Robert Wilbur and Martha Rosenberg

 

As the nation is horrified by another botched execution, a capital defense lawyer in Texas, legal scholar in New York and the former warden of San Quentin work against capital punishment.

 

 

There were only three people in the room: Jeanne Woodford, the chaplain and the man strapped to a gurney with tubes coming out of his arms. After hearing the man's last words, Woodford signaled the corrections officer who was "working the chemicals," which means in prison argot that he started infusions of lethal chemicals that flowed into the man on the gurney. As warden of California's San Quentin, Woodford presided over this high-tech ritual of punishment four times. After a stint as Executive Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, she threw in the towel to become Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, the abolitionist organization that sponsored the 2012 SAFE referendum seeking to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Though the referendum failed to pass, Woodford is still hard at work in the movement to abolish capital punishment in California.

 

Meanwhile, across the continent, in the gentility of Fordham University's school of law, Arthur A. McGivney Professor Deborah W. Denno writes scholarly articles about "working the chemicals" that are published in the nation's leading law journals and quoted at death penalty hearings before the United States Supreme Court.

 

Until lately, the chemicals Denno wrote about were sodium thiopental, an ultra-short acting barbiturate that, given intravenously, is supposed to deliver almost instantaneous sleep so that the condemned person will be impervious to the rest of the evening's proceedings; pancuronium bromide, next on the menu, which is related to curare, plant extract poisons from Central and South America traditionally used on arrows which paralyze the body's skeletal muscles (including the muscles of breathing); and for the coup de grace, a jolt of potassium chloride, which stops the heart. This deadly mixture was known as Carson's Cocktail, so named after the Oklahoma pathologist, A. Jay Carson, MD, who concocted it as a "humane" alternative to the electric chair.

 

Since the early 1980s, the Carson Cocktail was the gold standard for dispatching society's sinners (and the innocent too, if recent exonerations are factored in). But since thiopental supplies have dried up because of the EU's resistance to the death penalty states embracing the death penalty have been forced by the courts to seek other drugs with results like this week's botched execution in Arizona. Now Professor Denno must address the ghoulish new and often secretive lethal chemicals in use even as states calls for bringing back the electric chair or firing squad.

 

In Texas, attorney Kathryn Kase despaired as the Lone Star State executed its 500th person since the resumption of the death penalty. Kase wears three hats. She is Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service, where she supervises a staff of ten lawyers. She is herself a courtroom lawyer specializing in death penalty cases. And she and her staff mentor Texas lawyers in need of capital litigation tactics.

 

Kase's organization was founded as a public-defender body with a focus on the death penalty, but not specifically an abolitionist organization dedicated to ending the death penalty. When she puts on her administrative hat, Kase must play hardball as a politico, convincing fellow politicians of the importance of the Texas Defender Service and wringing money out of the state government and foundations.

 

Woodford, Denno and Kase could not be more different in personality and background, yet all have thrust themselves into the battle against capital punishment. There was a time when working in capital punishment was considered men's work that was too gruesome for women. Not anymore.

 

Jeanne Woodford, whose manner is crisp and to-the-point, took a BA degree in criminology and worked her way up to the highest rank of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Woodford told us that she chose criminology because there were few women in the field and because she wanted to bring a more even-handed standard of justice to criminology as practiced in California.

 

Woodford is dismayed that, since the 1950s, penology has been dominated by a punitive rather than rehabilitative philosophy; people want their pound of flesh, even though punishment deepens sociopathic behavior, she says. Mere confinement accomplishes nothing and rehabilitation is essential whenever possible, says Woodford.

 

An unabashed abolitionist, Woodford says she is not "soft on crime" but as a "policy person" she finds no respectable evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent. By the time the legalities are done, it also costs more to execute a person than to incarcerate him or her for life she says. There is, she adds, a small element of the criminal population that it is so dangerous that it requires lifelong incarceration.

 

Woodford's demeanor is so crisp that we felt a little trepidation about asking her how she felt about overseeing the execution of four men when she was warden of San Quentin in light of her views on the death penalty. "That," Woodford replied, "Was a policy issue."

 

We asked Woodford what, specifically, changed her mind about capital punishment and she told us she has always opposed it on moral and practical grounds and that nothing has changed her opinion. Woodford says she sees hope that behavioral science is beginning to change peoples' minds about the issue.

