Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween: The Power of Imagery

I've always been impressed by the power of an image. A week before the images from Abu Ghraib prison were released (frightening scenes of American occupation in Iraq) I was filming a documentary in which a sage presented this:
the power of imagery and art has been taken over by advertising. Schools should teach how to read and understand art, visuals, the emotive power of imagery.
The Apple iPod marketing campaign was original and graceful in it's use of imagery. I didn't invent this concept-- I first heard of it from Rob Figliuzzi of an artpiece in New York City where the Abu Ghraib imagery had been done as an iPod ad. I never saw what those looked like.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Leading by (Bad) Example" by Thomas Friedman

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (Iraq News Agency) - A delegation of Iraqi judges and journalists abruptly left the U.S. today, cutting short its visit to study the workings of American democracy. A delegation spokesman said the Iraqis were "bewildered" by some of the behavior of the Bush administration and felt it was best to limit their exposure to the U.S. system at this time, when Iraq is taking its first baby steps toward democracy.

The lead Iraqi delegate, Muhammad Mithaqi, a noted secular Sunni judge who had recently survived an assassination attempt by Islamist radicals, said that he was stunned when he heard President Bush telling Republicans that one reason they should support Harriet Miers for the U.S. Supreme Court was because of "her religion." She is described as a devout evangelical Christian.

Mithaqi said that after two years of being lectured to by U.S. diplomats in Baghdad about the need to separate "mosque from state" in the new Iraq, he was also floored to read that the former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, now a law school dean, said on the radio show of the conservative James Dobson that Miers deserved support because she was "a very, very strong Christian [who] should be a source of great comfort and assistance to people in the households of faith around the country."

"Now let me get this straight," Judge Mithaqi said. "You are lecturing us about keeping religion out of politics, and then your own president and conservative legal scholars go and tell your public to endorse Miers as a Supreme Court justice because she is an evangelical Christian.

"How would you feel if you picked up your newspapers next week and read that the president of Iraq justified the appointment of an Iraqi Supreme Court justice by telling Iraqis: 'Don't pay attention to his lack of legal expertise. Pay attention to the fact that he is a Muslim fundamentalist and prays at a Saudi-funded Wahhabi mosque.' Is that the Iraq you sent your sons to build and to die for? I don't think so. We can't have our people exposed to such talk."

A fellow delegation member, Abdul Wahab al-Unfi, a Shiite lawyer who walks with a limp today as a result of torture in a Saddam prison, said he did not want to spend another day in Washington after listening to the Bush team defend its right to use torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfi said he was heartened by the fact that the Senate voted 90 to 9 to ban U.S. torture of military prisoners. But he said he was depressed by reports that the White House might veto the bill because of that amendment, which would ban "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of P.O.W.'s.

"I survived eight years of torture under Saddam," Unfi said. "Virtually every extended family in Iraq has someone who was tortured or killed in a Baathist prison. Yet, already, more than 100 prisoners of war have died in U.S. custody. How is that possible from the greatest democracy in the world? There must be no place for torture in the future Iraq. We are going home now because I don't want our delegation corrupted by all this American right-to-torture talk."

Finally, the delegation member Sahaf al-Sahafi, editor of one of Iraq's new newspapers, said he wanted to go home after watching a televised videoconference last Thursday between soldiers in Iraq and President Bush. The soldiers, 10 Americans and an Iraqi, were coached by a Pentagon aide on how to respond to Mr. Bush.

"I had nightmares watching this," Sahafi said. "It was right from the Saddam playbook. I was particularly upset to hear the Iraqi sergeant major, Akeel Shakir Nasser, tell Mr. Bush: 'Thank you very much for everything. I like you.' It was exactly the kind of staged encounter that Saddam used to have with his troops."

Sahafi said he was also floored to see the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency that works for Congress, declare that a Bush administration contract that paid Armstrong Williams, a supposedly independent commentator, to promote Mr. Bush's No Child Left Behind policy constituted illegal propaganda - an attempt by the government to buy good press.

"Saddam bought and paid journalists all over the Arab world," Sahafi said. "It makes me sick to see even a drop of that in America."

By coincidence, the Iraqi delegates departed Washington just as the Bush aide Karen Hughes returned from the Middle East. Her trip was aimed at improving America's image among Muslims by giving them a more accurate view of America and President Bush. She said, "The more they know about us, the more they will like us."

(Yes, all of this is a fake news story. I just wish that it weren't so true.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Malcolm in the Middle: @ Burning Man

[note as of POST 'i hope this link still works']

this is a link to the entire show without commercials. i
think dean is even in it (ok, they do a horrible job
emulating your neon light costume)... love, g

> From: suzi palmer
> Subject: bman on malcolm and the middle
> didn't see it? me neither, and i didn't want to BUT
> this is a pretty good account of bman - very accurate,
> down to the details (the banana bike which i have a
> photo of from this year! to the random guy in EL
> wire... the rebirth camp...)
> please tell me this cracks you up... i'm laughing so
> hard...!!

My Letter to Nicholas Christoff

In regards to this column by Nicholas Chrisoff, I emailed:

Dear Sir:

i just got something i hadn't before about WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON with this conservative dominance; i.e. how is it that bush is getting away with his stomping of pristine wildlife, with his blatant payoff to his sycophants, with his horrible economic plan making the rich the benefactors... how can bush pull off this extremely conservative agenda with so many of us appauled?

i naively thought as a child with a progressive family that sexism and racism would be gone by the time i was an adult. i have been explaining the re-election of bush as the result of the daze and confusement of the conscious people, a general shock.

but really it is a call to rally. we shouldn't be surprised that the court legislation has run its course. it is our time in this democracy to convince our fellow americans that racism and sexism
are the wrong choices for our country.

it's time to make the law state a woman's choice. it's time to make the law acknowledge that black people are still dissed through institutional racism.

perhaps the coming of george W bush is the realization that we can't rely on the courts anymore.
it's time to engage in democracy.

but the question remains, is it possible to engage in a democracy considering the influence (control?) of the legislative system (hence, dismissal of democracy) exuded by corporations?


