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Friday, June 11, 2004

IMPORTANT: Artist Arrested by FBI, Art Considered "Terrorism" 

An arts group called the Critical Arts Ensemble had one of its members, Steve Kurtz, arrested after police came into his home after his wife died of cardiac arrest, and panicked at the site of petri dishes in his studio. An FBI Terrorist Task Force was brought in, and Kurtz is now facing a grand jury for the intent to create a biological weapon.

Kurtz, and the CAE, made art that questioned the line between biology and commerce. I met this guy at an art event in London in 1999, and I promise you, they're satirists. They're very funny people, very smart people, and they aren't terrorists. (That said, I should specify- this isn't a hoax, or a publicity stunt). They challenge the economics of genetically engineered food, yes, and maybe that scares some people in Monsanto office buildings, but it shouldn't scare "America". They're very clearly satirists. I think they still have work up at the University of Minnesota, but if you're not there, some of their work is available to see for yourself on the web:

Cult of the New Eve, a (entirely fictitious) cult dedicated to biologically engineered superiority, is a favorite, as is the more playful Society for Reproductive Anachronisms, which jokingly advocated "world sex tours" that would allow us to combine the DNA of all races in order to bring about a more unified global understanding and unity. They also created a cd for teenagers with software, hardcore music and a guide to hacking a gameboy. But some of the pieces went into the realm of genuine science: "Free Range Grains," was a mobile DNA extraction laboratory that tested food for the presence of genetically modified organisms.

That's the equipment the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has confiscated, and that is part of the reason why Steve Kurtz is facing a grand jury. In his possession were also bacteria used in High School science experiments. 7 other artists, most of whom also hold University-level teaching positions, have also been asked to come up before the grand jury.

This is pretty intense stuff. You can sign a petition, or if you are in New York, San Francisco or Pittsburgh, you can go to a protest that has been planned. Otherwise, you can contribute to their legal defense fund. If you run a blog- let people know about this. It's very important that an innocent artist doesn't face 10 years in prison for making his art (and let's not forget- he was arrested on the day that his wife died) but if you don't care about that, then consider this the first step toward the criminalization of amateur science.

Monday, June 07, 2004

The Other Quagmire? 

An article in today's Washington Post reports on recent attacks by Taliban (anyone remember those guys?) forces against US soldiers and against relief workers in Afghanistan (anyone remember that country?). There is discussion of what this violence, this lack of security, means in the run-up to elections. The similarity to issues and events in Iraq piqued my interest. But what made me really sit up and take notice was the following paragraph:

The U.S. military has assembled 20,000 troops, its largest-ever force in Afghanistan, in an attempt to keep militants on the defensive in the run-up to the vote.
That's correct: not only are we increasing the number of soldiers in Iraq and initiating "Stop Loss" actions to keep soldiers in the military and in Iraq, a similar set of actions is taking place in Afghanistan. The problem is, nobody's paying attention to that other war; the war that really should be the "Central Front in the War on Terror."

The similarities should be explored by Democrats and the press (I'm not holding my breath for either) as they illustrate the true capabilities of our War President and his coterie of chicken-hawks. The initial operations in both theaters were decisive. The planning for follow-up operations was sketchy to non-existent. The situation in both countries has continued to decline so that some of the very people we defeated in the battle look to be winning the war.

A fine record for George W(ar President) Bush to run on, indeed.

President Kerry's first SOTU: A suggestion 

I've posted a few suggestions for President Kerry's first State of the Union message next January over at Musing's musings. Go have a look and let me know what you think.