 

One could not imagine a woman more different from Jeanne Woodford than Kathryn Kase. Funny, streetwise and a gifted lawyer, Kase started out as a journalist in San Antonio, Texas, got bored covering police court, and craved the action on the other side of the bar. Kase went to law school and moved to New York, where she worked for brief periods for private law firms. She then returned to Texas, where she says she found her calling in the Texas Defender Service, of which a more thankless labor could not be imagined.

 

By most accounts, Texas really needs Kase. By 2011, Texas governor Rick Perry had presided over more executions than any governor in modern history--234. The numbers continues to grow.

 

Speaking to Randi Hensley of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in an internal memorandum, a Texas lawyer agreed. "Once guys get on death row in Texas, there's about a 90% chance they will die," said the lawyer: "There are no public defenders, no money, no experienced death penalty lawyers."

 

While the lawyer's observations are somewhat exaggerated, not by very much: organizations like the Texas Defender Service and the death penalty "clinic" at the University of Texas are so short staffed that they find themselves desperately filing appeals moments before the chemicals began to flow. Press reports of Texas executions have been chilling.

 

As Kathryn Kase dukes it out in the rough and tumble of Texas courthouses and the statehouse, Deborah Denno continues to highlight the cruelty of lethal injections in her academic work. Soft-spoken and poised, Denno says her turning point was the electrocution of Willie Francis, who walked the long road twice because the first execution was bungled.

 

When lethal injections supplanted the "hot squat" (the electric chair) as a more "humane" means of extinguishing human life, Deborah Denno made the cruelty of lethal injections her academic focus. Denno's work is invaluable in helping to paint for the public a complete picture of executions, from electrocution to the death gurney says Steve Hall, executive director of the Texas abolitionist group StandDown.

 

In a field once dominated by men, Kase, Denno and Woodford are bringing new passion to the fight against the death penalty along with a small pool of capital defenders like Judy Clarke and Maurie Levin. This week's shocking botched execution may bring more Americans to their side of the issue.

 

 

 

Robert Wilbur is a psychopharmacologist who also writes semi-popular articles on capital punishment, prison reform, and animal rights. Martha Rosenberg is a regular contributor to Alternet.

 

 

It has been four years since Thomas Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health was suspected of pharmaceutical conflicts of interest. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, he assured the dean of the University of Miami medical school that if the dean hired Charles Nemeroff, government money would not be denied to U. of Miami.

 

Why was it in danger of being denied? Because Nemeroff, a disgraced Emory researcher, had a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant terminated, a rare occurrence, after a Congressional investigation probed his unreported drug industry income. At the time that Insel downplayed the revocation of Nemeroff's government money, Insel was leading NIH efforts to stamp out conflicts of interest and supposedly a steward of our tax dollars, says the Chronicle.

 

Why the largesse? Press reports said Insel wanted to repay Nemeroff for getting Insel a job at Emory University when Insel lost his NIH position in 1994. Nice old boys' network, revolving door work, if you can get it.

 

Recently Insel was again in the news, this time writing a blog on the National Institute of Mental Health web site that more children are being medicated for emotional and behavioral problems because more children likely have emotional and behavioral problems. Reacting to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that as many as US 10,000 toddlers are on stimulants like Ritalin, Insel wrote that that a "bigger problem" than over-medication of children and toddlers may well be "under-treatment." Ka-ching.

 

Insel was an early believer in the biomedical model of mental health, reports the New York Times--which is behind drugging children. A passionate animal researcher, Insel directed the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center once he was at Emory, one of the world's largest centers for research on monkeys and great apes, before returning to NIH.

 

Unlike other animal-based industries like the meat industry, animal research is scrupulously hidden from public view.  Scientists say it is because average citizens cannot judge scientific merit, especially when experiments looks cruel. (And even though we are usually subsidizing it with our tax dollars.)

 

But you do not need a PhD to see the banality and inhumanity of many animal experiments which have less to do with scientific advancement than the government conferring "pork" on academic research centers.

 

Have you ever heard of Henry Harlow, the infamous primate research who subjected baby primates to "Iron Maiden" mothers and what he shamelessly called the "pit of despair"? Insel's experiments on primates continue the same chilling tradition.

 

In one experiment, newborn monkeys were "removed from their mothers within 48 h of birth," and subjected to  "stressors" (use your imagination) without being "able to use a social companion to buffer their response to a stressor." What did this Harlow-like experiment add to scientific knowledge? "As expected from previous studies, monkeys removed from their mother shortly after birth and raised in standard nursery conditions develop a syndrome characterized by decreased affiliation, increased aggression, and increased self-directed, repetitive behavior," write the researchers.

