Tuesday, June 29

A Supreme Court Dialogue - Due Process

A Supreme Court Dialogue : " I think Hamdi is even more significant than the Guantanamo cases. Sure, the court held that there was a category of 'enemy combatants' that could be detained on executive order, but it is described—repeatedly—as a 'narrow category,' apparently limited those captured individuals who would otherwise be 'returning to the field of battle and taking up arms once again.' Well, of course! How could it be otherwise? Surely no president would even be required to return an enemy combatant into an active shooting war. More significant is the statement of what the category of 'enemy combatant' may not include: 'We agree [with Hamdi] that indefinite detention for the purpose of interrogation is not authorized.' Of greatest significance, however, is the ruling on the amount of due process to determine whether a given individual is in fact an enemy combatant and is in fact being held for the narrow legitimate purpose for which an 'enemy combatant' can be held. Because 'the risk of erroneous deprivation of a citizen's liberty in the absence of sufficient process here is very real,' a citizen seeking to challenge his classification must have notice 'and a fair opportunity to rebut the Government's factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker.'

That is a major decision."

A Supreme Court Dialogue - Pornography

A Supreme Court Dialogue: "The decision today in the Internet porn case feels somewhat anticlimactic after all the big questions yesterday. Here Justice Anthony Kennedy is upholding the 3rd Circuit's injunction of the Child Online Protection Act because the statute still likely sweeps in too much constitutionally protected speech in its ban on smut. In another one of those hilarious forays into deconstructing the implications of modern technology, Kennedy suggests that filtering technology has come a long way, baby, and that it would be a good idea if everyone could update the record to reflect the ways in which new technology might obviate the need for this legislation. Of course, everybody seems to acknowledge that this is a case in which technology will always lap the justice system as the case boings back and forth between the courts. The question is whether we keep insisting the law catch up or concede that it's done its level best. The Supreme Court has now heard this case three times. Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent points out that he isn't even certain what's left to be litigated down in the lower courts. By the time they finally decide all this stuff on the merits, we'll be e-mailing each other from wee Blackberries that have been surgically implanted in our eyebrows. And what we now consider porn, will be playing on Saturday morning children's television."

Bush's Rating Falls to Its Lowest Point

Bush's Rating Falls to Its Lowest Point: "The 42 percent of Americans who say they approve of the way Mr. Bush is handling his job is the lowest such figure in a Times/CBS News survey since the beginning of Mr. Bush's presidency in January 2001; 51 percent say they disapprove.

Over the past 25 years, according to pollsters, presidents with job approval ratings below 50 percent in the spring of election years have generally gone on to lose. "

Monday, June 28

'Fahrenheit 9/11' breaks records - Jun 27, 2004

Even releasing at R (instead of PG-13, which would have drawn greater numbers) 'Fahrenheit 9/11' breaks documentary records: "I want to thank all the right-wing organizations out there who tried to stop the film, either from their harassment campaign that didn't work on the theater owners, or going to the FEC to get our ads removed from television, to all the things that have been said on television,' Moore said. 'It's only encouraged more people to go and see it."

'Fahrenheit 9/11' review

Current CIA insider slams Bush antiterror policies

CNN: CIA insider slams Bush antiterror policies: "Written by a high-level counterterrorism expert and published under the name 'Anonymous,' the book 'Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror' is unique in that it was written by an official still working for the CIA.

the author was unsparing in his criticism of the Bush administration's decision to wait a month after the September 11, 2001, attacks before going to war in Afghanistan. "If you were going to hit them, sir, you had to hit them on the 11th or the 12th or the 13th.' 'By the time the 7th of October rolled along, most of those forces had been dispersed into the countryside, into Pakistan, into Iran, overseas to other countries. There was no 'there' left when we went there,' he said.

In his book, the author labeled the invasion of Iraq a 'Christmas gift' to Osama bin Laden and said the country has become a 'Mujahadeen magnet' attracting Muslims from around the world to fight the occupying U.S. forces."

Sunday, June 27

Democrats not religious enough? - UPDATE

I usually despise David Brooks's NYT columns. He's neither smart, nor funny, and often he's wildly off the mark. But his recent column has me worried, because it seems fairly convincing, and entirely frightening. In a nutshell, he claims that Kerry - or any other democrat who does not "exude religiosity" from every pore of his being - will never have a chance of winning the presidency in a country where the vast majority of people are terribly invested in organized religion. Bill Clinton paraded his baptist faith and won the evalgelical vote in 1992 and 1996. A Matter of Faith

UPDATE - what a loser! In his latest column, Brooks admits that he got the numbers wrong: Clinton won handsomely in 1992 and 1996 WITHOUT winning the evalgelical vote, which blows away his entire argument, and causes me great relief. And to think that most reviews thought that Brooks' writing was sloppy BEFORE this...

BTW - I think the newest summer sport has to be watching conservative commentators go apoplectic over Moore's F9/11. The funnest thing is that Brooks (like the rest) has no idea what to say, seeing that it uses precisely the same kind of pseudo-intellectual shock-tactics they thought they had all to themselves. Listening to the author of "On Paradise Drive" and "Bobos in Paradise" accuse OTHERS of not producing sufficiently complex, thoughtful, and reasoned analysis is indeed laughable. I think these commentators are not as worried about Moore's progressive ideas as they are LOSING MARKETSHARE now that there's a progressive voice entering the mass media.

Ronald P. Reagan: Like Father, Unlike Son

Ronald P. Reagan: The Son Also Rises:

"Do you and your wife, Doria, have children?
No. We have three cats. It's like having children, but there is no tuition involved."

Moore vs. Ashcroft

"Those who find Michael Moore's propaganda hard to take can luxuriate in the knowledge that the only office he's likely ever to run for is Best Director. The idea that Mr. Ashcroft might be the guy standing between us and Armageddon, on the other hand, is already a reality and scarier than anything in 'The Day After Tomorrow."

