Dec 312011
 

* BEST CHICAGO ART OF 2011: GALLERIES AND EXHIBITIONS THAT PUT THE CITY ON THE MAP (PHOTOS)

By Abraham Ritchie, HuffPo

h/t Jagoff Publishing @ http://thejagoff.com/

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Western Exhibitions’ “Heads on Poles” exhibit. Photo courtesy ArtSlant Chicago.

As 2011 winds to an end, we reached out to some of Chicago’s experts in style, music, art and more to share some of their favorite places, people and things of the year. Already this week, Pete Zimmerman of CHIRP Radio and The Steve Dahl Show rounded up his favorite Chicago bands, albums and songs of 2011. Thursday, Refinery 29’s Chicago Editor Shani Silver shared the local shops and designers she admired this year, while the crew at Chicago Theater Beat revealed their picks for the city’s best plays of the year.

Below, ArtSlant Chicago Editor Abraham Ritchie shares his picks for the top contemporary art exhibits, galleries and other highlights from the year in contemporary art.

2011 was a solid year for art in Chicago, with quality art appearing in all areas of the city consistently throughout the year. The galleries in the 119 North Peoria Street building, threewalls, Western Exhibitions and Golden Age, were consistently strong all year and deserve a special nod, as they will get below. Steps away from Peoria Street, 65GRAND had excellent exhibitions particularly in painting and, unexpectedly, the monochrome. Though we had to bid goodbye as some of our favorite galleries closed this year: Golden Age, Walsh Gallery and Noble and Superior Projects, the city’s continued artistic and intellectual vitality assures us new visions are already emerging. Promising galleries like Ebersmoore, Chicago Urban Art Society and Alderman Exhibitions have taken part in the annual migration to bigger and better spaces. Going into 2012, there are many reasons to be optimistic. […]

READ @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/29/best-chicago-art-of-2011-_n_1175382.html?ref=chica

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* THE MOST INTERESTING DOCUMENTARIES OF THE YEAR (VIDEOS)

Source: Mother Jones

Gerrymandering

Though gerrymandering is nearly as old as the Republic—its namesake was early 19th century Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry (pronounced “Gary,” if you please)—it’s never really been a hot-button issue for voters. Gerrymandering seeks to change that with an entertaining yet outraged look at the odd practice of letting politicians pick their voters. Just consider the case of Barack Obama, who got a major career boost when he helped redraw the boundaries of his mostly black Illinois state Senate district so it represented white liberals.

A bipartisan cast of talking heads, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Howard Dean, make the case for reform. But Gerrymandering walks the boundary between documentary and political ad: Just as I received a review DVD at work, I also received a copy at home—mailed to me and other Golden State voters by the backers of a redistricting reform proposition. —Dave Gilson

The Stinking Ship

One night in August 2006, a tanker chartered by Trafigura, a British oil trader, anchored off the Ivory Coast and illegally unloaded 500 tons of toxic waste into Abidjan’s landfills. The pungent, blistering sludge killed 16 and hospitalized more than 100,000. Director Bagassi Koura’s short documentary skillfully chronicles how Trafigura dodged environmental regulations to save a mere $300,000, only to spend millions trying to cover up its responsibility.

What makes The Stinking Ship so heartbreaking are the stories of the people still living with the effects of the “Ivorian Chernobyl,” which has yet to be fully cleaned up. A community leader laments, “When it rains or it’s windy, frankly we can’t live in the village. The stench reaches far beyond it. We are walking dead.” —Titania Kumeh

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Morgan Spurlock downed a month of McDonald’s for our fast-food sins in his notorious 2004 film Super Size Me. Now he’s aiming to show us how ad-soaked our lives have become by financing an entire doc about the ubiquity of product placement using—what else?—product placement. The title is no joke; Spurlock pitches POM the naming rights on camera. From then on, he is shown imbibing only the pomegranate beverage, while other drink brands are visibly blurred out. He flies exclusively on JetBlue, wears Merrell shoes (giving a pair to Ralph Nader), and drives Mini Coopers. His contracts obligate him to interview anti-commercialization advocate Susan Linn at a Sheetz gas station, and to stay at a Hyatt when he travels to São Paolo to cover the city’s outdoor ad ban.

