June 2002 Archives

The people who run Capitalism, that is. Not happy at all, I'm sure.

Today, first the NYDaily News with a dramatic front page graphic and the headline, "BUSTED TRUST, Wall St. scandals spooking big, small investors," then the NYTimes Week in Review banner headline, "CLAY FEET, Could Capitalists Actually Bring Down Capitalism?," at the top of a somewhat less pessimistic but no less smashing description of what's going on. And these are not lefty journals. These is The Establishment.

Now I know I shouldn't necessarily be gleeful at the possible or impending sudden disappearance of or depressive shift in the cycle of this "system", since it would mean havoc perhaps even exceeding the evil it does now. Moreover, as someone living on a fixed income produced by, no, not the sweat of my brow, but by years of borrrre-dom, I should have a selfish interest at stake. And in the end, we know the ones who will suffer regardless of how this all works out will not be the very rich. BUT, I will admit I'm absolutely fascinated by what's happening right now.

To those inured to corporate wrongdoing — perhaps by the insider trading scandals or the savings and loan debacle of recent decades — the latest scourge of white-collar malfeasance might seem like more of the same, with greedy executives cutting corners to make a profit. But in truth, the corporate calamities of the new millennium are of a different ilk, one that challenges the credibility of the financial reporting system, and in turn the faith of investors in the capital markets — the very engine that has driven capitalism to its success.


Rather a brave activist and friend who stood near Saint Patrick's Cathedral during today's New York Pride march.

A moment of silence for the brothers and sisters who remain lost.

A Spanish Catholic priest who came out earlier this year tells a sad story which will not surprise most of us, even today.

The Spanish nun who walked into Father Jose Mantero's confessional was not wearing a habit, but that was not what was troubling her. "I have fallen in love with one of the sisters, with another nun," she whispered through the grille separating them. "She wanted me to call her a monster and a sinner. Instead I told her about a gay association in Seville. She was furious and stormed out. I didn't even have time to give her absolution," says Mantero. "That's what the Roman Catholic church does to homosexuals."
Mantero himself remains in the Church, although suspended from his duties, and he continues to enrage the hierarchy while also tweaking the faithful everywhere with his knowledge of Church history:
"Pope Paul VI was a great queer," says Mantero. "And when I say that I mean it with respect. He was also a great pope."

It used to be you trusted either biz'nez or the guv'ment.

Since the powers of each have dispensed with the fiction that the two were separate, it will now be very hard to look up to either, whether your primary allegiance is to liberal politics or capitalist economics.

Americans gave up on regarding government as a force for good long ago, but lately even the monied classes have lost faith in institutions which handle money.

You mean they actually do teach "responsible business practices and organizational ethics" to businesspeople? We're told that's the subject of Barbara Toffler's teaching at Columbia Business School, but the classes must have been very small indeed.

She worries now about what will bring investors back to a market whose image has been shattered in recent months. She says the ethics problem is "systemic and intractable."

"And we're not going to be able to get out of this crisis of credibility and concern about who can we trust, because nobody really wants to break up the nice, neat little ring of conflicts of interest that go from the corporate world to the streets of Wall Street to the political suites of our government," Hoffman said.
Doesn't sound good for the home team.

On this very special day of ours, the oh-so-queer-positive NYPost gives us this present: a story about pistol-packing homos.

"Pick on someone your own caliber," declares its excellent Web site (www.pinkpistols.org). "We are dedicated to the legal, safe and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community," it continues. "The more people know that members of our community may be armed, the less likely they will be able to single us out for attack."
So, um, uh. Maybe the thing speaks for itself, but stop the world, I looking to get off.

This day is especially for those around the world who haven't yet made it out, or at least not all the way, more than for those who are able to actually parade.

It remains a Very Big Thing for that reason above all.

And yes, the Croatian image reminds us of how far we still have to go.

Cheers for the queer Israelis!

A few more pix:
Zurich and Zurich again
Various cities, incl. Rome, Tel Aviv, Paris, Vienna, Zagreb, Manilla

Terrorists dropped two atomic bombs on Japanese cities at the end of the Second World War.

Why, to save money and/or avoid risking American soldier's lives? But few today believe Japan was not about to surrender anyway, The agument was apparently specious even then, for "In 1946 the US strategic bombing survey came to the conclusion that 'Japan would have surrendered even if atomic bombs had not been dropped'."

[In the summerof 1945] Sixty-six of Japan's largest cities had been burned down by napalm bombing. In Tokyo a million civilians were homeless and 100,000 people had died. They had been, according to Major General Curtis Lemay, who was in charge of the fire bombing operations, "scorched and boiled and baked to death". President Franklin Roosevelt's son and confidant said that the bombing should continue "until we have destroyed about half the Japanese civilian population." On July 18 the Japanese emperor telegraphed President Truman, who had succeeded Roosevelt, and once again asked for peace. The message was ignored.

A few days before the bombing of Hiroshima, Vice Admiral Radford boasted that "Japan will eventually be a nation without cities - a nomadic people". The bomb, exploding above a hospital in the center of the city, killed 100,000 people instantly, 95% of them civilians. Another 100,000 died slowly from burns and effects of radiation.

Dresden could be invoked here as well, but additional examples aren't needed to give us enough of the historical perspective we ignore now at such risk.

Incredibly today we are told that only desperate individuals and the insurrections of which they may be a part can be terrorists, and that nations, at least the good guys, those that aren't "rogue," cannot.

Our governement's current posture toward the rest of the world, and especially my own terrifying picture of the chaotic world which that posture will actually bring home to everyone on the planet in the very near future, looks like nothing so much as the ethos and the brutality of stone-age tribes ripping each other to pieces. The difference lies primarily in the sophistication and the destructiveness of the weaponry, and the fact that our own age knows a better way than that on which we are embarked now, led on by fools and cheered on by the "loyal (Democratic) opposition."

For this nation to claim the unilateral right to pre-emptively strike (with nuclear weapons) at its enemies, and to determine which leaders and nations are evil, points to aspirations of empire-building. Still, that's not what portends disaster for humanity. Our government seems to think that only we are capable of pre-emptive wars and covert assassinations, and that there are no consequences for such actions.

This new policy threatens to encourage belligerent parties everywhere to adopt a similar ethos that will spill over into all facets of life, including children's playgrounds. "Treat others the way you would like to be treated" will be replaced with "Get them before they get you."


That's not to say terrorism isn't a real threat. It is. However, we could eliminate every terrorist alive today and still not come close to eliminating the breeding grounds of misery and hatred that spawn them. This administration seems unable to differentiate between terrorism and insurrection.

The military implications of this new ethos are obvious. However, the fundamental shift we are talking about threatens thousands of years of our evolving civilization. Like falling dominoes, every facet of life is affected, and we become a less safe and a more indifferent and dehumanized society.

The Green Party's nominee for governor of New York should not be as exceptional as he clearly is in the midst of the current swamp of opportunistic, middle-of-the-whatever, do-as-the-Man-says, make-no-waves and make-no-difference rich boys or paid hacks of both the major parties. But he is.

Enter Stanley Aronowitz, 69, the Green Party's nominee this year for governor of New York, who, when you listen to him call for higher taxes to increase money for schools, pay for campaign finance reform and establish state-subsidized health insurance, is the anti-candidate this time around. He has set out to anger the powerful and the rich who, he says, pull the strings of the "Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush regime," stressing that the troika is listed in order of importance. And, like all of those who believe in a cause, he is willing to go down with the ship rather than compromise.
OUR democracy is in trouble," he said. "The Democratic and Republican Parties have converged. Their economic policies are not different. They believe that anything that hurts business is not a viable position."
"Dostoyevsky taught me about irony," he said. "I have great trouble with this as a would-be politician. You cannot be a successful politician and be ironic. Our slogan — tax and spend — is meant to be ironic, but people don't get it. They get upset."

And kindly permit the real Left to go about the business of trying to save the Republic (and your own integrity, where it may still survive).

As a gay man, I find it laughable that anyone could vote for the Republican party, but "they're not as bad as the GOP" is not a good enough reason for me to vote for the Democrats. They must earn my vote -- they do not have a "right" to it. Given the ways the party has acquiesced as the Bush administration has shredded the Bill of Rights since 9/11, I will not vote for a Democratic candidate again unless I see a fundamental change in their behavior.

