporations secretly sell brutal dictators everything from biochemical weapons to instruments of torture. U.S. companies illegally armed Saddam Hussein, in violation of international arms treaties.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

And What About Cindy?

Cindy Sheehan, flanked by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Hart Viges(L) and Charles Anderson(R), speaks during a press conference at her makeshift camp near the ranch of US President George W. Bush in Crawford.
Photo: Mandel Ngan

Conscientious Objectors

Voices of Activism: Crawford © Unconditional Theatre 2006

Contra Costa Times
Sunday Aug. 13, 2006

Cindy Sheehan returned to Texas on Friday after a few days in Seattle at the Veterans for Peace convention. She planned to resume the war protest she started Aug. 6, the first anniversary of the beginning of her 26-day peace vigil that drew thousands of anti-war demonstrators and spurred counter demonstrations by Bush supporters.


Sheehan paid for a 5-acre lot about 7 miles from Bush's ranch last month so protesters would have a place to gather while the president is at his ranch. Last year, she started out camped in ditches along the road leading to Bush's ranch, until county officials banned roadside parking and camping. A sympathetic landowner then let the group gather on his 1-acre lot near the ranch.

Last summer millions of people around the world tracked the story of Cindy Sheehan, distraught mother of a soldier killed in the early part of the Iraq war. Thousands more showed up in Crawford to help her protest, and mourn her loss, and the disasterous war.

Members of Unconditional Theatre traveled to Crawford, Texas, to interview people on all sides of the anti-war protests. The resulting documentary play traces the journeys of some surprising activists who stepped out of their comfort zones to get involved. It includes the voices of Camp Casey founders, soldiers who turned against the war, first-time activists, religious progressives, and counter-protesters from the "other side of the road". Every word comes from the actual people they met in Crawford.

Director John Warren has written an essay called The Wisdom of Crawford (pdf) which describes the company's experiences and the evolution of this theatre piece.

If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area you can see this fascinating study of history in the making.

Evenings of Documentary Theatre, Storytelling and Dialogue

Created & Directed by John Warren
Based on interviews conducted by Ashley Boyd, Kim Fowler, & John Warren

Featuring Joan Bernier, Susan Brashear, Tom Darci, Brady Gill, Jennifer Gordon, Karen Hester, Jay Martin, Tom Parker, Peter Schmuckal, Valerie Weak, & Jordan Winer

Friday August 25th, 7:30pm
Temescal Creek Co-Housing, 322 45th St, Oakland, California

Wednesday August 30th, 7:30pm
La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, California

Thursday August 31st, 7:30pm
Tam High School's Ruby Scott Theatre, 700 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, California

Admission $2-$20 (sliding scale)
Advance reservations not necessary
Phone: (510) 883-1877

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

For the Birds

For the Birds © Marilyn Dreampeace & Shalom Compost
Photo by The Orange Show

Painted by Kelly Lyles
Photo by Emily Duffy

Photo by Paul McRae

This is a cross-purpose posting. It involves birds, ArtCars, a painter, and a political campaign.

"For the Birds" is the name of the Prius Hybrid (or HyBird as they're now calling it) that Santa Cruz, CA residents Marilyn Dreampeace and Shalom Compost (yes, their real names) own. The two commissioned Seattle, WA painter and ArtCar creator Kelly Lyles to paint the Prius for them.

This car literally IS for the birds in that it produces less than 1/2 as much CO2 emissions as a regular car of its size. It also gets up to 55MPG. That's a huge savings and it's good for the environment...but how much does a hybrid car cost? Not so much actually, $21,725 compared to a Nissan Sentra at $18,100 and 28MPG!

So why is any of this important? Well, aside from the price of gas in California ($3.19 down the street from my house), have you seen the list of endangered species in California lately?

Bald Eagles, Brown Pelicans, Western Snowy Plover, Short-tailed Albatross, are on the list with over a hundred more creatures. We Californians have a unique opportunity to repair this environmental damage politically this November 7th.

One of the most heinous, corrupt, nature-hating, right-wing Republicans in the US House of Representatives (Richard Pombo) is finally, FINALLY being challenged by a terrific progressive candidate, Jerry McNerney in California's 11th district. McNerney has been endorsed by Wes Clark, and by Pombo's Republican primary challanger, Pete McCloskey, Democracy for America, and several "Netroots" groups such as MyDD, and DailyKos.

