Porn provocateur: “Lizzy Borden, whose ultraviolent films feature women being beaten, raped and doused in vomit, insists that she is a gender pioneer whose repellent movies are morality tales.” Salon

The Trouble With Frida Kahlo: “…(L)ike a game of telephone, the more Kahlo’s story has been told, the more it has been distorted, omitting uncomfortable details that show her to be a far more complex and flawed figure than the movies and cookbooks suggest. This elevation of the artist over the art diminishes the public understanding of Kahlo’s place in history and overshadows the deeper and more disturbing truths in her work. Even more troubling, though, is that by airbrushing her biography, Kahlo’s promoters have set her up for the inevitable fall so typical of women artists, that time when the contrarians will band together and take sport in shooting down her inflated image, and with it, her art.” Washington Monthly

Supreme Court Bars Executing the Mentally Retarded:

“In one of the most important capital punishment cases in years, the United States Supreme Court ruled today that executing killers who are mentally retarded is unconstitutional.

The 6-to-3 ruling not only spared the life of Daryl R. Atkins, a Virginia inmate, at least for now, but could save scores of other death-row prisoners in the 20 states that still allow the execution of mentally retarded murderers. Thirty-eight states have capital punishment.” NY Times

Although this ruling opens a Pandora’s Box of complications — some of them akin to the ongoing controversy over the ‘insanity defense’ for the mentally ill — the humanity of not executing someone whose developmental level prevents them from appreciating the nature of their crime or the meaning of their death sentence seems manifest. Judging a society by how it treats its least able may still have some currency after all…

Any longtime net users among you will understand why mentioning the Internet Scout Report invokes a compulsion to precede it with the word ‘venerable.’ Now it has reinvented itself as an honest-to-God Weblog. [thanks, Rebecca]

James Ridgeway: Alleged Dirty Bomber Dead Ringer for Oklahoma City’s John Doe 2: I hadn’t noticed this story until Dan Hartung pointed out in Lake Effect that Ridgeway caught on from the weblogging world, as he says here:

The strange saga of Abdullah al Muhajir, a/k/a Jose Padilla, took yet another turn this morning, when Internet gumshoes Fuckedworld and Junkyardblog spotted his look-a-like . . . guess where?

In the police drawing of a still-missing Oklahoma City bombing suspect, that’s where. Al Muhajir, held since May 8 on accusations that he intended to build and detonate a dirty bomb, is the spitting image of the mysterious John Doe 2, featured in police sketches and long touted by cops as a principal along with Tim McVeigh. Some law enforcement officials have insisted no such suspect ever existed, though witnesses described the second figure getting out of the rental truck with McVeigh seconds before the explosion.

However speculative, this clicks in more ways than one, since McVeigh’s lawyer tried to argue in Federal District Court in Denver that the 1995 plot may have had roots in the Philippines among men known to have been Al Qaeda operatives with direct ties to Osama bin laden. Though the judge rebuffed his argument, attorney Stephen Jones said he found people in the Philippines who claimed accomplice Terry Nichols met with terrorists there in the years before the 1995 attack. Village Voice

Here’s Fuckedworld’s summary of the evidence connecting the dots. Jumping to the punchline, its author John Berger concludes:

We still don’t know that McVeigh and Padilla ever even met. But Padilla worked just minutes from the home of Timothy McVeigh’s sister, during McVeigh’s 1993 visit. At that time, Padilla was actively seeking connections with the world of Islam, possibly including a relationship with the local sponsor of the Benevolent International Foundation, which has been linked to terror operations in the Philippines, specifically to an Abu Sayyef cell which some sources (of uncertain merit)

Unfortunately, the investigation to date still falls far short of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Nichols-BIF connection rests almost solely on the word of a very shady character who is now too dead to answer questions or provide leads. And connecting Padilla to BIF still falls short of connecting him directly to Yousef or Wali Khan. The McVeigh-Padilla connection is intriguing but as yet unresolved. The investigation continues. Keep reading.

Berger notes: “Bryan Preston at the Junkyard Blog made one of the earliest observations of the connection, although there is some friendly competition among various sites and message boards that claim to have called it first. My Web site didn’t originate this theory, but I was among the earliest to push it out before the public, and the subsequent research in this story is mine.” I like him better than Preston already, who is falling all over himself about having broken the story. BTW, the photos don’t really look that much alike, methinks.

