Thursday, August 11, 2005


Global warming? What global warming?

Evidence that global warming is real and that it's serious continues to mount, despite the best efforts of the administration and oil company lobbyists to cover their ears with their hands and yell "NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO" at the tops of their lungs. The latest news is that Siberia is melting away. The Guardian reports:
A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today....

The researchers found that what was until recently a barren expanse of frozen peat is turning into a broken landscape of mud and lakes, some more than a kilometre across.

Dr Kirpotin told the magazine the situation was an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He added that the thaw had probably begun in the past three or four years.

Climate scientists yesterday reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards.
And then we start talking about methane gas and permafrost and carbon in the atmosphere and NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

But at least we got that highway bill signed, right? Whew.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


United States: Motel 6 for Terrorists?

So let's say, hypothetically, that a country that is friendly to the U.S. and is in fact one of its lead allies in the "war on terror" has apprehended an activist in a group designated by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. And perhaps this country wanted this person out of the way for a while, during a potentially politically tumultuous time (e.g. an election, a major religious holiday, what have you), but didn't want to cause too much stir. So this country decides that it will deport this person to the United States, but only for forty days, at the end of which the person will be allowed to return to the U.S. ally and resume his activities.

Not bloody likely, you'll say. After all, we wouldn't let Tariq Ramadan come teach here. We wouldn't even let in Cat Stevens. But yet this is the plan for Sa'adia Hershkopf, a Kach activist that Israel has decided it doesn't want around during the heat of the Gaza disengagement. So despite the fact that Kach is on the State Department's list of bad guys, the plan is to hold onto Hershkopf for a few weeks and then release him back into the wild? Way to ruthlessly execute the "war on terror" guys. Is this what W meant by "bring 'em on"?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


More on Banksy and the Wall

I have quite a few disagreements with Dana Gilerman's article in Ha'aretz on art on Israel's wall through the West Bank. Gilerman attempts to write about the conflict and tension that exists between protesting and hating the wall and turning it into art, between Palestinians living with the wall and outsiders who come to paint it, and so on. However, what could have been a very interesting article is instead shallow and disingenuous. Gilerman introduces us to this tension (after some intro about the wall's increasing presence in the art world), writing:
But one can now see pastoral scenes painted on the separation fence by Banksy, whom The Guardian has called "Britain's most celebrated graffiti artist." There are green trees on a seashore, scenes of Switzerland, the face of a horse looking through a window in its stall, a girl holding a bundle of ballons, and a boy playing with a pail against a blue sky.

A Ramallah resident approached the painter while he was working on these scenes and said, "You are painting the wall and making it beautiful."

"Thank you," the artist replied.

"We don't want it to be beautiful. We hate this wall. Go home."

Embellishment of the separation fence can be interpreted as implicit approval of its existence compared with the numerous demonstrations organized to bring it down - as a conflict between residents who suffer from the fence's existence and foreigners who view the fence as an opportunity to leave their mark and their worldview behind. While Banksy says that the fence is "illegal under international law and essentially turns Palestine into the world's [sic] largest open prison," on his Web site (, it is hard to sense protest in the handsome, narrative scenes he has painted, even if he intended them to express yearning for freedom.
First of all, the quote to which Gilerman refers is taken from Banksy's website. By refusing to disclose this fact, Gilerman is not only a bad journalist (telling a story as if she were there, rather than attributing it to its source), but refuses to acknowledge that Banksy himself is drawing attention to the contradiction of his art. Furthermore, it seems quite easy to me to sense protest in the scenes that Banksy painted on the wall. A girl tries to float over the wall with a handful of balloons. A hole in the wall reveals children playing on a beach. In most of the pieces, the very explicit theme is that of freedom, of the possibilities of freedom, the innocence and playfulness of children, and the juxtaposition of these images against the antithesis of these ideas, the wall, results in what I think could easily be seen as protest art. To see it as anything else, I think, is to miss the point.

This doesn't mean, however, that the contradictions and tensions that are illustrated in the back and forth between Banksy and the Palestinian do not exist. However, instead of plagiarizing from Banksy's website, Gilerman would have been better off talking to Palestinians so that we might get to hear some of what they think of Banksy's protest art. What do they think of using the wall as a canvas in general. Does art, even protest art, that "beautifies" the wall inherintly a bad thing? I would be interested to hear the varied responses.

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