The Revolution Won’t Be Photographed

History is written (or recorded) by the victors, or so the saying goes. Today I saw an art installation from Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar which really illustrates that idea.

For some background, here’s what the BBC wrote about Jaar’s installation in 2014:

Jaar chose not to show us any pictures but instead blinded us with a blaze of projected light. Rather than a despairing nihilist gesture, Lament of the Images was integral to a strongly held argument that images mattered.

Jaar’s installation was a response to the increasing political control, erasure and suppression of images. Our encounter with Jaar’s field of light was preceded by three glowing panels of back-lit texts presented in a darkened room, all musing on different forms of blindness and erasure: beginning with Nelson Mandela being dazzled by the light on his release from prison and how prisoners were blinded by the glare of the sun on the limestone as they broke rocks in a quarry on the centre of Robben Island.

Texts two and three considered the loss and control of images in relationship to two significant events: the burial of 17 million photographic images from Bettmann and United Press International, purchased by Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates, in a limestone mine, and how before launching airstrikes against Afghanistan, the United States Defense Department had bought all rights to satellite imagery of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, creating an “effective white-out of the operation”.

And here is the final panel, the one related to the “white out” of our bombing of Afghanistan:

IMG_1745 3

It’s powerful stuff. Presented in an art context, it was more than powerful: it was enraging. As a reasonably engaged American, I wanted to know why I hadn’t heard about either the Bill Gates or Afghanistan incidents of image suppression. Especially Afghanistan. I remember much uproar about the Bush Administration censoring photographs of coffins arriving home from Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t remember anything about this.

Pictures are powerful, a picture is worth a thousand words, as the old saying goes. No wonder the Bush Administration wanted to make sure nobody saw the devastation our bombs wrought on Afghanistan.

Today if you Google this story, you find this, from the New York Times:

The Pentagon contract, concluded on Oct. 7, also means that news media and other organizations outside government will not be able to obtain independently their own high-resolution satellite images of the Afghanistan region.

In addition, the contract effectively allows the Pentagon to keep the images it bought out of the public eye forever. None can be released without Defense Department approval.

The old disputes between the military and news media centered on access for the media pool. The new dispute is about access to images collected in the nonsovereign territory of space.

The Pentagon has also taken a more subtle approach to the fight. Under the law, the Bush administration could have blocked news media’s access to the satellite on national security grounds by invoking a never-used provision, “shutter control.” Such a move would have quite likely set off legal challenges and heated protests. Instead, the Pentagon achieved its desired result through its contract.

For some reason, this story basically disappeared. And that’s exactly how the Bush Administration wanted it. By using economic power instead of legal power, they made sure there was little if any knowledge or protest about their actions.

The power of the pocketbook — be it the U.S. government’s or Bill Gates’ — is not new. That these are the people who can control our history by controlling what information the world sees is scary, indeed.

I recommend that someone in the news media petition the Obama Administration to release these images, much as President Obama allowed the photographing of coffins arriving home from war. We need to see what we have wrought. We bought this war, we need to see the damage we caused.

And let me add a final word of caution: we can petition the government to release these images. We can use FOIA requests, the news media can make an argument about the First Amendment. We have no such recourse with the Bill Gates images. None.

Next invasion, wait for Son of Dick Cheney to get Bill Gates to buy (and bury) satellite images on the government’s behalf.

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Filed under Afghanistan War, media, media manipulation

No Relation

[UPDATE]:

SORRY if you snoozed, you loozed … Netflix has pulled the video.
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Hilarious video on gun control from Aussie comedian Jim Jefferies — whose real last name, according to Wikipedia, is Nugent.

This is so spot-on, I had to share it. Also, I’m going to be out of pocket for a few days.

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Filed under gun control, Guns

Religious Freedom

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is threatening to pull its 2017 convention out of Indianapolis if Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs a bill allowing companies to discriminate against GLBT people under the guise of “religious freedom.” In a letter to the governor the denomination writes:

“Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry,” Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president of the Indianapolis-based denomination, told The Indianapolis Star.

Adams said the Disciples of Christ would instead seek a host city that is “hospitable and welcome to all of our attendees.”

I’d love to invite them to Nashville. After all, we’re the city whose Metro Council passed an anti-discrimination bill. Unfortunately, IIRC, it was later over-ridden by the bigots in our state legislature, so we don’t exactly have much moral authority on this issue. But can I just tell you how refreshing it is to see a church denomination take a bold stand on issues of equality?