 

In another experiment  conducted by Insel on voles, a mouse-like mammal, "an animal was placed in the start box" with 2-8 days old pups. "Parental behavior was recorded as time spent with pups, either nursing, grooming or crouching during a 5-min period. Females were decapitated the same day." What?

 

With disturbing links to cronyism, pharmaceutical conflicts of interest, overmedication of children and cruelty to animals--why is this person heading a government institute? Supported by our tax dollars?

 

 

 

Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative journalist who covers food and drug safety and regulation. Her acclaimed expose, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency, with 30 cartoons, is now available as an ebook.

 

 

Days after the Rev. Kenneth Walker was killed in Phoenix with a .357-caliber gun owned by fellow priest Rev. Joseph Terra, Georgia churches are welcoming guns. Thanks to arguably the most lenient US gun law ever passed, church goers no longer have to risk being attacked and mugged by bad guys in the pews.

 

Luckily some religious leaders see the obscenity of armed worship. “I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to talk about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the 21st Century,” said Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta whose109 parishes will not welcome firearms. “Even though permission has been given to have guns everywhere, that stops for us at the sanctuary. This is a gun-free zone.” 

 

But other religious leaders, in Georgia and elsewhere, seem comfortable with armed sanctuaries and even "carry" themselves. They often say they "pray" that they never have to use their lethal weapons and kill someone as opposed to, say, turning the other cheek.

 

A year ago, prominent Atlanta bishop William Henry Murphy III allegedly tried to board a airplane with a loaded 9 mm handgun at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Atlanta's airport led the nation in such gun confiscations even before Georgia's new law. Authorities also found 10 rounds of ammunition in the minister’s bag. He “forgot” about his lethal carry-on, said Murphy.

 

In March, the Rev. John Koletas of the Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York, announced plans to raffle off a Smith & Wesson M&P semi-automatic rifle during a Sunday service. Why? To honor "hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians the last few years," said the peace-loving pastor.

 

And last month, Pastor Heath Mooneyham of Ignite Church in Joplin, Missouri also raffled off lethal weapons, The grand prize in the raffle was a Black Rain AR-15, which Pastor Mooneyham called “the Lamborghinis of AR-15s.” The pastor says he is not encouraging violence because, "The first murder recorded in the Bible was with a rock” and “If we can get more people to follow Jesus, I’ll give away 1,000 guns. I don’t care.”

Ignite Church is a youth oriented ministry with live music and counter culture elements used in worship.

 

Then, there is the Pentecostal preacher James McAbee, of the Lighthouse Worship Center in Beaumont, Texas, who wears two loaded guns to church, one on his hip and one on his ankle. He wife also packs for church.  Hope no one in the congregation makes any sudden moves.

 

 Rev. McAbee is such a gun enthusiast, he also teaches gun classes. Asked if he is cultivating violence he said no and cited Psalm 144:1, which reads "The Lord has trained me for battle" and Luke 22:36, in which Jesus instructs the disciples to arm themselves.

 

Many gun carrying religious leaders say they are "carrying" because it is a different world today. Right. It is a world in which religious leaders are willing to kill.

 

 

 

 

Boycott Hallmark cards which refuses to publicly support universal background checks. Send instead these free, custom-designed SHATTERED HEART™ cards.

 

 

 

It is happening more and more. T.S.A. screeners at the airport, in addition to finding hidden bottles of shampoo, are finding guns that passengers "forgot." It is "a vivid indication of the normalization of casual gun-ownership," said the New York Times this week. "Airports in states with lax gun laws tend to have the highest incidence of firearms at checkpoints."

 

Last year, a Littlestown man on his way to Music City USA was found to have a loaded gun in his carry-on bag at the Baltimore–Washington International Airport. The wife of rock musician and NRA board member Ted ("Obama is a subhuman mongrel") Nugent was caught with a gun in her carry-on luggage at the Dallas airport. At the Bismarck airport, also last year,  a Utah man was trying to disarm his gun so he could check it onto a plane when it went off.  Oops. Both a pastor and a Chicago lawmaker have recently "forgotten" they were carrying lethal weapons which were found by airport screeners when they tried to board planes.

 

Rules around flying with guns are clear. Travelers may only transport unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided container or as checked baggage. All firearms, ammunition and firearm parts, including firearm frames and receivers, are prohibited in carry-on baggage. Which part of this do gun lovers fail to understand?