Goebbels is in fashion everywhere these days. As Mr. Moore implies that the Bush administration is in cahoots with the native country of 15 of the 9/11 hijackers, so the Bush administration has itself used a sustained campaign of insinuation to float the false claim that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with those hijackers, too. As Mr. Moore seeks to shape the story of what happened on 9/11, so the White House, President Bush included, collaborated on a movie project with the same partisan intent, "D.C. 9/11: Time of Crisis," seen on Showtime last fall. Instead of depicting Mr. Bush as continuing to read "My Pet Goat" to second graders for nearly seven minutes while the World Trade Center burned (as "Fahrenheit 9/11" does), "D.C. 9/11" showed the president (played by Timothy Bottoms) barking out take-charge lines like "If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come on over and get me — I'll be home!"

In this fierce propaganda battle over the war on terrorism, the administration has been battling longer and harder than Michael Moore. And in John Ashcroft it has an even bigger camera hog in the starring role — no mean feat.

Frank Rich: The Best Goebbels of All?:

John Kerry's Big Screen Test

'It is very, very difficult for any piece of art to change people's opinions,' Mr. Butler said when asked what he is always asked these days, which is whether he is out to influence the election. 'Did `Bowling for Columbine' change anyone's view on gun control?' Then he acknowledged that 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and 'The China Syndrome' did sway public opinion. Then he pointed out that in the wake of his own 'Pumping Iron' film, 100,000 gyms opened across the country.

John Kerry's Big Screen Test:

Friday, June 25

Cass Sunstein on FDR's unfinished revolution

"We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all -- regardless of station, race, or creed." -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Next month's Democratic Convention will be held at one of the most remarkable times in American history. After a burst of creativity during the Reagan era, the nation's conservatives are intellectually exhausted. Preoccupied by terrorism and obsessed by tax cuts, Republican leaders have resorted to self-congratulatory displays of patriotism and demonization of their political opponents. For their part, Democrats have an extraordinary opportunity to think ambitiously -- one that they would be wise to seize rather than squander...

On Jan. 11, 1944, the war against fascism was going well, and the real question was the nature of the peace. At noon, Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union address to Congress. "This Nation in the past two years has become an active partner in the world's greatest war against human slavery." And as a result of that partnership, the war was being won. He continued, "But I do not think that any of us Americans can be content with mere survival ... The one supreme objective for the future ... can be summed up in one word: Security." Roosevelt argued that security "means not only physical security which provides safety from attacks by aggressors" but "also economic security, social security, moral security." Roosevelt insisted that "essential to peace is a decent standard of living for all individual men and women and children in all nations. Freedom from fear is eternally linked with freedom from want."

Directly linking international concerns to domestic affairs, Roosevelt emphasized the need for a "realistic tax law -- which will tax all unreasonable profits, both individual and corporate, and reduce the ultimate cost of the war to our sons and daughters." He stressed that the nation "cannot be content, no matter how high the general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people -- whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth -- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure."

At this point Roosevelt became stunningly bold and ambitious. He looked back, not entirely approvingly, to the framing of the U.S. Constitution. At its inception, he said, the nation had grown "under the protection of certain inalienable political rights -- among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures." But over time, these rights had proved inadequate: "We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence ... In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all -- regardless of station, race, or creed."

Then he listed the bill's eight rights:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries, shops, farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food, clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return that will provide a decent living;

The right of every business, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment; and

The right to a good education.

Roosevelt added that these "rights spell 'security'" -- the "one word" that captured the overriding objective for the future. Recognizing that the second Bill of Rights was continuous with the war effort, he said, "After this war is won, we must be prepared to move forward in the implementation of these rights ... America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world."

Salon.com | "Think ambitiously"

There is an interview with Sunstein here:

FDR's unfinished revolution: " there has been talk in Federalist Society circles of the 'Constitution-in-Exile,' which is the pre-Roosevelt Constitution. The Constitution-in-Exile is thought by many Bush supporters to be the real Constitution. That's why it's the Constitution-in-Exile, and why it has to be restored to the throne... If you look at the pre-Roosevelt Constitution, which had very limited powers for Congress, no protection against sex discrimination, no right of privacy, no civil rights statutes -- and, probably, those would be viewed as beyond Congress' power in 1928 or so -- movements in that direction are certainly sought by many prominent people in the Bush administration.

And that leads to a larger point about Roosevelt's speech and your book. In arguing for government-guaranteed rights to a job, to education, to healthcare -- even to recreation -- both the speech and the book espouse a brand of liberalism that isn't particularly fashionable today. Even if Kerry wins in November, and even if he gets to appoint a few Supreme Court justices, it still seems unlikely that we'll see a major push toward these rights.

That's right. The candidate who was speaking most in Roosevelt's terms in the election was John Edwards. He often sounded like Roosevelt when he talked about there being 'two Americas' and 43 million people who lack healthcare. Roosevelt said, you know, 'I see one-third of the nation ill-clothed, ill-nourished and ill-housed,' and this is unacceptable."

Thursday, June 24

What is the Purpose of Affirmative Action?

New York Times: Top Colleges Take More Blacks, but Which Ones?

"You need a philosophical discussion about what are the aims of affirmative action,'' Professor Waters said. "If it's about getting black faces at Harvard, then you're doing fine. If it's about making up for 200 to 500 years of slavery in this country and its aftermath, then you're not doing well. And if it's about having diversity that includes African-Americans from the South or from inner-city high schools, then you're not doing well, either"

"This is about the kids of recent arrivals beating out the black indigenous middle-class kids," said Professor Gates, who plans to assemble a study group on the subject. "We need to learn what the immigrants' kids have so we can bottle it and sell it, because many members of the African-American community, particularly among the chronically poor, have lost that sense of purpose and values which produced our generation."

Wednesday, June 23

Trotsky - the unrespected Prophet

A lengthy review in the Atlantic of three intellectual biographies of Trotsky, by Christopher Hitchens.

