I can’t draw either, but it’s still fun to try

This is a great piece by Roger Ebert on the value of creating art for yourself, no matter how rudimentary. I strongly suggest you read it if you ever feel the urge to draw (or dance or sing or take pictures or play with sidewalk chalk). But in the event that free time is currently lacking, here are some wonderful tidbits which I think present a compelling case for making your own art:

The break in our childish innocence comes the first time we use an eraser. We draw a chin and think it looks nothing like a chin, and in frustration we erase it. That’s it. Our bond of trust with our artistic instinct has been severed. We will be erasing for the rest of our lives. I speak here not of great and accomplished artists, for whom I hold great awe, but for you and me, whose work, let’s face it, will not soon be given a gallery show.

What you draw is an invaluable and unique representation of how you saw at that moment in that place according to your abilities. That’s all we want. We already know what a dog really looks like.

 

In Paris, London, Venice, Cannes, I found corners to establish myself. I published a book about Cannes that was illustrated with my deeply flawed sketches — but they were perfect, you see, because they recorded faithfully whatever I drew at that time and that place. That was the thing no one told me about. By sitting somewhere and sketching something, I was forced to really look at it, again and again, and ask my mind to translate its essence through my fingers onto the paper. The subject of my drawing was fixed permanently in my memory. Oh, I “remember” places I’ve been and things I’ve seen. I could tell you about sitting in a pub on Kings’ Road and seeing a table of spike-haired kids starting a little fire in an ash tray with some lighter fluid. I could tell you, and you would be told, and that would be that. But in sketching it I preserved it. I had observed it.

I found this was a benefit that rendered the quality of my drawings irrelevant. Whether they were good or bad had nothing to do with their most valuable asset: They were a means of experiencing a place or a moment more deeply … Conscious thought was what I had to escape, so I wouldn’t think, Wait! This doesn’t look anything like that tree! or I wish I knew how to draw a tree! I began to understand why Annette said finish every drawing you start. By abandoning perfectionism you liberate yourself to draw your way. And nobody else can draw the way you do.

As I will be the first to admit, I cannot “draw” worth a damn in the conventional sense. But every now and then I find intense delight in picking up my trusty box of 64 Crayolas and just going nuts on a blank piece of paper. The few drawings that I have incorporated into my journal are some of my favorite things to share with others, not because they will impress them, but because they are unique representations of me that could not have been created by anybody but me.

With that in mind, go out and create something for yourself; and most importantly, HAVE FUN!!

 

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Who wants to be a homegrown terrorist?

Zachary Adam Chesser, the 21-year old American who last October pleaded guilty to materially supporting terrorism, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for threatening the creators of South Park. U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride:

His actions caused people throughout the country to fear speaking out — even in jest — to avoid being labeled as enemies who deserved to be killed. The fact that a young man from Northern Virginia could support such violence and terror is a sobering reminder of the serious threat that homegrown jihadists pose to this country.

I love South Park, and I hope that Matt and Trey continue their work for a long time. Everything must indeed be allowed to be funny; it’s the only way to deal with the fact that our world is one hot mess.

Regarding the comment on “homegrown” terrorists, I want to point out that the Chesser case is just another poignant reminder that most all of our domestic terrorists have been white, not Arab or Mexican: McVeigh, Kaczynski, Posse Comitatus … Nativists and Birthers and Sovereign Citizens need to shut the fuck up.

UPDATE: I forgot that Matt talked a little bit about this awhile back. Also, another link to Leonard Zeskind’s Blood and Politics.

Judicial system *might* lead to justice

The U.S. Attorney General’s Office today released a statement announcing that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. This may pave the way for DOMA to eventually be struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (since any decisions mirroring the Justice Department’s new stance will inevitably be appealed).

In my mind, marriage equality is not about the liberalization of tradition, but a matter of civil rights. Married individuals have been granted legal rights based solely on the fact that they are married. When you create rights determined solely by one’s desire to enter into a legally-binding relationship with another person, you absolutely cannot deny those rights to another person – who wishes to do the same thing – simply because you disapprove of the person with whom they choose to enter into that legally-binding relationship. This does not mean that churches can be forced to marry homosexual couples – they can’t. But in the eyes of the law, people must be allowed to marry the person whom they choose; it must be fair.

With the federal government backing down its defense of DOMA, our judicial system may now have a chance of actually serving justice.

And don’t bitch about a “slippery slope” to polygamy or bestiality, because that’s just stupid.

Cheesehead cronyism

In this country, we love to say that politicians with whom we disagree are corrupt, controlled by special interests, inept, etc … Though usually we have little else to go on aside from our own disdain. Here, however, is a pretty stark example of corporate cronyism in the works ….

By now we’ve all heard about the protests in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to strip most public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights. Hell, a handful of the state senators were even hiding out here in Rockford. But removing public employee protections without any consent is only one part of the Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill.”

Equally as troubling is the proviso allowing the governor to sell off state-owned utilities to whomsoever he pleases without needing to even glance at another bid. Not that this should be any surprise; it’s the bog-standard conservative line of the last few decades: privatize. Privatize. PRIVATIZE! What is troubling, however, is the role of Charles and David Koch and their PAC, Americans for Prosperity, in helping elect and advise Walker and a sympathetic Republican-controlled legislature in the first place.