 

It is easy to see why gun carriers at the airport would be inclined to make the same mistake again. Nothing happens to them. Unlike a drunk driver who can lose his license and face jail time, gun owners are not licensed to begin with so there is no license to lose. Let's enforce existing laws!

 

Passengers caught with guns as they try to board airplanes are subject to state law and in most states their gun is returned and they are told to put it in their car before boarding. Ouch. While police may confiscate the weapon and make an arrest, they usually let the passenger with a lethal weapon he"forgot" proceed on his way. Gun carriers will, after all, be gun carriers.

 

Even if the carrier has no criminal intent, guns go off accidentally and can kill passengers and crew members. They can cause structural damage and, in certain cases, go through the plane’s fuselage causing everyone to be ejected from the plane due to explosive decompression. Like the open and concealed carriers, we are all threatened when gun enthusiasts, fueled by the gun lobby's "guns everywhere" movement, pack weapons.

 

Why isn't bringing a gun into the security zone of an airport a felony?  Because lawmakers ignore the 90 percent of the nation that does not want to live in an armed camp in favor of belligerent and threatening "gun advocates" who use extortion and mob-like tactics to get their way. As long as the law continues to smile on gun carriers who treat their lethal weapons like cell phones, these "forgetful incidents" will keep occurring.

 

Boycott Hallmark cards which refuses to publicly support universal background checks. 

 

 

 

 

 

While there are more guns in the US than there were thirty years ago, fewer households actually have guns. According to UPI, over half of US households in 1977 had guns; now less than a third have guns. The reason for the steep decline, says UPI, is "aging of the current-gun owning population, a lack of interest in guns by youth, the end of military conscription, the decreasing popularity of hunting; land-use issues that limit hunting and shooting and the increase in single-parent homes headed by women."

 

Needless to say, gun sales are increasingly to households that already have guns, reflecting the sales pitches after the election of President Obama and the Sandy Hook massacre that new guns laws, if not outright confiscation, would ensue. Right. Actually laws became even more gun friendly after Newtown.

 

Households that were already armed are even more armed today. It is reminiscent of a New Yorker cartoon that said, "Let's say you have up to six hundred intruders per minutes," as he tries to sell a customer a military style weapon.

 

Still, the post Newtown profit party is over. In December, both Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. and Remington Outdoor Co. reported profits down, according to the Wall Street Journal. Outdoor retailer Cabela's Inc. also reported sales of firearms and ammunition down, as much as 50 percent. Chief Executive Thomas Millner admitted the feeder frenzy after Newtown was "a bubble."

 

The sinking of gun culture, whether for self-defense or hunting, is especially apparent in young people.  Half of all millennials now support stricter gun laws and only 18 percent of 18 to 25 year olds even own a gun! Hunting is not cool anymore compared to soccer, snowboarding and social media.

 

Kids are more involved with "cars, girlfriends or hanging out" and "think it's boring to sit in a tree for hours and have nothing walk by," said Kevin Kelly, a college student, to the lower Hudson Valley's Journal News. It's not popular in middle school either agreed Carmel student Nick Sadowski.

 

"Only a couple of my friends really hunt," high school student Jonathan Gibbons told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "The rest have never really found the appeal of sitting out in the cold to shoot an animal." According to the Wildlife Service, the number of young hunters, aged 16 to 24, fell by 300,000 from 1996 to 2006.

 

The message of the young people statistics is clear. The old white men of the NRA who have terrorized this country and caused 30,000 gun deaths a year are on the wrong side of history. So are the old white lawmakers who do their bidding.

 

National Gun Victims Action Council has Declared a Boycott of Hallmark cards in time for Fathers Day. Here is why--join in!

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101718214

 

 

 

 

 

Released in theaters on May 9, the documentary Fed Up untangles the roots of obesity in America’s youth. Directed by Stephanie Soechtig and narrated by Katie Couric, Fed Up does not shrink from telling viewers how the government’s decades-long capitulation to Big Food and its lobbyists has fostered an epidemic of excess pounds. The national focus on diet, diet foods and exercise is not abating the obesity epidemic and actually making it worse, charges the film.

 

Examples of capitulation to Big Food are many in the film. In 1977, the McGovern Report warned about an impending obesity epidemic and suggested revised USDA guidelines to recommend people eat less foods high in fat and sugar. The egg, sugar and other Big Food industries, seeing a risk to profits, demanded that guidelines not say "eat less" of the offending foods but rather eat more "low-fat" foods. Ka-ching. They won over the objection of Sen. McGovern.

