Friday, March 21, 2008

Humans, Animals

"Animal Portraits" Workshop in Milwaukee, WI.
(Work in progress)

Sample #34 from the "Wondrous Fruits and Vegetables" Archive.

Venice Blvd and Bagley Ave, Culver City, CA

One of those ubiquitous electrical boxes... This one has been taken over by The Archaeology of the Recent Future Association while in Los Angeles.

Please notice (on the left-hand facade) the slightly off-colored green paint near the top: At one point, the LA "graffiti removal" team came by and decided to cover up some tags on the box. They tried to match the paint that was on the box with an even pukier shade of lime green. At the time, We had painted the box lime green, but had only sketched out and painted a few bits of the design. The "anti-graffiti crew" chose to leave all of our work alone and blotted out the tags with their almost-lime-green paint... We decided not to paint over their work as a testament to the odd and complicated nature of public space. Honestly, we don't know how to feel about the fact that the anti-graffiti people accepted ("curated") our work, while erasing that of "taggers". In many ways, part of the hope for the design was to make it look so neat and complete, that it would, in fact, be "convincing"...

The wacky faux-fancy Byzantine-Hare'Krishna-Uzbeki-Victorian design is very fitting considering that the box is outside the Museum of Jurassic Technology (one of the best places on Earth), across the street from India Sweets & Spices (the best .79c samosas), and a few blocks west of the Hare Krishna temple.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bush Vetoes Anti-Torture Bill

According to the Geneva Convention (1949), torture is explicitly forbidden: "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." (
. Yet, this past Saturday, in yet another example of the Bush administration's blatant dismissal of international law, Bush vetoed H.R. 2082, the "Intelligence Authorization" bill, which prevents the CIA and other US agents from torturing detained individuals. The bill explicitly prohibits "waterboarding" (where restrained prisoners are threatened with drowning) as well as other "interrogation methods" such as sexual humiliation, dogs, physical violence, and other techniques that amount to torture.

The Bush administration's condonation and support of torture, detention, surveillance, and secrecy have continuously been the subjects of intense criticism in the US and abroad. As Steven Lee Myers writes in the New York Times on on March 9, 2008 - "Veto of Bill on C.I.A. Tactics Affirms Bush’s Legacy" - the anti-torture veto is another in several moves by the Bush administration to consolidate and expand executive control:

"Bush’s veto — the ninth of his presidency, but the eighth in the past 10 months with Democrats in control of Congress — underscored his determination to preserve many of the executive prerogatives his administration has claimed in the name of fighting terrorism, and to enshrine them into law. ... Mr. Bush is fighting with Congress over the expansion of powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and over the depth of the American security commitments to Iraq once the United Nations mandate for international forces there expires at the end of the year. ... And as he has through most of his presidency, he built his case on the threat of terrorism."

What is ironic and sad is that many US intelligence officials have denounced torture techniques to be ineffective and often dangerous, often leading to misinformation. Further, the US Army field manual on interrogation already prohibits physical force against prisoners and outlines other methods for interrogation. The bill Mr. Bush vetoed would have limited ALL American interrogators to techniques allowed in the manual. According to the same NY Times article, "the debate has left the C.I.A. at odds with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, whose officials have testified that harsh interrogation methods are either unnecessary or counterproductive. The agency’s director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, issued a statement to employees after Mr. Bush’s veto defending the program as legal, saying that the Army field manual did not “exhaust the universe of lawful interrogation techniques.”

You can read the cited NY Times article for the full scoop. As for responding, Amnesty International has put a call out for Americans to speak up in order to keep attention on the fight against torture and to show that Bush does not represent all Americans. You can learn more about the issue and opportunities to voice your opinion at Amnesty International

(photo of Guantanamo Bay prisoners from the University of Chicago Chronicle)