Steve Kurtz was acquitted

I got an e-mail from Christine Kristen (a.k.a. LadyBee) that contained a press release announcing the conclusion to the case against Steven Kurtz that I blogged about in January and actually got news that Kurtz was cleared a while back through a post at Glob-a-log titled "The Steve Kurtz case finally dismissed (Another political trial, another pathetic witch hunt: Just business as usual in Bushland)". (If you're curious, it's at the end of this post after the fold).

I gather that the press release was to promote the art show Seized at The Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center (341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo) which documents the materials involved in the case (it's on display from June 7, 2008 through July 18, 2008). But way way down at the bottom of the press release was the key part: the [clearly ironically named] Department of Justice had no business even bothering to bring up charges of mail and wire fraud because (as I said before) it's a civil dispute so it requires one person to accuse another of fraud — not a criminal one where the state can bring charges against someone. They clearly overstepped their bounds as part of the Judicial Branch of the U.S. government, as they were acting on behalf of the Executive Branch to execute the laws, then they even did that wrong by misapplying the law.

The thing that bothers me so much is that when I consider why the Department of Justice did this, I can't come up with a reason, other than those with evil purposes.

What crime — of the United States or against anyone or against humanity — did Kurtz commit by his artistic protests? I say there was no crime committed, and I'm left to believe that the Department of Justice was trying to put an innocent man in jail. Why would they do that? Perhaps to justify the "War on Terror" by staging arrests of fake terrorists? I don't know, but it all smells evil. [And let me also reiterate what's not been said enough: "terror" is a concept, not a group of people so it's at best a Quixotic move to try and wage war against it.]

Perhaps they're working to block dissent to the war and to questionable corporate efforts — both topics that Kurtz and his group rallied against. But in a free country … nay, the free country? When dissenters are rounded up and put in prison in a dictatorship, I can at least understand it, but when it happens in a country that prides itself on inalienable freedoms? So maybe the Department of Justice's goals were to steer the United States toward a more totalitarian government. Again, evil.

When I try to apply Occam's Razor, most relevant evidence points to a big conspiracy: that government is trying to bias the delivery of news for purposes of manipulating the will of the people through false information.

It's a thought that I can't bear to stare straight into. I welcome comments that disprove my theory.

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Seeing Strange Culture and Steve Kurtz at the Dryden

Ali and I headed to the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Strange Culture. The movie is a haunting mid-process reenactment/documentary of what has been happening to Steven Kurtz.

Steve is an art professor at SUNY Buffalo (17 Capen Hall, Amherst, NY) and a member of a group called The Critical Art Ensemble. He was working on several projects with his wife, Hope when in May, 2004, she died in her sleep. Steve didn't know what to do so he called 911. When police arrived, they saw the petri dishes of bacteria cultures they were preparing for one of the art exhibits and called in the FBI. Steve was detained for 22 hours and questioned under suspicion of bioterrorism (but not actually arrested — just illegally detained). His wife's body was taken away and the local coroner ruled her death a heart attack caused by a rare congenital condition. The FBI then took her body and did another autopsy coming to the same conclusion.

So when they were unable to bring him up on charges of bioterrorism, the Department of Justice has filed mail fraud and wire fraud charges against him and a scientist (Robert Ferrell) he worked with to obtain the bacteria samples (which are harmless, by the way, and readily available through the Internet). Steve was not able to bring up details of the case but a woman he'd been working with (I can't seem to find her name anywhere) was able to fill in details Steve was not permitted to.

Basically mail and wire fraud is a civil case — one brought by one party against another when they feel defrauded. The Department of Justice is trying to expand their power by bring it to trial as a criminal case: although neither party involved with the transfer of the bacteria feels defrauded, the Department of Justice is charging both parties with willfully violating the implicit contract between them.

Oh yeah, so anyway: the movie. They used a mix of actors performing reenactments and actual participants discussing the facts of the case. Since the outcome isn't yet determined — Steve has not yet gone to trial — as a documentary, it has a, well, "special" feel to it. Ordinarily you'd expect a documentary to be released after the fact; to put a nice bow at the end of the story to say what happened. Well this one didn't. And as such it's rather unique to leave that huge story arc just dangling off the end of the film.

I asked about whether Steve knew that this particular art project would make people so upset — as an artist, I think there's some desire to have an impact, but rarely is it true that jack-booted thugs really do kick down your door. He said they were working on several projects not mentioned in the movie. One of them was about germ warfare (and what the samples were largely for) to help people understand just how ineffective it really is. I mean, if you look at the facts of the anthrax scare from 2001, 17 people got infected and 5 people died — and this was military-grade antrhax. It's a crappy weapon, yet we're conditioned by our government to cower from it — remember all about sealing up a room with plastic and duct tape in case of an attack?

I cannot begin to express how disappointed I am at the United States Government and the people who blindly support it. It's stupefying to me to believe that a few innocent people need to be used as scapegoats so that our laws are stronger??? It is beyond logic and beyond hope to me.