While amusing as a meta-commercial packaged as an inquiry into artistic integrity, the film inevitably feels like a stunt. The slyest touch may be that amid the hawking and well-worn revelations about advertising, the biggest sell is for the amiable Spurlock as the genre’s reigning goofball tour guide. All that’s missing is the obligatory survey question: Are you more or less likely to purchase this brand in the future? —Robert Abele

[…]

COMPLETE LIST w/ VIDEOS @ http://motherjones.com/media/2011/12/best-documentary-films-of-year

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* THE BOOK OF JOBS

By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair

Forget monetary policy. Re-examining the cause of the Great Depression—the revolution in agriculture that threw millions out of work—the author argues that the U.S. is now facing and must manage a similar shift in the “real” economy, from industry to service, or risk a tragic replay of 80 years ago.

It has now been almost five years since the bursting of the housing bubble, and four years since the onset of the recession. There are 6.6 million fewer jobs in the United States than there were four years ago. Some 23 million Americans who would like to work full-time cannot get a job. Almost half of those who are unemployed have been unemployed long-term. Wages are falling—the real income of a typical American household is now below the level it was in 1997.

We knew the crisis was serious back in 2008. And we thought we knew who the “bad guys” were—the nation’s big banks, which through cynical lending and reckless gambling had brought the U.S. to the brink of ruin. The Bush and Obama administrations justified a bailout on the grounds that only if the banks were handed money without limit—and without conditions—could the economy recover. We did this not because we loved the banks but because (we were told) we couldn’t do without the lending that they made possible. Many, especially in the financial sector, argued that strong, resolute, and generous action to save not just the banks but the bankers, their shareholders, and their creditors would return the economy to where it had been before the crisis. In the meantime, a short-term stimulus, moderate in size, would suffice to tide the economy over until the banks could be restored to health.

The banks got their bailout. Some of the money went to bonuses. Little of it went to lending. And the economy didn’t really recover—output is barely greater than it was before the crisis, and the job situation is bleak. The diagnosis of our condition and the prescription that followed from it were incorrect. First, it was wrong to think that the bankers would mend their ways—that they would start to lend, if only they were treated nicely enough. We were told, in effect: “Don’t put conditions on the banks to require them to restructure the mortgages or to behave more honestly in their foreclosures. Don’t force them to use the money to lend. Such conditions will upset our delicate markets.” In the end, bank managers looked out for themselves and did what they are accustomed to doing.

Even when we fully repair the banking system, we’ll still be in deep trouble—because we were already in deep trouble. That seeming golden age of 2007 was far from a paradise. Yes, America had many things about which it could be proud. Companies in the information-technology field were at the leading edge of a revolution. But incomes for most working Americans still hadn’t returned to their levels prior to the previous recession. The American standard of living was sustained only by rising debt—debt so large that the U.S. savings rate had dropped to near zero. And “zero” doesn’t really tell the story. Because the rich have always been able to save a significant percentage of their income, putting them in the positive column, an average rate of close to zero means that everyone else must be in negative numbers. (Here’s the reality: in the years leading up to the recession, according to research done by my Columbia University colleague Bruce Greenwald, the bottom 80 percent of the American population had been spending around 110 percent of its income.) What made this level of indebtedness possible was the housing bubble, which Alan Greenspan and then Ben Bernanke, chairmen of the Federal Reserve Board, helped to engineer through low interest rates and nonregulation—not even using the regulatory tools they had. As we now know, this enabled banks to lend and households to borrow on the basis of assets whose value was determined in part by mass delusion. […]

READ @ http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/01/stiglitz-depression-201201

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* INFILTRATING CONGRESS

By David Swanson, War Is A Crime

I cannot stress sufficiently that we will best move Congress toward peace and justice by keeping it at arm’s length and pressuring it without self-censorship, compromise, or entanglement with one or the other of its two branches: the Democratic or Republican. We are engaged in a long-term campaign to undo a plutocratic war state. Moving that campaign forward in the general culture is more important than which criminal enterprise has a majority of seats: the Democratic or Republican.

But it will be advantageous to us to have as many individuals with some nerve and a core of human decency occupying seats in Congress — perhaps as many as three or four of them if we are lucky. While only a mass movement will move the mass of corporate shills on Capitol Hill, it cannot hurt to have a few people there who are seriously on our side, people who understand where we are coming from without being taught, people who can communicate in front of a camera, people who are willing to step out alone and lead, and people capable of organizing others to join them.

Most elections pair up lesser and greater evils, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. But some handful of elections, especially primaries, include actually good candidates. I understand the presidential obsession. We’ve given presidents royal powers, so it matters that we show resistance to each would-be king by backing someone who would conceivably give those powers back, such as Rocky Anderson or Jill Stein. And I understand local action. But most localities don’t offer anything, and most general elections have already been decided by the gerrymanderers. If you must focus on elections, why not look to the few places that could make a real difference?