 

In 2006, the United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO) released similar food recommendations and then Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy G. Thompson actually flew to Geneva, according to Fed Up, to threaten WHO that if the guidelines stood, the US would withdraw its WHO financial support. Again, Big Food won.

 

The US government plays both sides of the obesity street--admonishing people to eat right while pushing the foods that make them fat--because of the USDA's double mission of protecting the nation's health and protecting the health of the nation's farmers. According to Fed Up, the low fat movement allowed the USDA to maximize those split loyalties.

 

First, in order to maintain taste in low-fat foods (which tend to be bland once the fat is removed), sugar became the evil stand-in. Much of Fed Up examines the role of excess sugar in obesity, metabolic disorder and food addiction, especially in soft drinks. (The film's exposure of Big Food's financially-driven infiltration of public school lunchrooms with junk food is astonishing.) But the low-fat craze had another pernicious effect. All that unused fat had to go somewhere, says Fed Up, and it ended up in the dairy industry's cheese operations. Even as the USDA recommended "low-fat" diets, it worked with the industry group, Dairy Management, to "cheesify" the American diet and even worked with Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy's and Domino's!

 

Appearing in Fed Up are food experts Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, Deborah Cohen, author of A Big Fat Crisis, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, President Bill Clinton and award-winning reporter Duff Wilson who uncovered high-level conflicts of interest in the food and beverage industry. Fed Up chronicles the struggle of obese children who have become addicted to food through unethical advertising, snack ubiquity, enabling parents (who also look overweight in the film), bad school environments but primarily a government that has caved to Big Food. The government practiced similar complicity with Big Tobacco, Fed Up accurately points out, until the death statistics could not be ignored anymore.

 

It is too bad that Fed Up ignored what many believe is a bigger reason for American obesity than sugar: Big Meat's use of growth enhancers like antibiotics, hormones, ractopamine and even arsenic. It certainly makes sense that chemicals and hormones that balloon livestock into huge carcasses with no increase in the amount of their feed would have the same effect on people who eat the meat. But only recently has the role of antibiotics in childhood obesity been examined, notably by Martin Blaser of New York University Langone Medical Center. Eighty percent of US antibiotics go to livestock and residues are regularly found in US meat.

 

While the US' affair with sugar and soft drinks is decades old, it is only since 1997 that Big Ag started treating meat with the asthma-like drug ractopamine, largely unnoticed by consumers, to produce weight gain in animals. It is also in the late 1990s that extreme obesity and heightened asthma rates (sometimes linked to hormones) surfaced in children. Ractopamine, antibiotics, the beef hormones oestradiol-17, zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate and arsenic (used by US poultry producers for weight gain) are all prohibited in most of the EU. Europe also has much lower obesity rates than the industry-pleasing US which Fed Up so well describes.

 

++++++++++

 

Martha Rosenberg is the author of the award-cited food expose, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency, How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health distributed by Random House.

 

Imagine a treatment for drug addiction and alcoholism that uses no drugs, requires no trained personnel, resources or insurance and makes no money for anyone. This "people's program" is the anonymous twelve-step programs which have quietly saved millions for 79 years.

But lately, Big Pharma sees potential in all that free healing. Increasingly, it is "partnering" with rehab facilities to monetize addiction recovery, especially by facilitating dual diagnoses that require expensive pills. A patient is no longer just an alcoholic, he is an alcoholic with bipolar disease or major depressive disorder. Ka-ching.

The US's National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), often working closely with Pharma, is trying to fix one of the few things in the health care system that is not broken--free, anonymous treatment for alcoholics and addicts. Proof that NIDA has high-tech, expensive plans for addicts is apparent in its recent NIDA flier which trumpets that, "All addictions can be eliminated if the brain’s receptors can be controlled." What?

Behind the search for bio-control brain solutions like a vaccine or pill to treat addictions is Nora Volkow, NIDA director. She is called "an early champion of the idea that drug addiction is a medical problem, rather than a lack of willpower or moral fiber" which actually was the founding precept of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. Hello?

But unlike AA founders who discovered that free, anonymous moral support--without drugs and outside of traditional medicine--worked in almost all cases, Volkow seeks high-tech interventions which will help Pharma at the same time they harm animals.

"We have identified many of the biological and environmental factors [of addiction] and are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease," says Volkow with chilling, Orwellian fervor.

