What a difference a week makes!
I know it was quite recent since I sent my last email, so this one will be relatively short and unfortunately not so sweet.
Hurricane Katrina and the floods that followed dealt a devastating blow to the Gulf Coast, but not as deadly, disastrous and catastrophic as the blow dealt by inefficiency, mismangement and extraordinary lack of compassion of America's leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike. America failed and the world watched.
My first response, in an open letter to President Bush, Hero Fiddles: Mass Destruction for Real, reflects the horror and anger I felt as I watched people pleading for their lives while nothing was being done to help. I have received a lot of email from it, all of which has been favorable, despite my heavy-handed tone. Seems like a lot of people feel this way. It's not about blame and finger pointing. It's about accountability.
The second editorial, Execution and Evacuation written September 5th, is less raw with emotion, but no more forgiving of those that should have been accountable, but failed. Among other things, it compares the pride Israelis felt after the hostage rescue at Entebbe in 1976 with the shame Americans are feeling in the manner in which our government responded to the devastation wrought by Katrina
And then of course, the Annoy.com cover, Race Against Time which reminds us exactly how urgently things are prioritized when political expediency and family connections color the equation.
I know most Americans feel hideous about how this has all played out, but these are the leaders we elected to serve us, and therefore, the blame lies with us.
The writing was on the levee.
Mass Destruction for Real
As I write this to you, children, parents, mothers, fathers, brothers, lovers and their faithful pets are struggling to survive in New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile and the surrounding areas.
Everyone keeps saying that its too early to place blame. Cable news networks whores, like the pigs at MSNBC are already capitalizing on the tragedy by showing cheesy graphics accompanying solemn, September 11th-like dirges saluting the extraordinary heroes.
But guess what? There is plenty of blame to go around immediately. Right now, if America hadn't exhausted its resources in the Persian Gulf, people here in the Gulf of Mexico might have stood a better chance.
>>Hero Fiddled: Full Editorial
Execution and Evacuation
What I was witnessing was not in some other part of the world where access, resources or familiarity was a problem. The initial response evoked Robert Mugabe bulldozing the destitute of Zimbabwe, masked with a paper thin veneer of false compassion. Could all this really be playing out in a major American city? Could a country that flattened Hiroshima honesty be stymied from reaching a Convention Center in New Orleans to save a few lives?
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had granted blanket, automatic extensions with one notable, horrifying exception, that screamed volumes. "True emergency matters, e.g. death penalty cases with execution dates, or deportation matters with an imminent and confirmed deportation dates," were provided an immediate solution, which had been already orchestrated and set up at the Chambers of Chief Judge, Carolyn Dineen King, in Houston Texas.
Oh that the execution of our emergency response matched the response to our emergency executions. As our government stalled, clueless as to how to save lives or get people evacuated, the mechanisms to kill and deport them were up and running with the mechanical efficiency of a slick, well-oiled machine.
>>Execution and Evacuation: Full Editorial
Race Against Time
The President strummed on a new guitar
His Veep charmed Canadian oil
Disasters aplenty were ruining the fun
Anarchy, floods, on American soil
'It's not Terri Schiavo,' he said with a grin
'Why such a clear focus on speed?
The political fallout can't be all that bad
And no tubes with which we
And no tubes with which we can feed!'
Death, Darkness, Thirst amidst 'Locked Loaded' shooters
Yes, the meek shall inherit the earth
It's Culture of Life and its inevitable dearth
'But God will still punish the looters!'
'What more can He do,' asked a desperate few,
As the death toll approached the unreal
'If you daughters lay dyin', and wife was a'cryin'
I wonder what you then
I wonder what you then might steal!'
>>Race Against Time: Full Details
News and Stuff...
All these events were mentioned in my last email, but since they are still either taking place or yet to happen, I have included them again!
First Amendment Project Auction
Your Name in an Upcoming Book
First, the First Amendment Project. We have been getting an enormous amount of attention thanks to one of our Advisory Board members, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Michael Chabon, who orchestrated an incredible campaign that has 16 top authors auctioning off the name of a character in their upcoming books to raise funds for First Amendment Project. This will take place from September 1 -25, in conjunction with eBay Giving Works, the dedicated program for charity listings, and Auction Cause. Prominent writers include Dorothy Allison, Dave Eggers, Karen Joy Fowler, Neil Gaiman, Andrew Sean Greer, John Grisham, Stephen King, Jonathan Lethem, Rick Moody, ZZ Packer, Chuck Palahniuk, Nora Roberts, Lemony Snicket, Peter Straub, Amy Tan, and Ayelet Waldman.