Online archives run by universities struggle to attract material

Papers Wanted:

"An ambitious effort by MIT to build a free electronic archive of the scholarship the institute produces has hit a snag. Released in November 2002, the archive, DSpace, was seen by many in academe as a beacon for open-access scholarship. It would promote collaboration among researchers, spark ideas for new studies, and make MIT's intellectual output freely available to the world. If such archives arose at other colleges, proponents argued, they could eventually offer an alternative to high-priced scholarly journals.

But the enterprise has failed to catch on with many of MIT's own professors, who have been asked to voluntarily place their research papers, data sets, and journal articles into the archive. University officials had hoped to have as many as 5,000 items in the archive by the fall of 2003. But now -- eight months after that deadline -- the archive contains only 3,911 items. And of the more than 100 research units at MIT that can contribute to DSpace, whose name means "digital space," only nine have.

In 2002, when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology started DSpace, its online archive of MIT scholars' research, about 90 professors were asked their concerns about placing their work in the collection. Below are the percentages of respondents who chose each concern as one of their top three:

Prefer that only formally published works be available for public consumption 50%

Worry that publishing a paper in MIT's archive might constitute prior publication and prevent submission of the work to journals 48%

Hesitant to assign distribution rights for scholarly works to MIT 46%

Hesitant to submit work to a repository that lacks a formal review policy or other quality-control process 23%"

Against Happiness?

There's a short and interesting in the Times (if not terribly insightful) article questioning the Ethical Worth of Happiness.

Sad people are nice. Angry people are nasty. And, oddly enough, happy people tend to be nasty, too. Such (allowing for a little journalistic caricature) were the findings reported in last month's issue of Psychological Science. Researchers found that angry people are more likely to make negative evaluations when judging members of other social groups. That, perhaps, will not come as a great surprise. But the same seems to be true of happy people, the researchers noted. The happier your mood, the more liable you are to make bigoted judgments -- like deciding that someone is guilty of a crime simply because he's a member of a minority group. Why? Nobody's sure. One interesting hypothesis, though, is that happy people have an ''everything is fine'' attitude that reduces the motivation for analytical thought. So they fall back on stereotypes -- including malicious ones.

The news that a little evil lurks inside happiness is disquieting. After all, we live in a nation whose founding document holds the pursuit of happiness to be a God-given right. True to that principle, the United States consistently ranks near the top in international surveys of happiness."

Saturday, June 19

Trial centers on blasphemy in Moscow art exhibit

I referred to this controversy several weeks ago in "art attacked - physically." This is an update from the International Herald Tribune, June 16, 2004

MOSCOW: A prominent Russian human rights advocate and two other defendants went on trial Tuesday, accused of organizing a blasphemous exhibit. Their lawyers said the charges were so vague it was impossible to answer them. Yuri Samodurov, who manages Moscow's Andrei Sakharov Museum, faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 500,000 rubles, or about $17,000, if found guilty of inciting religious hatred. He and the two others - Lyudmila Vasilovskaya, who works at the museum, and Anna Mikhalchuk, an artist - organized an exhibit in January 2003 called Caution, Religion.

Defense lawyers told the Taganka district court that the accusations failed to pinpoint which art works incited religious hatred and against whom and why. The defense also said that at the time of the exhibit, inciting religious hatred was not yet stipulated in law. All three defendants pleaded not guilty. Samodurov said the exhibit had no ill intent and its aim was twofold: advocating respect toward religion and cautioning against religious fanaticism. The exhibited works by about 40 artists...

Four days after its opening, the exhibit was vandalized. Six suspects were detained and charged with hooliganism, but after a publicity campaign conducted by a Russian Orthodox priest, the charges were dropped. 'A number of the works were outright explicit,' Vladimir Sergeyev, one of the people accused of vandalizing the exhibit, said outside the courthouse. 'They were playing with holy icons and to me, as a religious person, they insulted not even just my father but the Holy Father.' Russia's lower house of Parliament petitioned the prosecutor-general's office 'to take the necessary measures' against the exhibit organizers.

The Sakharov Museum claimed the trial was punishment for its long campaign against the war in Chechnya, which Russian troops have fought for most of the past decade. The museum was founded to promote democracy and human rights.

"I'm not a fan of Feminism"

In written responses to the question "Are you a feminist?" all of my male students, and most of the women, answered no. But many of the women's responses were followed by "but." They wrote, "No, but I don't think it is right about the different standards," and "No, but I do believe in some of their beliefs about equality," and "I believe in women's rights, but I am not as headstrong as some people." Of the "yes" answers, one added "I guess," and another wrote, "I'm not going to burn my bra or anything."

When I read that last one, I started to think about where students get their ideas about feminism. In the news media they hear debates questioning whether Madonna is a feminist, which is a whole lot sexier than wondering why only 20 states have laws requiring insurers or employers to cover prescription contraceptives when other prescriptions are covered. And, no doubt, Rush Limbaugh ranting about "feminazis" is far more quotable than a working mother talking about her search for good day care.

The work of feminism comes to these students in bits and pieces for which they have no context. They've heard Geraldine Ferraro's name, but they don't seem bothered that it has taken their whole lives for the appearance of another serious female presidential or vice-presidential candidate. While they are taught more about women than was any past generation, they aren't taught about feminism as a movement, as the evolution of political and social thought and action.

Students can name a few plot points and characters in the history of feminism, but they miss its themes and deeper meaning. They might read about the Seneca Falls convention, or about Eleanor Roosevelt or Sandra Day O'Connor. But those are blips on the cultural radar, photos in the history books, distinct moments in time. Feminism, to these students, is not action, not even a way of seeing the world. Instead it is a few events, radical and divisive at the time, now just something that happened long ago, something with no connection to their lives. And feminists are the bra-burning, hairy-legged, man-hating lesbians, with their signs and their raised fists, who were there.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: What Feminism Means to Today's Undergraduates

Friday, June 18

Defining Sprawl: From A to Z

Working on opening up our language of description, with the implicit critique that entails, is "A Field Guide to Sprawl", written as a dictionary of terms by Dolores Hayden, a professor at Yale, who wrote last year's Building Suburbia, a detailed cultural history of suburban growth, its shifts and evolutions.

some terms:
toad: temporary, obsolete, abandoned or derelict site
litter on a stick: billboard
boomburg: sprawling subdividing area

Defining Sprawl: From A to Z

Andrea Fraser's Untitled: Sex, Art and Videotape

The New York Times Magazine has a banal and trite review of Andrea Fraser's fascinating new work, which opened in NYC on the 10th.