The best voice the peace movement has had in elected Washington in recent years has been Congressman Dennis Kucinich. He’s pushed the rest of the House of Misrepresentatives to places it had no desire to go. If we lose his voice in Washington, we will be taking a serious step backward. The point is not that we need elected officials to tell us what we want. The point is that only the very rarest of elected officials ever listen to what we want. Kucinich is one of them. The Ohio legislature has combined Kucinich’s district with Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s. These two Democratic incumbents will compete in one primary. That Kaptur is not the worst member of Congress we’ve ever seen, that she has in fact been remarkably good on occasion, does not alter the pressing need to keep a voice for peace in official Washington. […]

READ @ http://warisacrime.org/content/infiltrating-congress

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* TYRANNY IS A BIPARTISAN DISEASE

By Washington’s Blog

Extremists on Both the Right and the Left Like Tyranny

Lou Rockwell notes:

The most definitive study on fascism written in [the first half of the 20th century] was As We Go Marching by John T. Flynn. Flynn was a journalist and scholar of a liberal spirit who had written a number of best-selling books in the 1920s. He could probably be put in the progressive camp in the 1920s.

***

In reviewing the history of the rise of fascism, Flynn wrote:

One of the most baffling phenomena of fascism is the almost incredible collaboration between men of the extreme Right and the extreme Left in its creation.

***

If you think about it, right-wing statism is of a different color, cast, and tone from left-wing statism. Each is designed to appeal to a different set of voters with different interests and values.

These divisions, however, are not strict, and we’ve already seen how a left-wing socialist program can adapt itself and become a right-wing fascist program with very little substantive change other than its marketing program [or vice versa].

How Can Supposed “Right” and “Left” Wing People Both Be for Tyranny?

The short answer, of course, is that tyrannical interests may wear different masks, but it is just a dog-and-pony show meant to distract us into artificial “teams”.

George W. Bush cracked down on constitutional liberties such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and due process.

Obama has done the same … and has cracked down even harder.

Both Bush and Obama are waging brutal, unnecessary and insanely expensive wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Indeed, these wars were planned before either Bush or Obama. Both Democratic and Republican leaders are servants to the military-industrial complex, and they both accept the wholly-debunked myth that war is good for the economy (and see this).

Both Bush and Obama have both allowed crony capitalism to flourish. How can this be, when they are from such different sides of the aisle?

Because “fascism” (on the right), Soviet style “socialism” (on the left) and crony capitalism (a more modern, Western term) are all the exact same thing economically. They are all about an unholy alliance between a handful of corrupt, banana republic style government leaders and giant companies run amok.

Tyranny is a bipartisan disease. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/tyranny-is-a-bipartisan-disease.html

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* We Request to Inform You that You Inform Us We Killed Another Drone Target

By Marcy Wheeler, Emptywheel

I want to follow-up on Jim’s latest drone post–and go back to Greg Miller’s article on drones–to look at the the approval process. A lot of readers of Miller’s article noted this passage, revealing that JSOC continues to avoid the kind of (minimal) oversight that CIA gets.

There is no comparable requirement in Title 10, and the Senate Armed Services Committee can go days before learning the details of JSOC strikes.

But read the whole passage in context.

Within 24 hours of every CIA drone strike, a classified fax machine lights up in the secure spaces of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spitting out a report on the location, target and result.

The outdated procedure reflects the agency’s effort to comply with Title 50 requirements that Congress be provided with timely, written notification of covert action overseas. There is no comparable requirement in Title 10, and the Senate Armed Services Committee can go days before learning the details of JSOC strikes.

Neither panel is in position to compare the CIA and JSOC kill lists or even arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the rules by which each is assembled.

The senior administration official said the gap is inadvertent. “It’s certainly not something where the goal is to evade oversight,” the official said. A senior Senate aide involved in reviewing military drone strikes said that the blind spot reflects a failure by Congress to adapt but that “we will eventually catch up.”

The disclosure of these operations is generally limited to relevant committees in the House and Senate and sometimes only to their leaders. Those briefed must abide by restrictions that prevent them from discussing what they have learned with those who lack the requisite security clearances. The vast majority of lawmakers receives scant information about the administration’s drone program.

