Banksy Explains Détournement

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Banksy shows up on the streets of New York for month-long residency

From The Guardian UK:

British artist announces project called Better Out Than In – but within 24 hours artwork had already been tagged with graffiti

in New York, Wednesday 2 October 2013

Banksy has come to New York – and New York doesn’t seem very impressed.

On Tuesday, Banksy announced a “residency on the streets of New York” called Better Out Than In, and by Wednesday, the first of two pieces that appeared had been tagged with graffiti.

The first piece was discovered in the Chinatown district of Manhattan, and shows an urchin-like boy bending over, while another stands on his back, pointing to a sign on the wall that declares graffiti to be a crime.

A phone number appeared alongside the work for what seems to be a type of audio guide. In the recorded message, elevator music plays, and a voice says:

Hello, and welcome to lower Manhattan. Before you, you will see a ‘spray art’ by the artist Bansky. Or maybe not; it’s probably been painted over by now.

This piece is typical of Banksy’s output. The children in this case represent youth, and the sign represents – well, signs.

And indeed it was, tagged the day it appeared by the Smart Crew, a group of graffiti artists based in Queens. By Wednesday it had been painted over completely.

The second piece was discovered on Wednesday, soon after it was announced on the website associated with Banksy’s project, by the New York blog Animal. A text-only post on a wall on the west side of Manhattan, it reads, in elaborate script: “This is my New York accent,” followed in more nondescript lettering by “… normally I write like this.”

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Banksy makes a splash in New York – but what will become of the murals?

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Statement Concerning a Recent Peace Award

From Common Dreams:

I’m a ‘transparency advocate,’ says Manning. Not necessarily ‘anti-war,’ she contends, or especially a ‘conscientious objector’

by Chelsea Manning

The following is an official public statement from Chelsea Manning, sent from the military prison at Ft. Leavenworth and dated October 7, 2010:

Unfortunately, I’m very concerned about a substantial disconnect I discovered between what I’ve experienced in the last few weeks, and what’s occurred in the rest of the world since my arrival at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in August. Unfortunately, I’ve been largely left out of the loop on the details about what’s been occurring over the last several weeks. This partly due to my limited contact with the outside world during the phase of arrival, but it’s also because I’ve been trying to decompress and focus on other things after a lengthy and exhausting court-martial process.

The most obvious disconnect I discovered has to do with the “2013 Sean McBride Peace Award” that was supposedly accepted on my behalf by Ms. Ann Wright (a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army). I say supposedly because–I had absolutely no idea I received this award, let alone accepted it. In fact, I first found out about the award when began receiving mail containing quotes from Ms. Wright’s acceptance speech.

Now, please don’t get me wrong—I’m absolutely flattered and honored to receive this award (or any award, for the matter), but I was shocked and frustrated about what’s occurred here: that it seems that I’ve been left out of the process. And, to make matters worse, now there exists the possibility that there might be more false impressions out there in regards to how I feel about the award, how it ties to my actions in 2010, and who I am.

For example, Ms. Wright states that “[w]hen was [I] was told by [my] lawyer [Mr. David Coombs] that IPB [International Peace Bureau] had selected [me] as the recipient of this year’s award, [I]was overwhelmed that such an organization would recognize [my] actions as actions for peace.”(1) There are a few issues with this sentence:

a. The conversations I’ve had with Mr. Coombs have been somewhat brief and heavily focused on the common legal and logistical minutia that needs to be worked out after a large court-martial. There’s little room in our scheduled time (set by the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks) for discussion of anything not focused on the authentication of court-martial documents and transcripts or my ongoing request for a Gender treatment plan that follows recognized medical standards? (2)

b. From my perspective at least, it’s not terribly clear to me that my actions were explicitly done for “peace.” I don’t consider myself a “pacifist,” “antiwar,” or (especially) a “conscientious objector.” Now—I accept that there may be “peaceful” or “anti-war” implications to my actions—but this is purely based on your subjective interpretation of the primary source documents released in 2010-2011. I believe that it is also perfectly reasonable to subjectively interpret these documents and come to the opposite opinion and say “hey, look at these documents, they clearly justify this war” (or diplomatic discussion, or detention of an individual). This is precisely the reason why avoided I avoided overbroad and unnecessary redactions on my end while providing (and attempting to provide) these documents to media organizations in early 2010. I’m a “transparency advocate.” I feel that the public cannot decide what actions and policies are or are not justified if they don’t even know the most rudimentary details about them and their effects.