Sex, Art and Videotape

(Check back - I'll update this post as more and better reviews become available, and will probably write something here myself, since I spoke with the artist at length about the piece a few weeks ago.)

Monday, June 14

Honoring a Pioneer Who Kept the Web Free

Pioneer Who Kept the Web Free Honored With a Technology Prize:

If Tim Berners-Lee had decided to patent his idea in 1989, the Internet would be a different place. Instead, the World Wide Web became free to anyone who could make use of it. Many of the entrepreneurs and scientists who did use it became rich, among them Jeffrey P. Bezos ( Amazon.com), Jerry Yang ( Yahoo), Pierre Omidyar ( eBay) and Marc Andreessen (Netscape).

But not Mr. Berners-Lee, a British scientist working at a Geneva research laboratory at the time. That is why some people think it is fitting - or about time - that on Tuesday, Mr. Berners-Lee will finally be recognized, with the award of the world's largest technology prize, the Millennium Technology Prize from the Finnish Technology Award Foundation... only one person conceived of the World Wide Web (originally, Mr. Berners-Lee called it a 'mesh' before changing it to a 'web'). Before him, there were no 'browsers,' nothing known as 'hypertext markup language,' no 'www' in any Internet address, no 'U.R.L.'s,' or uniform resource locators.,Because he and his colleague, Robert Cailliau, a Belgian, insisted on a license-free technology, today a Gateway computer with a Linux operating system and a browser made by Netscape can see the same Web page as any other personal computer, system software or Internet browser. If his employer at the time, CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, had sought royalties, Mr. Berners-Lee said he thought the world would have 16 different 'Webs' on the Internet today."

Our Cold War Legacy Stands - "Under God" to Remain in Pledge

The New York Times has a brief story: Supreme Court Case on Pledge
Is Dismissed on Technicality

Looks like Stevens and the other centrists on the court persuaded the conservatives to throw this on a technicality rather than ruling on the issue directly. Rehnquist, O'Conner and Thomas (certainly with Scalia, if he had participated) wrote separately to declare the pledge was constitution, but of course, this has almost no legal weight, since it's not the real decision.

For those who don't know the very recent minting of this supposedly quintessential recitation: The Pledge was only adopted in during World War II in 1942. Even then, it made no reference to God. During the height of the Cold War, Joe McCarthy and his band of maniacs convinced a terrified Congress to insert "Under God" in 1954, arguing that it was necessary to distinguish the religious heritage of the United States apart from evil "godless communism." And so today, millions of schoolchildren continue to be forced to pay tribute to Joe McCarthy and his Manichean Good/Evil worldview (recently revived by Reagan and Bush.)

Friday, June 11

Bush Administration Undercuts Push for Better Fuel Economy

Much of Coastal U.S. May Follow California on Car Emissions

New regulations would require that auto companies begin the long, slow process of actually making more fuel-efficient vehicles. Of course, they'll will never do that until they're forced to, since it means investing money in new technologies. Thus, in good American capitalist fashion, the large auto companies - with the Bush administration firmly on their side - are suing to prevent any states from requiring greater fuel economy.

Bush's EPA has ruled that carbon monoxide isn't an air pollutant, so states' air regulatory power may be overturned. Since Bush doesn't think global warming is a real issue, and he obviously doesn't want us to be concerned with fuel economy (a Texas Oil Man? get real.) It's not that he's ignoring these issues, on the contrary, he's actively engaged in trying to shut down any states who ARE interested in doing something about them. Just like in the 2000 power rip-off, it's Texas vs. California. Big Industrialists vs. the Environmentalists.

But there are growing sides that the Bush Administration, as in most things, is push too far right for the American people. The governors of California and New York, two of the three largest states - and very prominent Republican politicians these days - have both sided with the environmentalists AGAINST the Bush administration on this one, and many other states are joining in.

dumbing down

A quick look at this recently released NYT poll says something I've never heard mentioned - 80% of undecided voters lack a college degree [follow this link, then look on right hand side for Multimedia: Graphic: The Undecided for the Javascript popup of the poll.]

This is America, not Europe. It's not as if there are any intellectual hurdles to get into a community college in America. Yet 4 out of 5 voters being targeted this coming season will have a HS diploma, tops. Keep that in mind if you hear any complaining about the "level of political discourse" on TV.

. . .

as a disturbing sidenote, a recent study finds that even High School Senior Exams are too basic.

"In math, the skills tested on high school exit exams in the United States are taught in middle school in many other countries." Lisa Graham Keegan, the former commissioner of education in Arizona, said she had begun looking into high school graduation exams, but on the first administration of a test found that 84 percent of the students had failed.

So let's get this straight - in these Arizona high schools, 84% could graduate without being able to pass middle-school math? Thank goodness that Bob Schaeffer, at something called "the National Center for Fair and Open Testing," concludes that there's nothing to worry about. (Ostensibly those kids are all cut out for being line-cooks and gas station attendants anyway... but even then, don't you need SOME middle school math?)

Thursday, June 10

graphics too realistic?

The Undead Zone - Why realistic graphics make humans look creepy. By Clive Thompson for Slate.com

Wednesday, June 9

FBI thinks Art is Bioterrorism


Contact: Beatriz da Costa, media@caedefensefund.org

ARTISTS SUBPOENAED IN USA PATRIOT ACT CASE Feds STILL unable to distinguish art from bioterrorism Grand jury to convene June 15

Early morning of May 11, Steve Kurtz awoke to find his wife, Hope, dead of a cardiac arrest. Kurtz called 911. The police arrived and, after stumbling across test tubes and petri dishes Kurtz was using in a current artwork, called in the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Soon agents from the Task Force and FBI detained Kurtz, cordoned off the entire block around his house, and later impounded Kurtz's computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife's body for further analysis. The Buffalo Health Department condemned the house as a health risk.

