Steve Brodner
August 2011
Fine, Rogers, Bakal & Me on Keystone
New pieces today by Alex Fine, who went down to the rally. Thank you Alex!
Music at the Protest by Alex Fine
Fashion Police? by Alex Fine
LATEST: ARRESTS PASS 700 AT WHITE HOUSE. UPDATES HERE. Working on a fine art mosh on the Keystone Pipeline protests. The demostration continues here online with these artists.  Please feel free to contibute. Send a low res jpeg to me. Friend me on Facebook and post art on my wall.  I will move it here. Thanks Paul, Scott and Alex.
Dr. James Hansen, of Columbia, Goddard and NASA, arrested Monday at the protest.
Protest continuing outside the White House by Paul Rogers
Pipeline Planet by Scott Bakal

Here’s the scene outside the White House this month.  A growing group of intrepid citizens have been calling President Obama’s attention to the need for him to kill the proposed  Keystone XL pipeline which would run oil from tar sands from Alberta to Texas.  This will be a horror in many ways.  First, the planet cannot stand this toxic explosion of greenhouse gases when we should be mounting a Manhattan Project devoted to getting off of it.  Second this will not be safe.  Pipelines rupture.  Just picture a BP spill overland in the US.  If that’s the cost of doing business then we are in the wrong business.  Obama can reject this all by himself.  He promised to begin to heal the planet.  Here’s his chance to act without the crippled Congress.

There is another reason to get involved here.  In this season of political fantasy that absorbs our consciousness while serious issues go unattended (think Wisconsin, Tea Partiers, Debt Limit, Michelle Bachmann etc) here’s a chance to regain our voice. Let this kick off a new willingness to engage by people who understand issues and are not afraid to address them. Obama notwithstanding. Let us begin.

This is a great chance for art journalism in a good cause.  Anyone who goes and wants to send art into this blog will have a friendly platform right here.  If DC is not possible and you would still like to draw this story here’s a great Flickr page with photos.

Petition HERE

Donate HERE

The NY Times:

This page opposes the building of a 1,700-mile pipeline called the Keystone XL, which would carry diluted bitumen — an acidic crude oil — from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast. We have two main concerns: the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, and the fact that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production does.

The Canadian government insists that it has found ways to reduce those emissions. But a new report from Canada’s environmental ministry shows how great the impact of the tar sands will be in the coming years, even with cleaner production methods.

It projects that Canada will double its current tar sands production over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day. That rate will mean cutting down some 740,000 acres of boreal forest — a natural carbon reservoir. Extracting oil from tar sands is also much more complicated than pumping conventional crude oil out of the ground. It requires steam-heating the sands to produce a petroleum slurry, then further dilution.

One result of this process, the ministry says, is that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector as a whole will rise by nearly one-third from 2005 to 2020 — even as other sectors are reducing emissions. Canada still hopes to meet the overall target it agreed to at Copenhagen in 2009 — a 17 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. If it falls short, as seems likely, tar sands extraction will bear much of the blame.

Canada’s government is committed to the tar sands business. (Alberta’s energy minister, Ronald Liepert, has declared, “I’m not interested in Kyoto-style policies.”) The United States can’t do much about that, but it can stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

The State Department will decide whether to approve or reject the pipeline by the end of the year. It has already delivered two flawed reports on the pipeline’s environmental impact. It should acknowledge the environmental risk of the pipeline and the larger damage caused by tar sands production and block the Keystone XL.

Rome Sketchbook
A few weeks ago Cynthia and I had a Roman holiday.  Here are some pages from my sketchbook.

On the train from Leonardo daVinci Airport at about 7 AM  a lady shows it’s never too early in the day to moisturize. Her husband read the paper.

A Roman in a cafe. Can’t you see what I’m saying?

Near the Termini this man stands all day in traffic, bouncing a soccer ball on his head. When we got back to the hotel he was still doing it.  I’m not sure but this may be linked to the economic slowdown.

At St. Peters you see another poster of John Paul II.  The movement to quickly get him to sainthood is a testament to the feelings still held for him.

In fact you can buy him as a tsotchke.

At the Vatican Museum Laocoon and sons are strangled by sea serpents, which is tough enough without tourists.

Inside the Vatican Museum.

At the Sistine Chapel, the crowds are reverent but not hushed. Seeing these images in person is, naturally, very different than seeing even the finest reproductions. Finally here is the familiar but now with design and narrative tightly woven together.  A huge story on the ceiling.  Each an intense part of a mesmerizing whole.   Sends you out awe-struck and inspired to draw.  Of course in my case I draw the guards who run around shushing everyone.

At dinner there were a couple of young carabinieri dining next to us.

When they put on their hats and tunics to leave they suddenly looked the part.