Why is seeking genetic causes and bio treatments Orwellian? First, because addiction and alcoholism are diseases of denial and few would take a medical treatment voluntarily which is why the drug Antabuse (which makes people violently sick it they drink) never caught on. If an addict were "out of denial" enough to seek a vaccine or Antabuse, he wouldn't need either. On the other hand, if he really needed it, he would be in too much denial to take it. You would think NIDA as the government's top drug agency would know that.

Secondly,  Pharma, with whom Volkow has published many papers, loves to market "early treatment" drugs for diseases that have not appeared yet, treating the "risk" of heart disease, diabetes, bone thinning and mental illnesses. Patients never know if they needed the meds, are afraid to quit and Pharma creates  lifelong customers. Already NIDA is talking about people "at risk" of addiction. Watch out.

Finally, development of biotech  addiction treatments subjects animals to painful, unnecessary experiments when they do not even share the human afflictions.  Making animals "addicts" to treat the uniquely human phenomenon is a fool's errand and a cruel one at that. One paper co-written by Volkow shows a bloody "pregnant bonnet macaque in transverse position within HR+ PET scanner... positioned so that maternal and fetal organs were within same field of view."  The paper concludes that when primates are dosed with cocaine, fetuses are affected too. Animals died for this "insight"?

Animal lovers and substance counselors are not the only ones to object to NIDA's pricey, cruel nostrums. So many scientists have objected to NIDA's "vaccine for addiction," Volkow had to  defend the work by denying that "funding in other areas is being sacrificed to support the medication development portfolio.”

high-tech treatment that few will take voluntarily that treats a condition treatable with a cup of coffee and peer support and kills animals in the process? Sounds like the NIDA is thinking a lot like Big Pharma.

 

 

 

 

 

The JOBS Act is a "game changer" that would allow "ordinary Americans…to go online and invest in entrepreneurs they believe in," says President Obama.

 

Do you know what PIPRs (private issuers publicly raising) are? Do you know what the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 or JOBS Act is? If not, you are like many people who are legally and culturally cut off from Wall Street which tends to be a bastion of rich, white one percenters.

 

Until the JOBS Act, passed by the Obama administration in 2012, if you had a business, you could not advertise its stock unless you were registered with the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state securities agencies. While this restriction, dating back to 1933, was designed to protect the investing public, its effect on small and start-up companies has been to shut them out of capital funding.

 

Thanks to Title II of the JOBS Act, which went into effect last fall, all this has changed. No longer do entrepreneurs who are not Wall Street insiders, especially women and minorities, have to wait for an invitation to appear before a venture capital company or other largesse from the "old boys' network" to get a chance at funding: they can literally advertise their stock on twitter, Facebook, in person or on TV. And many are.

 

There is another democratizing principle to the JOBS Act, which is not yet active but expected to go into effect before the end of the year. Per 1933 securities legislation, private companies were legally restricted from marketing stock to anyone but "accredited" investors--defined as "as an individual with an income in excess of $200,000 per year, or a couple with a joint income of $300,000 in each of the last two years, or an individual with a net worth exceeding $1 million, either individually or jointly with a spouse." Limiting buyers to "accredited" investors obviously also perpetuates the "old boys' network"--only rich people hear about deals and the common person would miss out on the chance to invest in promising companies. Title III of the JOBS Act will let everyday, non-accredited people invest online into private companies in small amounts like $1,000 to $5,000.

 

Raising funds publicly "is more efficient and less time consuming than making presentations individually to one venture capital or angel investment firm after another until one decides to invest. The company seeking the money prepares one presentation that can be viewed by multiple potential investors," agrees Practical Ecommerce. "Raising funds publicly gives the company a good deal of free exposure to potential investors, customers, and the media. General solicitation gives companies that are not in 'hot' technology categories an opportunity to reach investors who might not otherwise find them."

 

Of course crowdfunding has been revolutionary in amassing financial support for political and environmental causes, direct action, charities, artists and movies but many socially aware people, especially women, are more comfortable donating than investing. The JOBS Act and crowdfinance should change this, letting people invest in good causes and socially aware entrepreneurs and get something back.

 

"Women-led businesses got only three percent of venture capital backing last year," Luan A. Cox, founder and CEO of the New York City-based Crowdnetic told me in a phone interview. "We only have 'up' to go."

 

Half Vietnamese and residing with her wife and small son in Brooklyn, Cox is not shy about wanting to see more women and minorities like herself wrestle away the financing prerogatives that have keep Wall Street a closed and elite game since its origins. "We are missing out on the 'next Google,'" she told me because only the "the rich are hearing about the hot deals."