Only after the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State had tested samples from the home and announced there was no public safety threat was Kurtz able to return home and recover his wife's body. Yet the FBI would not release the impounded materials, which included artwork for an upcoming exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

While most observers assumed the Task Force would realize that its initial investigation of Steve Kurtz was a terrible mistake, the subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen to press their "case" against Kurtz and possibly others.

Three artists have been served subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury that will consider bioterrorism charges against a university professor whose art involves the use of simple biology equipment.

The subpoenas are the latest installment in a bizarre investigation in which members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force have mistaken an art project for a biological weapons laboratory (see end for background). While most observers have assumed that the Task Force would realize the absurd error of its initial investigation of Steve Kurtz, the subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen to press their "case" against the baffled professor.

Two of the subpoenaed artists--Beatriz da Costa and Steve Barnes--are, like Kurtz, members of the internationally-acclaimed Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), an artists' collective that produces artwork to educate the public about the politics of biotechnology. They were served the subpoenas by federal agents who tailed them to an art show at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The third artist, Paul Vanouse, is, like Kurtz, an art professor at the University at Buffalo. He has worked with CAE in the past.

The artists involved are at a loss to explain the increasingly bizarre case. "I have no idea why they're continuing (to investigate)," said Beatriz da Costa, one of those subpoenaed. "It was shocking that this investigation was ever launched. That it is continuing is positively frightening, and shows how vulnerable the PATRIOT Act has made freedom of speech in this country." Da Costa is an art professor at the University of California at Irvine.

According to the subpoenas, the FBI is seeking charges under Section 175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which has been expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act. As expanded, this law prohibits the possession of "any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system" without the justification of "prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose." (See the 1989 law and its USA PATRIOT Act expansion.)

Even under the expanded powers of the USA PATRIOT Act, it is difficult to understand how anyone could view CAE's art as anything other than a "peaceful purpose." The equipment seized by the FBI consisted mainly of CAE's most recent project, a mobile DNA extraction laboratory to test store-bought food for possible contamination by genetically modified grains and organisms; such equipment can be found in any university's basic biology lab and even in many high schools (see Lab Tour for more details).

The grand jury in the case is scheduled to convene June 15 in Buffalo, New York. Here, the jury will decide whether or not to indict Steve Kurtz on the charges brought by the FBI. A protest is being planned at 9 a.m. on June 15 outside the courthouse at 138 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo.


Financial donations: The CAE Defense Fund has so far received over 200 donations in amounts ranging from $5 to $400. This is a wonderful outpouring of sympathy, but a drop in the bucket compared to the potential costs of the case. To make a donation, please visit the CAE Defense Fund.

Letters of support: Letters and petitions of support from biologists, artists, and others, especially those in positions of responsibility at prominent institutions or companies, could be very useful. See the CAE Defense Fund for a sample letter of support.

Legal offers and letters of support: If you are a lawyer, offers of pro bono support or offers to write amicus briefs would be very helpful.

Articles and television stories about the case:

applied autonomy

washington post


buffalo news

On advice of counsel, Steve Kurtz is unable to answer questions regarding his case. Please direct questions or comments to media@caedefensefund.org.

Creative Politics: Making Art During War Discussion @ P.S. 1 in NYC

Thursday, June 17, 6:00–8:00 p.m.
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

22-25 Jackson Avenue at 46 Avenue, Long Island City, Queens

Debates about the relationship of art to politics permeate the history of modern art, but during times of war and intense political conflict they appear more pressing and raise a number of questions for practicing artists: What does art have to do with politics? Should political conflict inform artistic production and the content of artwork? What power does art have to make social and political change? In a panel discussion moderated by David Little, Director of Adult and Academic Programs at The Museum of Modern Art, artists, critics, and scholars address these questions and more. Panelists include artists Maja Bajevic, Paul Chan, and Adrian Piper, cartoonist Tom Tomorrow, and writer Lawrence Weschler. Admission is free. No tickets required. Space is limited to 70 people."

Monday, June 7

Japanese Cinema and Media Site

Run out of Ohio State University, Kinema Club is a wonderful site containing a substantial database of information on all manner of japanese moving image media, including articles, bibliographies, distributers, and reviews of japanese film and television, rare and popular, old and new. They have a large listserv called KineJapan, and a searchable database of articles. Check it out.

Sunday, June 6

Ronald Reagan Redux

As we push further into a neo-conservative future, it seems like everybody agrees on one thing - Carter, and the 70s in general, were bad, while Reagan represented a "renewal of hope," or "Morning in America." Reagan was not our first television-president (that dubious honor belonging to JFK) but he was our first actor-president, bringing to pass what 60s media theorist Marshall McLuhan had most feared, and what the art collective Ant Farm had hillariously spoofed in their 1975 piece "Media Burn." Reagan was "the great communicator" which, in the one-way communication model of television, meant the great myth-maker. From his years in Hollywood as a second-string actor, he instinctively knew that we would much rather hear a good story than a difficult or troubling one, that we'd much rather boost our own egos, than face the troubling prospect of changing our attitudes, our behavior, our "core-beliefs." Reagan "renewed our faith in America." But what kind of "faith" was renewed? And was losing this "faith" such a bad thing?