More:

“As a Christian church,” it read, “we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow – one who sat at (the) table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all. Our church is diverse in point of view, but we share a value for an open Lord’s Table.”

The letter was signed by denomination’s General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins, Division of Overseas Ministries Julia Brown Karimu and Disciples Home Missions President Ronald J. Degges.

The Disciples of Christ has held its annual convention in Indianapolis three times since 1989. Adams expected up to 8,000 people to attend in 2017. The estimated economic impact would be about $5.9 million, according to VisitIndy.

Well, so much for Indianapolis. Two other major conventions have also alerted the governor that they will skip Indianapolis if the bill becomes law, one a music festival and the other the city’s largest annual convention, a group called Gen Con.

Look, there’s just no money in being a bigoted asshole. Just cut it out.

Let me also say, if your religion requires you to be a bigoted asshole, then I have no use for your religion. Can you just imagine? Whatever happened to “Love one another as I have loved you”? Of course, it’s not about the Bible. It’s about belonging to a club that needs to breed hatred and fear of “the other” to justify its lack of cultural impact. You people are supposed to go out and be salt and light in the world, that’s your Great Commission, and yet all you can do is fight for the right of a bakery to not make a gay couple’s wedding cake.

Losers.

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Filed under GLBT, religion, religious right

Today’s IOKIYAR

[UPDATE]:

Nothing says “freedom” like making your announcement at a university event in which student attendance is mandatory:

The Republican firebrand from Texas delivered a speech in a packed auditorium at convocation held at the school founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell. It is a thrice-weekly event and attendance is mandatory for students, the university said.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…..

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So, that smarmy, pretentious douche canoe Ted Cruz is running for President.

Remember the racist Teanuts who forced President Obama to prove he wasn’t born in Kenya? Who still believe he was born in Kenya? Who hollered “Constitutional crisis” over birth certificates and his Kenyan father? The Orly Taitzes and Jerome Corsies and Alan Keyeses? The idiots in their tri-corner hats waving their flags and pretending to be Revolutionary War heroes? Yeah, you fools, now rushing to embrace the Calgary, Canada-born Cruz, whose crazy-assed nutball father is Cuban? You can all shut the fuck up now.

Oh, but, IOKIYAR! It’s ALWAYS okay if you’re a Republican. Everything is always okay if you’re a Republican. Even not being born on American soil. Even not having an American-born father.

Even, probably, being black.

I just think this is such a great opportunity to point out the utter farce that is every single conservative freak-out. I certainly hope liberals troll Ted Cruz and his supporters with shouts of where’s the birth certificate! and Canadian usurper! at every single campaign appearance.

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Filed under 2016 Election, 2016 Presidential Election, conspiracies, conspiracy theory, Republican Party

Good News Friday

Spring starts today, which is the best news yet! And here are a few other items from around the internet. Enjoy.

• Target says it will raise its minimum wage to “at least” $9/hour amid a tightening labor market:

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, garnered much attention when it said it would raise entry-level wages to $9 an hour in April and then to $10 an hour by February 2016. The move was expected to have a domino effect among other companies and soon after it spurred TJX Cos., the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, to follow suit.

Analysts have said that Target would have to match those wages in order to hang on to employees amid a tightening labor market. After all, retailers are not duking it out just on price and the specific products they sell, but also on the customer service inside their stores.

Not even close to a living wage in a lot of places but it’s a start.

• The California Dietetic Assn. told McDonald’s to take its sponsorship and stuff it.

• Check out this amazing photo of a bobcat in Griffith Park, with the lights of Los Angeles in the background. Still can’t believe this isn’t a hoax.

• Presbyterians (PC-USA) approved marriages for same-sex couples in the first ever nationwide, grassroots vote on marriage equality by a faith tradition:

The 171 regional presbyteries (local leadership bodies within the PCUSA) have been voting on whether to change the wording to call marriage a contract “between a woman and a man” to being “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” On Tuesday, the denomination reached its needed majority of “yes” votes from at least 86 presbyteries to take effect. The change will be included in the church’s “Book of Order,” part of its constitution, taking effect on June 21.

• Ashley Judd, a feminist who won’t take shit off of anyone, even anonymous Twitter trolls, is my new hero. Here’s her column on being harassed for a simple sports-related Tweet.