 

Crowdnetic is providing the infrastructure to aggregate and list the offerings of private companies now taking advantage of the JOBS Act. Already there are almost 3,000 companies on the Crowdnetic real-time data platforms, Cox told me. Private companies availing themselves of the new JOBS Act possibilities have raised more than $116 million from September to February, according to a Crowdnetic recent report on the industry.

 

Not enough people are aware of the new egalitarian opportunities to raise capital, says Cox. "Not enough people realize the JOBS Act stand for "Jumpstart Our Business Startups.'"

 

 

It has been 24 years since an inflammatory art exhibit vaulted the city of Cincinnati and its Contemporary Arts Center to national attention. A sadomasochistic photo installation by the late Robert Mapplethorpe, condemned by the late North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, forced what was believed to be the first criminal trial of an art museum, especially one centered on obscenity. If convicted, the museum faced up to $10,000 in fines and its director, Dennis Barrie, up to a year in jail. The Center was acquitted. Thanks to the face-off between Mapplethorpe and Helms and shocking photos like a man urinating in another man's mouth, the trial put discussion of what is "art" and what is "obscenity" on the nation's front burner.

 

Flash forward to this spring when a display at the Cincinnati Art Museum by conceptual artist Todd Pavlisko is igniting similar debate. Crown, which opened on March 15, consists of a 36-inch brass cube with 19 holes in a plexiglass case with eight flat-screens flanking visitors as they approach the cube. What is so controversial about that? The audio and video on the flat-screens record, in slow motion, the firing of a Tactical 308 rifle by a sharpshooter within the walls of the Cincinnati Art Museum which is how the cube came to sustain its holes. Nineteen bullets were fired by a Navy SEAL in 2012 past masterpieces in the museum's Schmidlapp Gallery like Warhol’s “Soup Can” and Duveneck’s “Whistling Boy.”

 

Crown is both Pavlisko first solo museum exhibition in the town where he grew up and the Cincinnati Art Museum's first cross-disciplinary collaboration of this type. The rifle became an actual “drawing tool” says Pavlisko and the sharpshooter's use of physics to place each bullet on the brass cube are part of the artistic statement. To create Crown, which was "drawn" by a rifle in 2012 but delayed a year in presentation, the cube had to be placed in a ballistic bunker made especially for the project. The shooting was expected to cause an inward collapse of the cube, creating an imprint that resembles a crown and depicting the beauty of imperfection and transgression.

 

By re-enacting the bullets’ high-speed paths and sounds, the exhibit "collapses art history into a millisecond and then expands it again, slowing down the footage as the camera travels past icons," says the Cincinnati Art Museum. "The bullet is a docent for the art historical backdrop," agrees Pavlisko. "It waltzes people through the history and into modernism; and that would be the cube where the bullets came to rest. Then we'll show the whole installation amongst this institution in its more contemporary capacity, which in my eyes, is a full circle of art history."

 

Recording the path of the bullets also turns the Cincinnati Art Museum's pieces into perceivers rather than objects says Pavlisko. "I've edited this video to force the objects the bullet passed to act as voyeurs for the art that is happening." he said in an interview on WVXU radio in Cincinnati. "I've removed them from being the things that are looked at to becoming the things that are currently watching art take place." Crown references both the late Harold Edgerton's use of high-speed photography to record a bullet going through an apple and French filmmaker Jean Luc Godard's "Bande à part," in which the characters try to break the world record for running through the Louvre, writes Janelle Gelfand.

 

The estate of Harold Edgerton has allowed Pavlisko to include some of the late MIT professor's images in the display. Pavlisko often incorporates the physics' principles of time and space in his work and has created paintings and sculptures of the astrophysicist Carl Sagan and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, says Cincinnati's CityBeat.

 

This is not the first time Pavlisko has created controversial, violent art. His recent piece called Centerpiece involved "observing cadavers for years before hammering a metal spike through his foot," reports CityBeat, commensurate with Pavlisko's desire to "engage non-artists in a cross-disciplinary approach to art creation."

 

While the Cincinnati Art Museum had to get city permission for creation of Crown and patrons and employees were not present during the shooting, the exhibition continues to draw antipathy. "Certain members of the art world are voicing concerns about the apparent recklessness of allowing a high-powered rifle to be fired in a museum; many argue that the sound vibrations echoing through the marble hall could have caused damage to the museum’s collection, even damage that may not manifest until many years later," wrote the website ArtLog.