After a decade-long war with Vietnam that decimated an entire generation of young Americans, we lost faith in the idea of the nobility of war, and began to think more seriously about multilateralism, negotiation, and the social and historical complexities of a geopolitical situations. After the OPEC oil embargos and the long fuel lines, we began to think seriously about alternative sources of renewable energy, about energy conservation, fuel efficiency, driving smaller vehicles, and investing in public transportation. After Watergate, and hearing Nixon's terrible record of secret operations against his political opponents at home, we lost faith in government secrecy, and began to push for the first major "sunshine" or ordinances that would make government more transparent and subject to public scrutiny. And for all the talk of "economic decline" in the 70s, there was actually much less of a gap between the rich and the poor - the very criterion of an economically civilized nation - then would henceforth ever exist.

So what is the legacy of the 70s today? While many of us still believe firmly in peace and multilateral diplomacy, energy conservation, transparency in government, and mitigating economic inequality, these have been the stated enemy of every conservative government since Reagan. Today, Bush immediately announces a "war without end" on terrorism, even as he alienates all of the major nations who could have best helped to neutralize the terrorist threat through vigorous international policing. Rather than combining force with saavy international diplomacy in the Middle East, we are left trying to salvage the best of a botched operation that has resulted in the deaths of a thousand Americans, and countless thousands of Iraqis. Furthermore, at the very moment of an economic downturn, we are spending tens of billions of dollars on military operations, rather than investing in education and job training that would bring the country back on track. Dick Cheney publically ridicules the idea of conservation (just like Reagan), and Bush puts through tax breaks for Hummers and other massively wasteful vehicles, as well as standing firmly opposed to raising fuel economy standards, despite all the problems of our oil supply. As a result of these policies, we now spend much more money on much larger vehicles that produce much more polution and consume much more of the world's diminishing oil. Sure, a few quirky consumers drive hybrids or play with bio-diesel, but with no incentives to purchase these vehicles, and no incentives for automakers to produce them, they will never even make a dent in our oil consumption or pollution problems. Futurist fantasies play into our love of Science Fiction films and our boredom with science class: just as Reagan promised a "Star Wars" orbital laser defense system, Bush promises a hydrogen technology that is safely decades in the future. The Bush presidency has been the most secretive and closed-off government in our modern history - records are closed, committees secret, and even press conferences are treated as something that are graciously bestowed upon the public, rather than as an absolutely necessary and fundamental aspect of a functioning democracy. Finally, the massive tax cuts - which offered much to large corporations and the wealthy and almost nothing to the vast majority of smaller businesses and middle class voters - have further increased an already intolerable economic divide. As Princeton Economist Paul Krugman points out (below) - Reagan did much the same thing early on. But once he realized that the country could not afford them, he switched gears and raised taxes because it was the responsible thing to do. Even Bush's father, after promising "No New Taxes," had the decency to go to the American People and tell them the truth - that he needed to raise taxes. But Bush is unlike either his father or Reagan in this respect. After irresponsibly raising taxes, and going into massive dept to pay for them, he continues to push for more and bigger tax cuts, and for precisely the same people and corporations as before.

Reagan was the rebirth of "hope" for America, if we understand that to mean "hope... that we don't need to change." That's why Reagan is the father of American Conservatism. He pioneered a legacy of myth-making, of pandering to the people, and by telling them that the America they've always known is, at its heart, good, and noble and beautiful. And anyone who says otherwise - who insists that there are serious problems that need to be addressed through government intervention - these people are "dour" and "tedious", as Reagan said of Carter, of Mondale, and of Dukakis, and which we will all surely hear said of Kerry all through this fall. An unthinking optimism, the heart instead of the head, the soundbyte of "compassionate conservatism," which is effectively, "Father knows best" - this all meshes perfectly with the increasingly evangelical cast of American spirituality, which conservatives eagerly support and prey upon.

It takes faith and courage and determination to oppose this "Good Will" message - it means saying things that people simply do not want to hear. Do we have politicans capable of delivering serious, thoughtful positions on matters of great complexity - even when they are difficult, or require real sacrifice, while still fostering the spirit of hope and optimism for which Americans so desperately yearn? Or are we saddled with a legacy of optimistic anti-intellectuals, pandering to the crowd with soundbytes and winning all the elections, while the dour realists, delivering their litany of complaints, earn the wrath of unreceptive audiences? I try to be optimistic. -Andrew V. Uroskie

Princeton Economics Professor Paul Krugman's The Great Taxer

NY Times Regan Multimedia Feature

Ronald Reagan, Party Animal - The man who taught Republicans to be irresponsible. By Timothy Noah

"What Reagan Got Wrong - Liberty is not the absence of government." By William Saletan

Is Avant-Garde Art Still Possible?

Found an interesting archived discussion on Chicago public radio about the current fate of the avant-garde between Hal Foster – Townsend Martin Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University, Janet Lyon – Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, and Carrie Lambert – Art Historian at Northwestern University. There is a link to the 50 minute program available here.

Saturday, June 5

Bush takes a tongue-lashing from the Pope over Iraq

The Guradian had this tidbit about Bush's audience with the Pope. Funny, this story seems to have missed Fox News...

Digital / Cinema: Reviews of Lev Manovich and DN Rodowick

Warwick Mules, The Figural as Interface in Film and the New Media, on D. N. Rodowick's Reading the Figural, or, Philosophy after the New Media. Go to Review.

Michael Truscello, The Birth of Software Studies: Lev Manovich and Digital Materialism, on Manovich's The Language of New Media. Go to Review.

Does the university need to justify itself? To whom?

In light of government cuts in education funding across the nation, here's an article Stanley Fish wrote for the the Chronicle of Higher Education a little while back.

In brief, he claims that academics have put themselves in a weak rhetorical position by constantly groveling before an ignorant public and hostile politicans. When academics attempt to "justify" their work to these groups, they are inevitably forced into a) dumbing down their research to the point of making it seem obvious, or b) expressing their work in the language of a market economics by whose standards it will inevitably fail.

His response is to fight back.

Electronic Book Review - Kittler's Optical Media

The Electronic Book Review has a good review up of Friedrich Kittler's (currently untranslated, AFAIK), Optische Medien (2002) comparing it to Oliver Grau's Virtual Art.