Yup, just satire, but even Einbildungenschadenfreude makes us happy for a moment.

El Paso, Texas (SatireWire.com) — Unwilling to wait for their eventual indictments, the 10,000 remaining CEOs of public U.S. companies made a break for it yesterday, heading for the Mexican border, plundering towns and villages along the way, and writing the entire rampage off as a marketing expense.

Though too late for some, the myth of the homo macho man is, maybe, dying, and good riddance!

The world that queer radicals would create is one where no man needs to butch up to fly right. Masculinity would be something every male possesses, not a test every boy must take. Gay men would be free to follow their hearts without sacrificing prestige—and so would straights. After all, macho is a wound for everyone. It isn't just about boys bonding and dads passing their cojones along to their sons. It's also about boys brutalizing each other to establish a hierarchy based on fear of the feminine, and fathers injuring their sons for failing to make the grade. It's about mothers repressing their daughters, and butch girls suffering through the female equivalent of the playground trauma: the prom from hell.
The unfinished business of gay liberation is to break these chains. Only then will we know what it really means to be gay.

From the words of a professor of history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, writing in the Israeli press, we can still hold onto our hopes for the triumph of basic good sense among Israelis in the midst of terror.

If indeed there is no difference between the territories that were conquered by the end of the War of Independence and those that came into our hands in the Six-Day War, it is possible that Zionism really never was, as its opponents have always said, either national liberation movement or a movement to save Jews from physical and cultural extinction, but rather an imperialist movement that aims at constant expansion.

The Supreme's ruling yesterday on school vouchers obviously reflects the increasing integration of religion and public life in America. [The Pledge's "under god" is symbolically very important to this impulse, and symbols are important---look at the fuss we make over the flag!]

The wall of separation between church and state is being dismantled. A NYTimes news article observes that "Recent [court] rulings have held that religion is entitled to equal treatment in public life." In an otherwise estimable editorial on vouchers in the same edition, the paper observes that in parochial schools "...for a variety of reasons [the writers do not elaborate], tuition is far lower [than other private schools]," thereby eliminating even this court rulings's premise that parents must have "genuine choice."

What's missing here? Just the observation that to get "equal treatment in public life" and incidently to give parents an equal "genuine choice" between schools competing for the voucher money collected from all taxpayers, religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status, since this is the key to their attraction as a bargain alternative to all kinds of public programs we should be looking to instead.

If we excuse religion its tax obligation, we are already heavily subsidizing it before we hand over additional money in the form of the vouchers we offer it, at least partly, as a reward for the fiction of its good money management.

If we can no longer be protected from religion, religion can no longer be protected from taxes. The two principles must stand or fall together.

P.S. The Declaration of Independence mentions "god," but that excellent text was essentially a letter of resignation, and was composed for the purpose of public relations. The deist misstep was corrected in the document which became the law of the land, the U.S. Constituion with its Bill of Rights.

An excerpt from an interview with Michael Newdow, the man who brought the suit which resulted in a court ruling against the use of the phrase, "under god," in the Pledge of Allegiance recited in schools.

[Interviewer]: I have some reaction here in the audience. I think Mike from Alabama wants to say something to you, Mr. Newdow.

Audience member: We are talking about the greatest flag to the greatest nation in the world, I can't believe that Americans will allow something like this to go by without voicing their opinion. This is ludicrous to me. I just can't believe that the courts would give him the time of day.

Newdow: I agree, it is the greatest nation and what has made it great is our Constitution. The framers were quite wise in recognizing what religion can do and how it can cause hatred and how it can cause death. You don't have to go far in this world, outside of our nation, to see where that has happened. It is prevalent over the entire globe and the reason we don't have it here is because we have an establishment clause ... If Mike there from Alabama wouldn't mind saying "we are one nation under Buddha" every day, or "one nation under David Koresh" or "one nation" under some religious icon that he doesn't believe in ... if he doesn't understand the difference then we have a problem.

Dahlia Lithwick, who covers the US Supreme Court for Slate, suggested on NPR this morning that she thinks the 9th Court's decision is silly, yet she muses on Slate's own web site, "I must wonder why ... all the religious groups in the country are going apoplectic. My guess is that the words "under God" do promote monotheism, and of course the effect of that isn't just 'de minimus,' as they say." So, is it really silly for the Court to protect minorities and the Constitution?

A few additional notes on the subject which I predict [no stretch!] won't die:

1.) Yes, "under God" [proposed by the Catholic Knights of Columbus and pushed by the jingoistic Hearst newspapers of the time] was adopted during the McCarthy era to contrast our society specifically with that of atheistic communism [which incidently did not require an oath from its citizens, of any age].

2.) The Pledge itself has a quite modern history. It was the brainchild in 1892 of a radical leftist, Francis Bellamy.

The original pledge began "I pledge allegiance to my flag," but that was changed in the 1920s so immigrants would be clear on which flag they saluted [it's now "the" flag]. A stiff, one-armed salute that accompanied the pledge was dropped during World War II because it was deemed Nazi-like.
[Egaads! I remember the one-armed salute myself, long after WWII, but I suppose Catholic schools were slow to adopt the less fascist form.]

3.) Any Pledge, in any form, is authoritarian, stupid and counter-productive for the encouragement of an informed and flourishing citizenry.

4.) Our Founding Fathers were not Christians, but rather Deists, if they professed any relationship to an imaginary supreme friend.

5.) As a motto, "In God We Trust" replaced the particulary federalist and un-Republican [with a big "R"], "E Pluribus Unum" ["from many, one"], on our coins only during the Civil War, on our paper currency in the fifties, and, I believe, only then in our courts, this at the same time we put god in the Pledge and in our schools.

6.) "So Help Me God" are the final words of, I believe all, of our oaths of governmental office, and of the oath required in our courts of law [unless you want to make the kind of scene I look forward to each time I am there, whether as part of a jury or as a defendent in a civil disobedience action].

7.) Apparently somewhere around 90 percent of Americans believe in a personal god and in heaven and hell. The U.S. is the most religious of all the industrialized nations. Our current executive, legislative and judicial governmental branches are all increasingly acting as if we were officially, rather than just functionally, ruled as a theocracy.

The argument for total neutrality on god:

I do not believe there is one god or goddesses or many gods or godesses.
You [forgive me, my good readers, allow me the rhetorical "you"] believe there is or are gods or goddesses.

I do not want my government, its courts, its schools or any of its institutions to tell me there are gods or goddesses, nor to suggest that I am in agreement with that belief. You do not want your government, its courts, its schools or any of its institutions to tell you there are no gods or goddesses, nor to suggest that that you am in agreement with that belief.

The Constitution protects both of us, regardless of the actual numbers we can enlist in our ranks of disbelievers or believers.

One hope for the future:

The current hullabaloo over the Califonia-based Court's ruling is ironically sure proof against the only argument which the U.S. Supreme Court has used and could use going forward to retain "god" in our government's institutions and practices, that the phrases are protected from the Establishment Clause because their religious significance has been lost through rote repetition.

Apparently "god" still does have a religious significance. Good news for the religious, and, maybe, good news for those who are not.

Finally, one for the handful of Americans who do not believe in invisible friends and who are not part of a cult!

A federal appeals court found the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional on Wednesday....

"A profession that we are a nation 'under God' is identical ... to a profession that we are a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus,' or a nation 'under no god,"' it said.

The words, "under God," were first added in 1954 in the midst of our last big right-wing witch-hunting god-fearing jingoistic fake-war boom time, in a year dominated by Senator Joseph McCarthy. I should be amazed it's still there, but I'm not, and I have no illusions the Supreme Court would agree with this Federal Appeals Court decision.

Is this for real? The Paper of Record actually published this letter, supposedly defending SUV's, in today's edition. [I'm putting it under "Happy," because I can only find it ludicrous, definitely not serious enough for any other category.]

The fuel cost is borne entirely by me, and though this makes the United States more dependent on foreign oil, it is also the most powerful method of introducing capitalism and democracy into corrupt oil-producing nations.
Have you no shame, Mr. Mullen?

The NYTimes issued a correction on its editorial page today.

