Call it deft showmanship or call it the equivalent of making a bonfire with your furniture after winning the NCAA tournamenteither way, you've got to hand it to our liberal activists as of late for keeping things entertaining. I mean, how do you top the stalwart men and women who four years ago brought us the word "Peace" spelled out on fields and hills around the world in naked bodies? Well, one way would be to sign up for their next project: Global Orgasm for Peace. According to Sunday's story in the San Francisco Chronicle:
The Global Orgasm for Peace was conceived by Donna Sheehan, 76, and Paul Reffell, 55, who live together on a houseboat along scenic Tomales Bay in Marin County, just north of San Francisco.
Their immodest goal is for everyone in the world to have an orgasm on December 22 while focusing on world peace.
"The orgasm gives out an incredible feeling of peace during it and after it," Reffell said on Sunday. "Your mind is like a blank. It's like a meditative state. And mass meditations have been shown to make a change."
Or rock the boat, at least.
Speaking of rocking the boat, you probably noticed at some point since, say, 1976, that burning a flag is generally no longer an effective political statement. You could, however, take a cue from an artist in Tennessee and deep fry it. From the AP today:
Art student William Gentry said his piece, "The Fat Is in the Fire," was a commentary on obesity in America. "I deep-fried the flag because I'm concerned about America and about America's health," Gentry said.
The exhibit, at the Customs House Museum in Clarksville, featured more than 40 flags fried in peanut oil, egg batter, flour and black pepper. Apparently, the Southern appetite for everything from fried Twinkies to fried Snickers bars has its limits, though. The museum removed the exhibit, saying it conflicted with "community values."
For another eloquent (and not necessarily effective) challenge to the values voters, see also this 2005 exhibit at the Houston art gallery DiverseWorks. Among the highlights: The image of a baby strapped with TNT, below the words "Hamas Baby Bomb," appeared on a faux postage stamp, which artist Michael Hernandez de Luna had stuck to an envelope and repeatedly mailed to himself without a glitch. Now that there's reason to beleive public opinion has turned against Bush and the war, ever-catchier agit-prop this sort may be coming to an inbox near you.
The presiding judge in the case seems to think so. Judge William Alsup of San Francisco's federal court, hearing arguments in a case pitting Chevron against aggrieved residents of the Ecuadorian Amazon, was perplexed why Chevron's lawyers hadn't asked to relocate the case to South America. "It's a legitimate question to ask," he recently said from the bench. Alsup was no doubt aware that Texaco (now Chevron) faced a similar case in New York in 1993 (jungle, pollution, health problems) and won a motion to send it to Ecuador. "Let me hear from 'Big Oil,'" Alsup commanded, joking about the Big Oil part (perhaps). "Tell me why you didn't make that motion."
Chevron's lawyers argued the quickest way to dispense with the case would be to press for its dismissal. SF Weekly has been reporting on the trail, and today has an insightful piece on why Chevron is tempting fate at the pink hands of SF liberals instead of the well-greased arteries of a banana republic:
The plaintiffs' lawyers cite a couple of good reasons why Chevron might be wary of sending the present case down to Ecuador. The company may be getting nervous about an ongoing case in Quito, the remnant of the case removed from the United States in the 1990s. The judge recently put the trial on the fast track, and a ruling is expected in the next year. That lawsuit demands a massive environmental remediation effort; Amazon Watch estimates it could cost $6 billion in total. Meanwhile, in New York federal court, Chevron is locked into a lawsuit with the government of Ecuador about who should pay for the cleanup or any other legal damages awarded.
With governmental relations already frayed by the litigation in New York, the company may also be wary of the anti-American, socialist sentiment on the rise throughout South America what commentators have taken to calling the "pink tide" that has swept leftist leaders into power across the continent. "Ecuador just kicked Occidental Petroleum out, and the government is starting to make populist noises," says Terry Collingsworth, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers. "Chevron is damn nervous."
These macro forces mean little to Judge Alsup, however, as he wades through the muddy legal waters of this case that has its roots in a South American rainforest. In October, he spent a long day hearing testimony from experts flown up from Ecuador. The next day he would have to discuss how the Ecuadorian plaintiffs would be deposed, and whether they could appear for trial; there was some concern that the impoverished Indians wouldn't be able to get visas to enter the United States. It was the end of the afternoon, and the judge finally let his irritation show. "I just don't understand why a case that involves Ecuador is up here!" he burst out. "Now you want a lowly district judge in San Francisco to resolve it! It's all topsy-turvy."
The judge sighed, resigned. "But that's what I've got to do. See you tomorrow," he said, standing up. Chevron's lawyers stayed quiet.
Tom DeLay, the former House Speaker who began his working life in the Houston suburbs exterminating ants and roaches, made his name in Congress exterminating his opposition, and exterminated himself in a cloud of ethics scandals, has wrapped up his anihilatory political career by exterminating his paper trail. DeLay's former aides, who recently went to work for his interim Republican replacement, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, deleted unnamed (and presumably sensitive) office files this week before quitting en-masse on Tuesday. A DeLay spokesman told the Times the trashing of files and scrubbing of hard drives was standard operating procedure for congressional transfers of power. Still, Sekula-Gibbs, who is occupying the seat until Democratic victor Nick Lampson is sworn in this January, has asked Congress to investigate the file deleting. You've got to hand it to the Exterminator for his skill creating scandalseven as his political life is upside down and twitching.
In a practice at least as old as the Crusades, Christian fundamentalists are converting conquered territoryin this case, abortion clinicsinto chapels. According to the right-wing Family News in Focus, pro-lifers have purchased mothballed abortion clinics in five states for memorials to the "pre-born." FNIF happily notes that the number of abortion clinics in America has dwindled from a high of around 2,000 in the early '90s to only 750 todaypresumably creating a buyer's market for the faithful.
The practice seems reminiscent of the Dark-Age sacking of mosques or the Spanish razing of Cuzco, right down to the hasty plans for remodeling. Notes FNIF:
[R]edeeming an abortion clinic means tearing down a few walls. When Central Women's Services in downtown Wichita closed, Troy Newman of Operation Rescue purchased it, then gutted the building.
"We're thrilled by the prospect of being in this building having a chapel here where women can come and even mourn the loss of their baby."
He wants to build a prayer garden behind the building so women can leave flowers for the babies they lost to an abortion.
IT'S WELL KNOWN that Israel is the world's top recipient of U.S. military assistance, but not so often noted that most of the annual $3 billion in aid can be spent only on U.S.-made weapons. Below, a guide to the top industry beneficiaries along with their ethics records.