This gerrymandered district encompasses parts of Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and San Joaquin Counties. There are more registered Republicans there than Democrats (158,000 Reps vs. 132,000 Dems) but there are more than 66,000 Greens, Independents, and Undeclared voters there as well.

Richard Pombo has been a longtime recipient of money from indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff:
Earlier this year, Pombo solidified his relationship with the Republican majority leader to whom he owes his chairmanship. In January, Pombo and fellow Central Valley Republican John Doolittle worked behind the scenes with other House Republican leaders to alter House Ethics Committee rules in order to protect DeLay from further investigation by the Ethics Committee, which already had admonished him. DeLay has been under scrutiny for receiving gifts and travel from Jack Abramoff, a former powerhouse Washington lobbyist for Native American tribes. Abramoff, who was indicted by a Fort Lauderdale federal grand jury on fraud charges in early August, also has donated $7,000 to Pombo's political action committee -- RICH PAC.
Pombo exposé

So, how can you, Lisa or Larry Liberal, do something for the birds?

1) Stop driving your car so much!

2) If you can, buy a Hybrid (a real one not a "performance Hybrid" from Ford, that's crap).

3) Do something to support Jerry McNerney's campaign against Richard Pombo (who says he wants to drill for oil in the Alaskan wilderness, outlaw abortion, ban same-sex marriage, and kill the Endangered Species Act).

4) And finally, do something for your soul. You can see "For the Birds" along with more than 80 other fantastic, original, creative, ArtCars September 14-17th in the San Francisco Bay Area! It's ArtCar Fest's 10th Year!

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How to Make Peace

Shalom Salaam © Kevin Brett 2006

One © Kevin Brett 2006

The art of compromise as explained in part by Beyond Intractability
...compromise is perceived differently in different cultures. In the United States, compromising is sometimes seen as bad, as it is seen as losing something or giving in. That is precisely why some American critics believe it is a bad approach. On the other hand, some traditional societies, such as the traditional Hawaiian culture, see compromise as a healthy way to end conflict. In the Hawaiian tradition, compromise focuses on restoring relationships damaged by conflict, which is generally considered more important than how much of a fixed pie each side will get. The primacy of relationships over substance is common in many societies, which may encourage compromise when core values or needs are not at stake.

Peace Activist Ron Greenstein asks,
How far has being right gotten either side in the Arab versus Israeli feud? Both sides perspectives on history legitimize their motivations. Both sides espouse rationale that they are the victims of evil and injustice. Both sides find popular support for their claim that their own aggressive, destructive behavior is appropriate to the circumstances. And both pray in earnest to the One God for victory over, and protection from, their enemy. What a predicament! Maybe being right should not be so highly valued or be taken too seriously.

A better way, the tried (little tried, but tried) and true method for vanquishing an enemy is to make him your friend. What magic is there that will make him treat you like you were his friend? Ah, you have already guessed--tenaciously treat him the way you would want your friend to treat you, BUT, most importantly, do not allow his poor behavior toward you to undermine your resolve. This may even involve the use of violence to prevent your "friend" from harming you or others, but without doing harm to him out of anger or hatred. Would you not want your friend to do their best to minimize the damage you might be inflicting by regrettable actions.

You might be thinking that this idea is crazy, dishonest or unnatural. In response, I would say that blowing up your neighbors so you can finally live in peace is far crazier. As regards honesty, this is a different order of honesty, one that seeks to uplift others at the expense of one’s own satisfaction. I suppose though that it is true to say that this concept is unnatural, but after it is practiced, one might find it to be supernatural.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Cease Fire

Shalom © Charlie Milgrim 2006

Two BBC News reporters. One in Lebanon, the other in Israel:


It is very quiet. I can hear the sea. People are starting to come out into the sunshine for the first time in a month.

There are a few people remaining in the area. They are looking relaxed and one or two others have started to return.

We have been told that down on the main bridge over the Litani River, on the coastal road that links the south of Lebanon with the north, there is a big bottleneck of traffic apparently trying to come back into the area.