In the next sentence, Ms. Wright says “[I] that know the history of the MacBride Award.” (3) As embarrassed as I am to admit this—I don’t. In fact, I only learned of its existence in the last few days. I certainly know who Sean MacBride is, and what Amnesty International is. I even vaguely know what the IPB—but I had no idea of the award’s existence.

I simply don’t know what’s happened here. I absolutely don’t believe there is a conspiracy, or any bad intentions on anyone’s part. But, whatever has happened, I don’t believe it’s productive. And, I believe it would be totally dishonest if I don’t make the public aware of this disconnection. So, to avoid any disconnection or miscommunication in the future, all of my “official” statements and position coming from me shall be in the form of a signed letter or release, similar to this one, with my letterhead and date at the top of the first page, and my signature at the bottom of the last page. Statements or positions filtered through my attorney or other representative should be considered unofficial, unless they deal with purely legal issues and positions, or they are accompanied by a signed “official” letter or release.

Lastly, I’d like to clarify that, as far as I’m concerned, I no longer have any rank. While i still have a pay grade of E-1 (with total forfeitures of pay), I do not have an associated rank while in confinement. I prefer to use “Ms.” or no title, instead of using “Spc.,” “Pfc.,” or Pvt.” or other military titles. And, I’d like to thank everyone who has avoided misgendering me and switched to using my new name and feminine pronouns.

Thank you,


Chelsea E. Manning

(1): Pvt. Chelsea Manning given 2013 Sean MacBride Peace Award,” by Ann Wright, Private Manning Support, 2013.09.19.

(2): Sea World Professional Association for Transgender Health, “Standards of Care,” Seventh Version, 2011.09.25.

(3): Pvt. Chelsea Manning given 2013 Sean MacBride Peace Award,” by Ann Wright, Private Manning Support, 2013.09.19.

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Hey, Toys ‘R’ Us, Stop Thrusting Gender Roles on My Kids!

From Huffington Post:


Since day one of the gay marriage debate, the “traditional marriage” advocates have leveraged cries of indignation and hyperbolic circular arguments to make their points. Most of these arguments list the many things that same-sex couples supposedly cannot do, ignoring the fact that these are things that we not only can do but are already doing. What all the irrational statements have in common is one foundational belief that its advocates desperately want to “protect”: that men and women hold mutually exclusive roles in the family, which means that neither of those roles can or should be filled by a member of the opposite sex.

The anti-gay advocates rail against parents like me because they fear that I am incapable of fulfilling a role not defined for me. They say that I will deprive my children of the things that, allegedly, only a mother can provide. It seems self-evident to them that, no matter how good a parent I may be, I will never be a “mom,” a role that’s never been specifically defined but which seems to be understood by thousands nodding in agreement.

There have been peer-reviewed studies on whether these concerns are truly relevant to the well-being of children, and the scientific consensus is that such fears are baseless. Those studies, along with mounds of expert testimony, were presented during legal arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court several months ago, and as a result of the historic Windsor v. United States ruling, the domino effect of marriage equality has started to spread throughout the United States.

However, the legal equality that has just started taking hold will not translate into real freedom on the ground until gender essentialism is seen as the falsehood that it is. As it related to marriage equality and my right to be a parent, I wanted the fallacy exposed for my benefit. Now, as it relates to the ideas that children are exposed to as they grow up, I want it exposed for the benefit of my kids.