An editorial last Friday supporting a Supreme Court decision that bans execution of the retarded stated incorrectly that apart from the United States, only Kyrgyzstan and Japan permit the death penalty for retarded convicts. The law in Kyrgyzstan prohibits the execution of the retarded.
That makes me feel so much better; I was so embarassed for Kyrgyzstan.

For those who may have already missed this item contained within the text of an earlier link, here it is again, from a different source. Note that the proposed Federal Agency will effectively control us all, even as we are told we can't control it. Interestingly enough this link is from that bastian of often mindless conservatism, The Washington Times!

A provision in the bill seeking to create a Homeland Security Department will exempt its employees from whistleblower protection, the very law that helped expose intelligence-gathering missteps before September 11.

The legislation now before Congress contains a provision allowing the director of the proposed agency to waive all employee protections in Title V, including the Whistleblower Protection Act. The act protects government employees from retaliation or losing employment for speaking out on waste, fraud and abuse.
[In addition] The department would not be required to release information under the Freedom of Information Act. This would eliminate the agency's responsibility to answer questions from the public. Advisory committees that normally include public input would be immune, and the Cabinet secretary would have veto power over inspector general audits and investigations.

I thought this piece might be too simplistic to pass muster with someone more familiar with economics than m'self, but B says he thinks it's probably too abstruse for the casual browser, too much attempted too minimally. Must be just right then. I dunno. It does it for me, but you judge for yourself.

The argument is that it was basically a crisis of overproduction which drove the U.S. stock market boom, but it was a singleminded concentration on the needs of investors which created the disaster we visited on the third world but which has now landed in our own lap.

Industry after industry had made more products—autos to computer chips—than could be sold for a profit on the market. Market saturation of a particular product didn’t happen by itself. The “why” of the story is that the working majority hasn’t been able to buy what it has made.

Accordingly, overproduction reduced profitability for those who buy labor-power. No profits, no investment in more productive capacity. The result was lots of money with no place to go.

What to do? The response from the titans of the global market economy was twofold. One was that investment migrated from industrial production to financial speculation.

The other was the destruction of productive capacity. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank in part enforced policies that purposely plunged Third World and newly industrialized nations into depressions that devastated peopleÂ’s living standards.

In the meantime, investment seeking profits flowed into the U.S. stock market.
[While] the flow of foreign funds into the U.S. [helped] consumers and corporations live beyond their means....[the] unsustainable trend of U.S. spending based on lending was given a boost by the nation's high-flying stock market.

In any case, the boom is now bust, and investors around the world know it. Is there a lesson going forward? Of course there is. The question is only whether we can get rid of enough of the fools and villains at the top to do something about it.
... describing the end of what some have called the speculative boom of all time by sidestepping what led to its creation covers up what needs to be covered. Namely, that a market economy system based on production to meet the needs of investors instead of human needs is the problem for the vast majority of humanity.

WorldCom Finds $3.8 Billion Error, Fires CFO [Reuters lead headline]

Yes, but I want to know what the severence package looks like.

WorldCom, which is already under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, said it would restate its financial results for 2001 and the first quarter of 2002 to show net losses.

It also plans to cut 17,000 jobs, or more than 20 percent of its work force, starting on Friday, in a bid to save $900 million a year. It also will pare its capital spending budget to $2.1 billion.

Seventeen thousand workers are now going to be put out onto the street because the stockholders had to be fed, at all costs to the people.

Ok, time for a humor break. Let us return to a simpler time, when things did not look as bad as they do today, now that we've shown the world the stuff we're made of.

The Onion 26 September 2001
Attack On America

The George W. Bushies do have the "vision thing" the father's administration admitted it lacked. Unfortunately "...they are rather less interested in the reality thing."

Real problems, even really big problems, are seen by this tinkertoy administration only as opportunities for its greedy and autocratic agenda.

A slump in the economy was an opportunity to push a tax cut that provided very little stimulus in the short run, but will place huge demands on the budget in 2010. An electricity shortage in California was an opportunity to push for drilling in Alaska, which would have produced no electricity and hardly any oil until 2013 or so. An attack by lightly armed terrorist infiltrators was an opportunity to push for lots of heavy weapons and a missile defense system, just in case Al Qaeda makes a frontal assault with tank divisions or fires an ICBM next time.
For the distinctive feature of all the programs the administration has pushed in response to real problems is that they do little or nothing to address those problems. Problems are there to be used to pursue the vision. And a problem that won't serve that purpose, whether it's the collapse of confidence in corporate governance or the chaos in the Middle East, is treated as an annoyance to be ignored if possible, or at best addressed with purely cosmetic measures. Clearly, George W. Bush's people believe that real-world problems will solve themselves, or at least won't make the evening news, because by pure coincidence they will be pre-empted by terror alerts.

Oh, don't we wish someone would just wake us when it's over, but this is all too real, it involves us, not some people on the other side of the planet, it involves the future of this planet, and there is nowhere and no way we'll be able to sleep through it.

We were somewhere near day 600 of the Bush administration on the edge of sanity when reality began to take hold... And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the future was full of bombs and Enrons and Cheneys, all swooping and screeching and diving around the SUV, which was going about a hundred miles an hour straight into a brick wall. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! How did we get here?"
If this were simply madness it would be scary enough - but the coldly calculated method behind the madness confirms this administration is on a suicide run, taking us pedal to the metal down their dangerous dead end street.

You tell 'em, Bushie!

Insufferable arogance, especially since, regardless of what one thinks of either individual, the facts are that our executive was selected, and Arafat was elected!

And when the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state .... A Palestinian state will never be created by terror -- it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempt to preserve the status quo. True reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism.
"We" have just stood in the Rose Garden to tell a people denied a place in the world for 54 years that they have to throw out their elected president and create the oh-so-perfect political and economic system that we have before we can consider letting them exist as a nation. Can one suggest that at the very least the Administration apply that criterion to our friends in the "War on Terrorism," including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, and virtually all of the nations north of Afghanistan, just for starters?

In any event, the Administration's plan for the Middle East is actually only a "vision," and that is the word it seems to prefer, with good reason. It will please the Israelis and anger the Palestinians

Normally, when you grant people statehood, you deal with the leaders those people have chosen. Not in this case.
[Bushie] asked the U.S.-friendly dictators of various Arab countries, whose statehood he doesn't dispute, to "work with Palestinian leaders to create a new constitutional framework and a working democracy for the Palestinian people."
Why is Bush's plan so vague? Because it was conceived as a pretty picture, not as a solution.
That's what the offer of a "state" with no defined borders, powers, or timetable (and no right to be represented by its present leadership) is. It isn't even a bone thrown to the Palestinians. It's a picture of a bone.

Advisory to the world [probably unnecessary]: Do not believe a word "we" say!

Only a few days left, but definitely worth a detour. A great and gutsy production of Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" can be found through sunday at The Culture Project. It's Shakespeare were he alive today, and were he appreciated as much as this sturdy little company does Stoppard's first big success, written when he was 26.

"It costs little to watch, and little more if you happen to get caught up in the action, if that's your taste and times being what they are." (The Player)
On a surface level, the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is an absurdist look at two secondary characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Amidst their clever rhetoric, the two characters find themselves (or rather DON'T find themselves) trapped in a fatalistic path leading to their inevitable destruction. Given the universal nature of the play, a director has the ability to extract worldly significance from otherwise ambiguous, yet extremely thought provoking, text.

Daniel Carlton, as the player king, is brilliant, and Jenny Gravenstein and Frederique Nahmani, as Guilderstern and Rosencrantz respectively, are more than worthy of everything their characters are---and are not.

Does the world simply envy us, or is there something else going on as well?

Americans are the world's luckiest teenagers, with the best car, the fattest allowance and the biggest line of brag, yet like all teenagers we're secretly afraid that someone is laughing at us. Here's a news flash. They are. Our cowboy Puritanism dumbfounds the rest of the world. We execute teenagers, we impeach a president over a sex act, we want to ban pop from schools to protect children at the same time we practically sell guns in vending machines.


Instead, the United States practices Pops Americana, a soft-sell virtual empire of culture, burgers, movies, jeans and slang. Ronald Reagan genuinely believed that if the rest of the world was safe for big-screen TVs and gold MasterCards, everyone would be just like us, and thrilled to be so.