Monday, October 10, 2005

Order in the Court: Nicholas Christoff on Hariet Miers

With another Supreme Court battle looming, this time over Harriet Miers, let's acknowledge something up front: Republicans are right to complain about judicial activism.

One of the most fundamental mistakes that liberals made after World War II was, time after time, to seek social progress through the courts rather than through the political process.

It started well, with the Warren Court's unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education to force the desegregation of schools. That decision was so manifestly right -- and alternative routes to justice so manifestly broken -- that court rulings then became the liberal template for achieving a more humane society.

The left went to the Supreme Court to achieve a range of victories it could never have managed through the political process: barring school prayer, protecting protesters who used four-letter words, guaranteeing lawyers for criminal defendants, and securing a right to privacy that protected contraception and abortion.

It's almost taken for granted on the left that if you support abortion rights, you must have agreed with Roe v. Wade, or if you support gay rights, you must favor court rulings endorsing gay marriage. But court rulings can constitute fine justice and bad law.

Archibald Cox, the great constitutional lawyer, yearned for social progress but was troubled by constitutional stretching. For example, when other avenues were unavailable, the Supreme Court used the 13th Amendment, which simply banned slavery, to bar private discrimination against blacks. It was a worthy outcome, achieved by torturing the Constitution.

Don't get me wrong: I agree with the spirit of the Warren Court decisions, and as a kid I worshiped William Douglas the way my friends worshiped Hank Aaron (I was an insufferable child). I saw how court rulings could affect our lives: my high school in rural Oregon banned teachers and students from having facial hair, until the A.C.L.U. took up the case -- and the school caved.

So, granted, the courts were often the most efficient way to advance a liberal agenda, and cases like Roe v. Wade now deserve respect as precedents. But there were two problems with the activist approach.

The first was that these rulings alienated ordinary Americans who just could not see how the Constitution banned school prayers but protected obscenities. Frustration still seethes at liberals who try to impose their values on the heartland, and one consequence has been the rise of the religious right.

The second objection is that conservatives can play the same game of judicial activism to advance a social agenda. Alas, they already are.

''Judicial activism'' is usually associated with liberals, but Paul Gewirtz of Yale Law School has shown that lately conservatives have been far more likely to strike down laws passed by Congress. Clarence Thomas voted to invalidate 65 percent of the laws that came before him in cases, while those least likely to do so were Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Indeed, Justice Breyer has written a thoughtful new book, ''Active Liberty,'' which calls for judicial restraint and suggests that the best arena for resolving crucial national questions is legislatures rather than courts.

A growing number on the left are questioning the traditional idea of using courts to achieve a more liberal society. Justice Ginsburg, in her Senate hearings, even criticized the scope of Roe v. Wade for short-circuiting the legislative process: ''My view is that if Roe had been less sweeping, people would have accepted it more readily, would have expressed themselves in the political arena in an enduring way on this question.''

In the magazine of the Democratic Leadership Council, Prof. William Galston warned:

''We must acknowledge that as a party, we have opened ourselves to charges of elitism. We cannot be an effective party if we substitute litigation for mobilization. We cannot be a democratic party if we do not trust the people.''

That doesn't mean blindly trusting Ms. Miers or any other Supreme Court nominee. But it does mean that the main mode for seeking a more liberal agenda, such as permitting gay marriage or barring public displays of the Ten Commandments, should be the democratic process, not the undemocratic courts. And it also suggests that the Republicans are dead right to fret about judicial activism -- and we should hold them to their word.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Book Review: Letters to America

Three months before the US launched its war in Iraq, I was traveling in Turkey. The kind old man running our hotel asked us while we had breakfast overlooking the beautiful beaches of the mediteranean, "Who did you vote for, Gore or Bush?"

When we told him our answer, he replied, "How is it that Bush is president? Every American I have asked voted for Gore."

I am a proud American. And I understand when Americans adamently assert that we must support our principles abroad and protect our citizens. I also believe that as the world leader, it is important that we understand, relate to and respect our neighbors.

Letters To America, the first book from Erica Gellar, is not a peace-nik new age liberal manifesto of any kind-- rather it is a straight shooting representation of what the world would say to the USA given the voice to do so. I strongly urge you to amplify this voice. Buy the book. Buy ten. Send them to your government representatives, to your friends and to journalists.
It may be that those who voted for Bush never made it to the same hotel we did on the beaches in Turkey. Or perhaps they weren't comfortable expressing their views to the old pension owner. However, it seems to me more and more, that most of the people entrenched in the notion that America does no wrong just don't get outside much.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Halliburton taking over: duh!

Well, this is what we have been talking about. George W couldn't spell "grassroots" if you gave him a dictionary. I have it on good source that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) was given hotel budget of $200 a night in New Orleans. These guys have critical immediate work to do in the Gulf to protect the lives and aid the health of the people trying to restart their lives. The sounds like plenty of cash for a hotel room-- but guess what, it wasn't enough. The hotel rooms were quickly taken up after the CDC thought they had secured a place to stay. The CDC was actually kicked out by a group paying $400 a night. Guess who? Say it with me: Halliburton.