In addition to the long-standing problem of JSOC avoiding oversight (and, implicitly, that this notice apparently comes after the fact, when CIA sends a fax over, which is a little late for the Intelligence Committees to weigh in, IMO), Miller lays out the following:

  • No one–not the intelligence committees or even the Gang of Four–gets enough insight into the drone programs to understand how JSOC’s practices differ from CIA’s (this is consistent with what the Gang of Four said about Anwar al-Awlaki’s killing, given that they said they never saw the kill lists)
  • As is typical, the intelligence committee overseers can’t share information from briefings with their colleagues not read into the program (this is how the Bush Administration gutted intelligence committee oversight of the torture and illegal wiretap programs)

But don’t worry, a senior Administration official says, this time, this secrecy is not designed specifically to avoid oversight.

Apparently, this SAO’s interlocutors don’t agree, because the WSJ’s Adam Entous and Siobhan Gorman have a similar story out today, just three days after Miller’s, quoting “current and former administration, military and congressional officials” complaining about oversight gaps.

While few U.S. lawmakers question the effectiveness of the targeted killing campaigns, some top lawmakers complain about what they see as excessive White House secrecy about how targets are chosen and how the administration justified the killings, particularly of American citizens.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, has been publicly and privately pressing the Justice Department to let his committee review the secret memorandum prepared by Justice Department lawyers that endorsed the legality of killing U.S. citizens abroad.

Similar qualms have come from members of the House and Senate armed services committees, who have also sought more information in particular about the CIA’s drone program (they have some oversight over the drones run by the Defense Department).

We’ve seen this movie already. The refusal to release OLC opinions to DOJ’s oversight committee(s); the use of committee jurisdictional oddities to avoid oversight; the appeal to secrecy. All of this comes directly from the Bush script on hiding illegal programs from Congress.

And yet all of the people presumably bitching–folks like Pat Leahy, Carl Levin, John McCain, Buck McKeon, and Adam Smith presumably–just passed language leaving the Administration’s authority to use deadly force while pretending to try to detain American citizens with a drone intact.

Hey Congress! With Bush you were usually most successful forcing more transparency by refusing to pass legislation until you got that transparency. Maybe you should have tried that here?

In any case, Obama’s anonymous leakers poo poo the entire notion of functional Congressional oversight. […]

READ @ http://www.emptywheel.net/2011/12/30/we-request-to-inform-you-that-you-inform-us-we-killed-another-drone-target/

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* ENSHRINING THE LIES OF THE U.S. 1%

By Paul Rosenberg, Aljazeera

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The US has yet to come to terms with its biggest pack of lies of the last decade, the pack of lies on which the Iraq War was based, which left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, and the entire nation shattered. [GALLO/GETTY]

Last week, in an act of profound deception, the American “fact-checking” organisation, PolitiFact, chose a true statement as its “Lie of the Year”. The pseudo-lie?  “[House] Republicans voted to end Medicare”, as part of the GOP’s “Ryan Plan” last April. The reality? As the Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid wrote at the time, in a preview of the votethat Democrats would then cite to justify their claims:The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the healthcare bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a programme that directly pays those bills. Mr Ryan and other conservatives say this is necessary because of the programme’s soaring costs.

There is a potential lie-of-the-year in that paragraph. It’s just not the one that PolitiFact thinks it found.

The real lie is the claim that Ryan’s plan “is necessary because of the programme’s soaring costs”. In fact, the problem isn’t Medicare per se, it’s the entire cost structure of American medicine as a whole, which is roughly twice the per capita cost of healthcare spending in other advanced countries – even those that have 50 per cent more people aged 65+ than the US has.

The reason for that cost structure is non-competitive private oligopolies – insurance companies, drug companies, hospital chains, etc., – in sharp contrast to other countries with their government-run systems of various different kinds. There’s another name for these oligopolies -they are the cash cows of the one per cent. Paul Ryan is their man, and PolitiFact is part of their protection system.

Indeed, as Thomas Ferguson and Robert Johnson explained just over a year ago, in their paper “A World Upside Down? Deficit Fantasies in the Great Recession”, all of the US long-term federal debt is due to just three oligopoly sectors: the military-industrial complex (the backbone of empire, with bases all around the world and almost half the world’s military spending), the medical-industrial complex (with twice the per capita costs of other systems), and the financial sector (which has recently cost trillions of dollars in lost wealth and economic activity).

All three of these are enormous cash cows for the onr per cent, and equally enormous cost-centres for the 99 per cent. Without the costs imposed by lack of competition, regulation and accountability in these sectors, the US would have no long-term debt problem. We would be paying it down, rather than running it up. […]

READ @ http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/12/2011122994027989871.html

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* PAYBACK FOR PAID REVOLUTION? EGYPTIAN POLICE RAID U.S. NGOs

Source: RT 

h/t SnakeArbusto

Police in Cairo have today raided 17 civil society organizations as the country’s military rulers seek to find out exactly who has been funding the Egyptian revolution.