I have to confess that I was oblivious to how gender essentialism plays out for kids until I heard about the work of a grassroots organization in the UK called Let Toys Be Toys. They have persuaded Toys ‘R’ Us in the UK to stop marketing toys specifically to boys or girls. Moving forward, toys will be presented as gender-neutral so that they may attract whatever child finds them interesting and compelling. What a concept!

My first reaction was passive agreement. It made sense to me, but was the in-store marketing really such a problem? I decided to look at it further, with a fresh set of eyes.

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Engagement rings are barbaric

From Salon:

Sparkly rocks remind us of an age when women were considered a form of chattel

Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013

After Vancouver’s most famous jilted paramour got his 15 minutes of international attention recently, I was left wondering how we came to be living in a culture manufactured almost entirely by marketers.

Pasquale Angelino (“Charlie”) Zampieri hit the headlines when he sued his former fiancée for the return of the $16,500 sapphire and diamond ring he gave her, after three weeks acquaintance, in anticipation of their soon-to-be wedded bliss. They’d met on one of those online dating sites, the news stories recounted with glee, and by his account it was kismet.

Alas, it was not meant to be for reasons not quite clear in the reports, although poor Zampieri says he felt Jessica Bennett, whom he characterized as some sort of a digital Jezebel, took advantage of him. Two weeks ago he filed a suit in B.C. Supreme Court to reclaim the ring. Last week, she filed a suit for defamation.

What’s left of the once intrepid news reporting staffs of this town sprang into action to get man-on-the-street views. Streeters, once considered the last resort of lazy incompetents, are now the gold standard in journalism and I have to admit they do deliver a kind of insight.

The public view falls into two camps, as summed up by a middle-aged couple: “It’s a gift, she’s entitled to keep it!” the wife insisted. “She dumped him, she should give it back,” countered her husband. (I fear they may suffer marital discord off-camera too.)

But not one person in the parade of sidewalk strollers offered the only sensible response: What the hell did this guy think an engagement ring was for?

Unsavoury custom

The engagement ring is not, as diamond advertisers of the last 80 years or so have insisted, a symbol of love: it’s a sort of down payment on a virgin vagina.

I’ve always thought giving engagement rings was a slightly unsavoury custom, given that it began in an era when women were chattel, more or less. It’s hardly romantic. The rings remind me of a time when women couldn’t own property because they were property. Well, except for widows. There’s a reason that Merry Widow of opera fame was so merry.

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If the 1% stifles New York’s creative talent, I’m out of here

From The Guardian UK:

Rampant inequality is squeezing out the artistic genius that made New York such a vibrant cultural capital. We can’t let that happen

for Creative Time Reports, part of the Guardian Comment Network, Monday 7 October 2013

I’m writing this in Venice, Italy. This city is a pleasantly confusing maze, once an island of fortresses, and now a city of tourists, culture (biennales galore) and crumbling relics. Venice used to be the most powerful city in Europe – a military, mercantile and cultural leader. Sort of like New York.

Venice is now a case study in the complete transformation of a city (there’s public transportation, but no cars). Is it a living city? Is it a fossil? The mayor of Venice recently wrote a letter to the New York Review of Books, arguing that his city is, indeed, a place to live, not simply a theme park for tourists (he would like very much if the big cruise ships steered clear). I guess it’s a living place if you count tourism as an industry, which I suppose it is. New York has its share of tourists, too. I wave to the doubledecker buses from my bike, but the passengers never wave back. Why? Am I not an attraction?

New York was recently voted the world’s favorite city – but when you break down the survey’s results, the city comes in at No 1 for business and only No 5 for living. Fifth place isn’t completely embarrassing, but what are the criteria? What is it that attracts people to this or any city? Forget the business part. I’ve been in Hong Kong, and unless one already has the means to live luxuriously, business hubs aren’t necessarily good places for living. Cities may have mercantile exchange as one of their reasons for being, but once people are lured to a place for work, they need more than offices, gyms and strip clubs to really live.