Pops Americana is one reason "they" hate us, in all those sinister and unpronounceable places on the world's map, and one reason why we now find ourselves on the crash-course terrorism tour of the world, learning about places like Kabul and Kandahar, and, like our other tours of places with names like Normandy and Saigon, we risk once again making the mistake of coming home from "over there" convinced that the great world is full not of intriguingly different places, but only perilous ones.

Yea! The eagles are back in Manhttan, reintroduced into our only remaining swath of virgin forest.

Yesterday afternoon a group of Urban Park Service workers toted them down a trail to a 20-foot wooden platform, topped by two green boxes: the eagles' new home. As car alarms blared faintly in the distance, the boxes were hoisted up on ropes and placed in the cages. Once safely inside the cages, the eagles were released and had identifying bands attached to their legs.

They looked — well, surprised. Spreading their mottled brown wings and pecking at the biologists around them, the birds glanced anxiously out at a spectacular view of the Harlem River and Manhattan buildings.

Do we really think anything involving force will make us feel safe? We have more of that stuff than anyone in the world, even the Israelis.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Air National Guard fighter jets were scrambled into the air too late from nearby Andrews Air Force Base on Wednesday night to protect the White House from a small plane that wandered into restricted airspace over Washington, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
"This illustrates just how hard it is to do this kind of thing, especially in a busy air traffic area," said one of the officials.
Maybe it would make more sense to think about how we can dissuade people from wanting to blow us up in the first place. Duh.

Why is U.S. foreign policy so fundamentally irreconcilable with that of our European friends? Our differences are still being ignored or minimized by just about all parties, but real differences there are.

...the fact is Europeans and Americans no longer share a common view of the world. On the all-important question of power -- the utility of power, the morality of power -- they have parted ways. Europeans believe they are moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. Europe itself has entered a post-historical paradise, the realization of Immanuel Kant's "Perpetual Peace." The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international rules are unreliable and where security and the promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might.

This alarming short comment was an introduction to an alert from FAIR about a talk* by Crispin Miller, author of "The Bush Dyslexicon."

George W. Bush's broken English and his ignorance about the world are certainly unprecedented for a U.S. chief executive. Remarks like "I will have a foreign-handed foreign policy" and "Is our children learning?" are all too typical. Yet even before September 11, the U.S. mainstream media have bent over backwards to make excuses for him.

In the newly updated "Bush Dyslexicon," media critic Mark Crispin Miller
catalogues Bush's strange and sometimes frightening utterances, along with the press's Pravda-esque portrayal of Bush as a statesman of Churchillian stature. For Miller, the media's response to Bush's mistakes isn't simply funny or embarrassing-- rather, it's a sign of how much power has been amassed by Bush's corporate sponsors. "We Americans have been tricked out of our democracy," writes Miller, "by a vast and very smart conspiracy of stupid talkers." Now more than ever, he insists, we must stop merely laughing at this dangerous president, whose errors tell us all we need to know: "We are resolved to rout out terror wherever it exists," Bush said on January 31, "to save the world from freedom!"

* Thursday, June 27, 6:30 PM
Housing Works Used Book Café
126 Crosby St (between Prince and Houston), New York
Free and Open to the Public

This one is really just for those of you are not fags or dykes, or otherwise queer; the rest of us know about this already. We live it.

There is still nothing in the universe worse than a queer.

But more than anything else, the absolute worst thing that can apparently be said about me among the spurts of hate mail I invariably receive whenever one of my more politically charged columns pokes at the oozing sores of rage over at some right-wing Web site, is this: I must be gay. Really, really gay.

I've admired Richard Goldstein for years, largely through his pieces in the Village Voice. This week his essay in The Nation really did it for me.

I'm linking it here because Goldstein has done an excellent job of describing my own social and political posture and my position as a member of a pariah community.

The queer community is the spawn of a marriage between socialism and bohemianism more than a century ago. This heady union, which begat gay liberation, has been all but ignored by the culture.
Some of my friends and relatives will be surprised to know that I am not a "retreating liberal" and I am not a "good gay." I blame over sixty years of a certain amount of dissembling in order to survive in a frightened and frightening world for any appearances which may have encouraged that misunderstanding. I am grateful however to chance, and for the good graces of friends and strangers, that I have become more and more radical over the years. I intend to keep heading in that direction.

What I am now is a leftist and a queer, and for me the two are inseparable.

We now have a window into what President Bush and America's senators think of the world's women: Not much.

An international women's treaty banning discrimination has been ratified by 169 countries so far (without emasculating men in any of them!), yet it has languished in the United States Senate ever since President Carter sent it there for ratification in 1980. This month the Senate Foreign Relations Committee got around to holding hearings on it, but the Bush administration, after shyly supporting it at first, now is finding its courage faltering.

Nicholas Kristof is just a bit off base when he assumes the success of the rights movement for women in the U.S., saying that the treaty ". . . has almost nothing to do with American women, who already enjoy the rights the treaty supports," but he is absolutely correct when he describes the Bushie adminstration's attitude toward the treaty.
Critics have complained that the treaty, in the words of Jesse Helms, was "negotiated by radical feminists with the intent of enshrining their radical anti-family agenda into international law" and is "a vehicle for imposing abortion on countries that still protect the rights of the unborn."

That's absurd. Twenty years of experience with the treaty in the great majority of countries shows that it simply helps third-world women gain their barest human rights. In Pakistan, for example, women who become pregnant after being raped are often prosecuted for adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. But this treaty has helped them escape execution.

How can we be against that? Do we really want to side with the Taliban mullahs, who, like Mr. Ashcroft, fretted that the treaty imposes sexual equality? Or do we dare side with third-world girls who die because of their gender, more than 2,000 of them today alone?

Now can we start the revolution?

Look at Bloggy if you want to know what tomorrow will bring for all of us, and take full note of the Washington Post's take on the emperor and his clothes.

This is really scary.

Ok, this should be the last log item coming out of the New Festival screenings, but it's a real winner! "Boychik" is a magical little film which was part of the most excellent Growing Pains shorts program.

It's tough recommending a short, since we're not likely to see it advertised at the multiplex, but follow your index finger (the reference will be clear to those who manage to see it) if you ever discover it on a program.

Japan has again shown off one of its greatest innovations - square watermelons.
Where do we get them? Our little ("compact") apartment refrigerator has never seen an entire watermelon, and I'm afraid it would probably have a compressor attack if it did. Over the years I've become expert at buying and arranging almost everything I need it to work with, but, until now, watermelons were just not a consideration. At the prices in Japan however, it's a wonder any watermelon was a consideration for anyone, even when they only came round! Fifty dollars for a watermelon?
Each melon sells for 10,000 yen, equivalent to about $83. It is almost double, or even triple, that of a normal watermelon.

The title of this item is the original title of a compelling new film from the UK, now called "AKA," by Duncan Roy. It's making the rounds of the American queer film festivals this year and was shown three times here in New York at the New Festival.

It's one of those dramatic experiences that hangs around long after you have left the theatre. Extremely well acted and directed, with a brilliant eye behind the camera, it's really the story which finally knocks you out. Is it a documentary? Actually, it feels like you are being taken along on a real anthropological expedition, but without the accompanying mess of cables and microphones and improvised scenes. The director hints at an autobiographical source for his work, but even without that suggestion the film moves in a real world of fantasy, fantasy here for both the nobs and the snobs.

Oh, I almost forgot, the (almost?) innovation incorporated in the film is the projection of three side-by-side frames of nearly simultaneous action and sound rather than the single frame and single sound track which has limited our experience of movies for about a hundred years. This eccentricity was disconcerting at the beginning of the film but while its distractions were eventually replaced by the arguable pleasures of a sort of cinematic cubism, I think the verdict may still be out on this subject.

Telling us what they are telling us what is good for us.

Aint the web wonderful! Somebody is ready to satisfy any need. You don't even have to ask. Just search.

I owe this item to Mark Morford. Ok, I'll include his take on it as a quote.

Am always deeply frightened and yet strangely enamored by/of the earnest creepiness of the horrid little Jesus Inspirational Sports Statues for very young deeply repressed midwestern Catholic white kids who will soon be in therapy, because of course if Jesus is about anything, he's about helpin' little Timmy smoke some bitch-ass on a 2-on-2 pickup game down at the projects, or helping little Suzie bloody the shins of her bitchy little Atheist enemies on the soccer field. Don't forget to look at pages 2 and 3. *Swing* batterbatterbatterJesusspankmyassbatterbatter, swing!

