Friday, May 14, 2010

Cover the earth

Guide to art activism in 2010

Featured Site

Key Sites

Guide to art activism in 1965

New City Policy Threatens SPARC's Home - Action Needed NOW


Full Hearing for Proposed Elimination of Nonprofit Lease Program

A proposal by the City of Los Angeles City Administrator Officer's office would eliminate the $1.00 per-year leases for 116 nonprofit organizations (approximately 16 arts organizations) working in the interest of the public. The proposal will go before the full LA City Council sometime in the next two weeks.

Should this policy be enacted, it will severely impact arts organizations, eliminate jobs and increase urban blight by potentially contributing to the number of derelict and/or abandoned buildings in the City.

Make your voice heard by taking action below NOW. WE CAN STOP THIS WITH YOUR HELP. Send a letter to LA City Council urging them to have a full hearing on the fiscal impact, human and community impact this policy will have on the lives of Angelinos.

What's on the line?

This could have a devastating impact on: SPARC, Beyond Baroque, LA Theatre Works, LATC, Plaza de La Raza, Odyssey Theatre, Eagle Rock Center for the Arts, just to name a few. SPARC is fighting to save LA murals, fighting to save arts funding and now we might be in the fight of our lives to save our building too? How much more can the community arts people take?

SPARC has been a good steward of our home (the Old Venice Jail-a historical building we stopped from being torn down and declared a historical site) for 34 years and in 2000 SPARC successfully garnered a 55-year lease meeting all the criteria and guidelines the city set up.

For 34 years SPARC has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars for our building's repair, paid its own utilities, paid for the maintenance and upkeep of the building and provided important community programming for the residents of the City of LA. Including The Great Wall of Los Angeles (the longest mural in the world-400 young people hired), The Neighborhood Pride Mural Program (105 murals in almost every ethnic community of LA, 95 artists commissioned, 1800 young apprentices hired) The World Wall (an international traveling mural, representing Los Angeles on an international level) Mural Resource & Education Center (The largest mural archive in the world and lead enforcer/advocate of copyrights for muralists) Planet Siqueiros Pena (a monthly offering of socially conscious music and poetry) The SPARC Gallery (providing 4-6 exhibitions a year) The UCLA/SPARC Cesar Chavez Digital Mural Lab (the leading educational offering @ UCLA in community/digital murals).

Please help us to make sure SPARC won't lose its home. If we do lose our building, it will be the end of one of LA's most worthy and longstanding multi-cultural community based arts organizations.


  Thank you to Arts for LA for their partnership on this critical issue. 



The World’s Ugliest Statues

When bad art and bad politics meet.


"Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"  - Percy Bysshe Shelley

Renaissance man: This week, Senegal officially unveiled the African Renaissance Monument, a 160-foot statue of a man, woman, and child emerging from a volcano. The monument is meant to commemorate Senegal's 50 years of independence, but many see it as a monument to the vanity of 83-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade, who has made the $25 million statue his pet project. Religious groups have also condemned its pseudo-Soviet artistic style and the scantily clad female figure.

But Wade is hardly alone in his outsized ambition and dubious aesthetic sensibility. What follows are 10 more examples of why bad art and bad politics are a dangerous combination.

Round and round he goes: Saparmurat Niyazov, the late totalitarian leader of Turkmenistan, updated the old Soviet aesthetic with a little bit of Las Vegas excess. In 1998, he ordered the construction of this gold-plated statue of himself, which was placed at the top of a 244-foot tower in the center of the capital city of Ashgabat.  As if that weren't enough, the statue rotated throughout the day so that it was always facing the sun. The statue was the crowning achievement of Niyazov's attempt to establish a personality cult around himself that included renaming the months of the year after members of his family and replacing the Quran with the Ruhnama, a book of spiritual lessons written by him. After his death, the statue was taken from its perch and moved to a nearby suburb.

Peter the Terrible: Just because communism ended doesn't mean that Russia has stopped building grotesque, propagandistic statues. The master of the form is Georgian-born artist Zurab Tsereteli, best known for the garish 315-foot maritime statue of Peter the Great looming over the Moskva River. The statue was commissioned by Tsereteli's frequent booster, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, and has fast become a popular tourist attraction, if not exactly for the reasons its planners hoped.,0

US actors, intellectuals protest Obama 'crimes'

Yahoo! News

US actors, intellectuals protest Obama 'crimes'NEW YORK (AFP) – US actors and liberal intellectuals joined a list to be published Friday of nearly 2,000 people accusing President Barack Obama of allowing human rights violations and war crimes.

"Crimes are crimes, no matter who does them," the statement reads over pictures of Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush due to appear in the New York Review of Books.

The statement, published as a paid advertisement, accuses Obama, who was elected in 2008 with the enthusiastic support of US liberals, of continuing Bush's controversial approach to human rights in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in domestic security.

It takes aim especially at Obama's decision -- reported by US officials -- to authorize the killing of a radical Islamic cleric and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who is accused of ties to Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

"In some respects this is worse than Bush," the statement says. "First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of 'terrorism,' merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly."

Among the signatories are linguist Noam Chomsky, "L.A. Confidential" actor James Cromwell, actor Mark Ruffalo and prominent Bush-era anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan. By midday Thursday there were 1,804 signatures.

Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan Goes to Bat for Monsanto, Sides With Conservative Justices

By Joshua Frank
Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop grown in the United States and Monsanto wants to control it. On April 27, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could well write the future of alfalfa production in our country.

Fortunately, for those who are concerned about the potential environmental and health impacts of genetically engineered (GE) crops, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is not yet residing on the bench.

For the past four years, the Center for Food Safety (CFS), a Washington DC-based consumer protection group, and others have litigated against Monsanto and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the company's Roundup Ready alfalfa. The coalition has focused their fight against Monsanto's GE alfalfa, based on concerns that the plants could negatively impact biodiversity as well as other non-GE food crops.