Enter the Globocourt: William Safire reaches more than abit when he argues against the international criminal court — the Clinton administration’s support for which of course the Bush administration has already rescinded — on the grounds that it will jeopardize journalistic free expression, and endanger the lives of international war reporters, by asserting its authority to summon journalist witnesses to international war crimes to give testimony. Quite a stretch, to suggest that “if dictators see reporters as potential witnesses in prosecutions, tyrants in trouble will be likely to kill those witnesses”; under the modern rules of warfare, they’re already in grave danger just for being there to bear witness bravely. C’mon, Bill, if you want to be behind Rumsfeld on this one, just say so…

A Scholar Recants on His ‘Shakespeare’ Discovery

In 1995 Donald Foster, a professor of English at Vassar College, made a startling case for Shakespeare’s being the author of an obscure 578-line poem called “A Funeral Elegy.” After a front-page article about his methods of computer analysis in The New York Times — and after his reputation was further burnished by unmasking Joe Klein as the author of “Primary Colors” — the poem was added to three major editions of Shakespeare’s works.


Now, in a stunning development that has set the world of Shakespeare scholarship abuzz, Professor Foster has admitted he was wrong. In a message dated June 12 and quietly left last Thursday on the Internet discussion group Shaksper (www.shaksper.net), he said that another poet and dramatist was the more likely author of the poem. He was joined in his recantation by Richard Abrams, a professor of English at the University of Southern Maine, who has been his close associate in the Shakespeare attribution. NY Times

David Brake writes, “It’s been a nervous week for patients.” On the heels of the Annals of Internal Medicine series examining medical mistakes in U.S. practice, which I pointed to below, comes this BBC report. Junior doctors ‘lack knowledge’

Many junior doctors do not know the signs that a patient is critically ill, according to a report…. Its authors recommend an urgent overhaul of the training provided by medical schools…

The researchers found almost a third of doctors failed to answer a question on how to deal with someone who was unconscious.

None of the trainees identified all of the steps involved in using an oxygen mask, and a fifth did not understand how it worked….

I just learned of the death of Leo Marks in January; he was the screenwriter for one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen, Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. This New York Press obituary is worth reading, to start with for more about the furor around Peeping Tom. Marks was an original:

In 1958, English film director Michael Powell was casting about for a new collaborator, having split two years earlier with his longtime partner, Emeric Pressburger… Powell ran into producer Danny Angel, whose recent World War II espionage picture Carve Her Name with Pride had been well-received. As Powell recounts…, Angel asked him, “Are you still looking for a writer to work with you, like Pressburger did? Because, if you are, you ought to see Leo Marks. He’s as crazy as you are. He’s been working with me [on Carve Her Name]. Apparently, he was a codebreaker during the war, and he tells the tallest stories about it that I’ve ever heard… He can write poetry. He’s weird, I tell you. He lives double or triple lives, he’s difficult to get ahold of, and he’s full of mystery and conundrums.”

All true. Freshly turned 38, Leo Marks–World War II codebreaker (and codemaker), poet, raconteur, mufti of the mysterioso with high-voltage connections in the British Intelligence Service–had enjoyed a smidgen of success in London’s West End as a playwright with The Girl Who Couldn’t Quite! (1947) and The Best Damn Lie (1957), and as a screenwriter with Cloudburst (1951) and Carve Her Name.

“National Public Radio’s linking policy at npr.org has caused a fuss within the blog community that’s hot and getting hotter. The policy’s simply stated in two sentences: ‘Linking to or framing of any material on this site without the prior written consent of NPR is prohibited. If you would like to link to NPR from your Web site, please fill out the link permission request form.’ This is buried, of course, in a page linked to the site’s footer, but somebody noticed and mentioned it to Howard Rheingold, who passed it on to Cory Doctorow of boingboing.net. Cory wrote scathing commentary, calling the policy ‘brutally stupid,’ even ‘fatally stupid.’ The outrage is spreading; this has to be a rough day for the NPR ombudsman who’s deluged with email by now… ~24 hours after Cory’s report.” Slashdot [thanks, Walker]