The "discussion of new digital image media represents the most striking difference between these two texts. Indeed, Kittler appears far more interested in the prehistory of technical media, which constitutes two thirds of his book, and he only devotes the last eight and a half pages to the computer, which some reviewers have described as a severe weakness (see Adelmann). Kittler adds, however, that this lack of attention to the computer is motivated by a fundamental distinction between optical and digital technologies. The computer, in other words, can no longer be described as an optical medium, as it is not designed to process images: “All the differences between individual media are leveled out. Regardless of whether the digital computer transmits sounds or images...it is internally working only with endless streams of bits” (316)."

Friday, June 4

Life Imitates art: in this case, Mad Max (1979)

or was it "Stand Tall"? How's this for a headline: Armed man in bulldozer goes on rampage in Colorado mountain town

Film: 'A Day Without a Mexican'

The controversial new comedy by Sergio Arau and Yareli Arizmendi 'A Day Without a Mexican' opens today in the SF Bay Area. It portrays California mysteriously losing a third of its population, and the confusion and chaos which results.

Thursday, June 3

State Budget Cuts Over 7500 eligible UC Students

SF Chronicle led with the story Rejected UC applicants snub plan about the 7500 students who were academically eligible, but not granted enrollment due to State Budget cuts. Under the new plan - which appears not to be working - the students were offered 2 years at a community college and 2 years at UC. Ward Connerly expresses the opinion that students need to get over the idea that community colleges are a kind of stigma. Is he kidding? The students who spend their junior year freaking out about going to the best college possible, and who manage to get accepted into UCLA or UC Berkeley, are clearly not going to go to a community college unless they're absolutely strapped for money. Many, like the student interviewed, are going to go out of state - to NYU or another top ranked school. This means the loss of a significant source of funding. Community colleges are already overloaded, and they are not going to be prepared to handle the influx.

An off-lead declares Black admissions drop 30 percent at UC Berkeley for the incoming class. A serious problem. But the solution is clearly NOT flying hundreds of minority students in for expense-paid campus visits (a horrible waste of money), but promoting the kind of structural change in k-12 schools which would render more african-american and latino students eligible in the first place.

An important aspect of this that neither article addresses, was brought up in The Daily Cal a few days ago. Study: UC Could Be Accepting Too Many Students wherein it states that UC appears to be accepting 2% MORE than its mandate already. But most importantly, only UC Regent John Moores seems to be paying attention to the elephant in the corner - fully 6%, thousands of students UC-wide - need not meet ANY academic requirements whatsoever, as long as their Extra-Curricular activities are in good shape:

"Although some regents praised the growing number of eligible students as a sign of better student performance, other regents were less enthusiastic, attributing the rise to loopholes in the admissions process. UC Regent John Moores criticized another program UC implemented to broaden UC’s admit pool. The university allows up to 6 percent of students to be admitted under special exceptions for personal talent even if baseline test score or GPA criteria is not met. Moores expressed dismay over lenient admission requirements during the yesterday’s meeting and chastised university leaders for not informing the board earlier."

Hans Kupelwieser: Postmedial Sculpture, Austria

An interesting exhibition in Austria. Definately check out if you'll be in the Rhineland this summer.

Hans Kupelwieser: Postmedial Sculpture, Neue Galerie Graz Austria, 2004

Contemporary sculpture in its widest context is characterised by breaching conventional bounds in the fields of operation and material selection. The Austrian artist Hans Kupelwieser having studied under Bazon Brock and Peter Weibel at the University for Applied Arts in Vienna, has always worked mainly in the latter field. He includes new materials, not only as basic material for experimentation like in arte povera, but also operating with new meanings of the material in a kind of linguistic fashion.

This intertwining of material and operational enlargement between form and function is Hans Kupelwieser's field of analysis. In his current inflated sculptures, ("Gonflables"), of which one received a definite place in the Austrian Sculpture Park near Graz, the material is not formable PVC sheets but rather Aluminium. The material simulates a function that does not exist in reality. Illusions of material and function constitute an independent thread in the complex fabric of contemporary sculpture. Kupelwieser continues to develop this thread by making the sculpture ultimately float. .

Justice Department vs. Constitution

Dahlia Lithwick has an interesting reading of the recent Jose Padilla antics in her Slate piece Proof, Negative - The Justice Department's triumphant victory over the Constitution.

Media In Transition 4: The work of stories @ M.I.T.

MIT is calling for papers for its May, 2005 conference The Work of Stories

Wednesday, June 2

NY Conference on Rhetoric and New Media

"Haunted by the Future: The Academy's Coming Community"
The Central New York Conference on Language and Literature

SUNY Cortland
October 29-31

Conference Site


BUILDING NEW COMMUNITIES: Postdisciplinary Rhetoric and Literary Studies

500 word abstracts by July 15, 2004
Call for Papers

The Wisdom of Crowds

In Salon (premium), Farhad Manjoo has a review of James Surowiecki's new book, "The Wisdom of Crowds."

There's been a great deal of work on interesting work on crowds recently. The Stanford Humanities Laboratory has a growing online database of information on the visual, cultural, and intellectual history of CROWDS. They are also putting together a major exhibition of early 20th century posters and films called Revolutionary Tides that will premiere at Stanford's Art Museum in Fall 2005, and travel to the Wolfsonian Museum in Miama, Florida in 2006.

Speaking of the SHL, in case you missed their excellent How They Got Game, check it out. It contains links to their website, which has an annotated timeline of computer and console game technology, as well as links to their "Fictional Worlds" exhibit, their "Story Engines" Conference, and the "Game Scenes" exhibit in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The Religious Right and Film censorship

David Pogue has an excellent little piece in the NYT about the latest efforts to provide family friendly films and why their efforts fail so miserably. This is a good piece not only on parental control, but on the horrifing way in which the religious right in this country seems to have no problem with extreme and gratuitous violence, suffering, and fundamental inqualities, while becoming apoplectic at the slightest sex or "strong language." Renews my faith in what we're doing here at UC Berkeley in the Rhetoric department.