Writers of the Storm: Fake News and Public Decency in the Age of Terror
My friend, poet Jayne Lyn Stahl, founded and heads Writers-at-Large, and yours truly will be moderating this panel on September 28, 2005.
Writers-at-Large, a California-based writers' advocacy group, is delighted to bring you Writers of the Storm: Fake News and Public Decency in the Age of Terror. The panel will deal with our role, as writers, in speaking to the neutering of the news, as well as what the concept of decency means, who gets to decide that, and why, as well as whether that decision diminishes the importance of diversity of opinion.
The forum will feature Bay Area artist, and president of The First Amendment Project, moderator, Clinton Fein, and panelists Floyd Salas, author, and president of PEN Oakland; author, journalist, and former speechwriter for New York Governor Mario Cuomo, Jeff Gillenkirk; poet, playwright, novelist, co-editor of Cocaine Chronicles, Jervey Tervalon; playwright Scott McMorrow; journalist and author, David Ewing Duncan; novelist, and social commentator, Stephen Elliott; KPQQ news broadcaster, director of Walter Benjamin Research Institute, Scott J. Thompson; and radio journalist, Noelle Hanrahan. Co-sponsored by: Berkeley Richmond JCC, City Lights Books, Dutton's Books of Brentwood and Beverly Hills, PEN Center USA, The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, The Peninsula Beverly Hills and Media Alliance. Special thanks to Ed Asner, and other friends of Writers-at-Large for their help with this event.
Wednesday, September 28 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center
1414 Walnut Street
Admission: $15, $10 for students with valid ID
Freedom of Expression in Times of War
Along with my friend Hanna Regev who, among other things, co-ordinated the program for my Numb & Number exhibition, I will be presenting this one-day seminar through University of California: Berkeley Extension.
Why is political art expressing so little dissent under the current Bush Administration? How does implementation of the Patriot Act impact the arts and artists? When does one's right to remain silent become an order from the government? And what is the cost of free speech?
This all-day symposium explores how creativity, media and the arts are attacked during times of war -- attacks that are frequently hidden under the guise of "national security." A diverse interdisciplinary panel of artists, museum curators and free-speech organizers discuss the limits of freedom of expression in an electronic age and the inevitable erosion of civil liberties in wartime.
Nov. 19: Sat., 10 am - 4 pm
San Francisco: Room 204, South of Market Center, 95 Third St.
>>University of California Berkeley
Displaying and Containing Controversy: Practical Strategies
I will be serving as a panelist on the following panel for the Western Museums Association at their annual meeting in Pasadena.
This session explores three cases of successful media campaigns that transformed controversial exhibitions into productive opportunities for education and dialogue: "Numb and Number," "What's Going On? California and the Vietnam Era," and "Body Worlds: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies." Panelists provide insight and information used to minimize future debacles when developing difficult exhibitions, by anticipating conflicts and devising appropriate strategies to diffuse them.
Moderator: Hanna Regev, Museum and Gallery Consultant, Toomey Tourell; Presenters: Clinton Fein, Artist; Barbara Henry, Chief Curator of Education, Oakland Museum of California; Shell Amega, Vice President, Communications, California Science Center.
>>Western Museums Association
It Takes Reality and other Observations
I am editing a web log for the First Amendment Project over whose Board I preside, as well as working on a couple of projects that are not ready for human consumption just yet. We have been getting an enormous amount of media attention thanks to one of our Advisory Board members, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Michael Chabon, who orchestrated an incredible campaign that has 16 top authors auctioning off the name of a character in their upcoming books to raise funds for First Amendment Project. Visit the auction and possibly immortalize yourself in a fabulous novel. The poster I designed for the event will be auctioned too.
My editorial, Reality Blows, looks at why Tom Cruise is becoming about as popular as Donald Rumsfeld, and my most recent, It Takes a Prick, explores how America finally seems to be second guessing the spin that's being fed to them by an Administration that seems to be losing control by the hour.