We have had no reports of any hostilities since the ceasefire came into effect at 0800 local time (0500 GMT).

The Unifil spokesman told me that the UN force in the area has had no reports of any hostile activities at all so far.

On the ground here, one has a feeling that confidence is growing.

People are starting to come out and assess the damage. In some places, bulldozers are even starting to clear some of the debris away.

In Tibnine, in the centre of town, there is a scene of devastation next to the hospital on the main road.

There are a dozen burnt-out vehicles from an Israeli artillery bombardment on Sunday, which caused a huge fire next to the hospital.

In one shattered building the body of a woman wrapped in plastic lay under a gilt chandelier

All the way along the road, up through the villages from Tyre, there are similar scenes of devastation.

One building is still burning and there are many smashed buildings along the way.

The roads have huge holes and craters in them. Many with cars that have driven into them at speed.

Further on in Bint Jbeil, the scene of heavy fighting in which nine Israeli soldiers were killed, [there is] a scene of utter devastation with few signs of life.

In one shattered building the body of a woman wrapped in plastic lay under a gilt chandelier. She had been there for two weeks.

It will be clearly some time before life returns to this desolate place - once a bustling market town for the whole region.


It is astonishingly quiet. We could hear a lot of birdsong this morning as well as the wind.

I think I also heard a lawnmower earlier.

It has been a very loud night. Israel fired artillery shells over the hills in front of me towards Lebanon.

Six minutes before the truce began, I heard three final booms, one after another, but from 0800 local time (0500 GMT) onwards I have heard nothing more.

Still, there is no great sense that the conflict has ended.

It is still very, very empty here.

Israelis are not yet willing to drive up from central Israel to check things out. They want to see how the ceasefire holds before they risk coming back to live in northern Israel.

For now, Israel's cannons still point in the direction of Lebanon and thousands of Israeli soldiers are still inside Lebanese territory.

Israel says they will only leave when a robust international force comes in to take over and that could take 10 days.

Plenty could go wrong before then.
Full Article Here

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

It's Sunday So I'm-A-Preachin

Constitutional DoubleCross © Emily Duffy 2006
Photo by Sibila Savage

This piece is made from shredded replicas of the US Constitution which were woven into a Christian cross. A shadow layer is woven from shredded newsclippings about the 2000 Presidential election, and the build-up, and execution, of the Iraq war in 2003/present. The sides of the frame are collaged with more newsclippings. The DoubleCross floats on a blood-red velvet background (which mostly shows up as black in these jpegs). Dimensions: 58.75" x 41.25" x 8".

Detail: Constitutional DoubleCross © Emily Duffy 2006
Photo by Sibila Savage

Detail: Constitutional DoubleCross © Emily Duffy 2006
Photo by Sibila Savage

Detail: Constitutional DoubleCross © Emily Duffy 2006
Photo by Sibila Savage

Here are some wise words but you'll never guess the source of them,
America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,... America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

Reverand Gregory A. Boyd, preacher at a Christian Fundementalist "mega" church in Minnesota said that shockingly liberal paragraph during one of several sermons he gave in July 2006.

Detail: Constitutional DoubleCross © Emily Duffy 2006
Photo by Sibila Savage

From the Amherst Times:
Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing — and the church’s — to conservative political candidates and causes.

The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute “voters’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?

After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

Detail: Constitutional DoubleCross © Emily Duffy 2006
Photo by Sibila Savage

Full Article Here

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Guest Artist: Charlie Milgrim Revisits The Blog

Imperialist Jello © Charlie Milgrim 2006

Detail: Imperialist Jello © Charlie Milgrim 2006

You'll find Charlie's other work posted HERE

Charlie Milgrim Bio:

I grew up in New York City, where I was visually bombarded by aggressive commercial images. In my artwork I appropriate those early visceral impressions and re-contextualize them for political dialog.

I moved to the seismically unstable San Francisco Bay Area and have responded by working with materials that harness gravity as an active element. My installations function as ominously mocking conceptual reminders of destructive forces, both natural and political.

I attended the California College of the Arts for my BFA and UC Berkeley for my MFA. I currently teach high school art and enthusiastically co-sponsor my schools Peace Club.

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