Art Attacked (physically) in San Francisco (and elsewhere)

Wanted to start this off on an appropriately scary note from the home town. The whole thing started a few weeks ago. Then built up. And now, despite protests, the gallery is going to be closing. Obviously absurd, but not wholly unexpected given the affective power of images throughout history.

Remember the Israeli ambassador's shameful assault on an Israeli artist exhibiting in Sweden? Here's a video (.wmv file) of the incident, in case you missed it. I've searched forever to find the original intelligent article - in NYT, I think - that actually _discussed the work itself_ to no avail. Please contact me if you have it. As would be expected, there are 30,000 bilious, anti-intellectual rants and petitions on the web, mostly lauding the ambassador's "brave" action against a work which - though never seriously considered - is immediately denounced as "obscene," "debased," and, of course, "anti-semitic." For those looking for some interesting reading on these matters, try Bard College professor Ian Buruma's fairly balanced piece on anti-semitism for the NYT Magazine a little while back.

This also reminded me of the Russian Exhibition that was attacked earlier this year for _iconoclasm_ of all things! I gave this to my Critical Theory class at the SF Art Institute last semester, and we had a great discussion. Here's a NYT article on the event:

Art vs. Religion: Whose Rights will Come First?
By Steven Lee Myers, Sept 2003

It was provocative, as modern art often is. But few of those involved could have foreseen just how provocative it would become when the Sakharov Museum here opened an exhibition of paintings and sculptures in January under the title "Caution! Religion."

Four days after the Jan. 14 opening, six men from a Russian Orthodox church came to the museum's exhibition hall and sacked it, defacing many of the 45 works with spray paint and destroying others. "Sacrilege," one of them scrawled on the wall.

The police came and quickly arrested the men, but their actions — described either as heroism or hooliganism — began a highly charged debate not only over the state of freedom of expression in Russia today but also over the ever-growing influence of the Orthodox Church.

Priests denounced the museum — named after the Soviet-era physicist and dissident Andrei D. Sakharov. Church members began a letter-writing campaign defending the attackers.

Somewhere along the way, the tables turned on the museum, its director and the exhibition's artists. The lower house of Parliament passed a resolution condemning the museum and the exhibition's organizers.

The criminal charges against four of the six men were dropped early on for lack of evidence — even though they had been detained inside the building. Then on Aug. 11, with several hundred Orthodox believers holding a vigil outside, a court here threw out the charges against the others, Mikhail Lyukshin and Anatoly Zyakin, saying they had been unlawfully prosecuted.

The court made it clear that an investigation should continue — not against those who attacked the exhibit, but against the museum itself.

"The museum is now the enemy of the people," said its director, Yuri V. Samodurov.

The furor over the exhibition has thrust into opposition two groups that had suffered together during seven decades of state ideology and atheism. In the 12 years since the Soviet Union collapsed, both artists and religious believers have flourished in a new Russia. In this case, though, each side accuses the other of exploiting Russia's new freedom to infringe on its rights.

"This freedom opened the gates so that thick streams of dirt are flooding all around," the Rev. Aleksandr Shargunov, one of the church's most outspoken conservatives, said of the post-Soviet society. "The church is a very narrow stream of clean water."

The men who attacked the exhibit are members of his church in Moscow, St. Nikolai in Pyzhi. Some of them work there, and Father Aleksandr organized the campaign for their defense and against the museum. He compared the exhibition to a rape or a terrorist act.

"For a believer," he said, "this sacrilege is equivalent to the destruction of a church, which is what happened in the near past in Russia."

The museum, dedicated to Mr. Sakharov's legacy, regularly presents exhibitions intended to cause debate, including subjects like the Soviet legacy, human rights and the war in Chechnya. Never before has one provoked such an outcry.

The exhibition's works all addressed religion, but Mr. Samodurov said the theme was not antireligious as much as anticlerical. Some of the artists themselves are Orthodox believers, he said, and the exhibition was not meant to offend.

One sculpture, by Alina Gurevich, that offended nonetheless depicted a church made of vodka bottles, a pointed reference to the tax exemption the church received in the 1990's to sell alcohol.

A poster by Aleksandr Kosolapov, a Russian-born American whose previous work has satirized symbols of the Soviet and Russian state, depicted Jesus on a Coca-Cola advertisement. "This is my blood," it said in English.

Another work was a large icon covering by Alisa Zrazhevskaya, which took its title from the Second Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Carve Idols Unto Thee," and left a hole for a viewer's head, hand and Bible like a carnival placard. "Gady," or "vipers," was painted on it.

The works are now in the local prosecutor's office, and most of the artists have been called in for questioning. The exhibition's curator, Arutyun Zulumyan, an Armenian, has gone into hiding.

The museum's lawyers received notice the week before last that a commission of experts had been formed to decide whether the exhibit incited interethnic or interreligious hatred, which is a crime in the Russian criminal code. Mr. Samodurov said he feared that the outcome was predetermined because none of those appointed, he said, were experts in modern art.

If charged and convicted, the exhibition's organizers could face $7,500 to $11,600 in fines, three years of probation or two to four years in prison.

Another artist, Anna Alchuk, said in an interview that her work — an arrangement of four medallions she found while moving to a new apartment — was intended to explore the religious belief in personal salvation. She recalled that in Soviet times such a theme would have been strictly forbidden; she wonders whether it still is.

"There are many things written in the Constitution — freedom of speech, freedom of religion — but we've seen how they exist in reality," she said.

Aleksandr B. Chuyev, a member of Parliament and, like Mr. Sakharov, a dissident during the Soviet period, disagreed.

Closely allied with the Orthodox Church, he sponsored the resolution calling on prosecutors to investigate the museum. He defended the men who destroyed the exhibition, saying they had acted within their rights to prevent a crime. Democracy, he said, necessitates respect for the beliefs of others.

"There are acceptable boundaries within which it is possible to express an opinion," he said, "as long as it doesn't affect the rights of Orthodox believers."