This news arrived in our home only today, from Rex Wockner's list, and for that I find great fault with the queer media. Unless I have missed a lot, there have been no reports here of the death of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf this past April.

Charlotte von Mahlsdorf lived, entirely openly and openly fully, as a cross-dresser under the twentieth centuryÂ’s two most repressive regimes, the Nazis and the Communists. She was, in her own words, "my own woman."

Wockner's notice:


Germany's most famous transgendered person, Charlotte
von Mahlsdorf (Lothar Berfelde), died in Berlin April
30 of a heart attack. She was 74.

Von Mahlsdorf was awarded the Federal Cross of Honor
(Bundesverdienstkreuz), the nation's highest civilian
honor, in 1992 for founding East Berlin's Grunderzeit
which preserves furniture and household
appliances from the period 1870-1900.

"I am not at all keen on medals," she said at the
time. "But what I find even more important is that a
homosexual, a transvestite, is honored in this way.
.. I hope this encourages other gays and lesbians and
demonstrates to heterosexuals that we too can achieve

Von Mahlsdorf emigrated to Sweden in 1997 after the
museum was attacked by anti-gay hoodlums. She was on a
visit to Berlin when she died.

She was both subject and actress in Rosa von Praunheim's 1992 film, "Ich Bin Meine Eigene Frau [I am my own woman]."

So, the life of a lesbian, ok, a woman, even an attractive, vigorous, healthy middle class woman, and even in San Francisco, isn't worth a dog's life, to the dog's owner. What's next, the murderers suing the murdered for lack of the canine companionship of the euthanized dogs? Accounts from early this year of the horrorible assault and of the owners' culpability left little to the imagination or to reasonable doubt.

The five-week trial gripped much of the nation as prosecutors described a horrific attack in which Whipple was bitten all over her body -- her throat ripped, her clothes torn off -- by at least one of the dogs.

The jury of seven men and five women saw graphic photos of the victim's ravaged body, with wounds visible from her ankles to her face, and pictures of the blood-stained hallway where the attack occurred.
Don Newton, the jury foreman, said the number of prior incidents involving the dogs undermined the defense claim that the mauling was nothing more than a tragic accident.

"It was a series of actions -- a series of failures to heed warnings, a series of careless taking of the dogs out and allowing them to lunge at people and attack people, that they had fallen into a pattern of actions which were inevitably leading to this result," Newton said.

In today's report, once again the defendent present when the dogs attacked that fatal day, ". . . insisted she had no idea her 'loving' pets were capable of such an attack."

Rosa von Praunheim announces in his diary, "Im Jahre 2002 werde ich 60, auf keinen Fall weise oder leise, aber immer noch kämpferisch [In 2002 I will turn 60, in no way wiser or quieter, and definitely still combative]." An extraordinary career and a beautiful man. We just saw his latest completed film, "Tunten lügen nicht [Queens don't Lie]," at the New Festival just ended.

It was a delightful and "combative" film about four Berlin queens whose highly entertaining drag art is inseparable from their totally uncompromising and effective activism.

The film will now be going to Frameline in SF, Outfest in Philadelphia and other film festivals, according to Rosa.

My curiosity has been fed, but not satisfied, by an interesting item in today's NYTimes "Sports Monday" section.

Americans are reacting with queasiness to the ancient soccer tradition of exchanging shirts after a game — not just trading the shirts, mind you, but promptly pulling them on, sweat and all.

[Speak for yourselves, guys; some of us have other reactions.]
Wearing somebody else's clammy gear seems downright unhygienic. There is also a barbaric touch to seeing a player wearing opposing colors, almost the way Dark Ages warriors walked off the battlefield displaying enemy trophies.

Perhaps trying to assuage some fans' objections, an American player contributed, "Besides, you're already sweaty."

Ok, I'll admit to a certain interest in the creative out-sized flower arangements (the cigar, the martini, the poker hand, the race horse, etc.), and where else is there a demand for those retro flower car limos (yikes, the very latest model Cadillacs!) we saw in the photographs?

But let's try to put this into proportion. The Daily News let Thomas Hackett try today, but for whatever reason the paper fails to include the story in its online site. I will manually enter the complete text here:

It was sometimes hard to remember John Gotti had been convicted of killing six men and was believed to have had a hand in dozens more deaths in his storied career as New York's most famous mob boss. The Catholic Church refused Gotti a funeral Mass, citing canon law that forbids holy services for a "manifest sinner." But its verdict on Gotti's immorality did nothing to dampen in some cases fawning media coverage of his death in a federal prison hospital from cancer at age 61. Before spending the last 10 years in prison, Gotti had reveled in his celebrity. "This is my public," he once told his right-hand man about the gawkers who stared everywnere he went in New York. "They love me." It didn't matter that he was a thug from first to last, graduating from petty street crimes to hijacking to murder; or that extorting millions of dollars from unions and manufacturers drove business from New York; or that his reckless vanity invited the FBI scrutiny that left his organization in shambles.

The last clause about the FBI seems out of place in a litany of sins against society, but I can vouch for the comment about the impact of his extortions, having had some experience with the "cost of doing business," even very conservative and legitimate business, here in New York. Gotti and "celebrities" like him hurt all of us more than we know.

Boycott Coors, still.

The National Lawyers Guild's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Committee is
disappointed at Out Front Colorado's refusal to run its advertisement
educating the queer community on the Coors family's funding of bigoted
activities, and released a statement June 13. Out Front is one of the main LGBT papers in Denver.

The Coors' family seeks to maximize profits but hide its politics, including its involvement with right-wing politicians and political organizations which aggressively seek to roll back even progressive laws and gay rights already established and recognized.

A slick PR campaign has flooded our [queer] community with claims that Coors Brewing is now our friend—that Coors has domestic partner benefits, sponsors LGBT groups and events (usually in return for having the Coors logo prominently displayed), and that there are gay members of the Coors family. Some of this is true, but what they leave out is that the Coors family continues to give millions of dollars to our enemies
The Coors family has a long history of supporting racist and anti-gay groups, and their support of anti-gay bigots continues today. We could fill this newspaper [This text is from ads palced in the press] with more examples. When you buy Coors products, you enrich a family that gives millions to our worst enemies.

Coors products include Coors, Coors Light, KillianÂ’s Red, Zima, Keystone, Belgian White or Blue Moon.

[I've been trying to get a link to this for days, but while Bloggy beat me to it, I'm not going to let that discourage me] Bushie defines "down" and "up" in his own way.

We're scared out of our wits, and the Bushies' continual and manipulative alarms are doing everything they can to keep the heebie jeebies going.

Nine months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States finds itself in a jittery mood, as scandal and doubts envelop a growing number of major institutions.

But there is also sheer fear, and it won't go away.
During the maximum jitters of the Cuban missile crisis, the high school where I was an impressionable freshman happened to be holding an assembly. The star speaker was a priest from San Francisco, who arranged to have his remarks interrupted by a student delivering a note. The priest studied the note, then looked up with a somber face and announced that the Soviet Union and the United States had just launched nuclear missiles at each other.

Forty years later, I can still hear the terrified whimper in that auditorium as we all considered our imminent doom. But I can't remember a word of what the speaker said afterward. That's the thing about fear: It gets your attention and then refuses to give it back.

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It took some time before the Gay City News interview with Steve Quester, who joined the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine this past April, was put on line, so I have been unable to send this until now.

While the internationals are pledged to take only non-violent actions they do support the right of the Palestinians to use force.

"If somebody invades your town you have the right to shoot at them," Quester said. "No one element alone –– armed struggle, diplomacy, non-violent resistance –– is going to free the Palestinian people."

Steve, who is a dear friend, had written the following note at the time the article first appeared, about a week ago, and it should be included here, together with the Frederick Douglas quote he appended:

The issue of Gay City News that came out today
includes a profile of me on the front page. It's long
on me and short on Palestinians, despite my best
efforts. It also completely ignores the role of women
activists--see my response, below.