The guys who stand around in gladiator uniforms in front of the Colosseum look authentic, until they don’t.

The arena itself is a marvel.  You feel the extremes of Roman power and cruelty.

Inside the Colloseum. This summer “the hat” was everywhere.

In a sidewalk cafe across fron the Colosseo  the proprietor sat with her paper while the lean and hungry waiters tried to drum up business on the street. “Buongiorno pizza!” (In English this refers to a kind of frozen pizza.)

The Forum invites you to emerse yourself in the dream of antiquity, the flight of imagination to the past and what it meant. The intense July heat, cascading waves of  fellow tourists and the things like this funk band playing ’70′s hits make it an extra challenge.

This journal page discusses how the heat not only stopped us in our tracks and got us into the nearest restaurant for lunch. It also drove the chef out onto the street, seeking relief on the broiling stones.

The streets, the restaurants, the piazzas taken all together. Almost every direction you look there is art, and the suggestion of stories.

Tourist on the Via Nazionale

If there is one thing worse than the heat for the guys selling fake handbags on the streets of Rome it would be the cops. As they arrived this fellow was just leaving.

Nearby we encountered the Pantheon in time to see the daily Sacrifice of the Tourists.

Inside the Pantheon.  It was cool inside.


A night we went to Caracalla, a vast site of former Roman baths, now repurposed as an amphitheater.

The view from the audience. Ballet that night: Swan Lake.

Members of the audience.

Leaving Rome, this was the image most fixed in my mind. Open windows at the Vatican Museum. The chapel, the pines, the sunset coming together, carrying you off, softly whispering that creative dynamism can go to places where it may, if all goes well, connect with the eternal.

The SEC is supposed to be the cops of Wall St.  Since the huge Meltdown of 2008 there have been no successful prosecutions of the CEOs who got us to where we are. And now we see what has happened to the evidence. According to Matt Taibbi in the current Rolling Stone, the SEC has been a virtual wing of Goldman Sachs since the 90′s.


  “(The SEC is). . . a federal police force that has effectively been conquered by the financial criminals it is charged with investigating. In at least one case, according to Flynn, investigators at the SEC found their desire to bring a case against an influential bank thwarted by senior officials in the enforcement division – whose director turned around and accepted a lucrative job from the very same bank they had been prevented from investigating. In another case, the agency farmed out its inquiry to a private law firm – one hired by the company under investigation. The outside firm, unsurprisingly, concluded that no further investigation of its client was necessary. To complete the bureaucratic laundering process, Flynn says, the SEC dropped the case and destroyed the files.

Much has been made in recent months of the government’s glaring failure to police Wall Street; to date, federal and state prosecutors have yet to put a single senior Wall Street executive behind bars for any of the many well-documented crimes related to the financial crisis. Indeed, Flynn’s accusations dovetail with a recent series of damaging critiques of the SEC made by reporters, watchdog groups and members of Congress, all of which seem to indicate that top federal regulators spend more time lunching, schmoozing and job-interviewing with Wall Street crooks than they do catching them. As one former SEC staffer describes it, the agency is now filled with so many Wall Street hotshots from oft-investigated banks that it has been “infected with the Goldman mindset from within.”

The Oracle of Omaha
The other day billionaire Warren Buffett put the screws to the GOP orthodoxy and said, plainly, in the NY Times, that he and his fellow billionaires should, by rights,  share in the sacrifice especially in a time of trouble. He reported knowing not one colleague not investing because of higher taxes. In other words, the temple of the GOP religion is brought down by this Samson.  Of course they will never admit to the truth of this simply because that is all that is holding the Republican Party together: A fiction.  The only antidote to the Big Lie is more and more NON FICTION. His OpEd is excerpted below.  Art: The Oracle of Omaha for Harper's, Stacey Clarkson. ad.
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.
To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.
I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Drawing on the Debt Ceiling

The Debt Ceiling Crisis of the last week was a political nuke that spread its fallout everywhere.  The US government was held hostage by radical crazies on the Right, seizing on a procedural device to affect the government’s self-destruction. A unique event in American history and one Obama was spiritually and tactically unprepared for.  It looked to America to be a thing out the blue, but was actually planned and plotted for months in advance. And it was no secret, thus probably inviting a harsh judgement by history of all involved. The Washington Post asked me to highlight some key scenes.

(This is an example of the kind of formatting flexibility I am hoping newspapers and magazines will move to now.  I was able to come at this assignment in three ways: a  full page in print, in the Outlook section, as a web click-through and then also prepare a video of one of the pieces being made. Very grateful to Cory Haik, Janet Michaud and Kristin Lenz for the vision and help.  And to the great team reporting by the Post.)









Here’s the video feature:

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