• A stray pit bull was found nursing a two-day-old kitten by the side of the road. Both have been saved by animal rescuers but when a vet took the kitten home at night to bottle-feed it, the pit bull started howling. Let’s hope the two can find a home together. They’re in the Dallas area:

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• In Hawaii, firearm applications and registrations are down for the first time in eight years.

• “Gun rights” activist and 2nd Amendment Hero Jon Holzwarth will face criminal charges in the November self-inflicted shooting of his 3-year-old son. With rights come responsibilities, people.

• Gay couple who met at the University of Alabama in 1972 and have been together ever since decide not to leave millions to their alma mater over the state’s anti-gay stance.

• After a Christian college canceled a bake sale that was supposed to help homeless GLBT youth, students held an online fundraiser and raised $10,000 — five times more than they had planned.

Good News, Tennessee Edition:

• A bill from Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker would create the first new Tennessee wilderness area in nearly 30 years. That’s the good news. The bad news is, they’ve introduced this bill four times since 2010. Let’s hope the Tennessee Wilderness Act passes this time.

Watch the video that has the gun loons losing their shit:

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The Man Who Killed Cameron Todd Willingham

An update on this story which I wrote about back in 2009.

Can we call it murder when a corrupt prosecutor uses an unjust system to do it?

On Wednesday it was reported that John H. Jackson has been formally accused of misconduct by the State Bar of Texas in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. You may remember the Willingham story from David Grann’s epic and groundbreaking 2009 New Yorker article on the Corsicana father who was convicted in 1991 of murdering his three children by setting his home on fire. It turned out that the forensic evidence used to convict Willingham was completely bogus, but when this exculpatory information was presented to then-Gov. Rick Perry, he went ahead with the execution anyways. Willingham died at 6:20 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2004.

What’s perhaps more sickening than the neglected forensic evidence in this case is the other work that Jackson, the prosecuting attorney, did to win a conviction and see that Willingham’s every appeal was denied. These efforts include allegedly coercing and paying off a jailhouse informant to testify that Willingham had confessed to him, lying to the jury about whether the informant had been offered any benefits in exchange for his testimony, and withholding the informant’s recantation while Willingham sat on death row. Or, as the Marshall Project, which has been reporting on Jackson’s alleged misdeeds for the past year, described the state bar’s accusations: “obstruction of justice, making false statements and concealing evidence favorable to Willingham’s defense.”

“Before, during, and after the 1992 trial, [Jackson] knew of the existence of evidence that tended to negate the guilt of Willingham and failed to disclose that evidence to defense counsel,” the state bar alleged in its formal complaint.

This case makes me want to scream and cry all over again. Remember the applause by Republican primary voters when Rick Perry defended Texas’ use of the death penalty? Remember this?

“I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place,” Perry said. “When someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States if that’s required.”

Perry said the death penalty should be dealt with on a state-by-state basis but supports the decision of Texas to uphold the death penalty, calling it the “ultimate justice.”

“In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed.”

Does that apply to a corrupt prosecutor who made sure an innocent man was killed by a broken state system? Just wondering.

Remember this from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in 2006, voted with a majority to uphold the death penalty in a Kansas case. In his opinion, Scalia declared that, in the modern judicial system, there has not been “a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops.”

Again, I repeat: here ya go, Justice Scalia. Here’s your single case. There are undoubtedly numerous others. But of course, Scalia already knows about this case, eeing as how SCOTUS refused to hear Willingham’s appeal.

Useless idiots, every single one of them. It’s just too hard to admit that you’ve been making serious mistakes all this years and try to fix it. Instead, let’s pretend everything is awesome. What a joke.

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Filed under death penalty

I Don’t Think Human Rights Means What They Think It Means

I hate to tromp all over my last post but this just crossed my desk and I’m just … dumfounded:

A former Metro councilman known for spearheading Nashville’s failed English-only referendum is set to serve on the board of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission after receiving an appointment from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.

Eric Crafton, long ridiculed by Democrats for his unsuccessful push in 2009 to make English the official language of Metro government, will begin his service on the nine-member volunteer board Friday after getting the nod from Ramsey last month.

I’m sure Sheila Butt was unavailable.

Here’s a medley of Eric Crafton’s hits.

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Filed under English Only, Eric Crafton, Nashville, Tennessee