To the editors:

I was glad to have an opportunity to speak with Duncan
Osborne about the dire situation faced by Palestinians
today, and their heroic resistance to oppression
("Zionism to Palestine, via ACT UP", Gay City News,
June 7-20, 2002). I was disappointed, though, that
the (mostly male) editors of Gay City News chose not
to include information from Mr. Osborne's interview
with a lesbian who was in Palestine with me. As I
noted in my correspondence with Mr. Osborne, the
movement for freedom and justice for Palestinians is
led by women, many of them lesbians, in Palestine,
Israel, and the U.S. Men in the movement, like
myself, are too often forefronted to the exclusion of
the women doing the work.

I hope Gay City News will do features in the future on
queer women and the struggle for Palestine.

Steve Quester
Jews Against the Occupation (JATO),
Palestine Activist Forum of New York (PAFNY),
International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

===== Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

Frederick Douglass

Henry Siegman has credentials. He should be able to participate in the argument, but he has been more than marginalized by those who dominate the discussion in the U.S. of the fate of Palestinians and Israelis. Henry Siegman is a pariah.

The Korean War [where he served with combat troops as a chaplain], coupled with his own childhood experiences in Europe, inclined him to those in Jewish life who saw social justice as central to faith. He went on to become the head of the American Jewish Congress for 16 years, before joining the council [the Council on Foreign Relations].

But for many Jews, he says, there came to be new definitions of faith, ones that he says turned the ideology of the Jewish state into "a surrogate religion."

"The support for Israel fills a spiritual vacuum," he said in his corner office on Park Avenue. "If you do not support the government of Israel then your Jewishness, not your political judgment, is in question."

Whoa! You mean we don't always have to race around and complain? Marguerite Stanford will outlive us all.

People on non-rush-hour buses talk to each other. I walk when I'm able, but bus riding is truly enjoyable. Most things are; it just depends on your point of view.

Part of the fun is getting there!

We need not stand alone. We are not alone. Where can we sign up?

I'm not a celebrity and I'm not an academic, but I have asked to be a part of this very reasonable statement. But I'm already a part of it! I feel like I have been a voice crying in the wilderness since September 11, and this from a born again atheist. I'll keep you posted about the organizers' response and the details of the procedure.

Ok, just more words, but words which will mean that we and the entire world will know that the our rampaging government cannot shut us up or out.

Jeremy Pikser, one of the organizers of the statement, said yesterday that he had been concerned that the rest of the world was under the impression that there was no dissent in the US to the bombing of Afghanistan and the plans for a war against Iraq.

Pikser, a screenwriter who wrote Bulworth, a satire on American politics in which Warren Beatty played a politician who finally decided to speak his mind, said some people had been reluctant to add their names. "A lot of people haven't signed it, although they agree with it, because they think it might jeopardize other things they're involved in."

Fortunately, it only takes a few good words to totally destroy any "rationale" offered by the current intellectually-challenged Administration for its insufferable deeds, attacks on the environment no less than any other crimes.

Our understanding of what affects global warming far exceeds our knowledge about the consequence of the president's so-called war on terrorism, his trillion-dollar tax gift to the wealthy or his "Star Wars" defense system. Ideology rather than knowledge or science is what drives the policies of this administration.

Unfortunately, intelligent words don't stop thugs.

So, if everything the Administration is doing is not going to protect us from terrorists, why do we accept what the Administration is doing to protect us from terrorists?

Three weeks have passed since government officials unleashed dire warnings that the United States is destined to suffer future terrorist attacks and, incredibly, there has been little public outcry.

Perhaps the full meaning of the doomsday rhetoric emanating from Washington is not clear: our national leaders have said we are bound to lose the struggle against terrorism. Imagine Franklin Roosevelt saying that there was no way of turning back the Japanese navy, or Winston Churchill proclaiming that the British would not be able to stop the Nazi onslaught.

No comment on this news item is necessary. [Actually, I find comment impossible at the moment. Maybe later. Maybe.]

The announcement received across-the-board rave reviews from industry groups representing refiners, petrochemical, manufacturers and petroleum sectors.

I can't remember more exciting times! Every day brings such extraordinary treasures in the form of simply incredible news. It's all so stimulating.

But some people are just spoilsports. They would like to tell us that things are really not going all that well, in fact they want to tell us that we are all going to hell in a handbasket.

And sure you could see how this new attack-first policy provides a beautiful and even poetic, circular excuse for us to enrage more nations and spawn more terrorist factions, who will then make ugly noises against America that will then give the Cheney war machine a fresh excuse to blow them up and build more missiles and thus create more terrorists and keep the whole machine rolling along as long as possible. Do you see it? The brilliant self-regenerating loop? This is the plan.

The author [Mark Morford, SFGate Columnist] is really the choicest antidote I've stumbled across yet for our daily poisonous doses of the news. Read it all, and while you are at it, sample this tidbit from another of his accounts:


Four in five apparently very gullible Americans would give up some freedoms to gain security and four in 10 worry terrorists will harm them or their family, a new Gallup poll shows, causing much cheering and champagne-cork popping in the John Ashcroft Civil Liberties Sodomization and Rampant Homophobia Lounge in Hell, which is only a short jog from the new Robert C. Fleming Jr. Sub-Sub-Basement and Utter Jackass Emporium, as they realized the incessant wave of ongoing disinformation, false terrorist warnings, and general sniveling alarmist fear tactics aimed at the US populace are working beautifully. About one-third of those polled favor making it easier for authorities to access private e-mail and phone conversations. More than 70 percent are in favor of requiring U.S. citizens to carry ID cards with fingerprints. 57 percent have pretty much given up hope and don't really care anymore that GW Bush has the intellectual acumen of a garage door, 37 percent actually believe Carrot Top is "sorta funny," and a very horrifying 19 percent actually think Celine Dion is charming and way talented.

Perfect example of the manipulation of the media in order to manipulate Congress in order to manipulate the public into thinking they are being made safe.

The White House dismissed as "outlandish" on Wednesday suggestions that it disclosed the capture [JAW---over a month ago] of a man suspected of planning a "dirty bomb" attack in order to help President Bush's homeland security plan and to deflect criticism of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Ashcroft raised eyebrows at the White House and elsewhere by his decision to announce Padilla's capture in a television appearance on Monday from Moscow, where he was on unrelated business, and his claim that U.S. officials had disrupted an "unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States."

We want to solve the [crime], but not ask why it was done.

The answer would cancel out the entire illusory campaign.

But Bushie has assured us, "This guy Padilla is a bad guy."

So there you are. No more questions.

Note that Mr. Padilla is an American citizen, that he was picked up as a material witness only, that he has not been charged with any crime, that he is not known to have gotten beyond the discussion stage of any alleged wrongdoing (no dirty bomb in his backpack or under his bed, in spite of the hysterical headlines), but the Administration needs him in it continuing war on the Constitution, and on the America that is not it.

Their real enemy is us.

I have a horrifically beautiful Sue Coe print, created just prior to our first Gulf war, which bears the text, "The enemy is here, not in Kuwait!" It's sad, but in a more innocent time, I really thought the piece would quickly become dated.

Forget the raw materials and the tax incentives and the interstates, the 21st century's growth areas are those which appeal to talented people. This means:

High counts of gays and counterculture "Bohemians"? Lots of immigrants? Downtowns with lively music and arts scenes, even a tolerance for tattoo parlors?

In general, strong high-tech growth has erupted in cities that not only tolerate, but seem to promote and indeed celebrate all manner of cultural diversity. Cities that ignore the new signal will likely be stragglers in the new century's economic race.

We know where Johnny and Jane want to be, even if their names are Ivan and Janisha.

I have put off entering an item about an extraordinary production of Richard Wagner's "The Rhinegold" [sic] two and a half weeks ago, by the EOS Orchestra, since I was waiting for the review which I asssumed would be coming from the NYTimes. The review never appeared, even though the paper had published the customary preview puff piece a week prior to the performances.

If we wish to see our experience as members of the audience confirmed it's necessary to go online, to reviews in Andante or Classics Today.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have no familial relationship with the German songwriter, only a total adoration for his music. [Of at least a dozen uncles and 95 first cousins, not one was given the name, "Dick," so far as I can recall. Very odd.] I am extremely fond of the full-size Patrice Chereau Bayreuth peformance and I have several recordings of most of the operas in traditional form, but I was totally blown away by Johathan Sheffer's pocket production last month.

The performance was absolutely enchanting, immediate, dramatic, and gloriously musical, but ultimately its greatest virtue was probably the proof it offered that opera, even Wagner, can be made accessible and very sexy for any size audience, anywhere.