Work aside, we come to New York for the possibility of interaction and inspiration. Sometimes, that possibility of serendipitous encounters – and I don’t mean in the meat market – is the principal lure. If one were to vote based on criteria like comfort or economic security, then one wonders why anyone would ever vote for New York at all over Copenhagen, Stockholm or some other less antagonistic city that offers practical amenities like affordable healthcare, free universities, free museums, common spaces and, yes, bike lanes. But why can’t one have both – the invigorating energy and the civic, intelligent humanism?

Maybe those Scandinavian cities do, in fact, have both, but New York has something else to offer, thanks to successive waves of immigrants that have shaped the city. Arriving from overseas, one is immediately struck by the multi-ethnic makeup of New York. Other cities might be cleaner, more efficient or comfortable, but New York is funky, in the original sense of the word – New York smells like sex.

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Sanders: The Supreme Court May Turn America into an Oligarchy

From The Progressive:

By Stephen C. Webster,
October 8, 2013

Speaking outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) warned that the nation’s justices are preparing to cement the power of American oligarchs to influence elections through unlimited campaign donations.

Oral arguments on McCutcheon v. FEC began Tuesday with the court’s conservative majority signaling a readiness to overturn regulations that set limits on how much an individual may donate to political parties and candidates themselves.

With such a ruling so soon after the court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed corporations and unions to give unlimited sums to super PACs, a perfect money storm in the American political process may yet be on the horizon.

“Right now, as we speak, in the House of Representatives, there are people who are being threatened that if they vote for what we call a clean CR, to open the government without destroying the Affordable Care Act, then huge sums of money will be spent against them in the next election,” Sanders said Tuesday, standing on the steps of the Supreme Court. “We are living in a society where a handful of people with incredible sums of money, folks like the Koch brothers and others, are undermining what this democracy is supposed to be about.”

“The bottom line here is, if we don’t want to move this nation to an oligarchic form of society, where a handful of billionaires can determine the outcome of these elections, then it is imperative that not only we overturn Citizens United, but that we put a lid on how much people can contribute to elections,” he added. “Freedom of speech, in my view, does not mean the freedom to bribe the United States government.”

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Is Homeland Security Preparing for the Next Wall Street Collapse?

From Truth Out:

By Ellen Brown
Wednesday, 09 October 2013

Reports are that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is engaged in a massive, covert military buildup. An article in the Associated Press in February confirmed an open purchase order by DHS for 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition. According to an op-ed in Forbes, that’s enough to sustain an Iraq-sized war for over twenty years. DHS has also acquired heavily armored tanks, which have been seen roaming the streets. Evidently somebody in government is expecting some serious civil unrest. The question is, why?

Recently revealed statements by former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the height of the banking crisis in October 2008 could give some insights into that question. An article on BBC News on September 21, 2013, drew from an explosive autobiography called Power Trip by Brown’s spin doctor Damian McBride, who said the prime minister was worried that law and order could collapse during the financial crisis. McBride quoted Brown as saying:

If the banks are shutting their doors, and the cash points aren’t working, and people go to Tesco [a grocery chain] and their cards aren’t being accepted, the whole thing will just explode.

If you can’t buy food or petrol or medicine for your kids, people will just start breaking the windows and helping themselves.

And as soon as people see that on TV, that’s the end, because everyone will think that’s OK now, that’s just what we all have to do. It’ll be anarchy. That’s what could happen tomorrow.

How to deal with that threat? Brown said, “We’d have to think: do we have curfews, do we put the Army on the streets, how do we get order back?”

McBride wrote in his book Power Trip, “It was extraordinary to see Gordon so totally gripped by the danger of what he was about to do, but equally convinced that decisive action had to be taken immediately.” He compared the threat to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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How Most Life on Earth Can Die

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Through Fukushima Lense, a Look at Looming US Nuclear Crisis

From Common Dreams:

by Karl Grossman

It started this June in California. Speaking about the problems at the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plants through the perspective of the Fukushima nuclear complex catastrophe was a panel of Naoto Kan, prime minister of Japan when the disaster began; Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at the time; Peter Bradford, an NRC member when the Three Mile Island accident happened; and nuclear engineer and former nuclear industry executive Arne Gundersen.