In 2007, a California US District Court ruled in a landmark case that the USDA had illegally approved Monsanto's GE alfalfa without carrying out a proper and full Environmental Impact Statement. The plaintiffs argued that GE alfalfa could contaminate nearby crops with its genetically manipulated pollen. Geertson Seed Farm, with the help of CFS, claimed that the farm's non-GE crops could be damaged beyond repair by Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa.
Monsanto's well-paid legal team appealed the court's decision, but, in June 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the previous ruling and placed a nationwide ban on Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa.

"USDA should start over and truly evaluate the contamination of non-GM alfalfa and the potential affects on seed growers, organic and natural meat producers, dairy producers, and conventional and organic honey producers," said farmer and anti-GE advocate Todd Leake shortly after the ruling.

Monsanto, however, didn't back down and appealed the Ninth Circuit's decision to the US Supreme Court. In stepped Elena Kagan, whose role as solicitor general is to look out for the welfare of American citizens in all matters that come before the high court.

Unfortunately, Kagan opted to ditch her duty and instead side with Monsanto. In March 2010, a month before the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case, the solicitor general's office released a legal brief despite the fact that the US government was not a defendant in the case.

As Kagan's office argued, "The judgment of the court of appeals should be reversed, and the case should be remanded with instructions to vacate the permanent injunction entered by the district court."

Despite numerous examples of cross-pollination of GE crops, Monsanto argued during the April 27 court proceedings that this was highly unlikely to occur. CFS and other plaintiffs are concerned that a federal law could be affected by the Supreme Court's ruling. Courts in Oregon and California have already argued in previous cases that GE seeds must also be studied as to the potential impact on other conventional and organic crops.

Surprisingly, it seems that Kagan does not support a thorough study of GE seeds and their potential impact on environmental and human health. In doing so, Kagan has sided with conservative justices on the court who appeared skeptical that the lower courts had made the right decision in banning GE alfalfa.

Tax Cuts For Rich Getting Back To Economy-Destroying "Normal"


You and I pay income tax on our income. But if your income comes from having really, really wealthy parents you are entitled to really, really special treatment because that is how democracy plutocracy works.

In the news: Kyl: Deal on the estate tax in the offing,

Sources close to the matter told The Hill last week that lawmakers are looking to give taxpayers the option of prepaying their estate tax. The levy would be set at 35 percent for those worth more than $3.5 million, however the exemption would ultimately increase over time to $5 million and would not be indexed for inflation. Prepayment trusts would pay a lower rate.

And the first $3.5-5 million of income? Just not enough to bother with.

There's also a special "carried interest" tax break that lets plutocrats hedge fund managers pay only 15% on their income.

Still, taxing carried interest at normal income tax rates would be a major blow to managers of private equity, which is still struggling nearly three years after the financial crisis took away much of its cheap credit.

Lobbyists for the investment industry, particularly those representing private equity firms and hedge funds, have fought hard to keep carried interest from being taxed as ordinary income for years. Two measures introduced in Congress over the last three years to raise the tax rate on carried interest failed to gain traction in the Senate.

Click through this link to see what is meant by "still struggling."

How to turn Congress Inc. back to just Congress


What is the biggest scandal of 2010 so far?

Allegations of fraudulent misrepresentation from Goldman Sachs? An oil spill that poses a threat to our environment and economy for generations? Mining operators freely ignoring safety violations and treating workers as disposable?

Each of these is bad. But perhaps the biggest political scandal is the one that aids and abets these others -- the pay-to-play system that buys up Congress, pollutes our political system with special-interest cash and deep-sixes the kind of bold reform agenda that we voted for and need.

The health-care industry has contributed more than $200 million to congressional candidates in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Is it any wonder that there was no public option in the final bill, or that Medicare isn't able to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors the same way the Veterans Administration does for veterans?

Big banks and Wall Street financial firms spent more than $500 million since the beginning of 2009 on lobbying and campaign contributions, the center reports. In just the first quarter of 2010, the finance, insurance and real estate sectors spent more than $123 million on 2,057 lobbyists. Any bets on whether the final financial reform bill will create the kind of robust, independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency that would serve as a watchdog with teeth?

Big oil and gas spent nearly $170 million lobbying in 2009 -- nearly $1 billion in the past 12 years -- and has given more than $140 million to members of Congress in the past 20 years. Is it any surprise that we've seen so many exemptions from environmental studies for oil-exploration plans? Or that the climate bill is stalled and insufficient to confront the global warming crisis?

It is clear that the kind of strong reforms we urgently need won't be achieved simply by electing a new president or new members of Congress. Despite the voters' mandate for change, the underlying problem of Washington -- what author and Washington Post reporter Robert Kaiser calls "so damn much money" -- remains unaltered and is in many ways more powerful than even before. In the wake of the Supreme Court's recent Citizens United decision -- which awarded corporations the rights of citizens when it comes to electioneering, allowing them to use their coffers to manipulate political discourse -- the prospect of a Congress "brought to you by (insert corporate sponsor here)" has only grown.

Americans must fight back with legislation that will help organized people defeat organized money. I'm not speaking of the Disclose Act -- a good response to Citizens United that would make corporate campaign funding more transparent. Democratic leaders must recognize that such efforts are mere triage and fail to get to the heart of the money problem in Washington. Congress should also pass the Fair Elections Now Act.

This legislation would sever ties between big-money campaign contributors and members of Congress, who, in the Senate, must raise an average of $27,000 every week they are in office in order to run competitive races. The bill would bar participating congressional candidates from accepting contributions larger than $100 and allow them to run honest campaigns with a blend of small donations and public matching funds.

Congressional committee on what the hell just happened