New York should insist that EOS bring the rest of "The Ring" to audiences which think the Met both too poor in its art and too rich in its fees, and we should be able to see the example of chamber Wagner followed elsewhere around the country.

The Great American movie? Not quite, but it'll do for this week at least. Queer, yes, but not just for queers. We saw Luster last night at the New Festival and got much more than we expected.

Ok, it's set in L.A., the actors are attractive (and not looking like Chelsea or Hollywood), it's very cool, very sexy, very beautiful, with a great soundtrack (half the scenes are in love with the perfect little music store) and the plot is not predictable.

Most oddly, with its stealth morality and easy didacticism, it could serve as the best ever after-school special, but only in a more perfect, grown-up world where we don't have the burden of our inherited prejudices.

Best line, from a very sexy guy-naif, "I'm a lesbian!"

Write your congressperson. Get it into your neighborhood. Don't lose this film!

The Bushies are at it again. They just can't shut up, can they?

"The free societies we love face unprecedented threats," Bush told the International Democrat Union, a worldwide association of moderate to conservative politicians. "We face cold-blooded killers that hate the freedoms we cherish."
"Grave threats are accumulating against us, and inaction will only bring them closer," Cheney said. "We will not wait until it is too late."

The Govament's up to something big, perhaps real soon. Grab the flintlock and stock the cellar, Mother!

It looks like Afghan women will not let themselves be shut out, in spite of the way the cards have been dealt for the Loya Jirga. The New York Daily News manages a report of its own today, scooping and shaming the more high brow "Grey Lady."

"If there is any obstacle, we will definitely boycott the loya jirga," threatened 47-year-old Zia Karkar of Laghman province.

She and five other women took center stage yesterday, warning their male counterparts that despite coming from different tribes, they are united in their demand for a greater role in government and society.


Topping the women's list of demands is a seat on the panel that will write Afghanistan's version of the Bill of Rights for its 30 million people.

I was aware of the risk of misrepresentation when I first read the story about a gift of cows to the U.S., but I still don't believe we need to pretend that there is only one way to portray an entire people. One critic of the media story however makes his point in today's NYTimes.

So, The NYTimes takes the men of Afghanistan at their word that "the Afghan people are being given some say in their future." In a long article explaining the process and makeup of the Loya Jirga, not a word is said about the fact that women are almost ignored as participants or candidates in the voting which selected the delegates. You have to look in a separate fact box, or in other news sources, to find that women constitute only somewhere between 10 to 14 percent of the delegates, and most of those numbers are the result of "selection" not election, therefore something like a gift from the men.

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan has made painstaking efforts to work out a power-sharing deal that would be widely acceptable to the different ethnic groups and factions around the country.

That is, male ethnic groups and factions.

Remember that The United States Constitution recognized that blacks were to be counted as 3/5ths of whites, even as they were counted as slaves. What does it say that our own media today has no problem with counting the significance of women as somewhere between nothing and 1/4th that of men?

We asked the Italian waiter tonight about the title of a Verdi opera on a vintage LP used as part of the restaurant's decor. He looked down and pointed at the (slash war) symbol on my shirt and said that in consideration of my, "How you say it?" to which I answered, "button," that I might want to translate the title, I Masnadieri, meaning "the robbers," as "Roomsfeld and Bussch!"

Schiller would be pleased.

In an article about the lack of systems for accessing information either to avoid disasters or to recover from disasters, we are given a peek at how one group of people managed to overcome the obstacles in a very human way after September 11.

Manhattan financial traders' plans for recovering computer data in case of disaster were of no use after September 11, because so many had died, including those who knew the backup systems and the passwords.

So the traders, [one corporate executive] said, tried to guess: "They talked about where they went on vacation, what their kids' names were, what their wives' names were, what their dogs' names were, you know, every imaginable thing about their personal life." The traders did it: they broke into the ID's and into the necessary systems, and were ready when the bond market opened a few days later. "No one said, `Our technology saved us,' or `Our plan really worked,' the executive said. "To a person, they said, `It was people.' "

Today the NYTimes provided a follow-up to the item I posted on June 3 about the Masai gift to the people of the United States. In spite of earlier reports, the cows may be on their way here after all.

"If we can get 80,000 men and machines into Afghanistan, we can get 14 cows out of Kenya," [a Washington Times columnist] wrote. Others, too, want the cows to come home. One woman suggested they go to the Bronx Zoo. Another imagined putting them out to pasture — in Central Park.

Ok, now from the paper-of-record, its report on Gay Pride in Jerusalem. Certainly too much is being made of "god" by all parties, but perhaps the venue has something to do with that (must be awfully hard to sell secularism in that city).

My favorite:

"People can do what they like," said Ofir Ben-David, 30, as he watched from his souvenir shop. "Live and let live. They're colorful and they're livening up downtown, which was dead."

From a party who would appear to be about as disinterested, in the better sense, as a party could be, a very good account of the Archbishop Weakland affair.

Only in this case, no child had been molested. Instead, a man had been outed — a bishop, a rare liberal one at that. What's more, news organizations that ordinarily shy from exposing homosexuals plunged into this one. Somehow Weakland, like a dolphin caught in a tuna net, became just another priest hauled in by the burgeoning pedophilia scandal.

Apparently I'm not the only one who smells a rat.

Jerusalem survived its very first lesbian and gay pride parade today. A colorful band of a few hundred "crazy fools" marched through the center of Jerusalem, a city revered as holy by three monotheistic faiths which all oppose homosexuality (except, privately, in its practice).

Banners called for "Love without Borders."

The National Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Transsexual and Bi-sexual Organization which sponsored the parade is aggressively multicultural and welcomes people from all sections of Israeli and Palestinian society.

Ha'aretz reports that 4,000 people took part in the parade.

[Hagai Elad, parade organizer, said] "This is an important event, and not only gays should be proud of it. It's our response to the voices of hatred."

Among other elements in the parade, the Traveler's Prayer were [sic]recited in Hebrew, Arabic and English, and black balloons, symbolizing both Jewish and Arab victims of the conflict, were released.

In Brussels wednesday, our oh so brilliant secretary of war, er, defense, attempted to defend the Bushie administration's position that we cannot wait for proof before acting against other countries and groups who are suspected of copying our own posession and employment of weapons of mass destruction. I don't think he made himself quite clear however:

"The message is that there are no knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns, that is to say there are things we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- things we do not know we don't know.

"So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say 'well, that's basically what we see as the situation', that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns."

And then we go in and bomb the hell out of, whomever or whatever.

Did our insane obsession with a "war on drugs" cost us September 11, and will it continue to compromise our defense against repeat attacks, even after the Bureau's vaunted reorganization plans?

While Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida minions were diligently preparing for their murderous mission, the FBI was looking the other way with equal determination. More than twice as many FBI agents were assigned to fighting drugs (2,500) than fighting terrorism (1,151). And a far greater amount of the FBI's financial resources was dedicated to the war on drugs.

And this pathological prioritization of the drug war extended well beyond the allocation of money and manpower. It was ingrained in the culture. Counterterrorism units were treated like the bureau's ugly stepchildren, looked down upon by FBI management because they weren't making the kind of high-profile arrests that spruce up a supervisor's resume and make the evening news.

The Washington regime is not disappointing those who expected the worst. [Sad, didn't we once think that "the worst" was what they would do to mess us up at home?]

White House talk of never-ending-war to "make peace" is being actualized . Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense and civilian head of U.S. armed forces (formerly known as the Secretary of War), has been dispatched to make "peace" between India and Pakistan. George Tenet, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the war-abetting organization of spooks that has an indelible image of fomenting division, distrust and mortal combat around the globe, has been dispatched to the Middle East to "make peace". And we wonder "why do they hate us?"

In a note with an argument both succinct and timely, a NYTimes reader suggests how we can end the hostilities in at least one "war."

Another voice rejecting banality and business as usual at the site of the World Trade Center.

As the task of rebuilding begins in earnest, the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation should heed anew Daniel Burnham's advice to Chicago's leaders a century ago: "Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood."

Martin Esslin, the man who gave us the phrase, "The Theater of the Absurd," and essentially legitimized for a conservative culture some of today'most iconic playwrights, died in London this past February, it was reported today.