This week, the same panel of experts on nuclear technology, ­joined by long-time nuclear opponent Ralph Nader­was on the East Coast, in New York City and Boston, speaking about problems at the problem-riddled Indian Point nuclear plants near New York and the troubled Pilgrim plant near Boston, through the perspective on the Fukushima catastrophe.

Their presentations were powerful.

Kan, at the event Tuesday in Manhattan, told of how he had been a supporter of nuclear power, but after the Fukushima accident, which began on March 11, 2011, “I changed my thinking 180-degrees, completely.” He said that in the first days of the accident it looked like an “area that included Tokyo” and populated by 50 million people might have to be evacuated.

“We do have accidents such as an airplane crash and so on,” said Kan, “but no other accident or disaster” other than a nuclear plant disaster can “affect 50 million people…no other accident could cause such a tragedy.”

All 54 nuclear plants in Japan have now been closed, Kan said. And “without nuclear power plants we can absolutely provide the energy to meet our demands.” Meanwhile, in the two-plus years since the disaster began, Japan has tripled its use of solar energy­, a jump in solar power production, he noted, that is the equivalent of the electricity that would be produced by three nuclear plants. He pointed to Germany as a model in its commitment to shutting down all its nuclear power plants and having “all its power supplied by renewable power” by 2050. The entire world, said Kan, could do this. “If humanity really would work together…we could generate all our energy through renewable energy.”

Jaczko said that the Fukushima disaster exploded several myths about nuclear power including those involving the purported prowess of U.S. nuclear technology. The General Electric technology of the Fukushima nuclear plants “came from the U.S.,” he noted. And, it exploded the myth that “severe accidents wouldn’t happen.” Said the former top nuclear official in the United States: “Severe accidents can and will happen.”

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Get Ready for Record Temperatures…for the Rest of Your Life

From Mother Jones:

In 35 years, US cities consistently will be hotter than their hottest year on record.

Wed Oct. 9, 2013

Within 35 years, even a cold year will be warmer than the hottest year on record, according to research published in Nature on Wednesday. The study, which used 39 climate models to make a single temperature index for places all over the world, estimates when major US cities’ average temps will never again dip below that of the hottest year in the past century and a half. As the above chart shows, that’s as early as 2043 for Phoenix and Honolulu, 2049 for San Francisco, and 2071 for Anchorage, Alaska.


The study found that the tropics will reach the point when even a cold year is hot based on past temperatures, referred to by the researchers as “climate departure,” sooner than areas to the north. Climate departure will happen in 2025 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and 2034 in Mumbai, India, for example, compared to a global average year of 2047. In coral reefs, both pH and temperatures are climbing. “Our paper’s showing that pH is already well beyond the historical threshold,” coauthor Abby Frazier told reporters Tuesday.


These estimates assumed that there is no major push to curb carbon emissions in the coming years. The study also predicted a second set of temperatures for an alternate future, in which there’s what lead researcher Camilo Mora calls a “strong and concerted” effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That scenario would result in there being 538 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere in 2100, which is significantly lower than the 936 ppm that the researchers estimate will be in the atmosphere without that effort.


But this substantive action to curb carbon emissions would only buy us about 20 years. “The most striking thing for us is that we used a very conservative scenario,” Mora told Mother Jones. “Many people are already thinking that that just isn’t going to happen, considering the amount of effort that it requires to reach that. Even under those conditions, which are unlikely, we’re still going to face an unprecedented climates, just 20 years into the future. To me, that was pretty shocking.”

Those are two scenarios that Mora and his colleagues consider realistic. Even 538 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere in 2100, the scenario in which we curb carbon emissions in Mora’s study, is significantly higher level of carbon than what many experts consider safe for the planet. Since the late ’80s, scientists and advocates such as Bill McKibben have pushed 350 ppm as a safe upper limit for CO2. We’re already passed that level: Earlier this year, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere passed the “grim milestone” of 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history.

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