 

"I just cannot understand why the board allowed it. The shooting of the gun went on all day long. When you have gunfire inside a building, the vibrations go into the building, the sculpture and the artworks, and the long-term effects may not be seen for 100 years," said Mary Ran of Cincinnati's Mary Ran Gallery.

 

But many others vehemently defend the Pavlisko work and the value of provocative art. Tamara Harkavy, artistic director and CEO of ArtWorks, while acknowledging that "Todd as an artist makes art that isn't apparently instantly beautiful," also notes "if you look deeper [into Pavlisko's art] it does have beauty to it."

 

Cincinnati Art Museum Board President Martha Ragland also affirms Crown's artistic merit as well as the Museum's charge "to present all different types of exhibitions." Crown takes visitors "along on that journey from the past to the present" and is "breathtaking" she says.

 

As art lovers and the curious line up to see Crown, two things are certain: that Crown fulfills  the "point" of art--to create dialogue, debate and take people outside of their comfort zone, so they think in ways in which they’re unaccustomed. And, that the city of Cincinnati has come a long way since the Mapplethorpe fight, to the point where even in the face of criticism, the community can support a controversial art piece and the conversation it creates. Displays like Crown are why the Cincinnati Art Museum is considered among the most renowned in the country.

 

Crown is on display until June 15, 2014 at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

 

 

 

 

Frazier Glenn Miller, accused of killing three outside two Jewish Community Centers in Kansas the day before Passover, embodies many features of the extreme gun rights movement--notably its persecution fantasies and insurrectional hatred of the government. Miller, who  founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, "knew enough of the law, enough of American history, enough of the thinking of the founders that he could craft this bastardized notion of liberty and this notion of states’ authority and states’ rights,” Michael L. Williams, Texas commissioner of education who investigated Miller when he was a federal prosecutor, told the New York Times.

 

States' rights like bills to nullify federal gun laws and to arrest and jail federal agents trying to enforce them and a murderous hatred of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF) are prominent features of the gun rights movement.

Miller has written that the white race is “drowning literally in seas of colored mongrels” a remark that is disturbing close to longtime NRA Board Member Ted Nugent's depiction of President Obama as a "sub-human mongrel." Nugent retracted the remark--kind of.

 

The NRA supported Ronald Reagan when, as California governor, he led new gun laws to keep Black Panthers and other black power activists from having firearms. In promoting the Mulford Act which he signed in 1967, President Regan said “There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” What a difference a few decades--and the change in color of the carrying citizens--makes. Many say gun laws would change overnight if the "law-abiding citizens standing their ground" were African-Americans and not George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn (the "loud music" killer).

 

This is hardly the first anti-Semitic gun attack in the US. In 1998 former Aryan Nations guard Buford O’Neal Furrow Jr. fired more than 70 rounds from a submachine gun at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles. In 1999, in Skokie and Rogers Park, white supremacist Benjamin Nathaniel Smith went on a racist shooting rampage killing Northwestern University Men's Basketball Coach Ricky Byrdsong and Won-Joon Yoon, a computer science doctoral student. He also wounded nine Orthodox Jews and an African-American minister. Smith was issued a gun owner's ID card despite an order of protection filed by an ex-girlfriend. The hate spree spawned a yearly event called the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate.

 

Wade Michael Page, who fatally shot six people and wounded four others at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012, was another white supremacist. Page was reportedly a member of the Hammerskins and played in neo-Nazi bands. He founded the band End Apathy in 2005 and played in the band Definite Hate, both considered racist white-power bands by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors such hate groups which are some of the nation's biggest gun advocates, preaching insurrection and stockpiling weapons. David Duke, one of the nation's best known Klan members, for example, is a big fan of the NRA. "National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has a new rallying cry to spotlight the importance of every American’s right to keep and bear arms," he wrote on his website, quoting a LaPierre speech.

 

There is nothing quieter than gun advocates after a mass shooting. After April's Fort Hood and Jewish Community Centers shootings, the normally belligerent gun fanatics turn meek and mute. Their only remarks tend to be that we should not "legislate on top of fresh graves."

 

But of course legislating on top of fresh graves is the NRA's marketing plan! Screaming that Congress would pass restrictions on semiautomatic rifles after Sandy Hook, the NRA induced a profit party for gun makers in 2013 and convinced the Frazier Glenn Millers of the world to acquire yet another weapon.