In his book, he linked Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Arthur Adamov and Eugène Ionesco with younger playwrights like Harold Pinter, Edward Albee and Fernando Arrabal at a time — 1961 — when they were regarded as artistic outsiders. Eventually, with the encouragement of Mr. Esslin and others, they were accepted as theatrical innovators.
But it may be his words in a book of a generation later that really position the validity of all theatre, in all societies and in all times.
In "The Field of Drama" (Methuen, 1987), he reached out to analyze the semiotics of drama in movies and television as well as theater. In all its forms, he said, "drama provides some of the principal role models by which individuals form their identity and ideals, sets patterns of communal behavior, forms values and aspirations and has become part of the collective fantasy life of the masses."

Maybe there's still hope. If William Safire says he's worried about the Bushies' assault on the Constitution, we may yet see a bipartisan movement in its defense---and the beginning of the end of this dark night of the Republic?

To fabricate an alibi for his nonfeasance, and to cover up his department's embarrassing cut of the counterterrorism budget last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft — working with his hand-picked aide, F.B.I. Director "J. Edgar" Mueller III — has gutted guidelines put in place a generation ago to prevent the abuse of police power by the federal government.
Some sunshine libertarians are willing to suffer this loss of personal freedom in the hope that the Ashcroft-Mueller rules of intrusion may prevent a terror attack. They won't because they're a fraud.

Out of "concern for the world's Jews, for the supporters of Jews, and for peace in general," Israel is asked to remove its semimilitary colonies from the West Bank, Gaza and Golan.

As far as I'm concerned, the flawed idealism of Zionism has run up against a wall. Even if I accepted the biblical premise that Jews are entitled to that piece of Levantine real estate - and I don't - the political reality is that you cannot find peace by pursuing your current objectives. And you threaten more than yourselves and your immediate neighbors; you are threatening those of us who contributed so heavily to your existence.
In fact, if Israel insists on maintaining the occupation, I will take action. I will demand my trees back. You owe me.

Bloggy has a fresh take on arguments about the distinction between "certain knowledge" (conspiracy treason?) and "reasonable suspicion" (cowardice treason?) as they relate to the Bushies and September 11.

If administration officials felt that the warnings they had were enough to warrant changes in travel plans for the President and members of the cabinet, and failed to warn the American people, I think it's fair to say their behavior was treasonous.

[I think.]

Buchanan makes more sense than anything we see in the mainstream media!

The darling of the discontented Right says we are being attacked because of our imperial foreign policy, and not because "we are democratic and free and good."

[One caution: While he gets it, as far as he goes in this piece, I would wager that his ultimate conclusions would be unlikely to please the progressive Left.]

Before, not after, the next terror attack on this country, America's leaders should start telling the truth: Evil though they may be, Islamic killers are over here because we are over there. They are not trying to kill us because they dislike our domestic politics, but because they detest our foreign policy.
Is the empire worth it? French, Brits, even Soviets said no. They went home. And nothing over there – not oil, not bases in Saudi Arabia, not global hegemony – is worth risking nuclear terror over here. I may be the only right-winger in America who loves D.C., but then I grew up here. Washington is my hometown. It comes first, and empire isn't even a close second.

The Dow Jones and other indexes fell over two percent today in the midst of a growing and deepening "mistrust about Corporate America's top management and finances," reports the Reuters wire.

Investors' widening distrust helped overshadow a raft of robust economic data, including a new report on Monday that showed U.S. manufacturing activity grew at its fastest pace in two years in May. Wall Street's faith in corporate management has eroded after the implosion of energy trader Enron Corp., one of whose executives committed suicide on Jan. 25.

Faith misplaced? Where have these investors been up until now?

I worked for large corporations for many years and never had any illusions about the general competence of management, in my own companies or any others with which I became familiar. I was often simply astounded that things held together at all. Eventually I concluded that certainly within a corporation, and to a large extent even within an industry and throughout the business world, the old boy networks of small minds and smaller imaginations held each other up. The smart or imaginative people weren't let in, or certainly weren't let upstairs.

I fear the consequences for the country and the world of what appears to be a snowballing recognition of the emptiness at the top.

Sometimes it's refreshing to know that the world is not sitting in the same living room. In Kenya, some of the Masai needed to hear about September 11 in a way that that was most human to them.

Most Masai had learned of the attacks from the radio soon after they occurred. But the horrible television images passed by many Masai, who got electricity in their village only shortly before the attacks. In the oral tradition they rely on, Mr. Naiyomah sat them down and told them stories that stunned them.

Through his tales, Sept. 11 became real. The Masai felt sadness. They felt relief that Mr. Naiyomah was unscathed. They wanted to do something.

Climate changes, Bushes don't.

The Bushies admitted last week, in a quiet report intended not to make the headlines, that we are indeed destroying our climate and our environment with the production of poisonous gases, but they say there will be no policy change.

Rather, we are told, we must adapt to the "inevitability" of our national policy of not reducing these emissions. Huh?

But while the report says the United States will be substantially changed in the next few decades — "very likely" seeing the disruption of snow-fed water supplies, more stifling heat waves and the permanent disappearance of Rocky Mountain meadows and coastal marshes, for example — it does not propose any major shift in the administration's policy on greenhouse gases.

Sometimes a cellphone is just not a cellphone, as we learn from a NYTimes reader.

As an avid Central Park birder, I'm always on the lookout for the unusual. Recently, after two hours of early-morning birding, I reluctantly headed from the park when my ears caught the sound of a cellphone ringing.

I looked into the bushes where the sound was coming from but saw no one.

Then my eye caught a perky little catbird running through its repertory of bird songs. Knowing that it is a mimic, I listened carefully, trying to pick out the different songs. I heard it imitate a white-throated sparrow, a house finch, a song sparrow, and then the clear ring of a cellphone. My mouth dropped open in disbelief. I listened again and, sure enough, heard the catbird repeat bird song, bird song, cellphone and on and on. The little guy made my day.

How can we live with this fool?

Bushie delivered a major address to the Japanese Diet on February 21. A few seconds into the speech* he said:

My trip to Asia begins here in Japan for an important reason. It begins here because for a century and a half now, America and Japan have formed one of the great and enduring alliances of modern times. From that alliance has come an era of peace in the Pacific. And in that peace, the world has witnessed the broad advance of prosperity and democracy throughout East Asia.

I learned of this first from Reno's performance rant last night and found it online today. Reno suggested that his handler, Condy Rice, standing in the wings, must have thrown her hands to her head in astonishment, saying, "we coached him up through the thirties; we thought he knew about World War II!"

And I can't imagine what the Japanese who were there thought.

Note: All official or unofficial transcripts I have been able to locate edited the written text to change our records of what was said, perhaps thus hoping we would sleep better at night.

* go to the WATCH/LISTEN video link on the right, "US President George Bush" for the full visual and audio record.

Iceland is on the way to full energy independence, and it does not involve fossil fuels. If we could only widely duplicate some of that country's natural advantages and ecological enthusiasms, we could eliminate much of the planet's pollution and make our current fuel-driven domestic and foreign policy totally obsolete.

Iceland, with its steaming geothermal power stations, already knows plenty about alternative energy.

Now this island of lava on the edge of the Arctic plans to become the world's first society to ditch fossil fuels entirely, relying instead on hydrogen made using the power of its roaring rivers and volcanoes.

Enthusiasts even talk about it one day becoming the "Kuwait of the North" as an exporter of the new, green fuel to markets in Europe.

This one was for Rex!

Before he [under huge protest] succumbed to H.I.V. disease a few years ago, Rex Wasserman was a wonderful friend, a fanatical New Yorker, a fierce activist, and a City landscape architect with little love for Henry Stern's self-promoting theatrics. When I saw an item by Stern on the Opinion page of the Daily News this week, I thought of Rex and of the Park we all love so much, and I couldn't go on without adding a few words for myself and for my friend.

Today the News printed my letter, unedited, in its own box at the bottom of the Letters page.

[excerpt] "Our natural shrine" has, in fact, been exploited repeatedly by installations intended to enhance reputations, movements and pocketbooks. For starters, I need only mention any number of rock or other music extravaganzas, at least one Disney film marketing event, rallies for religious figures and the most recent absurdity, a CBS "Survivor" episode.

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