Tuesday, September 25, 2007


We have been fooled by America's abundance...

We are enthusiastic over how many kinds of peanut butter we have to choose from, but are satisfied with two political parties.

We settle for convenience every time -- the one-stop-shopping mega-mart with the treeless parking lot -- while losing a life of thoughtfulness and intention.

We believe that having so much should cost so little, an idea that has instead cost us our manufacturing, our economic security, and our ability to provide for each other.

It is easy to say I will consume less, I will tread softer on this ground, I will leave behind less residue and refuse. But my guilty pleasures lure me into "just this once" indulgences I still struggle to resist. Cute things. Fuzzy things. Yummy smelly girly things. Lately, making art satisfies me (especially making cute fuzzy girly things!), and does so without the rotten hangover of empty consumption. So maybe art is my new guilty pleasure...

Monday, September 24, 2007

cost of war and other things

This is a great site: www.costofwar.com. The National Priorities Project analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent.

The Trade-Offs section of the site allows you to select your district or state and calculate what federal spending in key areas is equivalent to if spent differently. For example, Rhode Island's percentage of the $56.5 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% this year could have instead provided 467,262 homes with renewable electricity.

After the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq reached 3,000, my partner started wearing a tape on his jacket every day with the current death toll and a button that said "stop the war". Nobody really paid attention. But then he started wearing a second piece of tape with the amount of money spent on the war (today's tapes, for example, would say "3,801" and "$455,083,589,643"). A super crazy long number with a dollar sign in front of it definitely gets more attention... (by the way, that's the direct dollar amount spent, and does not include the longer-term costs of providing medical treatment to the more than 25,000 wounded soldiers and other expenses that put Iraq war-related spending well into the trillions...)

We've considered how we might include the estimated number of Iraqis dead in a way that would have an impact. "A September 14, 2007 estimate by Opinion Research Business, an independent British polling agency, suggests that the total Iraqi violent death toll due to the Iraq War since the US-led invasion is in excess of 1.2 million (1,220,580)." (thanks, wikipedia!)

For some not-entirely-corrollary math, that's roughly $372,843 spent by the US per Iraqi death (I just spent the last 20 minutes dividing the dollar figure by Iraqi casualty number in long-hand division because I couldn't find a calculator that could handle numbers that large!! yes, I could have lobbed off a few decimal places and estimated, but when was the last time I got to use my 3rd grade long-division skills to such an extent??).

Anyway, my point is, what the fuck are we doing????!!! This incredible money spent, the bodies piling up on both sides (no, I don't think US soldiers have killed all 1.2 million Iraqis, but we unleashed something that has caused these deaths and we have to take some responsibility for that), this catastrophic gluttonous enormous consumption of life and resources... For every social issue, every education bill, every small business incentive, every job training program, every environmental policy that we are told we cannot afford, this is such an incredible lie. We pay for what we value. Follow the money. We don't put real dollars behind education, social programs, the environment, and real human-scale business assistance because most of the people with power in this country don't really give a shit about any of that. What they want is victory, whatever that means, and what they have in dangerous abundance is pride.

It isn't a shortage of money that we have, it's a mess of priorities. Hence, the national priorities project...