­As several of the pro-democracy and human rights groups were at the forefront of the revolution that swept through the country last January, Egyptian authorities have become increasingly interested in the foreign funding many of these groups receive.

At least three of the human rights groups targeted in Thursday’s operation, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute (IRI), are based in the US.

“Security forces who said they were from the public prosecutor are raiding our offices as we speak. They are grabbing all the papers and laptops as well,” said one person working at NDI, who gave her name as Rawda, told Reuters.

The Washington-based IRI, which has served as an election monitor in Egypt’s ongoing parliamentary elections, reacted harshly to the raids.

“IRI has been working with Egyptians since 2005; it is ironic that even during the Mubarak era IRI was not subjected to such aggressive action,” a statement by the group read, Al Arabiya reports.

­US reaction

The campaign has drawn immediate response from the United States. The State Department has characterized the raids as “inconsistent with the bilateral cooperation” that the two countries have had over years and urged Egyptian authorities to immediately halt their “harassment” of NGOs.

It has also made it clear that America could review its US $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt. The spokeswoman for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, has indicated that these payments may not be sanctioned by the Congress if Egyptian government does not reverse the situation.

“We do have a number of new reporting and transparency requirements on funding to Egypt that we have to make to Congress,” Nuland said. “The Egyptian government is well aware of that and it certainly needs to be aware of that in the context of how quickly this issue gets resolved.”

Meanwhile, 28 Egyptian rights groups came up with a joint statement on Friday accusing the country’s ruling military council of using “Hosni Mubarak-era repressive tools” in waging an “unprecedented campaign” against pro-democracy organizations, AP reports. The statement says the attacks herald a wider clampdown to target leaders of the uprising and are aimed at “liquidating” those behind the revolution.

READ and VIDEOS @ http://rt.com/news/egypt-police-raid-ngo-953/

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* WTO CONSISTENTLY RULES AGAINST THE PUBLIC INTEREST

By Karl Rusnak, Economy In Crisis

The World Trade Organization (WTO) was allegedly intended to benefit all of its members by increasing economic activity, but the reality has been quite different. The WTO has been a boon to multinational corporations, but has worked against the best interest of average citizens, particularly in the United States. According to Public Citizen, the WTO has ruled against the U.S. in 100 percent of the cases where a complaint was brought against a U.S. public interest law.

A major example of this occurred earlier this year when the WTO ruled against the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTC) of 2009, saying that it violated WTO rules. The law was intended to help combat teenage smoking by banning flavored cigarettes. There is considerable evidence that flavored cigarettes were targeted at younger potential smokers, which contributed to many young people developing lifelong addictions. It is no secret that cigarette smoking is a health hazard, and this measure was clearly intended as a public health measure, not a trade related measure.

Despite this fact, Indonesia filed a complaint with the WTO alleging that FSPTC represented an illegal barrier to trade. The complaint alleged that the ban on flavored cigarettes was “discriminatory and unnecessary.” Indonesia had  been the primary exporter of clove cigarettes to the United States before they were banned by this new law. Indonesia argued that because menthol cigarettes were still allowed under the law, the ban on other flavored cigarettes was discriminatory. This argument falls flat because the decision to continue to sell menthol and regular cigarettes was based on the fact that many older adults utilize these products, whereas the flavored cigarettes are almost exclusively used by young adults and new smokers. […]

READ @ http://economyincrisis.org/content/wto-consistently-rules-against-the-public-interest

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* IRAN, ANOTHER FALSE ENEMY?

By Stephen Merrill, Information Clearing House

Is Iran truly a country so bent on murdering innocent Americans it embraces its own nuclear annihilation, unlike any other nation now or previously, utter, complete defeat at war?

This is the claim made by the pro-warfare wing of the Republicrat Party, seven out of eight candidates seeking the Republican nomination for President. It is a given within this frightened circle that Iranians are willing to commit mass suicide as a people just to make a negative point about the freedoms enjoyed in the United States.

The warfare candidates in their many words on the subject betray little personal knowledge of Iranian history or proclivities. The main evidence cited in favor of a US military attack on Iran is the rants of the staged showman of the mullah empire, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even he has never stated that Iran is willing to die as a nation just to launch one nuclear attack of its own on Israel or the United States. With an impoverished economy, a strong protest movement, no known weapons of mass destruction and no direct capacity to deliver a nuclear missile even close to Tel Aviv, Iran seems an odd nation for the West to be so frightened of. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30111.htm

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