The Riff - April 2008

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American Independent Party and Independent: Wait, There's A Difference?

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 3:33 PM PDT

ist2_4768669_checking.jpgThe American Independent Party isn't doing a very good job broadcasting their party's platform message. If they were, perhaps Gavin Newsom's aspiring actress-first-lady-of-San-Francisco girlfriend Jennifer Siebel wouldn't have registered for it by accident. Just to be clear, the American Independent Party is anti-immigration, anti-abortion, pro-"traditional marriage and family values," and all for keeping "God" in the pledge of allegiance. Which I guess also means they're pro-pledge of allegiance.

San Franciscans shouldn't get their hemp underwear in a bunch too quickly. The mayor's office assures that it's an innocent gaffe and Gav's girlfriend is actually an Independent voter. Independents, typically, have no fidelity to political parties and vote based on candidates and issues. In other words, they do whatever the hell they want. I can see where the confusion lies: There's no "Independent" box to check on California's voter registration ballot; merely "Decline To State." And without predetermined categories, how are Independents ever supposed to know to which group they belong?

—Joyce Tang

Bacteria Artist Off the Hook?

| Thu Apr. 24, 2008 10:57 AM PDT

Last week's Yale abortion senior art project stunt highlights the public outcry art can inspire. While Aliza Shvarts was ridiculed for being everything from "hopelessly bourgie" to "weird and gross," the jeers lobbed upon her in the blogosphere were nothing compared to the nightmarish federal investigation endured by SUNY-Buffalo art professor Steve Kurtz. In 2004 Kurtz was accused of bioterrorism while preparing for an educational art exhibit about genetically modified foods, an incident that showcases the absurd turns art can take in life.

The FBI and Bush administration may be ending their four-year mission to bring charges against Kurtz, who came under scrutiny after authorities discovered bacteria cultures in his house after his wife's unfortunate (and, as it turns out, unrelated) death. On Monday, a U.S. district judge dismissed the charges of mail and wire fraud, the only indictment the Feds could make stick. There's no word yet if the prosecution will appeal. But Kurtz's named "coconspirator," Dr. Robert Ferrell—who sent Kurtz the bacteria and who had also been charged with mail and wire fraud—didn't come away unscathed. He pleaded guilty last October to lesser charges after a series of health problems ensued from the stress of the investigation.

Read more about the case and the documentary it inspired here.

—Joyce Tang