Flashback: Torture Revisited

Tortured States

(click image to enlarge)

Most of my work is commentary; reactions to current political events, stating my perception of the issue at hand. Unfortunately as an artist, this dates my work very quickly, making it momentarily relevant and then old news a few weeks later. It’s like watching a favorite movie from the Eighties only to find that some of the humor and all of the styles are terribly out of fashion. C’est la vie.

Occasionally, issues from the past rear their ugly heads, allowing for a look back at past work. Such is the case with the recent Senate report on torture by the CIA and the Bush Administration, which was the subject of one of my “Republicans Cereal Boxes” entitled “Tortured States”. While we must remember how out for blood everyone was post 9-11, and with shows like FOX’s “24” desensitizing America to the use of torture to the point of even cheering it on (I was a fan of the show, I must confess), we must not forget that the practice was not only illegal but produced no good intel. And if you look back through the history of torture techniques like waterboarding, they were never meant to produce truth, but to force confessions or conversions of ideology.

So with that little rant, I offer my take on waterboarding circa Spring 2008.


May 28, 2014

Design legend Massimo Vignelli died this week, leaving behind a wealth of knowlege and a body of work second to none. I have quoted him and discussed his design in my classes for years. The New York Times ran a great piece about a tribute organized by his son, Luca. Worth a read, and a nice video showing Massimo in his last days. RIP.


June 26, 2013
I had originally meant to comment on the NSA Domestic Surveillance Program shortly after it came out, but two things prevented me: first, I wanted to wait until more info came out, and second, I thought it better to express visually through the ‘Bagg’rs.

So, to recap: an employee of a subcontracted firm releases the big bombshell that the NSA is datamining American citizens, which amounts to the government collecting numbers, times of calls, emails, etc. without actually examining the content of said intercepts. As the person who created “Patriot Act: The Home Version” I was initially concerned by the reports. However, by waiting until more info surfaced I discovered that all Mr. Snowdon revealed was what our Congress agreed to when they initially signed the Patriot Act into law, and more specifically, followed the provisions that corrected some of the flaws or the original law updated under President Obama. Now, am I happy about all this? No, not particularly, but my main reaction as one who has followed this program for a while was “Duh, that’s what the law allows them to do, so did you think they wouldn’t do it?” I mean, we’ve been here before with Bush/Cheney and AT&T, but that was warrantless wiretapping with the company being reluctantly complicit. This datamining, while broad, still protects the individual information of U.S. citizens, has judicial oversight, and Congress was aware of what was being done.

Am I doing a 180° in my position since Bush enacted these laws? Am I blindly following lockstep behind Obama? Am I just weary of the struggle? No. In the more than 12 years since these laws were passed, technology has moved ahead faster than we can keep up (back in 2001  my brand new cell phone was a small brick that made calls and my biggest worry was about roaming charges… a far cry from my iPhone). In the past decade+, peoples’ lives are on full view… willingly, and not just on reality TV. Facebook, twitter, Google+ all allow people to let anyone and everyone know where they are on vacation, what they ate for lunch, and what a jerk their date turned out to be. Flickr, YouTube and the others allow personal photos, videos and projects out to the world, and more than just prospective employers are taking note of your last drinking binge! You cannot walk 10 steps in public without seeing someone talking, texting, uploading photos, or surfing the web in the palm of their hands. My point is, we are putting more personal information than anyone ever expected to be out there, and the government can find a lot more about you though Facebook than through plotting any series of phone numbers called on specific dates. I myself am still not comfortable with all this sharing; it still takes a lot of effort for me to add new posts to this site, while other people upload everything from their phone while they commute to work.

I think that’s why when polled, most Americans were not really bothered with the program. Not just because it helped track down criminals like the Boston bombers, but because we willingly put ourselves out there, digitally exposed (some more than we would like!), hoping for someone to notice. Brave new world, indeed.


The following are links to similar political art websites who have inspired me or have discovered while trying to promote my work. These artists are amazing, so if possible buy and support their work.

AdBusters Culture Jammers Headquarters — The original culture jam!

The Arab-American Comedy Festival — Humor: the great equalizer!

Drinking Liberally — Okay, not artists per say, but everyone needs to vent and toss back a few every now and the. Always better to do it with like-minded individuals!

Freeway — A brilliant exercise in free speech. Use it or lose it!

Illegal — Collection of works that have been censored or just plain shut down due to their content.

John Langdon — A truly great typographer and designer.

Liberation Graphics — Some revealing and startling images from the Middle East.

Mark Fiore Animated Political Cartoons — Because what is life without humor?

Reach and — An educational site that deals in products and programs that promote civil rights; featuring the brilliant CIVIO card game!

Save the Internet — Keep the Internet free and open, away from corporate greed and government restrictions!

The following links are to several Anti-Discrimination sites. The more we learn and understand about each other, the less likely we are to hate. These organizations need your support, both public and financial. Stand up and be counted!

The Arab American Institute — The organization started by James Zogby.

American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee — Working overtime against the discrimination of Arabs and non-Arabs in the US

Anti-Defamation League — Because fighting hate means fighting ALL hate.

Jewish Voices for Peace — It's all about peace and equal justice.

The Southern Poverty Law Center — One of the all-time greats; never get as much press as they should.

The Moratorium Campaign — To stop the execution of innocents on death row, and repair a broken legal system.