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Politico’s Ben Smith all report that the Kochs do not have any financial interest in the outcome of the bill, and they point to Gov. Walker’s previously stated desire to break up the unions as proof that this is a state matter. But that still leaves the focus on the collective bargaining parts of Walker’s bill, and doesn’t address the tangible interests Koch Industries has in Wisconsin’s energy sector (nod to ginandtacos.com for the link).

Finally, Susie Madrak over at Crooks & Liars found this little gem of a job advertisement:

Energy client is looking for experienced Plant Managers for multiple power plants located in Wisconsin. You need 15+ years of operations & maintenance experience in a power plant environment. You should have at least 5 years of experience managing operations & maintenance teams in an operational power plant. The ideal candidate has experience in a coal fired power plant. Salary is commensurate with experience.

Why would a company describe itself merely as an “energy client” in a job advertisement if it was serious about attracting top talent? A prestigious name alone is usually enough to flood an HR department with applications. Now I do happen to believe in coincidences, and I cannot say for certain that something sinister is going on here, but these events are lining up just a little too perfectly for me not to believe that. The saddest part is, if it turns out that the Koch brothers did engineer a corporate takeover of Wisconsin’s energy sector, it will have been done in public view and perfectly legal.

 

 

Not a martyr, but certain to go down in infamy

By ordering his army and air force to fire on civilian protesters, Moammar Gadhafi is composing a powerful punctuation to his brutal legacy, though it will not be as he intends. He defiantly claims that he will die a martyr, fighting against Islamic extremists and foreign “agents.” But widespread abandonment of Gadhafi by high-ranking diplomats for the regime, parts of the military, and tribal allies, all point to a tyrant in his death throes. And with reports filtering in that the eastern half of Libya is now under opposition control, it seems that Gadhafi will follow very soon.

In breaking with the standard set by the Egyptian military to not attack civilian protesters, Gadhafi has revealed his weakness and insecurity. Rather than stepping aside and ushering in an era of peaceful self-determination, he is trying to purge the country of anybody and anything inimical to his absolute rule. Unfortunately for his personal legacy, you only become a martyr when you die for your people, not when they topple you for brutalizing them. Good riddance.

Stuxnet: Scourge of industry and harbinger of new era of war

Well, now that Colbert’s brought it up, I feel that it’s time to talk about the most intriguing development in cyberspace: the mysterious Stuxnet worm. Because I’m too cheap to add the upgrade which would allow me to post this video directly, you can watch the whole interview at the Colbert Nation. It gives a good basic primer on what Stuxnet does, and you should check out this article on Symantec if you want a more technical explanation. Whatever your level of interest in the nitty-gritty, you cannot deny that this is a very, very cool tactic.

That being said, however, Stuxnet has are some very serious implications for international security and the evolving concept of cyber warfare. David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security:

COLBERT: “Why won’t anyone take credit for these? We know they’re our enemies.”

ALBRIGHT: “It’s an act of war.”

COLBERT: “Is it really, though?”

ALBRIGHT: “They destroyed 1,000 centrifuges in Natanz through Stuxnet. The Iranians didn’t act like it was an act of war; but if they destroyed 8,000, it could’ve been seen as an act of war.”

As The Economist notes, there are limitations to this type of attack, but in the future such attacks could be construed as an act of overt war, possibly leading to actual armed conflict. Why could it be considered an act of war? Because it does real damage.

AMANPOUR: “Is it an act of war? And what is the consequence? Where is the other shoe?”

ALBRIGHT: “First shot was Stuxnet. What’s the second shot? I mean, what are the Iranians gonna do? Are they gonna launch a cyberattack against us? Very vulnerable. We have a lot of industrial facilities that are not well protected that could be attacked in some kind of cyberattack by a country like Iran. So, before I think we go down this path, I do think we need to discuss it. Figure out is this the best way forward. It may be. It may be this is better than any military strike. No one died. And maybe it makes sense to go this way. But we may get attacked, too. And we need to think about that.”

In my mind, this raises several important questions: First, at what point does an attack such as this fall into the realm of “warfare”? Does it depend on the target? Does it depend on the progenitor (e.g., a state versus a group of hackers)? Does it depend on the amount of “damage”? Second, how do you deal with the problem of attribution? Since cyberattacks are difficult to trace and can potentially come from multiple sources, holding a particular government or group responsible can be difficult. As Ben O’Loughlin at Duck of Minerva puts it: “Who has the technical expertise, political will and diplomatic savvy to draw up laws for a world of crowdsourced armies and weaponized software?” Finally, what are the terms of escalation? At what point does one respond to a cyberattack with a conventional attack?

These are questions which military doctrines must address. Although by no means comprehensive, they do at least provide a starting point for thinking about a new age of cyber warfare.

Sorry

I really do have thoughts and opinions on things, but you’ll note that once Tim and I both got full time jobs, the number of posts here dropped dramatically. Lately, the most I’ve been able to do is choose a quote and add maybe one or two lines about it. Which, thankfully, is what tumblr was designed for. Mostly, it’s been reproductive rights, since HR3 is, basically, the most degrading piece of legislation to come out of congress since the Fugitive Slave Act.

I should, god willing/inshallah/knock wood be posting some thoughts on The New Jim Crow in the next couple days. I borrowed it from my girlfriend, and read it all in one sitting, and would like to revisit some parts of it. In short, if you care about ideas like “justice” and “citizenship,”  you need to read this book.